Language Teachers Professional Learning Workshop with Dr. Gianfranco Conti - Thursday 15 November PDF Print E-mail

MLTAV is hosting a full-day workshop with Dr. Gianfranco  Conti. The workshop will consist of the following 3 x 1.5 hour sessions:


1. Working with human forgetting rate to maximise learning;

2. Teaching lexicogrammar: from modelling to spontaneity;

3. Breaking the sound barrier: teaching listening bottom-up.

Workshop 1 (1 ½ hours) – Strategies for maximising and optimising the use of curriculum time by working with human forgetting rates

Modern Foreign Language teaching is often a race against time: in the very little contact time available, teachers must secure the retention and automatisation of a relatively wide range of vocabulary, structures and skills sets. To best tackle this challenge, MFL teachers must have at least a basic understanding of the key cognitive challenges that language teaching and learning pose to their students (Ellis, 2018).

In the first (shorter) section of this workshop, the facilitator will provide a concise research-based account of how the human brain processes, retains and retrieves L2 vocabulary and grammar. This will entail (a) outlining how Working Memory processes incoming speech and activates existing knowledge to comprehend and respond; (b) discussing how memory works and forgetting occurs; (c) identifying the cognitive barriers to understanding and learning.

In the second (longer) section, based on the latest cognitive and second language acquisition research, he will proceed to suggest effective ways to maximize teaching and learning time by (a) embedding ILRs (Implicit Learning Routines); (b) teaching high-surrender-value functional chunks, as opposed to single words, through a range of evidence-based techniques that he will demonstrate and (c) ‘smart’ recycling through extensive spaced exposure to comprehensible input and pushed output. Tested instructional sequences will also be presented and discussed.

Workshop 2 (1 ½  hours) – Patterns first: from awareness to spontaneity. Teaching language through chunks

According to much research, teaching a wide repertoire of high-frequency lexical chunks has more chances of enhancing fluency across all four language skills – including speaking-  than teaching single words, as it eases the students’ cognitive load as they produce speech in real time. Research also shows that reading aloud not only enhances vocabulary learning but also primes oral fluency by facilitating the development of decoding skills and pronunciation. Finally, as it is obvious, fluency requires automaticity in the application of grammar and syntax, hence, extensive practice of the target structures across a wide range of linguistic contexts is a must.

Based on the above principles and other research evidence, the facilitator will argue in favour of an approach to oral instruction which consists of the following phases: (1) the modelling of high frequency chunks through the aural medium ; (2) their intensive practice through highly interactive read-aloud tasks; (3) highly-structured drilling through pushed-output activities eliciting the oral production of the target chunks; (4) less structured communicative practice and, finally, (5) automaticity and spontaneity building activities. Fluency, intelligibility and autonomy in speech production being the ultimate goals of oral instruction, the acquisition of highly transferrable patterns and of the underlying grammar plays a pivotal role in the facilitator’s approach.

Workshop 3 – Breaking the sound barrier: teaching listening bottom-up

Listening is by far the most neglected of the four language skills. It is also the least effectively taught and the one MFL students feel the most anxious about (Vafaee, 2016). One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that most language teachers do not receive much training in this area of MFL pedagogy and, when they do, the methodology is based on ‘quizzes’ (‘true or false?’ or ‘wh questions’) and on an obsolete top-down approach (e.g. listening for gist focusing on key words, predicting content and guessing words from context). Consequently, much current listening skills instruction feels more like testing than modelling and fails to train students in the micro-skills that any listener needs to master to comprehend aural texts effectively (Rost, 2009).

In this highly interactive workshop, after walking the delegates through the psycho-linguistics mechanisms underlying the listening comprehension process, the facilitator will present and demonstrate his L.A.M. (listening as modelling) approach, a methodology which is based on two fundamental assumptions: (a) listening should model language NOT test students through quizzes; (b) whilst traditional tasks training students to work out the gist of a text and infer meaning strategically do have a place, in listening instruction, L.A.M. purports to provide extensive practice in the bottom-up micro-skills essential to effective listening comprehension: Decoding, Lexical Retrieval and Parsing Skills (Smith and Conti, 2016).

Dr. Gianfranco Conti - Biodata

An applied linguistics MA and PhD graduate Gianfranco Conti has been teaching MFL for over 25 years both at primary, secondary and university levels. He has researched the impact of metacognitive strategies training and error correction on essay writing under the supervision of Oxford University Ernesto Macaro both during his PhD and a large-scale project in English comprehensive schools documented in Professor Macaro (2001)’s book. He currently has lexicogrammar acquisition, listening instruction, metacognition, error correction and learner autonomy as main research interests.

Formerly head of languages at various schools in England and abroad, he is currently a French and Spanish teacher at an international school in South-East Asia where he has been implementing his methodological approach: Extensive Processing Instruction (EPI).

Dr Conti is also a renowned conference speaker and CPD provider mostly active in the UK, South-East Asia and Australia. This is what CEO of researchED and educational influencer Tom Bennet has written about one of his workshops:

“As an organiser of research conferences I am constantly looking for individuals who can do something very special- disseminate a broad field of complexity, in a way that is intelligible to practitioners but loses little in the process; simplification without reductivism. Gianfranco was wonderful in this regard: witty, literate, personable and very, very engaging, but all the while absolutely focussed on content, quality and the effective transmission of useful information and techniques. As such he was one of the most popular speakers of the day, and in my opinion one of the best presenters I have seen in the UK. I wish he was available more often, as the impact he has on his audience is palpable.”

He is well-known internationally for his teaching resources that have won him the TES Best contributor award and have been downloaded over 3,500,000 time by over 100,000 teachers around the world. His blog on MFL pedagogy, The Language Gym, is one of the most influential in the world and has won him several international awards. The professional development group he founded, ‘Global Innovative Language Teachers’ is one of the fastest-growing communities of its genre.

Dr Conti is also the founder of the interactive language learning website and the co-author of the best-selling handbook for MFL professionals, ‘The Language Teacher Toolkit’. He is currently co-writing with Steve Smith his second book ‘Breaking the sound barrier: teaching listening bottom-up’ based on his own classroom research.

Full details of the Dr. Conti workshop AND HOW TO REGISTER:

Date: Thursday 15 November, 2018

Venue: Catholic Leadership Centre, 576 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne

Time: 9.15am - 3.30pm

Cost: $100 (inc. GST)  MLTAV members

$150 (inc. GST) non-members

Cost includes morning tea and lunch.

CLICK HERE to register online to attend this workshop