Teaching Language to Pre-K–12 ELs Through Picture Books

The use of picture books to teach ELs has been in decline since the advent of the Common Core and high stakes testing. The purpose of this blog is to support the use of both picture books  with words and those that are wordless when teaching language to ELs in grades Pre-K–12.  In a recent #ELLCHAT Twitter discussion, teachers expressed the thought that we need to get away from the idea that picture books are just for young children or beginning ELs.  (#ELLCHAT is a Twitter chat for teachers of ELs that takes place on Monday nights at 9 pm ET.  The schedule of topics can be found on the #ELLCHAT Facebook page.)

Teachers  also shared their rationales for picking picture books for their students. Here are some of the criteria for the picture books that they chose:

  • The book contains a high quality story that makes sense and allows opportunities for vocabulary development.
  • The language used in the picture book is authentic.
  • Content information is related to the standards being taught.
  • Texts in the book matches the pictures.
  • Most participants preferred illustrations that are not too busy.
  • Story and illustrations are free of stereotypes.
  • Illustrations are not “flashcard types” but elicit discussion and interpretation by students.
  • Stories and characters have depth and lend themselves to retelling by students.

Here are some resources on using picture books with Pre-K–12 students that include strategies mentioned by #ELLCHAT teachers. In general, they also supported the use of picture books at all grade levels especially for beginning ELs.

Teachers of ELs participating in #ELLCHAT also like to use wordless picture books with their young or beginning ELs. Wordless picture books are an excellent way to help ELs build vocabulary and talk about what is happening in the pictures. Wordless books spark the imagination of your students as they invent text to match the illustrations.  You can have ELs write simple text on Post-It notes to go with the pictures. Here are also some resources on using wordless picture books.

I urge all teachers of ELs to introduce picture books into your curriculum no matter what grade level you teach. I think you’ll find it very rewarding and your students will love it.  If you have ideas on how to use picture books when teaching language to ELs, please share them in the “Comments” section. In my next blog, I will write about teaching social studies to ELs and show examples of using wordless picture books.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/teaching-language-to-pre-k-12-els-through-picture-books/

Differentiate Your TESOL Syllabus

Teacher educators, myself included, often encourage preservice and in-service teachers to differentiate for their ELLs. While ELLs tend to be seen as one school “subgroup,” they may actually be the most diverse! Some of the ways in which ELLs will vary are by: L1 and L1 literacy level, exposure to English, time in the new country (if they are also immigrants), socioeconomic status, aptitude, learning style, motivation, background experience,  and parents’ L1 and L1 literacy level, just to name a few. As such, they are a population that definitely warrants the use of differentiated instruction to meet their varied needs and ensure access to high-level content and language development (see Colorín Colorado’s post on Differentiated Instruction for English Language Learners).

While ELLs are certainly diverse, the cool thing about TESOL as a field is that our teachers are almost as diverse as our learners! In a TESOL teacher education class, you will most likely see a mix of L1s, countries of origin, length of exposure to English, and teaching experiences among the current or future teachers. As such, just as we tell our teachers to differentiate for ELLs, I think an excellent way to model differentiation is to “walk the walk” and differentiate our own syllabi for the teachers in our classes or professional development sessions. All learners of any age require multiple routes to access content, and I argue that teachers-as-learners are no exception.

Tomlinson and Allan (2000) encourage teachers to differentiate three things:

  • the content of your class,
  • the process by which the content is learned, and
  • the products that students create after learning the content.

Tomlinson also reminds us that content, process, and product can be differentiated according to students’ interest in the material, their readiness to learn it, and the learning profile that dictates how they best learn. Below, I offer some suggestions for differentiating content, process, and product for the university-level or professional-development courses for TESOL educators.

Content

Some ways to differentiate content might have to do with the context in which your future teachers see themselves teaching. For example, TESOL educators who teach preschool ESL, high school language arts, or adult EFL internationally will all need to know about second language acquisition theories. However, after they learn the theory, they might all read a different research article that highlights SLA in their respective contexts. A menu of articles rather than a set list will likely cover more contexts and allow for diverse perspectives to emerge during group discussions. Another common activity is to interview an ELL to hear how they learned English. Teachers who will work in multiple contexts might choose an ELL from the context or age span in which they plan to teach; students can then compare how the English learning experiences differed among ages and/or countries of origin. Another way to differentiate content is to allow for curriculum reviews or textbook examples from varied contexts and proficiency levels, and then have participants discuss the similarities and differences among them.

