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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5 Sites for Using Mainstream News in ELL Classes

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Those of us who grew up before the Internet remember how our parents read newspapers and magazines. We may even recall that time we tried to read one but couldn’t make sense of most of the words. After that happened to me, I saw learning to read well enough to understand the news as a rite of passage, proof that I could understand what was going on in the world as well as any other adult.

I had the same feeling later in life when I started studying other languages. A few years of high school Spanish weren’t enough to help me understand Al Día, and it took many Chinese lessons before I could translate the headlines in Xinhua. But with practice and determination, I learned these were valuable ways to improve my reading skills.

Teachers with ELLs, especially ones who recently moved to the United States, may want to remember how strange and distant the media seemed to them when they were growing up. Continue reading

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ClassDojo for Feedback and Communication

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

ClassDojo is a tool that helps teachers, especially those with younger learners, deliver feedback on student performance to students and parents. It popped up on my radar again recently and I was surprised to discover that I had not yet written anything up on it yet, so let’s see what it is all about.

ClassDojo can be used as both a website or an app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices, thus making it very versatile. For today’s purposes, I will mostly be examining it through the website. The main page has a nice introductory video and a summary of all the things that you can do with ClassDojo. For students, for example, you can encourage them and track their progress, while for parents, you can send messages, images, and announcements with read receipts so that you know who has seen the information. Continue reading

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Teaching Cohesion

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

We all want our students to produce coherent, cohesive writing. Since I first started teaching, I’ve asked my students to produce “coherent, cohesive writing.” Thing was, back then I could have clearly defined neither coherent nor cohesive, nor could I have effectively distinguished between the two concepts. But when we’re teaching—especially writing, but the other skills as well—it can be valuable to introduce these ideas to students, cohesion in particular.

In this post, I’ll define and differentiate these terms, and provide some quick tips for incorporating cohesion into your teaching. Continue reading

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The Changing Role of the ESL Teacher

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

This week’s primary education blog is guest authored by Shaeley Santiago, an ESL teacher and instructional coach from Iowa. Shaeley and I first met 4 years ago on #ELLCHAT, a Twitter chat that I comoderate. We have since met up at TESOL and other conferences. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from her.


When I first began teaching at a middle school in a small Iowa town just before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed, ESL was about helping students learn survival English and American culture. Today, however, increased accountability for subgroups like ELLs and a greater focus on college- and career-ready standards for all students have caused educators to recognize the necessity of instructing ELLs simultaneously in language and content (see Hakuta’s “Freedom to Talk” video). Continue reading

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MEXTESOL 2015: TESOL Supporting Its International Affiliates

Andy Curtis
Andy Curtis

The TESOL President’s Blog

Immediately following the first TESOL International Association Symposium held in Mexico, on 4 November 2015, in Canún, Quintana Roo, the 42nd MEXTESOL International Convention took place, in the same place, over the following 4 days, on 5–8 November. Building on the theme of the Symposium, which was “Innovations and Breakthroughs in ELT,” the theme for the convention was “Building the Future Today: ELT and Learning Breakthroughs.”

All six of the TESOL Symposium speakers—TESOL Past Presidents Mark Algren and Deena Boraie, Mario Herrera and Higinio Ordoñez from Mexico, as well as Mira Malupa-Kim, based in San Diego, California USA and Luke Meddings, from London, England—were also plenary and/or keynote speakers at the MEXTESOL convention, which constituted substantial support provided by  TESOL International Association to the MEXTESOL affiliate, and to this year’s MEXTESOL convention. Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Margaret van Naerssen

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this TESOL Blog post, you’ll read the ESP project leader profile of Dr. Margaret van Naerssen. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section, Margaret has been committed to keeping TESOL ESPIS colleagues aware of and focused on ESP principles. She had a major role in creating the TESOL ESPIS PowerPoint on ESP. Also, Margaret was the ESPIS chair for two cycles. Outside the ESPIS, she’s been involved with a number of ESP training and program evaluation efforts in various countries to help colleagues recognize the value of the core principle of ESP:  needs assessment. Her responses to the questions below illuminate her expertise as an ESP teacher-trainer. Continue reading

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Teacher of the Year Speaks at the 2015 SPELT Conference

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok

As teacher of the year, I’ve had the good fortune to connect with educators from across the world, share my practice, and broaden my horizons as a teacher. In my last blog as teacher of the year, I’d like to share my experience at the 2015 SPELT (Society for Pakistani English Language Teachers) Conference in Pakistan where I was invited to present on approaches to nurture global citizenship and equity in English language teaching. Continue reading

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Comprehensible Input via Infographics

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

It’s hard to imagine a language classroom without text—as a culture, we place a ton of importance upon the ability to read and write. The integration of the four skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking—is a key feature of successful language teaching. However, with all the emphasis we place on the written word, “it’s an indisputable fact that images are processed in the brain faster than words” (James, 2014). As such, when teachers are presenting new concepts or reviewing them with English learners, they are encouraged to bring in visuals, realia (objects from the real world), or film/video media to illustrate the concepts as well as talking and reading about the concepts. Continue reading

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Teaching Second Conditionals Through Absurd Sentences

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

The second conditional (e.g., If I were, I would…) often causes difficulties even for advanced English learners. This fun and interactive activity will help learners practice this structure.

The first part of the activity gives learners a chance to interact with each other by working on a meaningful grammatical task. The second part of the activity adds a humorous component to facilitate their learning (Garner, 2006; Gorham & Christophel, 1990; Wanzer, Frymier, & Irwin, 2009). Continue reading

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