MITESOL Messages

August 15, 2022 | Volume 48 | Issue 2

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President's Corner

Fellow MITESOLers,

As I type this, I have a lot to think about. For one, I imagine many of you are still in the middle of a much needed vacation but excited to see what the coming semester will hold. I also think about the untold number of you that will be entering – or have already started – a new position of employment that no longer has you working directly with English language learners or TESOL students as your primary role. I am one of you. Of course, I cannot ignore my colleagues who remain steadfast in positions like those I have left behind, and I wish everyone all the luck possible in filling positions and preparing for a successful academic year.

And though I initially felt with this job change that I could be at risk of losing a valuable part of my identity, I have since come to see things differently. I am discovering new ways that I can use my TESOL knowledge and experience, and I can only say that I feel invigorated. And with that, I am pleased to host our MITESOL 2022 Conference on Reawakening Purpose, Motivation, and Joy.

On November 11th and 12th, MITESOL will welcome educators and professionals involved with English learners in all capacities to our annual conference, to be held at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI. Join us for a special in-person conference on how those of us in the field have rediscovered ways to motivate ourselves, each other, and the students we serve – how we find ourselves reinventing, or reimagining, our purpose as educators and individuals. MITESOL is thrilled to welcome Friday evening Keynote Speaker Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda of Arizona State University, Founding Chair of the Symposium on Second Language Writing and Series Editor of the Parlor Press Series on Second Language Writing. This year will also feature Saturday lunch Plenary Speaker Wessam Abdelaziz, coordinator of English as a Second Language and World Languages at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Both speakers bring immense expertise in the field and the vital perspectives of those raised outside of an entirely English-speaking environment.

In addition, MITESOL invites program administrators from all educational contexts for a special Pre-Conference Workshop, “It Takes A Village”, on Friday, November 11th. Presenter Jacqueline R. Gordon will speak on her experience developing volunteer-based community engagement programs for schools and work with attendees on how they can customize her model to support their own programs and institutions. Registration for the Pre-Conference is $30, and seats are limited to 42. We will also bring back invited speakers Kelly Alvarez and Jennifer Paul from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), as well as Patrick Brown and Karyn Goven from the Michigan Adult, Community and Alternative Education (MACAE) Association. Plus, we are excited to meet some new faces from among our long-time partners at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC)Elly Jordan and Marianna Moynihan.

Our conference this year will also include a full schedule of live, in-person concurrent sessions, a Special Interest Group (SIG) panel discussion on Saturday, plenty of opportunities for networking with fellow attendees and exhibitors, and excellent food and refreshments throughout.



How much does it cost to attend?


Conference registration will open Monday, August 22nd with discounted, early registration rates available through September 30. Starting October 1, standard registration rates go into effect.

Registration rates

Early (through 09/30)

Member, employed full-time: $95

Member, employed part-time: $60

Member, student: $40

Non-member: $120

Standard (from 10/1)

Member, employed full-time: $115

Member, employed part-time: $75

Member, student: $50

Non-member: $140

Can I attend for free?

Yes, we offer four MITESOL Conference Travel Grants to support conference attendance among members of historically under-represented groups. If you’re a member of one of the groups below, please apply.

  • Adult Educator Grant

  • EC & PreK-12 Educator Grant

  • Post-Secondary Student Grant

  • Northern Michigan & U.P. Educator Grant

All grant awardees have their conference registration fees paid, and the Northern MI/UP grant awardee also receives a $500 stipend for travel expenses. Application Deadline: September 9th.

Is there a conference hotel?

Yes, we have secured a block of rooms for a discounted rate at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ypsilanti, close to Exit 183 off I-94 – convenient for people traveling via I-94, US-23, and the Detroit Metro Airport. Our block of rooms will remain available for your reservations until the end of the day on October 10th. You can make a reservation for the night of Thursday, November 10th, or the night of Friday, November 11th, or both. (Guests booking for both days will need to use both links.)

Can I get credit for participating?

Yes, we plan to offer State Continuing Higher Education Credit Hours (SCHECHs) to eligible attendees for participating in MITESOL 2022.

What if I have other questions about the 2022 Conference?

