TESOL Statement on Immigration Executive Order
Last week, the President of the United States issued a series of executive orders that have a direct impact on TESOL professionals, their students, and their communities. TESOL International Association has issued a public statement strongly opposing these executive orders.
The President of the United States recently signed an executive order that implements a 90-day entry ban for individuals traveling from seven majority-Muslim nations, places a 120-day suspension on all refugee programs, and suspends the entry of all Syrian refugees indefinitely. This divisive order stands as the latest manifestation of the heated and xenophobic rhetoric that has undermined the fabric of the United States. This contentious act fails to satisfy its intentions to make the United States a safer nation. The exclusion of travelers, immigrants, and refugees from these Middle Eastern and North African countries only serves to make the United States more vulnerable, unfairly targets immigrants and refugees, and stands in stark contrast to the ideals that the United States was built on, and the values that TESOL International Association upholds.
The immediate effects of this egregious executive action on the nearly 17,000 students studying in the United States who come from the seven targeted nations should not be understated. Students are being denied re-entry to the United States. Universities are asking students from the targeted countries not to apply for the next school year. Thousands of students and faculty members already in the United States are stuck in limbo, unfairly left to ponder their fate.
The United States has long been a global leader in international education and cultural exchange, providing a welcoming environment for students from around the world who come to learn about American culture and language and to build a sense of identity and cultural awareness. This executive order contradicts the very principles these students travel to explore, and instead acts to deny them a safe place to learn and grow, and puts the purpose and economic sustainability of international education programs in peril.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, built on the backs of past generations who desired to achieve the ultimate dream of a life free from fear, persecution, and tyranny. TESOL calls on our leaders in Congress, the White House, and communities across the country to uphold the very notions of liberty that our nation was founded upon, and to allow those who wish to pursue this dream to have the same opportunity as the generations of Americans who came before us.
Quick Tip: 10 Activities for Extra Listening Practice
by Hall Houston
Repeating listening input is one of the best ways to increase listening comprehension skills with your language students, but it's easy to get trapped using the same activities again and again. Try these short, easy-to-set-up listening activities with your ELLs today.
In many classrooms, when it comes to listening practice, teachers play the listening track, get students to answer questions about details or gist, then move right on to the next section of the coursebook. However, I recommend giving students additional practice to improve their listening skills. Several research studies on teaching listening (see, e.g., Brown, 2011, pp. 25–27) have indicated that repeating the listening input is one of the best ways of increasing listening comprehension.
These 10 activities are short and easy to set up. They’re ideal for helping students review a listening track from earlier in the lesson or from a previous week.
1. Find the Changes
Write up eight sentences that appear in the listening track on the board. Change four of the sentences by adding, deleting, or changing words, while keeping all the sentences grammatically correct. Tell the class to read over the sentences on the board, and listen. If they hear anything different, they should go to the board and change it to match the listening.
2. Stand Up for Your Word
Choose 10 to 15 words that appear in your listening track. Give each student a slip of paper with a word on it (if you have more students than slips of paper, you can make duplicates of some words). Tell students to listen carefully for their word and stand up each time they hear it.
3. What Was That?
Play the listening track for the students, but stop it periodically. Pause and ask students “What did you hear?” If you have a very quiet class, call on individual students to tell you the last two or three words they heard. Repeat several times.
4. What Comes Next?
Play the listening track for the students, but stop near the beginning or middle of each sentence. Pause and ask students “What words come next?” Then continue the track to confirm their guesses. Repeat several times.
5. Any Questions?
Stop at the end of the first sentence. Call on a student to repeat the sentence and make a question about it. For example, if the first sentence is “Sorry, I’m late,” the student might ask “Why was she late?” or “Is she always late?” Repeat with each sentence, each time calling on a different student.
6. On The Board
Tell the class that as you play the listening track, you are going to hand out markers. If they receive a marker, they need to go to the board and write down a word or phrase that they hear in the listening. Tell them that they can’t write anything down that another student writes. You can increase the difficulty by limiting students to writing something specific you’ve been studying in class: only verbs, only pronouns, only past tense phrases, and so on.
