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Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

January 2, 2016
by LTSblog
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MA Project Spotlight Maile Warrington

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Maile Warrington just finished her capstone MA project in the LTS program, titled “Authentic Japanese Media Materials for Teaching Keigo (Honorific Speech) and Different Speech Styles to JFL Learners”.

What is your MA project?

I developed a teaching portfolio that provides options for Japanese instructors to teach keigo (Japanese honorifics/honorific speech) to college intermediate to advanced-level students through authentic Japanese media materials, specifically authentic contemporary Japanese talks shows and comedy shows.

Why did you choose this topic?

Using appropriate keigo and speech styles is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. However, ironically, it is usually not taught in balance and is said to be the one of the most difficult language aspects to acquire. I was a Japanese language Graduate Teaching Fellow for almost two years, and got many comments from students and teachers about how hard and challenging it is to both learn and teach appropriate speech styles only through the textbook. Many students will talk to their instructors using inappropriate speech styles and thus are “rude” unintentionally. From these experiences, I started to think that there should be a way to teach honorifics and different speech styles meaningfully and interactively using materials other than the traditional textbook.

What advice would you give new LTS students about their own MA projects?

The most important advice I would like to give new LTS students about the project is to try to decide the topic as soon as possible so that they can start gathering related research and literatures about that topic in the earlier stage of their program. I also advise students to (this might be something that I don’t even have to mention) choose the topic that most interests them so they can maintain their motivation throughout the program. Another advice is to use and manage their time efficiently, especially at the end of the program when they are trying to finish up their project.

What do you like most about your portfolio?

One of the things that I like about my project is how I used authentic Japanese talk shows and comedy shows as a material to teach different honorifics and speech styles instead of movies or dramas that are more common to be incorporated in language classes. I also liked how many of my activities for this portfolio could serve as “stand-alone” activities, which Japanese instructors could pick, modify, and integrate in their pre-developed daily lessons.

November 19, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Yanika Phetchroj

My name is Yanika Phetchroj, from Thailand. I enrolled in the LTS program in summer 2009 and graduated the following summer.

What and where are you teaching now?

Now I’m teaching English at the English Department at Thammasat University, the second oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand. I 644227_212153002263945_1461405675_nhave been teaching here for three years. My students are undergraduates from various departments and years. The classes that I normally teach are English Listening and Speaking, Reading for Information, Paragraph Writing, English Structure, and English for Hotel Personnel.

What was your MA project about?

My MA project was “Activities and techniques for improving oral skills in Thai high school EFL classes”. I did this because I have strong interest in teaching oral skills. Also, from my experience as a learner and as a native Thai speaking teacher of English, I found that Thai students have problems when it comes to English speaking and listening skills. Most Thai students start learning English with native Thai speaking teachers who teach English by emphasizing grammatical rules (the traditional Grammar Translation Method), and oral skills are overlooked. Thai ELT teachers predominantly speak Thai in the English classroom and most of the major examinations such as the university entrance examination only test students’ understanding of English grammar and their reading skills. Also, many Thai teachers find it difficult to teach English speaking skills since they don’t have a native accent. The consequence from this is thIMG_0489at after many years of learning English, Thai students still can’t speak English. After taking classes in the LTS program, I was enthusiastic to do something that could improve Thai students’ oral skills and help Thai teachers teach English oral skills with confidence and comfort. So, my project combined many activities that Thai teachers can use in their classrooms to help their students learn and practice oral skills. These activities have been adapted and designed especially for Thai students.

What did you find most valuable from the LTS program? What did you learn in LTS that are you using as a teacher now?

Since I didn’t have any background knowledge in the second language acquisition before I entered the program, everything seemed new to me. Right from the beginning, it was very useful to learn the different principles and methods of language teaching. For me, I grew up with Grammar Translation Method, so it was the only way of teaching and learning English that I knew. When I learned about CLT, Communicative Language Teaching, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to apply this method to my future classes. Another favorite class of mine was Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). I had so much fun exploring new technology that could help me teach. Nowadays, I still use some of the programs I learnt from that course in my classroom. As a teacher now, I have found myself using what I learnt from the Curriculum and Materials Development class most. Every semester I have fun creating new materials and supplements for my students based on current issues and on my students’ interests.

What did you find most challenging when you were a new teacher?

When I started teaching, I found that it was very difficult to stick to my class plan. Some activities took longer than I expected and it turned out that I couldn’t finish what I had planned at first. I also think that besides a teacher, students can make the class very enjoyable or so bland too. Some activities that I thought would be interesting to students turned to be boring. So, I had to make some changes right away. I also found that what works for some students doesn’t work for others. Some activities or teaching techniques may work well one semester, but don’t work at all the next semester with different groups of students. So it is important to find out what students like or are interested in as fast as I can to design the activities that suit them the most. 

