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Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

August 15, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Liatris Myers

LTS students can publish too!

Lia Myers graduated from LTS in 2015 and recently published her MA project in the ORTESOL Journal. Her project title was Integrating Instruction on Pragmatically Appropriate English Oral Requests into IEP Courses in the U.S. 

Me hiking in Cocora Valley in the department of Quindío, Colombia.

What was your project about, and what prompted you to consider publishing it?

My project was about teaching pragmatically appropriate English oral requests to adult ESL learners studying English in the United States. Working in the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, I had observed that there was a strong tendency for ESL learners at all language proficiency levels to make oral requests that sounded rude to Americans and that this caused social problems for the learners who did not intend to be rude. I wanted to understand why this situation existed and how it might be resolved. It was Keli Yerian (the LTS Program Director) who suggested publishing the project. She had just read for the first time the chapters where I explained my conclusions from my research and what I was proposing to do, and also my initial draft of pedagogical solutions. Going to meet with her to discuss it, I was really nervous because what I was proposing was very unconventional – I felt it was what my data said needed to be done but I’d never heard of anything like it – and I was worried she would say it was no good. Instead, she said I really had something to contribute to the field and I should publish it. It was one of the proudest moments of my life!

Lia’s article. It is noteworthy that in the same issue another article by LTS faculty Andy Halvorsen and LTS 2018 student Kunie Kellem is also published.

What was the process?

From the time Keli told me I should publish I intended to do it, but after graduation life was very busy starting my teaching career and I didn’t complete the first draft of the manuscript for publication until after my first school year of teaching. However, I’m glad it happened that way because in the intervening time I had the opportunity to gain more practical teaching experience including with some of the techniques I discussed in my project, which enabled me to improve my manuscript with examples and suggestions from the classes I had taught. I first submitted the manuscript to the TESOL Journal, but they rejected it because it didn’t have the type of research they were looking for. I used their feedback to rewrite it and submitted it to the ORTESOL Journal. They responded that it was interesting but they thought it would be more appropriate as an extended teaching note rather than a full-length feature article (the category for which it was submitted) and invited me to rewrite it for the extended teaching note category. So I rewrote and resubmitted it, and the paper was finally published in the 2018 edition of the ORTESOL Journal (available here: https://ortesol.wildapricot.org/Journal2018). So that was three drafts of the manuscript for publication with each draft being reviewed by some combination of Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley (my project advisor), Jim Myers (my dad who has always edited my work), as well as TESOL and ORTESOL reviewers, all of whom gave me feedback to use to revise and improve the manuscript.

How much does your published article resemble your project – what had to change?

The biggest change was I had to make it a LOT shorter. The original project is 143 pages including end materials, but what was finally published is only 10 pages. This meant I had to really distill the project down to the essential points. I also added examples and suggestions from my post-graduation teaching experience and made many changes to both the writing and the content of the manuscript for publication based on feedback from TESOL, ORTESOL, Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley, and my dad, though the core ideas remained the same.

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS, and what are your future plans?

Oh gosh, I’ve done so many things since I graduated from LTS. Besides getting my MA project published, I taught ESL/ESOL at INTO OSU (Corvallis, Oregon) for several months, then at Chemeketa Community College (Salem, Oregon) for seven terms. While at Chemeketa I wrote and piloted the entire curriculum for a new course on basic computer skills for learners who don’t know how to use a computer or who have a low level of English language proficiency or both. It has since been used by several other teachers in Chemeketa’s ESOL program and I’ve had really positive feedback on it. I also presented on integrating instruction of digital literacy skills into ESOL courses focused on other topics such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, etc. at the Fall 2017 ORTESOL Conference. This year at the beginning of January I travelled to Medellín, Colombia to have the experience of moving to a new country where I didn’t really know the language to look for a job. Seven months later I know Spanish well enough to manage my own affairs in the language, have worked at a private school (preschool through high school) in the Medellín area for a few months, and learned to dance (Colombian salsa). In September I’m headed to Japan to teach at a university there until late January. After that, who knows? There’s a whole world of possibilities out there…

The goodbye message, card, and food from the goodbye party that one of my groups of 5th graders gave me on my last day at the school I worked at in Colombia

Any advice you have for current or future LTS students?

