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16 September 2015

Free Audiobooks!

You saw that right! Pearson ELT is offering one free ESL reader audiobook every week, for seven weeks. This is a great way to encourage literacy in your classroom or to get everybody in your class to listen to the same book together. And did I mention that they're free?!?!

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is available this week (Week 2), and Gulliver's Travels is available beginning September 18, 2015. Week 6 is Pride and Prejudice--my favorite book of all time! (I've probably read it 6 times, listened to it on audio book twice, and seen a mini-series or movie version more times that I can count.)

Check it out here: Free Pearson English Readers! 

03 April 2015

StoryCorps App

Hello all! I've had some wonderful feedback from teachers who have used StoryCorps in their classrooms. Well, I have some great news! StoryCorps now has an app. You can record interviews right on your smartphone and instantly upload them. You can also browse other users' interviews. I can't wait to implement this into my StoryCorps lesson.

I'm teaching a basic listening and speaking class, so I am not sure if I will be able to try this out in the spring semester, but I definitely will in the summer. Have any of you used this app yet? I would love to hear how you've used it.

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25 February 2015

Written Corrective Feedback

How do you give feedback on student work? Pen on paper? Voice recordings? Google Drive? Microsoft Word comments? Blackboard? There are so many options that it can seem very overwhelming. I am not going to talk about the research on written corrective feedback in this post. Suffice it to say, there's a lot. And this is a blog for teachers and learners, so I don't want to bore you with details from the professionals. Rather, I'd just like to present what I implement in my classes and how it works. 

Correcting an essay with red pencil
I think one of the challenges for providing student feedback is determining what will work best for you, the teacher, and for your students, based on their computer fluency and language level. 

For all students, I emphasize drafting. I like to have students write two or three drafts, two of which they give me. I usually provide the most feedback on the first draft they give me and less on the "final" draft they submit for a grade. In all of my courses, I use peer revision, and I also always use a rubric for the final draft, which helps justify the grade given. The amount of feedback I give depends on the students' language level and the length of the assignment. Here's a little bit more on what I do. 

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Beginning Students

I think the challenge for working with new writers is not overwhelming them with teacher comments. There is so much for them to work on, it's really hard to decide what to focus on for each draft (and brevity isn't one of my strengths!). Therefore, I think it's important for teachers to tell students what they're going to be looking for and to stick to it. For example, if you've been working on subject/verb agreement in class, that's what you should be on the lookout for. If you're also working on how to develop a paragraph, tell students that you'll be reading for sufficient major and minor details. Focused and brief feedback is essential. 

I have tried writing comments next to errors, circling/underlining errors, error correction key (s/v= subject verb agreement issue, VT= verb tense issue), and using a number system where each mistake has a number (i.e. s/v agreement gets a 1, verb tense error gets a 2, etc.). I think the essential piece is to make sure students understand the system and get comfortable using it. If you change for each paper, they're going to be more worried about figuring out the feedback than actually making changes. What have you found works for lower-level students?

Advanced and Intermediate Students

Here is where you can have some fun. I like using the Microsoft comments function; however, I think Google Drive is actually more useful. Teachers can see the changes students are making and when they've made them. Students also get feedback in real time... There's no waiting until the class meets next to get feedback on a draft. I think this is great for non-traditional students, especially those with families. It can be challenging for them to balance their time, so immediate feedback can assist them with that. 

With advanced students, you can also start to write more in your feedback. You can explain why you think something works (or doesn't). Teachers can focus more on content and organization than the basic sentences and grammar needed for communication. 

And the final piece of written corrective feedback is providing positive feedback, as well as constructive feedback. It's just as important for students to know what they do well so that they can do it next time (and keep it in the current paper). My colleagues, Courtney, Alisha, and Amy Bell, recommend "sandwhiching" the positive feedback around the constructive feedback. This allows students to read positive comments first and last. I love this idea, and I strive to do this every time I give feedback. 

How do you give written corrective feedback? What's your favorite? Which doesn't work? 

