12th June 2021 – GISIG & LitSIG Pre Conference Event

The 54th IATEFL Conference, Exhibition and Careers Fair went virtual in June 2021, and so did our Pre-Conference Event! Delegates from both the IATEFL Literature and Global Issues SIGs, logged on for a whole day of online CPD on the theme of ‘migrant narratives’.

The issue of migration is a pressing phenomenon in our contemporary world. The reasons why people migrate are many and varied, and the shared stories of these experiences are ever-more socio-politically significant. In our PCE, we tried to include the narratives of as many kinds of ‘people on the move’ as possible, from emigrants and immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, to seasonal or return migrants. With reference to a wide range of media – the novel, poetry and drama; film and television; visual arts; genre writing and more – we explored how to bring migrant narratives into the classroom, and how to use literature, art and media to promote social inclusion.

The running order of the day took the form of a journey in six passages, across two borders, in search of our final destination. Participants had met us in the departure lounge before we set off, to introduce themselves and interact with fellow travellers, sharing their own or others’ experiences of migrant work and travel. They were then invited to accompany our six speakers as they discuss creative ways of teaching about migration, teaching migrants, or both. Each 30-minute talk was followed by a short plenary Q&A, before exploring the issues raised by speakers in greater depth, together with them, through interactive ‘crossroads discussions’ in smaller virtual rooms. At the end of the day, all our PCE participants received a comprehensive, complementary bibliography – a suitcase of suggested texts – to unpack for future classroom use.

From the art of storytelling to creative writing, uncovering counter-narratives to integrating migrant music, our PCE aimed to provide inspiration, ideas and a wide-ranging index of key texts that can be adopted to address this important topic in our English language classes.

10:00-11:00Departure Lounge (social)Rob Hill and Rose Aylett(IATEFL LitSIG and IATEFL GISIG Coordinators)
11:00 – 11:40Passage 1Alan Pulverness
11:40 – 12:20Passage 2Amira El Wakil
12:20 – 12:50CrossroadsIn conversation with Alan OR Amira (2 x breakout rooms)
12:50 – 13:30Border Crossing
13:30 – 14:10Passage 3Judith O’Loughlin
14:10 – 14:50Passage 4David Heathfield
14:50 – 15:20CrossroadsIn conversation with Judith OR David (2 x breakout rooms)
15:20 – 16:00Border Crossing
16:00 – 16:40Passage 5Alan Maley
16:40 – 17:20Passage 6Jeremy Harmer
17:20 – 17:50CrossroadsIn conversation with Alan OR Jeremy (2 x breakout rooms)
17:50 – 18:00ArrivalsRob Hill and Rose Aylett(IATEFL LitSIG and IATEFL GISIG Coordinators)



Alan Pulverness
‘Deprived of history’: films and novels in third places

Metaphorically, all our learners are immigrants, moving from one language world into another. Like immigrants, some cling to their own language behaviour, while others embrace new language identities. Learners should readily empathise with “boundary experiences of culturally displaced persons, who have grown up in one country but have emigrated to another” (Kramsch 1993).  The talk will explore the immigrant experience, both literally and as a metaphor for the experience of the language learner. We will consider four stages of emigration / immigration / accommodation and assimilation: Dreams of leaving; The shock of the new; A period of adjustment; Dual identities. Using a selection of literary texts and movie clips, I will suggest that the theme of immigration can act as more than a metaphor and can become a powerful tool to promote greater understanding in multicultural classrooms. 


Amira Elwakil 
Telling stories and countering narratives in the participatory ESOL classroom

What can participatory approaches to the language classroom offer us when it comes to storytelling and creating narratives around migration? The work of participatory educators, including Paulo Freire, has created a growing movement of participatory English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers in the UK. In the participatory ESOL classroom, the students’ pre-existing knowledge and lived experience take centre stage and are the driving force behind the curriculum. Drawing on experiences in the participatory community ESOL classes of English for Action London, and the transnational Migreat! project that seeks to counter dominant narratives on migrant communities across Europe, this session will showcase examples of how participatory methods have been used in classes to explore the theme of migration. The session will be participatory and will look at practical participatory tools and possibilities they create, and the importance of thinking about positionality.


