MITESOL Messages

August 15, 2018***Vol. 45, Issue 2

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President's Corner

Hello MITESOL Friends & Happy summer! Whether you have been working through the summer like I have or you have been taking advantage of this time to refresh yourself, I hope everyone has been enjoying the warmer, sunnier weather.

The MITESOL 2018 Conference will be held at Eastern Michigan University beginning with registration at 4 p.m. on Friday, October 26 and running through late afternoon on Saturday, October 27, 2018. MITESOL President-Elect Ildi Porter-Szucs and her team of graduate students are doing an amazing job with preparations. This year’s theme is Reaching All Learners. In addition to the two-day conference, four very special pre-conference institutes will be held 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 26. More information on the pre-conference sessions can be found on the MITESOL website. Spread the word! This is going to be an outstanding conference: great venue, dynamic speakers, engaging sessions, lively entertainment, and more. If you haven't come in a while, it's time to come back! I can't wait to see you all there!

Speaking of great conferences, this year’s TESOL Convention in Chicago, Illinois succeeded once again in providing a valuable experience filled with robust opportunities to learn and grow as educators in the field. These powerful learning experiences, along with abundant networking and hanging out with friends in the publisher’s hall, made for an energetic and effective event. It was a joy reuniting with old friends and making new acquaintances at the MITESOL reception at Salero, Chicago. It was a beautiful restaurant and everyone had a blast!

Have you been to the MITESOL website lately? It has undergone an overhaul – thanks to our Communications team Josie, Jennifer, and Trisha. You’ll find the latest installation of our I Am MITESOL campaign, board member bios, advocacy efforts and position statements, and more. When you register for the conference take a look around.

We know that times are tough for many professionals working in the ESL field and, as a result, many programs are reducing their workforce. We have tried to keep our membership and conference rates affordable so that networking and professional development can be accessible to everyone. In addition to these lower rates, MITESOL offers several different conference grants and scholarships. More information is available on the MITESOL website.

In other news, Sharon Umlor and Jennifer Musser attended the TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit in Washington D.C. in June. For more information and some photographs of their experience, check out the MITESOL Advocacy and Policy Facebook page and attend their sessions at the upcoming conference.

I can’t stress enough how rewarding it is to be a part of the MITESOL community! You can participate by writing an article for the newsletter or journal. Stay in touch via one of our Facebook pages. Volunteer to help out at the 2018 Conference. Attend the conference and network. We’re waiting for you!

Suzanne Toohey

President, MITESOL

Lovely faces at the MITESOL Reception in Chicago for TESOL 2018!

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Happy Summer, everyone! We hope you've had a chance to relax these past few months before heading into the busy fall semester! Welcome to the summer edition of the MITESOL Newsletter. The updates in this issue are sure to keep you current with all the latest events in our field:


  • Board Notes
  • MITESOL 2018 Conference Details
  • Adult Education SIG Updates
  • Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates
  • MITESOL and MABE Statement
  • Post-Secondary SIG Updates
  • K-12 SIG Updates

Updates from the field:

  • Grappling with Text
  • Tips for Cultural Awareness in Teaching Adult ELs
  • My Summer Conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico

If you have any questions, comments, and suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Your co-editors,

Clarissa Codrington

Jessica Piggot

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Board Notes

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. The MITESOL board must be having tons of fun, because suddenly it’s time for the August edition of MITESOL Messages, when just moments ago snow was falling outside my window while writing the February article! Below are some highlights of the board’s most important (and some fun) accomplishments since our last issue.

  • For the first time, rather than travelling to Lansing, we held two virtual board meetings, one in February and one in April.

  • Thanks to editors Christy Pearson, Kay Losey and Dan Brown from GVSU, the MITESOL Online Journal is now fully operating on ScholarWorks and has been accessed by several kinds of institutions and from fifteen different countries.

  • President, Suzanne Toohey, organized another excellent MITESOL reception at TESOL in Chicago.

  • Seven members of MITESOL, new to TESOL, were chosen to receive free registration to the TESOL Conference.

  • Jennifer Musser received the Marckwardt Travel Grant Award for TESOL 2018.

