LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

February 24, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Logan Matz (2017-2018)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to 2017-2018 LTS MA student Logan Matz!

Hi Logan! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Logan and Polly

Oh gosh. My love for language really started growing up around a bunch of different, really robust immigrant communities. So everywhere I went, I heard more than just English being spoken, and I thought that was pretty neat! I got my undergraduate degree in linguistics from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, so the move to Oregon wasn’t really too far. I’m a quarter Hungarian (sziasztok!) and the bulk of my extra-continental travel has been to Denmark. I also really enjoy anything related to bikes and dogs. Cooking and hiking are up there as well, although cleaning up afterward is something I struggle with…

Have you been enjoying the LTS program so far?

Logan on his bike

I’ve been enjoying it a lot! It’s great having such a small cohort because it really allows you to work closely with your fellow students and get a lot out of professors because of the small class sizes. I also really like the balance between scaffolded assistance from faculty and dedicated “struggle time”; I think it fosters a sense of independence that’s important to have as a teacher combined with the knowledge that although I can work well on my own, I don’t have to, and there are TONS of resources, people and otherwise, at my disposal to help me learn and create the best project I can.

What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

In undergrad, I knew I really wanted to teach. But I also knew that I would need to learn how to teach first. I applied for the program knowing that I didn’t have any language teaching experience, and I’m so pleased to have taken the practicum class with Laura Holland– what a fun formative entry into the world of teaching! I’m really looking forward to developing pragmatics-related curricula, although I still have a lot to learn.

And I know you have two internships this term–Harrisburg and CASLS. How have those been going?

Logan teaching Adult Basic Skills in Harrisburg through Linn-Benton Community College

Harrisburg is great. I’m volunteering with Amy Griffin (LTS alum!), who’s teaching an Adult Basic Skills Community English Language Acquisition course through Linn-Benton Community College, and although I helped out once a week last quarter, I made it official this quarter and I’m teaching twice a week now. The class size and proficiency distribution means that there’s a beginner group and an intermediate group, and I’m very grateful to Amy for letting me swap between groups during the week. I work with the beginners on Tuesdays, and then Thursdays work with the intermediate group. Of course, I couldn’t do it without Amy, who’s putting in twice the work by writing both her own lesson plan and a lesson plan for me to follow. All I have to do is drive north, show up, and teach!

Logan monitoring Adult Basic Skills students

It’s a fantastic experience, and I couldn’t ask for a better on-the-ground teaching practice opportunity. The students are all great fun to work with, and I’m continuously impressed with how much effort they put into a two-hour class, at the end of a long workday, with families waiting at home. Amy’s lesson plans are always great, and I’m allowed to put my own spin on them when I see the chance to. I need to mock up a class schedule for Spring, but I’d love to go back and help again next quarter!

My internship at CASLS has been super rewarding. It’s great working with such a cool team, and of course it’s awesome to have my own desk! I was worried when I first started, knowing that Julie has a very hands-off managerial approach; but it’s been plenty easy to check in with her when necessary, and the rest of the team is super accessible for any questions or help I might need. My first project was working on a set of lessons for Games2Teach for the game Papers, Please, which is a super fun puzzle game that just so happens to naturally brim with pragmatic goodies. I’m all done with the rough drafts, and I’m just awaiting some feedback now. While that finishes up, I’m starting to work on cleaning up another existing CASLS project, called the Place- and Experience-Based Database for Language Learning (PEBLL). Basically, it just needs a little TLC to make sure current entries are up-to-date before more are added. I also get to attend the weekly curriculum meetings, which have been super fun and useful for developing my curriculum designer’s intuition. It’s also so inspiring to hear everyone throwing ideas around!

Any final thoughts?

Mmm…nope!

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Hope you have a great last few weeks of Winter term!

February 18, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Certificate at the University of Oregon: Meet the Director and Current Students

The University of Oregon offers a certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT), which undergraduate and graduate students can acquire while completing their degree in any department. The certificate requires completion of three courses in second language acquisition/teaching, three courses on the target language, and an internship or practicum experience.

