Writing-Focused Sessions at TESOL 2019

The annual TESOL convention is just around the corner, and there are hundreds of sessions of all formats that will appeal to participants interested in learning more about myriad aspects of second language writing. In this blog post, I summarize some of the sessions and provide some advice for navigating this gigantic professional development event. Whether you want to learn some teaching techniques you can use in the classroom next week or you are curious about the latest research findings, the convention promises something for you!

Second Language Writing Interest Section–Sponsored Sessions

The Second Language Writing Interest Section (SLWIS), like the other TESOL interest sections (ISs), organizes several sessions on writing-related topics. In each of these symposium-format sessions, the presenters have been selected to discuss a particular topic from various perspectives. These sessions are often a chance to hear about the state of the art in writing research and instruction. The SLWIS-sponsored Academic Session this year focuses on “Response to Writing: Enduring Issues and New Frontiers.”  The presenters examine enduring issues and new areas of research in response to L2 writing. Presentations cover methodological synthesis of L2 written corrective feedback; timing of global vs. language feedback; and response practices for graduate student writing, including peer reviews and writing groups, and electronic forms of response.This year there are also three writing-focused InterSections, which are panel presentations organized jointly by two TESOL ISs. In these InterSections, presenters discuss an issue that spans the interests of both ISs’ members.

SLWIS-Applied Linguistics IS InterSection
Beyond 5-Paragraph Essays: Why Don’t Writing Textbooks Reflect Current Research?: Textbooks in writing classrooms are important tools that inform teachers’ practices. Yet often, they don’t adequately reflect current research. Panelists explore how writing textbooks conceptualize argumentation, the importance of reading/writing connections in textbooks to promote lexical proficiency development, and how genre-based instruction facilitates learning transfer. Publisher perspectives are also discussed.

Refugee IS-SLWIS InterSection
Refugee Writing Across The Lifespan: This InterSection examines L2 writing of and with refugee-background ELs of different stages of life and learning. Panelists discuss and explore L2 writing research and practice with refugee-background high school youth, college students, and adult emergent writers (i.e., learning to write for the first time in their lives).

Bilingual Education IS-SLWIS InterSection
Academic Writing Instruction for Bilingual/Multilingual Students: This presentation provides a holistic review of academic language, genres, and strategies for teaching writing to multilingual learners. Presenters provide various perspectives on academic language, characteristics, and ways to teach academic registers; authentic compositing approaches for writing across curricula; and examples of writing support for first-generation advanced bilingual students.

Other Writing-Related Sessions

Writing is a huge field for TESOL presenters, with hundreds of sessions on the program discussing a wide range of topics related to teaching and researching writing. There isn’t space in this blog to list all the sessions, but I have searched the TESOL 2019 program and compiled the 150+ listings that mention writing. You can see the list in this document and add in others if you see I have missed some. Search the program app for keywords or presenters if you are looking for something in particular. I will highlight a few themes I noted in my own search here.

Several sessions discuss creative writing and poetry with innovative suggestions for teaching:

  • EFL students’ perceptions and willingness of writing poetry in English: Sukanto Roy
  • Finding found poetry: Ellen Mann & Amy Pascucci
  • Comic, poetry, storytelling: Engaging students through creative writing language play: Ashley Ekers & Moriah Kent
  • Stories without end: Engaging students with creative writing: Walton Burns & Taylor Sapp
  • Pitfalls and potentials of digital storytelling projects for L2 writers: Yu-Shan Fan
  • Supporting ELLs through multilingual storytelling and writing activities: Jennifer Burton, Shakina Rajendram, & Wales Wong

In a more academic direction, multiple presenters share ideas related to teaching with genre study, particularly as an alternative to formulaic, test-preparatory writing instruction:

  • Promoting genre awareness: Beyond the 5-paragraph essay: Mariah Fairley, Alissa Nostas, & Susanne Rizzo
  • Cover letter pragmatics and genre analysis for international students: Juval Racelis
  • Enriching L2 Reading, writing, and vocabulary development with genre-based tools: John Hedgcock
  • Engaging emergent bilinguals in collaborative writing activities across genres: Loren Jones & Sharon Smith
  • Unfamiliar genre project to diversify preservice teachers’ multilingual writing pedagogies: Analeigh Horton

For those of you interested in research on second language writing, you might want to attend this session, where the presenters will summarize and synthesize the research that was published in 2018: “Scholarship on L2 writing in 2018: The year in review,” Kyle Lucas, Parva Panahi Lazarjani, Tony Silva, Yachao Sun, & Qiusi Zhang.

How to Make the Most of Your Time at the Convention

TESOL is not just for attending presentations. Use your time between sessions to meet new people who share your passion for second language writing and other aspects of language teaching. If you are just getting started in the field, you might be surprised to find that even the “famous” authors you have read in your graduate program are approachable and friendly; If you are a researcher, you might be sitting next to someone who shares your research interests or might even want to collaborate with you on a project.

Publishers’ Exhibits
The major publishers and many of the smaller ones, too, have booths in the exhibit hall where you can look over their new books. If you are a teacher with the authority to change textbooks for your classes, ask the publisher representatives what they recommend for your students. They can tell you about the other resources that come with books as well, such as online support sites and linked videos.

Pro-tip: teachers can often get publishers to give free inspection copies of books if you are serious about considering using them in your classroom. You might also talk with publishers about their professional development resources for teachers. I have found many great lesson ideas in books I picked up at TESOL.

Don’t spend all your time attending sessions or you will become exhausted (and unable to take in more information). Take advantage of being in a city with amazing restaurants and some important historical sites. Go out with old friends (check if any of your classmates from grad school are attending the conference) or with some conference attendees you’ve just met.

Plan some time into your schedule to use the hotel gym or watch a movie on TV. You’re not teaching this week, so treat yourself to a little down time!

Do you have recommendations for readers of how to make the most of time at the convention? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About Betsy Gilliland

Betsy Gilliland
Betsy Gilliland is an associate professor in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa, where she teaches courses on second language writing, teacher research, and qualitative research methods to undergraduate and graduate students. Co-editor of the Journal of Response to Writing, she was chair of the TESOL Second Language Writing Interest Section (2019-2020) and has published in TESOL Journal, Journal of Second Language Writing, and ELT Journal, among others. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the Universidad de Atacama (Chile) in 2018.
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2 Responses to
Writing-Focused Sessions at TESOL 2019

  1. Liz Bigler says:

    I’d also mention that if you are looking for work, there is a recruitment area in the publishers’ exhibit. I believe you have to pay a little extra in order to submit your resume to the operation, but it’s a great way to be considered for lots of jobs at once and the recruiters do job interviews right there at the convention.

    One more thing: when considering which sessions to attend, pay attention to whether the session is being offered by a publisher. If so, they may be “pushing” their product. Which is not to say that their sessions can’t be very good. I’ve picked up some great teaching ideas from publishers’ sessions, but others were not as useful if you don’t use their product.

  2. Template says:

    Great Tips, thanks for sharing valuable information.

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