2 Reasons to Apply for the Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers

Attending the annual TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo transformed my career. Let it transform yours! Not only does it renew and refresh my teaching practice through attending a variety of sessions offered each year, but it also connects me to like-minded educators who share the same passion as I do for English language education. This year, I am honoured to be coordinating the Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers as it offers opportunities to new members to experience a formative professional development opportunity like no other. I’ve reached out to a few recent recipients to share their experiences.

Fourth-year doctoral student, Quanisha Charles,  in the PhD Composition & TESOL program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was a recipient of the 2016 Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers and shares two important takeaways with us from attending the TESOL 2016 in Baltimore.


Quanisha Charles and TESOL Teacher of the Year, Shannon Tanghe at the 2016 TESOL Convention

1. Everybody Is Somebody

One major observation I noticed at the convention is that everybody is “somebody.” This means that one may unknowingly be standing next to a notable TESOL scholar. Luckily, I was able to meet the current president, Andy Curtis, and while waiting in the lobby, I realized that I was sitting next to the former president of TESOL, Dr. Yilin Sun, only to look up and see Dr. Suhanthie Motha, author of Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching, standing across from me. I was afforded the opportunity to attend sessions of distinguished scholars, such as Mary Romney and Shondel Nero, and some of these scholars, such as 2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year, Shannon Tanghe, attended my session. I had to often refrain my tears of joy.

2. Networking Your Career Path

This is only one of the memorable experiences I encountered while attending TESOL 2016, so to prospective attendees and travel grantees, I would highly recommend connecting with other scholars, attending as many presentations as possible, and being prepared to hand out business cards, because you never know which scholar you will meet and how far it will take your career.

Find out more information about the award and apply for the Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/2-reasons-to-apply-for-the-professional-development-travel-grant-for-practicing-eslefl-teachers/


100th Post Special: The Highlights

This is my 100th post for the TESOL Blog, and I want to take the opportunity to celebrate this milestone by looking over the highlights of the past several years, which started with my introduction on December 21, 2012 and continued with regular posts mostly about educational technology as well as a stint live from the TESOL convention in Portland in 2014.

3 Most Viewed

1. Tech Break: Running Dictations is the post that I wrote that has been viewed the most. In this post, I shared an active and engaging activity where students work in pairs or groups and use all their language skills to compete against the clock and other groups. It has always brought a lot of excitement and energy into my classroom and can be used with just about every language level and age group. For another similar exercise, try Move It, outlined in another post from the tech break series.

2. In second place, there is TED Talks for English Language Teaching, which encourages educators to use TED Talks, one of my favorite resources, with their students. The wide variety of topics is astounding and each one is so unique that students are really challenged to explore and reflect on topics new or old. These videos are available for free and seem to have garnered an increasing amount of attention by educators as evidenced by the thousands of readers interested in this post and the recent inclusion of TED in textbooks.

3. Rounding out the top three is one of my early posts, The Flipped Classroom. If you are unfamiliar with flipping, you can start your journey with this post. I was only able to touch upon some of the basic principles of this approach and there has been a lot more discussion on it since 2013, but I continue to receive and respond to comments which have been very illuminating and encouraging.

3 Most Commented On

1. Speaking of comments, it should come as no surprise that two of the top viewed posts are also on this list of posts with the most comments. The Flipped Classroom really got a great response from readers who were curious about implementing this approach in their classrooms or those in various stages of implementation. The resources shared in the comments section were excellent additions to the conversation.

2. Tech-Break: Running Dictations came in second with comments sharing success stories, asking for clarification on the activity, and both requesting and sharing related resources. Again, the comments extended the topic and were greatly appreciated. If you missed them the first time through, you will want to take a peek at them for even more information.

3. Finally, Tech-Break: Slash Reading, a post sharing another tech-less activity, made the list. Slash reading, as its name suggests, is primarily a reading activity, but there are so many fun things to do with it to engage students more fully. This post generated further discussion with variations and other suggestions in the comments.

