Marissa Leis, graduate TESOL student at Touro College on Cross-linguistic Influences

Many experts on student-centered online learning agree that the discussion board is the place where some of the most important learning can happen. Robust Discussion Board contributions not only show an engagement with the material read but also analysis and reflection. This requires thoughtfully crafted questions by facilitators for candidates to respond to.

Many experts on student-centered online learning agree that the discussion board is the place where some of the most important learning can happen. Robust Discussion Board contributions not only show an engagement with the material read but also analysis and reflection. This requires thoughtfully crafted questions by facilitators for candidates to respond to.

Marissa Leis is a graduate student at the TESOL program at Touro College. “My goal is to continue my education to get new strategies to better assist my students in a forever changing world.”

Understanding Second Language Acquisition by Lourdes Ortega – Class Discussion for Chapter 3: Cross-linguistic Influences

From reading Ortega and thinking about your own experience/observations as a teacher and a learner, how can an L1 negatively influence an L2 (e.g., L1 Mandarin Chinese and L2 English)? What about the other way around (e.g., L1 English and L2 Mandarin Chinese)? Are there any interesting asymmetries? (The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis would predict reciprocal influences.) In your written response, please choose two languages to exemplify your discussion.

A way in which Mandarin Chinese can negatively influence English would be in writing.  In Chinese, there are different characters used that can sometimes represent more than one letter which is different from how we write in English.

From reading Ortega and thinking about your own experience/observations as a teacher and a learner, how does L1 positively influence L2 (e.g., L1 Arabic and L2 English)? What about the other way around (e.g., L1 English and L2 Arabic)? Are there any interesting asymmetries? (Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis would predict reciprocal influences.) In your written response, please choose two languages to exemplify your discussion.

From my experience, L1 has positively influenced L2 in the sense that both languages require a noun and a verb.  This basic knowledge of sentence structure is beneficial when learning a new language because it gives you a simple template to create sentences.  This, depends on the language.  I can only speak for learning Italian.  I know that other languages have different sentence structures.

The text explains the differences between learning pronoun placements in French and English.  Someone learning English rarely shows difficulty learning this placement however it is the opposite when learning French if you are a native English speaker.  “By contrast, for L1 English learners of French, the learning of what is essentially the same difference but in the opposite direction poses much more difficulty, and the error Je vois les is indeed attested.” (Ortega 32)  The reason for this is in fact similarities of the two languages that causes the confusion.  Since the languages are similar, this leads to misconceptions.

What other issues, such as language universals, complicate crosslinguistic influence? And how is it that sometimes, even if negative transfer occurs, it does not result in ungrammaticality? Please give examples to support your claims.

When a language is similar in the way the words are arranged, this can cause confusion and misconceptions which leads to a hindrance in learning the language.  Language universals can also complicate language acquisition.  They can also lead to new learnings about L1.  “There are also attested occasions where the benefits accrue from rather abstract similarities, as when a grammatical category in the L1 sheds light on a different grammatical category in the L2, thus facilitating the discovery and learning of the new category.” (Ortega 43)  If a student is learning about grammatical likeness in L1 and L2, this can result in the student learning more about their native language and the rules.

Even if a negative transfer occurs, this does not always result in ungrammaticality because students sometimes remember the sentence structures.  If they are pronouncing a word incorrectly, it does not affect the grammar of the sentence.

How can understanding these phenomena better inform our understanding of cross-linguistic influence? Please give examples to support your claims.

Understanding these phenomenons can help me in my teaching methods.  Before reading this chapter I thought that having a language that is similar in its grammatical form will cause the language to be more easily understood and acquired.  After reading this chapter, I realized that this can actually have the opposite effect.  When instructing students, I will first become acquainted with their native language and focus on the similarities and differences.  For similar characteristics, I will point out how English is similar and the small ways in which it may be different.  I will focus my Sheltered Instruction curriculum around these issues and common misconceptions. If I know that in French the pronoun comes before the verb, then I will work on questions techniques in my lesson.  I will gear my lessons so that they revolve around these techniques.

What do you think of Michael Long’s Interaction Hypothesis? What type(s) of corrective feedback do you use the most, do you think that is the best to use? How does this affect your students?

