ELT Best Practices: Intensive English Programs in the USA

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok

Alyssa Swanson, manager of Penn’s Intensive English Program, believes that best practices are routed in envisioning new avenues, bridging the gap between administrators and teachers, and engaging in professional development.

With a background in international education and public relations, Alyssa Swanson was first introduced to the field of ESL while working as an administrative assistant in international affairs at a U.S. university.  After receiving an MSEd in TESOL and several years of teaching and advising in ESL, Alyssa is now the manager of the Intensive English Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Sherry Blok (SB): We met at the English USA conference in Monterey, California last January—a conference specifically for IEP programs. You are very active in attending and presenting at conferences, such as the recent TESOL 2016 convention in Baltimore. Can you speak to the importance of professional development in your own journey as an educator? Continue reading

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Best Books for Latino English Learners

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

In México on 30 April, el Día del Niño is a celebration of children, where youth is honored and adults are reminded of the importance of the caring for and raising of children. The holiday has also been celebrated recently in the United States as Día de los niños/Día de los libros, a day led by the American Library Association (ALA) to celebrate diversity and promote literacy as a “powerful tool for strengthening families and communities,” according to Andrew Medlar, president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALA, 2016).

With Spanish as the most prominent L1 spoken among ELLs in the United States, it is critical for teachers of ELLs to promote and model cultural inclusivity, as well as enable students to make cognitive and emotional connections to academic content and their lived experiences. One way to achieve this is by including literature that is relevant to their lives and families; as such, this post is dedicated to books that both highlight the magical world of children and the richness of Latino culture. While there are too many books to name here, the following resources can help you begin or add to your collection! Continue reading

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Students Reflect: Challenges in the First Year of U.S. College

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Another academic year is close to the end. For many students in my introductory composition course, it was the first time being away from their home countries and families, the first time being in a different culture, and certainly the first time studying in a new academic environment. I wanted them to reflect a little bit on their first year in college, and asked them two questions:

  1. “What was the biggest challenge you faced this year in college?” and
  2. “How do you think the university or professors can help you and other students with similar challenges?”

Students’ thoughts and ideas were quite illuminating. I asked their permission to share their responses. Here they are: Continue reading

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Automotive Language Lessons Can Give Your Students the Drive to Learn

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Cars hold a high position in the American culture’s teenage psyche. Cars may be necessities for students attending schools in rural areas or background noise to kids in cities, but you’re not likely to find a student who is completely apathetic about automobiles. They can symbolize freedom, a rite of passage, a future career, or just things students think are cool. Whatever the situation, they can be a nice break from dry academic activities or a nice way to keep the students engaged during a short week.

So when you need an “evergreen” activity, or if you want a fun writing activity, here are some car-related categories of activities I found to be effective.

1. Morphology and Language Change. Since cars are newer inventions, the English names for their parts are often simple compound words that explain their function—windshield, hubcap, airbag, rearview mirror—which you can put together, take apart, and define as separate units and combined words. Continue reading

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Mind Map It: Aiding ELL Vocabulary Acquisition

Guest Author
Guest Author

A guest post by Elizabeth Mosaidis
In this blog, Elizabeth Mosaidis shares how she used the free online mind-mapping tool Coggle to help her ESL/EFL students better learn vocabulary and improve their essay writing.

After reading some disappointing essays in my intermediate ESL reading/writing class, I surveyed the students to determine what they considered their greatest hurdle to overcome in essay writing. I discovered that 9 out of the 14 students found a lack of vocabulary to be the most challenging factor in writing. Several students expressed frustration in trying to remember new vocabulary words, while others mentioned not knowing the words in English to accurately express their ideas. Some felt stifled because the words wouldn’t flow. As one student described it, “I come to the English class, but the English class doesn’t come into me.”