Keep your eye on and feel free to contact!


On behalf of the entire MITESOL Board, we would like to wish all of our members a successful fall and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Jennifer Musser

MITESOL President & 2022 Conference Chair

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From the Editors

Welcome to our August issue! We hope that you had an incredible summer of relaxation. We have some great content to kick off the school year. Thanks for reading this issue of MITESOL Messages!


  • President Updates
  • President-Elect Updates
  • Exciting IATEFL Announcement
  • Past President Updates
  • Board Updates
  • Adult Education SIG Updates
  • Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates
  • K-12 SIG Updates

Updates from the field:

  • Review of 101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students by Hall Houston (Engaging students from start to finish)
  • Exploring the Use of Computer-Assisted Language-Learning Tools with English Language Learners
  • Creative Writing and Critical Thinking with Breath Poems
  • How to Work with a Co-teacher When Teaching Abroad

Call for Submissions -- MITESOL Journal
Don't miss the call for submissions for the MITESOL Journal at the very end of this issue!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Your editors,

Kelsey DeCamillis & Dominic Carino

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President-Elect Updates

The MITESOL Reception at TESOL

On Wednesday, March 23rd, MITESOL members gathered together for a family-style dinner at "The Eagle" restaurant during the TESOL Conference in Pittsburg, PA. Everyone agreed that it was great to catch up in person after only seeing virtual faces for a long time. We had a wonderful mix of new and long-time MITESOL members. If you were able to attend, thank you! Let's reconnect at the MITESOL Conference in November!

Briana Asmus, PhD

President Elect, MITESOL

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First image: Pittsburgh Skyline

Second image: Fun MITESOL gathering at "The Eagle"

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Exciting announcement -- MITESOL's President Elect is going to Poland for IATEFL!

On September 16th, 2022, MITESOL President-Elect, Dr. Briana Asmus, will represent MITESOL at the 31st IATEFL Poland Conference in Poznań. Dr. Asmus' proposal was selected as part of a blind-review process. Her workshop is, "English as a Game: Gaming for a Stronger Classroom Community." In this presentation, Dr. Asmus will present gamification strategies that can build social/emotional bonds and enhance learning outcomes at any level. This session will offer instructional strategies and suggestions for creating a fun, low-stress classroom environment where learners are engaged and where language output is maximized.

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Past President Updates

Newcomer Summit

In July, MDE, MITESOL, MABE, and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity / Global Michigan held a Newcomer Summit for teachers throughout Michigan. As our numbers of newcomer immigrants continue to grow throughout the state, continuing professional development is necessary in order to meet the needs of the diverse groups arriving. After an inspiring and informative speech from Orly Klapholz, attendees chose from a variety of sessions offered by leaders in the EL community.

It was an honor to work with such amazing professionals from all of the organizations to plan and hold this wonderful event. Michigan is fortunate to have so many experts in the EL field!

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Thank you and Good-bye

This is my last newsletter update as I will be leaving the board in November. I have been with MITESOL for the past 3 ½ years, and have been honored to work with everyone on the board as well as the members. I have learned so much during my time as K-12 SIG leader, President-Elect, President, and Past-President. The board is in wonderful hands, and I look forward eagerly to our first back-in-person conference this fall. Have a wonderful 2022-2023 school year serving the amazing students and families we are so blessed to work with. I’ll see everyone at the conference in November!

Liz Sirman

Past President

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Board Updates

We are currently recruiting!

  • President-Elect
  • Communications Coordinator
  • Webmaster

Please visit our vacancies page here.

    • Board Member Updates:
      There are 226 active members and 27 active board members as of August 15, 2022

    • Upcoming Board Meeting 2022 Dates:

      • 11/19: Board Meeting (virtual)

Jennifer Bashara

Secretary, MITESOL

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Adult Ed SIG Updates

Summer, 2022 MITESOL Adult Education SIG Update

Enjoy the salad days of summer! Please peruse these resources, news articles, and advocacy opportunities. Remember—the fall MITESOL Conference is November 11-12, 2022. IN PERSON AGAIN!

