Understanding the language and concepts used in a social studies classroom provides an enormous challenge to ELs. ELs generally lack prior knowledge of the U.S. history, geography, and current events needed to understand new material in social studies, and even advanced ELs struggle with the language used in social studies texts.
One of my ELs proudly showed me that he had received a B+ on a test given in his general education history class on the three branches of the U.S. government. I could see immediately that the language was way above his English language development level. When I asked him a simple question about the role played by the legislative branch of the government, he didn’t know the answer. I found that he had memorized the information from a study sheet without comprehending the material and regurgitated the answers on the test. To my mind, this type of learning is perpetuated by the “teaching to the test” mentality in this age of standardized testing. Continue reading
The TESOL President’s Blog
TESOL International Association’s 50th year has been one of many ground-breaking events, including our first events in India (April), in Vietnam (August), in Mexico (November), and in Singapore (December), demonstrating our commitment to “Take TESOL to the World.” Of all those “fifty-firsts,” one of the most significant will take place on 26–27 February, at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Khartoum, in Sudan. There, history will be made, as the first Africa TESOL Conference will take place, with the theme of “ELT in Africa: Striving for Excellence and Visibility.” Continue reading
Hello, ESPers worldwide!
In this TESOL Blog post, I focus on the ESP work that I have been doing in Japan with unemployed adult learners who are being trained to reenter the workforce. Although my primary responsibility is to teach business English to these students, I am also required to prepare them for job interviews. I consider such job interview preparation to be the ESP strand of my teaching. Accordingly, the ESP project leader profiles, which have appeared in the TESOL Blog since May 2015, have caused me to reflect on how leadership is connected to interview success. With “leadership” in my mind, I give the following advice to my students as they prepare for their job interviews. Continue reading
It’s an election year in the United States, so U.S. teachers are constantly reminded of their role in the political process and the need to cast their votes for the elected officials that serve them. Often, educators feel like they are caught in the cross-hairs (an English idiom meaning, “in a position to be attacked” or “with nowhere else to go”) between the realities of school teaching and the policies being enacted far outside of the school context. In a June 2015 report (PDF) from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, executive director Kathryn Basset noted, “The reality is many teachers don’t feel engaged or listened to when it comes to decisions that affect their classrooms” (Brown, 2015).
TESOL educators in the United States and internationally might feel this impact doubly, because they are on the receiving end of educational policies AND language policies. Continue reading
Being a member of a professional organization, such as TESOL, gives me a variety of opportunities for professional development. Annual conventions, online workshops and programs, publications, and communicating with the TESOL community through listservs—all of these can be valuable resources for someone who wants to enjoy the benefits of being part of a professional community.
Having second language writing as part of my academic interests, I am particularly grateful for the TESOL Second Language Writing Interest Section (SLWIS), which is open to those interested in any aspect of the field of second language writing.
In my today’s post, I’d like to mention other professional associations that are devoted to writing. Continue reading
Anyone who grew up in the American school system has memories of watching movies in class. Maybe the teacher wanted you to see a different historic period or understand a play or novel the class was reading a little better, but either way it was probably a passive experience where someone else talked and you listened until class ended.
For an English language learner, though, this can be much more frustrating. Unfamiliar words will come and go so fast they won’t get a chance to build up enough context to understand the story. This may also be their first exposure to the movie’s setting, so they may get too distracted by the costumes and scenery to pay attention to the language. And, perhaps worst of all, the passivity of watching a screen doesn’t give students the practice they need to learn the language.
To get the most out of movies, we need to make it an activity. Here are some ways for your students to get the most out of their viewing experience. Continue reading
For many international and immigrant ESL students, the American tradition of volunteering is an elusive concept. Many immigrant students work long hours at survival jobs and feel they have no time to volunteer. Others who may have an interest in volunteering have no clue how to find a volunteer position.
Yet volunteering is a great way for adult ESL students to improve their English. It gives them an important opportunity to practice their English outside of class in an authentic setting. It helps them forge ties to the wider community in the United States and reduces the isolation many of them feel. And it serves as a major confidence booster, as students are able to draw on the strengths they brought with them to this country in order to help others.
For these reasons, I address the issue of volunteering in a variety of different ways in my classes. Here’s how: Continue reading
If you’re like me, and surely you are, the word orientation still triggers posttraumatic flashbacks to August 2002: trustfalls on the quad when Sharon Yakomoto didn’t catch you when you trustfell to treat the ensuing concussion you had to wear that helmet all orientation weekend and then the RA Paul with the chip on his shoulder reported you to campo for being drunk but really it was just that your equilibrium was still all wonky.
But believe it or not, orientation doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, I’ve since come around to viewing a strong orientation process as an integral part of any successful semester. In this post, I’m going to explain the value of adding an orientation event to an adult ESOL course, and identify some components that will make yours a success! Continue reading
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: Continue reading