Check out today’s post about a revolutionary Spanish language learning application called LingroToGo. Featured is Dr. Julie Sykes–our very own LTS faculty member and Director of CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies)–along with a couple LTS students who have worked on the app.
Dr. Julie Sykes presenting to the LTS cohort about CASLS and LingroToGo
Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. Please share with us what makes this APP so special:
LingroToGo is the first comprehensive app that explicitly targets language learning strategies, pragmatics, and function-based language learning. Moving beyond the translation of words and phrases, the app really helps people work on how to use the words and structures they learn in a meaningful way.
What about the pragmatic component of it?
Pragmatics really focuses on the exchanges of meaning and the avoidance of miscommunication whenever possible. It is exciting to see pragmatic components of language treated systematically throughout the app.
And there’s video too?
Yep. There are a robust set of videos that focus on strategies and pragmatics, the two pieces of a language learning curriculum which are often not seen in teaching and learning materials.
Awesome! And just curious, where did the name LingroToGo come from?
The Lingro part of the name comes from our collaborative partner, Lingro Learning and the ToGo piece parallels the name of one of our other tools, LinguafolioToGo, a comprehensive e-portfolio designed for language classroom.
LTS (2017) alum Dan White, who developed the Cryptogram feature of the Lingro App as his Master’s Project, had this to say about his time working on Lingro: “The Lingro App was a very fortuitous opportunity for me, as I was hoping to find a project that revolved around creating a game or puzzle for language teaching. I had never done app development before, but I was familiar with coding. Fortunately, Julie gave me the opportunity, and the app development team were very patient with me as I learned how to develop the Cryptogram. I was so pleased that my contribution made it into the final product, and it really stands out when you are using the app as one of the most challenging features. I can take this app development experience with me in the future, and I look forward to developing my own language apps.”
Current LTS student and CASLS GE (Graduate Employee) Zach Patrick-Riley: “This app is simply revolutionary. It does a perfect job of showing what 21st century education should include; not just a focus on language but strategies for successful interpersonal communication and autonomy building. My favorite part has to be the videos in each section. Maybe I am a little biased because I have helped create a number of them, but they are so fun and engaging to watch! Seriously, check out this app, te va a encantar y aprender español muy rápido.”
Other LTS students who have contributed to this app include Christopher Daradics (2016) and Valeria Ochoa (2017).
LTS 2016 – 2017 Cohort Final Presentation: A Brief Summary
As the 2016-2017 LTS program comes to a close, the presentations are finished and the finalized projects are rolling in! As this year’s cohort gets ready for their next big adventures in the wilds of language teaching around the globe, this final blog post for the Summer 2017 term will provide a brief glimpse of the hard work and dedication the graduates have put into bettering themselves as language educators, and into bettering the world of language education as a whole. If you missed out on the presentations this year, here is a small gallery of snapshots of each presenter’s work!
Women Teaching Women English: A Contemporary Women Writers Course for Female English Language and Literature Students in Egyptian Universities by Devon Hughes
Academic Writing Skills for International Students of Chemistry at a U.S. University by George Minchillo
Farewell to your ‘Inauthentic Chinese’: A Materials Portfolio for Improving CFL Learners’ Pragmatic Competence by Heidi Shi
Marching to Different Drummers: Teaching a Mixed Class of Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners of Russian with Motivation in Mind by Iryna Zagoruyko
Korean as a Second Language for English Speaking Husbands: a Multi-cultural Family Situation-based Curriculum by Jiyoon Lee
An Adaptive Place–Conscious Ichishkíin Materials Portfolio by Joliene Adams
Crafting a Brand in English for English Language Learning (ELL) College Athletes by Juli Accurso
Using TBLT to Address Locative Phrase Word Order Transfer Errors from English L1 to Chinese L2 by Lin Zhu
Deciphering the Cryptogram: A Word Puzzle Supplement to Traditional Lexicogrammatical Acquisition by Dan White
Using Literature to Develop Critical Thinking and Reading Skills in an EFL Class at University by SeungEun Kim
Integrating Service Learning into University Level Spanish Heritage Language Classes in the United States by Valeria Ochoa
A Career Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners in East Asia by Reeya Zhao
Using Graphic Novels and Children’s Literature Books in U.S. 2nd year CFL University Courses by Yan Deng
Creative Writing in the Digital Age: A Course Design for Intermediate ELLs Majoring in English at an American University by Becky Lawrence
Using Podcasts to Teach Academic Listening for International Undergraduate Students through Metacognition: A Flipped Portfolio by Chris Meierotto
As a means of “paying forward” all of the help and support that we received from our professors, fellow classmates, and previous cohorts, the 2016-2017 cohort wrote up a short collection of thoughts and suggestions for future/prospective students regarding the final presentations:
How did it feel leading up to the presentations?
