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CATESOL 2010 Sessions

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Here are some sessions at the 2010 CATESOL conference in Santa Clara, starting tomorrow (well, the general conference starts Friday), that are being presented by “friends and family” of Talk to the Clouds (and got in touch with me via Twitter):


Effective Methods for Error Correction and Offering Feedback
C. Chang, University of Iowa
8:00-8:45 a.m. Great America Ballroom K
This paper will discuss error correction and offering feedback to students in ESL/EFL classrooms. The speakers will first review research on error correction and feedback. Then they will suggest several strategies based on their learning experience to help both teachers and students communicate their needs in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Rapport, Resourcing and Real-time: Social Network Applications for Success
R. Dupuy, UC Irvine
8:00-8:45 a.m. Great America Meeting Room 3
Learn how certain digital social networking tools 1) encourage rapport in English, 2) aid teachers in the resourcing of digital content for the development of curricula and 3) enable teachers to deliver this valuable and relevant curricula in real-time classroom contexts.

Electronic Village Internet Fair
10:00 – 11:30 am
Great American Ballroom J
10:00 – 10:15 C. Bauler – Using online forums to increase interaction in the ESL classroom
10:20 – 10:35 M. Azimi – Vocabulary “Stuck” on the Web
10:40– 10:55 J. Wu – From YouTube to YouThink
11:00– 11:15 K. Johnson – Animate Your Class With Animoto
11:20 – 11:30 C. Ryan – A Visual Feast: Tips & Tricks with Image Sites (that’s me!)

Tweet and Retweet: Using Twitter for Professional Teacher Development
B. Musteric, Ovient International
3:00-4:30 p.m. Great America Ballroom K
Grow your professional network with Twitter. In this workshop, participants will learn how to connect, engage, and collaborate with other teachers from around the world using Twitter. The presenter will demonstrate how to create an account, grow a network of teachers, and use best practices for engaging with others.
(I’m planning to go to this to support the speaker, but if I can’t, I hope to at least come in at the end! Please go if you are curious about Twitter and why it’s so popular with British and EFL teachers!)

Passion and Persistence: Self-Published ESL Authors Tell Their Stories
E. Weal, Sequoia Adult School; E. Roth, American Language Institute, USC; D. Asitimbay, ELI, UC San Diego
10:00-11:30 a.m. Convention Center 209
What motivates ESL teachers to become authors? Why do many of these authors self-publish? What’s their likelihood of success? In this panel discussion, three authors of ESL books will share the pleasures and perils of self-publishing as well as offer tips for those contemplating writing and publishing an ESL text.
(I’d love to go to this, but of course, it’s during my session!)


Informational Interviews: A Practical, Illuminating Speaking Assignment
E. Roth, University of Southern California
8:00-8:45 a.m. Hyatt Mendocino
Informational interviews allow university ESL students to develop their oral skills, expand a vocational vocabulary, and share interview experiences. ESL teachers can provide practical assistance by adding this complicated oral skills assignment, but instructors must carefully scaffold the assignment for maximum effectiveness.

Create Dynamic and Interactive Lessons Using a Smart Board
F. Wentworth, Jefferson Adult Division; J. Wu, San Mateo Adult School
8:00-9:30 a.m. Great America Ballroom J
Many schools have Smart Boards but teachers have not received proper training in how to use them effectively. In this workshop, participants will see how to create lessons from materials they already have.

Principles to Practice in Teaching Reading
Jennifer Bixby, Freelance Writer and Editor; J. McVeigh, Independent Consultant
8:00-8:45 a.m. Hyatt Stevens Creek
How can current principles in reading instruction be applied to activities in the ESL classroom? The presenters will give an overview of current reading theory and demonstrate practical classroom application. Participants will look at sample activities and evaluate their effectiveness in teaching reading strategies.

Critical Pedagogy in TESOL: Rising Perspectives in Global Context
W. Campbell, University of Southern California
4:15-5:00 Hyatt Napa I
Review of articles to explore Critical Pedagogy (CP) and its perspectives as they are manifesting in TESOL. Demographic data of contributing voices is considered while exploring what it means to be a TESOL educator in light of the political dimension of ELT in context of global power relations.

