Category: Uncategorized

On organizing ELT conferences and events

This is part three of a three part series on conferences. The first two parts looked at what attendees want and what what presenters want from ELT conferences. In this post I will share survey responses related to planning and organizing conferences or other events. If you click on the first post linked above you can find out about the background of this survey. Once again my thanks go to those who took the time to answer the questions (and he who helped created the questions). As might be expected there were less responses to the section of the survey related to organizing events. I hope and believe that the responses here might be of use to those planning events I share them with that in mind. Comments (including your additions) and questions most welcome.

As a conference organizer, how do you define your goals?

  • Forget about the “WOW!”, just get rid of the “Arrrrgh!”
  • Everyone should want to come back next year is one measure. Sometimes financial. Did we get enough people in to cover costs? But, ideally there should be a good vibe.
  • At the beginning of the process, I talk with the other planners about what we want to see as a result of the conference. Sometimes we start with problems or challenges that we see in our teaching environments. This helps us put together a conference theme and a list of possible speakers.
  • Looking at my aims.
  • With a team.

As a conference organizer, how do you determine how to allocate resources?

  • Get the basics (location / facilities / advertising / printing) covered and prioritise from there on the continuum from ‘Absolutely essential’ through to ‘Nice to have’.
  • According to regulations.
  • I look at budgets from previous conferences and then adapt them to the needs and the numbers of expected guests. The cost of the venue often determines how much room we have for other resource-demanding things.
  • Tough one. And one I’m not usually that involved in. Try to be fair to everyone as far as things like people who sign up commit early get get the spaces they deserve. But, also try to allocate some resources (presentation slots, features, etc) for people “on their way up” not only the “names.” But, you usually do need name “star” presenters too.

As a conference organizer, how do you evaluate proposals?

  • There are rubrics etc. but a lot of it comes down to a gut feeling at times. Usually have to deal with too many seemingly good proposals.
  • According to appeal and feasibility.
  • I create or borrow a rubric, which I distribute to the proposal vetting team, and when I am more organized, I also link to the rubric from the proposal submission form. Since I have never had a huge number of proposals to deal with, all of the reviewers give comments about all of the proposals. The comments are summarized and sent back to the presenters with requests for revision if necessary.
  • RRR – Recent, Relevant, Reliable: recent/new ELT info; relevance to the local ELT context; reliable presenters who are knowledgeable on the topic.
  • I wish I knew the answer…

As a conference organizer, how do you determine prices?

  • Always a negotiation. The past few years I have been on the side of “raise the rates” but that does have negative consequences too. In an ideal world, sky high rates for those who can afford them, but coupons, discounts or rebates to keep the community diverse.
  • We charge what we think people will be willing to pay. That is often determined by the prices of local conferences of a similar scope.
  • Estimate costs and divide by expected participants – compare with similar conferences.
  • According to cost and averages charges for similar events.

As a conference organizer, what, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge in preparing a conference? How have you addressed it (assuming it can be addressed)?

  • Sourcing great speakers.
  • Getting people to attend, promotion.
  • Getting help.
  • My biggest headache is fundraising because I hate, hate, hate asking for money. My second biggest headache is publicity because I am by nature much more talented at keeping secrets than shouting from rooftops. The best thing I can do with these challenges is work with a team. Either my teammates will compensate for my weaknesses with their own strengths or my fear of letting my teammates down will make the challenges seem less fearsome by comparison.
  • Getting the word out to as many people as possible, and even more so to the “right” people (people you want to have come who should be there but might not be if they don’t know or don’t know far enough in advance) as far ahead of time as possible, but not therefore lock everything down too far in advance. It’s a trade off.

Additional thoughts as a conference organizer:

  • No good deed goes unpunished. No matter what you do, people will complain endlessly, so once the opening words of the conference are uttered try to just enjoy it. There isn’t much you can do at that point to change the direction. But if you are enjoying it, others will too. Real actual issues of safety, execution, etc need attention, but try not to pay too much attention to the squeaky wheels. Much better to pay attention to someone, anyone else.
  • Have a nice day ~ : )


help with co-teaching

I would usually (if anything) put this sort of thing in the “Workshop materials” section of my blog (right there in the middle of the menu bar) but this time I figured I’d share it here. This main reason for this decision is my assumption more people would read it as a blog post instead of a page. Since I am doing this workshop tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to see if anyone had any advice or other problems to add. I will be sure to check for comments all day Sunday November 9th, 2014.  

