Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

January 28, 2016
by Annelise Marshall

Student Spotlight: Juli

Juli was made in Ohio (specifically Casstown & Athens), but bits of France and now Oregon have more recently begun to run through her blood.  She’s on a quest to sharpen her Banagram-playing, language-teaching, French-speaking, bread-making and distance-running skills.


“This was taken at the bed & breakfast I WWOOFed (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) at in France. Odette, the owner, and I are in the finishing stages of making jam. The couple behind the camera were fellow WWOOFers, Kanji and Misaki, from Japan. For us, the kitchen served as an epicenter of soaking up new languages, new perspectives, new laughs. It was ultimately memorable exchanges like these that guided me to pursuing a Master’s in language teaching.”

What is your GTF context and how has that experience supported you in LTS?
I am a Writing Learning Assistant GTF with Services for Student Athletes; I work with student athletes and provide writing support. Several of the students I work with are international student athletes.  I help these students develop their English language skills as well as their writing skills. Although it’s different from a traditional language classroom, the GTF position provides hands-on language teaching experience, which in turn, has enhanced and supported my experience in the LTS program. This opportunity blends all of my interests & is one for which I am truly grateful.
What has been most rewarding about your GTF?
Integrating content learned in the LTS program with my work as a GTF, and bringing my experiences as a GTF to the classroom has been the most rewarding part of this combination. I am challenged because the context in which I work is unique; before applying a concept learned from the LTS program I have to ask “Will this work for my students? What adaptations can be made to meet their needs?”.  Problem solving like this is fun.
What are you most excited about for your remaining time in the program?
There are three things I am most excited about for the remainder of the program:

1. Continuing to grow with and learn from the 2015-2016 cohort.  Having taken the 2-year option, I entered into the program late. A delayed arrival didn’t stop the group from warmly welcoming me in.  It was similar to entering the home of your Italian relative: before you have time to slip off your shoes, Italian gravity is pulling you toward engulfing hugs, a slew of questions and a big plate of spaghetti. The LTS cohort is stellar. Period.

2. Expanding my knowledge of all things language & teaching related over the next 4.5 terms.  There’s so much to learn!

3.  Continuing LTSEOTT (LTS Eye of the Tiger running group (yes, we took a little linguistic liberty here)).  The cohort started meeting for weekly runs this term, and it has undoubtedly become the highlight of my week. We are constantly engaging in an environment where we are working our minds. I find it refreshing to meet outside of that context to one where we challenge our bodies. We get to know each other in a more complete way. Just like in the classroom, every LTSer brings something unique to the track & has a specific purpose for being there.  Everyone is fearless, willing to take risks and is seeking to improve. That makes the energy great & delicious & simply put, fun!

January 26, 2016
by LTSblog

Tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school

For those who are applying to graduate programs in language teaching in the US, it’s that time of the year to craft your personal statement as part of your application. Here are a few tips for making a statement that will stand out to your readers:

The DOs:

  • DO…organize your statement as a ‘deductive’-style essay: with an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction should engage the readers but also make a fairly direct statement about why you are a good fit for the program. The body paragraphs can then provide specific supporting information for your qualifications, interests and goals, while the conclusion can restate how these qualifications will match well with the program you are applying to.
  • DO…highlight your past educational and professional experiences that have brought you to a career in language teaching. If you are an experienced language teacher, highlight your accomplishments, what you have learned from them, and how they have influenced your teaching identity and philosophy. If you have little experience teaching so far, describe what experience you do have and why it has inspired you to learn and do more in this profession.
  • DO…tailor your statement to the specific program. Write about what you hope to learn from the program and how your participation and strengths will contribute to the program. Most departments want to see that an applicant is ready to take advantage of the resources in the program (e.g. relationships with faculty, other departments or institutes, internships, specific coursework topics, etc.) and realize their own full potential with those resources.
  • DO…provide specific examples of your achievements, goals, and experiences that help to tell the story of your journey towards becoming a language teacher, curriculum development, or future administrator.
  • DO…write your statement well before the deadline, so you have time to revise and refine it before you submit it.

