Know Your ELLs’ Rights: A Quick Federal Law Review

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Our training for ESL/ELL specialization covers lots of ground. To make ourselves valuable resources for our students, we learn about linguistics, cultural connections, how to adapt assessments, and curriculum development. What we rarely learn about, though, are the laws behind ESL instruction—and that can be a problem, because a recent Associated Press investigation found that many districts throughout the nation are ignoring federal laws. Sadly, this hurts many students at the secondary level who may start to see dropping out as a more attractive option than dealing with an unwelcoming district, and because their parents may not speak English well enough to advocate for them this may become our responsibility.

There are some set laws about ELL/ESL programs we need to be familiar with to make a case for educating ELLs. Some of the most significant laws and other things you need to know are: Continue reading

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TESOL 2016 and 2017: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Andy Curtis
Andy Curtis

Thanks to SurveyMonkey and other free programs and packages, anyone with Internet access can now create a survey—but not necessarily a good one!—in a matter of minutes. That can lead to a condition that I have playfully described in my work as “hyper-questionnaire-emia,” in which respondents feel mentally and physically overloaded with requests to complete questionnaires! This negative response is not new, and was described 20 years ago, by Goyder, in his 1996 paper, “Survey on Surveys: Limitations and Potentialities”: “the more times a person reports requests for survey cooperation, the more unfavorable is his or her attitude toward the method” (p. 27). However, 20 years ago the Internet was in its infancy, so the prevalence of the “hyper-questionnaire-emia” condition has grown considerably in the intervening two decades.

We do, then, need to avoid overusing and misusing surveys, but when they are used correctly and carefully, surveys can tell us a lot. A good example of this is the survey feedback we received from more than 2,000 attendees at the TESOL 2016 annual convention, which represents an unusually high response of around 30%. So, this TESOL Blog is partly to say thank you to all of the convention attendees who gave us their feedback, which is essential in helping the association develop and grow our annual convention. We also take seriously the moral and ethical responsibility to “give back” to survey respondents, in this case, to the convention participants who patiently and thoughtfully completed the TESOL 2016 attendee survey, by sharing the results of the survey with you. Continue reading

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Free Online Education Conference: EdmodoCon

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

Looking back, it seems that I first mentioned Edmodo way back in 2013 when talking about LMSs, which is a term that did not even come up in that post, oddly enough. Edmodo has also popped up from time to time in a number of other posts, but today I want to just focus on EdmodoCon, a free 2-day online conference for professional development.

The event is self-described as “a live online global event where educators from around the world connect with each other to share how they’re using Edmodo and other digital tools to personalize learning. The educational professional development event of the year, EdmodoCon will help you collaborate with other teachers, discover valuable new resources, and inspire you to harness the power of edtech in your classroom.” Continue reading

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4 Highlights From a Great Adult Ed Resource

Robert Sheppard
Rob Sheppard

It can sometimes be tricky to find research, literature, and professional development materials that are focused specifically on adult immigrants. One invaluable resource, as many of you may know, is the LINCS website. As the About page explains, LINCS (a somewhat forced acronym for Literacy Information and Communication System) was designed “to organize and promote resources within the field of adult education and serve as a central repository for information.” As such, it is a fantastic resource for adult ed teachers and administrators. One of the most useful parts of the site is their Publications page. To give you a bit of the flavor of what they publish, I’m going to give a quick description of a few of their most recent documents. Continue reading

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Pronouncing ELs’ Names Correctly

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

I once expressed to a Korean parent my dismay that so many of my students from Korea came to school with an Anglicized name. Since I taught in an elementary school, it was usually the parents who picked a new name for their children. The parent told me that students change their names to accommodate English speakers; the perception is that Americans can’t pronounce unusual names. I was dismayed by this because it’s not that we can’t do it, but that the importance of pronouncing names correctly is not recognized. A student of mine, Yeon Jae, tried to correct teachers and classmates when they mispronounced his name, but most of his teachers and all of his classmates called him “Young.” Yeon Jae finally gave up. Continue reading

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4 Ways to Address the Question: What Is English for Specific Purposes?

