TESOL Connections

TC Quick Tip: 5 Ways to Facilitate Collaboration With Colleagues

by Brianna Johnson

We all have those moments when a great idea for research or innovative teaching practice alights our mind; sometimes, though, it can feel daunting “going it alone.” Or, perhaps we simply need a second eye for added inspiration or a like-minded partner to push it to fruition. Here are some tips to approach colleagues in order to get that project started. 

Audience: K–12/Higher Education

We all have those moments when a great idea for research or innovative teaching practice alights our mind; sometimes, though, it can feel daunting “going it alone.” Or, perhaps we simply need a second eye for added inspiration or a like-minded partner to push it to fruition. Here are some tips to approach colleagues in order to get that project started before another great idea becomes buried in that growing stack of “could-have-beens.”

1. Be a part of a listserv, or create your own.
We all do it: talk about exciting ideas or complain about frustrating problems for which we may have a way to solve. How often in the past week have you been in the office talking about current issues with an officemate, or discussing pressing issues in the teacher’s lounge, only to have your mind clouded with other things 5 minutes later? By creating an e-mail listserv with a number of compatible colleagues who are also interested in starting research projects, you can keep up-to-date on trending issues and engage in relevant conversations that may develop into something tangible. (Alternatively, create a MeetUp group or announce a sign-up sheet for the listserv at an upcoming meeting.)

2. Be specific.
Vague ideas tend to drop off the bandwagon. When planning a research project, make sure that your plans aren’t too general. Narrow them down to fit into your current surroundings and only begin to invite colleagues to collaborate when you have a plausible research agenda. Once they get wind of an idea that can be broken down into possible tasks, they may be more likely to jump at the opportunity. If plans are not specific enough and tasks are not assigned, great ideas will simply fizzle out.

3. Don’t be shy.
If every TESOL professional was scared that another scholar would get wind of an idea and run with it, there would be little value in conventions, presentations, papers, or other research that is made public for individuals to benefit from in both their own teaching activities and research ambitions. Trust in your colleagues and talk to them about the great ideas you have. Time and time again, our field has created proven efforts that show our commitment to each other and to our students. This should be our primary goal.

4. Start small.
Projects that are too large tend to be the ones we put off. Starting small ensures that you are not biting off more than you can chew at the beginning of a daunting project. Doing so may cause it to fail prematurely. Narrowing down that big idea also makes it more likely for it to be implemented in your institution and for others to get on board.

5. Be open to compromise.
Disagreements among colleagues are inevitable.  However, once you invite others to dedicate time to a work-in-progress, it is important to concede some of the decision-making processes. Remember that your project is malleable, and its success contains little room for egos. To successfully complete a project (a feat in and of itself!), all parties involved need to feel as if their contributions are appreciated and that the project offers them personal enjoyment as well.  This can only happen when compromise and flexibility take place.

What’s stopping you? Get others on board with your ideas, turn that pile of “could-have-beens” into a reality, and picture yourself perhaps presenting your project at the next TESOL convention.


Brianna Johnson is an ESL instructor at the University of Iowa.  Her current work involves diversity among teachers and motivating students to think critically about the world around them.

Advocacy Update:
The Quarter in Review

The 2012 general election bought about some changes in Washington; get up to speed on new and continuing education advocates, personnel changes that may affect the English language teaching field, education policy in the United States, and budgets and appropriations relevant to your teaching and practice. Get a briefing on all the programs you need to know about to inform your advocacy efforts. 

By the time you read this article, the 2012 general election in the United States will have long since passed, and President Barack Obama will have been sworn in to begin his second term in office. While the 2012 general election brought about some changes in Washington, much remains the same: President Obama has been given another 4 years in the White House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has been assured another 2 years as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) will continue as the Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will also hold on to his Minority Leader slot in the Senate, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will remain Minority Leader in the House of Representatives.

Digging a little deeper, education advocates lost a few champions on both sides of the aisle.  Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) lost her seat in the election, and Dale Kildee (D-MI), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Jason Altmire (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Todd Platts (R-PA) will not be returning to the House Education and the Workforce Committee for a variety of reasons. In the Senate, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) retired, leaving a vacancy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Mike Enzi (R-WY), while remaining on the Committee, will give up his Ranking position, most likely to Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Take a look at all the new faces in the 113th Congress.