In terms of choosing a topic for the project, I recommend identifying a problem in which you are interested, then figuring out why it exists and how to solve it. Later, if you want to publish, have practical experience with your solutions before you write it up for publication and draw on those when writing your manuscript. Be prepared to do much revision and have people around who can read the manuscript and give you good feedback to help you make it better. When you submit it, choose a journal and category that really fits what you have. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional idea that really seems right. It may be the novel approach that’s needed.

July 21, 2018
by LTSblog
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Keli Yerian in South Africa

LTS faculty often travel internationally as part of their work, since language teaching and learning is often very connected to international interactions. This week’s blog feature’s LTS Director Keli Yerian’s unusually far-reaching travel this past week in early July – to the southern tip of Africa in Capetown.

A sculpture of Mandela made of beads

Why were you visiting Capetown?

My research interests are in language and gesture, particularly in how language teachers learn to use their bodies as an integral part of language teaching when the learning context is face-to-face. There is an association called the International Society for Gesture Studies that holds a conference every two years, and this year it was held in South Africa.

Marion and Keli

Did you present at the conference?

This time I presented with my colleague from France, Marion Tellier, which whom I am co-authoring some comparative  research studies with data from our program in LTS, and the MA teacher education program she directs in France. We are noticing some similar patterns of gesture development in both programs, as well as some contrasts that may be related to differing educational and cultural contexts. We are both very interested in how typical co-speech gesture becomes more stylized and conventionalized in specific ways when used in pedagogical situations for depicting content and for serving pragmatic purposes in interaction. Unfortunately we forgot to ask someone to take a photo of us presenting, so I can’t show one here!

Sitting at the top of Lion’s Head – what a climb!

Did you do anything else in Capetown?

For most of the conference, we were always in the same conference hotel. Breakfasts and lunches were all provided there. Unfortunately, exploring around the city after dark was not safe in the heart of the city, so we only went out to dinner in groups to nearby places. The legacy of apartheid was very apparent all around us, and safety issues were just one aspect of this. It was only about 25 years ago that explicit discrimination was ended in South Africa (people of color were denied equal rights in most imaginable ways), and one generation is not enough to change the effects of racism and unequal access to resources and opportunities. We were lucky to meet a few South Africans who talked to us quite frankly about this legacy, which we appreciated.

This is what it looked like climbing up Lion’s Head

vigilant birds of paradise

We did spend the last days combining work with fun trips. Some of us hiked to the top of Lion’s Head, which involved literally climbing up ladders built into the cliffs and pulling yourself up chains, and we visited an animal reserve where we saw lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and elephants. We also went to the very end of the cape – the tip of the continent of Africa – that was impressive! Finally, we visited the famous botanical gardens. The birds of paradise flowers looked like a flock of cranes peering out of the bushes.

It was the middle of winter there, so the weather was cool. Luckily the country had recently had some good rain; there was a water crisis before we arrived that was better by the time we were there, but we still took 30 second showers and didn’t let faucets run. It made me really appreciate the delicious water here in Eugene.

Did I mention the penguins? Yes, penguins in Africa.

I doubt I’ll ever return there, but if any of you get the chance, I recommend it!

July 13, 2018
by zachp
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MA Project Spotlights: Logan Matz and Ngan Vu

This summer term we are highlighting the final M.A. projects of the soon to be graduating LTS cohort members. This week we are pleased to feature Logan Matz and Ngan Vu.

Logan Matz (left) discussing his project idea with LTS faculty Robert Elliot.