7. In Other Words
Write 10 words on the board that have a similar meaning to words that appear in the listening track. Tell students to listen for words that mean the same thing as the words on the board, and go write them next to their “twin” when they hear them.
8. Listen and Repeat With Changes
Play the listening track, sentence by sentence. Ask students to repeat the sentences out loud, but change one word each time. Occasionally ask a student how he or she changed the sentence.
9. Walk and Talk
Tell the students to listen carefully and try to remember as much as possible. After the listening track has ended, tell students to walk around the classroom in pairs, and tell their partner everything they remember from the listening.
10. A Cinematic Experience
Encourage students to put their heads on their desks and close their eyes. Turn off the lights and tell the class to imagine the track as a Hollywood movie as they listen.
Most of these activities involve student interaction, oral responses, and movement, but nearly all of them can be altered into writing activities as well. Additionally, rather than having students listen for or change random words in the listening track, try having them listen for vocabulary, structures, or other aspects of language that you’ve been studying.
Brown, S. (2011). Listening myths. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Hall Houston teaches undergraduate students at Kainan University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. He is the author of several books and articles about ELT.
Making Large Classes Work
by Anne McLellan Howard
Classes of more than 100 students are a fact of life in many parts of the world. Here are some general ideas that can help you to get the most out of your class, regardless of size.
As I walked to the first class I would teach in my first job after finishing my master’s, I felt confident in the fun activities I had prepared. That all changed the minute I opened the door to find 120 students in a classroom that was intended to seat 80. My lesson plan included a lot of groupwork and moving around the room, as well as individual self-introductions—which we would now have no time for. Literally, nothing that I had planned would work in a class that size, and I had no idea what to do.
This was 20 years ago, and although I eventually found a way to handle my super-large class, it took a great deal of trial and error. At that time, it was quite difficult to find any resources for choosing or adapting activities, or dealing with the classroom management challenges. It was frustrating to attend conferences and not find any new activities or lesson plans that would fit my class. Even basic exercises can seem impossible in a large class. For example, one of the most widely used tasks in a foreign language class is an information gap done in groups. In a class of 120, this immediately brings up challenges. How can the teacher move the students into groups without it taking too long or throwing the class into chaos? How can he or she ensure that students are speaking in English when some of them are out of earshot and the whole class will be noisy? How can the teacher find and help students who are having problems? How can the teacher assess the activity, when he or she probably was not able to learn all students’ names?
A smaller class will almost always be optimal, for many reasons. The teacher of a small class probably knows his or her students better, which makes classroom management a much easier chore. Even more significantly, this avoids the impersonal feeling that a very large class can have when students do not have the chance to talk to the teacher or to more than a few of their classmates. However, classes of even more than 100 students are a fact of life in many parts of the world. Although the circumstances of large classes are so different that there can be no single solution to the problems, here are some general ideas that can help you to get the most out of your class.
Make Groupwork Work for You
Groups are an obvious step if you want to teach communicatively in a large class, but you have to think about how to use them effectively. Putting students into groups can take a great deal of time, particularly with younger learners, and in some contexts you may be dealing with auditorium seating and immovable desks as well.
In many cases, permanent or long-term groups are the best way to handle not only language activities but also classroom management. In permanent groups, students can take roll and collect homework for you, and the group can make students feel less lost in a big class. My strategy was to begin class by giving a task that students could work on independently in their groups. While they were doing this, I would go to each group to talk to them for a minute, to check who was absent and make sure everyone understood the task. This also gave me the chance to check with students individually to make sure they were not having problems.
Remember: You and the Students Are on the Same Side
We generally do not like to complain about the circumstances of the class to the students, as this can seem unprofessional. However, by being honest with students about the difficulties, you can make a classroom atmosphere in which you and the students are uniting against a challenging circumstance. It may be easier to enlist the students’ help if you show them the ways in which you are trying to mitigate the drawbacks of the class. Let them know when you are trying a new technique, get their opinions, and acknowledge your failures if you have any. This makes your students your allies instead of an obstacle to teaching.
