Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 11, 2016
by megt

Faculty Post: Laura Holland

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

Laura_Parque de Amor_Lima (002)

 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


« Show a film clip »

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.

Moonstruck movie poster


Curran, Charles, A. (1976). Counseling-learning in Second Language Teaching. U.S. Apple River Press.

Rardin, Jennybelle P.; Tranel, Daniel D.; Tirone, Patricia L.; Green Bernard D. (1988). Education in a New Dimension: The Counseling-Learning Approach to Community Language Learning, U.S. Counseling-Learning Publications.

Thornbury, Scott. (1997). About Language. New York. Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, Scott. (2005). How to teach speaking. Harlow, England: Longman.

April 13, 2016
by LTSblog

LTS Faculty Spotlight: Andy Halvorsen

Tiffany Andy Brenda in Gabon 2016

Andy in the new English Language Center in Libreville, Gabon, with Brenda and LTS alum Tiffany VanPelt.

How are you associated with LTS?

I’m a faculty member of the American English Institute, and I’ve been teaching in LTS for 2 years. I generally teach LT 436/536 in Spring (the Language Teaching Planning course). I’ve also served as an advisor on the final projects of LTS graduate students.

What else do you do in your work and teaching?

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Innovative Programming unit of the AEI. I’ve worked on the development and design of our upcoming MOOC for English language teachers, and I’ve also just completed an online webinar through American English that talks about how to get the most out of your online teaching and learning experience. I’ve enjoyed being involved with educational technology here at the University of Oregon because it relates to my research interests in social media and how platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to enhance language learning opportunities in a number of diverse ways.

I’ve also recently been involved in our partnership with the Gabon Oregon Center and I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Gabon to deliver a scientific writing workshop to university faculty there.

Where were you teaching before you came to Oregon?

Before coming to the UO, I spent two years in Thailand as an English Language Fellow (ELF) with the US State Department. While in Thailand, I primarily did teacher training work, and I also had the opportunity to teach a weekly English course to high-schools students which was broadcast on television.

What do you think are some of the best perks of being a language teacher and teacher educator?

For me, the biggest perk about this type of work is the people you get to interact with on a regular basis. I’ve met and worked with teachers and students from all over the world, and I’ve broadened my understanding of education significantly. My recent trip to Gabon is a good example. I’d never had the chance to visit West Africa before, but the experience was amazing. I felt like I was able to improve the writing skills of the workshop participants, but, as often happens when I travel for work, I honestly felt like I took as much if not more away from the experience as the participants did!

What is something you’ve learned from your students or teachers-in-training?

video response:

March 31, 2016
by megt

Faculty Research Spotlight: Anna Mikhaylova

Anna Mikhaylova is faculty in the Linguistics Department whose research focuses on second and heritage language acquisition and bilingualism. She is teaching LT 611 MA Project I this term.



How are you connected to the LTS program?

My biggest connection to the LTS program is through the projects that LTS students develop as a capstone of their degree. In the past four years I have taught the first of the MA Project (LT 611) course series. It has been exciting and rewarding to watch each student develop their ideas into a well-developed and well-researched argument and create a foundation for their final product (teaching or materials portfolio, course design, or an action research project, which they would be developing in the second course of the series). I have also enjoyed teaching Second Language Teaching Planning (LT 536) and serving as advisor and reader for several MA projects.

What other classes do you teach?

The Second Language Acquisition courses (LING 544 and LING 644) and graduate seminars on Bilingualism and Heritage Language Acquisition, which I teach for the General Linguistics MA and PhD program, have also been open to LTS students. It certainly has been a privilege to have LTS students provide a language teacher’s perspective and insight the theoretical discussions we have had in the LING classes. And I also pride myself in the fact that several MA projects were supported by the readings or even grounded in the research projects LTS students developed in those Linguistics classes.

What is your research about?

Much of my work has tackled finding an empirical and theory-based explanation to the observation that both foreign (FL) and heritage language (HL) speakers have a particularly difficult time with target-like use and successful comprehension of functional morphology. A recent exciting project bridges an important gap in research by focusing on K-12 rather than college-level FL and HL learners. This study of oral narratives collected at the beginning and end of an intensive Russian dual immersion program throws light on language maintenance and effects of re-exposure in international adoptees. My latest project, still in progress, has involved by far the most participants and has the most immediate implications for instruction. We have so far tested 314 FL learners and 35 HL learners of Spanish to see whether low-intermediate learners are able to fully comprehend meaning of a text while attending to grammatical form (or whether such a task is too taxing). In the photo, are my research assistants in the Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab, Joana Kraski and Aleya Elkins, working through the hundreds of test packets.