Personnel Changes
As with many presidential administrations that serve for consecutive terms, there will be a mix of old and new faces in the federal agencies. Some cabinet secretaries—such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—will choose to stay, while others—including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—will choose to leave. Similarly, there will be many political appointees in federal agencies who decide to move on, if they haven’t already.

At the U.S. Department of Education, it is expected that Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, Deborah S. Delisle, will remain in her position, as will Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education, Brenda Dann-Messier. Dr. Rosalinda Barrera, who had been serving as Assistant Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, resigned her position in October 2012, so her successor will need to be appointed. Similarly, Russlyn Ali, who had been serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, resigned her position in December 2012, so a successor for her position will need to be similarly identified.

Education Policy
Because the Obama administration will continue to serve a second term, his priorities for education have already been well defined in his first 4 years. Unable to drive a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through the Congress, the President succeeded in rewriting K–12 policy through a combination of financial carrots, regulatory reform, and the granting of an unprecedented waiver plan for all interested states. For his second term, he is certain to continue to fight for his signature programs—Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation (i3), School Improvement Grants, and Promise Neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the Congress has a long list of reauthorizations that are past due beyond ESEA—the Higher Education Act, Career and Technical Education, the Workforce Investment Act, the Education Sciences Reform Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In addition, immigration reform is likely to return to the agenda, as the President has signaled it has become a priority for his second term.

Budget and Appropriations
The lame-duck session of the 112th Congress was almost singularly focused on the so-called “fiscal cliff”: a confluence of policies (mainly tax increases and cuts in federal spending) that could have had a significant negative impact on the U.S. economy if allowed to go into effect in early January 2013. Much of the debate was focused on the competing priorities of the Republicans—led by Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH)—versus those of the Democrats, led by President Obama. At the very last possible moment, a compromise was reached on the tax issue, and the proposed cuts to federal spending, also known as sequestration, were postponed.

Although the across-the-board spending cuts as part of sequestration were avoided for now, the issue still remains unresolved. The cuts, approximately 8% for all federal programs, were part of a deal made on the debt ceiling in 2011. Now postponed until March, the threat of sequestration, along with the unresolved issues around the FY2013 federal budget, is playing havoc with many discretionary spending programs. Unable to determine whether full funding will remain in effect for the next several months, many agencies are in a holding pattern in regards to enacting programs. This makes for a challenging environment in which the Obama Administration begins its second term.

For more advocacy information and how to get involved, check out TESOL's Advocacy Resources page. 

Profiling Excellence: The 2013 TESOL Teacher of the Year

by Tomiko Breland
The winner of the 2013 TESOL Teacher of the Year Award, presented by National Geographic Learning, discusses teaching, collaboration, and Common Core. 

As the school year wraps up, most U.S. elementary teachers find themselves stripping student work from their classroom walls to clear their rooms for the summer. Not so with Anne Marie Foerster Luu, who, at the close of the last school year, was still putting up work: She had her ESOL elementary school students busy composing poetry that summarized what they had learned during the year, adding it to the menagerie of student work on the walls. Indeed, Anne Marie’s classroom is like a living organism, vibrant with color and shapes and words, pictures and plants and creatures.

Anne Marie is the recipient of the 2013 TESOL Teacher of the Year Award, presented by National Geographic Learning. She was chosen by a panel of experienced educators from among an international pool of applicants. Among other prizes, she will receive US$1,000; free registration and travel for the 2013 TESOL annual convention, where she’ll give a presentation; and free TESOL books. Anne Marie has been a pre-K–12 teacher with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Maryland, for 13 years, and she worked in higher education administration before that.

When we meet for her interview, she is quiet at first, shy and apparently nervous. On this cold winter afternoon, she wears a heavy red cardigan buttoned over a black turtleneck: Like her personality, her attire is conservative but colorful, unassuming but bright. She starts to come out of her shell as soon as she begins to talk about her students.

Top: Anne Marie Foerster Luu; Clockwise from left: Alex, Ada,
Felipe, Riko, Caleb, Tenzin, Brian, Rina

“The part of the job I really enjoy is thinking about each child in the classroom, and I enjoy having the opportunity to do that with colleagues when my students are in their classrooms, too.” Collaboration, it turns out, is a huge part of what Anne Marie does. Her school, Luxmanor Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland, nestled in a quiet community just north of Washington, DC, has about 450 students enrolled, 18% of whom are ESOL students. Luxmanor is adjusting to a new curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which requires teachers to work together more than ever before.