Think Outside the Box
When I walked into my huge class for the first time, one of the more discouraging things was that it was immediately apparent that English was not a priority at that school. As time passed, I came to see the benefit of this: I could do whatever I wanted, as long as students got a grade at the end of the semester. This led me to a few classes that were very fun but might not have been allowed in another context.
Self-Access Centers: I brought in boxes of textbooks, CD players, games, and graded readers and turned my classroom into a self-access center for a day. Each activity had a point value according to how difficult I thought it was, and each student had to get a certain number of points per semester.
Divide and Conquer: A couple of times a semester I had what I called a Special Speaking Class. For this, I divided the class into thirds and had each third come for only 30 minutes of our 90-minute class. During those 30 minutes, we did a lot of speaking activities and games that are usually only possible for a smaller class.
Be Flexible: I also had to rethink a lot of ideas I had about teaching. I found that requiring English to be spoken all of the time was fighting a losing battle, and instead set aside small blocks of “English only” time. Each group started with five points, and they would lose one point each time I heard a Japanese word. (I acknowledged that this was partly a matter of luck, as I could not be near enough to hear all students at the same time).
Not every teacher will be able to do such things, but large classes are quite different from what we are used to, and we should think of exceptional measures to address them.
There Is Help!
Unlike when I started 20 years ago, there is now more recognition of the challenges and ubiquity of large-class learning situations. One of the most helpful resources is the Teaching English in Large Classes Research and Teacher Development Network, which maintains a webpage with a large number of teaching and research resources. The group also has a Facebook page, so that teachers of large classes can connect with colleagues in similar situations all over the world.
Facing a large class can leave a teacher feeling helpless. Even if unsuccessful, trying different strategies in the classroom might lead to a sense of more control and greater flexibility. It can also give students the idea that you are proactively trying to challenge the circumstances you share. This alone may be able to change the classroom into a happier, more productive space.
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Anne McLellan Howard teaches linguistics and English teaching methodologies at Miyazaki International College in Miyazaki, Japan. She has a PhD from Macquarie University. She has presented workshops on handling large classes in Japan, Bangladesh, and the United States. Her other research interests include evaluation in academic spoken discourse and pragmatics.
Using Content and Tasks to Address Grammar More Effectively
Traditional grammar instruction strongly focuses on rules and practice. However, cognitive science shows that this method is not the best means to acquire language. This article provides a rationale for using content-based instruction (CBI) and task-based instruction (TBI) to address grammar in a language classroom and demonstrates how to address grammar within language lessons that follow CBI and TBI principles.
Principles of Traditional vs Content- and Task-Based Instruction
In a traditional grammar lesson, the teacher introduces a structure by explaining rules and providing examples; students practice the rules through guided exercises; they are then expected to produce the structure in writing and speech. However, many have questioned the efficacy of this approach. In fact, research confirms that this “present, practice, produce” method is not the best way to develop language skills as it promotes explicit over implicit knowledge (Ellis, 1995, 2003). Moreover, cognitive science shows there is a clear limit to how much information students can retain from such instruction (Ellis, 2003; Kennedy, 2006). CBI, in which language is taught in tandem with meaningful topics, and TBI, in which students must use the target language to collaborate and complete tasks with specific outcomes, are more effective alternatives.
CBI is based on several communicative principles. Larsen-Freeman and Anderson (2011) explain that in this approach to language teaching, communication is both the means to and the end goal of learning: Students simultaneously learn language and content, using each to learn the other; language learning is viewed as a social process, requiring interaction among the learners; and errors are addressed through recycling language and content, self-correction, peer review, and teacher feedback (pp. 139–142). Unlike the traditional approach in which a grammatical structure is both the topic and the objective of a lesson, CBI treats grammar as the means to meaningful communication.
