Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 24, 2016
by LTSblog

Faculty Post Keli Yerian – Gestures in the Classroom

imagesThe spontaneous gestures people use while speaking have attracted more and more attention from watchful researchers across disciplines in the past decades. What can gestures reveal about the cognitive processes of speakers? How might they aid speakers to communicate and interact with others? Can gestures help us teach and learn?

As we teachers know, it’s always a good idea for us to watch ourselves on video (though it’s not always easy!). One benefit is to see how our gestures may be helping or hindering our teaching. Gestures can facilitate teaching in many ways, such as by illustrating an action or a metaphor, clarifying directions for tasks, or pointing out something in the room. Some gestures can be consciously planned, but many can be simply allowed to emerge naturally. Language learners will be grateful for these visual clues if they are engaging and informative – film yourself and see what you think!

As a fun exercise, see if you can guess what Javid is saying during these short GIFs from a recent, unrehearsed microteaching session he co-taught with classmate Juli here at UO a few weeks ago. Match the lines of transcript with the GIFs (they are not in the right order now). Click on each GIF to see it in action. Answers are given at the bottom of the post.

  • “Oftentimes it’s difficult for us to remember…”
  • “So these words are all signal words…”
  • “Please stand up”
  • “I approached the door…”
  • “In pairs, go to the boards here”
  • “That was in the past”

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  1. “I approached the door…”
  2. “Please stand up”
  3. “That was in the past”
  4. “Oftentimes it’s difficult for us to remember…”
  5. “In pairs, go to the boards here”
  6. “So these words are all signal words…”

For more on this fascinating topic, read this review article on gesture in language teaching and learning by Jane Orton (2007):


May 19, 2016
by Annelise Marshall

3 Minute Thesis

Last Friday, Javid, an LTS student from Afghanistan presented at the U of O Grad School’s Three Minute Thesis, a competition where students from varying disciplines present their work in– you guessed it– three minutes. Here are Javid’s thoughts on the experience.

Throw Your O

What is your MA project about?

I started my presentation by asking the audience to imagine a situation where they had to write their thesis in a foreign language. Academic writing in our first language is already challenging let alone if we do it in a foreign language. Therefore, my MA project focuses on making academic writing an easier and a less frustrating process for undergraduate students in Afghanistan who are required to write their thesis in English. My project uses text-modeling and process writing as its framework to help students become more autonomous writers. The text-modeling approach helps students to use text features such as structure, organization, and style as a model for writing. In addition, process writing breaks down the process of writing into manageable pieces such as prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing before students publish their work. During this process, students also benefit from self-reflections, peer reviews, and portfolios, which help them to become more independent writers. They will also improve their research skills and strategies such as paraphrasing, summarizing, annotating, and citation. Research suggests that the combination of these two approaches is an effective framework for an academic writing course.

Why did you decide to present at 3MT?

As someone who has been involved in academic debates in Afghanistan and Toastmaster International here at UO, I always find any academic competitions interesting. I attended the 3MT presentation in 2015 and found it an interesting academic experience too. Not only my passion for academic experience was a motive, but also the opportunity to think deeply about my project. Moreover, it was a great practice to explain my research in a language understandable to the public.

How do you feel after presenting? Would you recommend the experience to other students? 

Throw Your O

The finalists

Presenting at 3MT competition enriched my academic experiences in the United States. It was quite a challenging process, from deciding what to include in one slide to my 3 minutes speech and connecting them together in a way that is engaging, simple and innovative. I did not expect to compete among the finalists. However, when I made it to the finals, I felt proud and accomplished after the presentation.

I definitely recommend to other students to participate in this educational presentation. You will learn many things about yourself, your project, and also about other fascinating research from various disciplines. It is an opportunity for you to develop your presentation skills and also receive feedback from the judges. Finally, the winners of the competition receive monetary prizes if you need some extrinsic motivation to present.

May 11, 2016
by megt

Faculty Post: Laura Holland

Author’s Note: I have used films in my classes since I began teaching English Language in the 1980s. I use and have developed materials for both film clips and whole movies with great success. This teaching tip focuses on using film clips to spark discussion, study grammar, prepare debates, and practice pronunciation, stress and intonation and more.

