LTS

Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

November 23, 2016
by gkm
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Student Spotlight: Dan White

10609432_10206962125785413_1985016490970727243_nTell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where have you worked? Any hobbies?

My name is Dan White, and I was born and raised in Portland, OR, USA. I definitely fall under the “nontraditional student” category. Out of high school, I worked random customer service jobs, until, one day I realized I was not living up to my potential. I decided, on a whim, to join the military. I joined the US Army as an ammunition specialist and shipped off to basic training in 2006. The Army had me all over the US as well as spending a year in Korea and nine months in Iraq. I finished my contract with the Army and started school at the University of Oregon in 2010. I received my BA in Linguistics in 2013.

I had applied for the LTS program for the fall of 2013, but I decided to pursue some work experience by heading off to Korea to teach English. This was my second stint in Korea, but my first was spent with the U.S. Army, so I did not really get a chance to fully enjoy my time. The second time, I focused on learning the language and culture and truly experiencing every part of Korea. I made lifelong friends, and started a new hobby that is now a major part of my life: solving Rubik’s Cubes competitively.   I started learning as a way to pass time, but I soon realized that I had an aptitude and passion for these puzzles. I incorporated them into my English classroom, and I used my after-school classes (where the curriculum was entirely up to me) to teach Rubik’s Cubes to my students. I used English to teach them how to solve the puzzle. This has become a vital part of my teaching methodology. I truly believe the best way to learn a language is not to focus on the language itself, but to focus on completing a task that is of particular interest to you. Then you are not learning the language simply to learn it, you are learning an entirely new skill and the language is simply the medium you are using to acquire that skill.

After three years in Korea, I recently came back to the United States in September of 2016, and I started in the LTS program in the Fall of 2016. I am still adapting to living in the United States again, and I am very excited to continue pursuing my education. I love teaching, and I want to do everything I can to become the best language teacher that I can.

You had an internship opportunity to work with students from Saint Gabriel’s College in Bangkok, Thailand. What was that like?

I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of high school students from Thailand. I could immediately tell that they were very special. I taught them over the course of two weeks. Rather than focusing on language courses, I taught them cultural courses. I had a lesson on comedy and a lesson on expectations vs. reality. Their trip culminated in a presentation to LTS students in Dr. Trish Pashby’s “Teaching Culture and Literature” class. Prior to the actual presentation, we had a practice presentation. The students did well, but I gave them a lot of feedback. Their English was fine, but they needed to work on their presentation skills. They primarily lacked in smooth transitions from speaker to speaker and visually-appealing slides. The difference between their practice presentations and the presentations given in class was night and day. I was so proud to see the way they took my advice to heart and poured everything they had into their presentations. It was one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had as a teacher.

Talk to us about working with the Fulbright Scholars.

Mixed in among our LTS students in various classes are some amazing minds from across the world. We are lucky enough to share our Literature and Culture class with four Fulbright Scholars. Fulbright Scholars work on special scholarships to study in the United States while also teaching their native language and culture. The four we have are from Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Thailand.

I had the opportunity to select some students for a lesson demonstration in my Multiliteracies course. I decided to invite all four of them, although I only needed to demonstrate my lesson for two students. All four showed up, and I taught them a lesson on American comedy. We discussed different comedy styles, I showed them various examples of American comedy. We also analyzed a specific comedy sketch, looking at various elements (camera angles, music changes, language choices) and discussed how they added to the comedic element of the video. Then they attempted to create their own comedic sketch.

The lesson was very challenging, but the Fulbright scholars were more than up for the task. I was very impressed with how patient and receptive they were to my lesson. I think teachers make very good students as they know the challenges that a fellow teacher faces, and I was definitely lucky to have them in my class. I also felt that they benefited a lot from this lesson as comedy is an extremely difficult topic to understand for second-language learners as there are both linguistic and cultural hurdles. Overall it was a great experience with them.

You’re also an intern with CASLS, right? What can you tell us about that?

I am currently working as an intern with the Games2Teach project of the CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) program. My job is to play commercial video games and assess how they can be used by language teachers to facilitate language learning. I look at both language and cultural aspects of these games that could benefit students. I assess the age appropriateness, language difficulty, and overall genre of the games. This experience has been very rewarding, as my master’s project will be focused on developing a language teaching game template that teachers can adapt to their lessons. I have found many elements from the games that I have tested that I would love to incorporate into my own game.

Last but not least, tell us about the Cubing Club!