Research Assistants busy at work.

Research Assistants busy at work.

March 15, 2016
by LTSblog

LTS Faculty Spotlight Belinda Young-Davy

Belinda Young-Davy has been teaching in the LTS Program since it began in 2004. She is also faculty in the American English Institute (AEI).

How are you connected to the LTS program?

I teach the Second Language Teaching Methods class (LT 435/535), and have also taught the Assessment class (LT 549). I really enjoy teaching methods because it gives students who are about to embark on a language teaching career a sense of the history of the field. It also introduces them to the complexity of language learning in a way they may not have thought of before.  The assessment class in also an eye opening experience. Most academic classes, including language classes, still rely heavily on traditional testing such as multiple choice, fill-in the blanks, etc. The assessment course illustrates how to think outside the box when assessing students, and come up with effective, interesting and even fun ways to assess students. The class is also an opportunity to get ideas about how to include students’ input in the assessment process.

What other classes do you teach?

I teach academic writing and oral discourse for the AEIS (Academic English for International Students), which is an English language support program for matriculated students. I find teaching writing very interesting because students are not just learning techniques. They are learning how to examine and explore other people’s ideas in a way that may give them insights into other cultures, their own culture, and themselves. In fact, it is not unusual to find that the shy, quiet student who sits in the back of the classroom and is cautious about sharing ideas publicly comes out of his/her shell — on paper, at least — by the end of the term.

What projects have you been involved in?

I have also been a student advisor for AEIS students. Being an advisor gave me a new perspective on international students, which is the students’ own perspective. As an advisor, I have gotten a look at the ‘bigger picture’, which includes how they are adjusting to a different culture, a new educational environment and teachers who have very different expectations of them than they have faced before. That information gives me more information I can use to make my students comfortable in my class, and across campus, so that they can succeed in their goals.

How do you balance your life as a teacher with other activities you care about?

That’s hard. Teaching takes a lot of planning, which means it take a lot of time outside the classroom. In the past I tended to let my teaching responsibilities dominate my “leisure” time such as looking for interesting articles/podcasts, trying to create activities that address different learning styles, and reworking things that didn’t work as well as I had hoped in the previous term. The result is that I found I was spending too much time at the computer on weekends. Now, I schedule “down time” for myself so that I don’t forget to have fun.

What do you think is most important for new language teachers to learn or experience?

Patience. Sometimes in our haste to give our students the skills they need we can overwhelm them by going too fast or trying to do in the first weeks of a class. We have so many ideas and activities we can’t wait to bring to the classroom. That means that our good intentions can result in overwhelming our students or failing to get a good idea of who they are as individuals, and listening to their voices. However, if we slow down and take a couple of weeks to get to know who our students are as individuals, we can be much more effective teachers. We might find out, for example, that some of the activities we had planned would be more suitable for a more out-going class, or that they need to be more challenging for a highly motivated group. So, I believe focusing first on who our students are and what they need makes us better language facilitators.

What advice do you have for graduate students coming into the MA program?

February 22, 2016
by LTSblog

Faculty Spotlight Julie Sykes

Julie M. Sykes is the Director of the Center for Applied Second Language Studies ( at the University of Oregon. In the LTS program, she teaches courses on the teaching and learning of second language pragmatics and technology and language learning.

How are you connected to LTS?


For this post, I thought it would be fun to play some word association to start.

Language: people, the world, communication

Teaching: fun, rewarding, challenging

LTS: amazing students and colleagues, fostering amazing teachers

CASLS: great place to work

UO: beautiful, outdoors, green, Go Ducks!

Innovation: important, exciting, whiteboards are critical!

What are you teaching?

In Winter, I typically teach LT610: Second Language Pragmatics, a course in which we explore the ways meaning is communicated through language. In doing so, we examine our own communication practices as well as ways to help learners build their communication skills through the interpretation and expression of intended meaning. For example, did you know speakers of Spanish typically refuse an invitation three times or that the expression “Hey, we should have coffee sometime.” Isn’t typically intended as an invitation.


How does what you teach connect to your research?

My research examines the ways we can utilize innovative tools and techniques to foster second language pragmatic development. Our (and by our, I mean the amazing team of people I get to work with on a daily basis) two most recent projects have examined the impact of using synthetic immersive environments and place-based augmented reality games for the learning and teaching of L2 pragmatics. You can check out more about some of these projects through Mentira (, Ecopod ( and Games2Tach (


What do you like about working with graduate students?