Sequence Lessons by Topic
For students, learning grammar this way has cognitive advantages. Kennedy (2006) asserts, “Emotions drive attention. Attention drives learning and memory” (p. 479). This simple observation astutely describes what we, as learners, all know: We are more likely to engage with and remember a topic that resonates with us more than an arbitrary rule. For instructors, teaching grammar through CBI means rethinking the way in which we organize our syllabi and lessons. Instead of presenting students with a unit of grammatical structures, we should introduce a unit sequenced by topics. The grammar will, of course, still be part of the lesson and sequenced in a meaningful way; the difference is that the students will view the unit with regard to the ideas, not the underlying structures.
Provide Opportunities for Real-Life Language
In addition to teaching grammar through engaging content, TBI provides another effective means for grammar instruction. In TBI, students engage in a variety of tasks with clear outcomes; they work together to accomplish tasks and solve problems. Instead of being front and center, the teacher provides the initial input for a lesson and then constantly evaluates students as they complete tasks with respect to task outcomes and language use (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011, p. 156–157). In contrast to traditional grammar instruction that focuses heavily on rules, TBI treats grammatical structures as the tools required to complete a job. Rather than doing repetitive exercises unreflective of natural language use, students practice grammatical structures by using them to collaborate and receive focused feedback on their own usage. This interaction is a key reason why TBI is so effective; that is, it forces students to use real-life language.
Encourage Critical Thinking
Another important feature of TBI is that it requires students to think critically. Kennedy (2006) explains, “As a result of participating in small-group activities that promote practice by doing, and verbally working through meaningful problems, students are able to retain 90% of newly acquired knowledge” (p. 479). These results suggest that retention is significantly improved when the brain is fully engaged; in other words, if students are asked to use their minds with the target language, they are more likely to remember the vocabulary and the grammatical structures that they learned, such as by analyzing a text or debating with a partner on an interesting issue.
Implementing Content- and Task-Based Instruction
To implement these methods successfully, planning is critical.
A teacher must consider proficiency level when selecting texts and audio so that they suit the students’ needs. An effective source will be one that presents the chosen topic at a level comprehensible for the majority of the class and includes multiple examples of the chosen grammatical structure. It is often necessary to review several sources before finding those that satisfy both content and language requirements. Once appropriate sources are chosen, examples must be chosen purposefully. Choosing sentences or clips in which the structure is apparent and clear will make it easier for students to understand the structures and start forming a basis for the rules surrounding its usage. Once this understanding is established, more complicated or irregular examples can be analyzed.
Reversing the Classroom Model
A salient feature of teaching this way, especially in comparison to traditional grammar instruction, is that the order of the lesson is reversed: The content and tasks come before the language focus. Instead of learning a rule and then practicing it, students are exposed to examples of grammatical structures in context, given tasks to perform with these grammatical structures, and then asked to analyze the structures and patterns they observe. The teacher supports students in making these observations with guided questioning and provides corrections as needed. Students are very active in the learning process and thus pushed to find and to articulate patterns in usage, as opposed to passively listening to a teacher. Additionally, critical thinking is activated, benefiting both the learning and retention of grammatical structures.
These opportunities to think critically about issues in the target language and to connect emotionally with them are what distinguish TBI and CBI from traditional instruction. Marzano, Pickering, and Heflebower (2011) articulate the significance of this difference:
When students are asked merely to regurgitate information in a repetitive fashion, they will not see the relevance of the information they have learned….When students are challenged to use the information they have learned to solve problems, make decisions, conduct investigations, and create hypotheses regarding real-world issues, they are much more likely to see what they are learning as important. (p. 14)
Language learners are not all linguists at heart; it is much more likely that they will become invested in topics that are relevant to their lives, such as genetically engineered food or political elections than adjective clauses or demonstrative pronouns. Shifting the traditional language class into content- and task-based classes allows the students to learn the structures they need to communicate successfully. It simply turns an explicit grammar lesson into a stealthy one.
The following set of articles and materials serve as an example content- and task-based unit for intermediate English language learners. First, we chose the topic of genetic engineering; after reading multiple articles on the topic, we selected three. We sequenced them according to length and difficulty, beginning with the shortest and most direct text.
The lessons address pronouns; final –s; and the prepositions in, on, at. These are not the only structures that could be addressed but were chosen purposefully as they are common sources of errors among learners. Each structure is used repeatedly in its respective text and is appropriate for the target proficiency level.