  • MITESOL collaborated with MABE (Michigan Association of Bilingual Education) to inform Michigan legislators of the inappropriateness of the Reading Law for Michigan third grade ELs, and to request approval for use of WIDA ACCESS and Screener as alternate assessments.

  • We continue the relationship with our sister organization in Poland, and welcome interest in similar arrangements from Russia, China and Japan.

  • Three new board members, Jennifer Majorana, Katie Weyent, and Jessica Piggot have been transitioning over the summer into the Treasurer, Membership Coordinator, and Newsletter Co-editor positions respectively, due to former board members moving.

  • Board members Sharon Umlor and Jennifer Musser attended the Policy and Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C. in June.

  • Grants to defray costs for Adult Ed Educators and K-12 Professionals from northern Michigan and the UP were again established for the 2018 MITESOL Conference.

  • Many hours of work have been completed by Conference Chair and In-coming MITESOL President, Ildi Porter-Szucs and her hardworking volunteers at EMU, organizing our fall MITESOL Conference (“Reaching All Learners”), to be held on October 26th and 27th at EMU. Please join us!

-Ellen Brengle

Secretary, MITESOL

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MITESOL 2018 Conference Details

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Come One! Come All! Come join your MITESOL colleagues on Friday, October 26, and Saturday, October 27, 2018, at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. Here are some of the highlights you can expect:


  • Over 70 concurrent sessions by YOU and your expert colleagues on all topics ESL, EFL, and TESOL

  • Friday evening keynote by Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson, of the University of Virginia, on differentiated instruction in classrooms with children and adults

  • Affordable (EMU and grant subsidized) pre-conference workshops on Friday during the day, 8:30 am-3 pm:

  • For experts in fields other than ESL:

K-5th grade ESL basics
6-12th grade ESL basics
College professors, staff, administrators

  • For ESL and writing teachers on argumentative writing

  • Exhibits by publishers, schools, educational organizations


  • Friday night music by Tumbao Bravo performing Cuban rhythms and jazz

  • Cash bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres to quench our thirst and sate our hunger

  • Homemade photo booth to immortalize our good mood

Don’t miss out on the flagship event of our organization.

To Do List Ahead of the Conference:

  • Register before the early-bird deadline passes on September 26, 2018!

(Special rates for students, part-timers, first-time groups from K-12 and adult ed, and members!)

  • Book a room at the Ann Arbor Regent hotel at the discounted rate of $110+tax for a double room.

Hope to see you there!

Ildi Porter-Szucs

President-Elect, Conference Co-Chair

Mary C. Tillotson

Conference Co-Chair
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Adult Education SIG Updates

MITESOL Adult Education SIG Update

August 2018

Happy August Everyone! It’s hard to believe that fall is just around the corner already. Here are some resources and articles that may be of interest as you gear up for a new academic year.

Professional Development Opportunities

Welcoming Michigan Statewide Convening & MCIRR Summit

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wayne County Community College – Western Campus, Belleville, MI

MITESOL Conference 2018: Reaching All Learners

Friday, October 26 – Saturday, October 27

Eastern Michigan University Student Center, Ypsilanti, MI

Registration is now open!


A Guide to Finding and Understanding English Learner Data

By Julie Sugarman for Migration Policy Institute

Immigration Data Matters

A guide to credible data on immigrants and immigration in the United States and internationally.

By Jeanne Batalova, Andriy Shymonyak, and Michelle Mittelstadt for Migration Policy Institute

Data Story: Educational Experiences of English Language Learners: Access to and Enrollment in Early Learning Programs, Advanced Coursework, and Dual Credit Programs

By U.S. Department of Education

Classroom Resources: Family Separations at the Border: What Educators Need to Know

By ¡Colorín Colorado!

Resources for Children and Families Who Were Separated at the Border as a Result of the Recent Family Separation Policy

By University of Michigan Social Workers and Psychologists in collaboration with the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health

Lesson Plans on the Roots of Central American Migration

A series of four lesson with the country of El Salvador as a case study to provide important historical context for contemporary immigration issues.