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

I was recently reading an article (Smoak, 2003) being discussed in the reading group (for TESOL ESPIS members) conceived, launched, and moderated by Robin Sulkosky, who is on the ESPIS steering board. (You can access the reading group here; you must be a member of the TESOL Community for access.) In the article, Smoak concludes:

So, what is English for Specific Purposes? At this stage in my career, my answer is this: ESP is English instruction based on actual and immediate needs of learners who have to successfully perform real-life tasks unrelated to merely passing an English class or exam. ESP is needs based and task oriented. Teaching ESP is demanding, time consuming, and different for every group of students. ESP is a challenge for all who teach it, and it offers virtually unlimited opportunities for professional growth. I encourage other ESP practitioners to contribute their answers to the question, “What is ESP?”

It is a great question—What is ESP? How would you define ESP based on your own experiences in the field and at your own “stage in your career”? In my activities as a member of the TESOL ESPIS, I have addressed this question in four ways. Continue reading

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3 Steps to Innovate TESOL Curriculum

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

If necessity is the mother of invention, as TESOL educators, we may want to develop our own or adopt new materials for a few reasons. Sometimes, we find ourselves in teaching contexts without the materials that we need or would like to use, so we have to make our own. Other times, we have great ideas that have not yet been developed in the field, so we can contribute by developing materials to fulfill a specific niche. Whatever your reasons for wanting to develop your own materials or adopt new ones, here are three steps to consider when the need to innovate strikes, either out of necessity or creativity. Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on Disciplinary Division of Labor

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Matsuda’s (1999) article “Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor” is one of my favorite works in the field, and I think it is equally helpful for professionals in second language studies and composition specialists. It provides a nice historical overview of the establishment and professionalization of TESL and the description of events that fostered the development of institutional identities of TESL and composition studies, which, as Matsuda argues, “ultimately led to the institutionalization of the disciplinary division of labor” (p. 710). This historical context is important of course not only as a general piece of knowledge for someone belonging to either of the fields, but it also imparts us with a better understanding of the current state of affairs, as well as provides insights in terms of changes that are still to be made.

The topic of L2 writers in composition classes is certainly not new, but some issues addressed in the article are still relevant today. And it seems like both TESOL and composition studies have been finding more and more junctures, which is reflected in many publications in academic journals and presentations at professional conferences. Continue reading

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Critiquing Your Critiques: What to Ask Yourself Before Giving Written Feedback

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

I often joke that the difference between an ESL specialist and an English teacher is like the difference between an engineer and an artist: The ESL specialist is concerned with the mechanics of language to solve problems, while the English teacher focuses on the meaning behind the prose.

The more I discuss the difference with colleagues, the more I come to realize that the answer for best feedback often lies in-between—we can use science to determine what is right or wrong, but we need to take an artful approach when showing how it affects the overall meaning of the message. That means we have to consider what to correct (marking up every error is, in my experience, ineffective, time-consuming, and overwhelming for teachers and students alike) to get our students to the next level.

To make this happen, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself about how you deliver feedback. Continue reading

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The State of ELT: Public, Private, and a Future in Between

Dudley Reynolds
Dudley Reynolds

The TESOL President’s Blog

As part of a previous blogpost on TESOL 2.0, I argued that “if we are to engage, enrich, and empower a 2.0 world, we need first to understand the changes that are happening both outside and inside the profession.” One of the most significant changes I see today is an increase in the influence of the private sector on education. According to the World Education Forum 2015 Final Report,

while the state plays a central role in the provision of education, the scale of engagement of nonstate actors at all levels of education is growing and becoming more diversified. This is partly the result of growing demand for voice, participation and accountability in public affairs. But it is also in response to the need to relieve pressure on public financing given the spectacular expansion of access to all levels of formal education witnessed worldwide over the past two decades. (pp. 16–17)

For TESOLers, this change means that more of us are working for private companies, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit institutions. Continue reading

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