The first edition of 'In English Digital' is now available. Originally a print magazine produced by the British Council in Portugal for teachers of English in that country, we've taken the oppportunity offered by turning it into an e-zine to connect with more people.
My goodness, you couldn't ask for anything better than that! A whole bunch of teachers from bilingual schools across Spain met up in the historic town of Alcalá de Henares (birthplace of Cervantes, incidentally) for three days training based around reading skills - with a bit on writing skills thrown in for good measure. I was privileged to run the middle day when, predictably, we spent the whole day looking at literature in the ELT classroom.
It is said that the art of public story telling in Damascus has all but died out, with one sole teller of tales only still appearing regularly dressed up in baggy trousers and carrying a sword. But I don't think it's true. Today I went along to Damascus University where the English language faculty were hosting the 10th TEFL Conference to a packed conference room. I found that I had been listed as the key note speaker, which is an honour which had given me a somewhat restless night.
I'm back home after a very stimulating few days in Segovia. I suspect that what we have learned will be very useful in the Hay Festivals worldwide throughout 2011. The feedback we got from teachers and students has been very positive and it would be a shame if the experience was limited only to those teachers and students who managed to get to Segovia over a three days period in September. Mind you, some people travelled quite long distances to get there with coach journeys of three hours or more not being unusual.
I think we have found a winning formula. First you invite along between 60 and 70 teachers of English (make sure they are good quality teachers, bursting with life and ideas: you can tell by their eyes), stir in a talk about methodology and then mix in some activities using literature that make them think and make them do and finally whisk in two writers with lots of experience of working with schools and with kids.
Another day with hundreds more Spanish kids sitting (mostly) in rapt silence at an author talking for 45 minutes in English - twice! I do think that is amazing, and quite wonderful. Beverley Naidoo talked them through her life as a fighter against apartheid, a fighter with words.
Great morning with hundreds of great Spanish kids! Melvin was his usual mischievous self, especially when we found that we didn't have to speak Spanish after all and we started off by discussing some of his early books - like 'Junk' and 'Doing It' which caused great consternation when they were first published and determined, to a large extent, what 'teenage literature'meant - they were certainly pioneering books and helped to change the perception of what books for this age group were all about.
Arrived in Segovia. What a lovely town - I had forgotten just what an attractive place it is; an architectural delight or a hidden treasure on every corner.Arrived in time to witness the beginning of the march around town which inaugurated the various exhibitions of visual arts, but too hungry and thirsty to do much more than wave the crowd bon voyage as they trooped off to the different venues around the city.Also arrived in town was Melvin Burgess, looked decidedly morose after an epic journey of delays and lost personal items.
The last time I was involved with the Hay Literature Festival in Segovia was two years ago, and it involved the poets Owen Shears and Gillian Clarke (both Welsh, incidentally) and the renowned author of children's books, Michael Morpurgo. It was a very BritLitty type of event, with workshops for around 100 teachers and discussions with the writers and trips to see their public 'performances' - and the inevitable BritLit resource kits produced as a result. It was hugely enjoyable and succes
Well, that's more or less my time as Guest Writer for TE so although I'll continue to blog away right here, this is my last post in the present, august position!Can I thank everyone who has contributed so gallantly to the discussions and by offering their own insights and snippets of themselves. Invaluable stuff, and I continue to be humbled by all the talent out there. Also many thanks to those of you who have sent me emails - an extraordinary number of you did and I am quite overwhelmed!The dialogue continues, though. Who is Guest Writer next month? Will we see a new guest teacher?