Hi Logan! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is a teaching portfolio designed to improve pragmatic competence for international graduate students studying in the US. International students have to meet a certain language proficiency level, but there’s no corresponding assessment for pragmatics in widespread use yet. Grad students have more responsibilities than undergrads, and so they deserve a correspondingly larger amount of help with adjustment to US academic life.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I’ve always been interested in how people use language, and so pragmatics was a natural fit. Several friends of mine have had experiences where they felt less-than compared to native speakers of English in an academic setting, and I don’t think anyone should have to deal with language getting in the way of expression of knowledge. If I can help people show their smarts, and not feel limited by their language skills, then I’ll consider that a success.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

So far, I’ve been trying to put a really big focus on student-created examples for all of my activities. I think that with all the extra work and responsibilities that grad students have to do, on top of the challenge of doing graduate work in your second language, the barrier to entry for getting into the nitty gritty during my activities should be as low as possible. Additionally, the international students in this year’s LTS cohort that I’ve talked to all say that these sorts of activities would be really useful for them. If that’s not a ringing endorsement from the students who would actually benefit from a project like this, I don’t know what is!

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

Try not to die of heat stroke. I’m a frail little Washingtonian. I’d love to summit South Sister before I leave, also!

Ngan presenting her MA Project idea at the graduate student poster session.

Hi Ngan! What is your M.A. project about?

My project is a teaching portfolio focusing on using extensive reading as source texts to support writing fluency.

How did you become interested in this topic?

My interest comes from my personal experiences as an international student studying overseas. I struggled considerably in an English composition class when I first came to the United States and tried hard to figure out how to adapt to the writing conventions in another language. Therefore, I would like to find a way to make writing less intimidating for ESL/EFL learners and let them know that they all have the capability to be a good writer in their own way.

As LTS faculty member Jeff Magoto asks, in your opinion, what is the coolest/most interesting part about your project?

The coolest/most interesting part… I don’t have a specific answer for this question. I just feel that I am currently working with many variables, experimenting with new concepts and trying to put those into a concrete portfolio. How my project looks like at the end is still a mystery for me at this moment but I hope it is beneficial.

Anything on your Eugene summer bucket list?

I would like to hike more and spend more time enjoying the beauty of Eugene with friends in the summer. Time flies.

April 14, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Emily Letcher

Emily in Mexico – Celebrating Day of the Dead!

This week’s post highlights Emily Letcher, who graduated in 2016 from LTS. Emily began thinking about a future in language teaching as an undergraduate at UO, taking Second Language Acquisition and Teaching classes. She finished her MA degree with a project titled, “Teaching Interlanguage Pragmatics of Disagreement in a Secondary EFL Context Using Film and TV Shows”, and took off to Thailand to teach middle school before settling in Mexico at a university.

What is your life like now, almost 2 years after graduating from LTS?

From Eugene, Oregon to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok to Miahuatlan, Mexico…I grew up in a city of 160,000 people, moved to another of over 8 million, and then decided to settle down in a relatively unknown, southern city in Mexico of about 45,000. I say “settle down” because I now live with my five adopted dogs. All of them are former street dogs here, each with their own story. It’s not always easy to care for them, but it’s definitely worth it.

One of Emily’s rescue dogs playing in the yard

What did you do in Thailand?

Emily with students in Bangkok

Through LTS internships with the US-Thai Distance Learning Organization, which had brought Thai high school students to Oregon several times, I was fortunate enough to make a strong connection with Thailand before even setting foot there. After graduation, I went to Assumption College Thonburi and taught for six months in their English program. Shortly after I arrived, the beloved King of Thailand, Rama IX, passed away. I witnessed an amazing movement of unity and mourning within the country. Bangkok was a whirlwind experience of culture and learning for me.

Traveling in Thailand

What has turned out to be most useful for you from SLAT/LTS?