With these four posts garnering the most unique hits and comments over the past several years, I hope that you will take the opportunity to check them out if you have not done so already and join the discussions taking place. You can check out my other 99 posts here.

It is always a pleasure interacting with our amazing TESOL Blog readers. Here’s to 100 posts written and 100 more on their way!

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/100th-post-special-the-highlights/

360° Photos for ELT

Every innovation in tech has the potential to be or become an advancement in ed tech. So, every time we hear about a new technology, we ought to pause and ask ourselves, what could this mean for my classroom and my students?

The term virtual reality has been around for decades, as has some form of the technology itself. The basic concept is that the user is immersed in a simulated—or virtual—reality: you not only see an image, but if you look to the left of you, you see what is to the left. Turn your head to the right and you see what’s to the right. In the 80s some consumer VR products were released, but they were very expensive, and they were primarily a novelty: There just wasn’t much you could do with VR, so interest faded. Just 5 years ago, the very term VR was obsolescing its way to the tomb of dead tech terms, to join the likes of beeper and phonograph, velocipede and 8-track, carburetor and zeppelin. But in the past few years, the concept has been resurrected and interest in it reinvigorated. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the driving forces behind the return of VR is Facebook and smartphones.

Facebook has recently rolled out 360° photos: panoramic photos taken on your ordinary smartphone that, viewed on your mobile device, respond to motion. Here’s an example I took recently:*

If you have Facebook and a recent smartphone, you can create 360° photos (Facebook automatically detects metadata in the photo and turns it from a panorama into a 360°; you don’t have to do anything but upload). Combined with a viewer like Google Cardboard, which holds your phone and blocks out the light of  rest of the world, panoramic photos become a form of virtual reality.

Ok—but we’re like four paragraphs in and I’ve barely mentioned English teaching, right? Where’s the application? Well, to be honest I myself haven’t yet used 360° photos in class—that’s right, this is some real bleeding edge stuff—but here are a few ideas I’ve been thinking about:

  • When we’re teaching a thematic unit such as Rooms in the Home or My Neighborhood, we’ll sometimes ask students to describe their homes, maybe draw a map. Instead, we could have them take 360° photos and take us on a virtual tour in class.
  • Or perhaps the teacher takes a 360° photo of her own home, shares with the class, and holds a race to describe where certain objects are using prepositions of place: Who can find the picture that my son drew? I see it! It’s on the refrigerator under the grocery list!
  • 360° photos as writing prompts are potentially much richer than traditional photos. They posit the viewer smack in the middle of a scene with the ability to look around and select a perspective, rather than teachers choosing the students’ focus for them.
  • Combined with, say, Google Maps, there’s a whole lot of potential for practical, real-world English use that might otherwise be impossible: the teacher gives a “lost” student a 360° photo, and the class looks at Google Maps on the projector.  By asking questions—What are you standing in front of? Is there a hardware store next to that Starbucks?—the class helps to figure out where the lost student is and gives him directions to the next place.

This technology is really only in its infancy. There’s a lot of unrealized potential, especially for teaching. I’ve already been playing with 360° photo in Photoshop, overlaying text, creating 360° vocab pages.

This is perhaps more a novelty at this point, but novelty can boost engagement. I also hope this has given you an idea of the direction the technology could go in. Combine it with the sort of GPS-based augmented reality that Pokemon Go uses, and I can imagine wikified ESL communities, in which teachers and students can wander their community, labeling objects in the streets in much the way many teachers put a Post-it note on the wall that says wall.

