Many TESOL sessions deserve a full summary, but the sheer volume of take-away is too much to capture in the context of this blog. At this point, I’d like to give a shout-out to knowledgeable presenters who made sure attendees walked away with at least one golden nugget to apply to their teaching. I thank them all for making my convention experience a true form of professional development.
Q: How can we be less monolingual and more plurilingual?
TESOL President Luciana D. de Oliveria gave the morning plenary on Day 1. Her talk Developing Expertise in TESOL: Local-Global Considerations, challenged us to reflect on how we teach English as global language without discounting local needs and dynamics. She promotes teaching as a “plurilingual practice.” Since we all use vocabulary from different languages and we all modify our language for different audiences and contexts, we are all plurilingual. Thus we should avoid compartmentalizing languages. Do we rely unnecessarily and unwisely on monolingual practices in the classroom, in our textbooks, and in teacher education? Luciana encourages fluid language practices that work in tandem with linguistic and cultural diversity. Her comments regarding native-like fluency reminded me of the numerous times I’ve replied to online comments about sounding like a native speaker. I’ve told many of my online followers that I’m one of many possible models. A native speaker isn’t necessarily the ideal, and losing one’s “accent” doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal.
Eli Hinkel of Seattle Pacific University is a wonderful example of a capable NNES educator in our field who provides a model for many ELLs. I make an effort every year to attend one of her sessions, and in Atlanta I went to Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching and Learning Multiword Expressions, which Eli presented with Brent Green of Brigham Young University. Whether you call them multiword expressions, collocations, prefabs, or chunks, I’m sure you’ll agree that helping students learn this vocabulary is crucial. As the presenters stated, multiword expressions are commonly used, but since their meaning can’t always be readily understood, study and practice are necessary. Eli reminded us, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it surely helps.”
Q: How can we help students learn collocations?
Brent has done considerable work with his students in the language lab to help them learn multiword expressions. If you’re interested in more details, the presenters have generously posted several PDF files on the TESOL 2019 app, including their presentation slides. They not only explain what OER (Open Educational Resources) Corpora are, but they also provide instructions for creating one. The idea is to have a collaborative learning experience in which students notice, question, and practice the patterns. The process also builds learner autonomy. As for helping with accuracy, Eli noted that there are collocations dictionaries; one other resource is an online search. I’ve done this myself in moments of doubt, and I’ve demonstrated Google searches for private students. The basic idea is to compare and examine search results: a higher number of results can confirm a collocation. I’m glad to know Eli approves of this approach!
Another educator whose sessions I often gravitate towards is Keith Folse of University of Central Florida. His talk Academic Word List: What Every Teacher Needs to Know drew a big crowd. We teachers were amused by how little we knew about the renowned AWL. Keith quizzed us partly to remind us that knowing the high frequency words on the GSL and AWL only gives a learner 86% coverage of a college text, but that’s only the ability to recognize words, not necessarily understand the whole context. Keith encouraged us to consider using the updated NAWL and NGSL, which can boost coverage to 92%.
Q: What vocabulary exercises are worth recommending to our students?
Attendees at Keith’s session received links to AWL resources (just a few of the many sites out there) that offer practice. Konan University was one; English Vocabulary Exercises was another. Whether we’re recommending, using, or creating a vocabulary exercise for our students, we can bear in mind the importance of multiple encounters. The golden nugget for me to take away from Keith’s talk was the idea that some exercises can appear superficial, but the process of completing the task is another opportunity for the brain to encounter key words.
Melanie Gobert of Higher Colleges of Technology echoed the importance of repetitions (7-10) and creating opportunities for retrieval of new words. In her presentation New Activities for Recycling Vocabulary, Melanie also touched upon spaced repetition, which was a topic promoted by a couple of other speakers in Atlanta. Melanie suggests recycling vocabulary with longer intervals.
Q: What resources are there for us to create general vocabulary exercises?
Melanie was generous with her recommendations, which included Quizlet for flashcards, ESL Activities for Bingo, EclipseCrossword for crosssword puzzles, Word Search Factory Lite for word searches based on clues (as opposed to listing the target words), Discovery’s Puzzlemaker for word scrambles, and Quiz-Busters for team games.
Q: What other word lists are teachers using?
Marlise Horst of Concordia University presented Mastering the Vocabulary of School: Insights from Research and Practice. She explained how to find the Middle School Vocabulary Lists (MSVL) through Lextutor (select the “VP-Classic” mode > see MSVL lists). She also reviewed the process of actually learning new words, making sure we understood the key ideas: noticing, retrieval, and elaboration.
Q: How do we help students create pathways for retrieval? How do we help them make connections to existing knowledge?
Marlise recommended a number of retrieval activities, reminding us that multiple encounters lead to automaticity. She noted that memorization activities are trending once again, and flashcards can be gamified for higher engagement. We were also reminded to review key words from each lesson, not just at the end of a lesson, but the next day as well. I felt compelled to ask myself, How consistent are you about including reviews at the end of a lesson? Guiltily I answered, Not as consistent as I should be. Thank you, Marlise, for reminding me of this important step in vocabulary learning.
I wish I could pass along even more, but I think the present post is already bursting at the seams! I hope you appreciate the take-away as much as I did.
Photo credit: Lightbulb, light bulb by Free-Photos. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/photos/light-bulb-lightbulb-light-bulb-1246043/.