I am not sure how much explanation is needed for these materials. Ha. I am not even sure exactly how (or even if!) I will use them but I imagine there is something about passing them around the room and changing roles as advice giver and advice receiver.  




1) Dear co-teaching experts,

I need your help. I really want to change up my co-teaching approaches and try something different but I am not sure how to talk to my co-teacher about this. I think she might be pretty stuck into doing things the same way every time. I think I’d just like to experiment a little bit and try some new strategies. What shall I do? Thanks in advance for your help.

Bored in Boringdong

2) Dear co-teaching experts,

Hi! I am experiencing a problem with my co-teacher and I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes, well actually it is quite often, when I ask a question in class my co-teacher answers it! I guess he thinks he is trying to help but it is not really helpful at all for me because things I expected to take 10 minutes end up taking 3 minutes and then I am suddenly stuck for materials and activities. Of course the timing is a problem but the other problem is that students are somewhat robbed of the experience of trying to answer my questions. I am trying to elicit answer and activate schemas and all the things I am supposed to do as a good teacher. I don’t feel comfortable to confront him about this because I think it might hurt his feelings or cause a loss of face. What can I do? Any advice is appreciated!

Scared in Sueseong

3) Hello co-teaching experts,

I didn’t know where else to turn. I am writing to you about a problem I am having with my co-taught classes. My co-teacher and I get along very well and we have a great relationship. There is just one problem. My co-teacher often corrects me and gives me unsolicited feedback in the middle of class. It is so embarrassing! I am not sure I can take another day of this and I am afraid I might snap and cause our good relationship to fall apart. Any advice is requested.

Frustrated in Daegu

4) Co-Teaching Experts,

Please help me. I have a very small problem and I thought you could offer some advice. My problem is that I’d really like to try one of the 6 fantastic models of co-teaching I learned in an amazing workshop recently but I really cannot decide the right one for the right situation? What criteria should I use? What types of lessons are these models appropriate for? How do I know which model will be best for me? Which one is the best? How will I know? Please share some ideas with me and help me set some criteria for these decisions.

Enthusiastic in Seo-district

5) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a sensitive issue and I need some help. I feel that my co-teacher does not treat me with respect. I feel like he is the main teacher and I am just a helper. I’d like to have a bigger role and do more to help the students but he seems happy enough to do 95% of the work. I don’t know how to approach him or what strategies to use to start the conversation but I’d really love to see a change here and to make a more balanced and hopefully productive classroom teaching situation. Please advise.

6) Hi experts on co-teaching,

I have a problem and need your help devising a strategy. You see, I am supposed to work as a co-teacher but I simply don’t have time to plan things properly. Ideally, I’d like to do team teaching with my co-teacher but I know this requires a lot of time upfront. What are some ways to make the maximum effect with a minimum of planning time? Also, do you have any advice on how to let my co-teacher know how busy I am without making it seem like I am avoiding him? I’d like to be a better co-teacher but I just don’t have time. Is there anything I can do in this situation?

Busy in Bokgu

7) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a question. I am supposed to do co-teaching but I just don’t see the point in it all. It seems like a lot of extra effort without much payoff. I thought since you are the co-teaching experts you could fill me in on the benefits of this. What are the benefits? I am specifically interested in hearing the benefits for the students but I’d also like to hear the benefits for me as a teacher. If possible if you could tell me the benefits for me in terms of professional development as a teacher that would be great too. I hope you can help me see the advantages of co-teaching because right now I cannot see them at all.