According to Michael Long’s Interaction Hypothesis, language learners learn from comprehensible input which requires them to determine and draw meaning from interactions.  I believe that this is beneficial for language learners.  When learning something new, it is important to understand the meaning of what you are doing or saying.  This promotes a deeper understanding and will allow the learner to remember what they are learning.  A comparison of this would be when one is learning math.  If the math problem is on paper, a student may be able to do it. When the time comes for the student to generalize the information and execute it to a real-life situation, it may be more difficult.  When the student is allowed to perform the math problem a few times during a real-life situation such as measuring the perimeter of a yard to buy fencing, this will create a true and deeper understanding that the student will remember long term.  The same goes for learning language. If a student is studying vocabulary words on flash cards, they may remember the words temporarily.  If students are spoken to and are required to find out the meaning of a sentence, they will most likely have a long-lasting understanding of the information.

A way to use this with the students is to repeat a sentence in L2 and allow the student to interpret the meaning of the sentence along with the vocabulary that is used.  A method that is effective is TPR. (Total Physical Response)  This method allows students to use their whole body to act out words and phrases that create a lasting impression.  As a teacher, I can recite actions and phrases in L2 and have the students act out the action after I model it.

Work Cited:

Ortega, L. (2009). Chapter 1-3: Introduction. In Second Language Acquisition (pp. 1–50). New York, NY: Hodder Education.

Touro TESOL Teacher Candidate Lissette Lara’s website review for EDDN 639 – Trends and Current Issues in Second Language Acquisition

Assignment Purpose TESOL STANDARD 3: PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING INSTRUCTION 3.e. Candidates use and adapt relevant materials and resources, including digital resources, to plan lessons for ELLs, support communication with other educators, school personnel, and ELLs and to foster student learning of language and literacies in the content areas. Analysis and implementation into teacher practice of websites specific to TESOL Field.

Lissette Lara earned her Bachelor Degree from City College of New York in Bilingual Childhood Education. Currently, she pursues her Masters in TESOL at Touro College. This is her third year teaching 5th grade in a bilingual class.

Assignment Purpose TESOL STANDARD 3: PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING INSTRUCTION 3.e. Candidates use and adapt relevant materials and resources, including digital resources, to plan lessons for ELLs, support communication with other educators, school personnel, and ELLs and to foster student learning of language and literacies in the content areas. Analysis and implementation into teacher practice of websites specific to TESOL Field.

Lissette Lara’s website collection and description for classroom activities:

Website  – Go Noodle – https://app.gonoodle.com/

This website provides SEL and Mindfulness, Sensory and Motor Skills, Curricular, School Life videos that usually last about two to four minutes.  These videos require exercising or dance and sing along with the songs. Or help the students with skip counting are reading strategies.  The students can take a yoga or breathing break.  Gonoodle offers kids an opportunity to act silly or learn the coping skills they need in life. The bottom line is that it helps the students relax and focus on classroom lessons.   “The benefits of physical fitness and relaxation on learning are well documented, and GoNoodle provides teachers with a fun, interactive way to get students moving” (Common Sense Education). One of the weaknesses of Gonoodle that if you don’t have steady internet connection it won’t work.

I use these videos early in the morning when students arrive from lunch or any time the schools need a mental break.  When I play the videos, I turn on the closed caption so that my ELL are able to read along with the song.  I have also noticed that this helps them understand what is being said.  After several times of listening to the song, they can sing along with the song.  I believe this activity helps students because they practicing different parts of language such as speaking, reading and listening.  It is stated that  “watching short videos on art, music, dance, science or other relevant themes reciting rhymes, jokes, and poetry using music, rhythm, songs, tongue twisters, or a mnemonic device that reinforces the meanings of challenging words” help develop language skills for Entering and Emerging students (Best Practices for Teaching ESL: Speaking, Reading, and Writing).  These practices are beneficial for all students who would need to take The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) because there are listening and speaking components on the test.

Flocabulary – https://www.flocabulary.com/

Flocabulary is one of the websites I use the most in my classroom. Flocabulary videos are “hip-hop videos and creativity tools give teachers new ways to captivate students while engaging them in academically rigorous content” (Flocabulary.com).  The website includes learning videos in different areas of content.  Teachers can find lessons on math, reading, writing, science, social students and vocabulary content.  These videos are a great tool to connect with prior knowledge or to reinforce topics covered in class.   Along with the video lesson, the website a list of vocabulary, a reading passage related to the video lesson and lyrics to the songs, which could be printed for students.

