MITESOL Messages

February 28, 2022 | Volume 48 | Issue 1

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President's Corner

Greetings MITESOLers!

I don’t know about you, but I see 2022 as an interesting mix of challenge and opportunity. We are at the two-year mark of the pandemic, many of us have been forced to reimagine our classrooms and perhaps even our careers, and now we are faced with an international crisis blooming in the Ukraine. (I encourage you to read the TESOL International Association’s Statement on this issue.) That being said, there is a lot of good to acknowledge from the past year and to hope for in this coming year, both in our individual work as well as in the partnerships we have built across Michigan, the United States, and the world.

Thank you to Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez and Eva Alvarez (Michigan Immigrant Rights Center) for leading last year’s summer webinar on Working Together for Undocumented Student Success. Thank you to SIG Leaders Sharon Umlor (Advocacy & Policy) and Collin Blair (Adult Education) for representing MITESOL at the 2021 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit, as well as for hosting a member webinar on policy updates. Thank you to Past-President and MITESOL 2021 Conference Chair Liz Sirman for her amazing vision and for bringing in Sonia Nazario (see photo just below this section), author of Enrique’s Journey, as our keynote speaker at the MITESOL 2021 Conference: Prioritizing Equity & Recovery for All. We were also honored to have so many other wonderful sponsors as well as the following featured speakers at the conference: Jennifer Paul (Michigan Department of Education), Patrick Brown and Karyn Goven (Michigan Association of Community & Adult Education), Kristi Metz (Norup International and Burton Elementary Schools) join by student Marlen (Berkley High), Alison Austin (Washtenaw Literacy), and Diana Bernal Canseco (Buenos Vecinos) joined by student Diego (ACTech High).

We appreciate all those who attended last year’s conference, and we hope to see many more of you – in-person! – at various events this year.

The first of which is coming up soon! On March 22-25th is the TESOL 2022 International Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a blend of in-person and virtual sessions. We want to know if any of our MITESOL community members are presenting! If you are representing Michigan by presenting at the convention, please complete our form. We will gather the results and create a list of all MITESOL member presentations, so check your email and our website for updates the week before the convention!! I know our President-Elect Briana Asmus is also putting together an excellent MITESOL member reception for us, and I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Additionally, I am thrilled to announce that we plan on getting back to an in-person conference this fall with our MITESOL 2022 Conference: Reawakening Purpose, Motivation, and Joy! Join your fellow MITESOLers at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor on November 11-12th – and by all means, let us know if you are interested in volunteering at the conference! Washtenaw Community College is home to more than 1,000 international and domestic English language learners, offering both a free Community ESL program for adults as well as a rigorous Academic ESL program for degree preparation. More information about MITESOL 2022 will be announced on in the upcoming months, and registration will open this summer! We cannot wait to see you there!

We also encourage you to complete a travel grant for an opportunity to attend MITESOL 2022 for free. Mark your calendars: The deadline for travel grants will be in September!

Finally, I want to extend one more THANK YOU to everyone who has been a long-time member and supporter, and WELCOME to those who joined our membership this past year. MITESOL exists for and thanks to you! If you find yourself looking to get more involved, please note we have several Board vacancies, and I can confidently say everyone on the Board would love to get to know you better!

Jennifer Musser

President, MITESOL

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Sonia Nazario (image above), author of Enrique’s Journey, our keynote speaker at the MITESOL 2021 Conference: Prioritizing Equity & Recovery for All.
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From the Editor

Happy 2022, and happy almost spring to you all! Thanks for reading this issue of MITESOL Messages. We've got some great content for you from our board members as well as some fantastic submissions this time around.


  • President Updates
  • President-Elect Updates
  • Past President Updates
  • Board Updates
  • Adult Education SIG Updates
  • Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates
  • Post-Secondary SIG Updates
  • K-12 SIG Updates

Updates from the field:

  • Limbo Between Two Languages
  • Black Lives Matter: A Starting Point in the EL Classroom
  • Teaching Memoirs to English Learners
  • Homesickness and How it Can Affect Language Development
  • A Language Learner History

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 me.

Your editor,

Kelsey DeCamillis

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President-Elect Updates

Happy (almost) spring! Through my own language learning journey, I recently learned a very fitting Korean expression for this time of the year: 꽃샘추위, meaning, "The cold envies the flowers." The back and forth between winter and spring can be rough, but we will soon arrive.