Pretty much everything. They are passionate, interesting, dedicated, and focused on the goal at hand. The classroom (used to mean buildings, neighborhoods, offices, coffee shops) is one of my favorite places to be. I am really grateful for a job I love. Students are a huge part of that!

January 15, 2016
by LTSblog

LTS faculty spotlight Melissa Baese-Berk

Melissa Baese-Berk is faculty in the Linguistics Department whose research focuses on 2nd language speech perception and production. She will be teaching a seminar in Spring that is open to LTS students.

How are you connected to the LTS program?

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I’m passionate about understanding how people learn languages and discovering how learning languages impacts cognition and our use of our first language. Although my research is more theoretically oriented, I am also very interested in the applied implications of the theoretical findings. I love working with students from various backgrounds to better inform my research questions, and hopefully to help inform their teaching practice!

What do you think students get out of the LTS program?

I think the LTS program has a number of strengths, including the support of a cohort. However, I think our greatest strength is the diversity of students and student interests in the program. Students are hoping to teach a variety of languages in a variety of settings after the program. Because of this, our students leave the program being quite well rounded, having thought not just about their target language and target context, but about language teaching much more broadly.

What advice do you have to applicants to the program this year?

I would encourage students to think about what they want from a graduate program and to try to convey that to the admissions committee. I’m always excited when an applicant makes it clear that they understand what our program offers and demonstrate how our offerings will help them achieve their goals.



December 17, 2015
by LTSblog

Faculty Spotlight Robert Davis (Romance Languages)

Robert Davis is professor of Spanish and Director of Language Instruction in the Department of Romance Languages. From 2009 to 2014, he was the director of the Middlebury at Mills Spanish School (at Mills College, Oakland CA), a language immersion program of the Middlebury Language Schools.

What is your connection to LTS students/the LTS program?

As one of the applied linguists on campus, I collaborate with the LTS faculty and occasionally have LTS students in my classes on Spanish linguistics. We have also had LTS students in Romance Languages as Graduate Teaching Fellows, and it has been a pleasure to work with these students who are so motivated to become language teachers. We are working on promoting the idea of a concurrent LTS-Romance Languages degree, which would offer students a GTF position while they complete two MAs in the two departments.

Could you tell us about your work in language pedagogy and Spanish linguistics?

My training was in both formal and applied linguistics, and since coming to UO, I have focused on applied topics. My specialty is the creation of language learning materials within the frameworks of content-based instruction and interculturality.

What do you enjoy most about working with graduate students? 

I always learn so much from my graduate students! In my most recent methods class, they designed action research projects that touched on topics from diverse learning styles to improving pair/group interactions in the L2 classroom. Their passion and hard work are always inspiring to me, and it’s a honor to be able to prepare the next generation of language teaching professionals.

What do you think is most important for new language teachers to remember? (video response below)


December 3, 2015
by Annelise Marshall

Student Spotlight: Christopher Daradics


“This photo caught me in the act of describing exactly how one goes about catching a unique rabbit. I’m a repeat grad student (MA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College) with a strong bias for visual communication and design. I love soup, cleaning my house, and find myself playing unrelenting zookeeper to the various wildlife I encounter lurking around my neighborhood.”– Christopher Daradics

Why did you choose to enter the LTS program?
After teaching, in one form or another, for over a decade I’d never felt entirely satisfied being constrained to a single context. I was looking for a way to integrate my passion for teaching with my other major life interests: international travel; graphic, communication, and experience design; and language(s). The LTS program presented itself as an opportunity to integrate my core strengths and passions and work my way towards a career in curriculum design.
What is it like doing the LTS program with years of experience teaching in a different context?
Wow, this is a tough question to answer. It’s both orienting and disorienting, I guess. Often in life I find myself approaching things from an unconventional position, my teaching practice included. Although I see this as one of my strengths, having a creative mind and strong point of view, the LTS program is grounding me in the professional context and community of international language education. Another way of putting it would be to say that the LTS program is affirming and building on what I’m good at while at the same time bolstering and filling in the gaps where I need some work.
Tell us about your internship this term.
This term I had the distinct privilege of interning with the American English Institute on campus in an English for Academic Purposes writing course. Much like my last answer, it’s been encouraging to see how directly my experience teaching in other contexts translates to this setting. Along the same lines,  it has been a huge delight to work with such talented and professional folks at the AEI.
What are you most looking forward to in your remaining time in the program?
The truth of it is, I’m having a blast. Classes have been great, our instructors are phenomenal, there are some upcoming electives that I’m hoping will blow my mind. But, it would be a lie to not say, loud and clear, that I’m most looking forward to digging into my capstone project. I can hardly stop thinking about it, and not because I’m stressed, but because I’m so dang excited. Like I said before, I’ve come to this program in order to integrate my primary passions and my capstone project is doing just that.