We interviewed the Director of the SLAT Program, Professor Melissa Baese-Berk, to find out more about this certificate and what it offers UO students.

  • How did you get involved with the SLAT program? When I started at the UO in 2013, I taught LING440 (Linguistic Principles and Second Language Acquisition), which, at the time, was one of the introductory courses for the SLAT program. A year later, I began a term as the interim director of the program, and took over full time as the director of the program the year after that.
  • What are some of your duties? I have a lot of hats in the linguistics department, including teaching and research responsibilities outside of the SLAT program. Within the SLAT program, I often teach LING444 (Second Language Acquisition), which is the first class many of our SLAT students take. In my role as director, I work with advisors for the other languages where we offer a SLAT certificate to ensure our curriculum is up-to-date and rigorous. I also work to help advertise our program across the university. And I serve as an advisor in the program, so I often meet with students to create a plan of study, to help arrange internships, and to help plan post-graduation experiences.

    Professor Melissa Baese-Berk, Director of the SLAT program

  • What should students know about how it works and what it offers? The program offers an exciting and dynamic approach to understanding second language learning and teaching. The courses range from the highly theoretical (LING444: Second Language Acquisition) to active teaching practice (LT437: Second Language Teaching Practice). This gives students a real leg up when they actually get into a classroom to teach after graduation. The amount of instruction and practice our students get during the certificate program exceeds the minimum recommendations from TESOL International and is substantially more rigorous than many other TESOL or TEFL certificates. From a practical perspective, students should know that the SLAT program consists of 7 courses and can be completed in as few as 3 terms. We have more information about how to plan what courses to take and when here: https://slat.uoregon.edu/course-calendars. Students should also note that if they are currently completing a Bachelor of Science, we also require them to demonstrate proficiency equivalent to two years of college instruction in a non-native language. Students completing a Bachelor of Arts will complete this requirement as part of their university-wide graduate requirements.
  • What do you like best about it? My favorite part of the program is our students! I really love their enthusiasm and passion, and they make my job much more rewarding. I also really love the structure of the program. I think it offers a really nice balance so our students are not only attractive to employers, but are also prepared to succeed in the classroom.
  • What kind of students are drawn to this program? Typically, students who are interested in languages and language teaching. They come from a wide variety of majors across the university, which makes the courses really dynamic. Some students come in with lots of language learning experience and others have relatively little. Some students come in with a background in linguistics, while others have never heard of linguistics before taking their first SLAT class. The wealth of backgrounds and experiences enriches our classes and ensures that the material is accessible to a broad audience.
  • How do students use the SLAT certificate after they graduate? I would say most of our students focusing on English complete the SLAT certificate so that they can teach English abroad. They often use this as an opportunity to travel and explore cultures outside of the US. Some students discover a passion for education and enter volunteer service programs after graduation, like Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Some students also use this as a springboard for graduate education (including our LTS program–see below*). Because many schools and universities in the US require a Master’s degree in order for an individual to teach, some of our students decide to pursue post-graduate education in order to have a greater breadth of opportunity.

Natasha Willow at the American English Institute

Meet three current SLAT students: Natasha Willow, Quynh Tran,                      and Ellie Yeo…

What is your major?

NATASHA: I’m an undergraduate majoring in Chinese.

QUYNH: I’m a Linguistics major.

ELLIE: Linguistics and Chinese.

How did you find out about the SLAT program?

NATASHA: I found out about the SLAT program when I was looking into majoring or minoring in language teaching.

QUYNH: I knew SLAT from my advisor when I met her the first time in orientation. I asked her what should I take besides LING classes since my dream is to become a second language teacher. She introduced me to the program and encouraged me to become a part of it. Until now, I’m still thankful that I asked.

ELLIE: My Linguistics Dept advisor, Prof. Eric Pederson, told me about it after I told him about wanting to be a language teacher.

How would you describe your experience in the program?

NATASHA: This program has given me wonderful opportunities including co-teaching a class at the American English Institute (AEI) and preparing my English language course for when I teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.

QUYNH:I love this program so much. I’ve learned so many new things everyday and met many good friends. I learned how to become a helpful teacher to my future students. I was taught not only teaching methods but also how to solve some normal classroom issues as well.

