Category Archives: conferences

“Giving Back” – Looking at iTDi & The 30 Goals Conference

Naomi (1)

On the iTDi blog you will now find a powerful and moving set of posts about “giving back”. As the editor, Kevin Stein, writes in his introduction:

“Opening a door, a gentle nudge, an invitation to step outside our comfort zone, mentors do all this and more…The mentors in our community are an example of how the act of giving is also an act of receiving, how reaching out and helping someone else enriches us all”.

For me, participating in the 30 Goals Project was like gaining a set of mentors. Mentors who opened doors for me. Mentors who taught me to that pausing and reflecting would be good for my teaching and my soul. These same mentors also gave me a tool for reflecting – they helped me start blogging!

Now it’s time for me to give back!

I’m participating in the amazing 30 Goals free online conference for teachers. Proud to be there with all the other teachers who have donated their time and the richness of their experience.

My talk, on playing games when tutoring “one-on-one” will be given at the following link, on Sunday, 6 p.m. (That’s GMT +3).

“Message to Younger Teacher-Self”: Closing Plenary at ETAI 2015

Thanks to Jane Cohen for the photo
Thanks to Jane Cohen for the photo


After collecting over 50 responses from teachers of English as a foreign language from all over the world, I faced a challenging task. I had to present all these meaningful, funny, moving and useful short message to a younger teacher-self in a way that would not tire the audience at the closing plenary of the ETAI Summer Conference, 2015. After all, everyone (including me!) had just spent two action packed days of talks and presentations!

To make a long story short (long as in the number of hours I spent figuring this out), I fed all the responses into a “word cloud” generator, and used that as a means of grouping the responses. For example, “DON’T” actually turned out to be the most frequent word. Would this first group of messages (which included the word don’t) all be of the admonishing kind? As in “Don’t smile at the kids till after the holidays?”.  Nope! Take a look and see for yourself, below!

“LOVE” came out smaller in the word cloud, but the word itself calls for attention. I’m sure you think all the responses were of the “love your students” kind. Check it out – you were surprised by the first one, right?

“Salad” was quite small but demanded attention – what on earth does food have to do with advice for a younger teacher?

I’ll leave you to find out on your own.

Here’s the presentation!

(P.S. Was “moodhoovers” a new phrase for you too?! A great one!)

Reviving Pearls from the Past for the Present at ETAI!


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

The Summer ETAI Conference is less than a month away! Join me, if you like, on a short, lighthearted look at some things from previous summer conferences, or jump right to the page which will let YOUR voice be heard (or to be precise, seen,) at the upcoming conference. It’s all embedded here at the bottom of this post.

Teachers from all countries, do share your SHORT (one sentence or two short sentences) pearls of wisdom for new teachers. It will be posted as “Message to Younger Teacher Self”.

We already have wonderful contributions from all over the world, thanks to the interest generated in the topic by the amazing Joanna Malefaki. Here’s a link to one of the great posts on Joanna’s blog, to inspire you –  click here!

A Dangerous Nickname – More Fun with Advice to Younger Teacher Self

Walking in someone else's shoes (Naomi's photos)
Walking in someone else’s shoes (Naomi’s photos)

The responses to my call for “Advice to your Younger Teacher Self” to be used at the upcoming ETAI teacher’s conference have begun coming in from around the globe. So far we have responses from teachers from Israel, Romania, Italy and Greece!

I requested short responses, so as to be easily presented. One teacher had something longer to say, so it has turned into a Guest Post!

So,  here’s Israel (Izzy) Cohen:

“Before selecting a nickname (“Izzy” in my case), check the Internet to see who else has used it. I’m not the first authentically Jewish cartoon character, Sgt. Izzy Cohen, one of Sgt Fury’sHowling Commandos
/s/ Israel Cohen, Sgt E6 USAR
(Check out what he looks like by clicking on the following link! Sure doesn’t look much like a teacher!)
Ironically, the comic book character’s father was “Irving Cohen”, the name on my own birth certificate.”
Ironic indeed!
Add your contribution so that we can present advice from around the world at the conference! All you have to do is fill out the very short form here:


Message to Younger Teacher Self – Conference Fun


Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

Yes, yes, I know that the very idea of sending a message to my younger teacher self doesn’t exactly make sense. Besides the necessity of time travel, how could a younger version of myself understand my perspective today? Also, what could I say?

