TTEd Istanbul Symposium 2012 Plenary 3 -Blaine Ray, TPRStorytelling

Blaine Ray who is the inventor of TPRStorytelling while teaching foreign languages started his talk by referring to the importance of comprehensible input in language acquisition.

Blaine Ray

While he was developing the method, he investigated how babies learned languages and how speech emerged. He noted that until a baby starts speaking in L1, he gets exposed to 20.000 hrs of language input. This is a number that foreign language teachers will never be able to reach to. As we cannot do what parents do, we= as language teachers- need to make use of every minute in the language classroom efficiently.

Ray pointed out that TPR story telling is focusing on fluency. Teacher tells the story, and the students get it unconsciously. The stories are highly interactive providing comprehensible input since Comprehension is the key. Blaine Ray stated that we need to use the words that students know, that are frequently used in L2 and speak slowly by acting out the  story. Blaine Ray claimed that translation is the most efficient use of class time.

While giving tips on the TPRS method in language acquisition, Blaine Ray repeated that comprehensible input is the key. So, the stories need to be comprehensible, and repetitive with lots of details. Recycling and dramatizing the story with student actors are some of the characteristics of the method.

Another key is the interest. Students compete with one another while trying to make guesses at different stages with the help and guidance of the
teacher. Surprising details, games, personalization and positive exaggerations are all some of the elements of successful implementation of the method.

Ray suggested that it is important to limit the use of vocabulary. Adults speak with 1000 words, teens, on the other hand, use about 250-300 words in their daily lives. Students need to practice common words, not the words the course books presents said Blaine Ray. According to him, students cannot cannot cope with the number of words given by the course books. For that reason, TPRStory telling users keep practicing with the most common verbs of the language.

Another important element of this method is asking questions to the learners, Ray suggested. He mentioned a study conducted on a TPRS teacher and a course book teacher about the number of questions they asked in class. The study revealed that the TPRS teachers ask questions but the CB teachers are too busy with covering the course book instead.

Ray said that TPRS teachers don’t pay attention to boring things because kids want to learn to talk so they must pay attention to learning. `How do they pay attention to learning?` asked Ray. And he answered his own question by saying that Emotions get our attention and the Stories use emotions.

Ray said that lots of language teachers spend time on teaching about the language. And he added that skills are not practiced that way: riding a bike, basketball, tennis, etc are practiced properly but language classes lack this aspect. TPRS Stories give us this opportunity.

Blaine Ray finished his talked by giving the link to his slides and mentioning the yahoo discussion group on TPRS.

Plenary 2- Should teachers research? How could they research? Dr. Richard Smith, University of Warwick, UK

Dr. Richard Smith started his talk by indicating that his interest in learning autonomy, and how he is going to link it to the theme of the conference. He refers to the theme (Researching Teachers: In-Service Training and after..) as ambiguous since it may be interpreted as research on teachers or by teachers:

  • Research on / into teachers [‘Researching teachers’ = ‘Academics doing research into teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, practices etc.’ [‘teachers’ as object]
  • OR
  • Research by teachers [‘Researching teachers’ = ‘Teachers who are doing research as they teach [‘teachers’ as subject / agent]
  • Probably the second will be the main concern of his talk.

To start with, Richard referred to Holec’s (1979) definition of learner autonomy. “The ability to take charge of one’s own learning…. To take charge of one’s own learning is to have , and to hold, the responsibility for all the decisions cncerning all aspects of this learning.”

Holec developed the concept of autonomy for adult learners in a practical way. : The qillingness / ability / opportunity to self-direct one’s own learning [in collaboration with others] said Dr. Smith.

Following that, he explained how teachers could research and clarified the difference between academic research. Research by teachers make can be about their concerns in their practical environment that can be more relevant and meaningful for their colleagues. The research by academics may not be as accessible or relevant. This can be considered as beyond their in- service training, again referring to the theme of the symposium.

Richard then  proposed: Teacher educators should also exercise their own teacher-learner autonomy, and encourage themselves/ one another to research their own teacher education practice.

Teachers should be allowed, indeed enabled, to do researhes Richard said. He also mentioned the authors who worked on Action Research that tecahers could conduct such as Edge, J. and Wallace, M.

Smith listed a few academics who downbeat assessmnets such as Dornyei(2008), Borg(2010), Ellis(2010). The notion of teacher research seems under attack for

  • (i) its scarcity in practice;
  • (ii) being the brainchild of academics; and
  • (iii) the low quality of research produced.

There is a debate on this in IATEFL research SIG website and he invited the participants to join the discussions at IATEFL RESEARCH SIG .

Richard added that he is an optimist and teachers can do researches, and there are examples of these in the world. He showed the audience  two published books that were purely consisted of teacher researches. He also shared a video that could be watched for tecahers doing action research.

So how could teachers be encouraged/ supported to research? For example, teachers do not need to report their research in an academic format which maybe a reason why teachers are not so willing to do researches. They can present their results in talks. We can

  • Increase willingness
  • Enhance abilities- e.g. Through a basic teacher-researcher toolkit
  • Develop opportunities

Richard proposes to marry IATEFL TTEd SIG and Research SIG to work on the encouragement  of teachers do action research.

Burcu Tezcan Unal mentioned the action research done in her institution which was part of the institutional professional development options, and Birsen mentioned the possibility of collection of questions to be shared by the practicing teachers and answers to be sought after by researches.

Richard finished his talk by saying that more details would be in the afternoon workshop.


Istanbul Symposium February 25, 2012: The Opening and Plenary 1- Tim Phillips

The opening speeches of the TTEd SIG Istanbul SYmposium 2012 emphasized how important teacher training and education is in ELT and wished the participants an enjoyable and informative symposium.

