Reeya Zhao presenting a poster of her project titled, “A Career-Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners,” at the UO 2016-2017 Graduate Research Forum
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Reeya Zhao, and I’m from Beijing, China, where I spent most of my life before turning 18. The city of Beijing is a mix of ancient, modern, domestic and overseas sites and cultures. People come and go since they can find both opportunities and challenges there. At the age of 18, I decided to leave to attend the East China Normal University in Shanghai, and that’s where I found the Disney summer internship and the OIIP programs in 2014. I worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for two months as a merchandise representative before OIIP. This was technically my first overseas job, and I had so much fun because we often stocked past midnight after the garden closed and I met many Disney characters backstage. OIIP is an international internship program at the University of Oregon. During that 5 months, I took two courses at the UO while working as an intern in the kindergarten department of Mt. Vernon elementary school, with two teachers and two teaching assistants. After that, I made my decision to be a language teacher and come back some day pursuing further education.
Has the LTS program brought you any extracurricular opportunities?
Now, it has been almost one year for me studying in the LTS program. As an international student, I feel it’s very intensive yet worthwhile. By following the suggestions of which courses to take from our coordinator Dr. Keli Yerian, I feel that each term is a little bit more intensive than the previous one. The Gaokao (China College Entrance Examination) was the first high pressure educational experience for me, and the LTS cohort and program are the first ones to push me to become more professional in various ways. In the Fall and Winter terms, I participated in the Edison Chinese Club Program. Two other Chinese cohort members (Yan and Adam) and I planned and taught Mandarin lessons together after school on every Friday, and were directed by Professors Keli Yerian and Lara Ravitch. This was challenging at the beginning because not only did we need to think of attractive activities and how to best sequence all of it, we also pre-planned for imagined classroom management problems, and sometimes dealt with unexpected situations. For example, with planned small group activities, some kids might feel like working alone on some days, and we would come up with an “emergency plan” to let him/her be out of the group for a while. However, we always reminded ourselves to encourage them to come back eventually, because cooperation is one of the essential skills we want the learners to develop further in our Chinese club.
Tell us a little bit about your Master’s project! What is the context of your project?
My Master’s project is a course design for young learners of ages 10-14 studying at international schools in China. I believe that students within this age range are developing their awareness of future careers, and they need the language as a bridge between them and the outside world in this foreign country. Due to these reasons, I’m thinking of a career-exploration course taught in Mandarin Chinese to formally develop their multi-language and multi–culture abilities.
What are the most valuable aspects of the LTS program as you’ve experienced it so far?
I also value the circumstances of discussing, sharing, and working together with all the cohort members in LTS. I also love the various connections provided by all my instructors and the courses they lead. For example, in the Talking with Ducks course led by Professor Laura Holland, we had three classes each week. On Tuesdays, all the TWD teachers carefully planned and discussed the chosen activities together. On Thursdays, we actually taught in an English conversation college course for international students. Then, on Fridays, all the LTS cohorts got into the class to debrief and reflect how we did on those Thursdays. Last but not least, I also like the LT 536 course design and the LT 549 testing and assessment classes where I was pushed to design a course and assessments. In doing so, I was given the motivation to research and look into the use of authentic materials.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What previous work have you done? Any hobbies?
I hail from Portland, Oregon but enjoyed a well-spent six years in Boulder, Colorado during which I completed an M.A. in Comparative Literature. I have worked as a Spanish-English bilingual legal assistant for an immigration attorney, coffee slinger, mentor to at-risk Bolivian youth, aerobics instructor at a home for the elderly in Cuba, writing tutor, and freelance editor.
My hobbies include playing Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Eugene’s local Trek Theatre, rock climbing, laughing wildly, and going to fellow LTS-er Dan White’s UO Rubik’s Cube club.
Tell us about your work with NILI and learning Ichishkíin!
Far more than a hobby has been my involvement with the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) at the University of Oregon and learning the PCNW language Ichishkíin. It has been and is a privilege to both collaborate there and learn the language. While 25 languages were once spoken in Oregon and 25 in Washington, only one indigenous language class is available at UO. However, NILI supports many Native community members in their efforts towards self-determination and language revitalization. Collaborating there, through internships (from archiving Klamath-Modoc materials to creating mini-lessons for our Ichishkíin classroom), being an Ichishkíin student, and volunteering at the annual two-week Summer Institute has meant supporting those efforts.