ELLIE: So far, it has been amazing. My LT classes have been my favorite classes every term. Honestly, they are the only classes where I actually do all of the readings assigned.

Any highlights you’d like to share with us?

Quynh Tran (left) with LTS students Reeya Zhao and Yuxin Cheng

NATASHA: Since I have been a part of this program, my language teaching skills have greatly improved and I have developed a teaching toolbelt that will continue to grow throughout my teaching career.

QUYNH: I love how diverse all of my LT classes are. I also think that having both undergrad and grad students in the same class is really awesome. I learn a lot from my classmates’ journey.

ELLIE: Getting to know the graduate LTS students has been one of the highlights of this program. Everyone is so welcoming, and never have I been in a class where so many people had the same interests as me!

Would you recommend SLAT to others?

NATASHA: I would recommend SLAT to anyone interested in language teaching no matter how experienced or inexperienced they may be. The teachers and students that you will meet in the program are the most wonderful people who encourage you and work with you to help you become a better teacher.

QUYNH: YES!! A very big yes!!

ELLIE: Yes! Definitely! And for linguistics majors, this program is the perfect way to understand the application side of linguistics.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in the SLAT certificate?

NATASHA: Join SLAT!

QUYNH:   Try one class and you’ll never regress.

ELLIE: Try to get a job working with second language learners so that you can be exposed to as many different students as possible. Also try to get to know as many faculty members in the field, because they are a very beneficial source of information.  

What will you do after you graduate?

NATASHA: I will teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.

QUYNH: My plan after I graduate is to go teach English in Korea.

ELLIE: I plan to spend two years in the Peace Corps and then return to the States for graduate school.

Elli Yeo traveling in Thailand

We wish Natasha, Quynh, and Ellie our best wishes for successful completion of the program and an exciting future in language teaching!

*SLAT credits apply toward the LTS MA:

Students who have completed SLAT courses at UO can apply up to 15 credits towards the LTS MA degree. LTS MA alumni who first completed the SLAT certificate as undergraduates include recent graduates Aska Omata (2017), Dan White (2017), Kateland Johnson (2016), and Ava Swanson (2016).

February 11, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Rebekah Wang (2017-2018)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to LTS Student Shulei Wang (2017-18):

Hi Rebekah! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Hello everyone! I’m from Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. If I were to pick an animal to represent my personality, it would be a kitten. If I were to pick an object to represent my personality, it would be a rose.

Nice choices! Have you been enjoying the LTS program so far?

Yes! I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little. How I narrowed down that I want to teach language(s) is because language acquisition is a part of my daily life. I’m not a native English speaker, and I learn and practice English every day. Language acquisition is a fun and surprising process.

It really is! What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

I want to learn how to teach. Being a teacher seems easy…I mean, everyone has been to schools and knows how a teacher’s’ job looks like, but it’s a lot more than that. A big part of teacher’s job is not seen by students. Classroom management is also very challenging too…When I was in school, I was a naughty kid and I really liked those class clowns. Haha.

Rebekah Wang teaching her Chinese Club students

And I know you are involved with the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School–how has that experience been going?

It’s been challenging but is helping me learn a lot! Proficiency levels are very different. Some students are just beginning to learn Chinese, and some students just came to the states recently from China and have been studying in Chinese schools for several years. We only meet once a week, and it’s on Friday afternoon. This term, students’ motivation can be low, so I need to think of creative ways to inspire them- thankfully I am learning ways to do this in the LTS program.

You do the Chinese Language Circle too right?

Yes. Currently all participants can’t converse yet. We covered numbers, basic greetings, seasons, and a portion of pinyin. Please join us on Mondays at Mills International Center from 4 to 5 to learn some basic Chinese. Everyone is welcome to join. No background needed.

Rebekah Wang (right) with LTS classmate Ngan Vu (left)

Any final thoughts?

Eugene is a nice place to live. There is usually no traffic jams which is so nice as opposed to big cities. It’s small enough that I can get anywhere in 20 minutes, but it’s also big enough that it has almost everything, so it is a great size. I’m going on my sixth year here living in Eugene, and am still enjoying it.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview! I’ll have to come practice my Chinese sometime!