*** Now Open: APPLY for an Adult Ed travel grant! Deadline Sept. 9.

Check out the Adult Ed message board:

--Collin Blair, Adult Ed. SIG Leader (

Education Updates—Adult Ed for Providers of Programs

Resources for Adult Ed programs (ESL & beyond),5863,7-336-94422_95539_64362_64511-371621--,00.html

Michigan Dept. of Education—English Learner Resources,4615,7-140-81376_88063---,00.html

Professional Development There are regularly courses and webinars for members.

Jobs and Skills Training

Pure Michigan jobs and skills training

Peruse this website for many options to aid your students with workforce training and jobs:

*Also, refer students to local Michigan Works! offices for asssistance with resumes, interviewing skills, and locating available jobs:


Seven Ways Teachers Can Advocate for Their English Language Learners

National Education Association: How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners


Michigan Welcomes Afghan Refugees

Detroit Refugee Network

Pandemic-Driven Innovations in Immigrant Integration Policy

Collin Blair

MITESOL Adult Ed SIG Leader

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Advocacy & Policy SIG Updates

Hello, MITESOL Advocates!

Advocacy News:

What’s happening on the national level of advocacy?

TESOL has come out with its policy recommendations for the 117th Congress.

Highlights include:

  • Increased funding for K-12 English learners (ELs) through Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

  • Increased funding for adult ELs through Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

  • Passage of the American Dream and Promise Act by the United States Senate, which would ensure a path to permanent citizenship for Dreamers.

  • Passage of the Reaching English Learners Act, which would provide additional funding for the training of future TESOL educators at the K-12 level.

See the full list of TESOL's policy and legislative recommendations here.

It’s very easy to advocate for these issues using the TESOL Advocacy Action Center. Simply enter your name and address, review and edit the letters’ text to your liking, and submit it to have it sent to your congressional representatives! You also have the opportunity to sign up for alerts when new TESOL advocacy campaigns are added.

Legislation Trackers: How can you stay up-to-date on policies that affect education?

Look for Education committees to follow for Federal Legislation & State of Michigan Legislation. The Michigan Education Association (MEA) has calls to action on their legislation page, and there are numerous resources in this document, Tools for Tracking Michigan Legislation, to learn more about state policy processes.

SIG News:

Watch for conference updates for opportunities to be a part of creating an updated advocacy packet for all MITESOL members to use. What information and resources can you offer others?

MITESOL Advocacy & Policy Connections: Visit MITESOL’s website message board (join here!) and the Advocacy & Policy Facebook group. to stay current on advocacy discussions!

Sharon Umlor

MITESOL Advocacy & Policy SIG Leader

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K-12 SIG Updates

Since our K-12 SIG Leader Rachael Wenskay has left the position, we wanted to take this opportunity to write a big thank you to her and all of her hard work over the years! Thanks so much, Rachael!!

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If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming the SIG leader, please reach out to us at
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Review of 101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students by Hall Houston (Engaging students from start to finish)

By Jaleesa Davis

Student engagement is what makes or breaks the class experience. I’ve had experiences in teaching English ranging from a class full of bored middle school students who had to take the course as part of the curriculum to a classroom of young adults eager to improve their English with the goal of enrolling in an American university. Sure, part of it can be luck of the draw with student composition, but there are a variety of methods a teacher can use to engage students throughout the course. Hall Houston’s “101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students” outlines activities divided into 3 major areas: the beginning of the course, maintaining interest throughout, and the end of the course. Now, up front, the book is mainly targeted towards teachers in a foreign country in a college-affiliated, semester-long English program. It assumes the teacher has a lot of time to engage with the students, for example with longer class periods or course lengths, perhaps more than a teacher in an intensive English program may have. However, engagement in a short-term course is just as vital as a 16-week course. Additionally, many of the activities in the book are designed to help students become more familiar with the university environment and can be tailored to help newcomer students ease into a new and unfamiliar country.

Even though the activities are numbered, the book is intended to be a reference for teachers who are looking for a way to make class more interesting. Looking through the table of contents, you can find sections about learning student names, using music and videos in class, and even how to make the last day of class relevant to their learning. The great thing about the book is that the activities usually require very little preparation as they’re meant to be supplemental to the course textbook. One activity from the book that I picked up in my university teaching days is number 53 entitled ‘You are the teacher.’ Basically, instead of standing in front of the class and writing down the answers to an exercise, you pick a student to answer the questions as if they were the teacher. It seems like such a simple activity, but as Houston points out, it changes the pace a bit and gives students confidence to speak up in class.