Process

Process might be differentiated via the media used to learn about TESOL methods and their theoretical underpinnings. Video clips from different contexts and levels can be used, or better yet, TESOL pre- or in-service teachers can be tasked with finding their own online videos that they feel accurately depict a TESOL theory or activity from their context or level. TED talks and taped lectures also vary the way that information is received, and can help break up the monotony of listening to only one voice in the classroom. TESOL teacher educators can also offer different levels of scaffolding for an assignment—for example, more novice teachers might need a detailed lesson plan template; more experienced teachers might appreciate more freedom to apply what they know from their own experience. Providing options for working individually, in partners, or in small groups can also be an avenue for differentiation.

Products 

Products are easily differentiated by providing future or current TESOL educators with some degree of choice as to how they show their learning. Instead of having everyone do the same written lesson plan, allow educators to create semantic maps, infographics, Prezis, or narrated PowerPoints that pose the same requirements as the traditional plan, but allow for the use of visuals, media, and/or more spatial approaches to showing one’s thinking. Another excellent way to differentiate a portfolio for a course or professional development is to allow teachers to choose which products they would like to include rather than having everyone include the exact same thing. A learning contract is a unique adaptation of this idea, wherein participants in a course earn a grade by completing a certain number and type of tasks articulated in a contract between student and teacher. Some excellent examples of learning contracts can be seen here.

If you are a TESOL teacher educator, do you have any other ideas for differentiating the teacher-as-learner experience?  Or, if you are a teacher, what are some differentiation strategies that you’ve tried?  I’d love to hear how differentiation looks all over the world!


Reference

Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and classrooms. ASCD Press.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/differentiate-your-tesol-syllabus/

ESP Project Leader Profile: Karen Schwelle

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP Project Leader Profile, you will read about Karen Schwelle, who is a past chair (2007-08) of the English for Specific Purposes Interest Section and currently serves on the ESPIS Steering Board as secretary/archivist. She has developed and taught courses to meet the English communication needs of students and researchers in architecture, biomedical sciences, business, law, and social work. In her responses to the questions below, she describes an ESP course for international graduate students in the field of social work.

 Karen Schwelle

Karen Schwelle, Director of English Language Programs
Washington University in St. Louis
Email: kschwelle@wustl.edu

How would you define leadership?

It’s complicated! One important element of leadership is the ability to innovate—not just openness to innovation and the technical skills to make it happen, but the discernment to recognize what forms of innovation will pay off, and the communication skills to earn buy-in from colleagues. Another important element of leadership in English language teaching, program administration, and ESP is to advocate in a smart and productive way within the framework of your organization for your program, your staff, and your students, with students’ needs at the forefront. That’s not a comprehensive definition, but these are skills that I admire in many people that I work with at my university and in many TESOL colleagues, and they are skills that I am always trying to strengthen in myself.

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

Project: A course in ESP to support master’s degree students in social work (MSW)

Project Description: Our university-based English language program developed an ESP course to help international MSW students obtain the English communication skills they need to succeed in a core course in the MSW curriculum. In the core course, students learn skills for social work practice with clients in individual, family, and group settings. Much of the core course is spent in supervised role plays with classmates as “simulated clients.” The core course requires students to read textbooks and research articles, and to complete assignments such as an annotated bibliography about evidence-based interventions for a problem experienced by their simulated client. Later in the semester, they must write both practice-oriented and academic genres such as case notes and research papers.

Outcome: In the ESP course, we support MSW students by working with them on skills such as accurately and appropriately describing clients’ feelings, recognizing euphemisms and slang (especially in relation to sensitive topics), jumping into group conversations, and managing group conversations. We also work with them on general academic reading strategies and writing skills such as summarizing, paraphrasing, writing critiques, and commenting on data.