Tell us a little bit about your Master’s project!
During the Summer Institute, teacher training happens for Native community members, as well as curriculum and materials development and other educational related endeavors in classrooms and events. I have participated in Lushootseed classrooms and mapping workshops. The latter led by LTS instructor and NILI Associate Director of Educational Technology Robert Elliott; my own final MA project has morphed into a relatedly inspired project with him as my advisor. I will be using ideas ranging from paper map creation to cyber-cartography to adapt existing Ichishkíin materials into new ones. This both fulfills the mission of creating new materials for language use in the spirit of the Ichishkíin classes I have taken, as well as repurposing existing materials that contain indispensable language knowledge provided by first speakers. These materials will be either teacher created, designed to be student created, or teacher created yet student manipulated.
What is the most valuable thing about the LTS program for you up until this point?
These NILI & Ichishkíin based experiences have blended richly, poignantly, and distinctively with my other work during the LTS program (including an internship at the American English Institute), as many of the pedagogical circumstances are unique and require accordingly unique approaches and considerations. This is where place-related learning and everyday-relevant language learning became fulcrum to my internal gravitation towards effective, hands-on, collaborative, experiential, and multidisciplinary educational frameworks and experiences.
For me, the most valuable part of LTS has been precisely this co-habitation of the typical program route and my experiences with NILI. I am deeply grateful for both.
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 be partly 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 a 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), which is 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 require 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.
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.
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.
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!
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What did you do before joining the LTS program? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Yan Deng and I come from Lanzhou, which is the capital city of northwest China’s Gansu province. The city is not very big, but there are still 2 million people who live there. My favorite food is Lanzhou beef noodles, which is a very famous food in China. Before I came to the U.S.A, I already got my bachelor’s degree at a Chinese university. My major was Chinese Education. I wanted to know about different cultures and to learn different languages, so I decided to study abroad. In 2011, I came to the University of Oregon, and my major was Educational Foundations. In class, I learned a lot about American teaching methods. Outside of class, I tried to learn more about American culture, such as how American students celebrate holidays, how they work on campus, and how they chat with their friends at cafes.
I have been in Eugene for 5 years. Eugene is a small, quiet and beautiful city, and I love living here. While I was an undergraduate student at UO, I volunteered at an American elementary school for two years. I noticed there were a lot of differences between American elementary schools and Chinese elementary schools. I have been a Chinese tutor for one-and-a-half years at UO, and I liked the job so I am still doing it now. I love to encourage American students to know more about China and to learn Chinese. I think we could all learn from each other.
Hobbies? I like swimming and reading. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. Sometimes I like to watch American TV shows, such as CSI and Criminal Minds. To be honest, I get scared by some of the plots.
Tell us about Talking with Ducks. What is that experience like for you?
For me, I like the TWD class because I can learn a lot about teaching. The most important part is how the team members help each other. For example, I was a leader in week 2. I had to make sure my pronunciation was correct, and the rules of my game had to be clear. Since I am an international student, I have to worry about these things. To be honest, I wrote down every sentence of my lesson plan, and I read them to my team members, Devon and George. They helped me to edit my lesson plan. I was so glad they were so patient with me. No one loafs around on the job!
In Thursday’s class, when students came in , we didn’t feel nervous because we were ready. But there were still some situations that I hadn’t thought of before. Thus, we needed to help each other. For example, I didn’t realize students would still sit a big circle after I separated them into different groups. I didn’t know how to solve the problem, but George quickly jumped in and gave more explanation to solve the problem. When students were playing the game, I forgot to explain the game time limit, but Devon was on it. How about the other LTS Ducks? Yes, they all did very well. Sue and Maude were very creative in their groups, letting their group members use the envelopes (which were just materials from my activity) in the game. Joliene, Reeya and Juli built a great and comfortable environment for their group members to practice English. Laura, the professor of the TWD class, made sure everything was going very well. Because of this teamwork, I love the class and I enjoy every minute of it!
Tell us about the Chinese Club!
The Chinese Club is held at the Edison Elementary School, and is one of the after school clubs. In our club, we have 11 students who come from different grades. The goal of the club is to encourage students to learn about Chinese culture as well as some simple Chinese characters. We tried to build a real language environment to help students learn Chinese. Last week, our topic was “daily life in Beijing.” We created some class activities to help students know the real Beijing, such as visiting the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, and eating Beijing duck.
What are you most excited to learn or do in the LTS program?
I am so excited to learn a lot of different teaching methods in LTS program. We discuss issues in class, and we solve problems together. When I am studying in every class, I know I am coming closer step-by-step to my dream. Even though I have a very full schedule, I know my friends and I are always a team. I will be brave and I will keep swimming, just like Dory! Ha ha~
Devon Hughes is a member of the 2016-2017 LTS cohort from Dunn, North Carolina. Before joining the MA program, Devon worked at a law firm in New York where she lives with her husband (when not in Eugene, of course). Her teaching experience prior to her move to Oregon includes a 2-year placement in Madrid, Spain where she worked for the Ministry of Education teaching English to elementary school students. Devon graduated from Davidson College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in English.
Tell us about yourself! What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend my free time exploring wherever I am: FaceTiming with my husband back in New York, cooking, playing piano and singing, reading, learning how to weight-lift, and catching up on and writing for Misadventures Magazine, an adventure magazine by and for women. I recently wrote a poem (using what I studied in undergrad!) about adjusting to life in grad school so far away from home and loved ones. Feel free to check it out here.
Tell us about Women Teaching Women and future plans you may have.
After being out of school for 5 years and working a few jobs unrelated to TESOL, I started to become restless. I found myself daydreaming about teaching. When I envisioned my “ideal” classroom, I realized it was always the same: women of various language backgrounds learning English together in an engaging, warm, and intellectually stimulating environment. One day, I finally decided to see if such a school, institute, or company already existed where women taught other women English. So, as you do when you have a question, I googled it – “women teaching women English.” The first search result was a free downloadable textbook, created by the University of Oregon’s American English Institute (AEI) for the U.S. Department of State in collaboration with a non-profit in Lebanon whose primary aim is to empower Lebanese women. I appreciated how this non-profit viewed English education as just one of many tools for female empowerment. Months later, as I was narrowing down my graduate school search, I remembered the Women Teaching Women textbook and the University of Oregon, and I decided to apply to the LTS program.
What’s been really great about this program so far is how, almost immediately, I was able to research and write about my area of interest for my classes, connect with the professor who took the lead on the Women Teaching Women textbook project (Dr. Leslie Opp-Beckman), who in turn connected me with the director of the non-profit in Lebanon. I’ve only just begun my time here in Eugene, but I’m already being encouraged by the program faculty to ask questions, make connections, and get involved in the field. I can’t thank them enough for their support!
Short-term, I want to continue working the vision of my “ideal” classroom into the questions I explore in my research papers and the lesson plans I create, and hopefully that will aid me in my Master’s project. I have a hunch that it will be about the possible benefits of women teaching women English and what the opportunities in that specific classroom could be. Long-term, really, who knows? I look forward to seeing what opportunities may arise through my connections with the LTS program and the AEI, be it the chance to work on materials for the non-profit in Lebanon, going abroad to teach women English language learners, or looking into possible classroom models geared toward women here in the states.
You’re a GE (Graduate Employee) for the American English Institute 2016-2017 school year. What is that like?
Exhilarating! After being out of the TESOL classroom for 4 years, it’s great to be back and have a classroom full of English language learners! It’s a lot of work balancing teaching every day at the AEI with a full load of Master’s level classes, grading papers, lesson planning, homework. But it’s the work I want to do! I feel like having those years outside of the classroom gave me the energy I needed to dive right back in. Perhaps I’m in over my head, but I’m really thankful for the opportunity to work in the field I’m trying to get back into as a way to finance my education. What’s really cool is how, every day, what I’m covering in my LTS classes can be turned right back around and applied in my AEI Oral Skills class. Some of it is trial and error, but I think that’s necessary for any type of learning.