The don’ts:

  • Don’t…exaggerate or misrepresent your own teaching experience. If you have little experience so far, be honest about this.
  • Don’t…just list facts and statistics about yourself. Write also about what you have learned about your own interests and goals, and how these relate to the future.
  • Don’t…wait until the end of your essay to state why you want to attend the program. Readers want to see your ‘thesis’ near the beginning of the statement.
  • Don’t…ask someone else to write your statement for you! Readers will expect writing styles to naturally vary, and understand that bilingual and multilingual writers may have a unique writing ‘accent’. Do, however, revise and edit carefully for common errors and for typos.
  • Don’t… write it at the last minute.

In the end, faculty who are reviewing graduate program applications want to see a clearly written statement of who you are now, how you got to this point, and where you want to go, all in the context of your (future) professional identity as a language teacher.

Good luck with your application!

Keli Yerian, LTS Director


January 15, 2016
by LTSblog

LTS faculty spotlight Melissa Baese-Berk

Melissa Baese-Berk is faculty in the Linguistics Department whose research focuses on 2nd language speech perception and production. She will be teaching a seminar in Spring that is open to LTS students.

How are you connected to the LTS program?

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I’m passionate about understanding how people learn languages and discovering how learning languages impacts cognition and our use of our first language. Although my research is more theoretically oriented, I am also very interested in the applied implications of the theoretical findings. I love working with students from various backgrounds to better inform my research questions, and hopefully to help inform their teaching practice!

What do you think students get out of the LTS program?

I think the LTS program has a number of strengths, including the support of a cohort. However, I think our greatest strength is the diversity of students and student interests in the program. Students are hoping to teach a variety of languages in a variety of settings after the program. Because of this, our students leave the program being quite well rounded, having thought not just about their target language and target context, but about language teaching much more broadly.

What advice do you have to applicants to the program this year?

I would encourage students to think about what they want from a graduate program and to try to convey that to the admissions committee. I’m always excited when an applicant makes it clear that they understand what our program offers and demonstrate how our offerings will help them achieve their goals.



January 14, 2016
by Annelise Marshall

Student Spotlight: Maggie Mitteis

a784f725-77df-4e78-9f30-66fe2417a615Maggie Mitteis is famous in her hometown of Ashton, Nebraska, just like the other 231 people who live there. She has taught University in Poland, coordinated a refugee literacy program in Lincoln, Nebraska, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. She likes to think her Ukrainian language skills are superb, but her host grandma has assured her they’re really “getting terrible”.

Why did you choose to enter the LTS program?
Finding UO’s LTS program was sort of a happy coincidence. I was living in Eugene and working at the UO Testing Office when I discovered the program. I immediately set up a meeting with Keli Yerian. I was extremely impressed the program’s multifaceted approach to teacher training and intrigued by all the available hand-on experience. Coupled with the opportunity to teach an advanced English course in an American university setting (something I had never done before), saying “YES!” to LTS was a no-brainer.
What is your GTF context?
Right now, I’m teaching Oral Skills 6 in the Intensive English program. The course focuses on fine-tuning  listening and speaking skills that will help students succeed when they matriculate into the university, so we do a lot of work with note-taking, impromptu speaking, and asking follow-up questions. It’s the same course that I taught in the fall, so I’m excited to teach it again. Now that I have more of a grasp on how the course is structured, I can really work on tailoring it to fit the students’ needs. Plus, my cohort friends shared a lot of teaching ideas that I want to try incorporating.
What is the most challenging part of your GTF?
Honestly, the amount of structure I am given in the IEP still takes me slightly aback. My pervious teaching situations–especially my Peace Corps years–were dominated by creating materials based on very general instructions or topic ideas. These materials were usually made of construction paper, and often, created the night before class. It took me awhile to become accustomed to being given a detailed, week-long lesson plan over a week in advance. It’s been great to have a teaching experience that requires a different kind of discipline, and it’s really made me grow as a professional.
What is most rewarding about your GTF? 
I really enjoy the students in OS6. They’re motivated, they’re fun, and they’re not afraid to try new activities. The class is structured in a way that really allows them to grow in confidence and autonomy. And now, I see my students from the previous term around campus, and they’re so excited to be university students.
What are you most looking forward to in your remaining time in the program?
Right now, I’m excited for Winter Term. My OS6 section is a great size and the group dynamic is building quite nicely. My class schedule is a mix of linguistic theory, curriculum development, and Eastern European history, so everyday feels genuinely interdisciplinary. And, the LTS cohort is coordinating a weekly jogging/running group. All the things I like are happening with a great group of people!


