LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

November 25, 2018
by LTSblog
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Student spotlight – Jesus

Jesus with some of his students in Cusco, Peru

Jesus Napancca Herrera is a current LTS student from Peru, now in his 2nd of 5 terms in the LTS Master’s program. Here he tells us a little about his past, present, and future.

Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? Where have you traveled?

I am from Peru and lived in Cusco for many years. I was born in Lima, but since I was learning languages I thought I should move to Cusco, the city of the Incas and one of the largest tourist destinations in South America.

Tell us about your background in teaching and how you got the idea to start a language school.

I started teaching Spanish in 1997 and English in 1998. I was a private Spanish teacher for foreign visitors who were interested in taking intensive courses in Spanish. I was also teaching English to underprivileged kids from Cusco to contribute to my community. In 2000 I created a little cozy school for foreigners as well as for young Cusquenias who could not afford to pay for learning English. In April 2002 I opened Amigos Spanish School. In the same building we had foreigners learning Spanish and local young adults learning English. Both inspired each other and interacted on a daily basis.

The Amigos Language School that Jesus founded in Cusco, Peru

Another view of the Amigos Language School

What is your life like now here in Eugene? Is it very different?

My personal life hasn’t changed much. I am used to being busy every day and I even used to work on Sundays. The difference lies in the dynamic of my tasks. I used to be in charge of my work and have a group of staff working for me. Now I am working for the American English Institute at UO and I feel really fantastic! It is for me a great opportunity to grow as a person. I really appreciate my colleagues at work and my supervisors are amazing. While in Peru, I felt somehow lost and lonely because most of my compatriots thought I was busy for no reason, in a hurry and pathetically organized. Here in Eugene it is normal. So, I feel I am in my element now and don’t feel so lonely anymore. 🙂

You are teaching at the American English Institute as a GE (Graduate Employee teaching assistant) this term. What have you learned from this experience so far?

I have been learning many things, like how to work in a team. I have adjusted myself to following the new rules of this new job in a new country. My colleagues are supportive and always give me a hand at any time. There are great materials for teaching/learning English as well as new methods of teaching languages. Added to this, there is great infrastructure in the classrooms and at our offices. My supervisors and coordinator trust me in my skills as a teacher and allow me to adjust my class as I suggest. I feel privileged and for me, this experience is priceless.

What are some possibilities for your MA project at this point?

Day by day, the idea of my MA project is getting clearer in my mind. After all these months I have learned a lot in my classes in LTS and that helps me to have a better idea of what I would like to pursue in my MA project and my future career. I would like to specialize in LSP (Language for Specific Purposes) and for my future career I would like to work for companies that might need tutors or teachers for LSP.

What do you want to be sure to do during the rest of your year here? Do you have any specific goals or interests?

I would like to connect (which is already happening) the courses with my future career. I would also like to start my own consulting company to empower all kinds of schools that teaches languages.

November 2, 2018
by leilat
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Impressions of an International Student at the UO and the LTS Program

Post by Leila Tamini-Lichai, 2018-19 cohort

This post will NOT give you the typical information that you can easily find online about the LTS program or the University of Oregon. For me, as a current international graduate student in the LTS program, what I have experienced in the last month has been very different from what I thought it would be like.

I remember the time before I joined the LTS program. I had read about the program. I had checked the social media, LTS blog, and the website. I had also seen pictures and videos of the campus online, but I admit none of them did full justice to how beautiful it truly is. When I visited the university campus for the first time I was wowed by how amazing it looked. I am very happy that I got the chance to be in this program and at the University of Oregon. Therefore, I want to share my experience with you, and I hope it will help you know this beautiful university and this unique program better.

Trees 

The first thing you will notice on the campus is the variety of trees and their beautiful colors in the fall season. There are lots and lots of trees such as: oak trees, hazelnut trees, walnut trees, and many trees I don’t know the names of.

           

Other than trees there are also a lot of friendly squirrels that live on the campus and sometimes peek into your classes. There is a friendly one living around Friendly Hall where the LTS classes are usually held and according to one of our professors, he is named Harry! The picture below was taken outside our class at Friendly Hall. I usually spend my class breaks sitting on those benches and enjoying the sun. These benches can be found all over the campus.

