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Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 16, 2017
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Hortensia Gutierrez

Hortensia Gutierrez graduated from LTS in 2014 with an MA project titled Teaching Forms of Address in Chilean Spanish to U.S. College Students. She worked at the American English Institute (AEI) for a few years before applying for her PhD studies in Spanish Linguistics.

Hortensia on the Georgetown campus, where she will pursue her PhD

Tell us about your good news about the next 5 years!

I am about to start a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at Georgetown University and I am very excited to start this new path in my professional life! During 2016 I had many experiences that pushed me to take this important step. I applied to six programs around the country and I was accepted to four of them with full funding for five years: University of Arizona, Indiana University, State University of New York Albany, and Georgetown University. My final decision to go to Georgetown was based on the faculty, the professional opportunities (outside the regular ones that any PhD program offers), and the solid instruction in all the areas of linguistics. In addition, I had two emotional factors to include: the fact that our beloved Keli Yerian is an former student of GU and the professional life of my husband.

Why did you decide to go on to a PhD? How did your experiences in LTS and otherwise lead you to this path?

I grew up in an academic environment that shaped my way of seeing life, learning to love questions and showing others my findings. At first, I became a high school teacher and I taught physics for more than 4 years in Chile, but it wasn’t until I came to the US that I found my true passion for linguistics: I liked physics, but I love teaching languages. For that reason, I decided to study in the LTS program and it changed my life. I believe that the first moment I thought about continuing my studies was when I started to work on my MA project. I was so passionate about the social and political aspects of language that I decided that I wanted to go deeper. I know that in the next five years I will find what I am looking for and more, and that makes me really happy.

What will be your areas of focus during your PhD?

During my M.A., I wanted to study the suppression of certain Spanish variation features in the traditional classroom, caused by linguistic ideologies in Latin America. Now, for my doctoral studies I would like to explore the dynamics of linguistic ideologies in areas of language contact. For example, I am interested in what happens when Mapudungun, a language spoken by the Mapuche community, is in contact with Chilean Spanish. This contact reveals elements that I would like to explore, such as bilingualism, heritage learners of Mapudungun, language revitalization, and the teaching of Mapudungun to the general population, among others. My ultimate professional goal is linked to my personal core value that pushed me to study Education in the first place: to use my research and work in academia to empower communities, encouraging people to understand and protect their identity.

Is there any advice you would give to current or future LTS graduate students?

People have different goals in life and different ways of reaching them, but I believe there is one fundamental element that is important to achieve them, and that is the passion for what you are doing. So if you want to teach languages or research languages, remember to always give your best.

May 5, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Juli Accurso

Student Spotlight – Juli Accurso

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your previous experience before coming to UO? Any hobbies? Etc.

I was born and raised in Casstown, Ohio. It is a small farming town that topped out at 267 people at the last Census. I guess an updated stat would be 266. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in French and Linguistics at Ohio’s first university, Ohio University (Go Bobcats!). My time in Athens is where my interest in language learning and teaching was cultivated. To date, I have more experience being a language learner than a language teacher. In 2012, I studied abroad in Avignon, France. After the term finished, I moved to Saint-Marcel-les-Sauzet and was a WWOOFer at a bed and breakfast. (WWOOF is an acronym for the organization, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farmers, and a WWOOFer is someone who volunteers their time at an organic farm or the like in exchange for room and board). I was learning French in the wild. It was exhilarating. So much so that I returned in 2014 for a second stay. Although I didn’t know it at the time, WWOOFing really helped inform my philosophy on language teaching & learning.

  • I know that you are a GE at the Jaqua Center. Could you tell us what that is like?

Yes, I’d love to! I’m the Writing Learning Assistant Graduate Employee for the Services for Student Athletes department. I tutor student athletes taking writing courses or courses with a heavy writing component. One of the perks about this position is that I get to bring what we learn in the LTS program with me to work. In addition to working with athletes in writing courses, I also tutor many of our international student athletes helping them with schoolwork and developing their English language skills. Working with the SSA staff and student athletes has been a really fun and rewarding part of graduate school. I love learning about each student’s story and, more importantly, watching it be written in real time. Different from teaching, I often work with students for several terms, which allows time to observe academic and athletic growth.