Each lesson moves through a progression of tasks with specified outcomes and interaction: partner, small group, whole class. The students begin with vocabulary, because words are the building blocks of understanding ideas. From there, they check their comprehension of the text’s main ideas. Once they have a clear and common understanding of the ideas in the text, they are ready for higher order thinking, which takes place in a discussion. After all of these tasks, when they have not only an understanding of the content but also opinions about it, they are ready to analyze the grammatical structures.
Topic: Genetic Engineering
Content: “UF Creates Trees With Enhanced Resistance to Greening”
Language focus: Final –s (plurality, possession, tense)
Content: “Around the Country, Organic Farmers Are Pushing for ‘GE-Free’ Zones”
Language focus: Prepositions (in, on, at)
The methods discussed in this article are supported by research and effective in practice. In our experience, students are more engaged in using English and attentive to its structures when learning them in the context of an interesting topic or task. It is helpful to remember that language cannot be separated from content; by addressing language and content in concert, grammar is taught and learned more effectively.
Ellis, R. (1995). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Kennedy, T. J. (2006). Language learning and its impact on the brain: Connecting language learning with the mind through content-based instruction. Foreign Language Annals, 39(3), 471–86.
Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques and principles in language teaching. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D., & Heflebower, T. (2011). The highly engaged classroom. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.
Sample Unit Content Sources
Dizon, J. (2016 March 15). Dino drumsticks: Scientists grow dinosaur legs on chicken embryos for the first time. Tech Times RSS. Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com/articles/141033/20160315/dino-drumsticks-scientists-grow-dinosaur-legs-on-chicken-embryos-for-the-first-time.htm
Harvey, C. (2016 January 4). Around the country, organic farmers are pushing for “GE-free” zones. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/01/04/around-the-country-organic-farmers-are-pushing-for-ge-free-zones/?utm_term=.c4dafddd21b7
Wilmoth, K. M. (2015 November 23). UF creates trees with enhanced resistance to greening. UF News. Retrieved from http://news.ufl.edu/articles/2015/11/uf-creates-trees-with-enhanced-resistance-to-greening.php
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Sara Gramley holds a master’s degree in TESOL from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently the English language learning specialist for graduate students at Brown University. Previously, Sara worked with English language learners at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University, FISK Centro de Ensino in Brazil, Uncommon Charter Schools, Boston University, and Harvard University.
Heather Mehrtens holds a master’s degree in TESOL from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently serving as an English Language Fellow at Kamala Nehru College and Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, India as well as a faculty member at the Maryland English Institute at the University of Maryland College Park. Previously, she taught at Boston University, Harvard University, Georgetown University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Guided Research: Good Questions Inspire More Than Answers
by Wendy L. McBride
Guide students at any level through the arduous task of producing an interesting and well-written research paper.
In 21st-century elementary school classrooms, American children begin to solve problems using aspects of the scientific method. In math, science, and language arts, they are asked to support their conclusions with evidence. On the other end of the spectrum, graduate students, PhD candidates, and postdocs work on research in labs, in the field, and in libraries; theirs is a quest to discover. While this range is not limited to the U.S. educational system, international students often have difficulty understanding the purposes and processes related to research writing. Compounding this, the infinite range of topic possibilities can be daunting to the point of paralysis. It can also produce, for lack of a gentler term, the ridiculous.
For example, is “why people shouldn’t smoke” a good topic? Or “peace in the Middle East”? Gender differences? Is the earth really flat?
The 5 Guiding Questions
In Academic Writing for Graduate Students, Swales and Feak (2012) present a systematic approach for “creating a research space.” From this, five guiding questions have been formulated to engage writers of all levels in meaningful inquiry and writing:
- How is this topic significant in my field?
- What has already been established on this subject?
- What is the focus of current research on this issue?
- What information needs additional investigation or substantiation?
- What can I contribute?
The process of responding to each of them directs students: first, toward the higher purpose of research and, second, toward compelling topics and projects. Outcomes for teachers and students include the promotion of innovative, complete, analytical, and persistent scholarship and deliberate service to the research community and the evolving body of knowledge.