By Justin Sybenga for Teaching for Change

Free Tools to Help Educators and Administrators Better Serve English Learners

By SupportEd

Michigan Seal of Biliteracy

Created to recognize high school graduates who exhibit language proficiency in English at and least one additional world language.

By Michigan Department of Education,4615,7-140-81351-456570--,00.html


Judge Orders Trump Administration to Fully Restore DACA

By Vanessa Romo for NPR

Being an English-Language Learner Is Hard. Here Are 5 Ways Teachers Can Make It Easier.

By Justin Minkel for Education Week

New USCIS Policy Will Needlessly Push Thousands More Cases into the Deportation Machinery

By George Tzamaras and Belle Woods for American Immigration Lawyers Association

Lawyer: Parents of About 10 Immigrants Kids in Michigan were Deported

By Niraj Warikoo for Detroit Free Press

Government Unable to Track Hundreds of Parents It Separated from Their Children

By Vanessa Romo and Julie Small for NPR

Legal Immigration Becomes Harder Under Trump-era Changes to Visa Rules

By Stateside Staff for Michigan Radio

Anxiety Grows Over Anti-Immigrant Actions: ‘We Feel They Are After Us’

By David Schaper for NPR

Federal Judge Says There’s No Fundamental Right to Learn to Read and Write

By Lori Higgins for Detroit Free Press

3 Charts That Show What’s Actually Happening Along the Southern Border

By Rebecca Hersher and Venessa Qian for NPR

Trump Executive Order Makes Border Crisis Worse

By Hayley Burgess for National Immigration Law Center

Governor Snyder Proclaims June as Immigrant Heritage Month

By Ashlyn Korienek for Manistee News Advocate

Refugee Crisis has Resettlement Agency Concerned for Those ‘In Limbo’

By Lauren Slagter for MLive

English-Learners and ESSA: Many States are Lowering Academic Goals, Advocates Charge

By Corey Mitchell for Education Week

COABE Testimony to Address Funding Levels

By Coalition on Adult Basic Education

DeVos: Schools Should Decide Whether to Report Undocumented Kids

By Michael Stratford for Politico

New Analysis Finds that Michigan K-12 Remains Low-Improving and Low-Performing for All Students

By Education Trust - Midwest

What Adult Learners Really Need (Hint: It’s Not Just Job Skills)

By Anya Kamenetz for NPR

If you have feedback to share or suggestions for future updates, please write to:

Casey Thelenwood

Adult Education SIG Leader

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Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates

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MITESOL participates in 2018 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit

On June 18-20, 2018 Sharon Umlor and Jennifer Musser joined more than 90 other TESOL educators and members of TESOL International Association in Alexandria, VA for the 2018 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit. The program featured two days of issue briefings, breakout sessions and advocacy training, followed by a full day of visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. With representatives from 25 US affiliates in attendance, the goals of the Summit were not only to learn more about federal policy issues impacting TESOL educators and English learners, but also to provide an interactive experience for participants to actively engage in advocacy on behalf of their schools, programs, students and fellow educators. By the end of the Summit, TESOL members had visited the offices of over 150 Representatives and Senators.


To fully prepare for this year’s Summit, participants completed several important tasks before arriving in D.C., including scheduling meetings with their representatives in Congress. Formal meeting request letters were sent to representatives’ offices, and then followed up with emails and phone calls to staffers in order to schedule meetings with representatives. To help make their congressional meetings more effective, participants were encouraged to find examples from their own programs to illustrate the talking points they would use in their meetings. Many MITESOL members shared narratives and facts from their respective locations and organizations, which Sharon and Jennifer compiled and included in a “Narratives from Michigan” section in a leave-behind binder for each representative visited.


The Summit featured a keynote from José Viana, the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to Mr. Viana, this year’s Summit welcomed featured speaker Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), who addressed attendees on the need to pass his newly introduced bill, the Reaching English Learners Act (H.R. 4838), which would provide grant funding for the training of pre-service English language teachers. The Summit also included presentations from the American Federation of Teachers, Office of Career, Adult and Technical Education, Migration Policy Institute, National Skills Coalition, and Migrant Legal Action Program. Lastly, Deborah Short spoke to the Summit attendees about the importance of advocacy within The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners, reaffirming the importance of attendees’ meetings with lawmakers.


