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18 April 2014

Just for Fun

Here's a word cloud of my blog, as of 4/17/14:

I created this at, but I also like It's fun to see which words come up again and again... I think they exemplify my focus as a language educator. 

17 April 2014

Where I am From Poems

This semester and last semester, the CMU ELI held a poetry competitions for the students. Because I'm on administrative leave this semester, I wasn't able to help students participate. However, last semester, I highly encouraged my students to submit poems. 

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Because poetry can feel daunting (if I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "I can't write poetry, I'd be rich!) for anybody, but especially for non-native speakers/writers. The students often said to me, "But I can't even write poetry in my native language! How will I write it in English?" This is valid concern because poetry can be scary. That's why I decided to provide one type of poem that students would be writing. I hoped that it would make poetry more accessible and real to them. That's why I chose "Where I am from" poems. 

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For those of you who haven't heard of these before, the lines start with "I am from..." and the poet finishes the line with whatever he or she would like. For example, I am from Michigan, so I could say, "I'm from the Great Lakes" or "I am from corn fields and good manners." The point is that students think about their origins, their identity, how they see themselves, and how they want to be seen. 

My students created beautiful poems that they were proud of, and many of my students won first or second runners up for Level 3. One of my student won the entire competition! I don't have permission to share their poems (I have to remember to get permission next time!), but I will share mine as an example. Please feel free to use it in your class if you'd like to use this excellent form of poetry in your classes. 

I even created a wordle with my poem... I wish I had thought of doing this with my students. How fun!

There are lots of other great examples online, and I've included some links at below if you'd like more resources. If you'd like to see pictures of the ELI poetry competition, we have some on the CMU ELI's Facebook site. I'd love to hear: do you use poetry in your class? What's your favorite type of poem to use? I've heard (clean) limericks can be fun!

02 April 2014

TESOL 2014: Successful!

Did you attend the TESOL 2014 convention in Portland, Oregon? What were some of the awesome sessions that you attended? This was my first time attending TESOL, and it was great.  There are so many sessions, and presenters, and attendees that it felt a little overwhelming. I attended some great sessions, including a PCI on Motivation given by Dr. Neil Anderson and his colleagues from BYU. It was fabulous, and I will plan a post summarizing the research that they found. I attended several others on topics including graduate student writing, using TED talks in a listening/speaking class, and using idioms in the ESL classroom.

ELT for the next generation, TESOL 2014 International and English Language Expo, 26-29 March 2014 Portland Oregon, USA
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Additionally, my colleagues, Danielle Petersen, Alisha Fisher, and I presented on flipped learning. If you're unfamiliar with flipped learning, it's where most of the instruction (through video, audio, or reading) occurs at home and interactive activities happen in class. Here's a short video we shared in our presentation that will give you an idea of what it's all about.

Danielle also created a live binder, which has TONS of great resources to get your started if you're a newbie or to hone your craft if you have experience with this teaching method. 

I traditionally use audio and reading in my flipped classes (I haven't flipped a class for the whole year... it's just one method I employ), but this summer I am looking forward to trying my hand at videos in a couple of grammar classes. 

Have any of you flipped a class or whole course? I'd love to hear what you do!

31 March 2014

Assistant Director

I apologize for my lack of posting in the last three months! I resolved to post more often, but life has gotten in the way. This semester, I am on a full course release, and I am now the Assistant Director of the English Language Institute at Central Michigan University. 

Even though I'm not teaching this semester, I have been gaining a lot of new and valuable skills. Learning and experiencing education from the administrative end has shed a new light on how departments and universities work. I am very grateful for this experience, and I hope to share more with you about it at the end of the semester. 

This summer I will be back in the classroom, so I will try to post more about what I'm doing with my classes and other research that's out there. In the meantime, check out my Twitter account: @Caitlin_ESL and check back occasionally for updates!

Everyday I miss being in the classroom and interacting with students, but I sure don't miss the excuses for why homework isn't done on time!

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20 December 2013

Writing Survey Questions

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For teachers of English for Academic Purposes, surveys are par for the course, especially in speaking and listening classes. They're great for many reasons; they not only promote critical thinking, students must also talk to people outside of the classroom, synthesize information, analyze results, present results, create charts/tables, etc. I use them in all classes (not just speaking and listening), especially informal surveys. However, when students are responsible for formal surveys for formal presentations, it's necessary to teach them how to prepare and execute them appropriately.

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The first step when using surveys in class to to teach how to write survey questions. This is a very tricky step for all students, no matter their language level. Fortunately, is here to help. Here Patricia Alejandra Lastiri provides a series of four lessons to teach survey questions writing. She provides four 60-minute lessons along with wonderful printouts and websites. The original lesson is for grades 9-12, but it can be easily adapted for non-native English speakers and ESL classrooms. Included in the link is a survey evaluation form, sample questions and guidelines,  a great rubric (for participation, not just for surveys), and much more. You really should check it out for yourself to see what else can be adopted or adapted.

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P.S. Here's the link:

16 December 2013

Do you love English?

Nominate your favourite blog and website about the English language 2013

If you love English, vote in the Macmillan Dictionary Love English Awards for the best websites and blogs about English. You can also check out last year's winners, and those from 2011. 

A few highlights from the past few years: printables, wordsmith, worldwidewords, filmenglish, and closeyourtextbooks. I can't wait to try some of these ideas out in my classroom next semester. 

And of course, my all time favorite: Free Rice, which helps people learn vocabulary and gives rice to people who are hungry. 

15 December 2013

The Trickiest Word in English: Quite Tricky!

Vicki Hollett (of Learning to Speak 'Merican) wrote a great blog post for the Macmillian Dictionary blog about the trickiest word in English. In it she writes about a quite tricky English word: quite

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The meaning of quite in American and British Englishes has different meanings. In American English the meaning is rather (quite?) positive, and in British English, it is less than positive:

If your American boss says your work is quite good, should you be pleased or a little concerned? In British English quite good only means pretty good or fairly good, but in American English it’s much more positive. Quite good means very good, so you can give yourself a pat on the back.

As I am a native American English speaker, I consider quite to be positive. If you're an English language learner, how did you learn the meaning of quite? If you're a teacher, how do you teach it? With both meanings? Or just for the country in which you're teaching? What if you teach EFL?

"All art is quite useless" -Oscar Wilde

P.S. Here's the link: