Useful tips on how to build rapport when you’re not John Keating from Dead Poets Society

Excellent insights for all of us!

Cecilia Nobre ELT Blog


“ Consciously, we teach what we know; unconsciously, we teach who we are.” Hamacheck (1999, p.209)

I recently watched a video on social media that blew my mind and got me thinking of how important establishing rapport with our students is. You might have seen the video of a teacher in the US who uses a personalized greeting with each student before they get in the classroom ( if you haven’t watched it yet, it’s here).

I would have loved to be one of his students. He truly shows he cares about his pupils.

He goes on and says “we pride ourselves on high expectations and in meaningful relationships.It’s more than a handshake, it’s about impacting the student in the most positive way.

Never underrate the values of relationships, with anyone.

So what can a gesture like that teach us? Do we have to teach a morning routine…

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SKA 2017 UKF Nitra

We’ll be in Nitra this September. What about you?

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Zuzana Straková: Plenary and YLs Workshop — SKA 2016: Mind the Gap

Every time we put on a conference, we get the question: “Will Zuzana Straková be there?” If we answer “No”, the response is often “Oh. Then maybe I won’t come.” But this year we can say, “YES!” So come! We are so pleased that Sue has fit us into her busy schedule. We always enjoy […]

via Zuzana Straková: Plenary and YLs Workshop — SKA 2016: Mind the Gap

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Thoughts and Reflections on the 14th ELTA Serbia Conference

by Hon Chong

After the whirlwind of the last two months, hon elta profileI have finally got around to writing about my experience as the SKA and SKA Drama SIG representative at the 14th ELTA Serbia Conference, May 20-21, in Belgrade. It wasn’t my first time in Belgrade but it was my first teacher’s conference outside of Slovakia.  It was also my first experience as an official representative of SKA and my first workshop in an international conference.

These are stories about the valuable lessons I learned from others and from my own mistakes at the 14th ELTA Serbia Conference, but also the memories and new friendships I want to keep for a very long time.

Serbian Hospitality

International conferences can be quite intimidating.  I’m not a natural extrovert and I don’t enjoy making small talk with strangers.  It was rather intimidating for me at first when I was seated right in the front row in a big hall with hundreds of teachers from various countries.  I was there by myself and most of the participants were Serbians who knew each other. So, naturally, people form groups.  Here’s when I really appreciate that the organizers came to introduce themselves to me and were for very friendly right from the beginning.  I was also introduced to other teachers and representatives from different countries.  The organizers took us out for dinner, arranged a walking tour for all partner associations’ representatives and even a Latin American dance party to get teachers socializing and having fun.  I want to thank all the wonderful people at ELTA again for your warm hospitality.  I do hope to see you again soon in the future.  There are simply too many people to thank that I will not list them all here but you know who you are, my dear friends. 🙂

hon elta group

My First Workshop

I must admit I was a little nervous about my workshop.  My workshop’s topic was using improv theater as a teaching tool.   I didn’t have any PowerPoint slides, handouts, or props.  Not because I wasn’t prepared; in fact, I had prepared weeks in advance.  I wanted to share a few improv activities that teachers with zero or little drama experience could use to enhance their teaching.  I wanted the workshop to be completely hands-on and interactive.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned.  The conference was held in a newly renovated university with new equipment and classrooms. I’d had in my mind a classroom where we could move chairs and tables out of the way and get everyone to form a circle in the middle of the room to play a variety of improv games. To my surprise, all the chairs (more like benches) and desks were bolted to the floor.  There was absolutely no way to move even one piece of furniture in the room.

Here we are in 2016 and we still build schools and universities with the goal of keeping students firmly seated and the teacher at the front lecturing.  So, all that preparation and planning goes out the window.  My first thought was to speak with the organizer to ask for a more suitable classroom, one where we would have more space to move around.  But then I stopped myself.  If I want teachers to be able to use improv in their classroom, I first need to understand their environment.  Not every teacher has the luxury or resources to teach in an open space classroom conducive to theater activities.  I’m pretty sure most schools have classrooms where the desks and chairs are not easily movable.  And what about the teachers who teach adults in companies?  Most meeting rooms are designed to keep people firmly seated.  You don’t want people running around during a meeting, I guess.

With that in mind, I improvised.  I adapted as many activities as possible to the seating arrangement.  My workshop was still interactive, but now the teachers could clearly see how this could be done in their own classrooms.  The 45 min went by quickly and when the time was up, there was a big, disappointed ‘aawwwww…’ from my participants.  It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received.

A Note about Culture

The 14th ELTA slogan was a quote from Malala Yousafzai: ‘one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world’.  The conference had a strong focus on cultural awareness and embracing diversity.  In fact, one of the plenaries, Mark Andrews, dedicated his whole closing plenary to this topic.  He did bring up one very important point that we’re not only teaching a foreign language, we’re also sharing cultures.  These areas are connected.

Attending an international conference is one of the best ways for teachers to learn about each other’s cultures.  What better way to learn about other cultures than to spend some time learning with and from them?  It’s about having mutual respect for what our colleagues in other countries do.

I found out that many teachers had to travel by bus for over 15 hours just to get to the conference.  Some of them came from villages without permanent access to electricity and water.  Hearing stories like these keep me humble.  It is so humbling to know that some of my colleagues have to daily face many difficulties just to do their job and on top of that, they still make the effort to attend conferences in order to improve their skills and be better teachers.

One memorable experience was when I was in a taxi with the Bosnian and Serbian representatives.  They told me how similar Bosnian and Serbian languages are and yet both nationalities make a big deal out of it. And we all laughed and poke fun at how crazy our world is.   In that taxi, we saw each other not as different nationalities but simply people we can share a few good laughs with.  There were also teachers from Kosovo who visited Belgrade for the first time in their lives.  All these teachers shared incredible stories with me about how in their own countries students had to go to different schools only because of race and ethnicity.  If I had to give one important reason for an international teachers’ conference, it would be because it brings people together.  People who otherwise wouldn’t find the need to be together.  This is how we can change attitudes.

After my workshop, a Serbian teacher came up to me to tell me that she really enjoyed my workshop but I was too polite and shy.  She said Serbians are not afraid of being direct.  She added, “Just be strong and don’t be afraid to be direct with them.”

Any culture that teaches me to be strong and to not be afraid of voicing my opinions definitely has a special place in my heart.

hon elta

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2nd Annual Conference: Mind the Gap

Image (3)Our conference is only 3 months away! Are you coming?

This year’s conference theme is ‘Mind the Gap’. We’ll focus on intercultural communication in which misunderstandings arise, and also just all those areas in teaching in which we can’t seem to get across to our students. We’ll be doing some bridging of those gaps. Come join us!

Register as a participant here: 

Or submit a workshop proposal here:

You can find out more about our plenaries on the conference blog, Come join us!




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Summer Webinar with Lýdia Machová: How can teachers improve their English? Seriously… how?

When: 7-8 pm (CET), Thursday, 23 June 2016
Where: online, via Google+ Hangouts (link provided after registration)
Who for: English language teachers who feel like this:

  • I keep using the same basic vocabulary.
  • My ability to express myself in English is much poorer than it used to be.
  • I don’t have time to work on my own language improvement.
  • I seem to have lost my passion for English.
  • I would like to get better at English but I don’t know how.

Fee: none
Recording: available to registered participants only

How can teachers improve their English? Seriously… how?

Lydia will share her experience as a language learner and also…

  • 8 reasons why our English doesn’t improve despite our everyday contact with it
  • what it takes to make a significant difference in our own English learning
  • how to find the time for improving our English even if we’re very busy
  • how to change our passive vocabulary into active and start using more advanced expressions

and a bonus:

  • how to read hundreds of online English magazines (including The Economist!) for free. Legally.

This time, English teachers won’t talk about improving their students’ language skills. This will be all about us, teachers, and how we can keep our language “in shape” so that we can be even better teachers for our students.

lydkaLýdia Machová is an interpreter (Slovak, English, German, and Polish) and foreign language mentor who has taught in a variety of settings. More than anything else, however, she’s a passionate language learner (currently working on her 8th) and active in the polyglot community. Her focus is the LEARNING process, rather than the teaching process, as she seeks to apply her experience as a LEARNER to her teaching and mentoring of others who want to learn a foreign language.


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SKA Winter Webinar with Lýdia Machová: Letting our students do the learning…because they love it!

When: 3-4pm (CET), Saturday, 30 January, 2016
Where: online, hosted by Webinars Guru (link provided after registration)
Who for: those teaching teens and adults, as well as teachers looking for ideas to improve their own language skills.
Fee: none
Recording: available to registered participants and SKA members only

Host: Lynda Steyne

Letting our students do the learning…because they love it!

Lydia will share her experience as lydiaa language mentor in which this last year she taught 100 students at a Slovak university and managed to get them to work on their English for half an hour every working day for two months. There was no pressure, just the right motivation. Her students did activities in English which they truly enjoyed, especially listening and expanding vocabulary, but also reading, speaking, writing and learning grammar.

Some student feedback:

Thank for making us realize that learning English can turn into a pleasant freetime activity 🙂

It was a great experience and it has already born fruit. I’m going to use the strategy for learning Italian too.

Thank you so much for your lessons, they really helped me improve my English!

And yet, Lydia spent only about five minutes a week to make that happen.  Join the webinar on Saturday 30th January at 3 p.m. (CET) to find out how she did it.

What you will learn:

  • how to motivate your students to do something about their English outside your lessons – for free and without being forced to do so
  • three specific resources which you can share with your students and which they may start using that very minute
  • how to invest less time and energy into your lessons and achieve more in the end

The webinar is free of charge and open to both members and non-members of SKA. Pre-registration is required and the recording will be made available to those who have registered and SKA members only. We are unable to offer a certificate of attendance at the present time.

_MG_1850Lýdia Machová is an interpreter (Slovak, English, German, and Polish) and foreign language mentor who has taught in a variety of settings. More than anything else, however, she’s a passionate language learner (currently working on her 8th) and active in the polyglot community. Her focus is the LEARNING process, rather than the teaching process, as she seeks to apply her experience as a LEARNER to her teaching and mentoring of others who want to learn a foreign language.


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