Zeynep Urkun

IATEFL Executive Board Member, Zeynep Urkun, who is based in Istanbul joined the conference and  addressed the audience at the beginnning of the event, and informed them about the mission of IATEFL and the SIGs after asking the members of IATEFL amongst the audience raise hands, it seemed a group of the audience was already members of IATEFL and the TTEd SIG.

Zeynep underlined the importance of how sharing information and being part of this professional association is to those who are non-members and invited them to stop by at the IATEFL stand and talk to Prof. Birsen Tutunis, (IATEFL TTEd SIG coordinator) and Burcu Tezcan Unal (TTED SIG Publicity and membership officer) for further information.


Plenary Speech 1- Tim Phillips (Head, Teacher Development, Global English, The British Council, Manchester)

Phillips started his talk with a quote from William Ayers (1993) about teachers and teaching:

“Teaching is not something one learns to do, once and for all, and then practices, problem-free, for a lifetime … Teaching depends on growth and development, and it is practised in dynamic situations that are never twice the same. Wonderful teachers, young and old, will tell of fascinating insights, new understandings, unique encounters with youngsters, the intellectual puzzle and the ethical dilemmas that provide a daily challenge. Teachers, above all, must stay alive to this.”

Ayers, W. (1993) To Teach: the journey of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press. pp. 127-128

After this opening, Phillips gave a brief summary of teachers’ promotional path;

  • 1. ‘Stayers’ – who have not sought promotion in the past and do not intend to do so in the future
  • 2. ‘Movers’ – who have sought promotion in the past and intend to do so again in the future.
  • 3. ‘Starters’ – who have not applied in the past but intend to seek promotion in the future.
  • 4. ‘Stoppers’ – who have sought promotion before but do not intend to in the future.

Janet Draper, Helen Fraser & Warwick Taylor ,University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Teachers’ Careers: accident or design? Teacher Development, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1998

Phillips then mentioned the motivation factor for the teachers and asked the audience what they would be motivated by most from the given list and elicited their answers.

Phillips reminded the audeince how important it is to ask ourselves what motivates us as teachers, and try to understand what our aspirations are in our career.

Another study about the professional life cycles of teachers that Tim Phillips shared was Huberman’s who divided the years of teaching from 1-3 to 31-40 and enquired how the feelings, the expertise and the motivation change over the years.

Yrs of Teaching                    Themes

  • 1-3                                      Career entry: Survival and Discovery
  • 4-6                                     Stabilisation
  • 7-18                                   Experimentation/Activism        OR Reassessment/Self-doubt
  • 19-30                                 Serenity/Relational Distance   OR     Conservatism
  • 31-40                                 Disengagement: Serene OR Bitter

Another study again  on the topic of professional cycles of teachers was conducted by Berliner suggests the path of a teacher from Novice to Expert teacher. Career stages and typical characteristics that Berliner suggests is as follows:

    • Novice: Focuses on student discipline and classroom management. Sees the trees, but rarely the forest.
    • Advanced Beginner: Begins to see patterns in behaviours. Begins to see when context guides routines and rules.
    • Competent Teacher: Bases behaviour on both experience and formal knowledge. Develops a strategic knowledge of when to apply rules.
    • Proficent Teacher:  Has a holistic perception of teaching situations. Consciously analyses problems and applies solutions.
    • Expert Teacher: Intuitively grasps and deals with classroom situations. Analyses situations with precision and proficiency.

    Obviously, Phillips undelines, teachers’ career stages require different kind of support and solutions to the problems. Also, what is going on in the mind of teachers is important regardless of their stage in their careers. Then, he refers to  Schön’s model of reflective practice.

Thinking about what you are doing may not be happening efficiently in a young teachers’ classes as they are more focusing on what is happening then. Reflection doesn’t come naturally, teachers need to be trained and supported. So they need support while reflecting as suggested in Dr. Bahar Gun’s study, Phillips refereed to in his speech.

Tim Phillips suggested that teaching how to reflect in teacher education institutions should be part of the curriculum as well as a lot of input on theory and methodology.

How you teach is affected by what kind of a person you are as a teacher and as a complex person; your attitudes, abilities, beliefs, personality traits, content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge all affect your teaching. Students, the market and the education system all affect the classroom behaviour Phillips suggested. He briefly informed the audience about the mission and the activities that the British Council in terms of Continuing Professional Development. They consider the different career stages of teachers as professionals and offer help and support according to their varying needs. He asked the audience to think about where they are in their carrers by means of the following questions:

  • Where are you in your career?
  • Have you recently qualified?
  • Have you been teaching for a few years or for a very long time?
  • What training/courses/workshops/seminars have you done?
  • What qualifications have you got?
  • What are your skills and strengths?
  • What are your achievements?
  • How would you assess your level of expertise?

What does British Council do to support teachers in different stages of their career? They offer a professional framework starting from inexperienced teacher to teachers progressing into more advance roles. He gave a list of newly qualified teachers as follows:

  • Finding your career pathway
  • Understanding your learners
  • Building your confidence as a teacher of English
  • Knowing what good teaching of English is
  • Getting feedback on your teaching
  • Turning theory into practice and knowing how/where to get more theoretical knowledge that’s relevant
  • Knowing where to find classroom resources especially to match those resources to learners needs
  • Learning more about specific areas of ELT such as business English or young learners

The British Council helps newly qualified teachers’ common needs such as understanding their learner, managing time, being open to feedback.

Phillips then mentioend the importance of networking for teachers and their development. This may be informal staffroom teacher exchange to, conferences, SIG groups, associations and online networks. Development can be followed up by keeping teacher portfolios and journals.

Finally, Tim Phillips gave the website addresses for teacher development and finished his talk by saying éTeachers are learners too, which is a life long journey”.