With this in mind, I considered how I could help the students to better remember and retain new vocabulary words. We had tried several methods already—online flashcards, vocabulary BINGO, and a vocabulary journal—to some degree of success, but I still wasn’t reaching all of the students. Continue reading

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Create Engaging Video Lessons With Zaption

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

Whether it is for listening practice, the basis for a discussion or writing assignment, an extension of a reading activity, or something else altogether, videos are an excellent, often underutilized, resource at our disposal. Despite that fact that there is an enormous number of educational videos available online via YouTube and other websites, it seems that I could always make more of an effort to integrate them into my classes. While I do not want to give up valuable class time to video viewing, I also want students to engage with the content while and directly after they watch. This is where sites like eduCanon, EDpuzzle, and now Zaption come in to play. Continue reading

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Authentic Text Time in Adult Ed

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

Adult learners, especially immigrants who have various competing priorities which may take precedence over English, need to see an immediate application for their new language. In many contexts, English can be a luxury; for adult immigrants, it cannot be. As teachers, we must approach it with an urgency and immediacy that might be unusual in, say, a business EFL program. A student-driven environmental/authentic text time is one way to add relevance, immediacy, and authenticity to your adult English classes.

The implementation is simple: Set aside a portion of each week, maybe 15 minutes, for students to bring in authentic texts. These could be anything from bills and notices that have come in the mail to student-made cell phone recordings of the announcements on the subway, to photos of billboards, to email correspondence. Anything that they’ve encountered in the world around them and felt a need or desire to understand. Continue reading

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9 Strategies for 21st-Century ELT Professionals

Yilin Sun
Yilin Sun

Recently, I gave a keynote talk at the Thai-TESOL 36th Annual Conference (January 2016). It was a well attended conference as Thai-TESOL leaders always do a fantastic job in organizing their annual event. The theme was “Empowerment Through Glocalization,” with the objective focused on how to empower ELT professionals in the changing landscape of ELT. After some contemplation, I came up with nine strategies as number nine is a lucky number in Thai culture. I encourage you to share your thoughts after reading this blog.

Strategy 1: Value the Changing Perspectives on ELT
About 50 years ago, the ELT field started to see changes in our views of English language learning; this has become more evident over the last 20 years. The old term of ESL has been changed to ELL or EAL (English as an additional language) as ELT educators recognize that many learners know more than two languages and English is not their second language anymore. Continue reading

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Game-Based Learning and Pre-K–5 English Learners

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

In my previous blogs, I talked about using websites and apps to help elementary-age ELs improve literacy skills. In this blog, I would like to mention some games that support STEM  learning for ELs through game-based learning (GBL). GBL is game play that has prescribed learning goals. Activities are designed to balance subject-area learning with games.  I think that game-based learning could help ELs learn language and content-area information because it keeps them involved in the learning. GBL can provide  students with a context for communicating with their classmates and developing social skills.

Although GBL is usually associated with middle or high school students, there are many ways it can be used with pre-K–5 students. First, it is important to read some introductory reading to familiarize yourself with basic GBL concepts. Here are a few articles that I recommend: Continue reading

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TESOL Board Seeks Member Feedback on Affiliates

Dudley Reynolds
Dudley Reynolds

Using feedback from the affiliate leaders and best evidence on successful professional affiliate relationships provided in the 2015 Governance Review Task Force report, the TESOL Board of Directors has proposed a vision of an affiliate program based on the following principles:

  • Helps support a mutually beneficial and collaborative relationship between TESOL International Association and its affiliates.
  • Helps advance TESOL International Association’s goals, strategic direction, and growth.
  • Assists TESOL International Association in cultivating knowledge and information about the field and the profession.
  • Provides for different forms and activities relevant to the needs of different groups (i.e. not a “one-size-fits-all” model).
  • Aligns with, and advances, the association’s strategic plan.

In May 2015, the Board struck an Affiliate Task Force charged with proposing options for models and structures that would achieve this vision. The AFT Final Report presents the ideas generated by the task force based on their research of other associations’ models as well as the views of members of TESOL International Association and its affiliates.

The Board now invites comments from the membership as a whole on these ideas as well as suggestions for the road ahead. Continue reading

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