My ACTA-ACAL 2016 Conference Highlights

Jul 31, 2016 | A.C.T. News | 1 comment

Last year, ATESOL ACT ran a competition to sponsor registration fees for two members to attend the 2016 ACTA-ACAL Diversity Conference, held in Perth in April. There were two sponsorships awarded:

  • one for a member from the school sector, won by Jennifer Mayers, and
  • one for a member from the adult sector, won by Lesley Cioccarelli.

Among the competition conditions were:

  • Sponsorship winners must do a presentation at an ATESOL ACT PD session to report an overview of their conference experience, highlights of the sessions they attended, etc.”
  • Sponsorship winners must write a short report of their conference experience for the ATESOL ACT website

Jennifer and Lesley presented at the professional learning session on Saturday 30 July, and here is the first of the reports.

My ACTA-ACAL 2016 Conference Highlights

Lesley Cioccarelli

Firstly, thank you to ATESOL ACT for the competition for registration sponsorship for the ACTA-ACAL 2016 Conference.

These are my highlights from the conference – I’m not trying to cover everything I attended. I seem to have picked workshops as my highlights, but I think that is because that is where I was able to share and learn alongside colleagues from around Australia. The papers and keynotes were also very useful for reflecting on the state of TESOL and my own practice.

Connect, Share, Learn: exchanging ways to expand professional learning through social media

Lesley Cioccarelli and Cindy Valdez-Adams

Cindy & Lesley

Cindy & Lesley meeting at the Conference

I love conferences for the opportunity to network and share with colleagues, but what do you do for the other 363 days of the year? Answering this was the theme of the workshop I presented with Fairfield Primary School teacher, Cindy Valdez-Adams, the powerhouse behind #tesoloz on Twitter. I’ve done quite a few of these, but not with a teacher from the school sector before, so it was a new experience for me. Cindy and I met for the first time in Perth at the Conference, but we had been collaborating on the workshop online for months.


Cindy and I are passionate about connecting, sharing and learning via social media and wanted to help others learn how to join in. After a group discussion activity about ‘why’ teachers might want to connect online, we shared our own stories about our social media journey. We then covered the ‘what’ and ‘where’, introducing participants to the some of the online communities we engage with on Facebook and Twitter. Then we took everyone through the ‘how’ in an activity on learning to tweet using sticky notes – see photo.

Learning to tweet

Workshop participants ‘tweeting’ using sticky notes

Join us on Twitter by using the hashtag #tesoloz and/or #AusELT

And please follow @ATESOLACT and @ACTAConf

On Facebook there are Australian groups for teachers from various sectors:

Forum on Adult ESL Issues in Teaching & Learning: Establishing networks for knowledge sharing & exchanging ideas

Karen Barber and Lesley Cioccarelli

Karen, the vice president of ACTA, and I are the co-convenors of the ACTA Adult ESL Working Group. The adult sector of TESOL is becoming increasingly fractured, with less government initiated professional development and support, and with teachers employed by TAFEs and private RTOs with varying  access to support. Earlier this year we established a Facebook Group to enable members of state/territory affiliated associations (like ATESOL ACT) to connect. The aims of this forum was to discuss the aims of the group and to discuss how we might collectively facilitate:

  • Networks and Knowledge Sharing Initiative
  • Advocacy
  • Professional Development

We encourage all teachers in the adult sector to join the conversation!

AdultESOL FBgroup

ACTA Adult ESOL Interest Group: Professional Conversation

Captioned video supporting literacy and learning

Anne McGrath

I found many ideas from this workshop to take back to my work at CIT, in our Student Support team, including additional ways we can encourage implementation of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) in all areas.

Anne is a teacher of the deaf and Leader of learning, hearing for Sydney Catholic schools, and also recipient of a NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship – “Building teacher capacity in the use of captioned multimedia for curriculum access”

Captioned video

In her session Anne covered:

  • Why access to multimedia is so important
  • How captions support Universal Design of Learning (UDL)
    • Multiple means of representation
    • Multiple means of action & expression
    • Multiple means of engagement
  • Who benefits from captions, including EAL/D learners
  • Research re captions and literacy
  • Teachers concerns

The rest of the workshop was spent on Anne sharing many practical resources, ideas, etc., including,

  • using captioned videos with IWBs
  • how to use interactive transcripts (e.g., TED Talks)
  • how to find captioned videos
    • … and how to fix automatic captions on YouTube
  • DIY captioning – student devised videos


Differentiating for diverse populations: the advantages of problem-based language learning

Naomi Migliacci

This workshop was a flurry of engaging and useful activities.  Naomi Migliacci is President of NM Consulting, an international firm that “promotes rigorous, active learning for teachers and their students”.

Naomi started her workshop with an “Essential Question” for participants:

How do we engage diverse populations of students with limited English and limited educational backgrounds in language and literacy learning experiences and increase academic achievement for their 21st century futures?

Then built up a background about EALs

  • Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE)
  • Programs and their Challenges

And covered challenges for teachers and using Problem-based Learning with EALs.