Knight Library

Another great thing about the University of Oregon is its library. It is a great library for nerds like me. There is a huge sitting area on the first floor where you have access to computers, printers, scanners, and reference books. There is also free internet access. There are literally millions of books available to read, and there are also plenty of sitting areas provided. In the basement there’s a café, so you don’t have to go without your caffeine. I personally like the UO library very much. In the picture you can see how big the building is. The library also has a website where you can find almost any book or article you are looking for.

 

Agate Hall

Agate Hall is home to the American English Institute (AEI) and where some of our classes are held. It is a beautiful building surrounded by beautiful trees. It truly is a hall for languages. When you go in, you see students from many different nationalities and can hear very different languages spoken. Sometimes I just go there, sit in one of the study areas provided for the students, and just enjoy the environment. If you are an international student and need to improve your English, AEI can help you.

Yamada Language Center

Fortunately, we have one of our classes at the Yamada Language Center (YLC) this term. In this center, languages other than English are taught. It is a very welcoming environment for students to learn other languages. The Center is located in Mckenzie Hall and has very high tech classes. The Yamada Language Center works with a number of language departments at the University of Oregon and also has classes for less commonly taught languages such as Russian, Arabic, Persian, and Swahili.

The Faculty

Last but not least, I would like to talk about the academic aspect of the LTS program and its faculty at the Department of Linguistics. While you are in the LTS program, you will benefit from the great LTS program curriculum. You will study about the theoretical aspects of language teaching and ways of putting them into practice. From the beginning, you will participate in teaching and will have many opportunities to observe language classes. Also, the LTS faculty are very knowledgeable, kind, patient, and open minded individuals. They have always answered my questions and have gone out of their way to help me with my problems. I personally am very proud and happy to be part of this wonderful academic community.

 

October 10, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni post Sue Yoon

Sue Yoon completed her MA in Language Teaching Studies in 2017. She started as an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon who took a few Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) certificate courses and got hooked on language teaching and research. She also earned a concurrent MA in the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department while at UO.

Sue about to start her Ph.D. program at the University of Hawai’i

What have you been doing since you graduated with your concurrent MA degrees from LTS/EALL?

After I graduated with my concurrent MA degrees from LTS and EALL in 2017, I went back to Korea, hoping to gain language teaching experiences outside the university setting. While I was in Korea, I luckily had the opportunity to work at an English learning center. The students who visited the center were mostly 4th to 6th grade students from local elementary schools. The center offered programs in which students learned English in a short-period (5-10 days) immersion setting. During the day, students usually had some content classes, such as peace, culture, eco, UNESCO heritage, and UN SDGs classes, and they participated in games and activities in the evening. In the meantime, I was admitted to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and I have entered their PhD program in Korean language and linguistics this Fall term.

Sue (bottom right front) at the Global Peace Village in S. Korea

What did you enjoy while working as an English teacher in Korea?

I particularly enjoyed teaching English in an environment where the learning of English grammar was not the focus. I had a lot of fun teaching a variety of subject areas in English, and it was great to see how students enjoyed learning English integrated with other content subjects. It was also a great opportunity for me to design lessons and activities to teach content from other subject areas in the target language. From this experience, I have learned that students can learn much more when the content is relevant to their own lives and interests and that the learning environment plays a critical role in language learning.

In what ways did your MA degree(s) prepare you for this position?   

Since the target learners were mostly young students, it was very important to provide them with a lot of fun interactive classroom activities and games to keep them focused and interested. What I learned from Dr. Laura Holland’s LT 537 was particularly helpful because I had gained a lot of ideas for short and long classroom games and activities for different themes from the course. Also, learning what to take into consideration when designing a lesson and how to effectively sequence activities within a lesson from Dr. Keli Yerian’s LT 436 and other LT courses definitely helped me when developing lesson plans and class materials.

What are your plans for the next few years?

I have just moved to Hawaii for a PhD program. While pursuing a PhD degree at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa for the next few years, I will also be teaching Korean language classes at various levels at the university and participating in a variety of events related to Korean language teaching and learning.

What topics are you hoping to pursue in your PhD program?

I have been very interested in multimodal analysis of Korean conversation. I would like to research the role of nonverbal communication cues that have not yet received attention, such as nonverbal speech sounds like hisses and oral and nasal fillers, in relation to (im)politeness and speaker stances. I also hope to develop pedagogical materials to bridge the perceived gap between recent theoretical findings of Korean linguistics and Korean language pedagogy.