Communication With Stakeholders:  Since this course was launched almost 10 years ago, we have maintained lines of communication with stakeholders including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Students: Students complete several short written reflections per semester in which they describe their success stories and challenges in applying new English communication and intercultural skills. These reflections help instructors know in what respects the ESP course is meeting students’ needs and in what respects it is not.
  • MSW Program Faculty and Administrators: When we were developing the ESP course, I sat in on the core course for two semesters to better understand the communication demands it places on students. This step was crucial in order to develop a relevant course and materials. For the last several years, one or both ESP course instructors have attended meetings twice per year with all faculty teaching the core course in order to better understand their perspective on international students’ challenges and successes. This line of communication has allowed ESP instructors and MSW faculty to share concerns about particular students, confer on how to handle issues such as plagiarism, and better align assessments of things like class participation. This connection also led to the opportunity for two ESP course instructors to attend training along with MSW faculty on an evidence-based client interview technique taught to students in the core course.
  • Within the English Language Programs: Communication within our program is probably the area where we encounter the biggest challenges. It’s easy to take for granted that the instructor in the other section of the ESP course is approaching things the same way, but that is not always the case. Because both sections of the ESP course meet at the same time, some important discussions about the course happen at the copy machine or on the walk from our offices to class. We also use a Dropbox-like service for instructors to share materials. These materials can then be easily shared when new instructors teach the course. Other important conversations happen in weekly meetings for all instructors in our program (who are not necessarily teaching ESP courses) and in the placement process.

Comments: Because this ESP course has been in place for so long, we have navigated multiple stages: launching the course, recognizing what wasn’t working, and adapting. Later we responded to different sets of changes: new and different student populations entering the MSW program, new instructors coming into our program, faculty and administrators in the MSW program changing roles, and other changes that required us to regroup and adjust our approach. I am confident that the course is a success story, but managing the lines of communication in an ESP project is never truly finished.


Karen’s comments in the Within the English Language Programs section above resonated with me: “It’s easy to take for granted that the instructor in the other section of the ESP course is approaching things the same way, but that is not always the case.” From a leadership perspective, this is the challenge of communicating to achieve a shared vision. (In this connection, see my blog post on teaching negotiation.)

Do you have any questions or comments for Karen? Please post those in the Leave a Reply box below! Thanks!

All the best,

Kevin

Note: Go here to read all of the ESP project leader profiles and more.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/esp-project-leader-profile-karen-schwelle/

How Can We Make TESOL’s Interest Sections More Effective?

Editor’s Note: This post is an update on the activities of TESOL’s Interest Section Task Force from task force members Tamara Jones and Joe McVeigh. Joe is also the chair.

TESOL Interest Sections serve the association and its members in a number of ways: through newsletters, online discussions, and helping assemble the annual convention program. As a member of TESOL, you can join as many interest sections and subscribe to as many email discussion lists and newsletters as you like.

TESOL’s interest sections in their current form have been around since the 1970s. As associations such as TESOL grow and mature, they often keep doing things just as before, simply out of habit. But it is good practice for an organization to periodically examine itself and its structure, to see if it’s working as well as it might be. To examine the organization’s functioning, the TESOL Board of Directors struck the Governance Review Task Force. This group completed its work and reported to the board last year. In response to the ideas presented by that task force, the board asked a new group of TESOL leaders to look in greater detail at the structure of the TESOL Interest Sections. This second group, the Interest Section Task Force (ISTF), came into being in May 2015.

The board charged the ISTF with

  • conducting research on contemporary forms and functions of knowledge-based member communities (KBMCs) in associations
  • analyzing TESOL’s interest sections
  • recommending options for functions and improved communications

The ISTF comprises members who hold interest sections dear to their hearts, including Joe McVeigh (ISTF chair, MWIS, IEPIS), Elisabeth Chan (SRIS), Kristin Hiller (PAIS), Tamara Jones (SPLIS, IEPIS, ISLC), Todd Ruecker (SLWIS), Justin Shewell (CALLIS), Aya Matsuda (board representative), Sarah Sahr (staff representative), Michelle Kim (staff support), and John Segota (staff liaison). We’ve been meeting electronically, reading, interviewing, and researching for the past several months. We wanted to share our process with you and ask for your feedback about the future of interest sections within the association.

Looking Outward: Component Relations Literature

Before looking inward at TESOL Interest Sections, our first step was to look outward, to review and evaluate other models. We reviewed the literature surrounding what professional associations refer to as “component relations” because components are similar in many ways to interest sections. Next, the ISTF looked at literature relating to communities of practice (CoPs) or knowledge communities. Several common themes arose from this literature.

  • The world has changed, so members have changed and, thus, organizations need to change, or they risk becoming irrelevant.
  • Organizations need to maximize the use of members’ increasingly precious time. Everyone is very busy these days.
  • Today’s younger professionals are more technology oriented, so to meet their needs, organizations need to use use technology effectively.
  • For members, including volunteer leaders, to be invested in the organization’s work, they need to be able to trust the organization.
  • Successful CoPs in professional organizations require high value learning activities, peer-to-peer learning, and successful use of online technology.

