Spring 2021 Newsletter
TexTESOL 2 April Birthdays
Featured Member: June Pugh
by June Pugh, Vice-President Elect
I was born and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.
After high school I attended a 4- year university and received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. That degree afforded me the opportunity to work in the legal field in numerous positions; I was a Juvenile Corrections Counselor, Adult Rehabilitation Administrator, I worked in the Department of Corrections, and even the Police Department. After leaving the legal field, I joined the Army branch of the military. During my military career, I was deployed to two major conflicts: Desert Storm from 1990 -1991 and the Iraq War from 2003 – 2004.
When I returned to the United States after serving in Iraq, I was assigned to the SGM Academy in El Paso, Texas. While at the SGM Academy, I taught Battle Staff, which is a course on survival combat skills. My experiences in Iraq enabled me to utilize my book knowledge and personal experiences in teaching our military service men and women from diverse cultural backgrounds.
After 28 years of service, I reached the highest rank as an enlisted soldier, E9/SGM, so I decided to retire. I asked myself: What would I do in the second half of my life? Then I remembered Battle Staff and how much I enjoyed teaching our diverse soldiers. Thus, I enrolled in the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) English as a Second Language Master’s program, where I met Nickola Wilson-Chung, our current TexTESOL II President. Our friendship blossomed while we advanced in our coursework together. Little did we know that our career paths would continue to cross.
Upon graduation, UTSA offered me a job teaching in the Intensive English Program, where I would work with Nickola again. After leaving UTSA, I taught at la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), which is located in downtown San Antonio. Once again, Nickola and I worked side by side there too!
After leaving UNAM, I was hired by the Defense Language Institute (DLI), where I am currently employed. Guess what?!? Nickola is employed there too! It seems we shadow each other’s footsteps. But you may ask, “How did I get involved in TexTESOL II?” While attending UTSA, a guest speaker from TexTESOL II shared information about TESOL International and the local TexTESOL II chapter, inspiring me to become member. That is how I became involved in TESOL International and the local TexTESOL II organization, of which I am currently the Vice-President elect.
TexTESOL 2 Award Recipients
What Advocacy Means to Me: A Small Practice in Mindfulness
By: Elissa Jo Roberts, Advocacy Chair
Teaching ESL in public, Korean elementary schools, universities in Korea, public middle and high schools in Texas, community colleges in Texas, and finally as an ESL adult educator for the Air Force and the Department of Defense, advocacy has come to mean many things to me over the years. As educators, we obviously work long and hard to advocate for our students. Their needs and concerns rise above the bureaucratic red tape and many other obstacles time and again. Because we care so much, we give so much. However, today, I wanted to address the need for teacher self-advocacy and a desire to see it grow and flourish!
Teachers, by our very nature, are self-sacrificing, giving (sometimes to a fault- raising my own hand, guiltily), and spend hours of our time serving the needs of others. I will always remember how kind my fellow educators were to me when I started my teaching journey 12 years ago. Without their hours of support and care, I doubt I would be the educator and person I am today.
However, I have also seen this loving and nurturing attitude being used against teachers. Being used to pressure them to work harder, longer, and sacrifice more. And we do it time and again. But I think it might be time to be more mindful of how we utilize our energies by advocating for ourselves, so that we, in turn, can be better advocates for others.
So, let’s unpack that word- self-advocacy. Self-advocacy, by definition, is the ability to speak up for oneself and one’s interests and concerns. This term was coined to represent the efforts of marginalized people during the civil and disability rights movements. I believe that might be a reason why we as educators sometimes find trouble accepting this word because we think it should be used sparingly to help truly just causes and less fortunate demographics of people. However, I would argue that teachers are one of the groups in need of self-advocacy and self-care. Considering the pandemic, and all the challenges that came with it, teachers’ needs fell by the wayside in lieu of the hardships our students and their parents were facing. However, a year on, and I still hear many of the same educator concerns about not having a moment to process change being raised time and again.
How do we be mindful and self-advocate in the face of what can feel like overwhelming challenges and changes? I think something we could all do is take a moment to give ourselves a little grace. Giving ourselves grace- essentially, breaking out of a negative mindset and reminding ourselves that we are human, make mistakes, and can never achieve perfection is a practice that can be very helpful. When a situation is feeling out of control, I will take some time to forgive myself for any mistakes I made, remind myself that those around me may also be facing similar or more daunting pressures, and that the next thing I do is an opportunity to start fresh. At first, this action felt artificial and odd, but over time this practice has made it into my daily mindfulness activities and has allowed me to stay present and take time to process situations that are difficult for me. This small mindfulness practice is also practicing self-advocacy. By taking a moment to step away from a negative situation, it allows a person to move away from an emotionally driven response and let their brain step back in to analyze the situation more clearly.