Spring also means that the TESOL 2022 Convention is almost here. I hope to connect with many TESOL and MITESOL members in Pittsburgh.

Thanks to those who indicated they would want to attend the MITESOL Reception on Wednesday, March 23rd. The reception will be at "The Eagle" restaurant at 6pm. Only 20 spots are available this year, due to current restrictions. If you are able to attend, register here. Registration will close when capacity is reached.

In the meantime, if you are attending TESOL, check out these presentations by MITESOL members:

  • "Comparing and Contrasting Previous Experiences of Graduate Student Writers" presented by Kristin Homuth
  • "Leading a Whole Department: Mindfulness Techniques for Language Program Administrators" presented by Angelo Pitillo and Anna Eddy
  • "Empowering L2 Writing Instructors and Students in the post-COVID Classroom" and "Empowering Students to Use Academic Sources in their Writing" presented by Meredith Bricker
  • "Social-Emotional Learning Tools to Add To Your EL Toolbox" presented by Kelsey DeCamillis and Yevgeniya Pukalo
  • "Enhancing Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness in Argument Writing Pedagogy" presented by Kelsey DeCamillis with Zuzana Tomas , Katelyn Walsh , Rachel Deacon , and Katey Robinson
  • "Implementing Argument Writing Instruction for ELs Online: Triumphs and Challenges" presented by Kelsey DeCamillis with Zuzana Tomas , Katelyn Walsh , Rachel Deacon , and Yevgeniya Pukalo
  • "Socio-emotional Learning & Supportive Classroom Management in Higher Education" presented by Colin Blair
  • "The Case for a Plurilingual Approach to Writing Pedagogy" presented by Kay Losey and Gail Shuck
  • “DICE (Diplomacy and International Communication in English): a High-impact CLIL Course Promoting Inquiry, Engagement, and Inspiration" A Panel Presentation by ESOL teachers/stakeholders in HIgh Schools around Israel
  • "What's the Story? Teaching Grammar to Adult Learners through Story" presented by Marni Hochman and Alexandra Patty

If your presentation was not listed above, please still let us know you are presenting by filling out this survey. Thanks to all our members! Feel free to reach out any time.

Briana Asmus, PhD

President Elect, MITESOL

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Past President Updates

Greetings MITESOL members! I am thankful for having had the opportunity to hold the position of President for this wonderful organization. As Past-President, I look forward to continuing my work with the current President and President-Elect as we move back to an in-person conference. I am excited we will see each other face to face! During my year as Past-President, I am excited to support the development of continued opportunities for MITESOL members to be able to connect throughout the year, in addition to the conference. Be on the lookout for announcements for upcoming opportunities and events.

Grant Updates

MITESOL offers several grants to our members. We offer the Northern Michigan travel grant for our annual MITESOL conference when it is in-person, as well as our own MITESOL version of the Marckwardt Award for travel to the national TESOL conference. This past November, we were pleased to award virtual conference grants to the following MITESOL members:

  • Adult Education: Christine Mann - Washtenaw Community College and South Arbor Charter Academy
  • K-12: Samantha Westrate - Novi Middle School
  • Post Secondary: Amira Eldemerdash - Western Michigan University

Look for 2022 conference grant announcements later this year or by visiting

This is our third year that we are unable to award the Michigan Marckwardt Award because nobody had applied. In order to apply for our award, graduate students must first apply and not be selected for the TESOL award. Graduate students in TESOL/Applied Linguistics/SLA or related graduate program this is your opportunity! We also encourage our MITESOL graduate faculty mentors to please review the MITESOL award and share with your students. The award will be available again next year and is always announced as part of the annual conference program. The award submissions occur in late summer with winners announced in early fall. MITESOL award submissions are always due around February 1st. Take some time to familiarize yourselves with the rules of both the Marckwardt Travel Grant and the Michigan Marckwardt Award in the meantime. We hope to be able to announce a lucky winner whose early-bird student registration to the TESOL conference will be paid for by MITESOL for 2023!.

Leadership Updates

MITESOL is so thankful for the dynamic volunteers who service the board with their excellence and passion for the field. We have had some transitions on the board since the last newsletter.

