More from TESOL International 2014 in Portland!

Amy Faeth, Gwendolyn DeRosa, and Stephanie Wilker

Portland Convention Center

Portland Convention Center

The TESOL International Conference radiates with energy and innovative ideas.  One of the main difficulties is deciding which sessions to attend.  We want to share a just a few sessions that we have attended.  Hopefully, you will find something that will peak your curiosity and inspire you to read about some of these fascinating topics.

Flipped Classrooms are a hot topic in the TESOL Community. Flipping the classroom means switching what normally happens in the classroom and what normally happens at home.  For example, teachers are making videos of their lectures and having students watch the lectures as homework.  Ideally, when the students come to the classroom, they can spend the class time doing activities, group work, and having discussions.  One of the main objections to flipping the classroom is it is difficult  to motivate students to watch the lectures at home.  Check out the information at http://www.flippedclassroom.com/ .

The Dragon Boat sculpture

The Dragon Boat sculpture

Scaffolding reading is an important topic in community colleges and intensive English language programs.  One of the sources discussed in a session was using authentic reading materials found on http://mikerosebooks.blogspot.com/ .  Students worked in groups to build background knowledge, interact with the text, and present ideas.  All students participated.  After the classwork, students posted comments on the blog, which further drew the students into an authentic communicative situation.

Discussing religion and politics in the classroom is usually taboo according to common sense.  Christian Chun argued that maybe we need to challenge our common sense notions of what topics should be discussed in the classroom.  He gave a compelling argument based on library research and classroom observations.  Stay tuned for an upcoming book about his research.

floral sculptures

floral sculptures

Using poetry in the classroom is a popular and attractive idea.  That’s what I learned when I attended a session on the topic and I expected to be one of a few attendees.  Despite numerous concurrent sessions to choose from, the room was packed.  Educators were very interested in how to use poetry to teach pronunciation, vocabulary, diction, reading skills, etc.  Comments after the session were regarding how to incorporate writing poetry into the English to Speakers of Other Languages classroom.  For more information, please send an inquiry to tesol.compass@gmail.com .

Critical Incident Exercises are story scenarios about cultural interactions and interpretations.  Using these exercises can enable students to think beyond the scope of their cultural experiences and imagine what other people are thinking.  In addition to building conversation skills, these exercises prepare our students to succeed in a global community.  Check out Don Snow’s “Encounters with Westerners” which is currently being updated and will be released soon.

Waiting for the Max rail line.

Waiting for the Max rail line.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is an extremely diverse field. In addition to session addressing concerns in Intensive English Programs and teaching adults in the Higher Education setting, there were many sessions for professionals in the K-12 sector. The Common Core State Standards are another hot topic at TESOL International. Many sessions addressed how to create standards-based lessons and make content accessible to English Language Learners.

I attended a session entitled “Standards Based Reading and Writing for Long-term ELLs.” This session provided great ways to scaffold instruction and make content accessible for long term ELL students. In the session, they introduced a “new” term to replace long-term ELL- emergent bilinguals (EBL). Stay tuned for more information on this session in a later post!

Another area of interest at TESOL International is sociolinguistics and sociocultural issues. When teaching students about culture, it is important to avoid generalizing and perpetuating stereotypes.  This can be more difficult than you think.  ESOL instructors need to pay attention to how textbooks and other materials perpetuate these stereotypes and adapt the materials.

Other Resources:

The Human Library

Teachers and Writers Collaborative

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