What advice would you give current students in the program?

My advice from me will be that everyone should find the areas they are interested in the most as soon as they can, such as teaching, designing testing and assessment, or developing curriculum and materials. Because when they know your interest, they can make use of every class by doing assignments or reading something relating to it, and that will help them and their MA project a lot. Also, since the students in the LTS program are so diverse, they should take this opportunity to exchange their thoughts and experiences with their classmates who may come from different countries and culture in order to learn more and expand their knowledge.

 

 

November 17, 2015
by LTSblog
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Student Spotlight Seung Eun Kim

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SeungEun Kim is originally from Korea. Like Sue Yoon (see our earlier blog post in November), she is pursuing an MA in LTS and an MA in East Asian Languages and Literatures at the same time.

You were an English major before entering the LTS program. What attracted you to English?

English was the first language that I fell in love with. So majoring in English was the one thing that I really wanted to do no matter what. Since I like reading literature in both Korean and English, I wanted to spend my undergraduate years reading and exploring my thoughts about the books that I read, and being an English major really made my dreams come true. I was able to spend my years as an undergraduate reading a lot of books, but more importantly, I learned how to read literature from more critical perspectives. I am glad that I have a background in English literature from my years as an undergraduate since I believe it has prepared me for how I will go about educating my future (language) students.

Now you are doing two concurrent MA degrees in LTS and East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL). How did you shift over to a love of Korean as well?

Since being a foreign student here in America, I am proud that my national language of Korean is being taught here. I think my patriotism and love of my culture motivated me a lot to want to teach Korean. Also, as a bilingual speaker, I wanted to be more available to others who are learning Korean. Since I am a native speaker of Korean, I thought it would be great if I could be a source for those studying the language here.

What do you like best about teaching at the university?

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to teach Korean at a university in America. This opportunity has allowed me to collaborate with both international and American students together in my classes. Although my students are from different countries and cultures, and speak different languages, it has been great to see how they come together as Korean language speakers. When the students have the will to learn Korean, their passion for the language and love of Korean culture and literature really boost their improvement and are a great source of motivation. Moreover, teaching at the university is even more special to me because not only can I teach, but I can continuously increase my knowledge as well.

What is your idea for your MA project you will do in LTS?

I am interested in teaching language using literature. I am researching how literature as an authentic material should be used in the language classroom and appropriately chosen depending on the students’ language proficiencies.

What advice would you give applicants who might want to do concurrent MA degrees like you are?

The first advice I would give someone, based on my own experiences, is to believe in yourself when you are very busy and things are extremely stressful from all the classwork that you have to do. You need to stay strong, keep a positive outlook, and believe in yourself that you can do it.  Know that you are not alone, and that there are people like the LTS program director, your advisors, and other teachers who are here to help and support us.

September 13, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight Sothy Kea

Sothy Kea was a Fulbright student from Cambodia who graduated in 2014. His MA Project was titled, “An Integrated Oral Skills English Pronunciation Course for Cambodian College Students”. Below he shares his current perspective on what was most useful and memorable from his time in LTS (photo below is at Spencer Butte, Eugene, OR).

What did you want to accomplish when you applied to the LTS program?

When I first applied to the program, I wished to improve my knowledge about English language teaching methodology, research, linguistics, and curriculum design. Upon program completion, I was hoping to provide assistance in revising curricula, conducting workshops, and teaching in the undergraduate and graduate teacher training programs at my workplace: Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh.

KEA Sothy 1What is your teaching or administrative position now?

Now I am holding two positions. I am a university lecturer teaching in a Bachelor’s Degree in a TEFL program and a Master’s Degree in TESOL at the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh. I am also a Language Program Manager at CIA First International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In this position, I am responsible for managing various language programs at the school. At the moment, I am managing the General English Program, and in the future, I will expand this program and develop other language programs.

Now that you have returned home, what do you think was most useful from the LTS program?

The curriculum of LTS Program is of sound quality. A large number of subjects that I took are both directly and indirectly relevant and useful for my current work. For instance, I am currently teaching the same subject of Academic Writing for Graduate Students in MA in TESOL and teaching Applied Linguistics subject in BA in TEFL Program at my university in which a great deal of knowledge and content of English Grammar and Linguistics Principles and Second Language Acquisition courses  are relevant and useful. Plus, working as the Language Program manager, I have to revise the current curriculum and develop new ones. Thus, the Curriculum and Materials Development course and my curriculum design Master’s project are of great help to me. They allow me to analyze the program, effectively identify its problems, and propose feasible solutions. The rest of the subjects in LTS have also indirectly contributed to my understanding about language learning and teaching and better teaching performance.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time in Oregon?

