TESOL Thoughts

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Archive for the tag “PLN”

14 Teachers Walk into a TESOL Convention…


Fourteen teachers walk into a TESOL Convention in Baltimore. They listen to keynote speakers who inspire and surprise, go on school visits, revisit an old issue from a new perspective, learn from each other at the Electronic Village (EV), meet old friends, give presentations, make new friends, begin networking, question everything, or meet a teacher whose story has a lot to say about our field.

Three weeks later, the conference is over and they are back from their zombie-mode post-conference blues. They have caught up with grading and everything else (because it’s possible, right?). Now these 14 teachers meet again online to share a thought about their time at #TESOL16, a conference insight, a summary of a session that impacted them. Something about the TESOL Convention that made it memorable.

I have met most of these teachers at TESOL Conventions, in grad school, or my Twitter PLN.  Many of them know each other online as well. It is moving to witness how teachers of ESOL are so willing to share, to reflect, and to engage with one another. These short posts represent some of that collaborative spirit, and I hope you all enjoy learning about #TESOL16 through their words.


Adriana Picoral – On Beliefs

Courtney Elizabeth King – 1st Time TESOL Attendee

Elizabeth Killingbeck – Making Screencasts Work

Jose Torres – Networking

Kevin Berry – Getting My Professional Feet Wet

Kimberley Kreicker – K-12 Perspectives at TESOL

Laura Soracco – EV and Social Responsibility

Matthew Noble – Deconstructing Conferences

Omar Longus – Meeting Saiful

Rob Sheppard –A New Perspective

Shaeley Santiago – Linguistic and Cultural Origins

Victor Tam – Inspired by Andy Curtis

Wilma Luth – Connections

Zhenya Polosatova – Highlights and Learning


2013 ELT Resolutions Met PLN

At the beginning of last year, I set two very specific goals related to ELT:

1)    to start a blog and write reflections on my teaching at least once a month.

2)    to write a few lines about each lesson taught and look back at how it went, how I felt, and if possible, to write what I would do differently next time.

I did not write a blog post every month (missed August and October), and occasionally I wrote very short notes on lessons taught, or skipped reflecting all together. However, I did manage to at least accomplish my goal to write most of the time, and for that I am thankful. Last year helped me to begin letting go of that perfectionism that has sometimes prevented me from continuing to work on a goal once I get slightly off track. Looking back, it is clear to me how my Personal Learning Network on Twitter, as well as the blogs I read, played a key role in keeping me motivated -giving me reasons to continue reflecting, brainstorming new ways to do things, and to reach out and get some creative energy at those times of the semester when we feel like we are “done”.

Last November, I learned about the #FlashmobELT movement through Ann Loseva’s blog post (thanks to @michaelegriffin). What a wonderful example of sharing ideas and learning from my PLN! Ann’s post came just as I had reached a point in the semester where I was struggling to come up with an engaging activity to get started reading one of the last academic texts for the semester. Although it’s been well over a month since I did this activity in class, I’d like to share some thoughts on how it went and what I learned. It’s a good thing I journaled a bit after teaching because now that I read it, I realize that I would not have remembered as much had I not kept notes.

Instead of selecting an activity from the linoit page in which FlashmobELT is collecting a growing amount of teaching ideas, I chose the 10 words activity that Ann mentions in her blog post. My students were about to begin reading a dense text (to be discussed in class) and I had not explicitly taught vocabulary in a while. The “10 words” activity (it doesn’t really have a name, but I’ll just call it that for now) requires students to choose 10 words they’ll have a partner guess from context and clues –giving students an opportunity to practice their listening and speaking abilities as well.


I took the first two paragraphs (A and B) from our reading and divided students into two groups. To model the activity for students, I chose a quote related to our topic and took out a few words. Then, I read the quote out loud (skipping the words I had selected) and asked students to guess what the missing words were. The words I chose were too easy and students guessed them right away –I think I would prefer to make this a bit more challenging next time since some of my students ended up also choosing easy words when they selected their 10 from the paragraphs.