Do you have any last advice for current or future LTS students?

I consider myself very lucky to have met Dr. Keli Yerian in LT 436 class and joined the LTS and EALL graduate programs. I really appreciate all the opportunities I had during my studies at the University of Oregon. All of the faculty members that I have met were always willing to help and support each student in the program. So don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with something!

August 22, 2018
by zachp
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LTS 2018 commencement and words of wisdom

This past Saturday, August 18, 2018, 11 incredible individuals felt the accumulation of 15 months or 2 years of hard word, perseverance, and knowledge building. Smiles, laughter, and tears of joy were seen throughout the ceremony. The two overarching themes for the day were inspiration and community.

For inspiration, a quote from LTS director Dr. Keli Yerian’s commencement speech captures the beauty and complexity of language teaching: “Language learning is like a  4-dimensional puzzle that you live inside while you are solving it”. As the graduating students saw in their classes, helping students learn a language is not always a simple if>then formula; rather, each students is on their own journey with every new word, text, and social interaction. It is then teachers who help facilitate students’ understanding of these complex puzzles and help them feel empowered to want to continue to solve it.

For community, the graduating students will be dearly missed, but the good news is they are forever part of the LTS family. As LTS faculty member Laura Holland said in her speech to the graduating class, “Welcome to the family.” By this she means the LTS family but also the family of language educators and leaders.

Messages to the new cohort

With every new academic year the LTS family continues to grow. To help the new LTS student cohort as they begin their Fall term in Eugene, some LTS faculty and graduating students had the advice below to share. When Laura Holland welcomed the graduating class into the family, she also summed up everyones’ feelings about the incoming cohort, “Welcome to Eugene and to the LTS Program. We’re so happy you’re here!”

Self-care and study breaks

  • Make sure to find your own balance between working hard and self-care. This is a short program, so you can’t afford to procrastinate or dawdle, but you won’t make it through with your sanity intact without listening to your brain and body when they tell you they need a break. Balance is key! – Logan Matz
  • Build breaks into your day, sometimes taking an afternoon for a hike can be just what you need in the middle of a tough term. – Lee Huddleston
  • Don’t forget to get some exercise and take care of yourselves. Mount Pisgah is a wonderful place to walk and run- close to town, but you feel farther away. Try some of the trails other than the main walk to the summit – there is a longer trail that loops around the whole park, and a trail that goes along the river. Have a great beginning of the year! – Prof. Joana Jansen
  • Maintain a balance in your life! Of course we want you to focus on your studies and work hard, but Eugene is full of interesting and wonderful opportunities for just about any interest. Explore some of these. Find groups or activities that match your hobbies. Make friends and connections outside of just our program. You’ll have a more authentic experience in Eugene this way. – Prof. Andy Halvorsen
  • Take study breaks and get some fresh air. Every time I went for a hike, I noticed an immediate positive affect on my mental and physical health. In turn, it helped me be more effective when I returned to working. Plus, there are so many beautiful hikes around Eugene. – Zach Patrick-Riley

Challenge yourself and keep an open mind

  • Challenge yourself, take chances, this is the time to experience and learn. Apply for a GE position, take a challenging class that interests you, do that internship (I did all 3 one term, you can too).  This year will really be what you make of it, so make the most out of it. Tell Keli what you are looking for, she is an awesome resource! – Lee Huddleston
  • Wake up early!! – Kunie Kellem
  • Keep your minds open to new practices and ways of looking at language education and right from the start, begin a portfolio of teaching ideas and practices you can take with you, even if the varying practices seemingly contradict each other. This is excellent practice and will help you build your “teaching toolbox” with many ideas you can use in a variety of teaching contexts your path may take you on. – Prof. Laura Holland