*Note: there are still some compatibility issues with embedding these photos. If you’re on a computer, clicking these photos should take you to the photo I’ve shared on Facebook, which you should be able to explore using your mouse. If you’re on a mobile device, you’ll want to view the posts in your Facebook app rather than your browser, as most mobile browsers don’t seem to support 360° photos at the time of publication. This is sure to change quite quickly.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/360-photos-for-elt/

Teaching Empathy to Children Through Storytelling

As English learners enter school this year, one of our most important jobs as teachers is to help them adjust to the American classroom. It is important to make our ELs feel welcome and accepted. With all of the anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric that children are hearing in the news,  teachers have a  genuine opportunity to address the issue around immigration and build empathy. One way to do this is to design lessons around students’ stories about their cultural heritage. These lessons should not only be told by immigrants and refugees but for all of the students in the classroom. Here are a few ideas of how students can share their stories, and a few lesson ideas that are inclusive of all students.

Have students do the following:

  • Interview their parents to learn stories about when their ancestors came to the United States, and what difficulties they needed to overcome. Learning about the difficulties experienced by people who have made this journey will help all students feel empathetic toward their classmates.
  • Draw pictures and tell a story about what they miss from their country or what they value from their families’ culture.
  • Bring in and talk about family  artifacts, photographs, or other mementos that they or their ancestors brought with them.

Sample Lessons That Are Inclusive of All Students

Sharing Family Heritages in Grades 1–3

  1. Teacher brings in and shares an artifact from his or her culture and explains why it is personally important.
  2. Students are then asked to brainstorm questions they want to ask about the teacher’s artifact.
  3. Students write questions to ask in pairs.
  4. The teacher models how to answer the questions using sentence starters for ELs: This (artifact, photograph, memento) is important to my family because______________.
  5. Ask a parent to share an item from his or her culture that has meaning for his or her family. Have students use the questions they have created to ask the parent questions. I’ve had parents share a wide range of cultural experiences including hanboks, kimonos, games, stories, and photographs of their home country including their house, school, friends and extended family.
  6. Students bring an item from their culture and explain what it is and why it is important. Classmates ask questions and the student answers them using the sentence starters.
  7. Students can also reflect on their classmates’ stories in writing or orally.

Activities for Students in Grades 3–5

Older students can be asked to interview a family member about his or her or an ancestor’s immigration story using questions that they have developed in class. If teachers make a video from these stories, students can share them with their families. ELs who are beginning learners can draw pictures of their immigration story and write a few short sentences with the help of the teacher or English-speaking classmate.

I once had a class make quilt on which the students shared what they missed from their country. They drew pictures and wrote a short explanation of what they missed. We copied the picture on special fabric that can be put in a color copy machine. Here is a lesson in Teaching Tolerance about family quilt projects for the classroom.


Here are some resources available for teachers at different grade and English language development levels.

  • The Very Quiet Foreign Girls Poetry Club is an account of how a group of young girls told their immigration stories through poetry. In this article, the teacher asked students to write about what they don’t remember from their country. (Grades 4–12)
  • Honoring our families’ immigrant narratives is an excellent article about teaching students to write their immigrant stories. There are also some excellent links including the Made into America website and an immigrant interview form, which could be adapted to the needs of children in different grade and English language development levels. (Grades 4–12)
  • Family Tapestry is a group of lesson plans from Teaching Tolerance. (pre-k–5)
  • Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today is a study unit from Scholastic that explores the history of immigration in the United States and examines what it is like to be an immigrant today. Its Meet Young Immigrants series is a group of stories about young immigrants today.  It is a good example for students who are telling their stories. (Grades 3–7)

I hope these resources and activities work for you and your students. If you have others you use successfully, please share them in the comments, below.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/teaching-empathy-to-children-through-storytelling/

English Language Teachers and Technology

The TESOL President’s Blog

In fall 1983, I was hired as an undergraduate Spanish teaching assistant. Over the course of a weekend, I was trained to:

1) speak and dramatize a Spanish sentence from a pattern-practice drill,
2) snap my fingers,
3) point at an unsuspecting student lined up in one of two rows,
4) look at that student while he or she tried to get the answer out before I moved on to snap at someone else,
5) repeat the correct answer (if the student had provided it), and
6) then cycle through steps 1–5 with a different student and eventually a different exercise.