While the book’s title advertises itself as a resource for activities, Houston’s goal is to help teachers improve themselves. For example, following the first section of the book ‘Getting Off To A Good Start,’ Houston advises teachers to be more open outside of the classroom by making more connections with people outside their department. Being more connected within the particular community can boost a teacher’s own confidence, which really translates well in a classroom. If a teacher cannot feel confident in their environment, how can they expect the students to do so?

The moral of the story is that the old way of standing in front of a class and giving a lecture doesn’t make for a good classroom. I’m sure many novice EFL teachers have been shocked to see how little English their students knew after studying it all through grade school. Keeping up engagement is an active decision a teacher must make for students to gain as much knowledge as they can. With Houston’s book in hand, there is no excuse that planning activities is too difficult.

Link to Hall Houston’s 101 EFL ACTIVITIES for Teaching University Students - iTDi TESOL

Contact info:

Jaleesa Davis, MA TESOL

Michigan Language Center

(334) 590-7118

Jaleesa Davis received a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in TESOL at the University of Alabama. After teaching middle school English in South Korea from 2016 to 2017, she taught at the American Language Institute in Toledo, Ohio from 2018 to 2021. Currently, Jaleesa teaches at the Michigan Language Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is completing an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources.

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Exploring the Use of Computer-Assisted Language-Learning Tools with English Language Learners

by Jessie Webb & Adeline Mansa Borti

**Editor's Note: Flipgrid has recently rebranded as Flip**


The field of computer-assisted language learning (CALL; Stockwell, 2012) as a concept (Dimulescu & Nechifor, 2021) focuses on how computers and software are used in language pedagogy, theories, and technologies. Stockwell asserted that “in many parts of the world, it is difficult to think of a foreign or second language (L2) program that does not make use of some form of computer-assisted language learning” (2012, p 14). According to Stockwell, such technologies include word processors, email, chat, podcasting, mobile cellular devices, tablets, computers, apps, and learning management solutions.

The above assertion shows that teachers who teach English language learners (ELLs) use various CALL tools to achieve their learning and English-language instructional objectives. The increased use of technology in the 21st century coupled with the widespread COVID-19 global pandemic has compelled all sectors, including the education sector, to use and become more reliant on technology for instruction and education-related purposes.

Despite this increased use of technology in classrooms, one may wonder how preservice teacher education programs are training or educating their teacher candidates to use CALL tools to support ELLs’ education. Stockwell asserted that “training in CALL, be it formal or informal, is necessary for a more systematic and balanced integration of CALL” (2012, p. 4). This claim puts the onus on our teacher education programs to create opportunities to educate teachers who will teach English language learners. As technology has become an inseparable part of our daily lives, educators no longer need to ask why we should use technology in the classroom, but rather how we should use it and make it more accessible and meaningful for students (Edwards & Lane, 2021).

It is important to note that language learners use CALL tools in and outside the classroom for educational and non-educational purposes (Stockwell, 2012), and teachers’ ability to direct learners to use these tools to enhance their language learning is paramount. A study examining students’ use of CALL tools showed a disparity between students’ self-reported use of CALL program components and their actual use of those components (Fischer, 2007).

Thus, to determine how these types of tools are used, teachers must train ELLs on the use of CALL tools and supervise their effective use to achieve their language- and content-learning outcomes. One way to achieve this objective is to teach and encourage ELLs to keep CALL logs where they document their use of these tools for discussions in class.

Thus, our purpose in this paper is not to describe why we should use CALL tools, but how. We discuss the use of Flipgrid to share some of the ways to use these tools with ELLs in order to advance their literacy development. The International Literacy Association (ILA) conceptualized literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context. Components of literacy include reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing (ILA, 2018). From the literature, Flipgrid offers affordances that allow educators to use the platform to teach comprehensively, and engage students in reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing information—thus, our focus on Flipgrid.