TESOL prepped all Summit attendees to present policy recommendations for the 115th U.S. Congress regarding (1) PreK-12 Education & Teacher Preparation in fully funding Titles II and III of ESSA at the FY 2019 funding levels, passing the Reaching English Learners Act (H.R. 4838), and ensuring that the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is not reorganized into a larger office; (2) Adult Education in fully funding Title II of WIOA at the FY 2019 funding level; (3) International Education and Cultural Exchange in rejecting the administration’s proposed cut for FY 2019 to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the U.S. Department of State; and (4) Immigration Reform in passing both the bipartisan BRIDGE Act (H.R. 496 & S. 128) and Dream Act of 2017 (H.R. 3440 & S. 1615), which both support DACA recipients.


On June 20, participants went to Capitol Hill to have meetings with members of Congress and staff. MITESOL members Sharon and Jennifer met with the staff of Michigan Representatives Debbie Dingell (12), Jack Bergman (1), Justin Amash (3), Tim Walberg (7), John Moolenaar (4), and Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow. In each of the meetings, Michigan data regarding ELs and educators and specific EL and educator narratives were discussed as well as the federal policy recommendations TESOL provided. Sharon and Jennifer showed each representative the school districts that had the highest numbers of ELs in their respective districts and shared several narratives from EL educators that were relevant to their constituent populations.

All of the representatives’ legislative assistants encouraged frequent dialogue between their offices and constituents – They asked for we educators to help them stay current and knowledgeable and let them know what policies are affecting the TESOL profession and people we serve. When asked what the most effective method of advocacy was, one staffer replied that constituents calling works best because the office cannot ignore the phone! Be ready with a specific request and know the legislative bill number you’re calling about. Also, be prepared to give your information and ask for follow-up about your request from the office.

To find your representative and senators and legislation in the U.S. Congress that affects you, stay current with Govtrack. Additionally, for state advocacy, visit the MITESOL Advocacy and Policy web page, and join the MITESOL Advocacy and Policy Facebook group! You are encouraged to also stay in touch with your Michigan legislators.

Sharon Umlor

Advocacy and Policy SIG Leader

Jennifer Musser

MITESOL Webmaster

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Joint Statement between MITESOL and MABE:

MITESOL and MABE Statement Opposing U.S. Administration Policies Separating Immigrant Children from their Families

Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MITESOL) and Michigan Association for Bilingual Education (MABE) strongly urge Congress and the current administration to promptly reunite children who have been separated from their parents at the border and to pass humane immigration legislation that comprehensively addresses the educational, emotional and physical needs of these children.

MITESOL is an affiliate organization of TESOL International that provides support for professionals involved in teaching English to speakers of other languages, and MABE encourages and promotes multilingual education in the State of Michigan. MITESOL and MABE are educational institutions that cultivate respect for diversity, multilingualism, and multiculturalism. As organizations that support a large population of teachers and students who are immigrants, MITESOL and MABE oppose the maltreatment of families seeking refuge in our country.

We believe it is it is our obligation to care for and protect children, regardless of their national origin. Detaining children without their parents in prison-like environments is harmful to their mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, and will be a detriment to their ability to thrive and perform at high levels in the classroom. The long-lasting damages these children face as a result of their separation from their parents will not only affect their learning of language and content in schools, but will also likely require expanded services from health and mental health professionals as they grow and develop into productive members of society. In addition, the costs associated with these children’s education will be significantly increased due to the added stressors of migration, separation from their families, and involuntary seclusion and detention.

It is the right of these children and their families seeking asylum to be treated with dignity. The separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement, management, or detention is never in the best interest or well- being of children. It is important to note that many of these immigrant families are not violating any laws. In fact, they are seeking asylum in accordance with international law. Children should not be used as a deterrent to enter the United States. This country has a history of being a beacon of hope for many families escaping war and violence, but the current zero-tolerance policy defies that legacy.

MITESOL and MABE call on the U.S. Congress and the administration to take the necessary steps to:

• Immediately stop any zero-tolerance policy that may result in harmful separation of undocumented children from their parents or family members

• Seek the immediate reunification of families presently separated under current enforcement policy

• Uphold international human rights law regarding asylum seekers and provide them with legal assistance and timely expedition of their cases

• Work together to draft a bipartisan solution to comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for Dreamers (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

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Post-Secondary SIG Updates

Post-secondary SIG Update August 2018

This year, various issues on English language teaching and higher education continue to be discussed in scholarly journals and the media. I’d love to hear your views on these issues and others affecting post-secondary institutions as we prepare for a fresh, new academic year:

Service-learning has been gaining attention in ESL and TESOL and continues to proliferate in the literature. Palpacuer Lee, et al. (2017), Schneider (2018), and Yankura Swacha (2018) consider various service-learning projects in ELT contexts.

Translanguaging is supported by linguists and scholars in our field, i.e. Cummins (2018) and Daniel et al. (2017). Jaspers (2018) traces the history of translanguaging, and problematizes interpretations and related transformative agendas. Interestingly, he points to the hypocritical stance that many of us project when we claim to embrace linguistic diversity, yet insist on a standard English in our professional and academic journals and conferences.

Speaking of journals, have you seen this news? The Review of Higher Education is no longer accepting submissions for publication due to a two-year backlog of papers to review and too few reviewers. This news comes after the cessation of Beall’s List and an increase in questionable journals. How does all this affect scholarship in our field?

Multimodality continues to be supported in the literature. Miller-Cochrane (2017) asserts that not helping our students’ develop digital and other forms of ‘writing’ is a disservice. “If we want to teach L2 writers to communicate effectively, then we must teach multimodal composing and embrace a broader understanding of available genres for communication” (p.89).

LGBTQ issues dominate many campuses. In 2017, Paiz discussed what ‘queering’ the language classroom means and what it might look like in teacher preparation and educational materials. This year, Leal and Crookes (2018) explore identity and agency for social justice-oriented teaching practices from the lens of a queer English Language teacher.

Read more:

Cummins, J. (2017). Teaching minoritized students: Are additive approaches legitimate? Harvard Educational Review, 87(3), 404-425.

Daniel, S.M., Jimenez, R.T., & Pray, L, & Pacheco, M.B, (2017). Scaffolding to make translanguaging a classroom norm. TESOL Journal, e00361.

de Los Rios, C. V., & Selzer, K. (2018). Translanguaging, coloniality, and English classrooms: An exploration of two bicoastal urban classrooms. Research in the Teaching of English, 52(1), 55-76.

Jaspers, J. (2018). The transformative limits of translanguaging. Language and Communication, 58, 1-10.

Flaherty, C. (2018). Don't Even Think of Publishing in This Journal. Inside Higher Ed. Available online:

Leal, P., & Crookes, G. V. (2018). “Most of my students kept saying, ‘I never met a gay person’”: A queer English language teacher's agency for social justice, System, xxx, 1-11.

Miller-Cochrane, S. (2017). Understanding multimodal composing in an L2 writing context. Journal of Second Language Writing, 38, 88-89.

Paiz, J.M. (2017). Queering ESL teaching: Pedagogical and materials creation issues. TESOL Journal 9(2), 348-367

Palpacuer Lee, C., Curtis, J.H., & Curran, M.E. (2018). Shaping the vision for service-learning in language Education Foreign Language Annals, 51:169–184.

Schneider J. (2018). Teaching in context: Integrating community‐based service‐learning into TESOL education. TESOL Journal, e380.

Yankura Swacha, K. (2018). Service-Learning in the second language writing classroom: Future directions for research. TESOL Journal, (9)2, 278-298.

Make sure to mark your calendars for the MITESOL conference 2018, where we can meet in our SIG meeting to discuss these issues face-to-face! Here are the details of our MITESOL conference and other exciting events coming up:

See you in October!