“I was able to learn a lot from the other presentations I saw. I learned how to make a good introduction to my project.” – Yan Deng
“It was definitely nerve wrecking at times. However, by this point in the program, I think us cohort members start viewing ourselves as a productive, contributing members of the field rather than students trying to play catch up, so I also viewed it as a chance to show what I could do as an educator.” – George Minchillo
“I felt great since it was a showcase of all my work, and I was happy to share my project with the cohort and faculty. It was a final milestone, and I tried to do my best for the audience to be interested and engaged in what I was presenting.” – Iryna Zagoruyko
How does it feel to know that you have the presentations behind you?
“I feel good because this was an opportunity to share what I have been engaged in for so long with the audience. After doing so many things during my time in LTS, I still felt supported when preparing for the presentations.” – Lin Zhu
“I feel free at last! However, I do think back to some parts of my presentation that I think could have gone better.” – Heidi Shi
“After doing the 2 year option and finally getting to the end of my final project and presentation, I feel exhilarated, excited, and exhausted! I’d been working on my project for a long time and it has morphed and evolved throughout my time in LTS. To present it in its final form in front of my peers, faculty, friends, and family was such an amazing feeling.” – Becky Lawrence
“It is always a bit sad to be done with anything in life. But, I feel that I did everything I could in my project, and hope very much that it could be useful in teaching mixed classes of Russian. I hope activities from my project will be implemented in the REEES curriculum here at the UO.” – Iryna Zagoruyko
What were the most difficult or the easiest parts of giving the presentations?
“I really tried to focus my presentation on entertaining the audience. I tried to leave out most of the minor details, and instead focus on showing the more ‘flashy’ parts of my project.” – Dan White
“The easiest part for me was making the draft of the slides, because I have so many things that I can pick and choose from my whole project to put in the presentation. The most difficult part was tackling audience questions, because some of them were unexpected!” – Lin Zhu
“The easiest part for me was actually having the chance to show my project! The hardest part was having a lot of information, and choosing which ones I should include in the presentation.” – Yan Deng
“For me, the most difficult part was having the confidence in the work I had done, and in portraying myself as an ‘expert’ in front of experts. The most useful part of the presentation was receiving additional feedback from peers and faculty that could be implemented in the final revisions of the project.” – George Minchillo
Any suggestions for future cohorts?