That was my first reaction to the “shower” of  blog posts triggered by  Joanna Malefaki’s  lovely post and her blog challenge on the topic (see the bottom of Joanna’s post for links).

But then…

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

* I remembered Bruce Willis meeting his younger self  in the movie “Kid”.

* I discovered delightful, creative gems in other teachers’ posts – it seems there is a lot to be said after all! And in so many ways!

* I learned that Sophia Khan (whose post made me chuckle!) had solved the problem of time travel: “I wish I could tell you more but it might destroy the very fabric of the universe so better not”.

* I remembered that last year we had a lot of fun at the ETAI conference with seven-word-autobiographies. Crowdsourcing teachers’ input makes for creative, informative and downright funny reading!

And last, but not least…

* I considered the fact that examining different perspectives is a skill we teach in class. Crowdsourcing advice to a younger self from teachers whose ages are different, who teach in different settings and different countries – now that might even include the skill of “comparing and contrasting”!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

So, please fill in your short message to your younger teacher self using this form The messages must be short! I’m not sure whether I will collate them for the upcoming summer conference in slide show format (as I did last year) or think of something else, but brevity is a necessity! 

I can’t wait to see what the teachers will come up with!

Meanwhile, I won’t tell you what my message will be, but until the replies start coming in I will share another kind of message. Enjoy and don’t forget to fill in the form!

Struggling Learners are ONE of the HOT TOPICS at IATEFL Web Conference


Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

IATEFL is highlighting hot topics relevant to ELT teachers everywhere, in its exciting upcoming free web conference.

I’ll be putting the spotlight on creating  opportunities for struggling learners to experience success while working with the whole class.

My talk, The EUREKA Moment, will be given on Oct. 18th at

14:30 GMT time, 15:30 BST time or 17:30 Israeli time.

“Reading Videos” Sails with iTDi Summer School MOOC’s Kites

Flying High with iTDi
Flying High with iTDi

As you can see, the amazing iTDi Summer School MOOC, with its impressive variety of FREE sessions offering online professional development to teachers around the world, has chosen kites as it’s symbol.

Kites, to me,  symbolize the wide expanses of possibility, hope and energy, along with variety. Kites come in every shape, size and color. So do teachers. And their students.

iTDi recognizes that.

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

My kite has been chosen to be included in the Summer School Mooc. My session on “Using Videos to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills” will be given this Friday, August 1, at three o’clock in the afternoon local time, which is one o’clock GMT. In the talk I’ll be discussing (with many examples) how videos without dialogue can help learners of all ages improve their reading comprehension skills and expand their vocabulary.

For more information, see here:


7 Words that Echoed Around the Globe

First stop: San Jose, Costa Rica

James Taylor, who is British, head of BELTA , (Belgium), posted  a delightful lesson plan for his students in Costa Rica, where he teaches. The lesson was called Seven Word Biographies, though actually it deals with autobiographies.

Second Stop: ETAI Summer Conference, Jerusalem

Sun or electric current?  In the venue's yard at ETAI, 2014
Sun or electric current?
In the venue’s yard at ETAI, 2014

Instead of using James’ idea in class, I posted a call for Seven-Word-Autobiographies of ETAI members. For me, being a member of ETAI is being part of a community, and I thought sharing these would promote this sense of community. It is fascinating to see how each teacher took the challenge in another direction. Here is the slide show which shown before Chief Inspector Dr. Judy Steiner’s  opening plenary and Russel Stannard’s closing plenary. Thanks to them both for agreeing to have it run before their talks!

The reactions were positive! While some teachers didn’t notice the slide show was running at all, many chuckled and commented on it. Some told me that they liked it, or told teachers mentioned that they had seen their submission. A few said they had wanted to write but had trouble deciding how to phrase it.
Exiting the venue, afternoon shadows, ETAI 2014
Exiting the venue, afternoon shadows, ETAI 2014
Third Stop: In-Service Teacher Training Course, Jerusalem
A teacher (apologies, I did not catch the name, I was excited!) told me, on the first day of the conference, that she had used James’ original lesson plan in her course. Many of those teachers tried it out in their classes and it was a big hit!
More afternoon shadows outside the venue, ETAI 2014
More afternoon shadows outside the venue, ETAI 2014
Fourth Stop: Switzerland
On the second day I met visiting guest speaker JoAnn Salvisberg-Smith who is head of ETAS. When she heard how the slide show she had seen came to be, I was surprised at how pleased she was! It turns out that James is a member of the editorial board and to hear how his idea was successfully used in different ways here in Israel is just the kind of information she would like to include in their journal, in Switzerland! More writing for James to do, back in Costa Rica.
I wonder, where will the idea  go on to next?