We’re really working toward more collaborative planning and teaching. In this school, we’re really breaking ground on that. Montgomery County has a new curriculum, and so we’re all sort of in the same boat, trying to figure out how we’re going to teach kids with these new expectations, and what materials are we going to use, and how we’re going to differentiate it.

Like many teachers, Anne Marie uses her hands when she speaks, and, in her nervousness, they flutter like birds in front of her, her fingers moving continually, like wings rounding out her words and giving shape to her phrases. Her hands move purposefully toward her Promethean board (an interactive whiteboard) as she shifts the conversation toward technology. Anne Marie uses technology to support all learners and incorporates it into her classroom whenever she can by showing videos, or using it to showcase projects or help students organize their work. It’s important, she says, to just “help them feel like technology is fun and that it’s a part of learning.”

See more photos from Anne Marie's classroom. 

Anne Marie’s hands become especially expressive when she delves into explanations, such as how to help content-area teachers work with ESOL students:

I think it’s very hard to know exactly what the roadblocks are for the students, so it takes more than just a 5-minute sit-down with a teacher to resolve an issue. It’s important to help teachers see commonalities but then see individual students at the same time, so that they can broaden their experiences with ESOL students… no single handout is going to work; no single conversation is going to work…ESOL teachers really need to keep their doors open, and to see themselves as someone who is advocating for their students.

Anne Marie’s door is certainly open—to everyone, and for many reasons. She is the only full-time ESOL teacher at her elementary school, a Master Teacher with the state of Maryland (which means she helps train school-based teacher leaders on the new CCSS-based curriculum for the Maryland Department of Education), member of her school’s Leadership Team and Academic Support Team, and team leader for her school’s ESOL Team. In her various roles, Anne Marie has picked up quite a few tenets to live and teach by. Most important, and a foundational part of her educational philosophy, is that “what the kids are doing has to feel good to them and has to have a purpose. It has to matter.”

Anne Marie demonstrates windmill structure to Alex. 

And this, in large part, is what sets Anne Marie apart from other teachers: her incredible ability to get at the heart of student interest and to use that interest to create fun lessons that spur student learning. It seems there is a story behind nearly every project adorning the walls of her classroom and how it stemmed from a student’s experience. She does not overlook any learning opportunity, and her resourcefulness is evidenced in the diversity of her students’ projects. The work proudly displayed on the walls, scrawled in the careful and imperfect script of elementary school students, covers so much more than just language; it spans topics such as water displacement, windmills, social research, and insect life.

When one student was having interpersonal relationship issues, the students wrote a story together based on the classroom fish, which reside in a small tank nestled between a file cabinet topped with framed photos and a slightly overgrown potted plant; the story they wrote was about how the fish interacted with one another as friends. When several students found a cricket in the stairwell, the class captured it, read about crickets, and wrote a story. And when, several years ago, one student came to class after having been bullied, Anne Marie structured a class research project around bullying. She had students write a survey, obtain responses, and crunch the numbers themselves—to answer the question “Do we have a problem with bullies in our school?” The research project was so successful that it was picked up by the county and incorporated into the county curriculum. Some students who participated in the project, now in college, keep in touch with her and tell her that they still talk about it. According to fellow MCPS teacher Dustine Price, this project was just one of many in which Anne Marie “teaches students to be proactive and engaged in making their community great.”

Her students’ interest in the subject matter she chooses is evident during class. Anne Marie’s classes vary from two to twelve students, and today’s class has eight, with students whose native languages comprise Japanese, Korean, a Tibetan dialect, and two forms of Spanish. When the students arrive, there’s a minor hullabaloo to feed the fish, and then Anne Marie truly shines.

Once seated, the students are polite and organized, never speaking out of turn, but most quick to raise a hand and get in on the discussion—which, today, is about windmills. Anne Marie’s colleague and coteacher, Wendy Root, brought in a STEM-related book about a man in Malawi who built a windmill to save his community from hunger (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer). Wendy and Anne Marie work together to plan dynamic, integrated lessons around this piece of literary nonfiction.

Anne Marie explains, “It’s got figurative language, it’s a true story, and it’s a very interesting text. We’ve added informational text to it, and we’re going to be building our own windmills.”