Plan ahead

  • I’m sure everyone will tell you this, but start thinking about your project early, make sure it’s something your passionate about, something that you won’t get burnt out on. Bounce ideas off of everyone, teachers and cohort members. Start double dipping, designing things for your project in other classes. Every final project/ lesson plan that you write should ideally be toward your target context. – Lee Huddleston
  • Try to find a purpose or a goal for this MA program as soon as possible. The earlier you decide your research areas, the easier it will be in the last two terms.  – Logan Matz
  • To the incoming cohort, welcome to Eugene! You’ll be really busy in the program and there is a lot to learn. Think about how all this information is applicable to your goals, your teaching situation, and the students you will have. – Joana Jansen
  • The term system in UO is much more intensive than the semester system, especially for those who are used to the semester system. Therefore, to reduce the stress, maybe start planning midterms and finals earlier so you don’t have to finish everything at once at the end. Try to think about the topic for your final MA project as early as possible and relate the work you’re doing for the current courses to it. – Krystal Lyau
  • It is a good idea to not procrastinate things. Many things can come up as time goes, so do whatever you can when you have time.  – Kunie Kellem
  • My suggestion is to really stay in touch with what you personally want to get out of this program because one year will go by fast and before you know it you will be writing your final project. I would also suggest to read some other students’ final projects who have graduated. There are a few students who will be continuing their LTS program for a second year, so it could help to utilize their knowledge if needed (I am one of the students who will still be here). One last suggestion, I would read as much as possible and keep a list of all the readings you are doing. You can write notes about what each reading is for easy reference back to something that you may want to use in your final paper. Learn how to skim read because you may have some times when you just cannot read the entire reading in time, but also make sure that you know how to accurately site your resources. For me, one of my favorite things about grad school is research, research, and more research. Usually that means reading about other people’s actual research and I find that a lot of the work hinges on that, so get used to that right away. – Shayleen Eaglespeaker

Turn to each other as a resource

  • Every previous cohort that I have observed since 2009 benefited from turning to each other as a resource to help each other with academics, paired projects and camaraderie. In addition to forming study groups, they have taken trips and hikes together, had parties and gained strength from the group. This helps almost everyone thrive in the short but intense program, and not only makes for life-long memories, but gives you a group of dedicated people you can continue to turn to after finishing the program and move to your next phase. – Prof. Laura Holland
  • Really take the time to get to know your other cohort members. Make frequent efforts to study together, and most importantly, hang out together. They will be your greatest resource over the next year. Lee Huddleston
  • Ask for help. You have a group of faculty and support staff in your program that want to help you. If you are struggling with anything, talk to someone. One of the biggest mistakes people sometimes make in a new program is waiting too long to ask for help. Big questions or small, just ask it! – Prof. Andy Halvorsen
  • It is very helpful for some of the students to study together, since many of the classes will be with your cohort. – Shayleen Eaglespeaker
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to your cohort or the faculty of the program if you are having some difficulties. They are all willing to help. – Krystal Lyau
  • Go out with your friends or cohort every once in a while. Grabbing a coffee, drink or even sweets and talking with them can make you feel better. – Kunie Kellem

The final piece of advice comes from 2017-2019 LTS student Shayleen Eaglespeaker who says it is important to stay true to yourself and who you are. “Don’t be afraid to be different. Each person is coming from a different background and has a point of view that can offer a lot to your peers, so my advice would be to embrace that!”. Her words apply to the entire family, as this individuality and mix of backgrounds is what makes the LTS program so special. Congratulations again to those who graduated and best of luck to those who are just getting started. May you forever continue learning, challenging yourself, supporting your colleagues, and following your dreams.

Pure elation from the 2018 LTS graduating class and LTS faculty members.

 

August 15, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Liatris Myers

LTS students can publish too!

Lia Myers graduated from LTS in 2015 and recently published her MA project in the ORTESOL Journal. Her project title was Integrating Instruction on Pragmatically Appropriate English Oral Requests into IEP Courses in the U.S. 

Me hiking in Cocora Valley in the department of Quindío, Colombia.

What was your project about, and what prompted you to consider publishing it?

My project was about teaching pragmatically appropriate English oral requests to adult ESL learners studying English in the United States. Working in the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, I had observed that there was a strong tendency for ESL learners at all language proficiency levels to make oral requests that sounded rude to Americans and that this caused social problems for the learners who did not intend to be rude. I wanted to understand why this situation existed and how it might be resolved. It was Keli Yerian (the LTS Program Director) who suggested publishing the project. She had just read for the first time the chapters where I explained my conclusions from my research and what I was proposing to do, and also my initial draft of pedagogical solutions. Going to meet with her to discuss it, I was really nervous because what I was proposing was very unconventional – I felt it was what my data said needed to be done but I’d never heard of anything like it – and I was worried she would say it was no good. Instead, she said I really had something to contribute to the field and I should publish it. It was one of the proudest moments of my life!