I utilize these videos during my lesson to build understanding or connect with students’ prior learning.  For example, in 5th grade, our first unit in math is place value.  The student have prior experience with place value (one, tens, hundreds, thousands…) but not right of the decimal (tenths, hundredths thousandths). Before my lessons, I would hand out the vocabulary words to my ELL and struggling students, review with them to ensure they understand.  Then I would play the video reinforcing what I just taught my small group students.  By using these strategies of pre-teaching vocabulary, I’m setting up my students for success. “SIOP teachers increase attention to vocabulary instruction across the curriculum so students become effective readers, writers, speakers, and listeners.   My students who are learning the language will have an entry point because they will able to use the vocabulary words in their writing and speaking with peers.   In addition, prior visual support for students who may different learning styles and need another point of view of the content being taught.

Reading A-Z – https://www.readinga-z.com

Reading A –Z that offers leveled text for students. This program offers on-line text with comprehension questions.  Students are able to read along with the text using the audio feature the program provides. Teacher enter their students’ name and assign them with a user name and password.  Students can log on at school or at home.  Teachers can track students’ progress, review the comprehension question scores.  Once have read and pass test, the program automatically levels the student to the next level. One of the benefits of this program is that they can use a range of device to use it, for example, it can be downloaded to PC and Apple computers, tablets and phone.  One disadvantage of the program is that the student needs internet at home to access the program.

As an educator of ELL and different levels, using this program during reading ensures that every student is reading. Most of my students are reading between M-U reading levels, however I have two students that are entering student and are reading at D and K levels.  In my school, we dedicate one hour for independent reading.  During this time, I designate a place in my room where they can go with a computer (each) log on and read. Students are encouraged to read English text, but they can also read text in Spanish.  I believe that listening to the text more than once and reading the text to each helps with comprehension, pronunciation and development of language. I also use this program because it prepares to for future assignments and test they will need to take in the future.   “Audiobooks also help students engage in text and gain exposure to more words, ultimately improving vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills.” (Moran). In addition to practice their reading, this students begin to develop independency and ownership over their learning.

CommonCore Lit – https://www.commonlit.org

I accidentally found this website late last year when looking for text for my small groups.  I believe its’s a new website.  This website offers different types of text such as essays, poems, short reads at grade level. One of the features of the website is that you can select text based on grade, genre, and common core standards.  Teachers decide whether to assign text to the whole class or to individual students.  The time I’ve used it, I search for text that address standards my students are struggling.  The website also offers text in Spanish for ELL students.  A weakness of the website the need to add more text for 5th and 6th level.

Like I mentioned earlier, texts are accompanied by common core aligned questions.  The main reason I use it is that my students will be taking the ELA State Exam.  The structure of the questions are similar to the ones on the state exam.  I believe that if the students have opportunities to practice these questions and become familiar they will know how to answer the question on the test.

I try to incorporate text during science, social studies, read loud and small groups.  I model for the class how I close read the article, keeping in mind what the question is asking me to answer.  I give the students the opportunity to discuss and explain their thinking with their partners.  I believe that giving children a chance to discuss because answer allows them to explore answers.

Brain Pop – https://www.brainpop.com 

Brainpop is a website that offers animated video on a range of topics which include quizzes, games and additional activities.  The topics are geared for grades 3-12 in areas of ELA, math, science, social studies, health, art and technology. The main characters of the videos are Moby and Tim. Teachers or students search a topic and an animated video (three –five minute) explains describes or analyzes the topic. Some of the activities Brainpop offers are sorting tasks, vocabulary review and interactive games.  Just like many of the websites mentioned earlier, teachers can search video using state common core standards.  Brainpop has several subgroups that are more specific to students’ needs. For example, Brainpop Jr, Brainpop Espanol, BrainPop ESL.

In my class I usually utilize Brainpop to provide additional information for my students on a topic we are learning in class. I usually play the video three times to ensure we understand the topic.  The first time, I tell the class we are just watching to get an overview on the topic.  I put prompts that promote discussion (What was this really about, what makes you think this, What in the video makes you think this?)  The second time, I have the students take notes on certain parts of the video, during this time the students are practicing their listening and writing skills.  Once they have finished the video, I ask the students to turn and talk again.  However, this time around they need to share what new information have they learned. Again, displaying prompt to encourage discussion (Before I thought,______ now I know _______,  I realized that __________).  The last time we watch we try to make connection throughout the video, or practice summarizing skills.  I would send the students back to their seats have them writing about the topic.  I believe the more opportunities ELL practice reading, writing, listening and speaking language the higher chances they will have to develop L2.