February 4, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Devon Hughes’s Fulbright Practicum in Taiwan

Recent LTS graduate Devon Hughes (Fall 2017) spent her final term in the program as the first Fulbright Taiwan FSE Teacher Practicum Program Grantee (based out of Changhua County). We were delighted to find out more about her exciting adventure.

Devon Hughes hiking in the Central Mountains

What were your main activities and responsibilities?

As I was piloting this internship for both LTS and Fulbright Taiwan, I got to determine my own schedule and duties, with the guidance of a local English resource coordinator. I set three primary learning goals from which came my activities and responsibilities.

First, I sought to gain experience teaching in junior high EFL classrooms while encouraging and developing EFL students’ learning motivation and ability. I did this by teaching weekly at three junior high schools in Changhua County. I also observed and presented at various schools around the county.

Devon with student in Changhua County

Second, I wanted to broaden my perspective – as well as that of the local teachers and students – on international issues while gaining insight into the Taiwanese EFL education system at all levels. I worked toward this goal in various ways. I traveled around Changhua County to observe and chat with both Taiwanese and native English-speaking teachers about their classroom experiences, techniques, and views on local and federal education policies. I was an observer and occasional guest lecturer in two undergraduate TESOL courses at the National Changhua University of Education. I also participated in English military service officer meetings at the Changhua International Education and English Teaching Resource Center (CIEETRC) so to learn how military officers with advanced English proficiency and experience living in English-speaking countries support their schools’ English language learning goals. I even attended an international conference with the CIEETRC director on international education for primary and secondary schools.

My third learning goal was to assist in developing English teaching resources and materials and to share English teaching strategies with Changhua County English teachers. I did so by working weekly at CIEETRC on materials development, delivering professional development workshops, and meeting with elementary and junior high school teachers and principals. Together, we worked to increase critical thinking and English use in Changhua County classrooms.

What were some of the highlights of the experience?

Devon with other Fulbright grantees at beach cleaning event

How much time do you have? Haha!

An initial highlight was meeting the other Fulbright grantees at orientation and hearing about their fascinating work. They had come to Taiwan for a variety of reasons and represented a wide range of academic backgrounds. I had the chance to get to know some of these Fulbrighters better at subsequent events like Double Ten Day, Thanksgiving, and a beach cleaning service trip.  Each time, I thought, “Whoa. What cool people!”

Speaking of cool people, I got to see some familiar faces while abroad. The night I arrived in Taiwan, I had the great fortune of crossing paths with friend and former AEI colleague Rachel Drummond. She introduced me to another former UO duck, Lydia Shen, and we went out for massages and food at a local night market. Words can’t describe how incredible it was to arrive in a foreign place and immediately connect with a dear friend. A few weeks later, a former AEI student from Taiwan visited me and took me out for lunch and groceries. Such meetings with friends throughout my stay made “halfway around the world” feel like a much smaller distance.

Devon at President Tsai Ing-wen’s Double Ten party

Perhaps the biggest highlight was Double Ten weekend when I got to host my husband, who flew 24 hours each way to spend 96 hours with me. It was wonderful to show him around and to experience Taiwan with him, if only for a few days! I also had the incredible opportunity to attend President Tsai Ing-wen’s Double Ten party along with other Fulbrighters and dignitaries from around the world. I felt like I was in a comedy as I wobbled in my 5-inch heels on the red carpet and told people drinking cocktails, “Oh, I’m here teaching junior high English.”

There were many elements of Taiwanese culture itself that were highlights – the warm and sunny weather, the food (e.g. bubble tea, xiaolongbao, beef noodle soup, fresh tropical fruit), the night markets, and, most especially, the hospitality of the people. Oh, and the scooters! Every time I hitched a ride on the back of a friend’s scooter, I was overcome with awe. As we zipped through crowded streets or up mountain switchbacks, I could only think, “Wow. I am in Taiwan.”