Lia’s article. It is noteworthy that in the same issue another article by LTS faculty Andy Halvorsen and LTS 2018 student Kunie Kellem is also published.

What was the process?

From the time Keli told me I should publish I intended to do it, but after graduation life was very busy starting my teaching career and I didn’t complete the first draft of the manuscript for publication until after my first school year of teaching. However, I’m glad it happened that way because in the intervening time I had the opportunity to gain more practical teaching experience including with some of the techniques I discussed in my project, which enabled me to improve my manuscript with examples and suggestions from the classes I had taught. I first submitted the manuscript to the TESOL Journal, but they rejected it because it didn’t have the type of research they were looking for. I used their feedback to rewrite it and submitted it to the ORTESOL Journal. They responded that it was interesting but they thought it would be more appropriate as an extended teaching note rather than a full-length feature article (the category for which it was submitted) and invited me to rewrite it for the extended teaching note category. So I rewrote and resubmitted it, and the paper was finally published in the 2018 edition of the ORTESOL Journal (available here: https://ortesol.wildapricot.org/Journal2018). So that was three drafts of the manuscript for publication with each draft being reviewed by some combination of Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley (my project advisor), Jim Myers (my dad who has always edited my work), as well as TESOL and ORTESOL reviewers, all of whom gave me feedback to use to revise and improve the manuscript.

How much does your published article resemble your project – what had to change?

The biggest change was I had to make it a LOT shorter. The original project is 143 pages including end materials, but what was finally published is only 10 pages. This meant I had to really distill the project down to the essential points. I also added examples and suggestions from my post-graduation teaching experience and made many changes to both the writing and the content of the manuscript for publication based on feedback from TESOL, ORTESOL, Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley, and my dad, though the core ideas remained the same.

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS, and what are your future plans?

Oh gosh, I’ve done so many things since I graduated from LTS. Besides getting my MA project published, I taught ESL/ESOL at INTO OSU (Corvallis, Oregon) for several months, then at Chemeketa Community College (Salem, Oregon) for seven terms. While at Chemeketa I wrote and piloted the entire curriculum for a new course on basic computer skills for learners who don’t know how to use a computer or who have a low level of English language proficiency or both. It has since been used by several other teachers in Chemeketa’s ESOL program and I’ve had really positive feedback on it. I also presented on integrating instruction of digital literacy skills into ESOL courses focused on other topics such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, etc. at the Fall 2017 ORTESOL Conference. This year at the beginning of January I travelled to Medellín, Colombia to have the experience of moving to a new country where I didn’t really know the language to look for a job. Seven months later I know Spanish well enough to manage my own affairs in the language, have worked at a private school (preschool through high school) in the Medellín area for a few months, and learned to dance (Colombian salsa). In September I’m headed to Japan to teach at a university there until late January. After that, who knows? There’s a whole world of possibilities out there…

The goodbye message, card, and food from the goodbye party that one of my groups of 5th graders gave me on my last day at the school I worked at in Colombia

Any advice you have for current or future LTS students?

In terms of choosing a topic for the project, I recommend identifying a problem in which you are interested, then figuring out why it exists and how to solve it. Later, if you want to publish, have practical experience with your solutions before you write it up for publication and draw on those when writing your manuscript. Be prepared to do much revision and have people around who can read the manuscript and give you good feedback to help you make it better. When you submit it, choose a journal and category that really fits what you have. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional idea that really seems right. It may be the novel approach that’s needed.

August 7, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Tiffany Van Pelt

This alumni post focuses on the international adventures of Tiffany Van Pelt, who graduated from LTS in 2015 and was one of the first students to post on our LTS social media. Here is an update of what she has been doing since then.

Tiffany with soursop

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS?

Since I graduated I have been living and working in Libreville, Gabon in central Sub-Saharan Africa. I first came here for a 6-month internship with the Gabon-Oregon Center, then returned to work in various language schools over the last two years. I teach general English courses, English for Specific Purposes, and TOEFL preparation courses to adults and teens, and I have provided some professional development training to local English teachers enrolled at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Libreville. I also do French to English translation work.

