Category Archives: conferences

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.



Preparing a Talk for Tired (and disgruntled) Teachers

When you are asked to give the last talk at a large mandatory national study-day which begins at two o’clock (right after school, for many teachers), you know your audience will be tired and disgruntled by the time it is your turn to speak. Particulary as your talk ends at 7:30 p.m.

How disgruntled is a matter of luck depending on how enganged teachers felt earlier and how many technical mishaps there were. You also know there will be a great deal of ongoing long-distance monitoring of children.

Photo by Gil Epshtein

I read Tyson Seburn’s excellent post “The Thing with Interactive Conference Sessions” several times before my talk this week. I really agree with this post. My experience with “talk to your partner” at sessions has not been positive. Many of my colleagues report similair reactions. The trick I needed was to keep the teachers awake and engaged but to stay away from that pitfall. Particularly when a large audience in a large auditorium is involved.

Here are notes about what worked well and what didn’t:

* This is NOT the situation to go for a “No Tech Talk”. The fact that I began with suggestion for using  a humorous clip from YouTube, and then, at intervals, explained how I use Word Clouds and Quizlet really grabbed attention.

*, which I just learned about from Larry Ferlazzo, helped me create some sophisticated looking slides easily. I’m quite impressed by the options there!

This talk was given in Hebrew to teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.
This talk was given in Hebrew to teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.

* Eliciting sentences from the audience based on the activity we had done before did not work well. I only wanted 6 sentences to show “the Erasing Words Technique” but it seemed that paying attention (even asking questions!) was one thing, suggesting sentences was another. Too much interactivity at this hour, I guess. Actually, this was the “low” part of the talk as it calls for a white board, which collapsed before I approached it (I was grateful it didn’t fall on my head, to be honest. It was huge!). I had sentences prepared in advance and did it on the computer but it really doesn’t work as well. When you erase words on a white board the space remains there. Important. On the computer you have to create the space manually.

* Choosing unfamiliar sounding Japanese words to show a technique for using charts to learn vocabulary gave everyone a welcome humor break (I knew my audience spoke many languages, Japanese was a good choice). However, some teachers would not even make the effort of coloring in the relevant squares on their charts. And that was a pity because those who did felt the sense of satisfaction that I wanted to convey. It is simply not the same when you just look. I  tried some active encouragement at this point but as one teacher replied “not at this hour”.

If you know the word, you go up. If you don't, you go down.
If you know the word, you go up. If you don’t, you go down.

* But the best thing was sticking to practical tips that teachers could easily try in the classroom. That was the thing I got the most positive feedback about. Photocopying a simple Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense game ( a la “Snakes and Ladders) for them to take home went down very well. We may all be adults but having something to take home with you still feels as good as getting a “goody bag” at a birthday party.

How RSCON4 Got My Classroom Online

Perhaps the future IS here!
Perhaps the future IS here!

One might think that an online conference couldn’t be as exciting as a face-to-face one. The attendees don’t get to immerse themselves in the experience as is done when traveling (that pile of laundry didn’t disappear and there’s  work too). The presenters (at least this one did!) can wear a nice shirt with house-pants and flip flops.  You don’t share meals with others.

One might be SO WRONG!

There was an incredibly exciting feel of being at a conference! The lineup of speakers was enticing and just like at any real conference, one had to make difficult choices regarding which talk to attend.  However, unlike a “traditional” conference, recordings of all those talks that I missed are already online, here! Both video and audio are available, so it is very convenient.

But that’s not all. I actually did meet and connect with people, which is an important draw at a conference. The vibrant chat boards at the talks enhanced the talks by giving me the feeling that I was benefitting from the comments of others and I made some new friends! The organizers added a lovely touch before each talk – a map of the world for the attendees to mark their location. A Global Conference was not an empty phrase! WOW!

The big surprise though, was that the conference had a special gift for me – it got my new classroom an Internet connection! This year I moved to a new classroom after teaching in the old one for 15 years. The school kept its promise to paint the room and invest in the acoustics but nobody was in any particular rush to have the neccesary work done to connect the computer to the Internet. As someone who had been using the computer in almost every lesson, this was very aggravating.

One board is looking much better already!
One board is looking much better already!

I was feeling so enthusiastic during the conference, particularly after the tension preceeding my own talk disappeared, that I wrote an email to the principal. I said that I had represented the school well (if I may so so myself) and that I talked about the ways I use technology to individualize learning for our students. But then I explained that I can’t continue doing many of these things as I no longer have an Internet connection. I attached links to the conference and a link to the page where you can see the school’s name.


The technician did me the extra favor of cutting the wire that held up those ghastly curtains! Hurrah!
The technician did me the extra favor of cutting the wire that held up those ghastly curtains! Hurrah!

Thank you for whole experience and the wonderful parting gift, RSCON4!

* Please note that the list of recordings is organized according to the speakers’ last names and I am Ganin-Epstein.


Struggling Learners & Homework Fall in Love at RSCON4

HW slide

If struggling learners embracing homework may sound like a dream, take a moment to think how mindboggling the existence of the Reform Symposuim Conference is. VOLUNTEERS, amazing educators from all over the globe, are taking the time to organize, moderate and present a THREE DAY CONFERENCE available to any teacher, from the comfort of her/his home, for free! And so much is offered! Professional development at your doorstep, with recording available for your comfort. The future is truly here, only days away, Oct 11 to 13!

I’m pleased to play a small part of this dream come true, and will be sharing how I kindle “the romance” between struggling students and homework. For information on joining us, please see the links below:

Link to information about the conference including explainations how to attend, click here

Link to schedule showing local Jerusalem time, click here

My talk is on October 12, at five pm, Jerusalem time.

I’m Presenting at RSCON 4! WOW!

I’m excited to announce that for the first time I’ll be presenting at RSCON! It’s a truly global experience bringing together so many educators and such a wide range of topics! All available from the comfort of one’s home, and free! Just take a look at the following information (link to my talk below too):


In a few days, thousands of educators from various different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON4.  RSCON will be held October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. The entire conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide.


Useful links (click on any item for more information):


We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Steve Hargadon, Clive Elsmore, Chiew Pang, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Paula White, Bruno Andrade, Cecilia Lemos, Greta Sandler, Peggy George, Marcia Lima, Jo Hart, Phil Hart, Dinah Hunt, Marisa Constantinides, Nancy Blair, Mark Barnes and Sara Hunter

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!