  • What is the most valuable aspect of the LTS program as you’ve experienced it thus far?

One aspect has been the opportunity to work collaboratively with fellow classmates. I’m a hands-on learner, so the opportunity to get our hands dirty with material, concepts, and teaching techniques has been very helpful.

 

April 26, 2017
by LTSblog
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LTS Faculty Post Trish Pashby: Pronunciation Teaching—Moving from Fear to Fun

Trish Pashby is a Senior Instructor II in the American English Institute and has been a teacher educator in LTS since the program began in 2004. She has taught many of the LTS courses over this time, and currently teaches her favorites, LT 541 Teaching Pronunciation and LT 528 Teaching Culture and Literature.

For me, pronunciation lessons are the most fun possible in the classroom. I love the whole process:

  • finding out who my students are, what they want, what they need;
  • creating opportunities for them to unveil simple yet hidden patterns of the English sound system;
  • observing as they compare how they had been previously producing a word (or phrase or text) to a variation that improves their intelligibility and confidence;
  • setting up practice drills followed by more communicative activities that allow them to work with the new pronunciation in various ways;
  • checking in with them about their progress and providing encouragement and guidance to keep going,

Sadly, only a handful of my colleagues share this passion. In fact, many English language teachers lack confidence in how to teach it at all (Baker, 2014; Murphy, 2014). This may partly be explained by the fact that “relatively few teacher education programs provide courses on how to teach L2 pronunciation” (Baker, 2014), which experts in the field (Derwing, 2010; Murphy, 2014) deem essential. The LTS program requires LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation) for students focusing on English. In this post, I will share some of the key areas we cover in the course. If you are a current or future language instructor who feels nervous about teaching pronunciation, I strongly encourage you to dabble and play with the following. Parts may lead to ways for you to build your confidence, and maybe even fall in love.

Intelligibility vs Comprehensibility vs Accent—and other “Big Picture” Issues

Munro and Derwing (1999) define intelligibility as how much a listener actually understands, comprehensibility as how difficult it is for the listener to understand, and accent as how the speech varies from the dialect of the listener. For example, substituting a “th” with /s/ in “think” or /d/ in “the” will probably fall under “accent” if the listener notices the substitution but has no trouble understanding. In diagnosing the pronunciation of their learners, teachers need to distinguish among the three, and prioritize the former.

Several key questions interact with this to create the “big picture.” What are the learners’ goals? Who will they be interacting with? What is possible? Reasonable? Desirable? (Don’t assume all of your learners want to acquire your particular pronunciation. Some may prefer another dialect of English. Or want to maintain a connection to their native language.) What about those seeking to sound native-like? What progress can they make and what role can you play in that? Can non-native speakers be good pronunciation teachers?

My answer to this last question: Yes, of course non-native speakers can be excellent pronunciation teachers as long as they understand the sound system of the target language and have the skills to communicate this to learners through effective practice activities. They can use their own voice to model the language but should also present a variety of models to their students, just as native speaker teachers should.

Advice: Keep your assumptions to a minimum and instead rely on (1) much communication with your learners and (2) current research in the field.

Suprasegmentals (Stress, Rhythm, Intonation)

For many teachers, especially those who are native speakers of English, suprasegmentals may present the most challenging aspect of pronunciation teaching and require considerable training of the ear. I clearly remember sitting in a phonology class years ago as student unable to distinguish one syllable from another—to my ear, none sounded longer, clearer, higher. However, suprasegmentals can play a huge role in the intelligibility and comprehensibility of your learners and will thus need your attention.

Rising vs falling intonation might be a reasonable place to begin—for example, exploring American English patterns for differentiating wh-questions from yes/no questions. I tend to start off my pronunciation courses with a lesson on “tonic stress” (the main stress in a thought group), essential for the international graduate students and scholars I work with. This is then followed with a session on word stress, also key to their intelligibility and comprehensibility. Rhythm (stressing content words and reducing function words) is covered in many pronunciation texts for students, yet not all experts agree on how accurate/effective this is. Dickerson (2014) argues this approach should be replaced with finding the “anchor” among the content words to complement the tonic stress.