Film clip + storytelling + chanting = engaged listening/speaking practice

Laura G. Holland

Laura_Parque de Amor_Lima (002)

 Teachers have at their disposal now a myriad of authentic materials from which to develop interesting and engaging integrated activities for their students. The briefest film clip can be developed into hours of meaningful classroom lessons that allow students to share their personal stories and hear those of their peers, all the while developing higher order thinking skills. Transcripts from the film clips can be used to focus on grammar, vocabulary, and all areas of pronunciation and stress in addition to content. They can also be used to develop extended chants that weave together focused fun-drill practice and employ techniques described by Charles Curran and Jennybelle Rardin and more recently Scott Thornbury as “Backwards Build-Up” and “Back Chaining” respectively, in addition to other traditional and non-traditional drilling practices that highlight message shift through varying intonation.

Whether you are responsible for your entire curriculum or simply want to supplement the curriculum you are required to teach, try some of the following ways to engage and motivate your students both in and out of class


« Show a film clip »

Choose a film clip appropriate for your level and age of students. Keep it short, 5 minutes or less. Use the theme as a “springboard” for discussion. You can use discussion cards, questions posed on a PowerPoint slide, bag strip questions, questions posed orally or written on the board, whatever is most appropriate to your Student Leaning Outcomes (SLOs). Get students telling their stories and talking about their own life experiences. They can discuss situations about people they know or have heard of, anything to spark their engagement. Spend less time on comprehension questions and go directly to higher order thinking questions and tasks, incorporating activities that assume comprehension but create more meaningful communication right from the start.

« Discussions and Story-Telling »

Topics that my students enjoy discussing and sharing their opinions about: Food, Sports, Dance, Music, Movies and TV, Superstitions and Luck, Scars (every scar has a story), Tattoos and Plastic Surgery, Outdoor activities, Friendship, Family, Controversial Topics, Travel, Holidays, Pastimes, and so on. Discussions can be standing or seated, in pairs or small groups. You can use any of the methods noted above for posing the discussion questions (DQs).

« Debates and Discussions »

Choose a topic from the film, your textbook, the news or other medium. Have Ss sit in groups, fluency circles, standing or seated face-to-face or other. Assign roles so that Ss argue points of view (POVs) that may not be their own, working in pairs to create the most valid arguments.

 « Chanting »

Create your own chants using sentences from the film/video clips, sentences from the textbook, and so on. Add in extended practice and variations highlighting them in bold to show they are not from the original “text.” Give your students practice with the differing messages that changes in intonation create, as well as the ability to “feel” how stress works in English.

« Transcripts »

Use transcripts from the films (create them yourself for better quality and number each line for easier reference), and do grammar transformations, for example: take all the present tense verbs and put them in past tense, making all necessary time marker changes; change all negative lines into positive and vice versa, all statements into questions and vice versa, note synonyms and antonyms, find more formal/informal ways to express line “12,” and so on. Have students practice pronunciation and intonation using “Creative Computer” as described by Rardin et. al. Ask Ss to paraphrase, summarize, give a title to the scene, choose a different ending, etc. Ask students to look at line “7” (for example), and discuss with a partner why the speaker used that verb form to express her ideas or to state his opinion. This helps students understand the meaning of the grammatical forms and why native speakers chose specific ones to express their ideas.

Moonstruck movie poster


Curran, Charles, A. (1976). Counseling-learning in Second Language Teaching. U.S. Apple River Press.

Rardin, Jennybelle P.; Tranel, Daniel D.; Tirone, Patricia L.; Green Bernard D. (1988). Education in a New Dimension: The Counseling-Learning Approach to Community Language Learning, U.S. Counseling-Learning Publications.

Thornbury, Scott. (1997). About Language. New York. Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, Scott. (2005). How to teach speaking. Harlow, England: Longman.

May 4, 2016
by Annelise Marshall


Many LTS students work with language learners in the Eugene area as interns, GTFs, volunteers, tutors, and more, but there is another unique opportunity you may not know about. The University of Oregon is home to the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS), one of just sixteen National Foreign Language Resource Centers which work to develop and share resources for language teaching and learning. Working with CASLS is an additional opportunity for LTS students and alumni.


LTS and CASLS members recently participated in the 5k during the Eugene marathon. Although both groups had their own teams, they got together to take a photo before the race

Currently, LTS folks working with CASLS include: two LTS alumni who are current CASLS staff, two current students who are interns, and one current student who is a GTF. Additionally, Dr. Julie Sykes, the CASLS director regularly teaches an elective course for LTS students on pragmatics in language teaching.

To find out more about the kind of work that results from partnerships between CASLS and LTS, check out this blog post featuring the work of current LTS student and CASLS intern, Becky. Becky interned with CASLS from Summer Term 2015 to Winter Term 2016, and created an “interactive story” mobile app for language learners called Finders Keepers. 

For more information about using games in language teaching and learning, browse other posts on Games2Teach, which is run by LTS alum Ben!

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