Kahoot –  https://kahoot.com/

Wow, finally my favorite website to use with my students.  Kahoot is highly engaging and interactive. This program offers quizzes or teacher-specific made quizzes in which students compete one on one or in teams. Teachers create a free account and search through quizzes on related topic or standards.  Once teacher selects the quiz, teacher displays quiz pin. Students need a laptop or tablet to join the online quiz.  Next, students create a username and enter the game.  Teacher begins the game when all students have logged on.  The question is displayed on the smartboard for all students to read with four possible answers.  Students use their computers to enter their response.  Once all students have answered, the score board displays who is in the leading, and shows the correct answer.  If I were to say the only negative thing about Kahoot is that teacher needs to have enough laptops or tablets for all students or enough for students to share.

I use Kahoots during all content area, but mostly in math.  Using Kahoot is a quick assessment that I can use to identify who are my students who need extra help.  For my entering and emerging ELL I have them work with partners at the beginning, but usually by the end of the year they are playing independent.  I choose quizzes which address heavily tested standards in math and ELA.

Citation 

Gonoodle Review For Teachers, Ericka D https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/gonoodle

Best Practices For Teaching Esl: Speaking, Reading, and Writing, https://www.mastersinesl.org/teaching-esl/best-practices-for-teaching-esl-speaking-reading-and-writing/

Components Of the Siop Model, https://www.janaechevarria.com/?page_id=55

7 Ways Audiobooks Benefit Students Who Struggle with Reading, Kimberley Moran – https://www.weareteachers.com/audiobooks-benefit-students

ESL Textbook evaluation for EDPN 673 by Touro TESOL teacher candidate Yevette Jensen

Touro TESOL teacher Candidate Yevette Jensen is 22 years old. She graduated from St. Joseph’s College with her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Ms. Jensen currently working towards her Master’s degree in TESOL and looks “forward to applying everything I will learn in my future classroom!”

The assignment in the course Methods and Materials for Teaching English calls for an evaluation of ESL Textbooks.

ESL Textbook evaluation assignment

Refer to Matching Books and Readers by Nancy Hathaway

With thousands of textbooks on the market, and dozens of publishers vying for your business, the selection of appropriate classroom materials is far from a simple process. To help you make well-informed decisions, here are some widely held myths about EFL/ESL textbooks and then three key steps to guide your evaluation of materials and selection of the most appropriate textbooks for your instructional needs.

Evaluation and Selection

Choose 3 chapters/sections OR 3 books (either from a textbook series, library, or a set of supplemental texts to review). Prepare a written description minimum of 2 pages per chapter/book/resource and critique of the material or resource, analyzing its effectiveness for ELL students. Your critique must address the following questions:

  • Know your students’ needs: four categories: (1) language background, (2) proficiency level, (3) goals, and (4) preferred approaches to learning.
  • What are your students’ native languages?
  • Can they read and write in their native language?
  • In what settings have they studied English (e.g., classroom, tutoring, self-study)
  • Proficiency level in English – Are they beginners, or do they already know some English? Are all students at the same level? Are they stronger in some skills (e.g., reading and writing) and weaker in others (e.g., listening and speaking)?

2. Know your instructional objectives
Taking the time to clearly define your objectives—or to understand the list of objectives provided by the institution in which you teach—will greatly limit the scope of your search for the right textbooks. To do this, you should ask questions such as this:

Given my students’ language background, proficiency level, learning goals, and preferred approaches to learning, what can I realistically expect them to be able to do as a result of my English instruction?

Then move from their needs to teaching objectives. With a list of objectives in hand, you can narrow your textbook selection considerably. You do this by matching your objectives with the proficiency level, content focus, and activity types of a number of potential choices.

3. Know your personal teaching preferences
The third step in the selection process is the assessment of your own teaching style and teaching preferences. To help you to think about the teaching-learning environment that is most ideal for you, as well as your expectations of a textbook, you can begin with questions such as these:

Classroom environment: roles of teacher and students

What teacher role(s) suit your personality and teaching style? Do you prefer the role of director (one who carefully guides students in their learning exercises and activities, usually having them interact more with you than with each other), the role of facilitator (one who organizes and monitors pair work and small group work), or some combination of these roles?