To consider: How does intonation affect meaning in English? Where does tonic stress usually occur? Why might it vary from this position? What are typical word stress patterns in English? Which of these might be most useful for students?

Advice: Teach yourself–with patience and kindness–to hear/notice stress, intonation, and rhythm (most of which may lurk below your consciousness, especially if you acquired English as a child) and become familiar with the fascinating role they play in English communication. I recommend getting your hands on one or more pronunciation textbooks for students and carefully studying the exercises. In my case, I finally learned to hear stress via the first edition of Marsha Chan’s (1987) Phrase by Phrase.

LT 541: Students George Minchillo (center) and Yan Deng (right) teaching pronunciation to an international visitor (March 8, 2017)

Segmentals (Consonants and Vowels)

Set a goal for yourself to learn the phonetic symbols and details of articulation for all the sounds of the target language. You probably won’t be creating lessons for all of them, but you’ll want to be ready in case a student needs some feedback or instruction. If IPA symbols intimidate you, look into alternative systems such as “the color vowel chart,” which provides a very accessible way to for teachers and students to understand and manage North American English vowels: https://elts.solutions/color-vowel-chart/.

To consider: Which sounds most strongly affect intelligibility and comprehensibility? How do sounds change depending on their place in a word and the sounds surrounding them? What is the best way to convey this information to learners? What kind of practice is most effective?

Advice: If mastering all of the vowels and consonants feels overwhelming, pace yourself and start with a few at a time. Consider which sounds are most connected to your learners’ intelligibility and comprehensibility issues. You can also explore information on “functional load”: the frequency of a sound’s occurrence and in how many instances this sound distinguishes one word from another.

Designing Lessons

As with any subject you teach, you will need a framework/approach for designing effective lessons. Learners will need access to information and opportunities for practice. In the LT 541 course, we use Celce-Murcia et al.’s (2010) “communicative framework.” Lessons begin with clear explanations and demonstrations in which students can experience the sound or pattern, often with visual, tactile, or kinesthetic accompaniment. Tools like the following can play a role:

  • mirrors to observe lip, teeth and jaw movements
  • feathers to test aspiration of of /p/, /t/, /k/ at the beginning of words
  • plastic teeth with puppet tongue to show articulation
  • animated video of sound articulation http://soundsofspeech.uiowa.edu/english/english.html
  • rubber bands to stretch on stressed syllables
  • coins or other small object to illustrate stressed and unstressed syllables
  • kazoos to focus on intonation (humming will work too)

Tools from Trish’s pronunciation “toy box”

Students will need plenty of production practice, moving from very controlled exercises (with limited focus on meaning to keep the attention on the new sounds) to gradually more meaningful contexts. They will also need strategies to continue building skills outside of the classroom.

Integrating Pronunciation across the Curriculum

English classes focusing primarily on pronunciation are rare. Thus teachers must find ways to bring pronunciation instruction into courses that focus on other skills. These lessons may be less elaborate than those in a pronunciation course but can certainly cover both segmental and suprasegmental aspects affecting intelligibility and comprehensibility. Char Heitman, a guest lecturer in LT 541, presents a variety of such activities to use in a reading/writing course including having students search texts for specific spelling/sound correspondence examples, chart new vocabulary according to word stress patterns, and practice thought groups and intonation before discussing key ideas [http://eflteachingresources.blogspot.com/2015/02/shaping-way-we-teach-english-webinar_15.html]. Additional ways for integrating pronunciation across the curriculum can be found in several chapters of Tamara Jones’ (2016) Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential.

Recommendations

Form a group with colleagues or classmates (or go solo, if you prefer) to tackle areas of pronunciation instruction most important and interesting for your teaching context. Resources might include the following.

Teaching Guides:

  • Celce-Murcia, M. et al (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd edition)
  • Grant, L. (2014). Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press
  • Jones, T. (2016). Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
  • Meyers, C. & Holt, S. (1998). Pronunciation for Success. Aspen.

Student Textbooks:

  • Dale, P. (2004). Pronunciation Made Simple. Pearson.
  • Lane, L. (2012). Focus on Pronunciation 3. Pearson.
  • Grant, L. (2016). Well Said. Cengage.
  • Miller, S. (2005) Targeting Pronunciation. Cengage.