Seven Word Fun for an ELT Conference

A side order of beauty (I took this one!)
A side order of beauty
(I took this one!)

Dear Summer ETAI Conference Conveners,

I’m looking forward to this summer’s ETAI conference. I always enjoy these conferences a great deal (the Spring Conference was a treat!) and this summer’s topic is one particularly close to my heart: Music, Mime, Movies and More. Not only have you lined up an exciting guest speaker, Russel Stannard, but I know for a fact how much our local teachers have to offer. I’m excited about my own presentation as well. As I said, a lot to look forward to.

If you don’t mind, may I make a tiny suggestion for some additional fun?

Pink Surprise (Mine too!)
Pink Surprise
(Mine too!)

James Taylor, President of BELTA described a fun lesson plan in a  post on his personal blog entitled “Seven Word Biographies”He describes how he used these in class and where they can be found.

Seven word biographies are exactly what the title says they are. Here are two examples:

Malcolm Gladwell – Father said: “Anything but journalism.” I rebelled.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Eats/Loves too much…should Pray more.

Frankly, when I read the post ETAI came to my mind. We have such creative and witty teachers! And thanks to the conferences and our ETNI mailing list, many of us know each other!

If you agree, I could create a Google Form where teachers could send in their own 7 word biographies. This is much easier for me (as opposed to members sending me emails) and all the responses will appear in one place.  Then the response could be seen scrolling on a screen, or posted somewhere in the venue during the conference. In the recent Spring ETAI Conference there was a screen used for announcements.

I think we would all get a good chuckle between sessions reading biographies submitted by the members.

Here’s mine for the moment. I reserve the right to change it in the future:

Always reinventing myself while remaining a teacher.

I hope you find my little proposal possible.

Respectfully yours,

Naomi Epstein



Is My Blog Killing my Conference Experience?

A speaker proposal form for the upcoming ETAI conference has been sitting in my inbox for over a week.

By Gil Epshtein
By Gil Epshtein


I don’t know what to write on it.

In the past I presented at many conferences. It was my chance to share the things that were on my mind, the projects I was working on or materials I had created.  I usually attended one a year (occasionally two) so I basically had a whole school year’s worth of experience to use for my talk. Very few of the people I met on a daily basis were interested in what I was doing so these opportunities were meaningful.

Now everything flows directly from my classroom to my blog (successes and failures).

Don’t get me wrong! I am under no illusion that everyone who attends our conferences reads my blog, far from it! But consider these examples:

* I thought of a talk presenting ideas for using short videos without dialogues. That’s something I am very involved in. However, all the videos I have created activities for are up on the blog and have had a lot of hits from viewers from Israel. I assume that teachers who could use these activities in class have access to computers and are more “tech minded”. These teachers are usually the ones who would have seen my postings on our mailing list.

The solution would be, of course, to offer some new video-activities, and create a mix of old and new. Unfortunately, I don’t create “on demand”. When I find something that fits in with what I need at a particular time, I create, try out in class and then share. I don’t know if I will be creating any (or how many) video-activities before April.

* The link to my COMPLETE presentation at RSCON4 conference, on the topic of homework as a tool for individualizing learning for struggling teens and adult,s is available at the conference website (linked to from my blog). The term “complete” means that not only is the slideshow there, you can hear the entire talk. In addition, homework is a “less” powerful tool when you have (as many of my colleagues at the conference do) 5 classes of 40 students per class. The underlying power of the system is based on the assumption that the teacher actually checks the tasks. Even when they are created “properly” (as in “easy to check”) this is no simple matter with very large classes. I did it for three courses, (ONE course at a time!) when I taught  adult classes of 38 students and it was demanding indeed. So I rejected this topic too.

To make a long story short, all my presentations from recent years (including the ones in Hebrew!) can be found online.

Perhaps I should forget about presenting for now.  My blog lets me share all year around, 24/7.  I”ll just go to the conference, enjoy some lectures and volunteer at the registration desk.