I’ve just recently completed my first year as a professor at La Universidad de la Sierra Sur (UNSIS). Students here must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a lot of what we do is to prepare students for that exam. It’s a good challenge for me as a teacher, one that I enjoy. In the LTS program, I focused on curriculum design, so I was extremely excited about, and grateful for, the opportunity here to dive right in and do meaningful curriculum work. I recently wrote a textbook for our first-year, accelerated graduate program. Now I am teaching the course. It’s amazing to me to go through the entire cycle, beginning with those lessons in LTS, to stepping out on my own and developing a full-fledged project, to putting it into practice in a classroom and seeing its results.

Centro de Idiomas at UNSIS -the English department

Do you have any advice or thoughts for current and future students?

Always be open to new opportunities. It may be a tired phrase, but it’s true. I could never have predicted moving to Miahuatlan de Porifirio Diaz, Mexico. It certainly wasn’t part of my ‘grand plan’. I came here with the idea of staying for a short time, but found so much more worth staying for.

A parade in Oaxaca – a city with a rich and artistic culture, two hours from Miahuatlan.

June 30, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Jiyoon Lee

Student Spotlight – Jiyoon Lee

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What work have you done? Any hobbies?

I was born in Cheongju, South Korea, but when it was time to go to university, I moved to Seoul, and I lived there for almost ten years. I majored in Korean language and literature and journalism, and in my last year of university, I got the Korean language teaching version of a TEFL certificate at another university. After graduation, I started working teaching both Korean and English to speakers of other languages at a community welfare center and an NGO. I also worked in program administration managing language classes and tests at a university and at a couple foreign resource centers for the city of Seoul. During that time, I met my husband Chris, and we decided to move to America and apply for graduate schools. We spent almost nine months in Denver, Colorado before coming here to Eugene.

I have quite a few hobbies. I really enjoy going to see movies in the theater. My favorite movies are horror movies and thrillers like the Korean movie The Wailing(곡성) or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I like romantic comedies too. I also like baking and cooking. I always find baking to be a good stress relief when school gets too stressful. Recently, I’ve also started gardening. This is the second year in a row that we planted a vegetable garden in our backyard. I’m surprised how well we can grow tomatoes and other vegetables in our garden.

 

What was your experience being a Graduate Employee for the Korean department at the UO like?

Being a GE at UO was a great experience. This was the first time that I was able to teach Korean outside of Korea, so working with the undergraduate students was a lot of fun. But, I have to say that being a student and a teacher at the same time is pretty challenging. I think the biggest challenge was adapting to a new student culture. To be honest, it was a bit intimidating at first. However, if I look back at my experience, I can see how the LTS program helped me improve my teaching ability and build my confidence over the two terms I was a GE. I learned a lot about second language teaching in my LTS courses, and I was able to use that information to help improve my teaching. Also, the cohort and the faculty from both the LTS, and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments were really supportive and they gave me some good advice for some of the challenges I had while teaching. I still see my former students around campus or in Eugene, and they always politely say “hi (안녕하세요)” to me by bowing and speaking in Korean. I’m always impressed by their correct honorific usage and culturally appropriate behavior, so I can tell that they had a good GE teacher. 😉 I’m looking forward to teaching them in second year Korean this fall.

 

Could you tell us a little bit about what you are focusing on for your Master’s project?

Actually, I’m pretty busy right now because I’m working on both my MA project and a publication with Dr. Brown in the EALL department about Korean speech-style use in the marketplace. Luckily, I’ve been able to focus a lot of my LTS coursework on my MA project.

For my MA project, I’m designing a Korean as a second language course for English-speaking husbands of Koreans living in Korea. When I got married to Chris, I saw that the language that he was learning in the textbook and in his Korean academy wasn’t really helping him communicate with my family or to perform daily tasks in Korean society. I belong to a forum of Korean women who are married to foreign spouses, and they often say similar things about their husbands. So, I found a need, and I’m designing my project to fulfill the need of teaching functional survival language skills and sociocultural competence for English-speaking husbands of Koreans. It’s a lot of fun to think about new ways to help the husbands learn about Korean family communication using problem-based learning.