Journals in the field, such as TESOL Quarterly, regularly publish research related to pronunciation teaching. TESOL’s “Speech, Pronunciation, Listening” interest section publishes a newsletter with practical ideas for teachers [http://www.tesol.org/connect/interest-sections/speech-pronunciation-and-listening/as-we-speak]. Conferences are an especially enjoyable way to build your pronunciation expertise. The annual TESOL conference always features a number of excellent pronunciation workshops and demonstrations, from which I have learned many of my favorite techniques and activities for pronunciation fun.

References

Baker, A. (2014). Exploring teachers’ knowledge of second language pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices, and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48, 136–163.

Derwing, T. (2010). Utopian goals for pronunciation teaching. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Iowa State University, Sept. 2009. (pp. 24-37).

Dickerson, W. (2014). A NAIL in the coffin of stress-timed rhythm. Proceedings of the 6th annual pronunciation in second language learning and teaching conference, UC Santa Barbara, Sept. 2014. ( pp 184-196).

Munro, M. & Derwing, T. (1999) Foreign Accent, Comprehensibility, and Intelligibility in the Speech of Second Language Learners. Language Learning, Vol. 49, Supplement 1, 285–310.

Murphy, J. (2014). Myth 7: Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (ed) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.pp188-224 Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

 

 

April 21, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight: Aska Okamoto

Student Spotlight: Aska Okamoto

  • Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of experiences have you had at UO? Any hobbies?

I am from Tokyo, Japan. I have lived in Eugene, Oregon for about 7 years. I graduated from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University and got an English teacher’s license in Japan, but I did not want to be an English teacher who doesn’t speak English fluently. This made me come to the States seven years ago. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2016 with a Linguistics major and a Dance minor, and I worked at the Japanese Immersion Elementary School in Eugene as a Bilingual Educational Assistant in my last academic year. I helped students in both English and Japanese classes. I also did private tutoring with some students from 1st to 5th grades. That tutoring experience was completely different than the assistant position at the elementary school. I learned about time-management and project-based teaching, and I could create some materials and activities based on each student’s motivation for learning Japanese.

I like dancing. When I was an undergraduate student, I was in some faculty/student concerts put on by the Dance Department. I used to practice ballet a lot, but now I like modern dance more because I met some great modern dance teachers here at UO. I love singing and listening to music. When I feel stressed during midterms or finals week, I sing aloud and that makes me feel better.

  • You’re the leader for the Japanese Language Circle. Can you share with us what that’s like?

Even though my focus is “teaching English,” I am still interested in and working on teaching Japanese also because of my previous experience in the field. From Fall term 2016, I have been a leader of the Japanese Language Circle at the Mills International Center. Both Japanese learners and native Japanese speaking students come to this circle and every week we have different people. It is not a class or anything, but certain people come every week and we are building a new community. We mostly have conversations. As a leader, I pick some random topics for each week, such as current events, Japanese or American culture differences and similarities, and new terms or trends both in Japan and in the States. I do not know how other languages run the circles, but I decided to make slides and set some target topics because our circle is sometimes quite big. If you are interested in the Japanese Language Circle, please go check this website!

https://sites.google.com/site/japanesecircle201617/

  • What is the topic of your Master’s project? Can you tell us about it?

My Master’s Project is titled “The Effective Usages of L1 with a Plurilingual Approach in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in Junior High English Curriculum in Japan”. By 2020, Japan will implement a major reform of the English education curriculum in junior and senior high schools in which English classes will be taught as “English only” in response to globalization. It is the government’s decision but teachers are seeking more effective ways to transition to only English use in the classroom. I am exploring the benefits of using the first language, in this case Japanese, in English as a Foreign Language classrooms, especially with novice learners. My Master’s Project is a research-based teaching portfolio that illustrates options for how teachers and students can use Japanese effectively to transition to an English-only CLIL classroom. I would propose some solutions for this new approach of English Education in Japan.

  • What is the most valuable thing that you have learned/done in the LTS program?

