TESOL Connections

Hate Crimes on the Rise: What Can Teachers Do?

by Rita Van Dyke-Kao

With the uptick of hate crimes in the past few years, what can TESOL professionals do to prepare and equip their ELs, who are likely at a higher risk of being targeted than others? Learn what you can do in the classroom to proactively address and prepare students for the troubling reality of such crimes. 

Reports of criminal acts of hatred have surged dramatically in the last 3 years, both in the United States and in the international community. Focusing on the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Bureau of Justice Statistics define a hate crime as “a committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Though the three most common offenses reported to the FBI are destruction/damage/vandalism, intimidation, and simple assault, other hate crimes include murder and human trafficking. The FBI’s most current hate crime report (2019) shows that there was a 17% uptick in hate crimes between 2017 and 2018. Racial hate crimes have remained the highest percentage of all hate crimes, and hate crimes based on religion and sexual orientation are seeing significant increases. The Southern Poverty Law Center (2019) closely monitors the activities of domestic hate groups in the United States, and their reporting indicates that there are a staggering 1,020 hate groups currently operating in the United States.

In the face of such hate, what can TESOL professionals do to prepare and equip our English learners, particularly in the classroom? English language educators have a responsibility to address the issues that face our students. English language learners in the United States are at a higher risk of being a victim of a hate crime than other people in the United States, as these English learners often are non-White, belong to a religious community that is at a higher risk of being targeted, or stand out because of their lack of mainstream cultural and linguistic knowledge. Attempting to be neutral, or remaining silent, when issues of hate arise in the classroom is indefensible for educators who seek their learners’ well-being.

Here are some suggestions on how educators of English language learners can proactively address and prepare students for the troubling reality of hate crimes:

1. Ensure Students Know Their Rights

Inform students that if they have witnessed or been victimized by a hate crime, they can report the incident to the police. You can also encourage them to report the incident to ProPublica’s Documenting Hate website, which is a nonprofit investigative newsroom that tracks incidents of hate.

Incorporate project-based learning in your class by having students research a topic related to hate crimes and then present their findings to the class through a poster or multimedia presentation. For example, adult ESL students could research what to do if they experience sexual harassment at work, or what to do if they witness a hate crime. This project gives students the opportunity to discover resources and teach their classmates critical information on how to conduct themselves in a country and culture that may be new to them. Moreover, this knowledge empowers students who may have been victimized by acts of hate and discrimination.

2. Model Civic Responsibility Through Advocacy

Hate crimes are notoriously underreported, with many major American cities reporting no hate crime statistics whatsoever. For a country that purports to take public safety seriously, the lack of reliable data on hate crimes is deeply problematic. Data drives policy, and better data collection would result in allocation of funds toward protecting vulnerable communities. However, after the horrific murder of Heather Heyer by a White supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, a bipartisan coalition in Congress is seeking to give law enforcement funding to improve hate crime reporting and expand support for victims of hate crimes.

The bill is named the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act (which goes by the acronym NO HATE). If you live in the United States, urge your congressperson and senators to support this bill. If you live in another country, advocate for hate crime reporting legislation in your own context.

Make this an opportunity to teach your students about the legislative process in your country, and have students participate in the democratic process of contacting elected officials through a persuasive letter writing project. Teaching students how to write a persuasive letter to an elected official is an authentic and powerful way to model civic responsibility to your students.

3. Introduce the Pyramid of Hate

Hate crimes are the surface reality of deep, systemic issues. The Anti-Defamation League’s Pyramid of Hate (2018) is an impactful teaching tool that visually illustrates the effects and consequences of prejudice and bigotry.

After discussing any unfamiliar vocabulary words used in the pyramid, have students explore the ways that hate can escalate in a society. Assign one level of the pyramid to a small group and have the students brainstorm examples from history, current events, or their personal experiences that demonstrate the behaviors in their assigned level.

4. Discuss Quotations

Compile a list of quotations from notable figures who have stood up against hate. Here are some example quotations:

“Darkness cannot drive darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.”
― Maya Angelou

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
– The Dalai Lama

“Misunderstanding…arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.”
– Lester B. Pearson

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela

Ask students to discuss in small groups whether they agree or disagree with each quotation. Then have students search online to learn more about these figures who have fought against hate.

5. Host a Movie Night

Film is a powerful way to introduce the weighty issue of hate crimes into the classroom. The hate crime/genocide genre has many titles to consider, including

  • Apt Pupil,
  • School Ties,
  • American History X,
  • Mississippi Burning,
  • Hotel Rwanda,
  • The Killing Fields,
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence, and
  • Schindler’s List.