“For future cohorts, I would advise you to start thinking of project ideas early. Be creative, and try to combine your passions and interests with sound language teaching pedagogy. Take advantage of the built-in support of a cohort system, and ultimately just enjoy the process, because it will fly by before you know it!” – Becky Lawrence
“Prepare ahead of time, practice at least five times, and don’t make the slides too text-heavy! Be confident in yourself :)” – Heidi Shi
“Have confidence in the work you’ve done. You will undoubtedly be one of the most well-read and knowledgeable people about your context and materials in the room!” – George Minchillo
“Even though at this stage in the program, you will have completed 98% of your project. However, adequate time should be set aside to prepare for the presentation.” – Lin Zhu
“Enjoy the moment! Be nice to your cohort! They will be the greatest wealth in your academic life.” – Yan Deng
“Definitely be serious about your project! View it not only as an exercise, but strive to do everything possible to ‘break the ground’ in your field and context. Do not underestimate yourself – you have all the potential to create great activities/course designs for somebody to use in their teaching!” – Iryna Zagoruyko
A Fond Farewell
No matter where we go, and no matter what we do in the future, let’s always remember and think back to the knowledge, experience, and camaraderie we shared with one another as we grew into professional educators together. Even if we lose contact, or never find ourselves in a shared space again, we can always provide inspiration to one another to achieve our best, and to work hard to mold the world of academia as we see fit! For these reasons, I believe it is not necessary to say goodbye, but simply to say good luck to the 2016 – 2017 LTS cohort. I know we will all move on to do great things!
Thank you to my cohort members for all of their support! I hope to see you all again soon.
“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt. The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Sarah Murphy with graduates from her Informatica English class
Sarah Murphy graduated from LTS in 2015 and traveled straight to a position she found as an English Professor in Mexico. Her MA Project was ‘An Open Educational Resources Portfolio for Adult Education ESL’.
Where are you working now and what are you teaching?
I’m working at the Universidad de la Sierra Sur in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mexican college students are required to complete a foreign language requirement in order to graduate, so I teach a variety of college level EFL classes.
What do you like best about what you do?
I love this job. It’s not without its challenges. Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico, and it can really be a hustle to make things work well. Having said that, I love my work. Our students come from tiny pueblos all over the state. More than 80% of them are first generation university attendees here on scholarship. It means a lot to me to work with these determined young people who are making this massive life change and socioeconomic leap. It’s just exciting to be a part of what they’re doing.
Additionally, the students bring me salsa made from flying ants, so my life is not dull.
What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching now?
Everything! I mean it. From writing exams to structuring classes and designing curriculum, I’ve used it all so far. I can’t think of any course that hasn’t been useful to me.
Maybe the most valuable skill I learned was how to grow a language learning course based on the needs of the learner (thank you, Keli!). Since entering the world of EFL, I’ve worked with many seasoned profs who were just never exposed to the process of designing courses based on a needs analysis or problematizing a context to exploit its specific advantages and tackle those inevitable obstacles. I am so grateful to have been trained in context-specific instruction and course design. It has informed every good decision I’ve made as a teacher.
Sarah with her enfermerfia English class graduates
Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?
Well, I would say that you just never know what skills you’ll need to use in your future contexts, so absorb as much as you can.
I also think that transition from grad school to actual instruction can be a little awkward for some new teachers, so I can offer my perspective on being a newbie. There are no ideal contexts out there! New teachers can be really keen to affect positive change, and that’s as it should be. But listening and learning is also an important part of the first years of teaching (or just teaching in a new context). The LTS gives grads an amazing toolbox; teaching is about learning how to apply them well.
Don’t rush the process. Experiment and pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t. Collaborate with other teachers and participate in observations as much as possible. I’m such a different teacher than I thought I’d be, and that’s a good thing!
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.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?
I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!
You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?
Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.
Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.
Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?
My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!
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?
Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.
One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.
Video Blog Update!
Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!
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.
Heritage language learners in language classrooms – Anna Mikhaylova
A widely cited broad definition of heritage speakers in the US by Valdés (2001) includes individuals raised in homes where a language other than English is spoken, who are to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language and, who also have a personal interest or involvement in an ancestral language. Polinsky and Kagan (2007) offer a narrow definition of heritage language as the language which was sequentially first, but may not have been completely acquired due to the speaker’s shift to another language as their dominant means of communication. The latter distinction suggests that, like foreign language learners, heritage speakers may differ in their proficiency levels. Kagan and Dillon (2004) outline the following “matrix” for programs targeting heritage language learners: proper placement; time on task; programmatic rigor; specific instructional materials; an uninterrupted, comprehensive curriculum; instructors trained in heritage language acquisition; a multi-year sequence; consideration of the home/community native speaker environment; and a metalinguistic framework that raises awareness of the importance of grammatical accuracy and register (p.100).
