Linda Yael brings literature to literacy

TimeApril 26, 2019 by ELT forum

Linda Yael is a trainer with Pilgrims Teacher Training, and also a free-lance teacher trainer. She is president of APIZALS, the regional association for teachers of English. She is an experienced conference presenter and a Cambridge speaking and IELTS examiner. She is especially interested in travelling to give teacher development seminars in subjects such as Teaching English through literature and Teaching Advanced Learners.

This year she will also be presenting at Eltforum in Bratislava, giving a workshop on “Above and beyond the four skills through poetry”.

  1. Why did you become an EFL teacher?

I come from a multilingual and multicultural family, so languages were always a part of my life, even though the first thing I studied at university was architecture! But when I decided I was seriously going to be a teacher, I did all the relevant training.

  1. You have taught at many institutions. Which ones have had the greatest impact in shaping your approach?

That’s a tricky one – it’s been different ones at different stages in my life. I think the first one was when I found myself in my early thirties as sole lecturer in English at a science research centre, having to do everything from designing courses and tests, selecting and preparing materials, teaching, of course, to editing scientific papers. The next must surely be a British Council course for which I had a Hornby Grant, a Train the Trainer course in Cambridge. I’d recenty started working as a trainer, and that course, with an amazing mix of nationalities (over thirty, if I recall rightly), superb, knowledgeable tutors and guest speakers, where we were challenged at every step, was crucial in my development. The other one is Pilgrims, where we work independently, but always chat informally with other trainers, and all believe that we teach people first, and teach them things second.

  1. What gives you more satisfaction, teaching English to students or training Teachers?

At this point in my career, I prefer training teachers. However, I’ve taught students of all ages (even very young learners, enough to realise I preferred teens and adults), at every level, and on every type of course. But training teachers implies we’re usually on the same wavelength.

  1. How would you characterise your role as President of APIZALS ?

APIZALS is a very small ELT association, but covers a vast region, the whole of Northern Patagonia. We organise and give TD days in different places, including some where there’s been nothing specific for ELT until now, and which may imply travelling fours hours on a dirt road to get there. We also have an annual two-day conference, in a different town each year. One of my duties as President is to get in touch with possible plenary speakers and interest them in coming – the secretary will then try to get sponsors! Another very interesting initiative, which I’m co-editor of, is a project designed by our former president, Dr Dario Banegas, called “Future Teachers Write”, providing student teachers at Patagonian training colleges with the chance to get their work published, with our support. In fact our e-book came out last week, and it’s free to download. Yet another task for the President is to liaise with our sister associations around Argentina, all part of the umbrella federation called FAAPI, itself an IATEFL Associate.

  1. What are the advantages of using poetry to teach English over conventional coursebooks?

I’ve got nothing against coursebooks – at schools and universities they’re usually convenient. However, no coursebook, no matter how good it might be, was written for your particular groups of students. It’s up to the teacher to humanise and personalise the syllabus, and what better way than using literature, especially poems? Poetry engages the senses, touches our feelings provoking a unique reaction in every person (like art always does), and furthermore, in getting students to write simple poems, we’re paying attention to every feature of the language in a meaningful way.

  1. How do you think the standard EFL materials could be improved?

I think the future of coursebooks is in providing more options within each book, such as listening at an easier and a harder level, as well as having both easier and more challenging tasks. Or providing practice in various formats, such as online, face-to-face, group-work, etc. for students (or teachers perhaps) to decide which they prefer. I realise writing this sort of book would most likely be trickier, but it would cater better for multi-level groups, and for individual student preferences.

author: Tom Fisher, teacher at the Bridge

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7th-8th June 2019

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