Before viewing the movie, introduce vocabulary and idioms to students, as well as historical background. After watching the movie, facilitate a discussion that addresses the hate crimes that are portrayed in the film.


Anti-Defamation League. (2018). Pyramid of hate. Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/pyramid-of-hate.pdf

BBC News. (2017). Charlottesville: Who was victim Heather Heyer? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40924922

Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Hate map. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

U.S. Department of Justice. (2019). Hate crime statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hcs1317pp.pdf

Download this article (PDF)

Rita Van Dyke-Kao  is an assistant professor/coordinator of ESL in the Division of Continuing Education at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, California. Rita has taught in a number of different contexts, including teacher education in the United States; EFL in South Korea, China, and Burma; and ESL in community college and IEP contexts in Canada and the United States. She is passionate about both advocating for English language learners and teaching students how to advocate for themselves.


Increasing Inclusivity: Diverse Voices in TESOL

by Deborah Healey, TESOL President, and Christopher Powers, TESOL Executive Director

TESOL President Deborah Healey and Executive Director Chris Powers discuss TESOL's commitment “to equity, diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights,” elaborate on what it means to include diverse voices in the association and the profession, and share news about the new TESOL Diverse Voices Task Force. 

As an international association with longstanding values that include a commitment “to equity, diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights,” TESOL International Association has always sought to be a diverse and inclusive association that listens to, hears, and empowers the voices of all our members. Since electing our first nonnative English speaker, Jun Liu, as president in 2004 to our first Latina president, Luciana de Oliveira, in 2016, we have seen this commitment most readily displayed through geography. Through birth, citizenship, or residency, our current board of 11 represents eight different countries.

Although TESOL has made significant efforts to have geographic diversity represented in its leadership at all levels, other forms of diversity have not been as well represented. This became quite clear as a result of a Teaching Tip session at the 2019 TESOL Convention in Atlanta. The presentation was about offensive language in the classroom, a topic which many teachers struggle with and which the proposal reviewers felt would be appropriate. Unfortunately, the topic, and specifically the use of racially offensive language, was not addressed in a sufficiently sensitive manner. A follow-up meeting the Friday of the convention with then incoming TESOL President Deborah Healey, TESOL senior staff, and eight African American TESOLers, including several from Georgia TESOL, brought out more fundamental issues. These included diversity and inclusion in the adjudication process and broader representation at the convention and in various levels of TESOL leadership. In order to deal with these issues head on, we have created the Diverse Voices Task Force, with a mandate to provide clear recommendations to the TESOL Board of Directors to cultivate diverse leadership and a culture of inclusion in the association.

The values we all share, our vision to be the trusted global authority for knowledge and expertise in English language teaching, and our mission to advance the expertise of professionals who teach English to speakers of other languages in multilingual contexts worldwide demand an association that is diverse and inclusive. Moreover, our success in meeting our strategic outcomes of increasing our Global Presence and Connectivity, strengthening our Knowledge and Expertise, and raising the Voices of all TESOL educators to advocate for ourselves and our students depends on all TESOL voices being included. We must have diverse representation in TESOL events, publications, and leadership, and our programs and activities must be inclusive. We seek to address diversity and inclusion in all areas of the association’s work, from our Convention to our communities of practice to our leadership. We are looking to the Diverse Voices Task Force to guide our work in this regard.

Our open call for volunteers brought in an unprecedented number of applications from TESOL members passionate about the cause. Following this call, we have brought together 10 TESOL members to form the task force: Co-chairs Kisha Bryan and Eric Dwyer, and members Abdulsamad Humaidan, Arlene Costello, Federico Salas-Isnardi, Mary Romney, Noreen Mirza, Phoenicia Grant, Sara Kangas, and Yasmine Romero. The staff partner is Rita Buckner, and the board liaison is Past President Luciana de Oliveira.

The charge of the Task Force is as follows:

  • Develop a vision statement on diversity and inclusion for the association.
    • What does diversity and inclusion mean for TESOL International Association?
    • What are the different dimensions of diversity within the association?
  • Research and report on the ways that other associations address diversity and inclusion and diversify their leadership.
  • Develop recommendations on how TESOL International Association can cultivate diverse leadership at all levels within the association.
  • Develop recommendations on how we can build a culture of inclusion across the association.
  • Identify possible mechanisms the association can employ to develop diverse leaders for the benefit of the field and profession.

We have asked the task force to deliver an initial progress report for the October 2019 Board of Directors meeting and an update for the Executive Committee by the January 2020 online meeting. They will deliver preliminary findings, including a vision statement, for board discussion at the Denver Convention in March 2020. We hope that they will also be able to hold an open session so that they can share their progress with TESOL members directly. We expect the task force will issue additional updates to the membership throughout the process. The final report, with recommendations, will be submitted in September 2020 for the board’s consideration at its meeting in October 2020.