Looking Outward: Knowledge-Based Member Communities

Based on points raised in the literature review, the ISTF developed a questionnaire to administer to other professional associations to learn how they use components, knowledge-based member communities (KMBCs), and communities of practice (CoPs). The ISTF identified approximately 30 associations and reviewed their websites to see how they use components. The list of associations was then narrowed and ISTF members asked staff and members from the selected associations to complete the questionnaire via phone, electronic interview, or email. ISTF members synthesized the more interesting findings from this work into a list of ideas that may inform the ISTF’s ongoing work. Again, several interesting themes arose.

  • If online communication and interaction is to thrive, the online platform and communications software must be streamlined and easy to use.
  • In some associations, members avidly compete for volunteer positions because they see these positions as desirable. In this case, rather than being known as “volunteers,” they are known as “leaders.”
  • Associations have developed a wide variety of structures and levels of control for KBMCs. In some cases, each KBMC has its own staff member who curates the online community. In other associations, the KBMCs suffer from benign neglect.
  • Some associations have various levels of KBMC. Some may come together briefly to explore a particular issue and then disappear. Others may have to pass through various levels of qualification to become long-term groups within the association.
  • Engagement is key.

Looking Inward: Examining the Findings of the Governance Review Task Force

Initially, the ISTF looked outward so that we would not—by default—base our findings on the way TESOL works now. But we then began looking at what we already know about TESOL thanks to last year’s Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) Report. As part of its work, the GRTF surveyed interest section and other TESOL leaders to ascertain their level of involvement and satisfaction with TESOL governance. Among the GRTF findings were the following.

  • The association is spread thin and fragmented.
  • The governance system is not integrated; the elements in the system are not strategically aligned.
  • Leaders and members desire to contribute meaningfully to the work of the association, be accountable, and receive acknowledgement.
  • Many leaders felt unprepared for their jobs when they began their positions.
  • Leaders felt that too much of their time was spent on administrative issues, such as writing reports, and not enough on the real matters of professional interest to their members.
  • Interest sections, as well as other parts of TESOL such as committees, appear to operate almost in a vacuum without clear communication or knowledge of what is happening in other parts of the association. Information flow among board, management, and member groups is problematic.
  • Many interest sections struggle to fill volunteer leadership positions.
  • Many member groups experience a lack of consistency in work and effort with the annual rotation of leaders.

Looking Inward: Examining Current Interest Section Structures, Practices, and Beliefs

More recently, the ISTF has begun to look inward at current interest section structures, practices, and beliefs. To get an idea of the common areas of concern among leaders, ISTF members reviewed the Interest Section Leadership Assembly minutes and interest section annual reports from 2010 to 2015. Interest section leaders and a random sample of TESOL members will receive surveys asking how they view TESOL Interest Sections and what they would like to see from them.

Next Steps

After analyzing all of the data, the ISTF will recommend options and models for improving member engagement and communication. These recommendations will be presented to TESOL’s Board of Directors for review at their April 2016 meeting and the board will decide how to respond to or act on them.

To keep members informed of activities, the ISTF hopes to hold a webinar in advance of the conference, and to share its findings at the Leadership Briefing at the conference, as well as at a special session devoted to the subject.

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how interest sections can better serve TESOL’s members. In the event that you do not receive a survey, please feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/how-can-we-make-tesols-interest-sections-more-effective-2/

The Bright Future of Second Language Writing

I always enjoy hearing the voices of those who have been in the field for a number of years and who have contributed to the growth of knowledge in it. For example, conference colloquia or panels where prominent scholars gather together to discuss their views on a certain issue have always been my favorite.

I found the disciplinary dialogue on second language writing in the Journal of Second Language Writing (2013, pp. 425–447) quite illuminating. In this disciplinary dialogue, one paper in particular stood out to me—that of Tony Silva. Not because of its “unorthodox presentation,” as Silva himself defined it, but mostly because of its succinct and comprehensive content that highlights main points, issues, achievements, and existing gaps in the field of second language writing.

I’d like to follow Silva’s format and outline the areas of future research in the field of second language writing based on the papers in this disciplinary dialogue. Some authors explicitly stated what inquiry directions should be taken in the nearest future; others point out the venues for new inquiry by addressing limitations of previous research. In a word, various research ideas and suggestions were proposed—overtly or otherwise—in each of the 10 papers included in this dialogue.