What are you most interested to learn or do in the LTS program?
I’m most excited to learn about how to be a “great” teacher. I’ve always studied my teachers, taking mental note of what makes them great in my opinion, so I’m curious to discover what are those elements for successful teaching, according to the research and practice in the field.
Video Blog Update! We checked in with Devon to see what else she’s learned from participating as a GE for the AEI over the past few terms. Watch here to see how her experience has progressed until now!
Author’s Note: I have used films in my classes since I began teaching English Language in the 1980s. I use and have developed materials for both film clips and whole movies with great success. This teaching tip focuses on using film clips to spark discussion, study grammar, prepare debates, and practice pronunciation, stress and intonation and more.
Film clip + storytelling + chanting = engaged listening/speaking practice
Laura G. Holland
Teachers have at their disposal now a myriad of authentic materials from which to develop interesting and engaging integrated activities for their students. The briefest film clip can be developed into hours of meaningful classroom lessons that allow students to share their personal stories and hear those of their peers, all the while developing higher order thinking skills. Transcripts from the film clips can be used to focus on grammar, vocabulary, and all areas of pronunciation and stress in addition to content. They can also be used to develop extended chants that weave together focused fun-drill practice and employ techniques described by Charles Curran and Jennybelle Rardin and more recently Scott Thornbury as “Backwards Build-Up” and “Back Chaining” respectively, in addition to other traditional and non-traditional drilling practices that highlight message shift through varying intonation.
Whether you are responsible for your entire curriculum or simply want to supplement the curriculum you are required to teach, try some of the following ways to engage and motivate your students both in and out of class
Choose a film clip appropriate for your level and age of students. Keep it short, 5 minutes or less. Use the theme as a “springboard” for discussion. You can use discussion cards, questions posed on a PowerPoint slide, bag strip questions, questions posed orally or written on the board, whatever is most appropriate to your Student Leaning Outcomes (SLOs). Get students telling their stories and talking about their own life experiences. They can discuss situations about people they know or have heard of, anything to spark their engagement. Spend less time on comprehension questions and go directly to higher order thinking questions and tasks, incorporating activities that assume comprehension but create more meaningful communication right from the start.
« Discussions and Story-Telling »
Topics that my students enjoy discussing and sharing their opinions about: Food, Sports, Dance, Music, Movies and TV, Superstitions and Luck, Scars (every scar has a story), Tattoos and Plastic Surgery, Outdoor activities, Friendship, Family, Controversial Topics, Travel, Holidays, Pastimes, and so on. Discussions can be standing or seated, in pairs or small groups. You can use any of the methods noted above for posing the discussion questions (DQs).
« Debates and Discussions »
Choose a topic from the film, your textbook, the news or other medium. Have Ss sit in groups, fluency circles, standing or seated face-to-face or other. Assign roles so that Ss argue points of view (POVs) that may not be their own, working in pairs to create the most valid arguments.
« Chanting »
Create your own chants using sentences from the film/video clips, sentences from the textbook, and so on. Add in extended practice and variations highlighting them in bold to show they are not from the original “text.” Give your students practice with the differing messages that changes in intonation create, as well as the ability to “feel” how stress works in English.
« Transcripts »
Use transcripts from the films (create them yourself for better quality and number each line for easier reference), and do grammar transformations, for example: take all the present tense verbs and put them in past tense, making all necessary time marker changes; change all negative lines into positive and vice versa, all statements into questions and vice versa, note synonyms and antonyms, find more formal/informal ways to express line “12,” and so on. Have students practice pronunciation and intonation using “Creative Computer” as described by Rardin et. al. Ask Ss to paraphrase, summarize, give a title to the scene, choose a different ending, etc. Ask students to look at line “7” (for example), and discuss with a partner why the speaker used that verb form to express her ideas or to state his opinion. This helps students understand the meaning of the grammatical forms and why native speakers chose specific ones to express their ideas.
Curran, Charles, A. (1976). Counseling-learning in Second Language Teaching. U.S. Apple River Press.