During class, she moves between students and to the board adeptly, using drawings to explain concepts, and showing the students a camera tripod that she brought into class to help them visualize how to stabilize the base of the windmill they’ll be building. 

Anne Marie makes every effort to draw out responses from the shyer students, asking questions and allowing everyone to participate. She challenges her students when they haven’t thought through a response, and she incorporates myriad topics and concepts, including math, science, and language. This, apparently, is standard operating procedure. Her colleague Susan Zacks says that Anne Marie consistently strives “to not just meet [her students’] needs, but to inspire her students to grow, develop, and learn each and every day.”

When asked to provide a piece of advice to new English language teachers, Anne Marie has plenty to say, and it centers on the students themselves and on collaboration:

You have to have your antennae up all the time and really listen to what kids are saying. They might not be able to use their words to tell you what’s going on, but they send you clues. Those first-year students are really struggling, really struggling. I have some now that are accustomed to being very successful in their own language and they come here and are just devastated because they can’t show what they know in the way that we ask them to. Be patient, have your antennae up, and really think about those kids, and your role in working with the whole staff: You are the opportunity to help the whole staff figure out how to reach these kids. If you make yourself available, it becomes a whole system surrounding those kids and helping those kids. Without that, someone will get lost in the fray.

Check out Anne Marie's blog!

Attending the 2013 TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo? Use the online Itinerary Planner to get details on Anne Marie's convention session:
"Best Practices for ELT Excellence"  


Tomiko Breland received her BA in English from Stanford University, her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins University, and her certificate in TESOL from Anaheim University. She is editor & publications project manager at TESOL International Association.

Project-Based Learning in ESOL Teaching

by Stephen V. Hoyt
Project-based learning can help ELLs feel empowered, discover new vocabulary, and improve cognitive skills, all while providing a high element of creativity and instilling pride in student work. 

Project-Based Learning (PBL) has a long history, beginning with educational philosopher John Dewey, who called the practice “learning by doing.” I started introducing PBL in English classes several years ago and recently, in 2011, incorporated PBL into ESOL classes in Moscow. I found special success in student motivation and collaboration. Students especially enjoyed integrating technology into their projects and interacting with people in English; they asked if they could do more projects in the future. While I had students do one project in each course last year, I am now framing all of their work in terms of a semester project. This means that they will turn in work in “segments,” with the goal of integrating these segments into one large project.

PBL focuses on real-world problems and encourages students to explore issues outside the classroom. A question is formulated that forms the basis of an exploration, resulting in the production of, in ESOL:

  • a PowerPoint presentation;
  • a play;
  • a script;
  • a simulation;
  • a cartoon;
  • interviews, either translated or in English;
  • an adaptation of a work;
  • a video; or
  • an original idea.

Unlike with a research paper or other assignment, in PBL students produce something that can best be termed authentic. While there is a reliable body of research supporting the effects of PBL in science, math, and social studies, until 2006 there was a lack of empirical data to support PBL for nonnative English speakers, according to Beckett and Miller (2006).

One of the major values of PBL is learner self-determination. Students feel empowered when they can decide a major part of their learning. In ESOL, this direction can lead learners to discover new vocabulary, actively engage others in non-rehearsed dialogue, and generally improve cognitive skills. Munby (1978) describes 14 language skill types that contain 54 distinct skills. Students engaged in PBL exhibit more of these skill types than in other types of instruction. To mention a few, they plan and organize, summarize, and relate textual to extra-textual information. In addition, they ask questions in interviews, design questionnaires and surveys, and interpret meaning as they narrow down their topic.

Students also show pride when they produce something they can share or present to their peers. The element of creativity in a project they have designed themselves creates more pride. Many students are themselves surprised to see how well they can manipulate English to produce something interesting and creative. I have heard several students excitedly telling others about their projects, both in and out of the classroom.

Proficiency Levels
PBL can be assigned at any proficiency level, as students will find their own level of proficiency and comfort. One way of adapting proficiency levels to PBL is to use Bloom’s Taxonomy, which consists of six levels, from lowest to highest: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

At the knowledge level, students can explore the (real) world of signs and directions. The knowledge level involves rote memorization, recognition, or recall of facts. At this level, students might develop a poster or PowerPoint presentation with facts about the local area. At the higher levels, students are encouraged to produce more complicated projects. For example, at the application level, students can develop a simulation that reflects a situation of returning an item purchased that either they do not want or that does not work properly. The type and scope of the project is limited only by the combined imagination of students and teacher.