Cynthia Macknish

Post-secondary SIG leader

Eastern Michigan University

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K-12 SIG Updates

K-12 SIG Updates

  • Are you receiving the Michigan Department of Education EL Director message? If you are interested in receiving information for Title III and Section 41, subscribe here.

  • MDE’s SIOP Training of Trainers (ToT) Registry is now available for the 2018-19 school year. These trainers are available to provide SIOP training in local districts. You can contact them directly to discuss possible training in your school or district. Here is the registry.

  • MDE has created this guidance document to support districts in effectively processing ELs who are ready to exit EL and Immigrant programs. The last page includes a brief document that can be added to a student’s CA-60 for students who will transfer out of the district. Remember, it is the responsibility of the district where the student test to exit in MSDS if eligible.

  • Students that have an exit date of 6/30/2017 are the first group of Former English Learner (FEL) students that must be monitored for four consecutive years, according to ESSA. Find details of the monitoring process here.

  • Michigan is now joining 27 other states and the District of Columbia in awarding the Seal of Biliteracy for graduating seniors in 2018. The Michigan Seal of Biliteracy requires students to meet graduation requirements, and demonstrate intermediate high proficiency on world language assessments. The Seal is meant to encourage students to study world languages and embrace their native and heritage languages. It will provide employers a way to identify job applicants with strong language and biliteracy skills, and may serve as an additional tool for colleges and universities to recognize applicants’ language abilities. For more information, visit MDE’s Seal of Biliteracy page.

  • Are you interested in having important dates and information integrated right into your Google Calendar? MDE now has three calendars (professional learning, assessment, and fiscal) that you can embed into your own Google calendar with a few quick steps. Here is how.

  • WIDA has released a new WIDA Screener Interpretive Guide for Score Reports. The document can be found under the Scores and Reports tab on both the Online and Paper Screener sections of the WIDA website, or with this direct link.

2018-2019 Conference Dates

  • September 20-21, 2018- Special Populations Conference (East Lansing- Kellogg Conference Center)

Kendra Seitz

ESL Consultant, Rochester Community Schools
Adjunct Instructor, Concordia University

Follow me on Twitter! @kendraseitz

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Grappling with Text

By Jacqueline Leigh

“Why did you like Foday’s piece of writing?” I ask the group of middle schoolers squeezed together on two benches placed on either side of a broken board table.

“It tells us people should not steal.”

“True. But what I am asking is, did you like the way Foday wrote this piece?”

Allow me to introduce Foday. He has just read his first true personal experience aloud in this afterschool Long-Term-English-Learner (LTEL) writing club in rural Sierra Leone, and we’re beginning a content conference. Just before he joined our group, I highlighted every present tense verb he had used that should be in the past tense, and he went back to his seat to correct them.

I’m still waiting for an answer from the group. First drafts remain in the authors’ hands, so I am not expecting He used quotation marks or He divided it into paragraphs—this is a content conference. What I do hope for is something like It scared me when the old man arrived. Then we’ll have Foday read that section again to identify how, exactly, he engaged us. I want the chance to pat him on the back for a strength he did not know he had.

Are these students LTELs? Foday may not be growing up in the U.S., a factor central to the standard U.S. LTEL definition, but I contend that he qualifies. He started school late, but he has never repeated a class. He attends school every day to copy notes from the board. He and his parents have good reason to think that if learning notes by heart to reproduce on exams got him to his eighth year in Sierra Leone’s English-only educational system, it should also transition him to university and into the working world. He can read every word in his notes by sight so does not need to know how to sound out new words or buy the textbooks his family cannot afford. His teachers provide answers to questions from previous years’ exams, and Foday reproduces them exactly.

This year, however, Foday turns sixteen. He joins the debating club—only to flee when he realizes debates are conducted in English. When he and his friends start a social club in their L1, the membership looks to him for a manifesto. He panics. Writing must be done in English, and he’s never devised an original English sentence in his life. He starts avoiding his friends, and starts attending the writing club.