Overview of Flipgrid

Utilization of technology continues to increase, which includes the use of Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a resource for educators to facilitate discussions and promote a comfortable space for ELL students to use their new language. Each student can be given recorded videos, audio, or text prompts in the form of a question on an important topic. Students can then engage in discussion by replying with their own recorded responses to the questions. In addition, ELLs can engage with peers while communicating their thoughts on other students’ responses.

Benefits of Flipgrid to Listening and Speaking Skills

Flipgrid offers many benefits, including improved listening and speaking skills through the use of ELLs’ native and target languages. Due to the use of recorded audio and videos, ELLs are required to listen to the pre-recorded information, comprehend it, and respond. This requirement demands that ELLs listen attentively and re-play the information when needed in order to respond to the prompts.

Concerning the development of speaking skills, first, Flipgrid benefits students’ speaking skills by allowing ELLs a safe space to practice their English language. From the comfort of their homes, ELLs can engage in repetitive practice to confidently answer Flipgrid questions to the best of their ability. After these frequent practice sessions, they grow in their confidence and need less practice time as they progress (Budiarta & Santosa, 2020). In addition, Budiarta and Santosa highlighted in their work that ELLs are more likely to perform better in Flipgrid’s online environment because they can record themselves and re-record whenever they make a mistake. It allows them room for error, as well as more opportunities to respond in a more expressive tone. It has moved beyond just getting something correct to engaging with the language in more depth (Budiarta & Santosa 2020). When ELLs are too focused on mistakes, it can prevent them from picking up additional language skills and being comfortable with language attainment.

Budiarta and Santosa studied the effects of including Flipgrid and how ELLs were thriving. Their approach was called think-pair-share-Flipgrid. This method consisted of students thinking after hearing a question posed on Flipgrid, pairing up with a partner, then sharing their answers aloud through the Flipgrid platform. They found that ELLs built on their ability to collaborate and communicate more efficiently through their findings (Budiarta & Santosa, 2020).

In another related study, Difilippantonio-Pen (2020) found that following the use of Flipgrid over four weeks, ELLs’ use of conversational language improved drastically. Also, ELLs consistently used the sentence stems provided on the platform and furthering their language development because of it. Lastly, their motivation and enthusiasm for learning a new language improved. These scholars noticed the new and improved motivation and confidence of these ELLs; it was clear that the ELLs spoke more clearly and with less hesitation than before.

Benefits of Flipgrid in Improving Writing and Reading Skills

In their study, Difilippantonio-Pen (2020) followed 11 participants for one month. During this month, they watched how the use of Flipgrid impacted ELLs’ new language acquisition. Each week’s lessons increased in difficulty, and the most significant gains were evident in students’ speaking skills. This ultimately benefited their reading and writing, because the more fluently someone can speak, the more extensive their vocabulary becomes. This allows them to write more effectively as well as decode words during reading with greater ease.

In addition to aiding ELLs’ speaking abilities, Flipgrid offers additional support for improving writing and reading skills via their native and target languages. Critical thinking and creativity are essential to writing and reading. Difilippantonio-Pen (2020) found evidence that ELLs’ critical thinking skills and creativity improved with the use of Flipgrid. These skills allowed ELLs to write and read more effectively, as they could think more strategically in approaching these skills. Another skill that improves writing and reading is scaffolding, which can be used with Flipgrid (Difilippantonio-Pen, 2020). Through scaffolding, teachers and more knowledgeable others are able to demonstrate knowledge and skills that less proficient ELLs emulate.

When students use Flipgrid, they carefully read information provided by the instructor and other students, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. Students’ effective reading impacts what they write and how they write. Thus, ELLs’ ability to respond appropriately through writing is dependent on their successful reading. The effective use of Flipgrid is also useful in students’ development of writing and reading in their new language because they will be able to read and write using this model. Using Flipgrid can allow teachers to scaffold students toward more independent work.


In conclusion, to determine CALL tools that are appropriate and effective for ELLs, teachers should explore the needed language skills, their academic and language levels, the modes of teaching, and the overall context of the learning environment. Choosing a CALL tool because it is in vogue or recommended does not guarantee ELLs’ effective content and language learning. Also, teachers should create opportunities for ELLs to use both their native and target language to better learn and communicate.