The “fit” between teaching style and textbook choice

How dependent are you on the textbook content for planning your lessons? For example, do you prefer to stick to the textbook, using it as your basic syllabus? Or, do you like to vary your approach based on the content of the lesson?
Are you good at adapting materials and/or creating supplemental activities?

Key Questions to be addressed in Materials Critique

  • What are the lesson objectives the material infers?
  • Can the identified methods and techniques be used appropriately to the teaching situation that you have in your classroom? (Describe your classroom situation in detail) Your students’ needs: four categories: (1) language background, (2) proficiency level, (3) goals, and (4) preferred approaches to learning.
  • Do the techniques used in the material advocate for achieving the stated/assumed objectives most effectively?
  • Do the techniques maintain the engagement of the learners and at what level of instruction (beginning, intermediate, advanced proficiency)?
  • How are the techniques appropriate for all types of students and can they be easily adapted in your classroom?
  • What are the identified methods and are they used appropriately to the teaching situation that you have in your classroom?
  • Do the techniques used in the material advocate for achieving the stated/assumed objectives most effectively?
  • Do the techniques maintain the engagement of the learners and at what level of instruction (beginning, intermediate, advanced proficiency)?
  • How are the techniques appropriate for all types of students including special needs students and can they be easily adapted in your classroom?
  • List which NYS TESOL standards this book addresses.
  • List key vocabulary.
  • Create a general Bloom’s Knowledge Matrix per selection – this means you will have 3 matrixes
  • Complete ESL TEXTBOOK EVALUATION CHECKLIST

Here the submission by Touro TESOL teacher Candidate Yevette Jensen: Materials Critique 673

Reflections on the article Sociocultural Perspectives on Foreign Language Learning by Samantha Solomita TESOL Course EDPN 673 Touro College

This week I am featuring TESOL candidate Samantha Solomita’s thoughtful Reflective Journal assignment. All teacher candidates are required to write reflective learning journals for every course as part of the TESOL Touro program, CR-ITI-BE in TESOL and CR-ITI-BE in Bilingual Education.  As teacher candidates prepare for a career in TESOL and Bilingual education becoming a reflective practitioner the hallmark for metacognitive learning and taking an active role in one’s own learning. Therefore, the TESOL Program at Touro College, CR-ITI-BE in TESOL, CR-ITI-BE in Bilingual Education requires Reflective Learning Journals for both professional growth and assessment.
Purpose: To provide teacher candidates with a framework making connections between prior knowledge and new information. The framework engages teacher candidates in a systematic process to guide their ongoing reflection, a process they can internalize and practice as constructive educators. Teacher candidates will be able to engage in this process to improve their teaching throughout their careers. Teacher candidates reflective journal entries will be included in the final portfolio.

Bio: Samantha Solomita, a TESOL candidate at Touro College, GSE currently teaches a 12:1+1 bridge self- contained class in  Sunnyside, Queens. Her class is composed of 3rd and 4th graders who have learning disabilities and are mostly English Language Learners. Ms. Solomita is certified in childhood studies and students with disabilities 1-6 and holds a Masters in Educational Psychology.

Description of Highlight(s) – chapter, article or event that pertains to EDPN 673 course. 

