The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) is holding its 49th Annual International Conference and Exhibition (a.k.a. IATEFL 2015) in Manchester (UK), from Friday 11th to Tuesday 14th April. However, it already kicked off yesterday with some interviews and a pre-conference event.
Among the multiple speakers that are taking part this year, there’s Herbert Puchta. Mr Puchta, who is an IATEFL ambassador and actually presided it at one point, has written and co-authored multiple textbook series among which I must highlight Playway to English and English in Mind, for young learners and teenagers, respectively. In fact, I am using Playway to English 4 and English in Mind 4 with my students this year, and I must say that I love both of them, so I am particularly interested in what Mr Puchta has to say.
Mr Puchta has already given a talk on how to teach values while teaching a foreign language, especially when dealing with teenagers; and he is giving another one today (11th April) on emotional engagement for adults.
During the interview I am reviewing here, Herbert touches on the main subjects his talks will deal with. As regards yesterday’s talk on the importance of values in the EFL classroom with teenage students, the following points stand out:
- English teachers nowadays fulfil a greater role than just teaching a language. Apart from teaching English, every teacher —no matter the subject— is conveying values to students, so their role is as much about being a teacher as being an educator. Therefore, EFL teachers should be aware of this and proceed in accordance. This is why knowing how to teach values becomes so important in the English language classroom.
- Following the previous point, one of the main goals of teachers should be that of helping students become aware of the importance of being responsible. As soon-to-be adults, they should understand how determining will their attitude be towards the rest of their lives.
- Given the great variety of cultures across which English is being taught nowadays, EFL teachers should focus on those values which are common to most cultures, i.e. universal values. During this interview, Herbert highlights values that can hardly be opposed, such as evironmental values, peace or empathy. These should be taken into special consideration when teaching.
- As an interesting point, Mr Puchta highlights that modals don’t work well when it comes to teaching values, especially with teenagers. I don’t particularly agree with this point, but it is certainly interesting that he mentions.
- Another essential thing he talks about is the importance of the role of the teacher. He basically claims that teachers ought to act the way they want their students to act. This means that if you want your students to be respectful, patient, responsible, etc., the EFL teacher has to be the first one “displaying” this behaviour in the class. Apart from agreeing completely with this idea, I suppose that is is applicable to every teacher, regardless of the subject they teach, especially with Primary and teenage students.
- As a final comment, Puchta mentions the usefulness of traditional stories as a means to pass on important values from one generation to the next. He believes we ought to ask ourselves what kind of stories would do well in the classroom.
As for his talk on engaging adults at an emotional level, taking part later today, he highlights the following points:
- Emotions have been systematically disregarded as something that fosters learning. Instead, more importance has been placed on other aspects, such as higher order thinking skills (i.e. logical or rational thinking).
- In contrast with traditional beliefs, it is becoming evident that emotions contribute very actively to successful learning. This is due to the fact that they intervene as motivational factors, and because our brain simply remembers things better when emotions are present. Therefore it becomes crucial to involve adult learners by engaging and challenging them emotionally.
- At this point, learner-oriented assessment becomes extremely important, because students ought to understand their progress. This should be done by making learning visible for learners.
- In order to illustrate the importance of emotional learning, Herbert points out the role of narratives. He believes that narrative reading can engage learners in a way that they feel motivated towards finding out what comes next. This involves readers emotionally, as they are eager to find out where the story goes and to see if this direction matches what they were expecting or hoping for.
All of these points make Herber Puchta’s talks very appealing, at least to me as an EFL teacher. He’s talking about two very interesting topics that affect a large percentage of language learners today.
Puchta’s talk on engaging adult learners emotionally is scheduled for tomorrow. If you want to follow Puchta’s talk tomorrow, make sure to tune in at http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2015. Also, don’t forget to subscribe and follow KSE on Facebook & Twitter to find out about other relevant issues which have caught my attention. For more info on Herbert Puchta, visit his website here.
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