Since I got the Second Language Acquisition Teaching (SLAT) certificate when I was in undergrad, I had a flexible schedule in Fall and Winter terms, so I was able to take some classes from the EALL (East Asian Language and Literature) department. I have learned Japanese pedagogical phonetics, and Japanese and Korean syntax. They were phenomenal experiences for me because even though I had some Japanese linguistics courses in Japan, it was completely different than the ones offered in the States. My target learners share the first language, in this case Japanese, so it was good to see Japanese linguistics from different angles.

Another thing that I really like about this LTS program is that we have a cohort system. That makes me feel like I am a part of the LTS program. Every student has completely different and unique learning and teaching experiences. All the feedback and comments that I get in class (sometimes outside of class also!) are very precious and always making my rigid way of thinking more flexible. In our community, we’ve been building up our relationships since last Fall term (some are from last Summer term), so I feel comfortable to give and receive positive suggestions and feedback.

April 10, 2017
by LTSblog
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Faculty Post Keli Yerian

InterCom is a weekly customizable newsletter provided free to Language Educators through CASLS. LTS students, alumni, and faculty often contribute to it. This week LTS Director Keli Yerian has contributed to InterCom, and it is reposted here. Subscribe to InterCom here! http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu/

Connecting Input and Output through Interaction

Keli Yerian directs the Language Teaching Specialization program at the University of Oregon. Her research interests are in language and interaction, most specifically in the use of gesture in both L1 and L2 speakers, as well as language teacher education, including the goals and experiences of L2 speakers in language teacher education programs.

Peek inside one language classroom. Here we see students using actions and brief responses to show they are following the teacher’s story. Peek inside another. Here we see students repeating after the teacher to show they can accurately (re)produce the target sounds and structures.

In the first classroom, the teacher is using comprehension-based instruction, with a focus on helping students acquire language through carefully structured input. In the second classroom, the teacher is using production-based instruction, with a focus on helping students acquire language through repeated spoken practice.

What do these classrooms have in common?

If these two classrooms always look like this, every day, all year, we might say the common point is that they both tip dangerously to only one side of the spectrum of teacher beliefs and practices regarding instructed language learning. On one end of the spectrum is the belief that language acquisition requires the exclusive ingredient of comprehensible input. Indeed, comprehension-based instruction is strongly supported by some research (e.g. following Van Patten, 2007) that shows that structured input (input that compels learners to focus on form in order to access meaning) can lead to improved proficiency not only in comprehension but in production as well.

On the other end of the spectrum is the claim that a skill will only be acquired if it is directly practiced multiple times (see DeKeyser, 2007). While the direct practice claim has been less supported by research, studies do show that language acquisition may remain incomplete without the opportunity to ‘notice the gap’ between one’s own production and the target forms. Importantly, this benefit appears only when production involves meaningful exchanges that allow for the noticing and mediation of forms (e.g. see Swain, 2000).

From this perspective, what both classrooms may be missing is the key element of meaningful interaction. Many current scholars argue that interaction connects the dots between the essential benefits of comprehensible input and the visible advantages of “pushed output.”

However, it is never a good idea to judge a language classroom from just a moment of peeking in. A good language classroom will reveal, over time, a rich range of coherent practices, and include varied opportunities for learners to process authentic and structured input, meet the challenge of crafting output, and negotiate meaning with peers, texts, the teacher, and the wider community.

Maybe, if we peeked into these same classrooms some minutes later, or on another day, we would see something else entirely. A peek into the first may reveal students producing posters to present to their peers, and a peek into the second may show students immersed in extensive reading groups. In this case, our answer to the question above is turned on its head: what both classrooms have in common is the commitment to providing students with a full range of input, interaction, and output – all key ingredients for a ‘balanced meal’ in instructed language learning.

References
DeKeyser, R. (2007). Practice in a Second Language: Perspectives from Applied Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology. New York, Cambridge University Press.
Swain M.  (2000). The output hypothesis and beyond: mediating acquisition through collaborative learning. In H. Byrnes (ed.) Advanced Language Learning: The Contributions of Halliday and Vygotsky. London: Continuum.
Van Patten, B. (2007). Input processing in adult second language acquisition. In B. VanPatten and J. Williams (eds.) Theories in Second Language Acquisition (pp. 115-35). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Citation for InterCom:
Yerian, K. (2017, April 10). Connecting Input and Output through Interaction. CASLS InterCom. Available from http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu/content/searchContent

March 16, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Valeria Ochoa

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?