What has been most meaningful for you about living in Gabon?

For me this answer has two aspects, the professional and the personal. Professionally, the most meaningful thing for me has been being able to work with my students over the long term and watch them improve. It’s so fulfilling to see students going on to use their English skills in their professional lives outside the classroom. 

ESC meeting July 2018

 Personally, the most meaningful thing about living here has been the ability to rebuild my fluency in French to the point where I can clearly express myself and form deeper friendships in my community. I have a BA in French from the UO, but spent about a decade without speaking it on a regular basis. It’s a dream come true to be able to live in a francophone country and regain those language skills, and I believe it helps me remain empathetic and encouraging towards my students as they work to reach their goals in English.

I hear you have an exciting new adventure coming up – could you tell us about it?

Yes! I recently accepted a position as the 2019 English Language Fellow for Madagascar. I will be leaving Libreville in January to begin work there with the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Antananarivo. I will be working with local teachers to train on implementation of a new secondary school curriculum, as well as visiting teachers around the country to provide professional development seminars. In addition to this, I’m hoping to be able to provide some extra ESP instruction to local groups as opportunities arise.

What do you hope to learn as an ELF?

I am hoping to learn how to navigate working with local governments and institutions a way that is productive and beneficial for everyone involved.  I’m also looking forward to learning from and brainstorming with the local teachers. I am excited to get their perspectives and ideas towards the implementation of pedagogical innovations in environments that may have a substantial lack of resources. 

Thanksgiving in Gabon

Now that you’ve been teaching for awhile, what do you think has been the most valuable aspect of your time in LTS?

There is very little access to English books, save for those few that are imported, in Gabon. It’s very difficult and expensive to receive shipments of goods from abroad. The curriculum and materials development experiences I had in the LTS program have been invaluable in mitigating this issue and helping me develop my personal library of teaching materials. 

Do you have any advice for current or future LTS students?

I have three pieces of advice for LTS students: first, take as many opportunities as you can to get in the classroom and practice! Second, start building your materials libraries now, (particularly if you plan to work abroad), as part of your smaller projects for classes or as part of your final project. These resources will come in handy later. Finally, take the time to cultivate and maintain friendships with the LTS community. Teaching English isn’t for everyone – much less living abroad! The friends that you make during the program will understand your passion for this profession and will be a huge source of support and community both now and in the future.

 

July 30, 2018
by zachp
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MA Project Spotlights: Yumiko Omata and Zach Patrick-Riley

Yumiko exploring the University of Washington campus before presenting at the Third Northwest Conference on Japanese Pedagogy.

This summer term we are highlighting the final M.A. projects of the soon to be graduating LTS cohort on the blog. For this week’s post, we are pleased to feature Yumiko Omata and Zach Patrick-Riley.

Hi Yumiko! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is to develop an interactive Japanese course for intermediate-level students in a US university in order to foster learner autonomy and intercultural competence. The highlight of the course is telecollaborative language learning between university students in the US and Japan.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I wanted to provide students contextualized learning opportunities. Telecollaboration has great potential to allow students collaborate in a virtual space and engage in interactions with native speakers regardless of geographical constraints.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

I am excited about integrating flipped learning into a blended language learning environment (face-to-face classroom + virtual classroom) using multimodal technologies. Thank you for inspiring me, Jeff!

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

  1. Enjoying nature – Hiking and camping
  2. Back to the studio — Taking ceramic classes would be delightful.

 

Zach enjoying the view on top of Spencer’s Butte in Eugene.

Hi Zach! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is a teaching portfolio focused on improving Brazilian English language learners’ phonological competence in preparation for the Cambridge FCE Speaking Exam (and beyond). The activities I have created help students better produce and interpret English prosody, which has been shown to affect perceptions of intelligibility and meaning.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I’ve always loved teaching English pronunciation, probably due to my background in singing and acting. One of my biggest takeaways from the LTS program has been the importance of developing learners’ pragmatic competence in conjunction with any skill. In doing research, I discovered English language learners often have a difficult time interpreting and producing prosodic features such as intonation and pitch variation, which can cause negative perceptions/communicative issues. I saw the opportunity to connect this phonological training to the FCE speaking exam, a high-stakes proficiency test in Brazil and around the world. Quality exam preparation materials already exist, so my goal has been to consider dynamic approaches in designing the materials I offer.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

I think the coolest thing about my project is how it empowers learners to improve their phonological competence more autonomously and feel more confident in their own style of communicating.