As an international association, we want to be sure that we are as inclusive as possible and in ways that make sense in all of our contexts. We hope to start with recommendations for what to do in the immediate term and then establish a mechanism that will promote inclusive leadership for the association in an ongoing way. We also hope to develop ways that our association can help our affiliates and other groups become more inclusive. Our ultimate goal is to live up to the values we all share. Like any long-term process, this will not be a quick fix. We will all be part of making TESOL leadership and members truly representative of the global field as a whole. As we hear from the Diverse Voices Task Force in the next months, let us all reflect on how we as individuals can ensure that our association and all of our related connections are truly inclusive.

Deborah Healey
TESOL President
Email: dhealey@tesol.org
Twitter: @DL_Healey

Christopher Powers
TESOL Executive Director
Email: cpowers@tesol.org
Twitter: @TESOL_Powers


Current Best Strategies for Working With Content Specialists

by Tamara Milbourn, Teresa Bruno, Quanisha Charles, Ariana Magee, and Tamara Stasik
The results from a TESOL 2019 dialogue session shed light on issues such as support and communication strategies in language–content specialist collaboration. 

Scholars and organizations have developed many theories and principles to support content specialists when teaching multilingual students. As an eminent example, TESOL’s The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners (Short, Becker, Cloud, Hellman, & Levine, 2018) has synthesized decades of research into guidelines to support best practices.

As many in TESOL know, Short et al.’s (2018) sixth principle is for teachers to engage and collaborate within a community of practice. However, because content instructors may express hesitancy about, or even resistance to, incorporating language support (e.g., Bacon, 2018) and possibly view language specialists as having lower status (e.g., Stewart, 2018), being a language specialist working with content specialists can be challenging.

A dialogue held during the 2019 TESOL Convention about these issues provided participants an opportunity to (1) share experiences and (2) begin to build a community resource on interpersonal communication strategies to aid language specialists in their work. More specifically, the dialogue centered around the following questions:

  1. What forms of support and opposition from content instructors have you seen or experienced in your work?

  2. What interpersonal communication strategies have you employed or witnessed that have been especially effective/ineffective in facilitating the modification of content teachers’ classroom practices to support multilingual learners?

  3. What next steps need to be taken to support language specialists when working with content teachers?

The remainder of this article presents a summary of the notes participants shared with the authors detailing their small group discussions and the conclusions participants reached during a large group dialogue toward the end of the session. Furthermore, the authors, who all participated in the dialogue, have interwoven some additional points based on their own professional and academic experiences. Dialogue attendees mainly came from secondary and higher education, so these synthesized comments should be taken to reflect participants’ experience in both contexts.

1. Supports and Opposition


When asked about the forms of assistance they had encountered from content teachers, attendees reported they felt most supported when content specialists

  • showed a willingness to collaborate;
  • implemented TESOL methodology (e.g., SIOP, visuals, graphic organizers);
  • had positive orientations toward the work; and
  • had access to professional development/training in teaching multilingual learners that was (1) part of new faculty/teacher orientation and (2) meaningful, convenient, and ongoing.

Additionally, attendees stated they felt validated when administrative, organizational, and legislative backing was present. For example, participants reported feeling bolstered when supporting multilingual learners in content classes was a sitewide initiative.


Attendees reported opposition from content teachers often came in the form of their not understanding their roles in educating multilingual learners. Participants observed that content teachers sometimes viewed themselves solely as content teachers, not language facilitators. Participants noted that content specialists expected that language instruction should be left to the language specialist because

  • time to collaborate was limited,
  • content teachers were responsible for covering all material for state assessments, and
  • inclusion of language acquisition may “water down” the content.

Participants also reported that content teachers’ current teaching styles/methods were often more traditional, which did not easily incorporate language acquisition pedagogy.

2. Interpersonal Communication Strategies

For the purposes of the dialogue, interpersonal communication was defined as the verbal, nonverbal, and written exchanges between people intended “to achieve a variety of instrumental and communication goals such as informing, persuading, and providing emotional support” (Berger, 2010, p. 1). The following chart highlights participants’ views on effective versus ineffective communication strategies for working with content specialists.



