With summer break a reality for many teachers in North America, you might be thinking about professional development and wanting new ideas to infuse in your teaching after the holidays. Now is when you actually have time to devote to learning new ideas and deepening your knowledge of theory—but there are not many conferences going on, and books are expensive. Never fear! There are lots of opportunities online where you can increase your knowledge and fill your toolbox of teaching techniques. This post introduces one of those: the TESOL Resource Center (TRC).
The TRC is a service TESOL International Association provides to members and nonmembers. Billing itself as a place to find activities and lesson plans, the resource center serves as a searchable repository for both member-submitted and organization-created materials. Some are available open access and others require logging in with your TESOL membership credentials. Many resources are related to teaching second language (L2) writing.
Learning New Theories and Teaching Approaches
Have you ever taken a class with Jim Cummins? Heard Dana Ferris explain how to support L2 writers’ language development? These big name scholars and many more have presented their work for TESOL, and recordings of their presentations are available online.
If you are a member of TESOL International Association, you can log in through the TRC to access recordings of virtual seminars. These are the professionally produced 1-hour sessions that the organization offers on a regular basis, where an expert speaker or two present a focused session providing background information and activities related to a given topic. Most presenters have provided handouts and documents with their slides as well, all of which are available for download below the embedded video recording. Teachers of academic writing might be interested, for example, in the four-part seminar by Anne Ediger on teaching grammar, starting with “Four ‘Real Language’ Principles for Effective Grammar Teaching.” (To watch the others in the series, search the TRC for Ediger’s other seminars.)
Convention Plenary Sessions
In addition, there are recordings of plenary talks and other presentations from the annual TESOL Convention, although these do not come with handouts or slides. One session that might appeal to writing teachers is Anne Curzan’s 2016 TESOL plenary talk, “Survey Says…: Determining What English Usage Is and Isn’t Acceptable.” Pro-tip if you plan to watch the plenaries: The first 10-15 minutes or so are actually awards presentations, so you can click ahead to when the presenter finally takes the stage. Concurrent convention session recordings also include topics relevant to writing teachers, such as “Word Play: Low Prep but High Energy Vocabulary Games,” a workshop by Meg Parker and Alice Lin that introduces some easy-to-prepare games to engage students in learning and reviewing vocabulary.
Other features of the TRC are available to anyone with internet access, which means that teachers who are not TESOL members can still look over and download materials. Included in the open-access resources are recordings of webinars and other sessions organized by the TESOL Interest Sections (ISs). This includes those run by the Second Language Writing IS, such as our recent session “What You Need to Know About the Academic Job Market TESOL SLW Jobs,” in which several members of the IS (myself included) share tips to job-seekers about the types of work available and ways to find employment.
Things You Can Use in Class Tomorrow
The TRC also includes open-access lesson plans, activities, assessments, and teaching tips shared by TESOL members.
Lesson plans are designed for one to several days of class. The authors specify the audience and language proficiency of the students, as well as resources needed for teaching the lesson, and then provide a detailed overview of how to carry out that lesson. An example lesson plan is Lisa Tyrrell’s “Writing Revision Stations,” designed for secondary school classes but quite relevant to intensive English program and adult education courses as well. This multiday lesson teaches students how to edit and revise their own written texts.
Activities are similar to lesson plans but intended to be completed within a single class session. These entries also provide details about student audience and required materials. One promising activity, which includes a detailed downloadable handout, is “Four Ways to Integrate Direct Quotations,” by Carla Mannix. In this activity, Mannix explains how to guide secondary or university students through different approaches to integrating direct quotations into academic texts.
Teaching Tips are a mixed bag in the TRC. Some are actual “tips”—quick recommendations and ideas for a single grammar point or process. These include ideas like “How to Fix 3rd-Person ‘S’ Mistakes,” by Insights to English. Other items labeled as Teaching Tips, however, are actually recordings of webinars presented by the various TESOL ISs.
Only two items appear under the Assessments category in a search for the keyword writing, and one is actually a review of the website Grammarly.
A few caveats:
- Because materials are uploaded by TESOL members, they are not screened for quality or for alignment with their descriptions. This means that users need to evaluate what is there based on their own criteria for their students and what they need. Do not assume that a resource fits exactly with what you are seeking or that you can use it without modification for your class.
- The search function on the TRC is not particularly sophisticated. A search using the keyword writing, for example, came up with dozens of activities and presentations related to connected speech and conversation that do not appear to include any form of writing instruction. Other writing-related activities do not appear in this same search list. I recommend doing several searches using different keywords and experimenting with the pull-down menus when you click “Show More Options+” under the basic search.
- One limitation to the recordings is that they do not have subtitles, which means that they may be difficult to access for some viewers.
Contribute to the Resource Center
There is still much room for more in the TRC in all the member-contributed categories, so I encourage readers to help build the writing-related collection. TESOL members can contribute resources by clicking on the Submit a Resource link above the search window on the TRC home page.
Have you found useful materials or ideas through the TRC? Share ideas in the comments section below!