The complete program is available at the CATESOL 2010 site as PDFs. Don’t forget to check the file with the changes and cancellations if you’re planning in advance.

Take a look at my CATESOL Food and Shopping Suggestions post too, if you like!

If you’re going, I hope you have a great time! Hope to see you there. If you’d like to come to my session and can’t, I’ll be adding a new section here for conference handouts and content. However, you’ve actually already seen some of the suggestions here before, if you’re a loyal reader.

Twelve Days of Christmas: and more

Very serious here on the sixth day, after photo fun yesterday! Is one of your New Year’s resolutions going to involve professional development? Read on for free self-guided online courses you can do from the comfort of your own computer! I’ll mostly focus on a set of courses for adult educators, but there are more at the end, including for K-12.

metalmarious_Laptop from is a “portal for online professional development” with lots of courses aimed at adult education. They also offer sessions that require registration fees, but many of the listed courses have no charge at all. Here are some of the free, self-paced mini-classes you can take:
  • Adult Multiple Intelligences Theory and Adult Multiple Intelligences in Practice (two different classes)
  • Ideas for Teaching Reading
  • Using Authentic Curriculum and Materials
  • Activity-based Instruction: Why and How
  • Overcoming Poverty Through Action-based Literacy
  • Health Literacy: New Field, New Opportunities
  • Creating a Volunteer Program in the ABE/ESL Classroom

The mini-courses mostly consist of guided readings and reflections, but they may be useful if you’ve changed which level you teach, started teaching before you had a chance to do formal study, want a refresher, have a new topic you want to learn about, etc.

A friend let me know about a project at his university which is geared toward helping teachers prepare for the PRAXIS II K-12 certification test. Visit and enter the username esol and password FHSUESOL123 — click on ESL Workshop on the top right to get started.

TESOL, the major international organization, has recently started offering free online workshops (usually to members only), but they’ll be having a session on trends in the profession sometime in February 2010, which will be open to members and nonmembers. Details to be posted here, presumably. TESOL also sponsors the Electronic Village Online Sessions, which are associated with the annual international conference but for which you don’t have to be a TESOL member or registered for the conference. Registration will start January 4, and sessions include “Bringing Language Alive through Process Drama,” “Online Games for ESL/EFL” (I’m thinking about signing up for that!), “Internet 4 Young Learners,” and more.

Finally, Benjamin over at Collaborative Understandings will be hosting a workshop on using Moodle, the course management (and then some) system. Read all about it here and sign up right away–it’s free and it starts on January 4th. Via Collaborative Understandings, I also discovered Integrating Technology, which offers free courses on “how to integrate technology for active learning via blended and blended online learning.” They also seem to have a lot of courses available, but I haven’t explored them because (free) registration is required.

I’m sure there are lots more out there. If I missed a great professional development resource, let me know and I’ll highlight it here (if it’s time-sensitive) or write about it in a future post!

Get Together with International Conferences and Groups

Get Together! (image by

Get Together! (image by

Dear Korean teachers, Japanese teachers, Thai teachers, etc.,

Do you remember how much fun you had when you were a MATESOL or PhD student in the US going to your local conference, or in the UK or Australia, or going to the international TESOL conference? I remember going with my international student classmates. The conferences were so much better because they were there! You don’t need to stop going to conferences just because you are back in Seoul or Okayama or Bangkok. In addition to the fun and inspiration of conferences, you may be able to find out about grants for materials and training, get free books, make useful international and local connections, etc. It can be great just to share ideas with (and complain to) people who really understand your job and concerns, when your non-English-teaching co-workers, friends, and family probably don’t. For example, if your country tends to prefer old-fashioned teaching methods like grammar-translation or the audiolingual method, other teachers from your country may know how to help convince school administrators to let you add more modern teaching techniques like extensive reading or task-based teaching. They may know about successful programs at specific schools and have exam results that you can show your school’s administrators and concerned parents. How else can you get this information? It’s invaluable!