Afterwards, I asked students to chose 10 words (from their paragraph) that they did not understand or thought would be useful throughout the text. I took about 5 minutes to go around, helping students understand the words they did not know. Students could not really ask each other what the words meant since I already had put them put into pairs and I had asked them not to show their paragraphs to each other. In the future, I might group all A and all B students together so they could help each other in this first stage of the activity.

Student A began reading the paragraph to student B, skipping the target words and giving clues instead. After student B got it or came close to guessing the words, they switched. This part of the activity took about 15-20 minutes.


I enjoyed seeing how engaged students were throughout the activity, even if I’m not sure they learned a lot of new vocabulary words. I teach a monolingual class, so it was definitely unusual to see most of them speaking in English during the whole time. Students did not appear distracted or sidetracked, which was also refreshing, especially considering we were approaching that time of the semester where it is hard to stay focused. I liked having chosen the introduction of the text because it gave us a starting point to begin discussing some pre-reading questions later on in this lesson, but I think in the future I may look for some excerpts containing more useful vocabulary since the paragraphs I chose were a bit too easy.


Talking by Claire Jones from The Noun Project

This year I hope to add some activities of my own to the FlashmobELT group. I am thankful to my PLN for all the motivation and encouragement I get from reading blog posts from other teachers and articles shared on Twitter. Since most bloggers I follow use WordPress, I’ve decided to make it easier on myself and move my blog here. This year, I hope to post twice a month and to increase my participation online.

Thanks to everyone who has taught me so much these past 12 months –looking forward to another enriching year in ELT!


11 Questions Blog Challenge -Tagged by @JosetteLB

This has been my first year writing on this blog and exchanging ideas with people on Twitter, and what an incredible year it has been! I’ve met teachers in different parts of the world (e.g., Korea, China, Brasil, Turkey, Italy, Israel), and well, the cooperative spirit and enthusiasm of so many folks has been an incredible gift in my life. While I sure hope to meet some of these teachers in person one day, for now, I am thankful to have the opportunity to read about their experiences and learn from their reflections.

Josette, who tagged me on this 11-question blog challenge, is one of those people who have inspired me to continue reflecting about my teaching, motivating me to write. Answering these questions was fun, and now I would love to get to know a bit more some of the people I follow online, so here are my 11 questions for
@thesecretDOS (who wouldn’t want to find out more about this mysterious blogger?)

Tagged Folks: there is no pressure to answer. However, if you would like to continue this idea, here are some of the guidelines:

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.


1. Why did you start blogging?
As someone who has always enjoyed journaling and writing, I had always wanted to blog, but was very insecure about it. Who would want to read? What would I even write about? Earlier this year I got a great excuse to begin: the community college I used to teach at sent me to work in China for a semester, so I started a blog to document and reflect on some of my teaching experiences. It was intimidating to commit to a blog, but this year for me as been all embracing challenges by committing taking baby steps towards a desired goal. Because of this, I set out the goal to blog once a month. I skipped August and October, but I’m so happy I did begin –writing 10 posts rather than zero feels great!

2. What keeps you teaching every year?
The desire to learn something new. This year, I learned (or began to learn) what it was like to teach large mixed levels (A1-B2) without a pre-existing curriculum. I also started to learn about Project-Based Learning. I’ve met some amazing people (students, other faculty, teachers online), and I think the interaction and exchange of ideas with others also keeps me motivated and going each year.

3. Do you have a pet peeve? If so, what is it? If not, have you ever had one, and how did you get over it?
I think I have several pet peeves, but one the one that comes to mind right now is the use of the expression “real world” when referring to what you do outside of the classroom. Where are we if not in the real world when we are learning with others? Nothing more real than developing relationships with others who may have similar goals to yours. Sure, schools can be a bubble at times in terms of how different issues are discussed or approached, but it is still very real and not some sort of artificial experience.

