I had an amazing time at the AINET 2018 Conference in Mumbai this weekend, where I got to meet some of the superstars of India’s classrooms! The talk topics were original and inspiring, including prizewinning talks on ‘Empowering the Weaker Learners by Developing Basic Language Skills’ by Nurjahan Naik and ‘My Home Bird Sanctuary’ by Shekhar Khomne, which details how his own passion for wildlife helped him to both teach English and raise awareness of animal welfare and environmental issues – a fantastic idea! Both lunch and breakfast on day 2 were provided for free – see picture above, where I’m ambushing Ujwala Bhagat to find out more about how she uses ‘Reading Circles’ in both mixed-ability and mixed-grade classes. I loved the idea of a networking breakfast, although I somehow doubt it’ll ever catch on at IATEFL!
Innovative papers and workshops
I greatly enjoyed sessions by a number of presenters, including Renu Dhotre’s presentation on ‘Students’ Feelings about Group and Pair Work’ (her survey of learners revealed, interestingly, that they preferred to work in gender segregated groups), Rohini Sankpal’s presentation on ‘Mentees and Mentoring: Reflections’, in which she shared a balanced plan for both modelling, experimentation, observation and feedback with strategies such as reading circles proving effective. Sudhir Hinge’s fascinating research on attitudes to and reasons why cheating is ‘rampant’ (his word) in some schools was a real eye-opener. The ‘fear’ he described within the system revealed that cheating has become very much part of a coping strategy to enable learners, teachers and schools themselves to manage the demands placed upon them.
If I had to pick a personal favourite of those I attended, I’d probably choose the co-presented workshop that followed mine by the ‘dynamic’ Shailaja Mulay (as one participant called her) and Sathyavathi Balakrishna on ‘Innovative Methods to Teach Writing Skills to Students’, in which they showed how to use two useful mnemonics to support the development of their learners’ creative writing skills. This included both the AVOCADO mnemonic (see, for e.g. here) and Shailaja’s wonderfully postmodern POPBEADS mnemonic, which stands for: P – people, O – objects, P – place, B – brand name, E – expression (through use of adverbs), A – association (relating what they see to what they know), D – description (using adjectives) and S – significance (why it was meaningful). Perhaps the most interesting point that they made, was that while mindmapping is useful, many learners also need to be taught to mindmap, and they showed innovative ways in which we can help learners to ‘mindmap mindmaps’ as one participant put it! There were so many more interesting workshops I wanted to attend but couldn’t due to other obligations.
My workshop: The L1-inclusive Classroom
Slides for my workshop on ‘The L1-inclusive Classroom: Learning English with all our languages’ are available here, as is the handout. It was well attended and (hopefully) well received, with participants sharing innovative and creative ways of using learners’ languages, even when they didn’t speak them. One interesting suggestion was contributed by Sathyavathi Balakrishna who teaches predominantly Gujarati-speaking learners, despite knowing very little of their language: After she explains either a difficult instruction or complex grammar point to her learners, she challenges the learners who are more confident in English to repeat her input in Gujarati, which also provides useful input for the less-English-able learners. Nice idea!
Gender equality: AINET leading the way
AINET 2018 was possibly the first conference I’ve ever been to where female presenters outnumbered males – including the very interesting opening plenary by Annamaria Pinter – in which she shared her reflections on the future of teacher education – and the 3 British Council expert panel members (including a very confident, well informed performance by a local teacher Swapna Yadav); a promising sign for equality in Indian ELT in the future. It was nice also to hear the other plenary speaker, Professor Shyam Menon arguing for a more balanced approach between English and mother tongue education, differentiated according to the needs of students.
Many thanks AINET!
I made so many friends in the two days that seemed to whizz by! My only regret is that AINET happens only once every 2 years 😦 Looking forward to 2020!
Many thanks to Amol Padwad and the AINET team for having me: It was a pleasure to be a part of it! For more details on the conference and presenters, see the AINET website here: http://conf.theainet.net/