Skeptical in Seoul

8) Hello co-teaching experts,

Everything I read about co-teaching says that one of the most important things I need to do is develop rapport with my co-teacher. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a Korean teacher of English and I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good. I, of course, realize that everyone is different but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Seeking jeong in Jung-Gu

9) Dear co-teaching experts,

I keep seeing and hearing this word “rapport” in everything I read about co-teaching. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a foreigner. A native speaker from _____. I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good to develop rapport with native speakers. I, of course, realize that everyone is different and we are all our own individuals but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Looking for Rapport

10) Dear co-teaching experts,

How are you? Things with me are generally great. I love my job. The only problem is that I don’t really know how to work well with a co-teacher. She is a nice person and is a hard worker and she seems to be trying to be a good teacher. The problem is that I don’t know when to intervene and help. Sometimes I think I cause a problem by not helping when he seems to want or need it. Other times I help when he looks to need it but he gets upset with this. I am just trying to help him and the students. I think the problem is that I am very much accustomed to doing everything for the students so I always do the same thing even if there is another teacher in the room. I can’t figure out the right moments to help and the right moments to relax. I am not sure exactly what my question is, co-teaching experts. Please let me know what you think about this situation and what I can do and what I can do with my co-teacher to solve this problem.

Intervening in Ilsan

11) Dear co-teaching experts,

I heard in a recent workshop that “One Teach, One Observe” is a good way to co-teach. This sounds interesting to me and I can imagine it being valuable. The problem is that I don’t know what to look for in the observations, and I don’t know what to ask my co-teacher to observe when I am teaching. Do you have any suggestions for this to get us started? I am really at a loss. Books or any tips at all will be received gratefully.


Live-ish Lesson Planning

All this talk of planning over on the #KELTchat  has gotten me thinking. It is nice to think about such things, I believe. These days, my schedule is such that I pretty much have only one class a week I’d consider to be an English class. My other courses are known as “seminars in simultaneous interpretation” (clicking here will give you some idea how these classes go). I also have some other courses that politely defy simple explanations but I will not mention them here, unless I just did. OK, back to the sole English class I have this term, then. It is called International Discussion and the general idea is a fluency focused course on local and global issues of importance.

The course is organized around topics. In practice this means each week features a new topic to discuss. I try to make sure students work with related vocabulary. Often (well 55% of the time) there are assigned readings (but rarely reading tasks) for students to read before class to help students frame the issues of a topic and to get them thinking about the topic. Around half the topics are chosen by me in advance of the course and the remaining topics are chosen by the group in one of the first lessons of the term.

I also try to focus on discussion strategies. This means that planning is often about marrying the topics to the the discussion skills. I have a number of discussion strategies laid out before the course and also get students’ input on what they need. Of course, I also notice what they need during the class and make plans accordingly.

My students are students in an English medium graduate school. They tend to be around upper intermediate, if you are into such labels. Sharing their opinions and having conversations on headier topics is not always easy for them. They tend to do very well with long turns. Interrupting (and other turn-taking strategies) and speaking without thinking time are challenges.

One important thing that often comes to my mind when thinking of these students is how they have no shortage of opportunities to use English but they do have a shortage of opportunities for getting feedback, or at least feedback in the sense of a teacher correcting and giving suggestions and such. The read and write and talk and have lectures in English but don’t have chances to get feedback on their production. The (only?) feedback they might outside of class get more is something like a classmate saying, “I don’t understand” in their daily English interactions. With this in mind I feel even more than I would in other classes that my duty is to give feedback on both fluency and accuracy. I feel less ok than I might otherwise be in other contexts in Korea to simply provide time and place for practice in English, as this is something my students tend to get quite a bit of, regardless of how loudly people say Korea is an EFL country or how perfectly they place it in the Expanding Circle.

Onto planning then. What follows is a mostly live account of my thoughts as I try to plan my class.

5:00 pm 
(Class time – 28 hours)
What shall we do in class tomorrow? I know the topic is North Korea. There has been a lot of DPRK in the news lately. How to slice things into manageable pieces.
I like the idea of explaining the situation to a well-meaning but clueless North American.
Imagine you meet a North American who asks you if you are North Korean and then asks you to talk about the differences.
A speaking task like this could help frame some of the issues and see where students are and where they need help.


