Views from the Whiteboard

Classroom activities and thoughts from Andalucía

Gender Discrepancy at Conferences

There’s a lot of talk at the moment in the world of TEFL surrounding gender discrepancy with regards to plenary and keynote speakers at conferences.  Nicola Prentis and Russ Mayne set up the blog Gender Equality ELT which aims to raise awareness of this issue on a global scale, whilst Tessa Woodward et al set up The Fair List which promotes gender equality at UK events.

One of my arguments against discrimination occurring was that perhaps there are less female conference presenters and whilst I understand that plenaries are invited to speak, if women aren’t making a mark for themselves as speakers, when will they be seen as good candidates for plenaries?

Hoff stamp @NicolaPrentisAs president of a local TEFL association and organiser of events, to (hopefully) avoid being awarded the not-so-prestigious Hoff stamp, I looked into the numbers to see whether TEFL del Sur is promoting fairness at our events.  We’ve been running mini-conferences for five years now and I think we’re doing fairly well in the gender stakes: of our 16 presenters, 7 are female and 9 male.  What is interesting to note, however, is that over the five years those female speakers have presented on more occasions than their male counterparts (17:14).  It would seem then that, certainly in Cádiz, women are keen to present.

I decided to look a little further afield (though not too far!), towards Sevilla, where ACEIA hosted its annual conference yesterday.  This year, 67% of speakers are male.  Whilst on the face of it this could easily look like discrimination, of all the proposals received, 60% were from men so in fact the programme reflects this fairly.¹

Considering that most people say that in our profession women are in the majority², it seems a little surprising that this isn’t reflected in their desire to talk.  Is the issue with conference organisers who aren’t iniviting women to be plenary and keynote speakers?  Should we be doing more to encourage women to get onto the conference circuit?

Personally, my answer to both these questions is “no” – in my opinion, I don’t feel that women are being consciously discriminated against by conference organisers at the moment of contacting plenary and keynote speakers and I don’t feel that we should change proposal policy or make moves to positively discriminate in favour of female conference speakers as by doing so, rather than seeing and treating both sexes as equal, we’re merely highlighting that inequality is an still issue.

You can read many other blogposts on this topic by following the links on the GenderEquality ELT Resources page.

¹Kind regards to Borja Urunuela from ACEIA for supplying the figures

²I can’t find an exact figure, but here are some quotes:

You will probably have noticed the one common denominator that us plenary speakers shared – despite the fact that the conference organisers were both women. They defended their selection of speakers robustly, but then, as on similar occasions more recently, us 5 men on the final panel had the grace (?) to feel uncomfortable sitting there faced with a large crowd of Mexican teachers, the majority of whom, were, of course, women.

(Are plenaries ‘gender-ed’?, Jeremy Harmer, 2010)

…if the stage is otherwise dominated by men as is all too often the case in many industries but, unfortunately, even in one where women make up 60% of it.

(The Future of ELT #eltpast, Nicola Prentis, 2015)

No Comments »

Telling the Time

ClockWow, an incredibly uninspiring title for what is a fab little resource that I’ve just discovered to introduce and review the time.  You can drag the minute and hour hands to the time you want – quick tip, if you’re adjusting both the hour and minutes, move the hour hand first.    You can remove the digital clock by clicking off on the right-hand side or set the clock to show real time.  If the second hand is getting in your way, you can remove it by clicking on the drop-down Mode menu, then Style, selecting the box second hand and then clicking on the cross at the bottom of the colour palette.Great as an introduction to telling the time or for a quick review activity at the start of the lesson.

No Comments »


It took me a (little) while to sit down to write this post.  It seemed like the perfect time for a gin and tonic and when I went in to ask my partner if he fancied one as well, I realised I needed to get the washing in.  On doing that, a couple of plants on the terrace needed watering.  Then I put the washing away and when I put the basket and pegs back, I took the opportunity to sort out the recycling at the same time.  Then, as I was hanging up the towels, I saw a couple of bits and bobs which needed to go back to their homes.  So then I got my G&T, sat down in front of the computer and noticed I had a couple of notifications on facebook and twitter so I quickly checked them out and now I’m ready to write.

Hang on, a couple of swigs of G&T and I’ll crack on…

The word “procrastination” came up in my FCE preparation class earlier this week. It’s such a fantastic word and I don’t think it has a simple translation into Spanish (one member of the class was adamant that procrastinación exists, but the others looked at her with blank faces!  She said the word dilación as well, which wordreference lists as a translation of procrastination, but I don’t think it encompasses the same idea).  We were talking about the term briefly in the lesson, and at the end of class that same learner asked if we could read a text on the topic during the next lesson.  I had planned to have something prepped by the next lesson, but (typically) when I sat at my computer to search for an article on procrastination, things kept cropping up!

However, you can now download “procrastination article” and I can cross it off my to-do list as I’ve found and adapted an article from Mind Tools into which I’ve slipped some joyous Use of English activities.


Now, on with that gin and tonic.

No Comments »

Introducing new lexis with YLs

Introducing new vocabulary can often be a tedious, rote-learning affair: the teacher holds up a flashcard, elicits what it shows, models the correct pronunciation, the learners repeat and we move on to the next word. Whilst this is an effective way of exposing our learners to single words, we can do so much more to engage them and make the process of assimilating new lexis much more enjoyable.

Take for example, the flashcard below from Macmillan, “ball”. This may be as much as we want our learners to take from the flashcard, but with a little encouragement we can build them to saying, “It’s a big, orange and green ball” and more!

So how can we build this sentence with our young learners? It happens something like this:
Teacher (holding up flashcard): What’s this?
Learners: Ball
Teacher: It’s a ball. (mimes for learners to repeat)
Learners: It’s a ball.
Teacher (whispering): It’s a ball.
Learners (whispering): It’s a ball.
Teacher (shouting): It’s a ball.
Learners (shouting): It’s a ball.
Teacher: Is it big or small? (with appropriate hand gestures)
Learners: Big.
Teacher: It’s a big ball. (gestures for learners to repeat – and again the process of drilling with different voices: whispering, shouting, slowly, faster, with a robotic voice, with a squeaky voice)
Teacher: What colour is it?
Learners: Orange and green.
Teacher: It’s a big, orange and green ball. (and again the teacher drills the sentence in a number of different voices, both chorally and individually)

We’ve now moved learners away from a single word to a full sentence, using correct adjective order and grammatical structure. As learners become accustomed to this style of introducing new lexis, they begin responding more fully when asked and within a short time will automatically respond with “It’s a…”

But this style of lexical exposure can still be dull for our learners – and this is where a little imagination can have a very positive role.

It’s a sandwich. But what’s in it? Elicit tomato and lettuce and drill, “It’s a tomato and lettuce sandwich”. Then ask them if there are spiders in the sandwich – after an initial, “no! Urgh!”, someone’s bound to shout “Yes!” Then they can come up with their own ideas – anything goes if it’s in a full sentence. What’s important is that they’re repeating the core lexis – by the end of the lesson they will have said sandwich who knows how many times…and it’ll stick.


Images from

No Comments »

Circle vocab

I’m not a fan of games where people get eliminated – both in terms of the group dynamic and linguistic production.  Here’s a quick five-minute filler which will hopefully ensure learners avoid elimination.

Everyone stands in a circle and the lexical topic is chosen, for example food.  Go round in a circle naming food; if somebody repeats or takes too long to think, they go down on one knee. If they forget again, they go down on the other knee – as I use this game just in the last minutes of class, it’s always been time to go before anyone has actually got to that stage.  Another option could be that if someone is down on one knee and provides a correct answer, they can stand up again.

No Comments »