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29 April 2013

Slash, Part 2.

Do any of you watch Parks and Recreation on NBC? I love it; and in last Thursday's episode Andy (supporting character) uses slash as a conjunction! Check it out witht the link below. It starts at 5:44 and ends about 6:02.

Parks and Recreation: Swing Vote

He's the "lead singer, slash song writer, slash t-shirt designer, slash nacho chef." Love it!

Secrets for Adult ELLs

Learning a new language is hard, especially for adults. This brief post, Unearthing the Secrets of Adult ELLS, from the TESOL blog provides some suggestions for adult ELLs (English Language Learners). They were generated by students and seem similar to what most (all?) English language teachers preach.

  1. Run away from people who speak your language. Be in contact with as many English speakers as possible. Ask them to correct you.
  2. Expose yourself to America and to American culture. Avoid stores and other locations in the United States where they speak your language. Watch movies and TV without subtitles or English closed captions.
  3. Just try to speak—if necessary, use gestures.
  4. Try to think in English.
  5. Keep a pencil and a notebook with you to write down new words and expressions.
One of the big questions we have to deal with on a daily basis is challenged with suggestion number one. How do we encourage students to speak English most of the time without disregarding their culture, heritage, friends and family? Some adults have spouses and children, so they really can't "run away" from people who speak their language. They live with and love those people. Learners who have children want to pass along their language and culture to their children, especially when they're so far from home; and many spouses don't speak English. How can they reconcile their family/emotional needs versus their language needs?

The first part of #1 isn't always possible for all students, but they can "be in contact with as many English speakers as possible." This probably means something different for everybody, but it's essential for success nonetheless. The CMU ELI has a conversation partner program, and we recommend partners meet for at least one hour per week for English conversation. While this definitely isn't enough, it is a start and may be the best option for adult students with families.

Do you have any other advice or suggestions for adult ELLs? Did you learn a language as an adult? How did you do it?

25 April 2013


Here's a great article by Dr. Anne Curzan, a fabulous University of Michigan linguist, on the use of slash as a conjuction, i.e. "I am a teacher slash blogger." I didn't have the opportunity to take Dr. Curzan's class, as she was on sabbatical when I was enrolled in  "her" education course, but I did read her book. I think she's brilliant.

Slash, all the cool kids are saying it. Well, some young people are saying it.
Picture via
This is a great example of how typing has influced the way we speak, like when people say "OMG," as they would in a chat, rather than saying "Oh My Goodness."

Here's the full link: or read a synopsis of it here from NPR.

P.S. More by Dr. Curzan

17 April 2013

Did I Miss Anything?

I am sure at some point in their careers, all teachers have heard "Did I miss anything?" from a student who missed class. My colleague Claire shared a great poem with our department that wonderfully addresssed the question, "Did I miss anything?"

Did I Miss Anything?

Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

      Everything. I gave an exam worth
      40 percent of the grade for this term
      and assigned some reading due today
      on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
      worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

      Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
      a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
      or other heavenly being appeared
      and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
      to attain divine wisdom in this life and
      the hereafter
      This is the last time the class will meet
      before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
           on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

      Everything. Contained in this classroom
      is a microcosm of human experience
      assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
      This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place

And you weren’t here
From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993
Harbour Publishing
Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman.
All rights reserved.

12 April 2013

Top 25 Education Professors in Michigan

Are you interested in education? Are you from Michigan? Here's a shout-out to my mom... one of the top education professors in Michigan! Congrats, Mom!

Here's the link:

11 April 2013

Student Blogging

Does anybody have any advice for good sites to hold student blogs? I'd like to use them in one of my courses this summer, but I am unsure of what to use. I've heard of,; and of course we could use the blogs on Blackboard or even Blogger. I'd really like something easy, user-friendly and share-able (with people outside of the class). Thoughts? Suggestions?
Image via
Have you ever used blogs in your class? Do you have any recommendations? Dos and Don'ts of classroom blogging? I would love to hear your advice. I will be doing some research on this soon, so I will also share what I find. And of course, I will be blogging this summer, so you can read about my successes and (hopefully few and far between) failures in implementing this medium in my class. 

End-of-Semester Crunch Time

Our semester at CMU is winding down: we have two more weeks of lessons and then exam week. I always find myself feeling short of time and pressured to finished everything that the students need to know before moving on. No matter how hard I try to evenly distribute the course objectives over the course of the semester, without fail I have to "speed teach" some of the remaining lessons. I'm currently doing that right now with my grammar classes. Does anybody else feel this way? 

I once heard a good tip: don't teach anything new on the last day of class. This day should be used for reflection, review, and application of lessons already learned. While it's tempting to scrunch in new information in on that last day before the exam, it's better not to! Students won't have time to work through the information, ask questions, and really master the content. They will gain more from reviewing, applying, and reflecting on what they've already learned. Do you have any tips for the end of the semester crunch? 

01 April 2013

Good-Old-Fashioned Exercise Check

I found a great article that provides tips for the old fashioned exercise check. I was so excited when I came across it because it's exactly what I do! Nothing like reading some validation of your teaching strategies! This is one of those activities that I find students continually ask for, so it's important to make them time effective.

1. Have the students check their answers together before class.

This saves time because we're only checking the answers they're unsure of or confused about.

2. Go exercise by exercise.

Start with the first and ask what questions there are. Then move on. Homework check can take the whole class period if you let it, so it's essential not to have too much "dead time."

3. Call on all studenets.

I like to go around the room so that everybody gets called on and the students know when it's going to be their turn. There aren't any surprises, which takes away the surprise and minimizes the "I don't know" response.

I have gotten a hard time from students in the past about not going over all of the answers to the homework everyday. They feel uncomfortable when they aren't given the answer from the teacher. My rationale is two-fold: (1) When students check their answers with each other, they are using the target langauge to negotiate and jusitfy their answers, and (2) I am teaching students how to be independent learners. Their academic teachers aren't going to provide all of the answers for all of their homework, so it's not realisitic for them to get all of the answers from their language teachers. It's more important that they work as a group/pair to figure out their problems and then bring those problems to the teacher. It took about 6-7 weeks this semester, but students have finally started feeling comfortable checking answers with each other before they check with me. Victory! 

You can find the Cambridge article by Alice Savage here:

I'd love to hear what you do and any tips that you may have!