When I was observed, the performance metrics were how many times each student had spoken in an hour and whether I had caught all the mistakes. Known as the Rassias method, the goal was to help students quickly move past any affective barriers to speaking the language and begin developing fluency in the phonological and grammatical forms of the language.

Today, there is no need to hire a human being to do what I did. Cell phone apps efficiently cycle through spoken and written pattern-practice drills, tracking problematic forms for repetition; meanwhile, gamification achieves the motivational effects of my histrionics.

The Role of Technology in Language Learning

The theme of my TESOL President’s blog has been TESOL 2.0 and the changes occurring within our profession. Since TESOL was founded in 1966 as an association for English language teachers, one of the most profound changes has been the rise of technology as a tool for language learning. As technology has moved from being a tape recording in a language laboratory, to a program in a computer lab, and now an app on a mobile device, it has become clear that providing language practice—something teachers have always thought of as their job—can be done better by technology.

With technology today, the learner chooses the optimum moment to learn: while riding a bus, at home in a silent room, or in the company of friends competing against each other with the same game. The technology can remember everything the learner has ever been exposed to and produced within the tool’s environment, prompt him or her to try again when the pattern does not match, and even provide hints. Moreover, as language increasingly becomes digitized because of the Internet, technology is able to go beyond programmed notions of right and wrong to compare learners’ productions with huge corpora of language. For example, I recently came across an interesting tool: ludwig.guru, which allows learners to try out a phrase or sentence to see if it has been uttered on the Internet and then provides a list of similar sentences culled from the Internet that will help the learner understand both the correct form as well as the context and usage.

The advent of such technology is very threatening for teachers who spend the majority of their classroom time working through language exercises. Even the ways in which the exercises are created is changing. Increasingly, algorithms analyze the frequency of different forms in different contexts in order to select language students should practice, and then translations are crowdsourced to generate exercises—no teachers involved (see for example, duolingo.com).

The Role of Language Teachers With Educational Technology

In the face of such changes, it is important to remember what professionally trained teachers bring to language learning. The first thing we bring is an understanding of what and how students can learn using technology (see TESOL’s Technology Standards Framework and associated publications as well as the British Council’s Mobile Pedagogy for English Language Teaching). Students need vocabulary; they need syntactic, morphological, and phonological patterns to slot vocabulary into and manipulate it. We can advise them on ways to get this knowledge using technology. We can also advise them on the difference between a tool that will maximize the time they are willing to put in and a tool that is bells and whistles with little substance.

Professional English language teachers also realize that language is as much about creative negotiation as it is production and reception. We don’t just teach students language; we teach students to use language. We understand the constraints and affordances provided by authentic contexts. We know how to design projects and group activities where interaction can be practiced, situations where students can be exposed to messy input, make decisions on the fly, and generate novel forms and usages. As such we don’t just create exercises; we design experiences. We know how to sequence those experiences so that  students build, grow, and develop in a way that is faster and further than they could do on their own.

Finally, we may not be as good as a machine at catching every “error” or remembering what a student was writing 2 months ago, but we know our students. We know that what is going on outside the learning environment impacts their ability and willingness to concentrate; we know the value of a smile as well as when to look stern.  We may use games to motivate, but we also call students by name, ask where they came from, and find out what they are interested in.

Yes, technology can provide individualized instruction, but we teach individuals.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/english-language-teachers-and-technology/

🔵🔵 Video Time! Language Supports for Number Talks

Hello everyone,
I love sentence frames ♥️ and ELs engage in Math when we use them during our lessons.

The teaching channel gives us another informative video and asks us to consider the following questions while viewing and thinking about supporting our students in Math.

💭 Questions to Consider

  • Why are sentence frames an effective strategy for English Language Learners?
  • How do sentence frames empower students?
  • How can you adapt these sentence frames for use in your own classroom?

👀  Sit back and take a peek!https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/sentence-frames-ousd/embed.js?width=480
from Fun To Teach ESL – Teaching English as a Second Language http://esleld.blogspot.com/2016/08/video-time-language-supports-for-number.html