Judith B. O’Loughlin
From Trauma to Resilience: The Power of Stories

Resilience isn’t a specific program, but a process. Helping students develop resilience connects teachers to learners, including newcomers and other at-risk students with limited and/or interrupted formal education. The presenter provides the research background of resilience research connected to practical approaches through a model helping learners recognize their inner strengths through the power of story. She focuses on psychologist Edith Grotberg’s, research, that all learners recognize the strengths they possess using an “I Have, I Am, I Can” protocol. After modeling activities connected to the “I Have” and “I Can,” the presenter provides an in-depth multi-dimensional approach to “I Am” through the power of stories. She provides examples of migration stories, including her own, in written narratives, picture books, wordless picture books, photo essays, murals, six-word memoirs, storytelling, and readers’ theatre.  Participants develop their own “power of story” which can be adapted or replicated.  


David Heathfield
‘Everything is lost. Why is this happening to me?’  Creative storytelling for resilience, empathy and change.

The old folk tales give us knowledge about how to face the unknown and are therefore ideal for engaging with challenging topics.  Fatima is a resilient and resourceful young woman who faces and overcomes adversity as she is forced to leave behind everything she knows and seek refuge. Through telling the traditional Middle Eastern folk tale about her journey, we can give all our students insight into the experience of migration. Students can relate Fatima’s story to their own lives and to global issues and explore the possibility of positive change.  This workshop offers you creative, meaningful and mind-opening storytelling and personal response activities which can easily be used with this and other folk tales. 


Alan Maley 
Migration: Language and Silence

Alan will remind us of the ubiquity of human migration and the multiplicity of groups which have moved since the beginnings of human history. Migration has also been variously motivated – by religious persecution, conquest and colonisation, economic hardship and opportunity, war and civil unrest, and the search for self-development through education. Alan will focus on a few texts which offer insights into the ways migration affects language and also imposes silence: Ruth Wajnryb’s The Silence, Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation and works from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including John Agard and Grace Nichols among others. Alan will move between readings of excerpts, discussion of the migrant condition and suggestions for possible ways of incorporating such texts and subject matter into our curricular structure.   


Hind Elyas 
Questions, Answers and Observations 

Throughout the day, our Pre-Conference event will be moderated by GISIG committee member Hind Elyas. Hind will keeping a careful eye on the chat box and putting your questions to our speakers. We’ll be encouraging you, along with other participants, to share observations on any topics suggested by the PCE, including personal experiences, stories and proposals for future action inside and outside the classroom.


Jeremy Harmer
Migrant Music

Singers have always written about the experience of migration, but how useful is such music for us as teachers of English? After all, most popular music is usually about other things – love, being happy, being sad, being teenagers! How appropriate, then, are other kinds of songs for language teaching: songs of migration, songs about immigrants and immigration etc? For surely they too should command our attention in the inter-cultural world that teaching English as an international language necessarily suggests. And what about different kinds of music that migrants carry with them? Can that be useful for students of different backgrounds? This session is, obviously, about music. But it is also, of course, about learning English. There will be live music; there will be English; there will be learning! 

One Response to 12th June 2021 – GISIG & LitSIG Pre Conference Event

  1. Bill Templer April 4, 2021 at 9:12 am #

    Palestine refugees have been displaced for more than 70 years and are one of the longest lasting cases of forced migration in modern history. Today, the new generation faces daunting human development and protection challenges as they await a just solution to their plight. https://twitter.com/UNRWA/status/1377987935757234176 https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html

    This should be recalled and perhaps also briefly thematized in the upcoming GISIG/LiTSIG PCE 12 June 2021. Judaism is not Joshuaism — and Jewish sages for centuries wrestled with that ethical conundrum of the ‘conquest of Canaan’ qua ‘Promised Land’ as enshrined in Deuteronomy and the Book of Joshua.

    As Hillel the Elder taught (standing on one leg as Jewish tradition holds): ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to another. This is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and study it’ (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat, 31a — in the Aramaic original: d’`alakh sani l’khaverkha la ta`avid. Zo hi kol hatora kulahh, v’idakh peirusha hu: zil g’mor). Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshu bin Yosef), a Jewish contemporary of Hillel, also knew this maxim and it is quoted in the Christian Bible, Matthew 7:12.

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