Budiarta, I. K., & Santosa, M. H. (2020). TPS-Flipgrid: Transforming EFL speaking class in the 21st century. English Review: Journal of English Education, 9(1), 13–20.

Difilippantonio-Pen, A. (2020). Flipgrid and second language acquisition using Flipgrid to promote speaking skills for English language learners [Master’s thesis, Bridgewater State University]. https://

Edwards, C. R., & Lane, P. N. (2021). Facilitating student interaction: The role of Flipgrid in blended language classrooms. Computer Assisted Language Learning Electronic Journal, 22(2), 26–39.

Fischer, R. (2007). How do we know what students are actually doing? Monitoring students’ behavior in CALL. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(4), 409–442.

Isidori, E., Magnanini, A., Fazio, A., Leonova, I., De Martino, M., & Sandor, I. (2021). Developing reflective skills in e-learning: A case study based on the Flipgrid platform. In The International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education (Vol. 1, pp. 423–429). Carol I National Defence University.

Stockwell, G. (Ed.). (2012). Computer-assisted language learning: Diversity in research and practice. Cambridge University Press.


Jessie Webb, a senior in the English Department focusing on Elementary Education at Grand Valley State University, has been part of numerous research-based projects during her academic experience. Jessie looks forward to advancing her studies in the field of education. Her interests are education and social justice. With her goals set, she desires to create more awareness and to teach students about how to seek change in a world where systemic racism is a crisis. With each research endeavor, she hopes to grow in her knowledge and help invoke changes in the world around her.

Adeline Mansa Borti has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction (Literacy Education) from the University of Wyoming. She also holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She is an assistant professor of English education at Grand Valley State University, Michigan. Her research interests include second-language teaching and learning, English and literacy education, diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

All correspondence should be sent to Adeline Borti at:

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Creative Writing and Critical Thinking with Breath Poems

By Patrick T. Randolph -- Author, Speaker, & Lecturer


Poetry is painting that speaks.” (Plutarch)

What kind of poetry has a total of four lines (including the title) and is a mere 10 syllables long? What kind of poetry creates a spiritual and physiological experience for the performer? What kind of poetry gives even the student of electrical engineering goose bumps and inspires enthusiastic grins as she writes her verse with winks and whispers? The answer to these not-so-trivial questions can be summed up in two words—breath poems!

The breath poem is a wonderfully economical kind of poetry that can be used for a myriad of purposes: for warm-ups or full lessons, as an opportunity to review syllables and stress, to enhance the art of being concise, to practice creative summarizing, to offer help in giving students a sense of control in their writing, to encourage confidence in English, and, most important, to simply play and have fun with words and their communicative powers.

What is the Breath Poem?

“A human being is only breath and shadows.” (Sophocles)

The breath poem is a holistic experience of mind, body, heart, spirit, and soul. It is a style of poetry I created to see just how few syllables I could use and still tell a story in verse with a voice. Moreover, I wanted to help my students develop confidence in writing poetry without making the experience overly daunting.

The structure of the breath poem includes a title (which is very important in that it frames the setting or background of the poem) and three lines: The first line contains three syllables as does the second line, and the third or last line contains four syllables, making it a total of 10 syllables.

Reading the Breath Poem

“To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Another unique factor of the breath poem is the manner in which it is to be read. Breath poems ought to be read aloud, and it is this aspect which engages both the meditative mind and the dynamics of the body. After reading the title, the first three-syllable line is to be read while the reader inhales. The second line is to be read while the reader exhales. The third line is read while the reader both inhales and exhales. Here the reader can inhale the first syllable and exhale the last three or inhale the first three and exhale the fourth and final syllable.

The breathing pattern is done so that the reader can get into the rhythmic state of the poem and feel the poem’s words and ideas by the “dance of the breath.” It may take a bit to feel comfortable with the breathing patterns, but before long it will be very natural and soothing for the reader. There is also the notion that in actually “breathing the poem,” the reader becomes the poem and will begin to feel the language on a whole new level. This “getting lost in the poem,” as it were, helps English language learners (ELLs) to paint a deeper image of the words in their minds by reading them, visualizing them, and breathing them.