The UO Cubing Club did not exist, so I decided to go through the steps to start it. Students need hobbies to pass the time, and cubing is a great one. I love teaching people how to solve the cube. I get to see the excitement on their faces when they are finally able to make the last turn that solves the cube. It is a lot like the joy I get in seeing my language-learning students progress. We also help people who can already solve to transition into competitive solving. They can learn larger cubes (4×4, 5×5, etc), or they can add new tricks to the normal 3×3 (blindfolded solving, one-handed solving, etc). Meeting with the club is a great stress reliever for me. I hope the club continues to grow throughout my time here at UO. If you are interested in joining, look up “UO Cubing Club” on OrgSync!

November 15, 2016
by LTSblog
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Lead from within! LTS Faculty blog post by Deborah Healey

In today’s post, LTS faculty Deborah Healey discusses the opportunities and benefits of taking the lead in professional organizations in the field. You can read more about Deborah Healey on a past blog post here.

Professional organizations like ORTESOL, ACTFL, and TESOL International Association are successful because they offer a variety of activities, networking, and support for their members. Volunteers with the organization provide the bulk of the support. They guide the organization and its activities. Volunteers are the backbone of annual conventions, for example, and most organization newsletters and websites have content provided by volunteers. These volunteers are both necessary and very visible parts of the organization. Organization leadership comes from the volunteers who have been active in the organization and the profession.

What does this mean for graduate students and other professionals in language teaching? It means that you can give to your profession and add to your resume by volunteering. This will help you move forward on a leadership path.

I’ve been part of the leadership of ORTESOL and TESOL at different times and in different ways. I’ve been the ORTESOL Newsletter editor, part of several TESOL Task Forces and a TESOL Interest Section Chair, and a member of the CALL Interest Section Steering Committee.

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Deborah when she was ORTESOL newsletter editor in the 1980s

I am now on the Board of Directors of TESOL, making decisions about policy and governance for the association.

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2016 TESOL Board of Directors

Being on the Board was not on my mind when I agreed to be ORTESOL Newsletter Editor, nor when I was on different Task Forces and involved in the Interest Section. Like most volunteers, I took part in those activities because they sounded interesting. They gave me great connections and good friends. My involvement has made me a better teacher and, overall, a more competent professional in the language teaching field. This involvement has also given me the opportunity to travel to international conferences as an invited speaker.

2014 HUPE (EFL) Conference in Croatia

2014 HUPE (EFL) Conference in Croatia

You can start on a path to leadership by doing many of the same things that you may be doing now. Write for your local affiliate/section of a professional organization (the ORTESOL Newsletter Editor would love to hear from you!). Present at a local and national conference (poster sessions are usually easiest to propose and have accepted). Volunteer to help with the local conference if it is nearby or with the national conference if you are planning to attend. People in the organization will notice your work. As you take on more responsibilities – because they seem interesting, of course – you will be on a leadership pathway that may take you to new and exciting places.

leadership-schematic

Leadership schematic – some directions

November 9, 2016
by gkm
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Student Spotlight: George Minchillo

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Tell us about yourself!

My name is George Minchillo and I am from Dallas, Texas. I first became interested in language study during my high school years when I began learning Latin. I college, I took the plunge and decided to make language my career focus, earning a Bachelor’s in French at the University of North Texas. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with a French degree, I took a year to go abroad and teach English as part of the English Program in Korea. I loved the experience so much that I started researching TESOL programs which eventually led me to the LTS program at the University of Oregon! After graduation I’m hoping to return to Korea (or Japan, or China, or anywhere really!) to teach English at the university level. One hobby, embarrassing as it may be, is that I like to collect textbooks. At one point, I had over 200 but decided to let them go as they were too bulky to carry around the globe with me.

Tell us about your internship at Lane Community College in Eugene. What are the Digital Literacy Workshops? 

In today’s digitalized world where almost everything is run by a computer in some fashion, there are still those who have no prior experience using a desktop or smart device in their day-to-day life. The Digital Literacy Workshops are a way to help those students at LCC who may be new to using a computer or who would like improve their digital skill sets. The workshop topics can be flexible, but the participants usually want to learn the basics such as how to use a mouse, how to type, how to open and close programs, and most importantly how to do what they need to for school (online homework, registration, connecting to the school’s Wi-Fi). Most of the students who participate in the workshops are ESL students so it is a multi-tasking of teaching computer skills and language skills. It’s a great, stress-free environment to get your feet wet if you have no prior teaching experience or, even if you do, to try something new and challenging.

