Bringing real-life into the classroom: five inspiring ideas

meetELT was created by Navitas English and Pearson in 2012 as a way to bring English language teachers together from language centres across Sydney for an informal and highly engaging event providing a unique professional development experience. The latest event took place in April 2016 at the Hotel CBD in Sydney and, with overwhelmingly positive feedback and a Net Promoter Score of 89, it proved to be another huge success!

‘A down-to-earth storm of ideas, beautifully explained.’ meetELT attendee

The theme of the evening ‘Where real-life meets the classroom; to infinitive and beyond’ appealed to language teachers’ interest in making learning meaningful as well as their weakness for cheesy word-play, and drew over 100 attendees for a sold-out event!

The event kicked off with a practical ideas session showcasing activities for bridging the gap between classroom learning and what actually happens in our students’ real lives.

‘The presenters were all great speakers and there were many innovative ideas. Fantastic!’ meetELT attendee

Teachers from language schools across Sydney including Navitas English, presented quick-fire Pecha Kuchas on authentic class projects on topics ranging from a ‘Pinkytas’ charity event to a ‘Selfie Safari’.

Below you can watch each of the presenters sharing their simple, but powerful, activities:

  1. Dan Pratt on how real life situations force you to learn fast
  2. James Heath & Matt Tirpack on their “Selfie Safari”
  3. Virginia Mawer on her student-led “Pinkytas” fundraiser
  4. Zoe Erbacher on turning her English language students into real-life tour guides
  5. Jock Boyd on how to “Shut up and write”

Dan Pratt talks about how real life situations can inspire you to learn quickly, providing a personal example from his days working in a Paris shoe shop! Drawing from his experience as a primary school teacher, he explains how making things concrete makes learning meaningful, and how it can easily be applied to adult education. He introduced a real letter from his niece for his students – and unleashed capabilities in his students he’d never seen before…

James Heath & Matt Tirpack share their wonderfully successful story of the “Selfie Safari” in which their students roamed Sydney to hunt down selfies with iconic Australian things. One result, in addition to achieving the planned learning outcomes, was that some students found a real sense of belonging to the city and the country after really engaging with it in this manner.

Virginia Mawer talks about how getting her students to run a breast cancer fundraiser at Navitas which they creatively spun into a ‘Pinkytas’ event! The students managed the event using all the communication tools they already do in real-life, including WhatsApp, to produce remarkably positive gains in their confidence and English language skills.

Zoe Erbacher turns her English language students into real-life tour guides, presenting the history and cultural elements of different places to their peers and experiencing a wonderful sense of confidence and learning.

In the provocatively-titled “Shut Up and Write”, Jock Boyd explains how and why you should get your students to… well, you guessed it… “Shut Up and Write”! Reminiscent of what we’ve learned from the Pecha Kucha format, this is a technique drawn from outside the language classroom, used by writers and PhD students to overcome writer’s block. There are many interesting applications across lots of educational contexts to consider.

[Produced in collaboration with Georgie Lowe.]

If you would like to be involved in organising or presenting at our next event please contact