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January is often considered a tricky month to organise a large-scale ELT event in Chile, but British Council Chile's Young Learners conference has proven that when you have a solid concept and an identified target audience then it's clearly a case of "who dares wins", and IATEFL Chile was more than happy to support this much needed initiative, now in it's third iteration.

Our support for the conference was in the form of providing 2 workshops for the teachers attending.

Sian JerretOn Day 1, Sian Jerrett a locally based primary teacher and teacher trainer gave a highly practical and engaging presentation on Alternative Assessment with young learners of English. She drew attention to the mismatch between how primary teachers often teach English in a very fun, creative and communicative way, but then when it comes to assessing progress, this is done only summatively and by using very traditional instruments such as multiple choice and gap-fill items that often don't tell us very much about progress learners make in a more holistic sense. The second part of Sian's presentation focused on alternative ways for assessing students which are more in step with the communicative approach mentioned in the first part. Most interesting of all was the in-class research Sian did with a group of her learners at St Gabriel's school in which she asked them how they preferred to be assessed. It transpired the most popular technique among the students were group oral presentations but the least popular (together with gap-fill item tests) were individual oral presentations. This tells us something interesting about the issue of team work (popular) versus individual preparation (unpopular) in relation to how students prefer to be evaluated.

Melissa Stenger

Our second sponsored presentation on Day 2 was given by Melissa Stenger, a SEN (Special Educational Needs) instructor and specialist from the Nido de Aguilas school in Lo Barnechea. The topic of Melissa's workshop was how simple visual aids can vastly improve classroom performance for learners with SEN, including ADHD, dyslexia, dispraxia and autism spectrum. Melissa demonstrated a series of practical visual aids such as token cards with velcro that break a normal classroom task down into different, more manageable stages for learners with concentration issues and how this can help with managing an integrated, inclusional class with other learners not requiring such support. All in all the workshop was informative, fun and highly practical and there was that definite "buzz" sensation among those teachers who participated, always a positive sign!

The conference included many other memorable moments, perhaps none more so than Nick Bilbrough's spellbinding final plenary which began with a live webcast play in English performed by 3 Palestinian girls from Gaza, a highly powerful and moving experience which had the whole audience weeping unashamedely. Congratulations then to British Council Chile on another memorable and important contribution to local teachers' CPD for teaching Young Learners and we look forward to maintaining and strengthening our links with them now and in the future.

We'll be back soon! Bringing you the best in language teacher education, here and now for Chile….

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