At the annual TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) convention in New Orleans last week, the theme was “examining the E in TESOL.” It’s hard to describe the TESOL experience unless you’ve been there—over 8,000 teachers, linguists, principals, researchers, and administrators from Mongolia to Alabama and everywhere in between, all rushing to hundreds of sessions including: Developing Contextually Relevant Curricula, and Independent Activities for Preliterate Students; or the more far-flung Intercultural Linguistics: Indian Voice Trainers in China, and Social Networking Websites and Polish Teenagers’ Competence in English (all of these sessions can be found on the same page of the conference guide!).
Once inside, the race to find a handout and a seat begins. Most sessions I attended were packed to capacity, with participants seizing presenters’ materials as if they were precious metals (or: the ESL teacher’s version: do-able ideas for classroom activities, theory, and strategies that will boost student achievement starting Monday).
On Thursday, I attended a great session Integrated Approaches to Teaching Reading and Writing to ELs led by Judie Haynes, author of ACSD’s Teaching English Language Learners Across the Content Areas.
Judy’s co-presenter, Monica Schnee (NJ ESL teacher, winner of the PBS Teachers Innovation Award), shared wonderful resources. Check out the feelings voicethread and the polar bears voicethread. Voicethread is a technology that allows students to record their voices over a series of images to create a story. Parents can later type comments that appear under their individual child’s image.
Using wallwisher, her students post an online sticky note with a comment related to a story they are reading in class. Parents can read the story with their children at home, post new comments, or respond to existing comments.
Monica also uses a technology called Answer Garden, where parents can contribute to an open word bank related to a classroom theme in their home language, and then take the words and use them with their child. I highly recommend taking a look on her site.
On Friday I attended A Practical Framework for Including Language Objectives in Content Instruction, to hear about a new, “teacher-friendly framework,” produced in partnership by the Maryland Department of Education and the Center for Applied Linguistics. What’s great about this framework (you can see it here), is that it spells out for content teachers working with ELLs which vocabulary to teach, what sentence frames to use, coupled with specific classroom strategies. It takes out the guesswork for teachers with multiple levels of ELLs who are expected to complete the same lesson or unit.
I also got a few recommendations for vocabulary-related resources:
- Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, a great book.
- A list of vocabulary for grades and subject areas, from the Tennessee DOE.
- Common myths about word learning with explanations, which could be powerful in a teacher training.
- Larry Ferlazzo’s best websites for developing academic English skills vocabulary.
Next year, TESOL is coming to Philadelphia, and we can’t wait! What resources or links do you have to share?