If I could recall, one of my favorite memories in Oregon is my graduation day. This is one of the best moments of my academic life at UO. It marked the achievement of a milestone and the great result of hard work throughout the program. I was so excited to have such achievement and to see my cohort having the same feeling. It was also fantastic to have the presence of my professors, friends, and relatives on this special occasion. The moment I received the certificate on stage was when I thought to myself that “this is the result of not only over one year of sweat and blood at the UO in the USA but also a whole life of education, and I am thankful to all the people who are part of this”.

August 27, 2015
by Tiffany VanPelt
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Internship Spotlight Ben Pearson

Ben Pearson is an LTS graduate student originally from Salem.  Ben’s MA Project is entitled: Using Analog Games to Improve Negotiation Skills in Upper Intermediate Level ESL Learners.

 

What was your internship context?

I chose to take my internship at the Center for Applied Second Language studies, (CASLS). My context was that I’d be working on their blog website called Games2Teach.  My master’s project is about using games in a classroom setting to teach pragmatics and I took a class from Julie Sykes, the CASLS director, on that topic in the winter.  I asked her if there was any way I could intern with CASLS, and she said she had a position available.  I worked on the Games2Teach site and also creating materials, lesson plans, and activities.  It was a really nice, comfortable office setting with a great group of people.

 

What surprised you most about your internship?

One of the most surprising thing about working over at CASLS was how accommodating Julie and all of the staff were there.  It was just a friendly, warm environment, and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all.  Everyone had their own jobs to do, and it was a very supportive atmosphere that really made me feel like part of the team.  Even though I may not be as proficient in a second language as some of my colleagues there, (some of them speaking three or four different languages), I still felt like I had my part to play and that what I was doing was meaningful. That was also surprising.  I was producing content for the InterCom newsletter, and I was creating activities and updating the blog. It was great to be actually putting what I was learning in LTS to use in this great atmosphere.

 

What was the most chBen_Pallenging part of your internship?

One of the challenges of working at CASLS became time management. While doing all of this great work coming up with activities and blogging, I was also in the LTS program, which as you know is a very intensive program where you’re taking about 12-14 credits per term, so time management was a big challenge.  It was something that I had to learn to do well, but I think it was a positive challenge. Before I hadn’t considered myself very good at time management, but having this internship and being in this Masters program I had to learn to do it effectively.  Not to mention, if something really big came up in my academic life, I could talk to my colleagues and flex my schedule.  They were very accommodating and understood that I was a very busy student.  It was definitely tough, but I think I am now better because of it.

 

Would you care to share a memorable moment?

One of the more surprising things that happened to me was when I was asked to write up a game review for Dragon Age: Origins, a recent game that had come out.  Julie had created a template for five different criteria that needed to be addressed in the review.  I was sitting in the office one day playing this video game, and some members of the team came over and starting asking me linguistic questions and discussing how parts of the game could be used for instruction.  I sat there a moment and realized that I play video games on my own time, but I never thought talking about pragmatics and speech acts and linguistic forms would ever mesh up together with that context. It was one of those moments when I realized that I was really interning at the best place for me, and I had never thought that this combination would work! My skill set and my interests were really lining up perfectly.  I really enjoyed interning there, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the program.

July 16, 2015
by Tiffany VanPelt
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MA Project Spotlight Kelsey Hertel

Kelsey is a current LTS student.  Her MA Project is titled:  Integrating American English pragmatic instruction in tourism training programs in Latin America: A materials portfolio.

 

What is your MA Project?

I am creating a materials portfolio that will teach American English pragmatic instruction in tourism training programs in Latin America. The point of this project is to implement my materials into these programs so that tour guides trained there will be able to communicate with American tourists more easily and effectively, ensure quality customer service, and increase their profits.

 

What inspired you to choose this topic?

When I was traveling in South and Central America last year, I did a lot of different tour programs and treks throughout the region.  I noticed a very large disconnect between American English pragmatics and the way the tour guides were communicating with the tourists from the United States.  Because of this, the tourists felt offended at times or felt disrespected – and it wasn’t at all intentional. The tour guides just weren’t aware that their methods of communication were incorrect or inappropriate when speaking English and were creating these unsuccessful transactions with their clients.  I realized then that there was a huge need for this kind of pragmatic instruction in their English and tourism training programs.

 

What is the best thing about your MA Project?  What’s made it challenging?

What advice would you give incoming LTS students about the MA Project?

Pick a topic that you love, that really inspires you, and that you could possibly use in the future.  You will be spending so much time on so many different areas and aspects of this project, that you should love it and love spending the time on it.  Having a personal connection makes it so much more doable, easy, and enjoyable!

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