The National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA has many useful resources for both teachers and linguists interested in working with heritage language learners. One of the center’s big projects, led by Maria Carreira and Olga Kagan was a national survey of 1732 heritage speakers of 22 different heritage languages across the United States. As a result, the following general profile of an adult heritage language (HL) learner studying the heritage language at the university level was published in 2011. Such a learner (1) acquired English in early childhood, after acquiring the HL; (2) has limited exposure to the HL outside the home; (3) has relatively strong aural and oral skills but limited literacy skills; (4) has positive HL attitudes and experiences; and (5) studies the HL mainly to connect with communities of speakers in the United States and to gain insights into his or her roots.
While some universities do have classes devoted specifically to heritage language learners or even whole programs, like the Spanish Heritage Language Program here at the University of Oregon, more often heritage language learners find themselves in the same classroom with foreign language learners of the same language.
One of the differences (an assumed advantage) observed for heritage language speakers of various languages over foreign language learners is that the former are exposed to the target language naturalistically from birth in family/community contexts while the latter usually post-puberty and in instructed contexts. From this often assumed definitional difference stem other common observations about heritage speakers being usually stronger in oral skills than in literacy-based reading and writing, having a stronger cultural connection, a larger vocabulary and greater focus on meaning than on form in language use, while second language speakers are believed to have stronger reading and writing skills and metalinguistic knowledge and greater attention to form with noticeably weaker oral fluency. While, unfortunately to date there are not too many empirical studies that test effectiveness of instruction, but those that do find that instruction is useful for both types of learners.
Based on these observations, a number of scholars (Beaudrie, Ducar, and Potowski (2014) among others) have called for different or at least differentiated instructional and research methodology approaches targeting the two types of learners. For example, Kagan and Dillon (2009) suggest that macro-based (top-down) and discourse based teaching is more suitable for HL learners in instruction of grammar and vocabulary than the bottom-up grammar/vocabulary to function teaching often used in L2 contexts. Carreira & Kagan (2011) argue for a community-based curriculum, which incorporates materials and types of activities that help learners connect to their experiences in the U.S.
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C. & Potowski, K. 2014. Heritage Language Teaching: Research and Practice. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.
Carreira, Maria. 2011. Formative assessment in HL teaching: Purposes, procedures, and practices. The Heritage Language Journal, 8(1).
Carreira, M. & Kagan, O. (2011) The Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for teaching, curriculum design, and professional development. Foreign Language Annals, Volume 44, No 1. pp. 40-64.
Kagan, 0., & Dillon, K. (2004). Heritage speakers’ potential for high-level language proficiency. In H. Byrnes & H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 99-112). Boston: Heinle/Thomson.
Kagan, O., & Dillon, K. (2009). The professional development of teachers of heritage language learners: A matrix. Bridging contexts, making connections, 155-175.
Polinsky, Maria, and Olga Kagan. 2007. Heritage Languages: In the ‘Wild’ and in the Classroom. Language and Linguistics Compass 1/5: 368–395
Valdes, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In Peyton, J.K., Ranard, D.A., and McGinnis, S. (eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource. McHenry, IL The Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems. pp. 37-78
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)
Mylece Burling received her BA degree from UO with a major in Romance languages in Portuguese and Spanish. She joined LTS in 2012 and graduated in 2013. Her MA project was titled, “A Teaching Portfolio of Workshop Tasks for Brazilian English Teachers Applying for the HE/Capes Scholarship”. She is shown here (on right, as Malificent, the evil stepmother of Snow White) with another teacher and some of her students at Halloween.
What was your MA project about?
My MA project was a teaching portfolio of English language tasks for English teachers in Brazil. The objective was to help non-native English teachers to navigate the pragmatic and linguistic language barriers of the scholarship application, in order to enable them to continue their professional development as English teachers.