21 February 2015

StoryCorps and MITESOL 2014

StoryCorps records people interviewing people they know and love. It is broadcast on NPR (Morning Edition) every Friday and is sure to bring tears to your eyes during your morning commute. If you've never heard of StoryCorps and have never heard an interview, I want you to stop reading this post, and listen to some interviews.  Some of the themes that reoccur are: Angels & MentorsIdentity, and Teachers, among many others.

StoryCorps' mission is "to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone's story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations."  

StoryCorps Logo
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In October 2014 (just 3 weeks after having a baby!) my colleague, Danielle Petersen, and I presented at MITESOL. Our presentation was entitled, "StoryCorps: An oral history project in the ESL classroom." Here's the abstract (for the academics out there): "StoryCorps is used as a framework for integrating interviewing and storytelling in the ESL classroom. Using the oral history project, students develop oral communication skills, improve listening comprehension, and expand cross-cultural perspectives. In this interactive presentation, participants will gain a variety of strategies and activities to implement into their classrooms."  

We discussed how to use story telling and StoryCorps in English language classes. First, I always ask students about story telling in their culture and language. I like eliciting their experiences with stories and storytelling before jumping into listening to the recorded stories online. Then I play a few in class, and students get into groups to answer questions and discuss what they heard. Finally, they go home and listen. Here's an example of a worksheet I would give students to do at home: 

I usually ask students to fill out two of these and to be prepared to talk about them in class the next day. In one of my speaking and listening classes I once had a student brag that he listened to several interviews and chose the easiest to summarize. That made me smile because he'd done exactly what I'd wanted him to do: practice listening!

The final step of using StoryCorps is having students record their own interview. I have the students look at the DIY portion of the site, and provide them an assignment sheet.

Here is a sample assignment sheet:

I received a variety of interviews: some emotional, some with strong connections, some boring, and some without a point or conclusion. However, overall, the interviews were thoughtful and interesting.

The MITESOL presentation went very well. We had a nice group who were interested in the topic. I'm looking forward to doing more presentations at MITESOL.

**Update: StoryCorps now has an app! Check it out here!**

18 February 2015

Introverts Learning Language

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? asks, "Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)." I'm definitely an extrovert... I get energy from being with other people, and I definitely focus on the outside world. I've always wanted to know and understand what's going on around me. For more on personality types, you can visit the Myers & Briggs website. One of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo, also has a less academic run-down of introvert versus extrovert.

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Language teachers often (always?) tell students to go out and meet people! Go and talk to native speakers! But what if you have students who are introverted? Who don't enjoy meeting new people and feel tired after social events? Transparent Language provides some suggestions for introverts who are learning a new language:

1) Join an online community 

2) Get a one-on-one tutor online 

3) Sign up for an online class

4) Take time to recharge with individual activities 

I think these are great suggestions. Introverts could also seek out a one-on-one tutor in person, as working with fewer people is often less draining than in groups. Student should also go to teacher's office hours (in higher education) where they will get some individual attention from the instructor. What are some other strategies that you suggest to introverted or shy students? Or strategies that you yourself use?
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P.S. I'm ENFJ... What are you?

14 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! I'm curious if other countries have days dedicated to love, as well? What are they? When are they? What special things do you do?
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Here are a few posts around the internet about Valentine's Day and language used in love:

How technology changes the way we date

Nicknames for people we love in English--What's your favorite? We call our daughter "Sweet Pea" and "Peaches."

How to be romantic in English

What's your love language? Mine is "Acts of Service."

A Valentine's Day lesson plan.

Not a romantic? Here's the opposite of Valentine's Day.

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Have a great weekend!

12 February 2015

Radio Silence

I apologize for my silence over the last year... I have been busy with life: I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I am in the process of apply to a Ph.D. program. However, I have a few new posts that I will publish soon; I promise!

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A sneak peak at what I'll be posting about: using StoryCorps in the ESL classroom and a follow-up on an old post on corrective feedback. 

Thanks for sticking with me! You guys are awesome!