Changes on the leadership team since our last newsletter have included Jennifer Musser of Washtenaw Literacy transitioning from President-Elect & 2021 Conference Co-Chair to our President & 2022 Conference Chair. MITESOL is in fantastic hands with Jennifer as our president! Dr. Briana Asmus of Kalamazoo Public Schools joins the MITESOL board as our President-Elect and 2022 Conference Co-Chair. Briana has planned a wonderful reception at the TESOL conference in Pittsburgh, and she and Jennifer are working hard already on the fall conference. Tina Kozlowski of Warren Consolidated Schools left the board after chairing two amazing conferences and spending a successful year as Past-President. She did a fantastic job, and we are so thankful to have had her guidance and expertise during her time on the board. We look forward to seeing her at future MITESOL events and conferences.

Finally, we welcome Anne Damiecka as the Conference Exhibits Manager and Jennifer Bashara as our new secretary. Both of these women will be dynamic leaders on the board.

The MITESOL Leadership Board is still in need of new volunteers. Please reach out to us and let us know of your interest. We have an immediate opening and want to take advantage of the opportunity to bring members to the board during this transition time! We will also have a few openings in the fall. The openings are:

  • Webmaster - Immediate need
  • K-12 SIG leader - November 2022
  • Adult Ed SIG leader - November 2022
  • CALL SIG leader - November 2022

Thank you to all to the MITESOL Board and all of our members for your dedication to the field and involvement with our affiliate. We cannot wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2022!

Liz Sirman

Past President

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Board Updates

    • Board Member Updates:

      • There are 234 active members as of February 11, 2022

    • Upcoming Board Meeting 2022 Dates:

      • April 30th - Okemos Library - Thank you to Collin for booking!

      • August 6th - Washtenaw Community College

      • CONFERENCE 2022 - November 11-12, 2022

      • November 19th - Virtual

Jennifer Bashara

Secretary, MITESOL

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Adult Ed SIG Updates

Winter, 2022 MITESOL Adult Education SIG Update

As we move further into the new year, please enjoy these resources, news articles, and advocacy opportunities. Remember—the fall MITESOL Conference is November 11-12, 2022. APPLY for an Adult Ed travel grant!

Please stay active on the Adult Ed message board, and let me know what you are doing with your work et al!

--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

TESOL.orgThere are regularly courses and webinars for members.

MABE's 2022 Annual Institute "Cultivating Multilingual Responsiveness”

May 5-6, 2022, The Dearborn Inn, Dearborn, MI

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 assistance with resumes, interviewing skills, and locating available jobs:


Supporting ELLs through Covid-19

How can schools best support English language learners (ELLs) and immigrant students through the COVID-19 pandemic? What lessons have we learned so far?


More than 1,600 Afghan refugees expected to arrive in Michigan by next month

Michigan allocates $500,000 to house Afghan refugees

Biden has taken nearly 300 executive actions on immigration in his first year, outpacing Trump

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Advocacy & Policy SIG Updates

Welcome to 2022, Advocates!

SIG News: Thank you to those who participated in the Advocacy & Policy SIG meeting at the November conference. We reviewed the info-rich Advocacy Packet and discussed ways in which we could use its contents to bolster our communication with those policymakers who have an impact on the needs of educators and students. Check it out!

Public Comment: On February 3, MITESOL submitted a public comment to give input on the planning process for implementing the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Digital Equity Act would create two federal grant programs that provide digital equity nationwide such as digital skills training to low-income populations, online accessibility to social services for those with disabilities, and broadband needs in rural communities. You can view MITESOL’s public comment here.

Legislation Trackers: Interested in keeping up-to-date on policies that affect education? Here are sites where you can sign up for alerts: Federal Legislation, State of Michigan Legislature notifications & other Tools for Tracking Michigan Legislation, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, TESOL Letters & Alerts, and the TESOL Advocacy Action Center.

MITESOL Advocacy & Policy Connections: Weekly posts will keep you aware of advocacy issues on MITESOL’s website message board (join here!) and on the Advocacy & Policy Facebook group. Join the discussion!

Sharon Umlor

MITESOL Advocacy & Policy SIG Leader

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Post-Secondary SIG Updates

Dear Post-Secondary SIG colleagues,

Happy New Year! I hope you are all healthy and safe. Below are some news and resources that you might find interesting.

The U.S. government is expanding eligibility for the Optional Practical Training program to include more STEM fields. If you have international students who are interested in gaining some experience after their programs, please share this news article with them:

I came across this crime prevention guide for international students prepared by the University of Dayton and thought it was a great resource to share. As a former international student myself, I would have appreciated a guide like this one.