You’re a part of Talking with Ducks. Can you tell us more about that?

Talking with Ducks is part of the Language Teaching 537 course ‘Teaching Practice.’ The class is designed to allow novice teachers a chance to (as the title implies) practice their teaching skills while learning about the principles of language teaching in their other classes. Every week the grad student leaders or LT Ducks meet and plan a lesson to implement in the Talking with Ducks class that is an elective for current international students at the American English Institute (or AEI). Topics include things like Travel, Holidays, Etiquette and Customs, and many other cultural items of interest to the AEI students. The discussion-based class is not only fun but gives us a great opportunity to interact with the students, which is important to me as they are the audience I will be working with in my future career goals.

You also work with the American English Institute. What kind of work do you do?

I have 2 different positions with the AEI: Conversation Partner and Activities Lead. As a Conversation Partner, my duties include meeting with students individually two times per week and giving them an opportunity to practice conversation without classwork or needing to share time with classmates. Conversation Partners are also able to participate in Oral Skills classes, where the teachers give specific tasks to help students with, and also at Help Desk, which is a drop-in spot for AEI students to get help on their homework. In addition to these duties as Conversation Partner, I also act as an Activities Lead, which means I drive the students in a van to fun activities or volunteer opportunities and then act as a conversation partner for them during the trip. Examples of activity trips include Portland downtown, Crater Lake, and Lincoln City by the coast. If there are any future LTSers who don’t have a GTF and want a little extra teaching experience outside of class, I highly recommend working with the AEI. It starts off small as a Conversation Partner, but the opportunity to grow and become an integral part of the AEI is a great chance to maximize the time you spend with the students!

What are you most excited to learn or do during your time in the LTS program?

I’m most excited to start working on my own Master’s project. Although at this point in time I’m still a little unsure of which direction I want to take my research, I feel like I have a strong team of professors who are willing to help push me in the right direction. If you’re looking for a program where you have the freedom to develop your own materials and test them out in the classroom, then LTS is definitely for you!

 

November 3, 2016
by LTSblog
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Value diversity in the languages you teach

picture-276In this LTS blog post, LTS and Linguistics faculty member Melissa Baese-Berk writes about the importance of valuing and integrating multiple varieties of dialects and accents in the language classroom.

The reality of language and power

Each fall, I teach a general education course called “Language and Power” here at the University of Oregon. One of the textbooks we use is Rosina Lippi-Green’s English with an Accent. In this text, Lippi-Green introduces students to the idea of Standard Language Ideology: “a bias toward an abstract, idealized homogenous language, which is imposed and maintained by dominant institutions and which has as it’s model written language, but which is primarily drawn from the spoken language of the upper middle class.” Lippi-Green argues that by defining some “standard” all other languages, dialects, and accents are defined in contrast as “non-standard.”

During our term, we spend a lot of time examining our ideas about “standard language,” and the impact that these ideas have had on our thoughts about language more generally speaking. We begin the term discussing the remarkable structure throughout language, even in unexpected places (e.g., non-standard dialects). We also spend several weeks discussing the substantial variability found at every level of language both within and across speakers.

Shifts in student thinking

As students begin to examine linguistic facts about structure and variability, they frequently begin to question many of their own beliefs about language. Many of my students are heritage language students who have been exposed to one dialect at home and then learn a different dialect in their language classroom. They’ve received different messages about the prestige of their home and school dialects and languages throughout their lives. When they realize that a many of the judgments about languages and dialects are social, rather than linguistic in origin, students begin to see value and prestige in all the forms of language they use.

What this means for language teachers

Language teachers hold remarkable power in helping students form ideas about language, dialects, and accents. The language and dialects students are exposed to in the classroom are held in high prestige because they are the targets for learning. However, when the language varieties used in the classroom are limited to those typically seen as prestigious by the broader community, students may view other varieties as “non-standard.” Students from heritage backgrounds may feel as though their home varieties are being marginalized. Students being exposed to the language for the first time may learn to reinforce the typical societal views about prestige of certain language varieties. If, however, students are exposed to multiple dialects and accents during the course of their learning, they may learn to value all these varieties. Exposure to these varieties may have the added side effect that students may also able to communicate with more individuals outside of the classroom, rather than only individuals who speak a “standard” or prestige variety.

To read more about Melissa’s work and teaching in LTS, see her past blog post here: http://blogs.uoregon.edu/linglts/2016/01/15/lts-faculty-spotlight-melissa-baese-berk/

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