 

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since joining the LTS program?

I can’t really say that something is the most valuable because I’ve learned a lot of valuable things in this program. Of course I’ve learned a lot of practical aspects about teaching language and about developing assessments and language courses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the purpose of a cohort. I wasn’t familiar with the cohort system until I came to UO, but I think the cohort is a really amazing thing because everyone is very supportive of each other. I’m pretty shy and introverted in general, but I’m amazed at how many people help me by giving me feedback on projects or assignments, or when I give presentations. Their support has helped me to build confidence in myself as a non-native English-speaking graduate student. Graduate school is hard, and I think it’s even harder as an international student because of the linguistic and cultural differences, especially for someone who hasn’t had experience studying in an English-speaking university like me. However, just by being in classes with the cohort makes me feel like we are all in it together, and it helps to motivate me to continue to work hard in my studies. Also, the faculty has all been really kind and helpful, and I value how much they have supported my development as a Korean teacher, and in helping me find opportunities.

August 3, 2016
by Annelise Marshall
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MA Project Spotlight: Emily

EmilyLetcher (1 of 1) (1)Emily Letcher is from the Eugene area and is an alumnus of both the University of Oregon and the Second Language Acquisition & Teaching (SLAT) certificate program. This Fall she will begin teaching in Bangkok, Thailand.

What is the title of your MA project?

Teaching Interlanguage Pragmatics of Disagreement in a Secondary EFL Context Using Film and TV Shows

Why did you choose this topic?

I am very passionate about the study and use of critical thinking, logic and argumentation, both as a personal interest and also as a skill that I think ought to be taught. Before I began the LTS program, I had recently returned from Italy, where I was teaching debate in several of my high school conversation classes. That wonderful experience, and the students themselves, impressed upon me just how capable and enthusiastic our young adult students are at voicing their different beliefs and tackling contemporary issues. I don’t just want students to be able to express their opinions behind a podium though, I want them to be able to do so interpersonally, at an everyday, conversational level, and even when their opinion differs from the other person’s.

Of course, students do this in their own language already, but trying to disagree in a foreign language, with speakers of that language, opens up a whole new can of worms. There are so many sociocultural factors that go into deciding how to say what you say in order to have successful communication. Were you polite? Were you too direct? The quality of the argument you put forth won’t matter as much if you are not aware of these unwritten “rules” that are shared and understood by people from that language culture. I developed this project in order to provide concrete ways to help students recognize these pragmatic issues and choose how to respond to them, so that they will hopefully be able to more confidently and successfully express themselves in English.

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What do you like best about your project?

My project uses film and TV shows as the main method to teaching students about disagreement.
Films and TV shows are very important to me because of how they reflect our perceptions of reality and also project our ideals for it. They may not always be very academic, but I think they have the potential to reach and connect more people than anything else does, and that makes them invaluable. I could say so much more but I will simply say that I am very happy to be able to incorporate this huge part of my life into my project.

What advice would you give to future students about the MA project?

Choose something that you are passionate about, not because you’ll be spending every waking hour thinking about it, which you will, but because this is one of the best opportunities for you to learn more about something specific that interests you and to apply it in a way that is meaningful not just for you but for a whole audience. As a teacher, you will always be in a position to influence and inspire students. Regardless of whether you use this project with your students though, this is an immediate, tangible opportunity for you to also influence and inspire your current and future colleagues and possibly even the academic field. I have been inspired by all my cohort members’ work and am very proud to be graduating with them.

April 6, 2016
by Annelise Marshall
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Student Spotlight: Siri

Meet Sirilak Sitthiwong, or Siri. After working as an English teacher/military officer at the Royal Thai Armed Forces Language Institute, Thailand, for 3 years, she got a scholarship from the Armed Forces to pursue her master’s degree. After graduation, she will go back there to resume her job. Currently, she is working as a Thai teacher at the Yamada Language Center, where there are currently 7 students in the community.

siri

Why did you come to the LTS program?