There he is. Photo via @W7VOA

Am I really talking about lesson planning without mentioning objectives for the class.
Zero SWBATs so far? What will the neighbors think?

Should I revisit my beliefs about lesson planning?
Should I make a shameless plug to a previous post about beliefs about lesson planning?

I think one of the keys on my regular planning for this class is the balance between things like useful chunks for managing discussions, time spent on the topic of the week, feedback on English (including grammar, usage, pron and other stuff), and lexis (both old and newer) related to the topic. Last week I think we focused a bit much on lexis and not as much on the others. This week, I think there are some “go-to” terms related to North Korea and the whole situation they will need and want to know.

That KELTchat is interesting. Nice to see lots of people involved. I must admit it is somewhat distracting, however.

I remember one student getting a bit stuck when admitting he didn’t quite follow a classmate and attempting to ask for clarifications two weeks ago. I think he didn’t have much experience with this. I think this is something that we will have to focus on and play with in the next few weeks. That and interruptions.

When I think about interruptions I often get my brain a bit twisted around because I don’t want to say that the American way is the way to do it and nor do I want to insist that students interrupt each other all the time. On other hand I want to make sure students can interrupt as they wish.

I suppose I could just choose all the topics myself or match discussion skills to topics earlier in the term. This would prevent this sort of day-before-the-lesson-concern. That said, I don’t mind it so much and I like the idea of some flexibility. I think it would be too much flexibility to have to worry about choosing a topic and the more languagey stuff each week.

These days I am very much into the idea of using material created by one class of students for another class. I toyed with the idea of trying to use some stuff created by previous students (this stuff) but I don’t see much value in it for tomorrow.

It has been 14 minutes since I thought about tomorrow’s class.

Planning, eh?

Dinner time. Yep, that is the ticket. I need to eat and then I can focus.

Ok, now I am ready. Surely my brain will work properly now. Time to focus. Let’s get down to business.

It is too quiet. What is on TV?
Oh, awesome. CSI. I love that show.
(Note: I actually don’t like it)

That Grissom is a clever fellow.
How would he handle this lesson plan?




This is silly. I need to get to work. The sooner I get to work the sooner I can relax.

Words and phrases and paraphrasing? Yeah I think so.
Strategies? Yes.
North Korea? Yes, for sure.
General questions? Ok.
Summarizing? Explaining to an outsider? Probably.
Mini 6 party talks? Nah.

When talking about teaching in Korea I have seen lots of advice like “Don’t talk about North Korea.” I think this might be fine advice in many context, but in mine with these student I think it is something they will need to be comfortable talking about.

Damned insert key messing everything up here. What am I to do?
I googled and nothing helped. I might have to restart the computer.

This used to be easier without blogging about it. Like last week.

I found some materials I used previously on this topic. Interesting stuff there including questions around the topic and some language.

Cool. I just remembered there is a new FlashmobELT lino wall from the recent KOTESOL conference.
For more information on FMELT you can click here.

I think I will put this planning on hold for 90 minutes or so.
Gosh, when I get back to it will be less than 12 hours to class time.
In the meantime I will be on ELTlive talking about…wait for it…lesson planning.

If I get into some deep psychological shit thoughts I can examine my procrastination. Maybe it is based on my thought class will likely be fine as there are limited disasters these days. Of course not every lesson is wonderful but things tend to work out reasonably well in the end. I think if I were faced with the potential of disaster I’d be more motivated at the moment.

That said, I do not believe that teachers instinctively know when their lessons or plans have gone well. I think it takes collecting feedback and measuring students progress to have much of an idea on this. And reflection beyond “that went well enough.”

Class is in less than 11 hours. This is the motivation I need.

*Checks notes from last week.

Ahh to hell with it. I will finish planning in the morning. Yeah, if I wake up early and plan it will be better. It will be fresh in my mind and that way I will actually be more ready.

I am nervous about not being ready for tomorrow.

I am glad my plans these days are neguices free but I wish I were a bit more focused. I will publish and close this.
I’ll let you know if tomorrow’s class is a disaster.