Things might change for Foday. If his uncle in the United States keeps to his promise, he may follow all the other Anglophone West African students who have preceded him into schools in the U.S. in their teens. You may have one of them in your class: Fanta, for example. She speaks her L1 with her friends and relatives, just as she did in her home country. She is proud that her English conversational skills are improving in school, but so many cultural and written cues her native-speaking friends pick up on in their environment continue to wrong-foot her. Reading is really a problem. At home she works late into the night copying out and memorizing assigned passages, yet she does so much worse than her American classmates on class tests! She has no knowledge of genre writing and no experience discussing global issues or responding to texts either orally or in writing. Ironically, since Fanta has never been taught in any language but English since the day she started school, the ESL academic language support program has rejected her. Fanta does not protest because she does not understand the source of her difficulties; she does not want to cast aspersion on her home country; and she is intimidated with trying to handle American cultural and racial discrimination on her own.

Let us return to Foday. If he reaches the U.S. this year, he will find Common-Core standards in place. He must be challenged at grade level. He must read and respond to tenth grade nonfiction texts, using deep reading strategies, both orally and in writing. When the teacher asks what texts he has worked with before, he’ll say that he recently participated in content conferencing on personal experience narratives in a writing workshop. His classmates remember doing that in the second grade.

I suggest that Foday postpone his move to the U.S. Despite the fact that English is virtually no one’s first language in Sierra Leone, the educational system rejects the concept of teaching English as an additional language. The LTEL process-writing workshop he began attending after school (run by the nonprofit Seli River Writing Project) is what he needs now. The narrative module of the writing club may take him one or two academic years to complete. In this module (the only one so far developed by the SRWP), students come to own the steps in the writing process. Their goal is to finish the final draft (publishing) stage on five separate topics and publish them in a booklet of their own.

SRWP writing workshops teach English as an additional language:

  1. Throughout every session, students read, write, listen and speak in English about their own and their classmates’ true personal experiences.

  2. Meetings begin with five to ten-minute minilessons that explicitly teach one grammar or discourse point the students have been misusing. This may be differentiating the meaning of a word in English from its cognate in the L1, or a drill on irregular past tense forms.

  3. Authors do not sit down at the conference table without having tried to correct the present tense verbs in their first drafts that should be in the past tense.

  4. Authors write their titles on the board for the group to enter on the feedback form. The facilitator helps to edit the title if needed.

  5. Members in the content conference ask the authors to re-read their pieces, because everyone listening must write at least one good, sensible question about the piece on a feedback form, ask their questions aloud, and pursue with a follow-up question if necessary.

  6. Content conference facilitators help to develop students’ cultural awareness and critical thinking skills by involving everyone in discussions about the students’ writing, and thereby develop their academic language.

Each school provides two teachers to be trained to run a writing club. In these rural schools, most teachers are at an intermediate ESL proficiency level and have never been taught how to teach writing. They do not immediately believe that every step in the process is important. Their major interest is teacher editing and they are eager to learn the common errors that we see in the SRWP, which they freely admit are theirs, too. During teacher editing, they often replace surprising and insightful student expressions with “proper” stock phrases, and we repeatedly remind them that our goal is to publish the students’ language, not the teachers’.

A bigger problem is that like the students, the teachers know no one who has a reading or writing habit, so they do not know what we call “storytelling grammar”: those conventions you only confront when you tell or read a story in English. They are content related so we want to insert them in the writing process prior to the editing stage. However, some students are not ready; barely literate when they enter the club. We think the answer is instructional coaching; to help sufficiently reflective teachers to work with students rising to the appropriate stage of writing readiness to learn these points of “storytelling grammar”:

  1. Use pronouns to avoid repetition.

  2. Use “the” instead of “a/an” after the first time something is mentioned.

  3. Use sequence and time signal words correctly (later, ago, etc.).

  4. Use past tense forms correctly.

  5. Differentiate the meanings and use of “but,” “so” and “and.”

  6. When, why and how to insert names of characters.

  7. In a list of two or more people that includes you, name yourself last.

  8. Separate your work into paragraphs by content.

  9. Use quotation marks with direct speech, and begin a separate paragraph each time the speaker changes.

  10. Avoid repeating in dialogue what you have already said in the narrative

Club members find that all who go through rehearsing, drafting, content conferencing (twice), revising (twice), self/peer and teacher editing, and publishing for five different topics; as well as help others by conferencing and peer editing; are empowered. They shine when they tell us how self-confidently they now speak and write English; and their principals say they are among the schools’ top scorers on the BECE, the high-stakes public exam that has the power to bar students from entering senior secondary school. If Foday wants to leave for the U.S., this would be a much better time to do it.