Of course, time and money are still an issue, but you can check each group’s website for grants and reduced fees. You may even be able to get your boss to pay for your membership or attendance if you bring up the idea in the right way. Another concern for some teachers is that a few of these conferences and associations are dominated by foreign, “native-speaker” teachers. However, I’ve heard that a lot of them would be really happy to have more local teachers involved. They just aren’t sure how to reach out, because (…sigh…) many of them are monolingual English-speakers. So I’d like to encourage you to try joining your local association, going to their conference and workshops, presenting at the conference, writing for their publications, and becoming part of their leadership. Even if they don’t know it, they really need you! If you’re nervous about going, try to find a co-worker or former classmate to attend with you.

I’d also like to address this to any Canadians, Americans, Singaporeans, and others who have found themselves teaching English abroad despite having no teaching training and no applied linguistics background: Please check into these conferences and associations. You won’t become a full-fledged professional in a weekend, but sometimes the workshops are amazing. You could learn enough to really benefit your students and make what you do far more interesting for yourself, as well. (Some conversation-school instructors have told me that they’ve wound up totally rethinking the entire concept of “English teaching” as a result of being dragged to a conference.) Major conferences sometimes have free resources, too, which can make your life a lot easier. You, too, can bring a co-worker or fellow expat with you if you’re nervous, and you may also be able to get your boss to pay for membership or attendance.

Of course, if you’re teaching overseas as a professional, whether it’s long-term or short-term, you should definitely check out these groups. As a bonus, a few of them include the teaching of local languages as part of their mission statement, which could make things more interesting (and perhaps provide some high-quality language-learning connections for you). I’ve noted a couple that mentioned it, but others likely do as well. Some groups have peer-reviewed or less formal publications, both of which can provide a good place to start getting published if you have extra time on your hands. Several groups, like JALT, have affiliations within an entire region–I recently received information from JALT’s Extensive Reading group that they’re doing presentations with KOTESOL in Korea. So you may be even able to make connections in the next location where you’re considering teaching, without going anywhere.

Okay, where do you find these groups? Well, TESOL has a list of worldwide affiliates, but many of the links are broken. You can at least use the title to type into Google.

Here are a few active groups:

  • ThaiTESOL, Thailand (4 regional groups, annual conference, special interest groups)
  • KOTESOL, South Korea (9 regional groups, annual conference, monthly regional meetings/workshops, regional conferences and special events, special interest groups)
  • JALT, Japan (37 regional groups, annual conference, regional meetings/workshops, special events, special interest groups, publications — note: includes Japanese and other languages)
  • HAAL, Hong Kong (7 seminars a year, a research forum “every few years”)
  • BELTA, Bangladesh (Several regional groups, annual conference, publications)
  • PALT, Philippines (Annual conference and workshops — note: includes Filipino, local, and other languages)
  • TESOL Spain, Spain (12 regional groups, annual conference, publications)
  • TESOL Greece, Greece (Annual conference, workshops and seminars, special interest groups, publications)
  • TESOL France, France (1 regional group, annual colloquium, workshops, special interest groups, publications)
  • BRAZ-TESOL, Brazil (12 regional groups, annual conference, workshops, special interest groups)
  • Peru TESOL, Peru (Annual conference, regional seminars, publications)
  • MEXTESOL, Mexico (18 regional groups, annual conference, monthly regional events, publications)
  • INGED, Turkey (Annual conference, seminars, workshops, publications)
  • MATE, Morocco (11 regional groups, annual conference, publications)

    These are just some of the many international groups. If you can’t find a group for your area, you can leave a comment and I’ll try to find them.

    If you’ve had great experiences with your local group, comment and tell us about it! I’ve heard good things about KOTESOL activities and met people from the JALT Extensive Reading special interest group when they did some great presentations at TESOL in 2007.

Use Your Benefits

I need to read my TESOL e-mails more carefully! Somehow I’d been missing out on this member benefit for a while. (I pay a lot for TESOL and rarely get to attend the conference, so I hate to miss out on a benefit…) Apparently, all TESOL members can attend an upcoming online seminar about using web applications, and it’s free. If you miss that one or you’re reading this much later, there should be another one at some point. The topics look interesting, and I think you can put this on your CV under “Professional Development.”

Even better, if you are a “Global Member” you can attend any of the online seminars–not just the featured ones–for free. If you are a Global Member, take advantage of this benefit and sign up for a seminar (if it’s possible to attend given the time difficulties). If you live in another country and have been considering joining TESOL but haven’t due to cost and distance, you might want to consider it. Global memberships are available to those from nations with gross national incomes of US $15,000 or less per capita (as defined by the UN). This list includes China, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and many other countries. They cost $40 or $25 instead of $90. You can read about the details on TESOL’s membership page.