Devon (right) snorkeling in Penghu

Speaking of travel, many highlights were my weekend trips around the island. Solo trips were made easier by Taiwan’s wonderfully efficient public transportation system. I got to explore big cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, as well as natural sites like Taroko National Park, the central mountains, Penghu (an island archipelago off the west coast) and the southern beaches. One fond memory was snorkeling with a small group of Taiwanese tourists and feeling the language barrier fade away as we squealed and pointed out clown fish and coral.

Okay, one final highlight: I was staying in one night, scrolling through my LINE (social media) contact list when I suddenly realized that around 95% of my contacts were newfound Taiwanese friends. This may sound unremarkable, but to me it was wonderful because I had lived abroad before and had found that ex-pats tended to gravitate toward each other and make insular friend groups. I went to Taiwan hoping for a different experience. A more immersive experience. So, when looking at that contact list of colleagues, university students, and random friends, I felt a wave of gratitude. I had travelled alone to somewhere new, where I didn’t speak the native language, and had managed to make friends! I believe this is largely in part to how generous and warm the Taiwanese people are.

Devon (right) with her Changhua University of Education (NCUE) friends at temple of the Great Buddha statue (大佛寺) in Changhua City

Did you face anything especially surprising or challenging?

Yes, both. Some major challenges in the classroom were a) teaching junior high school students beginner-level English while keeping it interesting and relevant b) working with some students only once due to a quantity over quality approach and c) what my colleagues and I perceived as an overreliance on the L1 (by both teachers and students). I had many conversations with fellow teachers, professors, and the CIEETRC staff about how to best tackle these issues.

My biggest challenge, however, was not in the classroom. Halfway through my stay in Taiwan, I was involved in a head-on car collision during a trip in the mountains with a colleague. Thankfully, neither of us were injured, and I had friends and strangers help me back home to Changhua. Being involved in an accident so far away from loved ones was scary enough, but another, more traumatic car accident years ago made this situation even tougher to process. I found myself faced with the question, “Am I going to make a ____ decision out of fear?” Was I going to cut my internship short and return home? Would I avoid taking car and scooter rides? Would I keep traveling solo? I am so glad I had a support network both at home and in Taiwan to help and encourage me through that time.

Prof Frank (NCUE English dept.), Devon, and Frede (CIEETRC director) beside NCUE in Changhua

As for surprises, I was taken aback by the instant warmth and generosity of the people I met. I received so many thoughtful gifts and invitations. I can never pay them back for their kindness!

Another surprise was the peace that comes from feeling safe (almost) all the time. It’s wonderful. Taiwan is one of the safest places in the world. Experiencing that… travelling without fear (though always with a proper level of precaution), walking down streets without comment, getting lost with little worry… was a breath of fresh air.

A final, funny surprise was how Taiwanese food often reminded me of food from home (North Carolina). Taiwanese mom and pop restaurants serve what Americans call “sweet tea” at most

Devon trying “stinky tofu” at the Changhua Night Market

meals, collard greens cooked in pork fat, and beef stew that rivaled my grandmother’s. It was wild to try a “new” food only to discover that it tastes like home.

How has this experience contributed to your strengths as a language teacher?

My time in Taiwan helped me become more of a self-starter and willing to take risks, both in and out of the classroom. Since it was such an intense experience, I had to be flexible in new, high-stress situations, while remaining mindful of the needs of my students, co-teachers, and stakeholders. It made me a more well-rounded teacher as it provided me the opportunity to work for the first time with junior high students and beginner proficiency levels. I also honed my class observation and teamwork skills through multiple classroom visits and later discussions with colleagues. I also led several professional development workshops, which forced me to stay current and mindful of my own teaching practices. Finally, this experience abroad fostered in me a greater empathy for language learners. Living halfway around the world in a foreign language environment is a very humbling experience!

Devon (front center) with 9th grade students

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about this experience?

If you get the chance, visit Taiwan! You won’t regret it. Especially if you’re a tea drinker. The best oolong! 

What advice would you give an LTS student who is planning to do this internship in the future?

If it makes time and money sense, go for it! Be flexible and ready to say “yes” to any opportunity. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it (if not more). Yet, also remember to check-in daily with yourself and take care of yourself!

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