In the article Sociocultural Perspectives on Foreign Language Learning, the authors Mansoor Fahim and Mastaneh Haghani discuss how the sociocultural theory (SCT) relates to learning and teaching a second language. According to Fahim and Haghani (2012) “In sociocultural theory learning is thought of as a social event taking place as a result of interaction between the learner and the environment (p. 693) Therefore, language learning is optimal when the learner is actively involved in their learning and interacting with others. Language and learning are also strengthened as the individual participates in cultural, linguistic, and historical settings. For example, the learner is involved in interactions within peer groups, families, sports activities, etc. Sociocultural theory uses a holistic approach in which meaning is developed through complex forms rather than isolated concepts; therefore, learners have a role in their own learning process. They are problem solvers and meaning makers in their language acquisition process. In addition, this theory stresses an interconnectedness among teachers, learners, and tasks. Social interaction is believed to facilitate the learning process. Learners work together with their teacher to solve the problems. As they work together to solve a problem, individuals are internalizing how to solve the problem on their own. As the learner is developing the language, he/she is benefiting from others participation in the process. With the support of peers and teacher, students can develop language (Fahim & Haghani, 2012). Vygotsky introduced a concept called Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). With this concept, Vygotsky argues that “psychology should be more concerned with the potential abilities of a child, i.e. what a child will be to accomplish in the future but he/she has not achieved yet” (p. 694). Therefore, scaffolding must take place so that the child can grow and develop. Scaffolding can be referred to as social assistance. Scaffolding can also be anything a learner benefits from. Therefore, scaffolds may be textbooks, dictionaries, and diagrams; however, scaffolds can also be peer feedback and teacher support. Scaffolds may be direct or explicit instruction. The key is that the learning takes place within the learner’s zone of proximal development. Therefore, no learning is “out of reach.” Another concept of SCT is internalization. There needs to be an enhancement of interactions among the learners. The expert role can be applied to the teacher but also to learners as well. Reciprocal teaching may be adopted to have expert learners teach students who are still developing the language. Teachers could adopt a learner-centered approach to instruction to help students with internalization (Fahim & Haghani, 2012). Another essential component of SCT is the activity theory. Activity theory focused on task-based performances which provide learners with an active role. The learner becomes socially and academically motivated which leads to success in the language learning process. Engaging the students in interviews, role-plays, and other real-world tasks increase the value of learning for students. The learners’ motives, goals and values contribute to their success in language acquisition. Overall, the SCT argues that learning is optimal when it is within the learner’s zone of proximal development, scaffolds are provided, and there are interactions within social contexts (Fahim & Haghani, 2012).

2. Initial Emotional Response (surprised, embarrassed, sad, inspired, excited, puzzled, etc.)

Initially, I was surprised when I read this article because I did not think that the sociocultural theory applied to language learning. I have researched and read a lot about Lev Vygotsky’s theory in my undergraduate and graduate courses; however, I do not remember any research focusing on language learning. I was surprised and excited to learn that there are connections between what I have learned in psychology courses and TESOL courses. I was surprised that the sociocultural theory connects to language learning; therefore, I was eager to reflect on this article.

Learning Process

3. Prior Assumptions or Opinions about the described highlight

Prior to reading this article, I thought that second language learning should be mostly teacher-directed. I assumed that for students to learn the language they needed to be passive learners. I thought ENL teaching was very teacher-directed with limited interaction and discussions between peers and teacher. I thought that students simply listened to the teacher and repeated what the teacher stated. I perceived ENL teaching as teaching the basics of English such as grammar, spelling, and verb agreement. I also thought ENL teaching incorporated mostly drill practices and repetition. In addition, I believed ENL was a pull-out service which was separate from content. I thought students were pulled out to practice basic English skills which were not aligned to the curriculum taught in the classroom. Therefore, as a student, I thought that ENL teachers were separate from classroom teachers. I did not realize that an ENL teacher could be a classroom teacher as well. Lastly, I also thought that ENL teaching incorporated specific teacher feedback as opposed to self- and peer- feedback.

4. Source of Assumption or Opinion What made you have such an assumption? (

I had this assumption because most of the videos that I have watched for this course have been very teacher-directed. Also, the readings from earlier on in the course were also more teacher-directed methods. For example, the Audiolingual Method, the Grammar-Translation method, and the Direct Method and very teacher-centered. The teacher is the expert and the students practice language without really understanding the content. The student’s role is mostly to listen to language and then repeat words and phrases. However, when I read the title of the article, I knew that the sociocultural theory focused on interactions; therefore, I was eager to read the article and make connections to language learning. Another reason is, before I became a teacher, I always thought that ENL was teaching simply English. I did not realize that it was integrated. I envisioned the ENL teachers doing basic grammar and sentence structure. From elementary school, I remember the ENL teachers having their own rooms and the students only going to their rooms. I do not remember ENL teachers ever coming into my classroom or teaching general content.

