IH Young Learner Conference 2023 in Córdoba

It’s November which means one thing at International House… the Young Learner conference!

This year, in honour of International House’s 70th anniversary, the conference was held at IH Córdoba. Where better to hold the 70th anniversary Young Learners Conference than in the very city where IH was born. In 1953, John and Brita Haycraft started teaching classes in two small rooms in the guesthouse where they were staying, close to the city’s iconic mosque.

2023 is an important milestone for the IH organisation as we celebrate 70 years since the first ‘Casa Internacional’ opened. IH has grown not only in size, becoming a global network, but also in stature, having played an instrumental role in teacher training and upholding quality standards in the industry.

As we came full circle, we looked to the future of YL teaching. The three themes that ran across the presentations and workshops at the two-day event were sustainability in the YL classroom, understanding equity and embracing the power of neurodivergence, critical thinking and engaging young learners in the classroom.

Most delegates arrived in Córdoba on Thursday evening. Our welcoming hosts, IH Córdoba, held a welcome reception at a local bar and enjoyed drinks and tapas before a flamenco performance. It was a moving presentation from a flamenco dancer, a guitarist and a singer.

Friday was the first day of conference sessions which took place in El Centro de Visitantes in Córdoba, right next to the Mezquita. Our first plenary was Vanessa Reilly, a teacher, trainer and author passionate about helping children become confident learners and compassionate individuals. Vanessa explored activities to engage children in experiences that will make them aware that they can make a difference to the world they live in.

Next, we were treated to a speech from the city’s Representative for Tourism, Sustainability and Environment, Congressman Daniel García-Ibarrola Díaz. The congressman highlighted the importance of hosting international events like ours in the city.

Boelo Van der Pool took to the stage next to demonstrate how teachers need to be aware of what dyslexia is, how to recognise it and, how to adapt classes to make them dyslexia friendly.

Daniel Barber, sponsored by National Geographic Learning, came back to the theme of sustainability. He presented a variety of practical approaches to overcoming the psychological and physical hurdles to integrating sustainability in ELT.

IH World’s Anette Igel led the audience on a journey exploring Universal Design for Learning and how it might work in their schools and classrooms, making our classrooms even more inclusive – and not only for learners with special needs.

The final plenary session of the day was presented by Karin Littlewood. Karin is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed illustrator/author who has illustrated more than 40 children’s books. She led a hands-on workshop to demonstrate easy illustration techniques.

On Friday evening, the delegates enjoyed a wine tasting on the terrace at sunset. Montilla Moriles Winery led the tasting and a cheese was paired with each wine. After this, around 30 of the delegates went on an optional trip to Mezquita. Partly due to the time of night and partly due to the magic of the building, it was a particularly atmospheric tour.

The second full day of the conference took place at IH Córdoba, it's an idyllic school, nestled into the back streets of the city’s historic old town. The day started with a traditional Spanish breakfast hosted by the Spanish department. As delegates enjoyed pan con tomate, we heard about the study abroad Spanish courses.

There were two tracks for Saturday’s sessions as we had so many IH YL coordinators and managers with ideas and projects to share. We had workshops and presentations sharing strategies and tools for encouraging critical thinking, promoting mindfulness, inspiring YL engagement, guiding successful communication, cultivating a growth mindset and much more. It was hard to decide which session to go to as there were so many interesting presentations to choose from!

A big thank you to everyone who presented, attended and participated. The enriching workshops are what define these conferences and what motivates IH teachers and academic managers to fly across the world to attend.

In the evening, we went to the nearby Mercado Victoria for drinks and tapas. In true IH tradition, the night ended in dancing and singing. After two packed days of inspiring and full-on information absorption, it was a precious moment to enjoy time with our colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere.

A big thank you to our loyal Partner, guard.me International Insurance. Thank you to our gold sponsor, Trinity College London, and our silver sponsors National Geographic Learning, DELTA Publishing and Cambridge Press & Assessment.

A special thank you to our hosts, Academia Británica IH Córdoba. They have a fantastic team who were fundamental to the success of this year’s YL conference. Their hospitality was generous and much appreciated by all the speakers and delegates. We really felt that the atmosphere of the city permeated the conference and that we explored the city and its culture.

Happy Anniversary to IH Córdoba! Happy anniversary to International House! Until next year YL coordinators and managers.