Treading Softly: My workshop at IATEFL Glasgow 2017


I was lucky enough to be one of the IATEFL Scholarship Winners for 2017.

I won the Gill Sturtridge First Time Speaker award, which allowed me to attend the conference and give a workshop there. For more information about applying for scholarships, see IATEFL Scholarships

I was asked to write some posts about my experience before and after the conference for the IATEFL Blog, which you can find here:

Part One    Part Two   Part Three

I wasn’t sure where to begin when it came to preparing my workshop. There are so many things I wanted to say but I had to be careful.

The topic of my workshop was Treading Softly: Tackling -isms and -phobias in the (Turkish) classroom.

I felt I had to tread very carefully indeed, considering the current political situation. I live and work in Turkey and am happy here – I don’t want to do anything to jeopordise that. With a concurrent session at a big conference, you never know who is going to turn up at your workshop and as they say, walls have ears…

Another thing I was aware of was that as I was giving a workshop, there had to be a significant amount of practical activities. These are actually the type of sessions that I most prefer to attend myself but it’s complicated to plan when you don’t know a) the type of room you’ll be in, b) how many people will turn up, and c) what sort of people they are. Some teachers are very keen on taking part in activities while others don’t want to participate. I am usually a bit of an over planner but somehow kept putting off my planning for this workshop.

I felt horribly nervous on the day of my workshop, and as it wasn’t until 5:30pm, I had the whole day to work myself up into a bit of a state. Going out for a walk to Tesco helped somewhat.

As always, once I actually got going, it was fine. Rather than this imaginary group of 90 (that was the maximum capacity of the room I was in) stern, critical veterans, I was faced with a diverse group of people, all of whom had their own interesting reason for attending, and (hurrah!) were also keen to discuss and participate in the interactive parts.

I decided to start with a digital tool to get some feedback about the attendees. I used Answer Garden. You can see the question I posed and the answers that attendees put in. It’s a really nice tool but it can take a while to load up the inputted answers. I’ve used this tool successfully in both lessons and training sessions.


I shared with the group some examples of “discriminatory” utterances (both spoken and written)  that have occurred both in my classes and those of other colleagues in Turkey. (I had conducted interviews with teachers in Turkey prior to the conference). In groups, they had to categorise them according to how they would respond. Would they

  • Ignore it
  • Deal with that student individually
  • Deal with it on the spot with the whole class
  • Save it for a future lesson

This prompted a lot of discussion and I had possibly given too many options. After some group feedback, I moved on to reflecting on WHY students may possibly say/write things that may be considered racist/sexist/homophobic/other ist and phobic


The next activity was as follows:


Linda Ruas from the Global Issues Special Interest Group created a lesson plan on the topic of xenophobia and included my activity, so thank you for the slide design 🙂 I would like to point out that in the original version, the rewriting wasn’t so much about turning the stereotypes into positive language per se, but softening them/hedging. 

Here’s a link to that lesson plan:
New Internationalist Lesson on Xenophobia

Here are some examples of what my workshop participants came up with:

I then moved on to presenting some ways to challenge discrimination in the classroom in a subtle, sensitive way.  That included giving students video projects to interview foreigners, utilising guest speakers, challenging fake news and memes, and using poems to foster empathy. I’ll be sharing another post soon sharing a lesson idea based around the poem Refugee Blues by WH Auden.

Here is a PDF version of my slides:


I’ll also be writing other posts about the inspiring sessions I attended at the conference, complete with activity ideas. It was the second IATEFL conference I’ve attended – they are always worthwhile, with lots of interesting people from the world of English teaching to meet, and hundreds of talks and workshops to attend. If you can’t attend, you can also join in online. 2018’s conference is in Brighton



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s