Advocating for oneself is one of the hardest things that anyone can do, but it opens the door for clearer communication. Our ESL community was incredibly impacted by the many changes that occurred this last year. I hope that this article inspired you to advocate for a moment (or as many moments as you need) to process and reflect and that it revitalizes you to continue to give your best to our students and their families. You’ve got this. Onward!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elissa Jo Roberts is the Advocacy Chair of TexTESOL II. She joined TexTESOL II in order to grow her professional learning community and to develop a stronger connection to San Antonio through volunteer opportunities.Elissa Jo Roberts holds a Bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio in Anthropology, minor in music Master's degree from The University of British Columbia in Adult Learning and Global Change and is currently a doctoral student at St. Edward's University pursuing an EdD in Leadership in Higher Education. Elissa Jo is passionate about her doctoral studies and social justice issues like equity, amplifying the voices of marginalized communities and about working to dismantle systemic racism in the United States. She is currently working on a project that researches how imposter syndrome and feelings of otherness can affect social and emotional learning in students who attend HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
10 Party Games To Liven Up Your English Class
by Hall Houston
This article is all about party games. I’ve spent the last week looking at various websites and discovering some clever party games that would be highly suitable for an ESL or EFL class. Although you might not be able to transform every second of your lessons into a joyous, raucous party, these games might add an element of fun to your classes, while providing valuable moments of speaking practice and vocabulary review.
I deliberately avoided several party games that have already appeared in countless ESL books of games and activities. These include Pictionary, Charades, and Who Am I? In addition, I made a few minor modifications to these games, in order to make them more suitable for a language classroom, along with (in most cases) a language focus, variations and extensions. I hope these additions can help you adapt the games to your course materials, so that they seem like an integral part of your lesson plan, not an extra filler thrown in at the last minute.
If you’re skeptical about using party games in your classroom, my advice is to find one game that appeals to you and try it out with a class this week. Observe how the activity goes with the students. If it’s not a big hit with your learners, you can reflect on what you could have done differently to make it more successful.
1. Likes and Dislikes
This game can help students get to know each other better during the first few weeks of class, or even after several weeks of classes.
How to Play
At the beginning of a lesson, hand out sheets of paper. Ask students to write down five things they like and five things they dislike. After students are finished, instruct the students to fold up their papers and put them into a bag or a box. Later on in the lesson, take out one of the papers and read out the likes and dislikes. Ask the class to guess who wrote the list. After a few guesses, call on the author to reveal him/herself and ask the student to explain a like or a dislike. Repeat 3 or 4 times. If you have enough time, you may wish to read all of them.
Variation: You can change the writing prompt to another pair of topics, such as 5 things they did last month, and 5 things they plan to do this month OR 5 things they want and 5 things they don’t want.
Language focus: Students can practice making short sentences starting with “I like…” and “I don’t like…” You may want to introduce them a wider range of expressions, such as I’m fond of, I’m crazy about, I can’t stand, I hate.
2. Act and React
This game brings out the student’s acting ability, and challenges them to guess a situation based on other people’s reactions.
How to Play
Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5. Give each group a slip of paper containing a situation they must react to, such as winning the lottery, seeing a cute dog run down the sidewalk, smelling a freshly baked cinnamon roll, hearing someone belch, or getting fired. (You can come up with other ideas for situations, if you wish.) Tell each group to keep their situation a secret from the other groups, and think about how they might react to it. Each group will take turns standing in front of the class and act out their reactions to this situation for 30 seconds, using only gestures and body language (no speaking allowed). When time’s up, the other groups must guess the situation.
Extension: If you want to focus more on language, when the game is over, you can ask the students to write a dialogue based on the situation and perform it for the class.
Language focus: gerunds, passives, also language for guessing “I think the situation is…”, “I guess it might be…”, “It could be…”
3. Press Conference
This game transforms the classroom into a celebrity press conference. Yet, the person being asked questions doesn’t know his/her own identity!