What did you learn in LTS that are you using as a teacher now?
LTS has helped me to begin to develop the ability to effectively select activities and plan lessons that are relevant and useful for my students. It provided a framework that I have been using as a way to structure my lessons. It has helped me to organize and analyze my teaching in a way that I can view my lessons objectively, evaluate and try to change and improve.
What did you find most challenging as a new teacher?
Student motivation. Of course as a new teacher my lessons could be more effective; however, if students are not also somewhat self-motivated they will not learn. The importance of student motivation was something I could not understand without real life teaching experience and it is something I wish I would have spent more time on during LTS. Inspiring one’s students to teach themselves is the ultimate goal of any teacher.
You are now teaching English in Spain, but also pursuing other interests dear to your heart. Can you describe what you are doing, and why you chose Spain?
I first came to Spain through the “Auxiliares de Conversación” program and taught English to all levels in a public elementary school for one year in the city of La Coruña, in the Northwest of Spain. Currently I am teaching English part time at a private academy in Madrid. I teach all levels and all ages from primary to retired adults, absolute beginners to nearly bilingual. Due to the economic situation in Spain many citizens are searching for work outside the country. As English is the language used for communication among citizens of different countries for matters of business and tourism, there is a high demand for English education in Spain. My LTS degree has been indispensable in finding work here as it provides access to better positions in better schools.
In addition to my work I am also studying sculpture at one of the official state-sponsored art schools, for which I moved to the capital, Madrid. After this first year I intend to specialize in wood or stone. Europe is the basis of the history of Western civilization and art. Being in this environment has contributed to my continuing education of art history, providing inspiration and a solid background for my artwork. I intend to stay in school as long as possible, though it has proved considerably more challenging to study art on a professional level than I originally thought.
I also enjoy rock climbing which has been popular in Spain since the birth of the sport in France and is world famous for its limestone cliffs in the northeastern mountain ranges. Last year I was able to find more time to travel and climb, while this year it has been hard to find time for everything.
What advice to you have for current or prospective LTS students?
My advice to current and prospective LTS students is not to forget the importance of your peers as a resource. While you are together try to learn as much as possible from one another.
Patricia is an LTS student originally from Spain. She will be graduating in summer 2015.
In what context did your internship take place?
I did an internship in the Intensive Spanish Grammar Review course in Winter 2015. It was a 300-level class with Sayo Murcia and the group consisted mostly of American students, but I remember there was a student from Europe and also a heritage language learner. The learners were very enthusiastic even if they knew the focus would be grammar. Who said students hate grammar? ☺
What surprised you most about the internship?
The most surprising part of the internship was the fact that students had to present a grammatical point to the rest of the class. I had never tried this in my teaching career, so it was really interesting to see how students found original ways to help their classmates grasp the language features. It was challenging, but it worked really well because the time they spent researching and preparing their topic helped them gain confidence and become experts on it. I remember a pair used a sonnet by Neruda to exemplify a type of subordinate clause – just amazing!
What part of the internship was the most challenging for you?
Well, I love grammar, but I had never taught it outside of an integrated skills class, so it was a new experience for me and that’s why I wanted to intern in this course. Moreover, I hadn’t taught Spanish since 2008, so these two factors pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided me with the challenge I was looking for. Being a native speaker of the language, I had to spend a good amount of time researching the grammatical points I was going to teach. When preparing my presentations, I also considered why English speakers found these topics especially hard and tried to come up with examples that would be tricky and relevant for them.
Would you be willing to share a memorable or special moment from your internship?
There were a lot of memorable moments because of the positive environment in the class. Sayo built rapport with students from day one by playing salsa before the teaching began, through the use of humor and the sharing of personal experiences. For me, it was special every time we pointed out cultural elements, pragmatic differences, and shared personal insights with the class because I feel we were contributing to the development of well-rounded students. I’m really grateful for having had Sayo as my mentor in this internship.