Supportive language

  • expressing empathy/admiration
  • modeling language of kindness/respect

Collegial collaborations through

  • coplanning
  • open discussions
  • casual meetings


  • showing up!
  • attending new faculty orientation

Supportive documentation

  • sharing with faculty impact data using graphs/examples

Short, concise emails

  • being personable

Categorical statements

  • You need to…
  • I want to….
  • I have the solution

Communication of a deficit mindset of content teacher as

  • being uninformed/unsuitable to work with students
  • lacking knowledge in the TESOL field

“Sit and get” PDs with no

  • follow-ups
  • material applying to the content teachers’ context(s)

Mass, cold emails that

  • appear to be spam
  • are uncongenial

3. Schall-Leckrone and O’Connor

Attendees in the 2019 dialogue also had the opportunity to compare their current experiences to the findings of a similar discussion held at a previous TESOL Convention. In the August 2012 issue of TESOL Connections, Laura Schall-Leckrone and Kevin O’Connor published the article “Fostering Content-Based Instruction Through Collaboration” based on their participants’ discussion of the benefits and challenges of supporting multilingual learners in the content classroom. Thanks to vigorous discussion, participants did not have time to examine all the information from Schall-Leckrone and O’Connor (2012); however, 2019 attendees shared the following comparisons.

Although the English language teaching and learning landscape has evolved, many of the ideas discussed in 2012 were found to be still valid today. Language specialists in 2019 still strive to understand discipline-specific content knowledge, access content resources (such as texts, manipulatives, and scaffolds), and utilize their language expertise to analyze content area standards and instructional strategies. A remaining concern was the need for shared professional development with content area teachers and coteaching opportunities. The most common refrain, in 2012 and 2019, was that teachers must have time to collaborate and the ability and tools to communicate.

In addition, the importance of coplanning to strategize and implement effective instructional approaches has not diminished, though the strategies suggested have advanced significantly, especially because of the technology available. In 2012, utilizing electronic media for communication was more likely to be novel, while in 2019, cloud-based file sharing and online communication systems for teachers to share student data were discussed as commonplace in many settings. The increased access to digital resources and communication, however, has come with challenges around consistent access and coteachers’ proficiency level with the tools available. Furthermore, 2019 participants acknowledged that while access to resources has increased significantly, teachers can be overwhelmed by the wealth of information and struggle to choose the best resource for the language and learning objectives.

4. Next Steps and Conclusion

As is evident from the preceding summary, this effort to determine best practices for working with content specialists distilled concepts of successful support and communication strategies. Moving forward, the 2019 attendees identified three areas to improve:

  • Fostering stronger collaboration
  • Advocating for language specialists
  • Conducting further research

Both higher education and K–12 settings can make meaningful adjustments to structures already in place. For example, new teacher training and professional development opportunities before classes begin could include ESL presentations or workshops to consider language learners and coteaching possibilities. Part of this training should be about content teachers’ roles in educating multilingual students in regard to language acquisition and how to use digital resources effectively when collaborating.

Not only should school districts and administration provide the space in existing programs to acknowledge student language needs and validate specialists’ work already in progress, they also need to provide additional scheduling, advising, and funding for this essential work. Teachers and professors must be involved in these activities as well, especially in devising curriculum, learning guides, and teaching resources that are tailored to specific disciplines. Finally, conducting further research on models of goal setting, instruction, and assessment will aid in developing a stronger knowledge base and teacher relationships that support our students.

In sum, this brief report verifies ongoing concerns regarding communication between language specialists and content teachers. The authors endorse extensive material, pedagogical, and theoretical support to sustain language learning for students in content-based classrooms.


We would like to thank session participants for sharing their knowledge with us and for proofreading this article.


Bacon, C. K. (2018). “It’s not really my job.” Journal of Teacher Education, 1–16. doi:10.1177/0022487118783188

Berger, C. R. (2010). Interpersonal communication. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of communication. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/9781405186407.wbieci077

Schall-Leckrone, L., & O’Connor, K. (2012). Fostering content-based instruction through collaboration. TESOL Connections. Retrieved from http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolc/issues/2012-08-01/2.html

Short, D. J., Becker, H., Cloud, N., Hellman, A. B., & Levine, L. N. (2018). The 6 principles for exemplary teaching of English language learners. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.

Stewart, T. (2018). Expanding possibilities for ESP practitioners through interdisciplinary team teaching. In Y. Kırkgöz & K. Dikilitaş (Eds.), Key issues in English for specific purposes in higher education (pp. 141–156). New York, NY: Springer.

Download this article (PDF)


Tamara Milbourn is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is interested in issues in education related to monolingualism and multilingualism, with an emphasis on issues of equity as connected to language practices and academic norms. She has worked in Taiwan, Japan, Benin, China, and the United States. She is currently studying how undergraduate international students and American university instructors experience their classroom learning environments.

Teresa Bruno coaches novice teacher candidates in TESOL, bilingual education, and special education in a variety of settings and teaches graduate coursework in linguistics and literacy. She is currently serving on the New York State TESOL Executive Board. She has taught ESL and French bilingual in New York City and internationally. In Summer 2019, she relocated with her family to Colorado and is looking forward to continuing her work there.