With PBL, encouraging collaboration can help students learn to work together effectively. You can also require students to make a structured, oral presentation of their project to the class. I emphasize two elements: English itself and course content. Emphasizing course content can have a positive effect on English language skills, no matter what the proficiency level.

Following are the three phases for projects, though you can customize them to suit your students.

Student Planning Phase

  • Work on projects
  • Identify a topic
  • Ask questions that highlight material
  • Respond to issues raised
  • Determine RAFT: role, audience, format and topic (RAFT is normally used with writing prompts, but can also play a role in PBL. See this Learn NC RAFT resource)

Project Planning Phase

  • Work on projects; students should use a PBL Log (.docx) to track their activity.
  • Add or subtract elements from basic rubric to match project goals. Basic rubric components are Content, Organization, Presentation, Creativity/Originality and Conventions. (Download sample rubrics: Basic [.docx], Interview and Surveys [.docx], or Multimedia [.docx])

Project Completion Phase

  • Teacher receives and reviews project (could be first draft, depending on course)
  • Assign grade based on rubric
  • Students present projects

A rubric with a maximum 20-point per item scoring system serves as a basic assessment model. You can add extra weight to each category by simply doubling the scores. To obtain the final grade, multiply the number of elements by 20 and then divide the result with the appropriate number (of categories) to equal 100. The final number is the final student grade for the project.

Project Examples
Students in three different courses, College Composition, The Sixties: a Decade of Change, and Fiction and Writing, were given the option of writing a traditional research paper or designing a project for their major grade in each course. Over 90% chose the latter option. Most students chose to incorporate some form of digital technology, and about half chose to collaborate when given the opportunity. Once proposals were accepted, students were not allowed to change the topic.

Following are sample projects from each of the three classes. The topics ranged from surveys (supported by interviews, both translated from Russian into English and conducted in English) to podcasts and DVDs with original material and music.

Are Cell Phones Dangerous?
(Introduction to Non-Fiction) (intermediate high)
The student designed a survey, conducted interviews among friends and strangers, examined research on the topic, and prepared a 12-page paper. In the paper, the student compared available data from cell phone use and research in the United States and Russia; she also summarized the results of the survey she conducted and showed video on the topic.

Mind Playground: A Mad Podcast
(Introduction to Fiction) (intermediate high)
The student designed a series of interviews and profiles using different electronic voices based on characters from the novels and short stories read during the course. One of the questions asked by the student was, “how can technology be integrated into the study of fiction and English for nonnative speakers?”

The USA and the USSR: The Truth in the Arts and Cinema of the Sixties
(The Sixties: a Decade of Change) (advanced level)
The student doing this project asked questions about U.S. and Soviet relations at a dark period in their history. The project contained original video footage from the two countries, a survey of people who lived during the time as well as some humorous anecdotes and movie footage connected to the topic.

It is clear to me that students value PBL. They have asked for an expanded role for PBL in this year’s curriculum. If the recommended steps are incorporated into developing projects, then PBL can be an effective part of ESOL teaching.


Beckett, G. H. (2006). Project-based second and foreign language education: Theory, research, and practice. In G. H. Beckett & P. Miller (Eds.), Project-based second and foreign language education: Past, present, and future (pp. 3–18). Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.

Munby, J. (1978). Communicative syllabus design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Boss, S. (2012). Blog posts. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/suzie-boss.

Boss, S. (2012). Twenty ideas for engaging projects. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/20-ideas-for-engaging-projects-suzie-boss.

Bost, K., & Webb, L. (2012). Focus activity using RAFT. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3573.

Herrington, A., & Moran, C. (2012). English language learners, digital tools, authentic audiences. Retrieved from http://digitalis.nwp.org/collection/english-language-learners-digital-tools.

Lin, F. (2005). Knowledge base of English as a second language teachers (Dissertation Proposal). Retrieved from https://webspace.utexas.edu/cherwitz/www/ie/samples/fu-an_lin.pdf.


Stephen V. Hoyt, PhD, has more than 20 years’ experience in language education and has taught in the United States and abroad. He was a curriculum director, teacher, university professor, language software designer, and journalist. Hoyt has integrated PBL into urban classrooms and developed a program for 300 Russian English teachers. He speaks fluent German and is proficient in French, Spanish, and Russian. He currently teaches English at the New Economic School in Moscow.