We in the SRWP look forward to the day when schools in Sierra Leone begin to address students’ ESL needs through a reading and writing program that prepares students for the future.

Jacqueline Leigh is a writer and ESL professional. She lives with her family both in Midland, MI and Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she operates the small educational charity, the Sentinel English Language Institute. Its Seli River Writing Project trains and mentors teachers to run Young Writers clubs in upper elementary and middle schools in rural areas. You can contact her at

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My Summer Conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico!

By Emily Feuerherm

This summer I attended a unique program which blended a language acquisition conference with intensive Spanish language instruction in a beautiful Mexican city. It’s hard to know where to begin in describing this program, but I have returned to Michigan feeling renewed, more connected to the experiences of the international students I teach, more motivated to keep improving my Spanish fluency, and more intimately connected to applied linguistics and language teaching.

The International Forum of Language Teaching, headlined by Stephen Krashen, was paired with an intensive Spanish course in Cuernavaca Mexico. The school where the conference was held, Azteca Total Immersion Center (ATIC) Fenix is located about one and a half hours outside of Mexico City. The city, Cuernavaca, is known as “the city of eternal springtime” because of its constantly temperate climate. The program lasted three weeks and included topics such as “Theory of Second Language Acquisition,” “Strategies for Reaching All Language Learners,” “Socially Conscious and Proficiency Based Classroom,” and even “Selected Works from Contemporary Mexican Literature.” During the last week of the program, local English teachers joined the conference to hear a series of lectures from Stephen Krashen.

In addition to a rigorous conference with in-depth workshops and presentations, the program included intensive Spanish language classes and cultural orientation. Topics ranged from politics, to music, to Spanish grammar and cooking lessons. To support the language acquisition (and one of my favorite parts of this program), the program included a home-stay in a Mexican family’s home. Those three home-cooked meals a day were a highlight of the experience! Not only was there a home-stay, but there were also several organized excursions to museums, ancient archeological sites, and magical villages on the weekends. Each excursion was thoughtfully organized and led by a guide with a relevant background.

The school, Azteca Total Immersion Center (ATIC) Fenix, has been around for decades and, in my experience, develops a wonderfully responsive and individualized program for all who attend. The owners/managers (and often teachers) of the school are the Dorado family. Attendees in the program were mostly in-service teachers in bilingual (English-Spanish) programs or Spanish teachers. The school’s owner, Gustavo Dorado, and director, Leticia Dorado (brother and sister), were able to recognize on the first day that I was struggling to keep up with the Mexican cultural lessons delivered entirely in Spanish. They created a special Spanish language class for me and a couple of the other participants who were also at a lower level. When there were conference presentations or workshops on language teaching or applied linguistics, I was able to choose which activity I would benefit from more: intensive Spanish language lesson or teaching workshop. Also, some participants arrived with their families and the school added a series of courses for children that included language, culture, arts and crafts, and sports activities. I was very impressed by how responsive the program was to each individual’s needs, interests, fluency levels, and requests.

The good news is that they are planning to offer the International Forum of Language Teaching conference again in the summer of 2019 and they are expecting Stephen Krashen to return as the keynote speaker. If you are interested in attending one of their programs or the conference, you can find more information on their website: Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

Emily Feuerherm is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the English Department at the University of Michigan-Flint. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of California, Davis in 2013. Her research interests integrate community-based participatory research, language policy and practice, curriculum design, and ESL health literacy. You can contact Emily at or 810-762-3183.

Gustavo Dorado and me at ATIC Fenix:

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If you have any questions, ideas or contributions you'd like to see in the next issue, please feel free to email us. We'd love to hear even more from you, so don't hesitate to submit for the February issue!

Clarissa Codrington -

Jessica Piggot

Co-editors, MITESOL Messages