Dr. Quanisha Charles is a TESOL specialist who focuses her research on English language teaching identities of native-English-speaking minorities, particularly those who identify as Black. Dr. Charles grounds her research in narrative inquiry through the lens of critical race theory. She has taught English in South Korea, China, and Vietnam. She currently teaches English and spearheads the newly developed TESOL curriculum at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Kentucky.

Dr. Ariana Magee is a Title III professional learning specialist with the Georgia State Department of Education. As a professional learning specialist, she designs, delivers, and coordinates statewide EL-focused professional learning to school systems throughout the state. With more than 13 years of teaching experience, the last 6 of which have been exclusively with English language learners, she has worked in a variety of educational settings and with varying age groups as a science teacher.

Dr. Tamara Stasik is an assistant professor of English and English for academic purposes specialist at the University of DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana. As an advocate for multilingual and international students at a small liberal arts college, she provides support to both faculty and students. Dr. Stasik teaches English literature and English for academic purposes, providing language instruction in fluency development, critical reading, and academic writing. Her current research focuses on developing inclusive classroom pedagogy and intercultural communication.


Creating Academic Lectures to Assess Listening

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Writing, performing, and recording your own lectures for listening assessments can solve many issues that come with using existing materials. 

Assessing listening can be difficult, especially when the assessment materials that accompany your textbook present their own challenges:

  • The assessment items aren’t rigorous enough.

  • The assessments don’t measure target learning outcomes.

  • The listening prompt is too short or too scripted.

  • The listening prompt is accessible to students outside of the testing situation.

  • Transcripts of the listening prompt are included in the student’s textbook.

Some teachers turn to videos on the Internet. However, locating appropriate videos can be time-consuming, and the search may yield videos whose pace is too fast or whose vocabulary is too complex.

Two Approaches to Listening Assessment

There are many approaches to assessing listening, but two are of interest here:

1. The Comprehension Approach

In listening classrooms that rely on a comprehension approach to assess listening, the availability of the listening prompt and the script outside of the testing situation pose significant challenges because students’ access to these materials can invalidate the assessment. According to Field (2008), the comprehension approach to teaching listening focuses on assessing whether students have understood what they heard, either the main idea or important details about the prompt. This approach enables teachers to create listening assessments that can be used to determine whether students have achieved learning outcomes.

2. The Process Approach

Other approaches to teaching listening nurture student autonomy and motivation, such as the process approach (Field, 2008). This approach uses repeated exposures to a listening prompt to help learners develop familiarity with aspects of connected speech. Using transcripts and making listening prompts available to learners supports a process approach to teaching listening. However, this approach doesn’t answer a key dilemma for listening teachers: How do I know if this student has achieved the learning outcomes for listening?

In order to meet the need for additional listening prompts that would support my comprehension-based listening classroom, I decided to write and perform my own academic lectures.

Creating Your Own Assessments

In this article, I focus on creating listening assessments for language learners in the CEFR B1 level of proficiency:

CEFR Level B1

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. (Council of Europe, 2019a)

Transitioning from B1 to B2 requires that learners develop their ability to speak and understand unfamiliar and abstract concepts (Council of Europe, 2019b), which are often the focus of university lectures. CEFR B1 is also the level in which many learners begin to experience plateaus in their language learning and may especially benefit from activities and assessments that build their confidence.

Here are some key points for helping you develop your own academic lectures.

1. Determine the Topic and Scope

At this stage, review the topics of your course textbook and the majors of your students and brainstorm particularly engaging content. Some topics that my previous students enjoyed included

  • the effects of smartphones,
  • gender income inequality,
  • cloning and “designer babies,”
  • the placebo effect,
  • art restitution,
  • video games and violence, and
  • the effects of artificial intelligence on employment.

If you will also be assessing speaking in your class, controversial topics like these also lend themselves well to debate and discussion, which deepens students’ understanding of the content and familiarity with the new vocabulary.

It’s also critical at this stage to decide the scope of your lectures. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Will you create a stand-alone lecture, a set of lectures, or a multipart series?

  • What content will you address in each lecture? How much content will each lecture include?

  • How long will each video be?

For B1 learners, I usually aim to create lectures that are between 8 and 12 minutes long, since most listening assessments that accompany my textbooks are only 4–6 minutes long. Using a pace of about 125 words per minute, an 8–12-minute lecture falls between the range of 1,000–1,500 written words.

2. Organize the Lecture

For B1 learners, providing a clear organizational structure for the lecture can reduce the cognitive load of listening and help build learner confidence. I often use the following organizational patterns for listening assessments:

  • Listing
  • Problem: Three Possible Solutions
  • Compare-Contrast
  • Cause: Three Effects
  • Effect: Three Possible Causes

Create a skeletal outline with the key points and sources that you want to mention (See the Appendix for two examples).