October 26, 2015
by LTSblog

Faculty spotlight Trish Pashby


What is your connection to the LTS Program?

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching in the program since its beginning in 2004 and was director for four years (2007-2010). I love my colleagues, who are a very talented group of teacher educators, and the students we serve: new and/or developing language teachers from all over the world. I also teach at UO’s American English Institute, where a number of graduates from the LTS program are now employed. It’s wonderful to see evidence everyday of their success as professional, skilled, creative, enthusiastic language teachers.

What courses do you teach?

Currently I’m teaching LT 528 (Teaching Culture & Literature), where we explore culture from a sociolinguistic perspective and work on approaches for effectively bringing culture and various kinds of literature into language instruction. The other course I regularly teach is LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation). In this class, we study English phonetics/phonology, focusing on both segmental and suprasegmental features, and then apply this knowledge to a teaching context: What do our learners need? How can we provide this? In both courses, we work as a group on principles and basic approaches but students must then apply these to their individual teaching contexts to demonstrate mastery of the subjects and ability to adapt these to their learners.

What do you like best about your work in the LTS Program?

The people! I love working with colleagues and students who are motivated, open-minded, curious, and willing to work hard. I also really appreciate the opportunity it gives me to continuously increase my knowledge. I learn as I prepare to teach my courses (keeping up with new research, developments in the field, etc.), but I learn even more from what the students bring to the courses (their ideas, their experiences) and the innovative approaches they come up with when interacting with the coursework.

I hear you’ve had some interesting international experiences this past year…

Yes, this past year has been especially exciting. I traveled to Pakistan twice, where I visited Karakorum International University in Gilgit as part of their partnership with UO (through the U.S State Dept.). My job there was to work on faculty development in terms of teaching and publishing in English. I also had a quick trip to Colombia where I facilitated a 3-day workshop for faculty at Universidad Del Norte in Baranquilla. And then at the beginning of September I was in Egypt for two weeks working with faculty at Ain Sham University in Cairo to create a certificate program for English language teachers. I loved all of these adventures!

Do you have any advice for LTS students?

October 12, 2015
by LTSblog

Faculty spotlight Deborah Healey

Could you tell us a little bit about your connection to the LTS program?

I have taught in the LTS program and online teacher education courses from the American English Institute since I came to the University of Oregon in 2009. Appropriate use of technology in teaching is a passion of mine. I’ve done workshops in a wide range of countries and contexts to encourage teachers to understand the technology available to them – and what might be available in future – so that teachers can make good choices about the resources they use.

Could you briefly describe the course you teach?

I teach the Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Workshop in Fall and Winter terms. The courses are designed to give a sense of ways that technology can be used to achieve teaching and learning goals, both as an LTS student and as a language teacher. Aside from our learning management system, Canvas, the CALL course uses freely-available resources that are accessible outside the UO so that LTS grads will be able to take what they’ve worked on and use it wherever they go.

What is the best part about your work?

I greatly enjoy the way that the different aspects of my professional life fit together. Currently, I’m co-teaching a massive open online course (MOOC) with Jeff Magoto and Elizabeth Hanson-Smith. We co-developed the two 5-week courses that have been taken by over 50,000 people in the past two years. I’ve also developed and taught several fully online courses to English language teachers around the world, and I’ve been privileged to give workshops internationally as an Academic Specialist with the US Department of State. My face-to-face teaching has benefitted from all of this. Sometimes I can see the results of the work, as with the Gabon Oregon Center project. I did teacher training in Gabon with Keli Yerian with the goal of enabling Gabonese teachers to become teacher trainers. This June, that paid off with the opening of the Laboratoire de Langue in Libreville, offering general English and teacher training courses and staffed by Gabonese teachers. We were also able to provide an internship opportunity to 2015 LTS alum Tiffany Van Pelt in Gabon, where she is right now.

What advice would you give to LTS students?  (video answer below)

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