Seesaw: Student-Driven Digital Portfolios

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

I realize that since the bulk of my current teaching is done at the university level, I need to make an effort to explore what is available for teachers and students in other contexts. Having said that, I think Seesaw, the topic of today’s post, might actually work for any age group despite being self-described as a K–12 resource.

Seesaw was brought to my attention by an attendee of last year’s Dakota TESL conference and promotes itself as a platform for student-driven digital portfolios. I think we can all agree that portfolios are a great way for students to demonstrate learning and an excellent alternative (or addition) to high-stakes assessment methods. Unfortunately, it can also be intimidating to break from tradition and take on the task of integrating portfolio development into your curriculum or revolutionize how portfolios are organized and used at your institution or in your classroom. The good news is Seesaw can help with all of that. Continue reading

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Volunteers in Adult Ed

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

In adult ed, there’s plenty of passion, tons of motivation, and certainly a lot of need. What there’s less of a lot of is money. One way to address this is with volunteers. In this post, I’d like to share some tips for bringing in and supporting volunteers, as well as some different roles volunteers can take on in your program.

Recruitment

Getting interested volunteers in your door is easier than you expect. Place a few standing ads on volunteermatch.org, idealist.org, and your program’s social media pages and website. Post a clear “job” description and call to action (“Email Carl for more info” or “Fill out an application at our offices”). You might not get flooded with responses immediately, but keep the ads out there and spread the word, and you’ll get a steady flow of applicants over time. Continue reading

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Introducing Shannon Tanghe: Blogging to Connect

Shannon Tanghe
Shannon Tanghe

Hello from TESOL’s newest blogger—2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year, Shannon Tanghe!

About Me

My name is Shannon Tanghe, and I am currently the department chair of the Graduate School of TESOL at Dankook University, a graduate school in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea. My background includes teaching and learning experiences in various locations around the world. My own formal schooling has been in Minnesota and Korea, and I recently completed a PhD in TESOL & Composition at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I have short-term teaching experiences in Egypt and Guyana, and for the past 16 years I have been living and teaching in South Korea. Each of these experiences has been powerful in shaping and influencing my philosophy of teaching and my general world view. Continue reading

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8 Flag Day Activities for Elementary-Age ELs

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

One of my favorite June lessons is based around Flag Day, which is celebrated in the United States on June 14th. Flag day is an opportunity to teach ELs about the U.S. flag at the end of the school year.  The unit is composed of many hands-on, kinesthetic activities with a good measure of music. All of these activities can also be used for summer school lessons to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. (See my blog, 6 Activities to Teach ELs About U.S. Independence Day, from June 2015). Continue reading

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Leadership Communication In Business English Class

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the contents of a TED Talk (titled “This Is Your Brain On Communication“) with adult learners in a business English class. In the process of explaining the video to the students, I discovered an easy way to explain how leaders use language. In this TESOL Blog post, I will share with you what happened in class.

A description of the TED Talk states:

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson researches the basis of human communication, and experiments from his lab reveal that even across different languages, our brains show similar activity, or become “aligned,” when we hear the same idea or story. This amazing neural mechanism allows us to transmit brain patterns, sharing memories and knowledge. “We can communicate because we have a common code that presents meaning,” Hasson says.

What I took away from this TED Talk was its focus on the sharing of “meaning.” Continue reading

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Foreign Language Writing Instruction: My Experience

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Thinking back to the time when I was studying German as a foreign language in high school and later English as a foreign language in college, both in Russia, I don’t recall writing to be a visible part of these courses, and when writing components were implemented in the lessons/homework assignments, they were limited to simple tasks that were supposed “to reinforce the orthography, grammar, and vocabulary” (Reichelt et al., 2012, p. 35) rather than help us develop critical thinking and the ability to express ourselves in a written form.

The only more or less substantial writing experience that we received was at the end of the 11th grade of high school: as part of the German proficiency final exam, we had to prepare a short presentation on a given topic (the topics were distributed in advance). Because none of us, of course, wanted to take the risk of giving an impromptu speech, we first composed our speeches and then merely memorized them sentence by sentence, prior to taking the exam. As there were about 10 or 15 topics (or more), I remember doing lots of writing preparing for this exam! Continue reading

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Making ESL Class an Entryway for Community Involvement

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

A bulk of our training to become ELL specialists involves the nuances of linguistics and how to adapt curriculum, but it’s not until we’re in the classroom for a year that we begin to see how the education is only a sliver of our students’ lives. We learn how they may have jobs that leave them with no time for homework, how they move so often they barely know their own addresses, or how hard it can be to get their parents to attend IEP meetings or other school functions. There are two ways we can handle this realization: We can focus on our jobs as teachers and stick to our activities and tests, or we can try to help our students to gain the skills they truly need to succeed in society.

If you read this far, I’ll assume you chose the second option. The first step is to consider what you know about the students so that you can properly assess their needs. Continue reading

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Lingogo: Language Practice App

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

I have some good news for people who have been searching for language practice they can do from their smartphones or know students who could use more practice and/or motivation. There is a new app available!

Released in November 2015, Lingogo is an app developed by three women from New Zealand, each currently learning a different language, that encourages and motivates students to practice reading and/or listening on their own. The app provides dual-language stories for adult reading with varying degrees of support/scaffolding. The app is free, and so is the first story. Continue reading

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Grit, Resilience, and Conation in Adult ESOL: Part 2

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

It was Gatlinburg in mid-July…

In the classic country song “A Boy Named Sue,” popularized by Johnny Cash but penned by Shel Silverstein, the titular toughguy roams the west in determined pursuit of his sworn goal: to kill the absentee father who gave him “that awful name.” When he finally finds his father “at an old saloon, on a street of mud,” a brutal fight ensues (en-Sues), and Sue emerges the victor only after losing a piece of his ear. Staring down the barrel of Sue’s gun, the father explains his choice:

Son, this world is rough, and if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough,
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said goodbye,
I knew you’d have to get tough or die,
And it’s that name that helped to make you strong.

Now, this isn’t father-of-the-year material. But in his own ill-advised way, Sue’s father was trying to bestow upon his son an essential quality. And  it’s not just the ability to fight. Sue thinks of his father, “Every time I try and every time I win.” The virtue Sue has demonstrated isn’t physical strength, it’s determination, perseverance, goal-orientedness, grit: “You ought to thank me,” says father to son, “for the gravel in your guts.” We intuitively understand the value of conation. We try to instill it in our children. Continue reading

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Teaching ELs the Features of Nonfiction Text

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

In the classrooms that I’ve visited over the past few years, I found that many ELs, even those ready to exit ESL, were still having difficulties comprehending their science and social studies textbooks. It is important that both ESL and classroom educators teach a unit on the features or  conventions of nonfiction text to ELs as early as first grade. I suggest that teachers use multiple copies of paperback theme sets from National Geographic or Millmark Education, because both of these publishers feature social studies and science books that include all of the features that need to be taught.

Here are some of the books that I’ve used to teach the conventions of nonfiction text: Continue reading

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