Benefits for the Learners

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” (Plato)

Despite the breath poem’s being so compact in nature, its benefits for ELLs are colossal in number and possibility. The first major benefit deals with vocabulary acquisition, and the benefit of this concept is echoed in recent neuroscience research on descriptive words and their relation to the brain. Studies have shown that descriptive and sensory-rich lexical terms stimulate the students’ brains at a higher level; consequently, these terms find their way to the students’ long-term memory with greater ease than dry, dull academic terms (Paul, 2012). In short, the words used in the breath poems enhance the ELLs’ vocabulary. Second, these short but powerful poems boost the students’ confidence level in terms of being able to both control their language and play with it at a deeper level (Randolph, 2011). Third, it helps students see how certain grammar patterns work and how certain grammatical markers, such as articles, are necessary in some cases and superfluous in others. Fourth, breath poems help students learn the difference between weak and strong vocabulary items and their cultural connotations. Fifth, students, in working with these poems, will discover the beauty and subtlety of alliteration and also how certain words best collocate with others to form artistically rich scenes or feelings. Sixth, students learn to summarize their thoughts and convey their images in a tight and concise fashion. There is perhaps no better practice for summarizing than poetry, and the breath poem takes this to an extreme with a limit of 10 syllables. And seventh, the breath poem helps students befriend English and enter into a closer linguistic relationship with the language. It helps them claim ownership to the language and foster what Guiora et al. (1972) called the language ego.

Writing Breath Poems—The Procedure

Poetry is composing for the breath.” (poet Peter Davison)

DAY 1: Setting the Stage

Part I

The introduction of this activity is as important as anything, so I always make it count. I have the students stand up, and then I ask them to go out into the hall. Together we run at a moderate pace up and down the hall and return to the classroom, where they take their seats. I ask the students, “What did you just do and what did it cause you to do now?” I point to my lungs and mouth to focus on the desired response. Usually they answer, “We ran and are now breathing hard!” Others might respond, “We are out of breath.” Of course, the key word I am looking for is “breath.” We then discuss (a) what the importance of the word “breath” is and (b) what the idea of breath represents for all living creatures.

Part II

Next, I go over the concept of English syllables. This will be a review for most levels, although these tricky creatures still pose difficulties for even the most advanced learners of English. I usually start the review by asking the students about objects around the room like “light,” “whiteboard,” “document camera,” or “window.” Then, I ask them to identify the number of syllables in their respective first names. This is always great fun, and it seems to help a good deal. The third stage is to have the students count the number of syllables in phrases such as “moonlight laughter,” “secret glance,” or “wild music.”

Part III

The last part of the first lesson is to use what I call a sensory play with words. I write a word, phrase, or idiom on the board such as “autumn” or “Saturday mornings in autumn” and then go through the senses as a way to discover the poetry of words. For example, “What smells come to mind when I say ‘Saturday mornings in autumn’?” or “What sounds do you hear when I say ‘Saturday mornings in autumn’?” I use the diagram below for this activity.

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DAY 2: Painting Images with Breath Poems

Part IV

This second lesson focuses on explaining the structure and idea behind the breath poem and the actual writing of one to two poems in class. We go over the importance of the title, the number of lines, and the syllable count. I, then, give the phrase from the day before (Saturday mornings in autumn), and we review the sensory play with words.

This activity is a nice lead-in to the students’ composing their first breath poem in class. It is best to write one together as a class, and then have the students pair up and write one on their own. With respect to the student-generated poems, I usually pick two or three and write them on the board to go over the syllable count and the examination of weak versus strong words.

Before concluding, I should point out one very important element. The most crucial factor in writing these kinds of poems is to focus on getting the images down first, and then later attend to the syllable count. If the syllables become the focus, it will be too challenging and take the fun out of the whole experience. So, the initial focus should be on painting the images in the lines of the breath poem. After the images are created, then the carving away of syllables can take place, and this, in its own right, can be a great deal of fun (Randolph & Ruppert, 2020).

