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Showing posts from June, 2009

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…