3. Select Appropriate Lecture Language, Vocabulary, and Examples of Suprasegmentals

Lecture Language

Teaching your students to recognize lecture language can be useful in helping students manage incoming listening input. Lecture language signals to the listener that important information is about to be said and the listener should prepare to write. Examples of lecture language include for instance, for example, what we’re going to talk about today, now that we’ve talked about X, let’s move on to Y, and so on. This is also a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how to use language for attribution as you mention your sources, which further supports the importance of citing sources beyond the written essay. As you write your script, consider which lecture language you want to focus on and plan to include an important idea after the lecture language. It can be particularly encouraging to students to include specific questions on the listening assessment that pertain to the information immediately after lecture language is used.


In terms of how much new vocabulary to use in your lectures, Webb & Nation (2017) report that it can take learners as many as eight to 12 exposures to an unknown word in a listening prompt before a student learns the word (pp. 65–66). Field (2008) supports their finding that B1 learners are not typically successful at using context to determine the meaning of an unknown spoken word. Therefore, for B1 learners, a brand-new listening prompt is probably not a suitable situation for learners to acquire vocabulary. Instead, focus on using previously taught vocabulary, limit the amount of completely new words, and consider providing a list or interactive flashcards (e.g., through Quizlet) for words that you want your students to be prepared to hear during the listening prompt in the testing situation.


Another aspect to consider is whether you want to assess your students’ understanding of the way that suprasegmentals (intonation, sentence stress, and word stress) can influence the meaning of a sentence. For example, I include different types of questions to assess my students’ understanding of the meaning of rising and falling intonation on Wh– questions, yes/no questions, and tag questions. I might also include questions that assess my students’ abilities to recognize sentence stress when it conveys a different meaning than a typical declarative sentence.

On your skeletal outline, add notes about where you want to add these features.

4. Draft a Script

Use your annotated outline to draft a script. Prepare your script to your level of comfort. You can write out everything that you want to say or you can just speak from your outline. I’ve found that speaking from a written script helps me stay on topic and ensures that I don’t forget anything that I want to say. In addition, I can use the transcript to remind me of the lecture’s content and to help grade tests if I use the lecture again months later.

5. Select Visuals and Create Slides

Visuals, animations, models, and other graphics not only enhance your content, they also provide learners another point of engagement with the content. In his Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, Mayer (2005) points out that learning involves processing input through visual and auditory channels. Furthermore, each channel is limited in its capacity to process input. The learner’s task is to effectively coordinate and interpret the input coming through each channel. When the auditory channel is overwhelmed, learners can look to visual input for clues. When the visual input is perplexing, the learner can switch to the auditory channel. Effectively managing this coordination is foundational to active learning. Consequently, well designed and illustrated presentations are likely to increase student understanding and retention of knowledge.

6. Record Your Lecture

As much as possible, I try to keep my recorded voice natural. I allow myself to have some hesitations and false starts, but I also keep to the script. For B1 learners, I want to provide a structured lecture that includes some authentic aspects of connected speech but that is also predictable so that B1 learners don’t become overwhelmed with the process of parsing and comprehending a stream of speech. For a specific tutorial on how to record your lecture, please view my recorded presentation of “Creating Bottom-Up and Top-Down Academic Listening Materials.”

Closing Thoughts: An Enduring Resource for Assessment

Of course, creating in-house academic lectures was time-consuming, but the result produced tailored listening prompts to which our program controlled access. Over a 4-year period, we created a bank of 70 videos from which we have been able to draw over the years. Typically, we created a set of videos on a topic, playing the first video in class and allowing students the opportunity to discuss, while the second video would be reserved and played live during formal testing. In this way, we were able to assess students’ abilities to collaborate, share notes, and study from their notes while also assessing their ability to listen to a new prompt and demonstrate their individual listening comprehension.

Despite the time requirements, creating your own academic lectures for listening assessments can be an effective investment of time and resources in the long run.


Council of Europe. (2019a). Global scale – Table 1 (CEFR 3.3): Common reference levels. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Retrieved from https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale

Council of Europe. (2019b). Self-assessment grid – Table 2 (CEFR 3.3): Common reference levels. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Retrieved from https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/

Field, J. (2008). Listening in the language classroom. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. (2005). Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Webb, S., & Nation, P. (2017). How vocabulary is learned. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Download this article (PDF)
and the Appendix (PDF)

Sharon Tjaden-Glass, MA TESOL, is an instructional media designer for Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. Her current research interests include flipped learning for second language learning, the intersection of listening and intercultural communication, and instructional design.


