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Showing posts from 2009

Concise Annotated Bibliography

For a class, I wrote a 7-page annotated bibliography and presented a 7-minute presentation on role-plays in task-based instruction, which is one of my areas of interest for research.

The most useful bit of information I got from this research was that the preferred term in this area is "information gap task" as opposed to "role-play" or "simulation." The term "role-play" reminds most educators about the suggestopedia method or drama (which many instructors rule out as time-consuming and chaotic), so it often does not get much respect in second language education research. Information gap tasks can be tied easily to task-based instruction, which is a more recent and widely used approach to language teaching than suggestopedia.

Another great find was Dr. Teresa Pica from the University of Pennsylvania. She appears to be the leading expert in information gap tasks and would be a very valuable resource if I decide to do my dissertation on this topi…

Is It Important for Learners to Speak Like a Native Speaker?

I do not think it is important for learners to speak a second or foreign language like a native speaker. To clarify my position, I have interpreted “speak” to mean having the same pronunciation and accent of a native speaker. Of course, a second or foreign language learner should try to use the same grammar and vocabulary like a native speaker. Trying to have the same pronunciation or accent like one for most learners is too much of a lofty goal for most adult learners.

Brown mentions this argument most directly in Chapter 3 in the section entitled “The Significance of Accent” on pages 62-65. The point of this section is to illustrate that evidence for the critical period hypothesis is most apparent in the inability of second or foreign language learners to acquire authentic pronunciation of the target language. The critical period is defined by Brown in his glossary as “a biologically determined period of life when language can be acquired more easily and beyond which time langua…

Teaching Speaking Skills

Of the four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), I have had the most practice teaching or, better put, developing students speaking skills. However it hasn't been until recently that I've had a difficult time implementing a solid course on speaking skills alone.

Background in Japan
My first full-time ESL job was teaching conversational English in one of the biggest private English schools in Japan. The school's primary goal was to develop their "customers'" ability to hold and initiate conversation in English. Its secondary goal was to review and practice English grammar. Most adult students in the program sincerely wanted to develop their conversation skills, but many of them were more comfortable learning grammar without conversation. My goal was to have them use the grammar they were comfortable with in a conversation that they were not comfortable with. After a little over a year, I became quite good at this using the school&#…

Incorporating Skeptical Thinking in an EAP Classroom

In a previous posting, I mentioned my experiment with teaching science fact and fiction in a reading class for intermediate students. I was connecting two ideas I had about teaching reading. The first idea was one I planned for my second year as a Senior English Language Fellow in Samara, Russia. I was going to demonstrate how to teach content-based instruction using American science-fiction. This never came to be.

My second idea came about last year when my wife and I became increasingly interested in the skeptical movement after becoming avid listeners to the podcast, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. While listening to the show, I was thinking how certain topics would encourage my students to apply critical thinking to their reading. Some of the topics, such as UFOs and psychic ability, would be understandable and entertaining for students at the intermediate level. In addition, I think most topics in the realm of superstition and pseudoscience are of interest to most …

Proficiency & Discipline

Lately in my career, I have been paying more attention to assessing students in terms of academic discipline or the ability to utilize certain study strategies on their own. This has been most important in two of my positions, one as teacher trainer at Sookmyung Women's University-TESOL in Korea and one as an instructor of English for Academic Purposes at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Personal Background
In Korea, the TESOL program was developed so that students were assessed in generally the same way in all classes. All instructors had to follow the same guidelines for implementing and carrying out the terms and conditions for absences, tardiness, late and missing assignments, missing tests, and classroom participation. One reason for the success of this program is that these guidelines were followed very strictly by all the teacher trainers. A misbehaving or cheating student was detected quickly and usually was not awarded the TESOL certificate.

In La Crosse, I have…

Reading Science Fact and Fiction

Earlier this week I submitted a proposal to the 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. The topic of this proposal concerns my success with my intermediate reading course I just finished last month. I believe it was my most successful reading course I have taught at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse yet.