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

I just want to make the most out of my final month living here in Eugene. I will really miss the friends I have made, so my main priority is to treasure the remaining moments together (for now at least). Besides that, I want to continue exploring Oregon’s beautiful landscapes.

July 21, 2018
by LTSblog
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Keli Yerian in South Africa

LTS faculty often travel internationally as part of their work, since language teaching and learning is often very connected to international interactions. This week’s blog feature’s LTS Director Keli Yerian’s unusually far-reaching travel this past week in early July – to the southern tip of Africa in Capetown.

A sculpture of Mandela made of beads

Why were you visiting Capetown?

My research interests are in language and gesture, particularly in how language teachers learn to use their bodies as an integral part of language teaching when the learning context is face-to-face. There is an association called the International Society for Gesture Studies that holds a conference every two years, and this year it was held in South Africa.

Marion and Keli

Did you present at the conference?

This time I presented with my colleague from France, Marion Tellier, which whom I am co-authoring some comparative  research studies with data from our program in LTS, and the MA teacher education program she directs in France. We are noticing some similar patterns of gesture development in both programs, as well as some contrasts that may be related to differing educational and cultural contexts. We are both very interested in how typical co-speech gesture becomes more stylized and conventionalized in specific ways when used in pedagogical situations for depicting content and for serving pragmatic purposes in interaction. Unfortunately we forgot to ask someone to take a photo of us presenting, so I can’t show one here!

Sitting at the top of Lion’s Head – what a climb!

Did you do anything else in Capetown?

For most of the conference, we were always in the same conference hotel. Breakfasts and lunches were all provided there. Unfortunately, exploring around the city after dark was not safe in the heart of the city, so we only went out to dinner in groups to nearby places. The legacy of apartheid was very apparent all around us, and safety issues were just one aspect of this. It was only about 25 years ago that explicit discrimination was ended in South Africa (people of color were denied equal rights in most imaginable ways), and one generation is not enough to change the effects of racism and unequal access to resources and opportunities. We were lucky to meet a few South Africans who talked to us quite frankly about this legacy, which we appreciated.

This is what it looked like climbing up Lion’s Head

vigilant birds of paradise

We did spend the last days combining work with fun trips. Some of us hiked to the top of Lion’s Head, which involved literally climbing up ladders built into the cliffs and pulling yourself up chains, and we visited an animal reserve where we saw lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and elephants. We also went to the very end of the cape – the tip of the continent of Africa – that was impressive! Finally, we visited the famous botanical gardens. The birds of paradise flowers looked like a flock of cranes peering out of the bushes.

It was the middle of winter there, so the weather was cool. Luckily the country had recently had some good rain; there was a water crisis before we arrived that was better by the time we were there, but we still took 30 second showers and didn’t let faucets run. It made me really appreciate the delicious water here in Eugene.

Did I mention the penguins? Yes, penguins in Africa.

I doubt I’ll ever return there, but if any of you get the chance, I recommend it!

July 13, 2018
by zachp
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MA Project Spotlights: Logan Matz and Ngan Vu

This summer term we are highlighting the final M.A. projects of the soon to be graduating LTS cohort members. This week we are pleased to feature Logan Matz and Ngan Vu.

Logan Matz (left) discussing his project idea with LTS faculty Robert Elliot.

Hi Logan! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is a teaching portfolio designed to improve pragmatic competence for international graduate students studying in the US. International students have to meet a certain language proficiency level, but there’s no corresponding assessment for pragmatics in widespread use yet. Grad students have more responsibilities than undergrads, and so they deserve a correspondingly larger amount of help with adjustment to US academic life.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I’ve always been interested in how people use language, and so pragmatics was a natural fit. Several friends of mine have had experiences where they felt less-than compared to native speakers of English in an academic setting, and I don’t think anyone should have to deal with language getting in the way of expression of knowledge. If I can help people show their smarts, and not feel limited by their language skills, then I’ll consider that a success.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

So far, I’ve been trying to put a really big focus on student-created examples for all of my activities. I think that with all the extra work and responsibilities that grad students have to do, on top of the challenge of doing graduate work in your second language, the barrier to entry for getting into the nitty gritty during my activities should be as low as possible. Additionally, the international students in this year’s LTS cohort that I’ve talked to all say that these sorts of activities would be really useful for them. If that’s not a ringing endorsement from the students who would actually benefit from a project like this, I don’t know what is!