I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!

You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?

Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.

Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?

My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.

One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.

 

Video Blog Update!

Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!

March 1, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Christopher Meierotto

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done before joining the LTS program?

Home is where I have loving family and close friends. I’m originally from the foothills of Colorado, but I’ve bounced between there, Germany, Austria, and South Korea before moving to Eugene with my wife, Jiyoon, last year for school.

Growing up the Rockies, I’ve always loved being outdoors among nature. I like to snowshoe, camp, backpack, fish, and climb mountains. I spent nearly half of my childhood sleeping in tents in nature. I also love reading, cooking, gardening, building things, drawing, and I enjoy taking pictures when the mood hits me. When I have time and money, I love traveling, learning about foreign cultures, and trying to learn foreign languages. Actually, the experiences I had learning foreign languages have directly affected my teaching, and knowing a foreign language even helped me get my first language teaching job.

I’ve had many jobs. My first job, when I was 14, was building hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains. I have also worked in a kitchen, as a mover, a landscaper, in maintenance, for a political party, in an insurance company, and for a TEFL certification program. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I got my start in teaching ESL in the Denver area through some local non-profits. Since then, I’ve taught both English and German, and I’ve worked in adult education with immigrants and refugees, in the South Korean public school system, in an intensive English program, and now as a GE for the American English Institute’s matriculated international undergraduate classes.

Each of those teaching contexts has brought with it a different perspective on how language is learned and how connections across cultures are made. I’ve always tried hard to make a connection and build a relationship with my students. Having learned foreign language, having been an exchange student, and having worked in a country where I was a minority have helped me relate to my students’ experiences. I’ve worked with a lot of students from many of different backgrounds, and I always aspire to be a positive influence in their lives. In turn, they’ve always impressed me with their perseverance, and my heart sings when I see them succeed using something that I helped them discover.

Tell us about being a GE with the AEIS program?. What does that entail?

It’s busy. Seriously though, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience working as a GE for the AEI. They have a wonderful supportive and expert staff, and there are tons of opportunities for professional development offered through the AEI’s programs. I was even able to showcase a unit on teaching debate at an in-house poster session at the AEI which some of the staff have been using in their work. Teaching the AEIS classes is also a perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet at an American university level of ESL instruction. I taught AEIS 102 – Advanced Academic Oral Communication in the fall, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 – Written Discourse III (Research Paper). One benefit of being a GE at the AEI is that I can complement my classes with the research and coursework that I am doing in the LTS program. I am happy that I’m able to incorporate research-backed strategies and pedagogical approaches in my lessons to help our international undergraduates develop the linguistic skills that they need to thrive in the university context. I have also been able to utilize some of the CALL aspects that I’ve learned as an intermediary for supplemental instruction. The synergy created between both places is also really helping challenge me on a new level of instruction and to think beyond my previous language teaching experience, especially on the curricular level, and I am just happy to be a part of both programs.

I will say that working at the AEI as a GE does have its challenges. Being a sole instructor allows me the freedom to take control of the course curriculum so long as it aligns with the course goals, student learning outcomes, and assessment. However, with that, there is a lot that I need to dedicate towards planning and structuring of both the lessons and curriculum, as well as with providing students with useful feedback. Luckily, the methods and pedagogical approaches that I am learning as an LTS student can be directly applied to my courses, and I can develop my curriculum beyond a holistic level. I can see my growth as a language teaching professional, and seeing my students succeed makes the extra effort worth it.

It’s getting close to Master’s project time. Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your project?