5. Assumption/Opinion Check – Validation/Invalidation 

My assumptions about the instruction of a foreign language were invalidated due to research on sociocultural theory and other methods of teaching. For example, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory proposes for students to be active in their learning in order to create meaning. According to Fahim and Haghani (2012), “the theory also lays great stress on the dynamic nature of interconnections among teachers, learners and tasks and advocates the concept of learning which stems from interactions among individuals” (p.694). Therefore, according to SCT, learners should be engaged in tasks that are meaningful and challenging. Students show optimal growth when learning is within their zone of proximal development and they are supported by peers and teachers. According to SCT, language learning is best when there are meaningful interactions between students and teachers. Similarly, further research has supported and validated the points made by Vygotsky regarding language learning. For example, in the article On Teaching Strategies in Second Language Acquisition Yang Hong argues for creating a learner-centered classroom. According to Hong (2008), “In the learning process, the teacher can guide, facilitate, present materials clearly and answer questions, but the teacher cannot learn the language for students or even make students learn the language” (p. 64). The teacher’s role is the role of the facilitator. It is up to the student to take initiative for their learning. Teachers should facilitate the learners through meaningful tasks. For example, “second language learners are more motivated on tasks that they value (Hong, 2008, p. 66). Students may value a task more if it is applicable to their daily life or if it incorporates their interests. Teachers can try to increase value by incorporating authentic literature, using culturally relevant topics, or providing student choice. Also, Hong argues that teachers should provide opportunities for success. Therefore, teachers should choose tasks that are authentic and appropriately challenging. Appropriately challenging tasks are supported by the Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. In addition, the Silent Way method also uses some strategies which are reflective of the sociocultural theory. Using the Silent Way Method, the teacher does not have to explicitly model for students. The teacher provides students with learning tasks and activities that encourage student responses. According to Richards and Rogers (2016), “the materials are designed for manipulation by the students as well as by the teacher, independently and cooperatively, in promoting language learning by direct association” (p. 108). Therefore, the students work together to make sense of the content and develop the language. The students rely on each other to strengthen their language; therefore, the students work collaboratively and provide specific, constructive feedback. Also, the silent way uses materials that are meaningful to the students. For example, According to Richards and Rogers (2016). “the materials are designed for manipulation by the students as well as by the teacher, independently and cooperatively, in promoting language learning by direct association” (p.108). Like the sociocultural theory, the Silent Way integrates tasks that are meaningful and authentic in order to promote language learning.

6. Realization/Aha Moment or Epiphany 

I had an “aha!” moment when I realized how the recent articles I read and the videos I watched related. The articles I mentioned all stress the importance of students collaborating to develop language. In addition, students provide each other with feedback during this process. The teacher works as the facilitator who guides the students through meaningful, authentic tasks. The teacher provides scaffolds such as various materials, teacher support, and peer support to assist the students throughout their language learning process. I believe that this type of second language teaching and learning is the best for my students. For the first few weeks of this course, I was having a difficult time applying the information from the readings and my observations from the videos to my teaching. A lot of the new content I learned about second language teaching was teacher-centered. Methods such as the Audiolingual Method and Communicative Language Method seemed very time consuming and hard to fit in with teaching the general curriculum. Similarly, methods such as Grammar Translation Method and the Direct Method seemed to be very specific and difficult to integrate into content. However, after recent readings and videos, I am envisioning how I can implement strategies into my classroom to teach and support second language learners. After learning more about the Sociocultural theory, I realize that students need to work together more to develop language. Instead of modeling as a teacher, I can have my students act as models for each other. The learning is more valuable when the students are presented with engaging tasks. Therefore, I would like to incorporate more tasks such as the one in the Silent Way video (English, 2013). In the video, the teacher provided the students with a hands-on experience of a floor plan. Students were able to manipulate the pieces and make sense of language as a group. This was a great example for me, students developing language through participating in a meaningful task. Through this task, students learned vocabulary terms, spatial relationships, and prepositions. This was a great “aha!” moment for me because I was able to actually see the concepts that I was reading about portrayed in a lesson. This video helped me put the readings into perspective. Moving forward, I trust that I have research-based practices that I can apply to my classroom to best support my English Language Learners. My thoughts have been changed about second language teaching. I no longer believe that second language teaching should be teacher-centered and teacher dominated. I believe to teach a second language I should use tasks that are meaningful and authentic. In addition, I should provide opportunities for the students to collaborate and provide feedback to one another. I believe that if the students value the learning, they will truly internalize it and strengthen their language.