By the way, student members can also attend any of the online seminars for free. For regular, non-Global, non-student TESOL members, other seminars besides the special free ones are $35.

Finally, if you look at the bottom of the virtual seminars page, there’s information about how to access information from previous seminars. Topics include research on teaching reading, vocabulary teaching, English as an international language of instruction, and several more.

If you’re interested in the topics or need to add to your CV, this is a really great opportunity, especially if you can’t get to a local conference. (Soon, though, I’ll write about opportunities for local conferences that international teachers, especially local residents, may be missing out on.)

Interdisciplinary Cross-pollination

Bee gathering pollen from a California poppy (by me)

Bee gathering pollen from a California poppy (by me)

My husband is a math teacher, and I like to think he’s learned some things from talking to me about topics like intensive reading–he’s actually started a kind of reading database/blog for his community college students, because he’s come to the conclusion that improving their reading skills through pleasure reading would make doing both real-world math and school math easier for them. (Real-world math–things like a newspaper story on chances of the Iranian election shaving been rigged, or figuring out the best terms for a loan, or trying to understand the instructions for adjusting an injection, which I had to do last week–is all about reading information and figuring out what’s relevant, after all.) I’ve also had some interesting conversations with him about cross-cultural math (something that TESOL sometimes reports on), and his unusually enlightened college even had an English-Math interdisciplinary committee. My husband was so interested in seeing what he could get out of this kind of “cross-pollination” that he’s attended a couple of CATESOL and writing center conferences. So if you get the chance to peek into some other teaching field’s conferences, journals, or pedagogical conversations (literal or metaphorical), I really recommend it. Who knows what you might find out or be able to contribute? Chances are many of them are dying for a chance to talk to an ESL expert, as well!

I like to read the blogs at, and one recent post that reminded me of this cross-pollination principle is this “Interview with Stacy Baker.” She is a high school biology teacher and biologist who says, in the interview,

At the risk of upsetting the traditionalists, I believe there is total lunacy in allowing a person to teach science who has never actually practiced science. You can’t learn science by reading textbooks or taking educational methodology classes. Every science teacher needs to have the experience of participating in original research and they need to routinely refresh their skills.

Wow. You know, I’ve often said that I think nearly every aspect of our K-16 educational system in the US is broken, but this is an aspect I hadn’t though of before. I think she’s right! (Just as I think TESOL professionals who are native English speakers and not already multilingual really must seriously attempt to learn a second language, preferably a non-Western-European language.) But, of course, as she points out immediately, under our current system it’s pretty impractical, and with current budgets it veers into quixotic even if you think about special grants to give teachers this experience. In the long run, though, I wonder if we couldn’t remove a lot of the disconnect that I always perceived as a kid by somehow heading in this direction. What do you think? I had a couple of good science teachers, but on the whole it seems like it’d be better to have scientist-teachers, practitioner-teachers. It’s really weird to have non-practitioners teaching so many subjects…

Since I first started to learn about pedagogy as a discipline, it quickly became my firm belief that university professors in the United States are in dire need of it. Very few professors have any pedagogical training at all, either general or specific, and for a lot of them it shows. Some had a single class as a grad student, but that is totally insufficient for a career that is supposed to consist of teaching as well as writing and research–I realize some “R1” and other professors seem to resent the teaching aspect of their jobs, but who knows, maybe they’d resent it less if they had some idea of how to go about it. (Of course, a few are natural teachers–at least, for the natural learners in the class. Remember, if you’re a naturally academically inclined person, you can’t easily comment on whether someone is an effective teacher for those who really need it. This lesson took me a LONG time to learn during my MATESOL program, but I got it eventually! So I suspect that even many of the people I thought of as great teachers could have done with some pedagogical training.) K-12 teachers are far more likely to have pedagogical training, but 1) they often don’t have age- or subject-specific pedagogical training for all of the subjects and ages they’re teaching; 2) they’re often teaching a subject for which they don’t have subject-specific academic training; and 3) they are often teaching a subject in which they don’t have practical or research experience, as Stacy Baker mentions above. (Please forgive me for the general statements. I know it varies wildly by state and I fully admit that I haven’t taught K-12 in the US and don’t want to because it’s so challenging!)

