Learn how to avoid the classroom "kiss of death" at the English UK Teachers' Conference
31 October 2016

For ELT author Ken Wilson, getting the classroom experience right for students is key to good teaching. So his closing talk at the English UK Teachers' Conference 2016 will include ideas on how to do just that, linked to memorable quotations from people as diverse as Einstein and Mark Twain with some practical exercises as well.

"Relations between the teacher and the student have to come before the course book. If the teacher comes in and the first thing they say is 'Good morning class, open your books at this page' or 'Today we are going to do the present perfect' those for me are the two death kisses of a classroom. In our business there's got to be some other kind of of connection, and that's my main message of the moment," he says.

Other speakers at the conference, in London on Saturday 12 November, include ELT researcher and blogger Laura Patsko on English as a Lingua Franca as well as specialist sessions on classroom practice, exams and teaching students with special educational needs. View the full programme.

Ken's career has included working as an ELT teacher trainer, and running a touring theatre group, and he currently spends a lot of time talking to teachers in the UK and abroad. He's passionate about what he does, saying that he hopes teachers find his talks fun whilst conveying the importance of connecting with students.

Most of his work is with teachers working in their own countries with teenage students who don't have the chance to travel and are lacking the motivation that travelling to learn might bring. He believes that the majority of ELT students are not "massively motivated" by the importance of learning the language, which is why the classroom experience is important.

Wilson says he is astonished when he comes back to the UK at the amount of grammar-heavy teaching going on in lessons. He says if he is at the back of the classroom and students are telling a story, he notices teachers being keen to correct grammatical mistakes - so getting in the way of the story - rather than following up a day or so later.

And he has also got recent experience from the student's point of view, after learning German at London evening classes two years ago to give a speech at a family wedding.

"I always like those little quotes, and they lodge in teachers' brains, which is why I like this talk. One I'm using is Mark Twain on 'I never let my schooling interfere with my education'. What was it which made him reject teaching? Perhaps he was difficult but I resonate with that. I had a wonderful teacher at my evening classes: she was fabulous but she never strayed away from the book and when I tried, she glared at me. After two lessons she asked what I did, and when I said a teacher trainer she asked what I thought. I said you are a wonderful teacher but you are covering every activity in the book, some of which aren't great. But she couldn't change."

Ken Wilson is giving the closing plenary at The English UK Teachers' Conference 2016 on 12 November at Prospero House in London.


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