7 Best Practices for Teaching Pronunciation

by Martha C. Pennington
Pennington covers a variety of practices and strategies for approaching pronunciation teaching and shares an extensive array of online resources to further your expertise. 

Many language teachers teach pronunciation as a component of a speaking class or other oral skills class, or as an autonomous class. As an aid in deciding how to approach the teaching of pronunciation, I offer seven recommendations for best practices based on a review of approaches I gave in my presentation at the 2019 TESOL Convention (Pennington, 2019; download the handout here).1

1. Teach Segmental and Suprasegmental Features Together

The teaching of pronunciation has traditionally aimed for accurate production, based on a native speaker model, of segmental features—the individual consonant and vowel sounds, or phonemes, of a foreign or second language (L2). Although some pronunciation specialists maintain that segmental phonemes are easier to teach and learn, teaching the larger units of the sound pattern of a language, its suprasegmental features of stress and intonation and their effects on sounds in context, is also important.

Because speech occurs in a connected stream of sound, it is more realistic to teach pronunciation “top-down” (Pennington, 1989), in context, rather than teaching only individual sounds in isolation. It is also more useful to learners, as research has shown (Lee, Jang, & Plonsky, 2015) that teaching segmental features together with suprasegmental features is more effective than teaching them alone.

2. Draw Learners’ Attention to Pronunciation Form in Relation to Meaning and Communication

Language teaching and learning focused on meaning and communication, as in communicative language teaching, often results in learners who reach an intermediate or advanced level of proficiency with “fossilized” pronunciation errors. For this reason, communicative methodologies such as communicative language teaching and task-based language teaching have increasingly incorporated a focus on form with a goal of fine-tuning pronunciation to improve communication and expression of meaning.

Form-focused instruction designed to draw learners’ attention to pronunciation in relation to the performance of communicative tasks may include the following:

  • Listening to examples of the pronunciation of a phoneme in different contexts together with instructions and practice on articulation of that phoneme as preparation for a communicative task (preinput).

  • Corrective feedback while performing an activity in communicative language teaching or task-based language teaching (in-process input).

  • Delayed feedback as well as further instruction once the activity is completed (postinput).

Research supports the value of focusing on form, especially instruction on articulation combined with corrective feedback, for improving pronunciation of both segmental and suprasegmental features.

3. Use Implicit Learning as a Prelude to Explicit Teaching and Learning

Most pronunciation teaching has an explicit focus on form that aims to raise awareness and conscious understanding of pronunciation features and to improve control of articulation through a combination of perceptual training and repetitive practice. Such training and practice might involve, for example, (1) repeated listening to minimal pair words such as sit / set or pat / bat followed by repeated pronunciation of those pair words, as a way to train learners to hear and then produce the difference or (2) listening to a certain phoneme as pronounced in many different words or by many different speakers as a way to train learners to correctly perceive and produce it. Perceptual training combined with other kinds of explicit form-focused instruction, such as teacher instructions on how to position the lips and tongue to make a certain sound, is recommended for improving pronunciation both in the language classroom and in workplace contexts, such as for communication by L2 doctors and by L2 customer service representatives working in call centers (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019, ch. 7).

Pronunciation instruction can also provide opportunities for implicit learning through language exposure rather than explicit teaching. Implicit learning occurs as a result of exposure to natural speech in listening, through the brain’s inborn mechanisms for detecting patterns. Listening to authentic speech samples is especially valuable for implicit learning in the initial stage of language learning, as preinput before explicit instruction and speaking practice.

4. Make Use of Learners’ Multilingualism

Most approaches to pronunciation teaching reference only the L2 and not learners’ multilingual knowledge and identity. Yet research in sociolinguistics and multilingualism has shown how speakers express their agency and identity by using more than one variety of language. Sociolinguistically informed, multilingual views of language support attention to learners’ various language competences in instruction, such as explicitly comparing and contrasting the pronunciation of the first language and different varieties of the L2, and to matters of identity, such as “roleplaying to practice style-shifting and projecting different identities associated with different features of pronunciation and accent” (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019, p. 214).

5. Use Role-Play or Mirroring Techniques

Learners are able to significantly modify their pronunciation as they “try on” and play with different identities in role-playing or mirroring the voice and related communicative behaviors of another person (Tarone & Meyers, 2018). Such top-down approaches as role-play and mirroring that encourage learners to project themselves into new roles and identities may prove more effective in altering pronunciation than some traditional phonetically based approaches.

6. Incorporate Different Voices and Models

Explicit attention to different voices and models for pronunciation reinforces a multilingual concept of pronunciation while also sharpening perception of the range of variation in suprasegmental and segmental pronunciation features. Perceptual training has been found to be highly effective when it makes use of a variety of different voices and models for pronunciation, and it is useful to incorporate different voices and models for pronunciation in any listening material used for implicit learning or as preinput to pronunciation instruction.