That is in theory. In practice, guiding students through the arduous task of producing an interesting and well-written research paper begins with that thorough understanding of and respect for the process. When all goes well, students at any level can generate information that has authentic application.
Evaluate the Topic
First there is the conundrum of choosing a topic. This is when it is most useful to interweave research questions with a general sense of direction and an objective that are suitable to the learners and their level.
Returning to the topic of smoking, versions of this conversation are not uncommon:
Teacher: Okay, (1) how is the topic significant?
Student: Smoking is bad and a lot of people still smoke.
Teacher: Yes. Research has already established that smoking is bad; there is no need to pursue that, right? What do you think the focus of current research on smoking is?
Student: It’s probably about why people still smoke, or treatment for lung cancer.
Teacher: One of those might be a better direction for you, then.
International students arrive with a broad range of reading skills. When they face some form of a literature review—even if it is not called that in secondary schools or undergraduate classes—they have to marshal their abilities. Graduate students are likely to already have solid responses for (or at least a familiarity with) the significance of topics in their field and the extant research. Nevertheless, students at even the earliest levels can also begin to evaluate topics against the broader existing context.
Utilize a Theme
For genuine first-timers, offering a flexible but unifying theme reduces the range of possibilities and facilitates the topic-choosing procedure. Themes can be general enough to appeal to the majority and still allow room for the outliers to find something interesting yet still related. Some “international student”—geared themes include
- cross-cultural transition strategies,
- technology that reduces distances,
- staying healthy in the dormitories, and
- making versus keeping friends.
For higher level courses, instructors may consider inviting students to explore
- an aspect of artificial intelligence,
- political participation (especially in an election year), or
- the intersection of modern technology and health.
In narrowing the focus, the questions are repeatedly addressed:
(2) What has already been established on this subject?
(3) What is the focus of current research on this issue?
In courses where the materials include a reader, students can produce research questions that support in-depth exploration of related topics. The resulting supplemental material provides insight and context for new vocabulary and cultural references. For example, to engage in a “deep read” of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, students were asked to explore details of prerevolutionary Cuba, in social, economic and political terms; to examine the Cold War and its implications in England and the United States; and to investigate spying and espionage networks. Additionally, students researched the author’s personal history with Catholicism, Latin America, and international media. The results—two drafts of a research paper and an oral debriefing—provided extensive background on the novel and created a learning community with a shared mission.
Consider All the Angles
The initial reading phase, even on very simple topics, is more efficient when the mission is clear:
(4) What information needs additional investigation or substantiation?
(5) What can I contribute?
Middle and high school students as well as IEP learners may not be equipped to make contributions to the field, but they can be encouraged to look at a problem or question from a different angle and to contribute richer information to their classroom community. In the case of the student who is determined to research smoking, she and her classmates might consider the physical and psychological aspects of addiction and what current research reveals about causes and cessation strategies. The environmental perspective is another valuable perspective: how long does a cigarette butt take to decompose? What kinds of hidden repercussions come from this specific litter?
Provoke Introspection and Connection
When the questions provoke introspection, the research and writing processes allow in-depth skill development and a rich learning experience. Positioning a research assignment to extend to or overlap with another aspect of a class or community is worth the “frontloading” effort. The culmination of a project that integrates skills and information from multiple sources produces a greater sense of achievement. Additionally, students get a visceral sense of their own intellectual and linguistic development.
The control and direction provided by examining these questions throughout the research writing process take the “scary” out of the daunting processes of introducing research writing to scholars of all shapes and sizes.
Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
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Wendy L. McBride, a recent TESOL presenter (Toronto 2015; Baltimore 2016), teaches in the English Language and Culture Program at the University of Arkansas and Spring International Language Center in Fayetteville. She is a graduate of Augustana College (IL) and Northern Illinois University and has 20 years of teaching experience in a range of contexts and contents including ESL (literacy/academic English/ESP/workplace), adult education, GED preparation, community college, and undergraduate and graduate writing.