January 12, 2016
by megt

MA Project Spotlight Rich Houle

Rich Houle blog photo

Rich Houle just graduated from the LTS Program in December 2015. His capstone MA project was “Agency and Autonomy In English Academic Vocabulary Learning: A Student Centered Teaching Portfolio”.

What is your MA project?

My project is a teaching portfolio of activities to support learning the English Academic Word List. The emphasis of the portfolio is vocabulary learning, rather than vocabulary teaching, through strategy instruction and incorporating newer computer technologies such as vocabulary profiling, concordancing, and wikis.

Why did you choose this topic?

After a slight gap (24 years) between my graduate and undergraduate career, I started taking classes in the LTS program part time as a non-matriculating student.  The first class I took in the program was English Grammar, where I developed an interest in vocabulary  due to my attempts to read the notices in French posted in the hall outside the classroom. It seemed to me that meaning was primarily embedded and carried by words, and then shaped by morphology and syntax. In the Language Teaching Methods class I chose vocabulary acquisition as topic for the research paper, and I discovered a whole world I never knew existed! When I started the LTS program as a full time student I wanted to choose a topic that would use the research I had already done (having no wish to do much more work than I had to) as well as reflect the experiences I would have as a student in the program.

What advice would you give to new LTS students about their MA projects?

By the time you have completed your second term you will have (hopefully!) completed a research paper and a project or two.  Mine these for ideas for a project.  That way you will have some concept for a topic by the end of fall term, and you don’t have to research a whole new area from scratch.  You want to do as much reading as possible by the time Spring term starts. Also talk to your professors: they are very nice and they schedule time in their week just for this purpose.  As soon as you have a committee, schedule time with them.  They are there for you. Lastly I will quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a project from my cohort): DON’T PANIC.

January 2, 2016
by LTSblog

MA Project Spotlight Maile Warrington


Maile Warrington just finished her capstone MA project in the LTS program, titled “Authentic Japanese Media Materials for Teaching Keigo (Honorific Speech) and Different Speech Styles to JFL Learners”.

What is your MA project?

I developed a teaching portfolio that provides options for Japanese instructors to teach keigo (Japanese honorifics/honorific speech) to college intermediate to advanced-level students through authentic Japanese media materials, specifically authentic contemporary Japanese talks shows and comedy shows.

Why did you choose this topic?

Using appropriate keigo and speech styles is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. However, ironically, it is usually not taught in balance and is said to be the one of the most difficult language aspects to acquire. I was a Japanese language Graduate Teaching Fellow for almost two years, and got many comments from students and teachers about how hard and challenging it is to both learn and teach appropriate speech styles only through the textbook. Many students will talk to their instructors using inappropriate speech styles and thus are “rude” unintentionally. From these experiences, I started to think that there should be a way to teach honorifics and different speech styles meaningfully and interactively using materials other than the traditional textbook.

What advice would you give new LTS students about their own MA projects?

The most important advice I would like to give new LTS students about the project is to try to decide the topic as soon as possible so that they can start gathering related research and literatures about that topic in the earlier stage of their program. I also advise students to (this might be something that I don’t even have to mention) choose the topic that most interests them so they can maintain their motivation throughout the program. Another advice is to use and manage their time efficiently, especially at the end of the program when they are trying to finish up their project.

What do you like most about your portfolio?

One of the things that I like about my project is how I used authentic Japanese talk shows and comedy shows as a material to teach different honorifics and speech styles instead of movies or dramas that are more common to be incorporated in language classes. I also liked how many of my activities for this portfolio could serve as “stand-alone” activities, which Japanese instructors could pick, modify, and integrate in their pre-developed daily lessons.

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