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

Try not to die of heat stroke. I’m a frail little Washingtonian. I’d love to summit South Sister before I leave, also!

Ngan presenting her MA Project idea at the graduate student poster session.

Hi Ngan! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is a teaching portfolio focusing on using extensive reading as source texts to support writing fluency.

How did you become interested in this topic?

My interest comes from my personal experiences as an international student studying overseas. I struggled considerably in an English composition class when I first came to the United States and tried hard to figure out how to adapt to the writing conventions in another language. Therefore, I would like to find a way to make writing less intimidating for ESL/EFL learners and let them know that they all have the capability to be a good writer in their own way.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

The coolest/most interesting part… I don’t have a specific answer for this question. I just feel that I am currently working with many variables, experimenting with new concepts and trying to put those into a concrete portfolio. How my project looks like at the end is still a mystery for me at this moment but I hope it is beneficial.

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

I would like to hike more and spend more time enjoying the beauty of Eugene with friends in the summer. Time flies.

June 30, 2018
by zachp
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MA Project Spotlights: Alexis Busso and Lee Huddleston

This summer term we are highlighting the final M.A. projects of the soon to be graduating LTS cohort members. This week we are pleased to feature Alexis Busso and Lee Huddleston.

Alexis presenting her initial course design at the LTS poster session.

Hi Alexis! What is your M.A. project about?

My M.A. project is a course design about employing metacognitive strategies in a writing course. The proposed course design is an intensive writing class where writing genres are supplemented by global issues topics. The focus of the project is for students to engage in academic writing while learning about different issues both on a local and international level.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I became interested in this topic for a variety of reasons. In the lesson planning class that we took in the Fall, I wrote a research paper about metacognitive strategies and that is when I was first introduced to the study of metacognition. Furthermore, my undergraduate study was in International Studies and this field has had a profound influence in my worldview. My M.A. project is a combination of my interests and passion.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

The most interesting part of my project is that I think it is the only project or one of the few which delves into other fields of study beyond education, foreign language learning, second language acquisition, etc. Moreover, although other students are focused on writing skill, mine is the only one that uses international topics as themes/subjects.

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

Yes! Floating down the Willamette river is a must and endless hikes. I also have plans to go blueberry and strawberry picking and spending lots of time outdoors.

Lee presenting his initial project design at the LTS poster session

Hi Lee! What is your M.A. project about?

My M.A project is a teaching portfolio around the use of local legends as content in English language classrooms in a Micronesian high school context. This teaching portfolio will be designed so that the materials can be adopted or adapted to fit similar contexts. Using legends as content will provide students in isolated contexts with motivating materials that they can then connect to their own experiences, and use such texts to build their academic skills in areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The activities and lesson plans in the portfolio would focus on areas of  language, culture, and experiential learning to use the materials to their fullest.

How did you become interested in this topic?

As I previously mentioned in this blog, I served in the Peace Corps as an English teacher in Micronesia for over 2 years. During my time in Micronesia, I became very interested in the local legends and stories of the islands. I also observed the challenges in education that the islanders face, and I drew the conclusion that using local legends rather than American English Language Arts textbooks would be beneficial to students in terms of utilizing their interests and prior knowledge to help them engage with English at a higher and more creative level.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

I would say that the most interesting part of my project is the fact that it provides a bridge for learners by connecting their culture with English; giving value to their culture rather than presenting English as an identity that they must adopt in order to be speakers of the language. In the Micronesian target context, dependence on the United States is an issue that cannot be ignored, and changing pedagogy to be more empowering to students is an important first step.

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

I want to take a more balanced approach to this term. Making room in my schedule to hike, exercise, and relax will all be essential as I finish this program. Maybe I’m a bit ambitious, but going to more music venues, and eating out at a few places I’ve been wanting to try are some other bucket list items. I am from Eugene, so my bucket list for my hometown is rather small at this point.

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