Sarah Murphy with graduates from her Informatica English class
Sarah Murphy graduated from LTS in 2015 and traveled straight to a position she found as an English Professor in Mexico. Her MA Project was ‘An Open Educational Resources Portfolio for Adult Education ESL’.
Where are you working now and what are you teaching?
I’m working at the Universidad de la Sierra Sur in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mexican college students are required to complete a foreign language requirement in order to graduate, so I teach a variety of college level EFL classes.
What do you like best about what you do?
I love this job. It’s not without its challenges. Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico, and it can really be a hustle to make things work well. Having said that, I love my work. Our students come from tiny pueblos all over the state. More than 80% of them are first generation university attendees here on scholarship. It means a lot to me to work with these determined young people who are making this massive life change and socioeconomic leap. It’s just exciting to be a part of what they’re doing.
Additionally, the students bring me salsa made from flying ants, so my life is not dull.
What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching now?
Everything! I mean it. From writing exams to structuring classes and designing curriculum, I’ve used it all so far. I can’t think of any course that hasn’t been useful to me.
Maybe the most valuable skill I learned was how to grow a language learning course based on the needs of the learner (thank you, Keli!). Since entering the world of EFL, I’ve worked with many seasoned profs who were just never exposed to the process of designing courses based on a needs analysis or problematizing a context to exploit its specific advantages and tackle those inevitable obstacles. I am so grateful to have been trained in context-specific instruction and course design. It has informed every good decision I’ve made as a teacher.
Sarah with her enfermerfia English class graduates
Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?
Well, I would say that you just never know what skills you’ll need to use in your future contexts, so absorb as much as you can.
I also think that transition from grad school to actual instruction can be a little awkward for some new teachers, so I can offer my perspective on being a newbie. There are no ideal contexts out there! New teachers can be really keen to affect positive change, and that’s as it should be. But listening and learning is also an important part of the first years of teaching (or just teaching in a new context). The LTS gives grads an amazing toolbox; teaching is about learning how to apply them well.
Don’t rush the process. Experiment and pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t. Collaborate with other teachers and participate in observations as much as possible. I’m such a different teacher than I thought I’d be, and that’s a good thing!
Becky and Jeff at the banquet dinner and awards ceremony.
In addition to the many internship opportunities available to LTS students, there are also many opportunities for professional development in the field of language teaching! In March, several LTS students attended the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington, which was a great opportunity for them to learn new ideas from experienced teachers in the field. Becky Lawrence (2017 cohort) presented at TESOL Electronic Village, which was an amazing opportunity for her to share what she has been working on in the LTS program with other teachers.
Becky also accompanied LTS faculty and Yamada Language Center director, Jeff Magoto, to the biennial 2017 International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) conference held at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota this past June. Jeff, also a longtime IALLT member, gave presentations about the Yamada Language Center and ANVILL. Becky gave a presentation about her MA project, which was great practice for the final MA presentations coming up in August.
Fun fact! The 2019 IALLT Conference will be held in our very own American English Institute at the University of Oregon, hosted by Jeff Magoto himself! Because technology in language teaching is such a crucial part of the LTS program, IALLT is a great organization for LTS students. They provide a lot of support and opportunities for graduate students and new teachers to present at conferences and publish in their journals. The IALLT organization is very warm and welcoming. Despite not knowing anyone besides Jeff upon arriving, Becky left the conference with many new friends!
For graduate students interested in attending IALLT conferences, IALLT also offers a $500 Ursula Williams Graduate Student Conference Grant to help pay for costs such as registration and housing. Becky was a recipient of this grant for the 2017 conference, and plans to stay involved in the organization to support graduate students in the future!
TESOL and IALLT are just two of the organizations that LTS students can become a part of, whether to attend, present, or publish.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
What are the skills our students need to successfully participate in life and work in the 21st century? How can we, as teachers, help support our students in developing these skills? All teachers today are hopefully asking themselves these essential questions.
Andy working on 21st century skills with teachers in Bolivia
The Four Cs for 21st Century Learning
Beginning in 2002, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills identified communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity as the four key skill areas most necessary for success in the 21st century (P21, 2016). You’re probably familiar with these terms already, but let’s consider each one briefly. Communication of course is the ability to interact with others. Importantly, we have to remember that communication can happen in many ways and across many formats. For example, communication can happen both in body language and spoken interaction, and it can also be face-to-face or digitally mediated in some way. Collaboration means working effectively or productively in groups or teams to accomplish a task or goal. Critical thinking happens when we analyze a problem from diverse perspectives and evaluate different solutions. Finally, creativity involves producing innovate and original ideas in ways that would not be expected.
If these are the skill areas valued most by employers and by society in general, then educators of course need to consider how to incorporate these skills into the classroom. When we think about language education in particular, we have to think about the unique challenges faced by students trying to learn to communicate and think critically in a second, third, or even fourth language.
Digital Skills and New Media Literacies
Another key for 21st century students is digital literacy. Students in the 21st century need the digital literacy skills to not only find and critically analyze information, but also to create, edit, and publish information of their own. This shift toward a new emphasis on creating and sharing information has been called participatory culture (Jenkins, 2008). Aside from the four Cs, full involvement in a participatory culture also requires skills such as transmedia navigation, social networking, and multitasking.
Taken together, we can see a range of digital and new media literacy skills that young people today need to possess. The challenge for language teachers of course is how best to support the development of these skills in the classroom.
Into the language classroom
One easy way to encourage students to make use of 21st century skills is to combine elements of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Project-Based Learning (PBL). Thinking specifically about the four Cs for example, it is not hard to imagine a range of interesting projects that could help students target these skills. And if teachers ask students to produce and share videos as one project outcome, we can also have students working on new media literacies as well. Learning in this way is valuable because classroom language use becomes the means rather than the end. When students are collaboratively working on projects, they are not only gaining valued 21st century skills, but they are also utilizing language for an authentic purpose.
P21 (2016). P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning: The 4 Cs research series.
Jenkins, H. (2008). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning). Chicago, IL: MacArthur Foundation.
Click here to see Andy Halvorsen’s LTS blog faculty profile.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
In 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.