After having taught English in Thailand for quite some time and learned how to teach mostly by doing and trying things out, I got a great opportunity to come here and acquire knowledge and experience through more principled approaches. When I was looking for an MA program and university, the LTS program stood out as it suits my needs and interests. One of the planned missions that I will have to do is to teach Thai to military personnel from ASEAN countries and the program offers a flexibility to focus on any and more than one language. Fortunately, I have not only developed Thai lessons for some LTS courses but also have a chance to really teach Thai for the first time at the Yamada Language Center through Keli’s recommendation. The fact that LTS is an intensive and comprehensive program also allows me to go back and resume my job in a timely manner.

 

What is it like participating in the LTS program as an international student?

Being an international student who learns English and how to teach English at the same time is a very rewarding experience. While gaining more in-depth theoretical and methodological foundation, I’m learn other interesting aspects of American English and am amazed by how little I know about American pragmatics. I feel so lucky to be among friends who are very supportive and understanding and whom I can ask many questions about their language, no matter how small it is.  I was quite prepared for the cultural difference and how I should handle that before I came here, but I did not expect the difference to be this much valued by friends and teachers in terms of language acquisition. Having a culturally different context from many others helps me reflect on what I think will work and what will not for my students when I develop lesson plans, course design, and currently my MA project.

 

Tell me about your work with the Yamada Language Center. What has been most rewarding about working in the YLC?

Teaching Thai at the YLC gives me opportunities to put what I learn from the LTS program into practice almost immediately. As part of my teaching, I tell my students what I’m working on this term and ask them if they are interested in doing what I come up with. They are quite happy to be my guinea pig and give me valuable feedback. Fall term was my first time teaching Thai and since then I have learned a lot about my own language. To plan my lessons, I don’t have any textbook to follow and if I had it, it would not help me much anyway because my students (initially as small as five) have their own individual goals and needs which are very different from each other. I learned about backward design from my working experience here and that happened even before I knew it was called ‘backward design’. Creating materials and activities from scratch is what I find the most enjoyable and the ones that the students helped me create in turn engaged them the most.

I have total beginners and some intermediate students who have been to Thailand before. At first, I hesitated to put them together because I did not know how to manage a mixed-level class effectively, but Jeff recommended it so that I had more time to do my regular LTS studying. I was struggling with the differentiation at first and I felt it was too cumbersome that I decided to separate them according to their levels. I was lucky that I had a Thai friend to help me out. After giving it many tries and finally hearing from the students that they learned a lot from working across levels, I felt a lot more confident and keep this practice. Being in a friendly environment with a very supportive boss like Jeff and nice colleagues, I have discovered a great deal about language teaching, which is different but complementary to my role as an English teacher back in Thailand.

 

What is your MA project about, and why did you choose this topic?

My project is about using films and TV series to develop oral skills proficiency. This type of materials is always of my interest and passion because they are what I learned English from. I remembered dreaming about studying abroad, seeing what I saw in the movies and talking to the people I heard from the movies . It was this dream that drove me to put more effort when it came to studying English. While many people think of films as materials for practicing vocabulary and listening skills, which can be done at home, I see them as contextually rich resources for speaking skills as well. Especially with some careful guidance, films can be triggers for various conversations. I’m also interested in cultural/pragmatic aspects that students can learn from watching films. Many of them reflect real life that has not been very well presented in textbooks.

February 22, 2016
by LTSblog
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Faculty Spotlight Julie Sykes

Julie M. Sykes is the Director of the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (casls.uoregon.edu) 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 (http://www.mentira.org/the-game), Ecopod (https://casls.uoregon.edu/student-programs/residential-immersion/) and Games2Tach (games2teach.uoregon.edu).

 

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 2, 2016
by LTSblog
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MA Project Spotlight Maile Warrington

IMG_0124

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.

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.

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