7. Implications for future teaching practice

As I reflect on what I have learned so far in this course, I plan on making many changes to my teaching and classroom environment. I will incorporate many aspects of the sociocultural theory into my classroom. I would like to incorporate the Zone of Proximal Development as I plan for lessons. As I plan for tasks, I want to ensure that I am selecting materials that are within the ZPD for my learners. I want to make sure that it is appropriately challenging, yet not out of reach; therefore, students can experience success as they work with scaffolds. I plan on scaffolding for my students. Scaffolds will vary depending on the lesson. Scaffolds I would like to include for my students are words walls, reference books, familiar charts, and sentence stems. In addition, I will provide support as a teacher such as prompting questions and guiding the students to refer to resources. In addition, students will scaffold for one another by providing peer feedback. In addition, I would like to implement the Activity Theory in my classroom. For example, I will provide my students with meaningful learning opportunities for them to practice language and learn content simultaneously. For example, I will infuse more group work and partner work into my lessons so that students have an opportunity to share and learn from one another. I will have students participate in authentic, meaningful tasks that target language needs. For instance, my students struggle with prepositions. I would love to incorporate an activity like the one in the video. I would try to connect it to content that is in our curriculum. When my students create dioramas of the rain forest, I can have them practice and use prepositions in their speech and writing. Students task can be to describe the plants and animals in their rainforest using spatial relationships and prepositions. As a group, students can work together to decide where the plants and animals go in the diorama and how to describe them. Similarly, I would like to incorporate real-world mathematics problems in which the students can practice their mathematics vocabulary because that is also something my English Language Learners struggle with. I do anticipate some challenges with incorporating the sociocultural theory into my classroom. I think it will be difficult to incorporate meaningful, authentic tasks into the classroom daily; however, I do believe that it is very beneficial for my learners. Therefore, I will try to start building tasks by evaluating each unit and developing a task per unit. As I continue to develop tasks, I hope to build a repertoire of meaningful tasks that can be implemented into many lessons in all content areas. Overall, there are many strategies that I have learned through coursework that I am eager to implement into my classroom. I trust that implementing concepts from the sociocultural theory will have positive impacts on my English Language Learners.

References

English, A. (2013, January 25). Language Teaching Methods: Silent Way. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=xqLzbLCpack

Fahim, M., & Haghani, M. (2012). Sociocultural Perspectives on Foreign Language Learning. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 3(4). doi:10.4304/jltr.3.4.693-699

Hong, Y. (2008). On Teaching Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. US- China Education Review, 5(1), 61-67.

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2016). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Virtual Worlds as Learning Platforms

VW’s strengths as learning platforms for English language teaching and training lie in their multinational, multiethnic, and multilingual set-up.  They essentially are a sandbox for highly immersive experiential learning where almost any conceivable educational scenario can be simulated and carried out. In-World students often identify strongly with their alter-ego avatar.  Avatars can manipulate and use objects while socially networking in a 3D environment. With an alter ego buffering the self-conscious hurdle of fluency practice participants are more likely to speak to peers and mentors, join and/or form groups to meet like-minded persons, seek out casual conversations and enjoy educative congregating such as coffee house socializing, fire-pit talks or rezzing in to meet new group members for hang-outs.

Generally, participants experience VW’s as less intimidating places which enable both native and non-native interaction with a potential for community building and Virtual World –> Real World (RW) carryover. Particularly favored features are instantaneous virtual traveling (teleporting) to RW locations in SL, the existence of support groups and forums for formal and informal learning, all of which enable L2 language acquisition through experimental experiences.

“The Phoenix Firestorm Project: Virtual Worlds, JokaydiaGrid and Second Life” Teaching ESL in OpenSym Grids

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An accepted paper by Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D. for the TESOL Conference, November 3rd and 4th, 2016 in Syracuse, New York.

I am embarking on a journey of discovery with critical questions in my mind:  How does an ESL facilitator put virtual environments to practical use?   The purpose of my paper and presentation encompasses several areas which I will explore in future blogs.  An essential element will be describing and analyzing my experience as the avatar ‘Muse Terpsichore’ in virtual worlds during my online summer “Games and Simulations” course at Marlboro College for Professional and Graduate Studies in Brattleboro, VT.  Another component will focus on describing and comparing the virtual worlds of Jokaydia Grid and Second Life. Immersed in these virtual environments I will investigate their suitability for ESL education with a closer look at areas such as experiential learning, fluency practice, virtual classroom meetings, grammar, and storytelling.  I look forward to an in-depth exploration into content availability and suitability for independent, guided, synchronous and asynchronous student-teacher interaction and collaboration. Finally, I want to examine the difference between the student and administrator view of virtual environments.  How does a virtual world look like to an administrator or student? What set-up work is necessary to stage for a successful learning experience?  What skills does an administrator or student need to successfully implement and engage in a virtual learning component?

I hope you will check in often to read about my ambitious journey into the alternate universes and creative teaching possibilities within virtual worlds.