My proposed MA project is inspired by my first AEIS 102 course that I taught in the Fall 2016 term. I was looking for authentic materials to use to help my students build listening strategies when I noticed that I kept coming back to public radio broadcasts not only to set the context but also to structure the lessons. When I used them in class, I received a lot of positive feedback from my students, and I was surprised how much of a diverse plethora of contexts and genres that were readily available. Because of this, I decided that I want to build a materials portfolio around using public radio in combination with other multimedia as a complement to a matriculated university oral skills curriculum to teach listening. I want to develop an array of activities that can be used to teach not only the language, but also the paralinguistic language that surrounds it. The project is still in its initial stages, but I’m looking forward to diving into it this coming spring.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

I chose LTS for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when I started to look at graduate programs a few years back, I reached out to Dr. Keli Yerian while I was teaching in Korea. She helped to put into perspective the strengths that the LTS program had over other TESOL or theoretical linguistics programs. I liked that the degree focused on language teaching, and with that, I’ve been able to work on English, German, and a little bit of Korean in my coursework. Also, the multilingual approach meant that I would be able to work with a highly diverse and international cohort. This aspect allowed both my wife Jiyoon and I to apply and study together even though our language focus is different. I was also attracted to the fact that the program highlighted implementing technology into the language classroom and language assessment. I knew that these two aspects would be integral in my professional development. A final reason why I chose the LTS program is because of the other resources available on this large campus. I am currently taking an elective on grant proposal writing that I’m sure will help me to find funding for any future non-profit language programs that I decide to volunteer or work for.

In the terms to come, I am looking forward to learning about assessment and how to teach pronunciation. Looking at my teaching now, I know that I need work in both of these aspects. I am also excited for the opportunity to start working on my MA project. The nice thing about being a student here at UO, especially in the LTS, is that opportunities open up for students all the time.

February 15, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Becky Lawrence

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m originally from Louisiana, but I’ve lived about half of my life in Oregon. I’m definitely a fan of the cold and rain over the heat! I received my bachelor’s from Western Oregon University where I double majored in English Linguistics with TEFL certification, and Spanish Linguistics. In my spare time, I love spending time with my 5-year-old daughter, watching anime, singing, and writing.

Tell us about the work you do in the LTS program and at the University of Oregon in general. What kind of internships have you done?

I began the LTS program in Summer 2015 and although I had planned to graduate in one year and begin teaching immediately, I decided to take two years to complete the program instead so that I could take advantage of the many opportunities the LTS program has to offer.

During my time in LTS, I have done internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies), AEI (American English Institute), LCC (Lane Community College), and an internship abroad at TIU (Tokyo International University). I’ve also worked at AEI as a Conversation Partner/Help Desk Tutor and Activities Lead, CAPS (Center for Asian and Pacific Studies) as an English Tutor for the Shanghai Xian Dai architect exchange program, Mills International Center as the English Conversation Circle Lead, and CASLS as a Spanish Assessment Rater. There are so many opportunities to gain experience in both campus jobs and internships that really help to grow your CV!

I’ve also taken advantage of the many professional development opportunities present for LTS students. I presented my project research at the 2016 UO Grad Forum, which gave me the chance to present my work in a professional setting in front of other graduate students and faculty from departments across the university. I hope to present again this year as well because it was such a great experience. I also got the chance to present my research in an AEI Professional Development Friday poster session for AEI faculty. Outside of the university, I will be presenting at two big conferences. In March, I will present at the 2017 International TESOL Convention in the Electronic Village in Seattle, WA, and in June, I will present at the 2017 IALLT (International Association for Language Learning Technology) in Moorhead, MN.

Since you’re on the two-year plan, you’ve had a head start on your MA project. Would you tell us a bit about that?

When I first entered the LTS program, I had no idea what I wanted to do for my MA project. I’ve always been interested in creative writing, and I write fiction as a hobby, but I didn’t think that it would be something I could focus on. I thought that I should focus on something more typical like grammar or pronunciation; however, I was wrong! That’s one of the great things about LTS. You can really tailor your MA project to focus on what you’re passionate about, so long as there’s a need and a relevant connection to language teaching. For me, creative writing is a way to express yourself, create new worlds and characters that you wish existed, or to escape from reality every once in a while. So, I decided to focus on designing a creative writing English course. However, after doing a few internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) where much of the focus is on the intersection between gaming and language learning, I was inspired to design a creative writing course where students create a playable narrative-based game using ARIS, an open-source platform for creating mobile games and interactive stories. The focus of my project is on multi-literacies development using ARIS in a creative writing classroom. I’m really excited to hopefully teach this course in the future.

February 1, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Lin Zhu

Tell us about yourself. What do you study? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?