7. Keep Abreast of Developments in Technology and Use Technology to Support Classroom-Based Activities

Pronunciation instruction can be provided with technology, which nowadays is mainly available through web-based sites or apps. Technology can be used in class to supplement other modes of instruction and learning, or outside of class as pre- or postinput to classroom instruction. Pronunciation technologies typically focus on form with little or no attention to context, though some of the best programs teach pronunciation in context. Increasingly, pronunciation programs include automatic speech recognition technology that can give feedback on performance, such as Protea Textware’s Connected Speech, and the best ones reliably differentiate errors from correct or acceptable performance.

Recommended Websites and Apps

Phonetics websites and apps, such the University of Iowa’s Sounds of Speech, include animated visuals of articulatory motions and audio-recordings that can be used in pronunciation instruction. Several websites and apps offer access to large databases of speech, some with transcriptions, that can be used in L2 and multilingual approaches to instruction, such as the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA), George Mason University’s Speech Accent Archive, and the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE). Other technologies not designed for pronunciation instruction can be used in a pronunciation class or curriculum, for example, social media such as Twitter (Mompean & Fouz-González, 2016).

In addition, preexisting, teacher-made, and student-made audio and video recordings of speech can be used in explicit teaching or as preinput for implicit learning, not only in traditional L2 instruction but also in multilingual approaches. (For more information on technology in pronunciation, see “21 Online Pronunciation Resources for Teaching and Learning,” by Henrichsen, and Chapter 5 of English pronunciation teaching and research: Contemporary perspectives by Pennington and Rogerson-Revell)

Technologies can provide access to many different kinds of input to language learning that would otherwise not be available, and students are usually eager to learn with technology. It is therefore important to keep up to date on technologies and how these can be used to support classroom-based teaching. Research supports the value of many different kinds of technology for improving pronunciation, both those specifically designed to work on pronunciation and those not so designed but which have been creatively applied within a pronunciation curriculum. However, an extensive review of research on pronunciation teaching (Lee, Jang, & Plonsky, 2015) found greater effects for human-based instruction than computer-based instruction. A sensible position to take is that technology should not be used to replace classroom-based pronunciation instruction but rather to complement or supplement it.

Summary of Best Practices

  1. Teach segmental and suprasegmental features together.

  2. Draw learners’ attention to pronunciation form in relation to meaning and communication.

  3. Use implicit learning as a prelude to explicit teaching and learning.

  4. Make use of learners’ multilingualism.

  5. Use role-play or mirroring techniques.

  6. Incorporate different voices and models.

  7. Keep abreast of developments in technology and use technology to support classroom-based activities.

Applying the Best Practices

In this brief article, I have made recommendations as to what might be considered best practices for the teaching of pronunciation at the present time, based on the available approaches and what is known about their effectiveness. I encourage all language teachers to consider how these recommendations might be applied in their own teaching of pronunciation, whether as an autonomous course or as supplementary to a speaking or other type of language course.

1See also Pennington & Rogerson-Revell (2019) for an extensive review of research and practice in the teaching of pronunciation and a forthcoming issue of RELC Journal (Pennington, in press) devoted to the teaching of pronunciation.


Henrichsen, L. (2019, February). 21 online pronunciation resources for teaching and learning. TESOL Connections.

Lee, J., Jang, J., & Plonsky, L. (2015). The effectiveness of second language pronunciation instruction: A meta-analysis. Applied Linguistics, 36(3), 345–366.

Mompean, J. A., & Fouz-González, J. (2016). Twitter based ELF pronunciation instruction. Language Learning & Technology, 20(1),166–190.

Pennington, M. C. (Ed.). (in press). The teaching of pronunciation [Special Issue]. RELC Journal, 52(1).

Pennington, M. C. (1989). Teaching pronunciation from the top down. RELC Journal, 20(1), 20–38.

Pennington, M. C. (2019, March). Pronunciation teaching approaches: Considering the options. Paper presented at the meeting of TESOL International Association, Atlanta, GA.

Pennington, M. C., & Rogerson-Revell, P. (2019). English pronunciation teaching and research: Contemporary perspectives. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tarone, E., & Meyers, C. (2018). The Mirroring Project: Improving suprasegmentals and intelligibility in ESL presentations. In R. A. Alonso (Ed.), Speaking in a second language (pp. 197–223). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Download this article (PDF)

Martha C. Pennington is an applied linguist specializing in phonology and writing and a language teacher educator who has taught in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. She holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Professorial Research Associate in the Department of Linguistics at the School for Oriental and African Studies and a Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication at Birkbeck College, both University of London.