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5 things to consider when running a workshop

shutterstock_490695220Martyn Clarke has worked in ELT classrooms as a teacher and trainer for over twenty years and in more than fifteen countries. He has taught English at all levels and in many contexts from one-to-one in financial institutions to rural schools with classes of eighty students.

Running a workshop for teaching colleagues is a very useful form of professional development for the following reasons:

  • It can encourage us to focus on an area of teaching in more detail than we normally would.
  • It gives us the opportunity to consider why we do things as teachers and colleagues.
  • The semi-formal setting allows us to exchange ideas with a wider range of colleagues than usual.
  • The change of dynamic can be motivational in a long teaching year.

Successful workshops usually happen as a result of good planning. Whether you are new to running workshops or have run them on a number of occasions the following 5-point checklist might prove useful.

  1. Purpose

Workshops have different purposes, which will dictate their objectives and the processes. Of course, more than one of the purposes identified below may be involved.

  • An awareness-raising workshop will focus on discussion of classroom issues and sharing of experiences and opinions. Outcomes of these workshops are often guidelines, points to remember, or outlines for future professional learning activities.
  • A materials-analysis workshop will focus on the analysis of learning materials which might be published or teacher-generated. There is usually sharing of ideas on what makes good materials and then some form of evaluation. Adaptation activities are sometimes included.
  • A skills development workshop explores what we do as teachers. It may look at teaching techniques, resource management, or even how we work with each other as colleagues.
  1. Process

Effective workshops have a clear process of learning.  A basic and very adaptable model is Input, Task, Output.

Input:

  • What information will be the focus of the workshop? Will it come from the participants or the trainer?
  • What form will this information take? (video/materials/opinions/demonstration, etc.)
  • What status does this information have? Does it have to be complied with? Is it an example of best practice? Is it a prompt for discussion and can be adopted, changed, or rejected?

Task:

  • What will the participants do with the information? Will they practice it? Analyse it? Evaluate it? Or adapt it?
  • Will all the participants be doing the same thing? All will different groups work on different aspects of the topic? Will the task take place in the workshop, or afterwards in the classrooms?

Output:

  • How will you record the work done during the task? Will you create action plans? Materials? Procedures?  Or discussion points?
  • Will participants record these individually? On posters in groups? Will you record them yourself in plenary?
  • What will you do with the output after the workshop?
  1. Logistics

An effective workshop sits comfortably in its real setting. Making sure the event works on a practical level is a key aspect of preparation.

  • Is the timing appropriate? Will participants be able to focus on the workshop and not be distracted by lessons later that day, marking they may need to finish, or any other external concern?
  • Is the content of the workshop appropriate for its length? In general, things always take longer than we expect.  Teachers like to talk.
  • Is the space of the workshop sufficient for its activities? Have you ensured privacy or will there be other staff/students walking in and out?
  • Do you have all the materials you need?
  • Does everybody know who needs to know?
  1. Follow-up

Effective workshops have strong links to practical professional practice. Teachers are busy people and it’s easy to attend a workshop, find it interesting, but then return to work and carry on doing exactly the same thing that you have always done. Ensuring a workshop has a follow-up activity is a useful way of making it effective.

  • What impact do you want the workshop to have? What changes do you hope will happen as a result of the workshop?
  • What will be the evidence of this? Will teachers record their experiences for a follow-up session? Will they share new materials in staff folders? Will there be peer observations to understand how new skills/resources are being used?
  1. Evaluation

You can evaluate a workshop in different ways. The key is to identify what information you want and to make enough time to collect it effectively.

  • Do you want information about your performance? The activities? The content? The resources? The impact of the workshop?
  • How will you collect the information? Interview? Questionnaire? Observation? Etc.
  • What will you do with the information? Who will you share it with? Will you follow up with the evaluators?


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Why use a Teacher’s Book? (Part 1)

Teacher holding a book in classIn the first of a two-part series, Julietta Schoenmann, a teacher and teacher trainer, presents the benefits of using a Teacher’s Book to help plan and execute your lessons. Please note, this article contains references to the New English File Teacher’s Book series.

Do you remember when you first started teaching? Were you like me and treated your teacher’s book like a bible – the all-knowing, multi-purpose guide to all things pedagogical? Did you follow its advice carefully and rarely deviate from what it suggested for….ooh……the first year of your teaching career?! Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. But there’s no doubt that a good teacher’s book can:

  • save us time when it comes to lesson planning
  • offer ideas for bringing a topic alive
  • provide a wealth of extra materials to give our students practice in the areas of language they find challenging.

What’s more, the introduction to a teacher’s book often has a detailed outline of the methodological approach that the course book takes – very handy for those potentially awkward moments when students come up to you at the end of the lesson and ask why you don’t teach more grammar, etc. You can explain your rationale for teaching in the way that you do, supported by the evidence found in the introduction.

Also useful is the information included on how the student’s book is organised – what you can find in each unit, what other materials are available like CD-ROMs or workbooks and what resources are included at the back of the book. I cringe every time I remember a student who came up to me after about three months of classes and said he hadn’t realised there was a grammar reference section at the back of his course book. After that embarrassing experience I decided to help students on the first day of term find their way round their new course book with an orientation quiz. E.g. What topic can you find on page 76? Or What useful section is located on pages 157-158? This sort of quiz is quick and easy to make if you use the teacher’s book to help you.  

So what do you use your teacher’s book for and how can it help you to plan and deliver effective lessons? Let’s think about lesson planning first….

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