How to Play
One student leaves the room. The remaining students must choose a famous person that the missing student will become when he or she returns. Tell the class that they cannot tell the student who he or she is, but must ask the student questions that provide subtle clues. When they have decided, bring the student back to the classroom, and tell this student to stand in front of the class. Announce that you are having a press conference. Tell the class to ask questions, and instruct the student at the front to listen carefully, and guess his/her identity. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Variation: you can change to the topic to jobs, and ask the class to ask the student questions about his or her job.
Language focus: interrogatives, language for guessing
Students will be smiling a lot during this game, as they receive a wide range of compliments from their classmates.
How to Play
Hand out 5 slips of paper to each student. Ask each student to write on each slip of paper a phrase with a superlative that would be a nice compliment, such as “Shiniest Hair”, “Gentlest Voice”, “Most Punctual”, “The Most Attractive Eyebrows”, “The Friendliest.” Put all the slips into a bowl. Later on in the lesson, ask each student to draw 5 slips and present each one as a gift to a student who matches the superlative. Tell them that they must give each slip to a different student. Afterwards, students can tell the class one of the compliments they received, using reported speech: “Maria said that I have the sexiest chin.”
Language focus: superlatives, reported speech, language for giving and receiving gifts, such as “This is for you!” and “Oh, you shouldn’t have!”.
5. Great Minds Think Alike
This party game asks students to make lists and win points for writing down the same items.
How to Play
Divide the class into 2 teams. Announce that you will give a topic, and students must list the first 3 things they think of. Students cannot look at each other’s papers, and they cannot talk. Once everyone has finished writing, ask each team to compare the answers they wrote down. Each team will get points for the number of students who wrote the same words (3 points for 3 students with the same answers, 4 points for 4 same answers, 5 points for 5 same answers). Repeat several times, and then congratulate the team with the most points. Some ideas for topics are: something you eat during cold weather, something you find in a hotel, a popular TV show, a song with love in the title, a delicious dessert, or the best place to work. (Feel free to come up with your own categories.)
Variation: In large classes, you might want to divide the class into more than 2 teams.
Language focus: This activity can be used to review vocabulary from previous units.
6. Sticker Stalker
For this game, you will need to find packs of blank stickers, where each pack contains several sheets with 10 or more stickers per sheet (see photos below).
How to Play
Give each student a sheet of stickers. Each sticker should contain a blank space. Tell students to write vocabulary that they learned in recent lessons. On the left half, they should write individual words on the stickers. On the left half, they should write phrases and chunks of language. Next, set up a discussion topic, such as what they did last weekend, or their favorites. During the game, you will play some music, and students will do a mingle, walking around the room talking to as many other students as possible. During the mingle, students will have to try to get rid of their stickers by putting them on other students, without that student noticing. If a student catches someone trying to put a sticker on him/her, the student can put a sticker on the student that he/she caught. Once a student is finished, he or she can shout “I’m out of stickers!”
Extension: for additional language practice, you can ask students to remove the stickers at the end of the game and write sentences on the board using the vocabulary. Instead of using a discussion topic for the mingle, you may wish to use a list of questions.
Language focus: Teachers can specify what type of vocabulary to write on their stickers, such as modal verbs, expressions for changing the subject, or filler words and phrases.
7. Jinx Challenge
Similar to Great Minds Think Alike, this game rewards students for getting the same answers.
How to Play
Put students into pairs. Give each pair a set of cards with topics on them (some examples: colors, fruits, countries, sports, musical instruments, weather, superheroes). Their task is to read out a topic, count down “3! 2! 1!,” and then say their answers at the same time. If they say the same answer, they call out “JINX!” and win one point. They may try a maximum of 3 times on one topic, but they cannot discuss what they’re going to say. Note: students must say their answers at the same time. If one student pauses to hear the other student’s answer, the pair gets no points.
Variation: You can play this game with pairs sitting in front of the class. Pairs of students can compete for points.
Language focus: this can be used to help review different topics covered in previous lessons.
8. Draw and Write
As the title indicates, this game calls on students to draw and write, and then laugh!
