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
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
Hello, ESPers worldwide!
Jigang Cai is a full professor at the Foreign Languages and Literature Department of Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Jigang is currently president of the China EAP Association and vice president of the Chinese Association for ESP. In addition, he works for the Shanghai government as chair of the Shanghai Advisory Committee on EFL teaching at Tertiary Level. His research interests include contrastive linguistics to applied linguistics and ESP/EAP studies.
In the last 10 years, he has been promoting the implementation of ESP and EAP at the tertiary level in mainland China. He has published more than 50 research papers on ESP and EAP in many academic journals. He is currently responsible for the paradigm shift from teaching EGP (English for general purposes) to ESP at tertiary institutions in Shanghai and in mainland China. Continue reading
The “summer slide” is an education phenomenon during which students regress in their learning and language development over the summer months when they are not in school. In her 5 May 2016 post, “11 Tips to Help ELs Avoid the Summer Slide,” fellow TESOL blogger Judie Haynes mentioned how the summer slide can particularly impact students from lower income households, wherein caregivers may not be able to pay for expensive summer camps or extended learning programs. She also provided some effective, less expensive ideas for ELs to continue engaging with content and language over the summer.
However, since the focus of this blog is TESOL teacher education, in this post, I’ll highlight some ways for teachers to prevent their own summer slide, and continue their professional development during June, July, and August (summer time in the United States). Continue reading
The TESOL President’s Blog
2017 marks TESOL International Association’s 51st year as an organization that promotes professional expertise in English language teaching worldwide. As we embark on our second half-century, it is fitting that the theme for our 2017 convention will be TESOL 2.0: Engage, Enrich, Empower. The choice of the 2.0 metaphor to frame our annual convention isn’t just a sign of advancing age, however; it is a reflection of a new world for English teachers.
When TESOL started in 1966, nonnative speakers were thought of as “problems” for the U.S. education system, and teachers of English to speakers of other languages were called in to handle the problem. In 2016, language learners around the world are still too often thought of as problems, but unfortunately professional English teachers are not always seen as the answer. Educational systems everywhere are asking whether a combination of technology and a few yearly “ELT” workshops can achieve the same results for less money. Continue reading
As part of my TESOL MA program, I had to take a language testing class. One of the hardest tasks of the course was—believe it or not—working in a group with other graduate students to create a writing test. Some of the group members had been teaching writing for at least some time, and thus they had their own understanding of what “correct” writing prompts and rubrics should be. Honestly, our group had a really hard time finding a common ground on these issues.
When I started teaching writing in an intensive English program, one of the responsibilities of academic writing teachers was to prepare students for the TOEFL; therefore, once a week, I had my students compose 30-minute essays on a variety of prompts. Since I created my own prompts, I soon enough realized that in addition to the skill of designing effective grading criteria and rubrics, I needed to learn how to write clear prompts. Not uncommon were situations when I was reading a student paper thinking “Oh no, this is not what the prompt asked you to do!” Then I would go to the next paper only to find out that the author understood the prompt the exact same way as the first student! Continue reading
It’s that time of the year when the days are longer and sleeves are shorter. We think about our final tests while reflecting on what worked and what didn’t during the school year. Students and teachers alike are counting down the last days of school.
For the ELL specialist, that means measuring the progress students made since September and considering where to place them next year. But we’ll see some students who may not be ready to exit ELL programs yet are still set to graduate because they’ve earned enough credits, are about to “age out” of the educational system, or passed through goals-based requirements. This is especially problematic for students with special needs or who came to the country in their late teens without the benefit of previous English classes.
In these situations, we need to focus our final lessons on the students’ needs outside of school. Here are some methods I found to be effective. Continue reading
Common Sense Media returns again and again as an invaluable source of information and materials for educators. Previous posts have pointed to Graphite, where educators can read and post reviews of various resources, and the topic of digital citizenship and how to address it in the classroom. Today, as promised, I have information on part of the professional development component of Common Sense Media. Continue reading
Two learners, both smart, both with strong extrinsic motivations to learn English, beset by similar adversities: one adapts, persists, overcomes, and emerges that much the stronger. The other becomes frustrated, loses heart, gives up, and ultimately fails to achieve fluency. Why? What is that quality that distinguishes them? What does the former have that the latter lacks? Can we name it? Quantify it? Perhaps even teach it?
Answers to these questions are popping up around the field of education, borrowed over from mainstream psychology. We hear of perseverance, grit, positive psychology, metacognition, something about children being tortured with marshmallows. We get a lot of nebulously defined, apparently overlapping concepts that run the risk of muddling more than they clarify. Continue reading
The summer slide is a well-documented phenomenon that refers to the loss of academic learning that many students experience during summer break. This loss is especially prevalent among children from low-income households because families cannot afford to send their children to camps or other expensive summer programs. Due to school district budget cuts, there are fewer summer ESL programs for our students than there used to be. Many of the suggestions below depend on your students having access to the internet and a device to use. It is important for you to find out if students have this access. Enlist the help of your local library to assist students with the use of library computers.
What can teachers do to help their students avoid the summer slide? First, I would build a class page on your school website where students can post activities during the summer. Have them sign into the page and open accounts before the end of the school year. Schedule a meeting with the parents of your ELs so that you can review some of the activities that you want students to do during the summer. Remember to include reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities for your students. Here are 12 suggestions to help you prepare ELs to read and develop language during the summer. Continue reading