It’s a Piece of Cake: Easy Ways to Teach Tricky Idioms

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

If I described your writing assignment as “horse horse tiger tiger,” what am I saying about it? Would you “try to cut the pear in two” to figure out what my feedback meant? Or would you assume I “don’t have all my cups in the cupboard”? I can do this “from sun to sun.”

With that, I’d like to “put in my two cents” and say that idioms are one of the trickiest parts of a language. We native speaker use them “off the cuff,” but unless you’re familiar with Chinese, French, German, and Spanish most of the previous paragraph “is all Greek” to you. The “bottom line” is that we, as language teachers, need to introduce our students to these terms. They may not seem like parts of the “upper crust” academic language we focus on, but idioms will appear in reading activities in other classes and standardized questions.

The “bottom line” is, we have to teach idioms at some point. Here are some ways to make it “as easy as ABC”: Continue reading

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NYS TESOL 2015: TESOL International Supporting its U.S. Affiliates

Andy Curtis
Andy Curtis

The TESOL President’s Blog

The word “nice” has not only fallen into disuse over the years, but it can now produce some strong negative feelings, such as those expressed by Natalie Sisson, in her 2011 piece on “Why Nice Should Be Banished From the English Language.” Douglas Harper explains that Henry Fowler (1858–1933), the famous lexicographer, claimed that “nice” had, by the 1920s, been “charmed out of all its individuality and converted into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness” (Online Etymology Dictionary). And as another Henry said, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1803), while making fun of the word: “Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.”

So, it came as a nice surprise to learn that NYS, the abbreviated form of New York State, is pronounced “nice.” That was one of the many things I learned during the 45th NYS TESOL Conference, on “Emerging Global Literacies in Language and Technology”, which took place on 13–14 November in White Plains, New York. Continue reading

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Quill: For Writing Development

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

Back in August, I wrote a post about NoRedInk, which is a website full of exercises to assist students with their grammar and writing through semipersonalized exercises. Today, I have a similar site for you that reader Ellen Johnston brought to my attention called Quill, which focuses on writing development in addition to grammar and vocabulary practice.

To sign up for a free Quill teacher account, you can fill in a brief registration form or sign in using your Google or Clever log-in information. There is also a Premium account option that you can demo for free, but pricing does not seem to be available on the website. You would have to contact the company to request a quote. As always, I would just suggest seeing how you like it using the free option and consider an upgrade later on. Continue reading

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Emoji as a Second Language?

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

Depending on who you ask, the emergence of emoji might be a sign of a burgeoning new language or else harbinger of a coming linguistic dark age, or maybe justScreen Shot 1. Although 40% of Instagram posts now contain emoji; and though Emoji Dick—a crowdfunded, 736-page, $200, line-by-line emoji translation of Melville’s seafaring classic—is and has been a thing for going on 5 years now; and even though Oxford Dictionaries 2015 word of the year, beating out such favorites as lumbersexual and on fleek, was Screen Shot 2; despite all this, most linguists agree that emoji simply aren’t used in the way that languages are, and haven’t developed anything like a syntax. As linguist Gretchen McCulloch pointedly tweeted, “anyone who wants to say that emoji are language must make that assertion entirely in emoji.”

And we can probably agree that almost any utterance in emoji is so ambiguous as to be utterly useless as far as reliable communication is concerned. F’rinstance,

Screen Shot 3: See? Screen Shot 4 Continue reading

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Teaching Culture: Festivals of Light Around the World

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

The diversity in many classrooms provides a starting point for children to begin to understand and value the many distinct cultures of the world. What better way to do that than to feature a unit on light festivals from around the world? When ELLs see their home cultures  being studied in the classroom, they feel their culture has been validated.  Here are some suggestions for studying festivals of light around the world, including classroom activities.

St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden

According to folk tradition, December 13th follows the longest night of the year in Sweden.  St. Lucia is honored this day with her wreath of candles.  On this day, the oldest girl in a family dresses up wearing a white robe and a wreath with candles on her head.  Schools have a celebration with a St. Lucia choir. All the girls dress up as St. Lucia, and the boys are “Star Boys.” Continue reading

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Literature in ELT: Using Literature for Conflict Resolution

Guest Author
Guest Author

Sybil MarcusA Guest Post by Sybil Marcus
Sybil Marcus has lived and worked on four continents.  She taught ESL at the University of California at Berkeley Extension and at the Summer English Language Studies on the Berkeley campus.  She has presented at conferences in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. For 15 years, she ran a PCI workshop for TESOL on integrating literature into language studies. She has also run workshops internationally for the U.S. State Department on Using Literature for Critical Thinking and Using Literature for Conflict Resolution. She is a coauthor with Daniel Berman of the A World of Fiction series, which uses literature to teach integrated language and critical thinking skills to ESL/EFL students at the high-intermediate to advanced levels.

Most fiction relies on conflict to propel plot forward. Like people in real life, fictional characters struggle with each other, sometimes succeeding in resolving their differences and sometimes failing.

In collaboration with Barrie Roberts—a lecturer, attorney, and mediator on the Berkeley campus—I’ve applied mediation techniques to fictional conflicts in the classroom. These techniques offer many opportunities for students to practice their language skills, and they’re a valuable tool for approaching the conflicts we all face in our daily lives. Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Marvin Hoffland

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this TESOL Blog post, you will read the ESP project leader profile of Marvin Hoffland. In addition to his activity on the ESPIS steering board, he is a senior lecturer of English and Economics at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Klagenfurt, Austria. He has been teaching and developing ESP/EFL courses in the areas of business, medical, and technical English in the Department of Engineering and IT since 2002. Continue reading

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The ESSA and ESL Teacher Education

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

Hours of frustration and anxiety caused by the alarming amount of high-stakes testing in the United States might be reduced due to the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The ESSA is a revision to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which was itself a revision to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) that was first passed in the 1960s.

Negative Impact of Only Testing

In their 2008 article, “Testing the Joy out of Learning,” Nichols and Berliner described how teachers were “pledg[ing] allegiance to the test,” a play on words about the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to the flag that school children recite every morning. Continue reading

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Meet Joy Egbert, Incoming TESOL Journal Editor

TESOL International Association
TESOL International Association
Joy Egbert

Joy Egbert

Beginning in January 2016, Joy Egbert will take over the editorship of TESOL Journal. Joy is professor of English language learning and education technology at Washington State University, Pullman. She coordinates the three ELL programs in the Department of Teaching and Learning and runs the Video Production Lab. Her recent research interests center on student engagement in technology-enhanced language learning environments. She has published and presented widely around topics in computer-assisted language learning, teacher education, and language teaching methodologies. Continue reading

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Distinguishing Facts From Opinions: 3 Activities

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Being able to distinguish facts from opinions is an important skill not only for critical reading, but also for developing a strong argument. In the past few weeks, I have been teaching an argumentative essay in my writing class, and I have realized that students frequently struggle telling apart these two concepts.

Below I describe three simple activities that helped me clarify the difference between facts and opinions for students. Of course, you should start by defining these two terms. The easiest way to distinguish facts from opinions is to think of facts as statements that can be proven and of opinions as statements that cannot be proven and can be argued. It may also be helpful to tell students that facts can be used to support opinions. Continue reading

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