My Online Course Discussion for Week 1-Shaping the Way We Teach English, 1: The Landscape of English Language Teaching

I’m currently enrolled in an online course for ESL/TESOL teachers, through the University of Oregon. As discussion forums are part of my learning, I thought I would post some of my discussions and observations here as well, as a way to reflect on  and share what I do on a day-to-day basis. This course is self-directed and not for a degree, but professional development. As the information shared and discussion boards usually close when the course completes, I want to make sure to have a record of my thoughts and observations after it is all over. It is my hope that what I am learning, and what I already experience, will help others like me, who work with multicultural and English as a second language students.

Discussion 1: For Teachers of Children/Young Learners

Until today, I was never taught explicitly to instruct with an eye toward what is visually, aurally, and emotionally attractive–yet this seems so intuitive, I realize that I do it on a fairly regular basis. The lists mentioned are the state of the art for most ESL curriculum I have encountered, and is built into what I now use. In addition to these items and tools, this is what I have adapted to the curriculum in support of my ELLs:

Visually: PowerPoint presentations (Visual Vocabulary), Photographs, Quizlet (online flashcards), Promethean lessons (Interactive vocabulary and grammar, with embedded assessment), photos and artwork (student created/teacher created or acquired), streaming video (science subjects, mythology and folklore, American History, music from the cultures we are studying or that of my students’ first language), items from the natural world (lava rock, leaves, flowers, fossils, etc), and reference books/magazines that feature visually appealing graphs, maps, diagrams, photos, and other non-fiction features (Such as National Geographic literature, Eyewitness books). We also use a fair amount of graphic organizers, most student-created, but teacher-modeled (such a s Venn Diagram, 4-square, flip-books, storyboards…the list is nearly endless). I continue to seek new ways to connect to learning visually.


Aurally:
Streaming video, when used correctly and in direct context, is great here. I always preview a selection I research online for appropriateness, so the students are not merely “watching movies”. The trick here is quality–in music, speech, visuals, as well as context. We also have CDs–songs, chants, and rhymes built into the curriculum. The students are encouraged to bring examples of aural realia, in the form of music, poetry, whatever they wish to share.  There is also great “listening center” sites, such as Storyline online, where popular and modern classic stories are told by actors, musicians and celebrities. The students don’t always recognize the people telling the stories, but the voices and the “acting out” of characters, along with engaging visuals, are a wonderful way to teach phrasing, intonation, and using “voice” in oral language. I am currently working on getting real-world speakers to come to my classroom as well.

Emotionally: Motivation, high-interest items, and activities are key here. Sometimes this can come in the simplest form: Discussion. It begins with personal anecdotes (teacher to students, students to teacher, student to student), and graduates into open discussion on topics: building background, sharing prior knowledge, asking questions…moving into analysis, and even debate about a topic. Students also enjoy healthy competition…although I do not encourage one-upmanship, ever…it’s about playing the game, learning, and having fun. To this end, we have vocabulary matching games, I-spy word games, role-playing, and interactive word-work and grammar on the electronic whiteboard, among others. We do kinetic activities as well: Dancing or moving to songs and chants, full-body response, charade-type games to decode vocabulary, physical placement of  words, pictures, and items. I include little treats and prizes, sometimes integrated into their lessons–even a simple choice of stickers is enough to elicit interest in completing a task or participating fully. Mind you, these are not bribes: The students know ahead that not every lesson results in a tactile or tasty reward, but it is a possibility when appropriate and in context to what we are doing. The chance to produce art, use the computer to research or create, or share an item from home is also of great interest, as is integrating Science, in the form of simple investigations, to promote language-learning and understanding of content vocabulary. I have discovered that the options are almost unlimited here, when the students are given more choices about how they want to learn. 

Addendum: On Gaming and Play in the ELD classrooms:

I agree on the viewpoint in reference to games. These games must be monitored initially, however, because I’ve noticed that students don’t always abide by the rules or check each other and themselves for accountability while playing. In my current position as an ELD Resource teacher, I am able to mediate games, allowing the students to take over play as they become accustomed to the rules and purpose for play. Then the real fun begins, because they can play with confidence and a less competitive nature. We have played Matching games, Concentration, I-Spy, Charades (Vocabulary), and I use music, chants, and manipulatives (like model animals, people, etc.). I also have a little, simple puppet…with googly eyes and a foam clown nose…his name is El Monstro de Palabra (Word Monster). The youngest students love when I use him for phonics practice, and they get to squeeze his nose when they respond correctly. The atmosphere for learning is vastly improved by play.

Samples:

Art Integration and OrganizersStudent Created Vocabulary WordwallVocabulary 4-square Organizer

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