Lesson Plan: Stereotyping

by Sarah Sahr
In creating a classroom dialogue around stereotypes, this lesson, for intermediate adult or secondary students, helps students look at both the positive and negative connotations found in stereotypes. 

One of the biggest perks of being a TESOL professional is getting to know people from all around the world. In doing so, whether we like it or not, we sometimes start to generalize characteristics of a certain group of people. If we are not careful, these generalizations can turn into unjustified stereotypes. In creating a classroom dialogue around stereotypes, this lesson helps students look at both the positive and negative connotations found in stereotypes.
Materials: Plastic containers, labels, blank paper, blue tack, worksheet (.docx)
Audience: Intermediate Adult or Secondary Students
Objective: Students will be able to differentiate between positive and negative stereotypes.
Students will be able to discuss cultural differences based on classroom stereotypes. 
Outcome: Students will write adjectives describing various regional people.
Students will build a list of positive and negative stereotypes.
Duration: 50–65 minutes

Introduction (15 minutes)
At the front of the room, have some open plastic containers labeled with regions of the world: Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. (For this lesson plan, I’ll be dealing with regions of the world. If you are able and/or comfortable, feel free to use ethnic groups, races, or the like.) Review the locations of these continents. Also, ask for a show of hands so that students can share which continent they are from.

Ask students to get out a piece of blank paper and tear it up into eight pieces. On each piece of paper, students must write a single adjective describing the type of people who live in these areas. Try not to give examples. Each student needs to give at least one adjective per continent. Students can use the eighth piece of paper to put an extra adjective in the plastic container of their homeland. As students finish, have them place their adjectives in the proper container.

Before the next step, make sure you have supplied each container with at least three adjectives. It is important to have a hearty collection of adjectives in each container.

Unwrapping (10 minutes)

Step 1: Collect the pieces of paper in each container and paperclip them together, putting the container labels at the top of each stack. While doing this, review what students know about the meaning of stereotype. Ask if anyone wants to share a story dealing with stereotypes. Use conversation like this to activate students’ prior knowledge.

Step 2: Randomly, choose a paper-clipped set of paper. Post the slips of paper to the board or a wall and read the words aloud as you do so. Do not put up the geographical label. Ask students what continent they think this list represents. If students don’t know, don’t worry. Simply move on to the next continent.

When complete, there should be seven lists of adjectives posted. If you haven’t done so by now, label each list with the proper continent. It is important that students help you do this. As the teacher, you already know the identity of each list. Let students figure it out themselves.

Differentiating (10 minutes)
Pair students together and give each couple a handout (.docx). As a pair, students should visit each list around the room and organize the words into two lists on their paper, dividing the words into positive and negative columns.

Divide and Conquer! (10 minutes)
Having students stay with their partners, divide the class into seven groups (or as many groups as you have containers). Assign each group a continent. In their groups, students need to build consensus of the positive list and negative lists.

Closing (10 minutes)

Step 1: Once the groups have completed their positive and negative lists, they must go to the original list on the wall or board and organize the lists based on what the group decided. Each group should recreate their positive and negative lists on the wall or board.

Step 2: Allow 2 minutes for all students to wander around the room to look at the lists. Once everyone has seen everything, facilitate a class discussion on stereotypes. Some questions you might ask:

  • Do you agree with these lists?
  • What makes one adjective negative or positive?
  • What words on which list surprised you?
  • What are some things you agree with? Disagree with?
  • Are their adjectives that might be missing?
  • Should some adjectives be removed?
  • What emotions do you feel when reading your continents adjectives?


Download this lesson plan (PDF)
and the stereotype handout (.docx)

You can find past TESOL Connections lesson plans and activities in the TESOL Connections archives, or you can visit the TESOL Resource Center. From there, search keywords “TESOL Connections,” and you will find about 20 resources by Sarah Sahr.


Sarah Sahr works at TESOL and is currently pursuing her doctorate in education administration and policy at the George Washington University. Her professional career has taken her all over the world, most notably as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia and as a traveling school teacher/administrator with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Sarah is also a certified ashtanga yoga instructor and has managed an eco-lodge in Chugchilan, Ecuador.

"Lesson Plan: Stereotyping" by Sarah Sahr for TESOL International Association is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareA like 3.0 Unported License.
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