Ni hao! Hello, I am Lin Zhu, a graduate student at University of Oregon. Right now, I am in two programs: I am a PhD student in East Asian Linguistics program in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and also an MA student in LTS program in the Department of Linguistics. My research interests include Chinese syntax, semantics, and SLA (primarily concerning Chinese teaching and learning). Here at the U of O I have been a teaching assistant for 2nd-year Chinese classes and now I am a TA for 1st-year Chinese. I am a Chinese guy working towards being a Chinese teacher. My ultimate goal is to teach Chinese in a university setting. I’m a fan of sports; basketball, badminton, table tennis, etc. I especially enjoy jogging and walking on the track.

Tell us about completing two concurrent degrees with the LTS and EALL programs. How does the work you do in LTS relate to EALL?

Well, you can imagine doing two programs at the same time is sometimes tiresome. Things keep coming up in my to-do list and the homework is always due very soon and seems to go on and on. I am a person who is early to bed and early to rise. But sometimes things keep me so busy that I become someone who is late to bed and still early to rise.

That being said, doing two programs is awesome in that you can have two cohorts to interact with. For example, this year, I had a Thanksgiving party with my classmates in the LTS program and had a Chinese New Year party with the EALL cohort! 🙂

I can easily find a balance between what I do in the EALL and LTS programs. The EALL program is theoretical. I get solid theoretical instruction from this and I get deeper understanding of the Chinese language. Also, the EALL program provides me with theoretical frameworks and methodological toolkit to conduct academic research. On the other hand, the LTS opens another door for me. It shows me the applied side of linguistics study. It gives me the theoretical underpinnings of language teaching and learning which is applied to a variety of real-life language teaching experiences. Also, as a TA in EALL, the time in LTS makes me a better teacher.

January 26, 2017
by LTSblog
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LTS Alumni spotlight: Shannon Ball

Shannon in a moment of grammar teaching

Shannon Ball graduated from LTS in 2014 with a focus on teaching English. Her MA Project was titled Teaching Adult Community ESL through Children’s Literature and she now works full time at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. Shannon is an example of someone whose MA Project focus led her directly to a position that allows her to apply what she learned and created.

Where are you working now and what are you teaching?

I work at Lane Community College as an ESL instructor, an ESL Student Services Specialist, and an ESL Assessment Specialist. I love doing all of these jobs, because I get to know ALL of the students in the program, and not just the ones in my classes. I usually teach the low-beginning levels, but am currently teaching Writing and Grammar C, which is the third level of six in our Main Campus IEP. I love every minute of it!

What do you like best about what you do?

Just one thing?! I could really go on and on about what I like best about this job. The reason I got into this work in the first place was that I have a strong desire to contribute meaningfully to my community. The people who come through our program are active members of our community, and the benefits of their enrollment in our program are innumerable. When our students learn, they help other similar members of the community (their friends and family) by teaching them what they have learned and by encouraging them to come to the program as well. They get better jobs, which helps their families and the economy. They are able to participate more fully in the English-based education of their children by communicating better with teachers and engaging and helping with their school work. The effects go on and on. Another thing that I love about teaching to this community is that they come in highly motivated. They are so eager to learn, and to share what they already know with each other. I also love watching the relationships that my students develop. I had a couple of students last year who were different in every way: age (one was 21 and the other 63), culture, country of origin, L1, etc. But they sat together and helped each other in class, studied together after class, and spent time together on weekends, and the most amazing thing is knowing they are using English the whole time because it is their only common language. It’s a truly authentic application of the things they learn in the program, and it motivates them to learn even more!

What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching (or life) now?

I think the most valuable thing I learned and honed in the program was to connect every aspect of your lessons to a common purpose or objective. Always asking, and encouraging your students to ask, why you are doing a certain activity promotes active learning. Class time seems so limited that you need to plan well and make the most of every minute!

Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?

Take every opportunity you possibly can to volunteer, intern, or do a graduate teaching fellowship while you are in school. I know grad school is a very busy time, but this can both valuably inform your coursework and provide authentic hands-on experience. A lot of US schools tend to require a minimum of two years of classroom teaching experience, so it is also good for your resume! My other piece of advice is to make the program work for you. LTS is such a flexible program and really allows for creativity and encourages innovation. If you have an idea, go for it!

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