4. Do you prefer planes, trains, or automobiles when traveling?
Trains! Most of the trains I’ve ever taken have been to visit friends of family in Italy, so there’s something nostalgic about them. I love preparing all the snacks I want to have with me, choosing a book to read on the trip, and having a good playlist. I suppose planes accomplish this too, but I really enjoy how much I can see from a train window.

5. What’s your favourite movie?
An Italian film that came out in 2001 called “Le Fate Ignoranti”. I think it’s been translated as “The Ignorant Fairies”. The movie is about a young widow who finds out her husband had a male lover for many years. She sets out to search for the lover, and through him, ends of discovering a lot not just about her diseased husband, but about herself. The movie is filmed in Rome, and the stories it tells are so moving.

6. Has a complete stranger ever showed you kindness? What happened?
This is such a hard question to answer because I can’t recall one big moment. Rather, I think I’ve been shown kindness many times in small acts –like when people offer to help carrying something, or when a stranger has said something nice to me just on a day I really needed to get some encouragement.

7. Tea or coffee?
It’s a close call, but being half-Colombian and half-Italian (Seattle is also home), I have to say coffee! I could go a week without tea, but it’s hard to go a day without coffee. I am picky about my coffee, too. I like good quality coffee, fresh, strong, and black.

8. What was one of the sweetest moments that ever happened in class – between you and the students, or between the students?
I once taught a Saturday morning, four-hour remedial English course to MBA students in Colombia. It must have been a group of 12 students, and all of them were at such different levels! I literally had one student who could not understand when I asked him if he liked the textbook, while another one was ready to tell me all about his travels and work experience. The first day of class, at one point after the break, the student with the most limited English decided he would not take the class. All the other students convinced him to stay and told them everyone would work together. It was amazing! They really did work well together and the student in question, a guy in his 40s, ended up really motivated to learn! He took private classes on the side and continued (and successfully completed) his MBA. This was all the work of students though, and I was touched to see that level of support.

9. You have the whole day to yourself. What are you going to do?
Cook something nice while listening to music or the radio (I love NPR’s Radio Lab). I would make coffee or tea and read the news paper for a while, then go out on a walk (preferably in the city) and take lots of pictures. At the end of the day, I would go to the movies –haven’t gone alone in a while, but it’s a great experience. I would take a long bath at night, again, listening to music. Wow, I feel relaxed now just to think of this imaginary whole day to myself!

10. If you could spend a year focusing on research, what would you research? Why?
I am fascinated by Italian dialects (they’re more like languages, actually). I would like to do research on linguistic heritage and find out how maintaining the language of our family or communities affects how we think and who we are. There’s a strong personal motivation behind my interest in this subject; I grew up listening to my Italian grandmother speak in Sanremasco (the dialect of Sanremo in the region of Liguria), and I love how Sanremasco sounds. When I was a kid I would always try to understand as much as I could and I would ask my grandma lots of questions about what she was saying, or try to impress her by translating into Italian. I love how we sound different when we switch languages, and I’m saddened by the fact that the sounds of many generations are disappearing as dialects become less commonly used.

11. What’s your favourite word? 🙂
I really like the word “stentorian”. I remember I first head it in a Fiona Apple song having to do with being heartbroken. The song is called “Oh Well!” and that word for some reason reminded me of the importance of being strong, of listening to that loud inside voice and searching what I really wanted.

My 11 Questions
1. Why did you begin blogging?
2. What is an aspect of teaching that you struggle with and have tried to improve on?
3. What is your ideal lesson like?
4. What would you hope your students remember you for?
5. Why did you become a teacher of ESOL?
6. If you were given a paid semester off to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?
7. Do you listen to music while grading? If so, what do you listen to? If not, why not?
8. Who has influenced your teaching?
9. If you could go anywhere in the world to teach, where would that be and why?
10. Do you have a pet peeve? If so, what is it? If not, have you ever had one, and how did you get over it? (taking this question from Josette)
11. What is your favorite resource (website, object, activity) in teaching?

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