The future research directions in the field of second language writing are the following:

  • Examining the differences between developmental processes of academic writing skills and “ways of constructing meanings” in academic contexts by both L1 and L2 writers (Hyland, p. 427).
  • Understanding of “how” writing teachers should provide effective instruction to L2 students in particular contexts (“where”) with their “institutional affordances and constraints” (Ferris, p. 429).
  • Understanding of how contextual factors (including institutional forces and individual classroom environment) influence the teaching of various groups of L2 writers—“who” (e.g., “international L2 students, recently arrived immigrants, and long-term multilingual residents”; Ferris, p. 428).
  • Given the factors stated above, understanding of “how” teacher educators can better prepare writing instructors, so they can “operate successfully” (Ferris, p. 429).
  • Deeper research of the phenomenon of “multilingualism in writing in various contexts” (Kubota, p. 430).
  • Deeper examination of “communicative practices of writing” (Kubota, p. 431).
  • Research on the role of power relations in “writing activities” of writers from minority backgrounds (based on gender, race, nationality, or religion) and its impact on the “mechanism of exclusion” for these writers (Kubota, p. 431).
  • The development of inquiry in the contexts of “primary and secondary schools,” “workplace programs,” as well as in the area of adult education (Silva, p. 433).
  • Embracing studies that “incorporate both quantitative and qualitative designs” (Silva, p. 433).
  • More research that embraces “elements from different approaches to address L2W instruction in particular contexts” (Silva, p. 433).
  • Investigating the needs of individual writing instructors and “their varied practices” and understanding of how and to what degree sociopolitical and sociohistorical factors “define their work” (Lee, p. 436).
  • Welcoming more “ecological studies, ethnographic case studies, and longitudinal qualitative research to better understand “the situatedness of the learning and teaching of writing” (Lee, p. 436).
  • Conducting more “non-replicable research that studies individual teachers, students, and contexts” (Lee, p. 436).
  • Examining factors and tools that “enable L2 academic writers to become more autonomous register and genre users” (Belcher, p. 438).
  • Research on the concept of self-regulated writers and the factors that “facilitate learner autonomy” (Belcher, p. 438).
  • Examining the needs of “adult language learners outside traditional academic contexts, especially those with low or no prior literacy” (Belcher, p. 439).
  • Developing effective writing pedagogy for learners “in contexts other than those of English” (Belcher, p. 439).
  • Promoting research dialogues between “ESL and EFL writing specialists” and “literacy teachers of many other languages” (Belcher, p. 439).
  • Better understanding of the concept of writing as “the collaborative, multimodal means of social action” (Belcher, p. 439).
  • Better understanding of how the engagement “with fields like bilingualism, sociolinguistics, and applied linguistics” influences the phenomenon of “activity of writing” and determines the future of the field of second language writing (Canagarajah, p. 441).
  • More research on L2 writing as “comprehensive multilingual writing competence,” in other words, as a “merged system” of L1, L2, and L3 writing knowledge (Kobayashi & Rinnert, p. 442).
  • Research on second language writing as “the potential for language learning” (Roca de Larios, p. 444) and “an important source of support for SLA” (Zhang, p. 446).
  • Research on “identity formation” (and reformulation) of L2 writers (Zhang, p. 447).
  • Research on writing as “a platform for ESL/EFL learners to experience border-crossing” (Zhang, 447).

As seen, some of the most successful scholars in the field of second language writing offered multiple research directions as well as pointed out various problems that are yet to be solved. Many of them are currently being undertaken, and of course more inquiry is on its way. I do believe in this field and I do believe that indeed it “has a bright future” (Silva, p. 434).


References

Belcher, D. (2013). The scope of L2 writing: Why we need a wider lens. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 438–439.

Canagarajah, S. (2013). The end of second language writing? Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 440–441

Ferris, D. (2013). What L2 writing means to me: Texts, writers, contexts. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 428–429.

Hyland, K. (2013). Second language writing: The manufacture of a social fact. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 426–427.

Kubota, R. (2013). Dislimiting second language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 430–432.

Lee, I. (2013). Second language writing: Perspectives of a teacher educator-researcher. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 435–437

Silva, T. (2013). Second language writing: Talking points. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(4), 432–434.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/the-bright-future-of-second-language-writing/