Yes, there’s still more to write about last week’s TESOL Convention in Boston. How could there not be when each day was full of workshops, presentations, demonstrations, planned meetings, and – my favorite – chance meetings.
I love learning about grammar and ways of teaching grammar, so I made certain I caught a few sessions in this subject area. I’ll share some ideas, impressions, and gratitude below.
- Kudos to Nancy Schoenfeld of Kuwait University for her successful presentation titled Alice: Using Animation Software to Teach Grammar. She demonstrated to a large audience of peers that simple and modest efforts can lead to great results. Her down-to-earth humor powered her message that you don’t have to be a tech guru to bring technology into the classroom. Having discovered software called Alice, which is made available online by Carnegie Mellon University, Nancy learned to use computer animation to illustrate grammar concepts, in particular verb tenses. She professed her love for traditional grammar books like Betty Azar’s series (a love I share!), but pointed out that black-and-white instruction on paper sometimes needs a visual boost and a personal touch. The short animations Nancy demonstrated (much to our delight – Can you imagine a cow answering a cell phone or placing a chicken in outer space?) certainly would inject a component in a grammar presentation that would be engaging and memorable.
- Three cheers for Hong Wang of Mount Saint Vincent University for fitting in so many suggestions for teaching conditional statements within the terribly short period of 20-minutes. TESOL created Teaching Tip sessions this year with the best intentions, but I personally felt that 20-minutes wasn’t enough. It didn’t allow sufficient time for questions and discussion. Even so, everyone walked out with at least one new idea for communicative practice. Hong outlined a “Mingle” activity in which each student gets the “if” statement of a third conditional. [Example: If I had been born in Australia…] By mingling and showing their cards to one another, they prompt classmates to complete the statement by supplying the result clause. I like the idea, but I might modify it to make this Step 2 of a 2-phase activity. Step 1 = controlled practice. Step 2 = communicative practice. Step 1 would be similar, but it wouldn’t be open-ended. The idea would be to reinforce the structure and meaning before requiring student production. In Step 1, beginnings and endings would be distributed, and students would have to find the most logical matches. To make it more challenging, each student could have both a beginning and an ending, but no student would start off with two cards that created a complete and logical sentence. They’d have to “mingle” to find two matches to make two separate statements.