The breath poem below is a clear example of first setting up the images and then carving away until the 3-3-4 syllable count remains.

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Notice the trimming of unnecessary words from the first to the second version, and yet the essence of the first is not, in any way, changed in the final version. In fact, it is tighter, crisper, and really captures the essence of the moment on the road.

Concluding Remarks

“Every breath we take is a poem born for the first time.” (Patrick T. Randolph)

For the inexperienced poet, teaching these 10-syllable creatures might seem rather daunting. But I suggest that every instructor bravely crawl out of his or her comfort zone, smile, take a deep breath, and jump into the wonderful world of miniature verse. As noted above, the benefits are numerous and the uses are equally limitless for any ESL or EFL classroom. I, however, believe the best part of writing these is the confidence it creates in the students and the pride they take in trying to play with a language that quickly becomes more than a tool, for it actually becomes a friend to be cherished and respected with great awe.


Guiora, A. Z., Beit-Hallahmi, B., Brannon, R. C. L., Dull, C. Y., & Scovel, T. (1972). The
effects of experimentally induced changes in ego states on pronunciation
ability in a second language: An explanatory study. Comprehensive Psychiatry,
(13) 5, 421-428.

Paul, A.M. (2012, March 17). Your brain on fiction. The New York Times. Retrieved

Randolph, P.T. (2011). Using creative writing as a bridge to enhance academic

writing. Selected Proceedings of the 2011 Michigan Teachers of English to
Speakers of Other Languages Conference, 1, 69-83.

Randolph, P.T., & Ruppert, J.I. (2020). New ways in teaching with creative writing.
Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.

*Image from


Patrick T. Randolph specializes in creative and academic writing, vocabulary acquisition, speech, debate, and mindfulness practices for both teachers and students.
He has created a number of brain-based learning activities for the language skills that he teaches, and he continues to research current topics in neuroscience, especially studies related to exercise and learning, memory, mindfulness and meditation, and mirror neurons. He lives with his wife, Gamze; daughter, Aylene; cat, Master Gable; and puppy, Bubbles. Randolph has published two volumes of poetry: Father’s Philosophy and Empty Shoes—Poems on the Hungry and the Homeless. Proceeds from both collections go to benefit Feeding America and other American food-bank and homeless programs.

Correspondence concerning this article can be address to

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How to Work with a Co-teacher When Teaching Abroad

By Breanna Withrow

When having a co-teacher in the classroom, communication and understanding each person's background is something essential to work well with each other. Teaching English in Korea, I was assigned to teach alongside a native Korean teacher. When we first met, she was really intimidating to me - she had over 20 years' experience in teaching both Korean and English. However, one element of our situation evened out the playing field. In Korea, teachers only work at a school for four years, then they are placed in another school for another four years. Principals stay for 6 years, and special education teachers stay for only two years before being moved. Because of this requirement of the schooling system, this would be both of our first times teaching at this elementary school, so together we had to learn the system of the school.

In the beginning of our co-teaching, we bumped heads a lot. A big reason for this was because it was my first-time teaching, and I did not yet have a good grip on what teaching methods and styles would be beneficial in our class. There were times where we lacked communication, and over time, I realized there is a difference between how teachers from different countries confront issues within the classroom. There were numerous times when I would be in the middle of teaching when my co teacher would interrupt and say comments such as, “This is not a good activity,” or “I don’t like this, why are you doing this?” These comments would lead me to feel embarrassed, and I felt they made me seem weak in front of our students. This frustrated me a lot, and I eventually invited her to have a conversation about our different teaching beliefs and how our cultures can affect those beliefs.

I learned a lot. She explained how in Korean culture, it is quite common for you to be confronted about your issues and problems as soon as they occur and how the culture is extremely direct when giving feedback. This made me understand where she was coming from when she said those seemingly hurtful comments. After I shared my experience in the differences of how American culture deals with giving feedback, she understood me as well.

After that discussion, whenever we had an issue, we would take note and meet once a week to discuss any issues each one of us had. This helped build our relationship and strengthen our communication to make sure we provide the best teaching necessary for our students. This was a huge learning experience for me and something that will help me in the future if I plan on teaching in other countries again.

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