Anyway, as you can see, despite originating in a science-teaching blog post, that got me thinking about all kinds of things. Have you learned anything from reading about teachers or teaching in other disciplines? Leave a comment and tell everyone about it!

Not Just Another Peer-Reviewed Journal

In terms of free, high-quality online language acquisition research, we have an embarrassment of riches (now there’s an idiom for you!). There’s a wonderful new addition to the hoard: L2 Journal, and it comes with an excellent pedigree. L2 is a “fully-refereed, interdisciplinary journal” that’s being offered online at no cost via the University of California’s eScholarship Digital Information Repository, supported by the UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching and the Berkeley Language Center Website. The editorial board and executive committee contains familiar names like Claire Kramsch and Rick Kern. The journal will be addressing a broad range of second-language acquisition topics, including “pedagogy, bilingualism and multilingualism, language and technology, curriculum development and teacher training, testing and evaluation,” etc.

Photo of dictionary open to 'education,' notebook, pencil by cohdra at

No excuse for not keeping up with the research!

With that kind of backing, this is likely to become one of the most reputable free online journals. Although you need to sign up for a free membership to access the articles (and they’re all PDF), it should be worth it to get access. This is the kind of thing for which you usually need access to JSTOR, etc., and is usually difficult or impossible to get to as an individual, a public school teacher, an overseas volunteer teacher, or (often) an EFL teacher at all. As far as I can tell, there are no restrictions on who can make an account–I left “institutional affiliation” blank, since I work for myself, and was able to register with no problems.

Because it’s coming from the UC system (and is headed by Dr. Kramsch), I expect it’ll have a number of heavily theoretical papers that may turn off some teachers. I encourage you to give those papers a try–sometimes they pay off!–but also to look at the other papers. There are three articles available so far (all PDF), and I think all of them have practical elements. The one I’m currently reading, “Corrective Feedback and Teacher Development” (Rod Ellis), is very practical as far as I’m concerned–an article need not have a lesson plan to be applicable to what I do in my lessons. So while the journal may not be light reading, I think its high standards will pay off for teachers who take the time to sit down and read it.

Interestingly, the journal is being conceived as a one-issue-per-year model, but with articles published as they are ready–so it sounds like it’s really a year-round publication. You can read about the submission guidelines and also, because they are a little more technologically advanced than most journals, receive alerts when L2 publishes a paper on a topic in which you’re interested. That’s an excellent service to offer.

I’m very excited about L2! What an excellent resource for us to have. (I’ll be adding it to the Free Online Journals post, of course.) As always, if you have another one to suggest, let me know.

2009 Linguistic Institute

If you are or could be in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer, check out the 2009 Linguistic Institute. It’s going to be hosted at UC Berkeley and sounds really amazing. Geoffrey K. Pullum will be giving a 3-week course on English grammar, and there are all kinds of fascinating courses on language contact, language acquisition, etc. I live just a BART ride away from Berkeley and I would really love to go, but I won’t be there because I can’t possibly afford to attend it. (Berkeley’s summer sessions are notoriously expensive.) However, if you’re a student or a member of the Linguistic Society of America, or if you just have a lot more money than I do, it’s worth looking into. It sounds like a wonderful set of experiences, and is probably also a great thing to do if you need to strengthen your linguistics background before applying to grad school.

Have you ever been to the Linguistic Institute? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Open Mailing Lists

I’ve had a request for a post on the topic of free, open mailing lists (MLs). Many teachers are not members of organizations such as TESOL, for one reason or another, and so don’t have access to the MLs and online discussion groups provided by these organizations. MLs can be extremely useful–you get new ideas, colleagues to help you when you have a question, and sympathy when you have problems, without the cost of going to a conference or joining an organization. Everyone should join at least one or two MLs! So, here are some that don’t require any kind of paid membership–all are free. (This list does NOT include everything! If you know of a particularly good mailing list that isn’t included, please leave a comment.)

Many MLs function as discussion groups that allow for all members the ML to ask questions, give their opinions, etc.