She gave examples of Essential Questions and Guiding Questions, reminding us that questions help to:

  • Guide student thinking
  • Focus the topic
  • Allow for the reading/viewing of different texts

And introduced her PBLL Framework, which included

  • Principles of  Instructional Design

How do we make language “visible” and provide opportunities to learners so that they use language for real purposes

21stCentury Learning Skills

  • 21st Century Learning Skills
  • 6 “A”s of Problem-based Learning
    • Authenticity (including a lot of discussion of what is an ‘authentic’ project)
    • Academic Rigour
    • Applied Learning
    • Active Exploration
    • Adult Connections
    • Assessment Practices

And finished with this question for discussion: How does PBLL promote 21st Century Learning Skills?

Naomi delivered a similar workshop at the ACTA 2014 Conference, and you can access her presentation slides here: Meeting the ELT Challenge in the 21st Century: Problem-based Learning (until the 2016 slides are available, then I’ll link to those).


Sentence-combining skills: getting beyond ‘write it the way you say it’

Geoff Pearson

This was another very interactive workshop, where we were working the whole time on simple practical activities which were immediately useful in our own teaching practice.

Geoff Pearson has been an ESL and literacy teacher for more than 35 years, focussing primarily on workplace programs in WA. He also delivers a very popular ’Teach Me Grammar’ Action Learning Program in Perth.

Geoff started off by saying that the session was for adult literacy teachers, but I personally found it very useful as an adult ESOL teacher.

Our first activity was to construct a poem, and Geoff recounted how a group of ‘at risk’ students wrote their own poems and found they “liked the sound of their own writing”.

Working with adult literacy students, he said often teachers start with “Write it the way you say it, and then tidy up”, and his activities are geared towards this tidying up.   He uses minimal reference to grammatical terminology, and the focus is on writing, not rule-learning.  His sentence combining approach takes students beyond simple to compound to more complex structures, introducing questions such as:

  • What makes a sentence a sentence?
  • Use the SVO Questioning Technique to find out
    • Identify the verb … VERB (being, thinking, doing, acting word)
    • Who or what VERB?…SUBJECT
  • Then ask… Is it a sentence?
  • What’s the connection?
    • How many ways can you connect these sentences

Next Geoff led us through a series of the activities retelling the story of “There were two bulls”, after watching the Toyota Hilux Bulls ad on YouTube

There were two bulls

Geoff uses a fairly traditional approach to grammar, but it was very effective in the way it was presented to the student, “teaching structures using their own language, for academic language.”

Geoff very enthusiastically recommended these books, all of which you can order online (I wasn’t able to source any in Australian bookshops):

Geoff books
  • Grammar to Enrich & Enhance Writing / Constance Weaver
  • The Grammar Plan Book / Constance Weaver
  • Grammar for Sentence Combining: underpinning knowledge for adult literacy practitioners / Maxine Burton
  • Image Grammar / Harry Noden
  • Mechanically Inclined / building grammar, usage and style into writer’s workshop / Jeff Anderson
  • The Teachers Guide to Grammar / Deborah Cameron


SYMPOSIUM: Let’s Talk About Numeracy: Bringing numeracy and language together in multilingual classrooms

There were four additional symposia on offer, held in conjunction with the Conference.  I attended the one of adult numeracy teaching, which consisted of a series of presentation/workshops.  It was a full day of useful learning on how to help EALs with numeracy.  Here are just some of the key points:

Learning to Talk and Talking to Learn Numeracy / Beth Marr

  • Many students left behind / many anxious / many under-stimulated
  • Context needs to make sense to the learner. Putting things in a context doesn’t help if it doesn’t make sense to the student.
  • Structured problem solving & Cooperative logic problems
  • The importance of personal references, eg, my arm is one metre long.

Indigenous Learners, Numeracy and Language – Di Tomazos

  • Western mathematics teaching of number and calculations
  • Language and talking about numbers
  • Teaching number sense and calculation strategies with real meaning

Adults Talking Numeracy: collaborative activities for beginning English language learners – Amber Farquharson & Carmel Jennings, Centacare

  • Assumptions we make as teachers when we start to teach numeracy
  • Intriduced us to examples of activities that they have successfully used with very low-level learners (ACSF Pre-level 1).


Some key quotes from the keynotes/plenary

Do you know Australia’s joint history? And can you teach it?
Each of us has a responsibility to know it and teach it.
Carol Garlett

The dominant model has failed many people classified as ‘illiterate’ for their failure to acquire it.
Is adult literacy something to achieve our goals or is it something worthwhile in its own sake?
Vicky Duckworth

Education is about intervening , not just facilitating. (Alexander 2010)
How realistic is it to expect learners of refugee backgrounds to cope/thrive(?) in a high challenge environment?
Jennifer Hammond

Best inoculation against misinformation
Teach scepticism
Ullrich Ecker

Some conference tips

  • Go
  • Network
  • Present
  • Get something like this for notes: EVERNOTE
  • Share what you’ve learnt
    • with colleagues
    • via ATESOL ACT
    • online – join a community!