I had 14 students who were at the intermediate levels according to ACTFL's proficiency guidelines. One student was from Vietnam, one from Japan, one from Kuwait, one from Taiwan, and the rest from mainland China. Their primary motivation is to enroll in non-ESL courses at UWL. Students at the intermediate level tend to be the least motivated at the ESL Institute because they are no longer new to the program and they still have at least another year to complete the ESL program. In addition, reading is usually the least favorite skill for students to practice among reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Therefore, this particular reading course usually…

MA Research Proposal - Teacher Burnout

Today I found the summary of my research proposal as a graduate student in the ESOL/Bilingual Master's program at UMBC. I'd like to share it with everyone now.

The short post above was published on May 23, 2009.  Below are more details and an update from March 16, 2015.

I chose this topic based on a list that TESOL used to provide on trending research topics.  I believe they discontinued this list a decade ago.  I haven't checked lately, so they might have revived it, but with the dawn of web 2.0, there are many other ways to do this besides picking up the TESOL Quarterly and other similar journals.

I was happy to have found this PowerPoint slideshow because I lost the original research proposal shortly after graduating from UMBC.  I found it missing from my diskette (remember those?) containing all the papers I wrote for the MA program.  I'm still interested in teacher burnout, but not as much as my current research interests in the professional and cultural learning o…

Who's Improving?

I've taught three classes in which I never changed the content of the course and I only changed the teaching approach by very little. They were my advanced writing class at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse and both methodology courses at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul. In all three classes, I noticed a marked improvement in the students semester after semester. Either the students were getting better or I was improving.

I taught the same material in relatively the same manner in Seoul for 3 years, which is 6 different terms. In La Crosse, I did the same for 4 semesters. However my feelings about the outcome were different for each case.

Seeing better results from my students from term to term in Korea was rewarding. This meant I didn't have to spend as much time explaining certain vocabulary and concepts as I did in previous terms. The students' English levels weren't necessarily higher, but it seemed that their understanding of the content (TES…

Authenticity and Autonomy

I have been teaching English as a second or foreign language now for ten years. Five of those ten years were spent training teachers of ESL or EFL. At this point in my profession, I've demonstrated to myself that my guiding principles are authenticity and student autonomy. (On a personal note, I find it oddly coincidental that my newborn daughter's name share's the first vowel sound as my guiding principles.)

When I was a teacher trainer in Seoul, Korea, students in many of my methodology courses informed me that the word I most often used was "authentic." Looking at the base content, the word didn't come up as frequently as I mentioned it. I confess this was my spin on delivering the TESOL methodology content designed in a collaborative effort between professors at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and at Sookmyung Women's University-TESOL.

But it wasn't really spin more than exaggerating what I believe to a fundamental prin…

Reading Across the Curriculum

At the ESL Institute in La Crosse, I have been teaching a reading class for intermediate students. I wrote a paper about my initial reaction to this course which is pending publication in the English Teaching Professional. This posting serves as a follow-up to that article.

Upon entering my second semester (Spring 2008), I experimented more with content-based instruction. In the first four weeks, students read World Folktales by Anita Stern. In the last ten weeks, students read their choice of an academic text. The following are my guiding principles for the course. I will refer to the first module as WF for World Folktales and the second module as AT for "academic text."
Students practiced reading in groups (WF) and individually (AT).Students read WF in a jigsaw activity that incorporated the entire text, thereby leading them to more autonomy with less dependence on the instructor. I acted as a guide rather than an instructor.
More student autonomy was developed when st…

New Introduction

I haven't written in this blog for nearly two years. Let me re-introduce this blog by answering the 6 WH questions:

is writing this blog? Me (Jeremy Slagoski). You can see my profile in the margin.

is this blog for? Take a look at the list below, which is prioritized from primary audience to secondary audiences.
All ESL and EFL teachers around the world, primarily ones who are teaching or will teaching English in Japan, Korea, Russia, and in American universitiesEFL and ESL teacher trainersResearchers in the fields of curriculum & instruction, teaching & learning, intercultural communication, and related academic fields
Those involved in the English Language Fellowship ProgramAnyone interested in teaching EFL or ESLEnglish language learnersInstructors in generalAnyone else who has interest in my profession, my interests, and myself.
is a blog? Click here at

is this blog about? See below for another list.
My observations on teachi…