Teaching Empathy to Children Through Storytelling

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

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. Continue reading

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English Language Teachers and Technology

Dudley Reynolds
Dudley Reynolds

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. Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Prithvi Shrestha

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

It is my privilege to be able to introduce to you Dr. Prithvi Shrestha, who has worked closely with the TESOL ESPIS over the years in his role as a leader of the IATEFL ESP Special Interest Group. In his profile, he shares information about a project in Bangladesh involving training for 80,000 English language teachers that has become a model for projects in Pakistan and India. Continue reading

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10 ELL Must-Haves for the First Day of School

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

Students and teachers in the United States are packing up their summer gear in favor of backpacks and briefcases to get ready to go back to school. Although calendars around the world differ, the first days of a new school year or instructional cycle are crucial to setting the tone and pace for the teaching and learning that follow.

With that in mind, I offer a list of 10 items that teachers of English learners should have ready for the first days of class, regardless of context, age, or proficiency level. Continue reading

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ETAI 2016: Going Beyond the Limits of Language

Andy Curtis
Andy Curtis

Last month, on 4–6 July, the 7th International English Teachers’ Association of Israel (ETAI) Conference took place in Ashkelon, Israel, which is on the Mediterranean coast, about 50 km south of the capital, Tel Aviv. Ashkelon describes itself as “one of the world’s oldest cities…steeped in history,” which has “absorbed more than 40,000 new residents, some of whom include immigrants and young families.” And according to ETAI’s website, the association was founded in 1979 “as a grass-roots non-profit teachers’ association run on a voluntary basis, by teachers for teachers.”

ETAI’s aim is “to provide professional support, advice, teaching ideas and background knowledge to teachers of English in Israel.” The site also notes that ETAI has around 800 members “from Jewish, Arab, Druze and Circassian schools all over Israel.” Although ETAI has been an association for more than 35 years, its international conference is only held every 5 to 6 years, on average, which is why this event was only the seventh in its history, with the previous one held in 2010. Continue reading

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Do We Need More Studies on Teacher Feedback?

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

An impressive amount of research has been done on teacher response to L2 student writing. It seems like feedback scholars have taken nearly all possible directions trying to understand this “controversial yet ubiquitous pedagogical issue” (Ferris, 2004, p. 49). However, a deeper look at the literature on response to student writing reveals that despite the “rapid growth in interest in different areas of research into feedback on writing” (Hyland, 2010, p. 172), the understanding of how writing teachers develop their feedback practices in a particular teaching environment over time is fundamentally lacking.

In other words, previous research seems to overlook the issue of feedback as a developmental pedagogical phenomenon. How do novice composition instructors develop their expertise in feedback practices? How do their beliefs and practices change over time and what influences this change? Does their feedback to student writing become more sophisticated over time and does it reflect teachers’ growing understanding of the pedagogical and social value of feedback? Surprisingly, the answers to these questions are fundamentally missing in the existing literature. Continue reading

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4 Icebreakers to Make Conversations Flow in ESL Classrooms

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Another school year is about to begin, but even though it’s still summer your classroom may be a cold place. Your new students won’t know who you are or how the school works, and the returning students may not know what to make of the change. Add the tension to this mix that can come from a multicultural classroom or a monolingual classroom where students can easily revert to their native language, and you’ve got a situation that will set the tone for your class for a long time. Picking the right icebreaker can make everything much easier.

The classic game for teachers is “Two Truths and a Lie”: It’s easy to implement and can yield some fun answers. In practice, though, I find it less effective for English language learners. Some may misunderstand the activity, some who are less willing to talk may steal someone else’s lie, and lower-level students may struggle with the vocabulary. The end result is that you rarely get the quick assessment and introduction you could get with something more targeted. Continue reading

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5 Reasons to Use Newsela

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

There are so many websites out there with great materials, and many of them, including News in Levels, Breaking News English, and others, use current events as the basis of their articles or videos. Today, I want to share with you five reasons to use Newsela with your students.

1. It’s Easy to Get Started
Newsela makes it easy to get started for both educators and learners. Educators simply answer a couple of questions and can even use their Google account information to sign up and log in, which is always my preference because that means one less password to forget—I mean, remember. Learners can sign up by entering the class code you provide, which adds them directly to your Newsela class, or they can create accounts on their own separate from any specific class. Continue reading

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ESOL and Healthy Communities

Robert Sheppard
Rob Sheppard

English and Healthy Communities

What makes a “healthy community”? When I first heard the phrase, I pictured UnderArmour-clad model-bodied suburbanites jogging to Equinox past Trader Joe’s, Sweetgreen, and BeGood, scarcely breaking a sweat. But perhaps that says more about unhealthy consumerism than about healthy communities. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a healthy community is “one that continuously creates and improves both its physical and social environments, helping people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential” (2010).

Where ESOL Fits In

So why are we talking about community health on an ESOL blog? Well, notice some of the components of community health: social connections, support systems, access, achieving potential. Compare these with the experience of many newcomers to an English-speaking country: Without English, social connections can be severely limited, accessing support systems can be daunting, potential too often goes unrealized. In order for our immigrant communities to be “healthy,” English is crucial. Continue reading

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Creating a Classroom Community: 5 First Day Activities for ELLs

Shannon Tanghe
Shannon Tanghe

How long does it take learners to form a first impression of a new class? One study found that students rated professors after attending just two weeks of class roughly the same as their final course evaluations (Buchert, Laws, Apperson, & Bregman, 2008). The research of Laws, Apperson, Buchert, and Bregman in 2010 tightens this timeframe, showing impressions developed during the first class persist until the end of the semester. Others, including social psychologist Nalini Ambady (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993), have narrowed this window to even shorter time periods, showing lasting impressions are formed in mere seconds. Clearly, the first day of class has a long-lasting influence on the rest of the semester/year.

As summer is winding down, many teachers are busily preparing to return to classrooms this fall. How can a teacher make a great, lasting first impression on students? What messages do you want to convey or what tone do you want to set for the rest of your class? The first day of class can be a great time to begin to develop the classroom community, allowing opportunities for learners and teachers to get to know one another and become comfortable in their new classes.  Continue reading

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