How to Play
Put students in groups of 5-7. Hand each group a sheet of paper. In this game, students will either write or draw something, based on the previous student’s output. The first student writes a sentence, preferably something with vivid imagery. The second student reads the sentence and produces a corresponding drawing under the sentence. The second student then folds over the paper, so that the next student cannot read the original sentence. The third student will look at the second students’ drawing and write a sentence that describes the drawing. This process continues, with each student writing or drawing based on the previous student’s work, and then folding up the paper for the next student. Finally, the original student unfolds the paper, and the group looks over sentences and drawings together. (To make sure that students don’t sneak a peek at the section that’s folded over, you might provide two paper clips that students can use to keep the folded section in place.)
(If this is confusing, here’s a clear explanation with examples: https://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/this-is-the-best-game-to-play-with-your-family-over-the-holi)
Note: you might want to demonstrate this game with a few volunteers before the groups begin.
Language focus: teachers can first review some concrete nouns and verbs from previous lessons, and suggest that the first student use some of them in his/her sentence.
9. Partners in Pen
Similar to Draw and Write, this game asks students to draw pictures. You will need a collection of various household objects for this game.
How to Play
Before class, prepare several small bags with 6 household objects in each one. Put students into pairs, and ask them to sit back to back. One student will bring out an item and describe it in 5 sentences to the other student in English, without saying its name or stating its use. The other student will draw pictures based on the descriptions without peeking at the object. After they are finished, they will take a look at the objects and see how they compare to the drawings.
Variation: You could also call one student to the front of the class. Briefly display an object (or an image of the object) to the class while the student closes his/her eyes. Then call on students to describe the object as the student draws it on the board.
Language focus: adjectives, phrases for describing objects
10. Trade Up
This game encourages students to mingle and swap items, in an attempt to trade up and get something more valuable!
How to Play
Before class, prepare several of an inexpensive item that you can bring to class (a pencil, a small notebook, a juice box, or a bookmark). You should have one item for every 3 students. In class, divide the students up into groups of 3. Give each group one of your items. Tell each group to walk around the classroom and meet up the other groups. Their goal is to find other groups willing to swap their item for something else in their purses or pencil cases, and then try to swap up for something more valuable. For example, one group might swap a pencil for a pack of gum, then swap the gum for a pack of playing cards. Give them a time limit of 10 minutes. When time’s up, ask each group to report on how successful (or unsuccessful they were).
Language focus: you can teach them phrases for bargaining and swapping
These games, however, are only a small sample of the infinite number of party games that can be found on the Internet. If you are eager to find more party games to share with your students, please look over the lists below or do a GOOGLE search for party games.
Websites and Links for Party Games
26 Incredibly Simple Party Games That Are Fun At Any Age (buzzfeed.com)
17 Ridiculously Fun Party Games You've Probably Never Played Before (buzzfeed.com)
18 Party Games for Adults (thespruce.com)
The 15 Best Teenage Party Games (liveabout.com)
5 Holiday Party Games That Aren’t Charades (purewow.com)
About the Author
Hall Houston, a native Texan, teaches undergraduate students at National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences in Taipei, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as TESOL Connections, IATEFL Voices, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. He has written 5 books including Provoking Thought, Brainstorming and Creative Output. He has also done presentations and workshops at universities throughout Taiwan.
Embarrassing Pandemic Teaching Moments
- Michelle Quiter
"Early on in the pandemic, I was teaching an early morning class when a student started snoring. The other students and I all started laughing, and it made me realize life was going to be very different and we'd all have to be more flexible."
- Lauren Heather, TexTESOL 2 Secretary
Proudest Pandemic Teaching Moments
- Alpha Martínez-Suarez
"I learned not to embarrass myself during online teaching by watching the zoom videos of teachers or employees making big "No No's""
- Dr. Sharla Jones
For the Funny Bone
- Submitted byAlpha Martínez-Suarez
Q: Why did Waldo always wear stripes?
A: He didn't want to be spotted.
- Submitted by Francine M. Johnson
Cuantas estrellas en el cielo? Cincuenta (sin cuenta)! Get it?
- Submitted by Charles Clay
- Submitted by Charles Clay
"Where my kids and I were living when they were little it was snowing on April 1st. I convinced them for most of the day that Christmas was in a few days and they had to be good for Santa."
- Submitted by Holly Olson
"A friend of mine got tricked into believing it was snowing in April and ran outside in his underwear- he was so excited!"
- Submitted by Elissa Jo
"When April Fool's day fell on a Saturday and my mom tricked me into believing it was a regular school day so that I got up and got ready for school and then was told remember it is Saturday, happy April Fool's day!"
- Submitted by Nickola Wilson-Chung