Keep up with the latest research! TESOL Journal’s latest issue is all about vocabulary learning and teaching and TESOL Quarterly’s latest issue features articles on culturally and linguistically responsive teaching in higher education. We have seen a lot of research and interest in culturally and linguistically responsive teaching in the K-12 field, but not much in post-secondary education, so this is an exciting issue.

Thank you for reading! If you want us to feature a particular topic in our next newsletter, please let us know.

Virginia David

Post-Secondary SIG Leader, MITESOL

Faculty Specialist & Coordinator of TESOL, Western Michigan University

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K-12 SIG Updates

K-12 SIG Updates

Hello! I hope this winter finds you well. As you know, our field is constantly growing and changing. With that in mind, we have developed ways to keep you informed outside of the biannual newsletter. Please join our message board on the MITESOL website, follow us on Twitter @MITESOLK12SIG, and/or join the MITESOL K-12 SIG Facebook Group to stay connected with the K-12 MITESOL world on a regular basis. We would love for you to tag us with exciting research/articles from the field, best practices in action, or interesting professional development opportunities. I hope you find the information below helpful.

Please let us know if you want more information about a particular topic.

Teacher Tools

This app is an amazing addition to my translation arsenal. Of course, we are required to use live interpreters for conferences, IEPs, and other sensitive information; however, this is a great tool to have in your pocket for the translation of quick conversations with parents or a simple way to connect with students. My favorite part is that you can split the screen and have the other person in the conversation push a button to have their language translated.

This Google Extension can be added to your account in order to add voice attachments to your Google Classroom, Google Docs, Google Forms, and Google Slides. It is an incredible tool that allows you to accommodate work to provide access to content curriculum in an easy and discreet way. It also allows you to provide voice reminders for homework, independent work, or workshop activities in the classroom. If you can add the extension to a students’ account, they can add voice attachments to their work, as well.

Have you used Blooket yet? It helps you to gamify your teaching. It includes colorful pictures and a variety of games. The best part is that not all of the games rely on quick student responses, so students can work at their own pace rather than always having to be the fastest. In the “Discover” section, you will find a lot of different games already created by other educators, too. There are even some WIDA practice games.


It’s that time of the year again! The WIDA ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS testing window is open from February 7-March 25, 2022. Click the link in the heading to find MDE’s WIDA ACCESS for ELs page. If you need additional help, MDE encourages you to contact When you need support directly from WIDA, contact or (866) 276-7735.

Hopefully, you have started to explore and begin seeking professional learning about the new WIDA standards. Click the link above for a free PDF of the text. There are many free learning opportunities being offered state-wide. For example, Christy Osborne, Pam S, and Suzanne Toohey are conducting a webinar series training about the WIDA Standards, you can use their SMORE to access registration information. Additionally, Raya Womack, Kelly Alvaraz, and I created an unconference-style webinar series to support teachers in exploring the standards, click here for more information. The WIDA ACCESS assessment is set to be fully aligned with these standards by 2026.

This is a reminder that all staff members need to be trained in testing security practices every year in addition to the biannual WIDA ACCESS training modules that can be found in the WIDA Secure Site. MDE offers a course through their Michigan Virtual learning website and there is also an AIG document that can be read in order to be in compliance. Remember to have all test coordinators, administrators, and proctors sign the security compliance forms, as well. These forms must be kept for 3 years.

  • Kindergarten WIDA Screener

In the fall of 2022, Michigan will begin to implement the new Kindergarten WIDA screener that will take the place of the current W-APT testing. Please ensure that you have been properly trained so you are prepared to administer this assessment.


  • Congratulations to Kelly Alvaraz!

Kelly Alvaraz, MDE’s Title III Program Consultant, has been selected as one of Michigan’s 2022 National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators State Leadership Award Winners. She will be recognized at the NAFEPA Conference in Washington, DC on March 21-23, 2022. This award is so well-deserved! We are lucky to have her leadership in Michigan.

The January 20th and 27th editions of the Michigan Department of Education Spotlight Newsletter includes important WIDA testing window reminders, information about student transfers during the test, and student screening during the testing window. If you have not signed up to receive the Michigan Department of Education Spotlight Newsletters, click on the heading above to subscribe to the Spotlight Listserv.

This document was created to guide Michigan’s schools in order to help them “foster an educational environment that promotes the well-being and the building of knowledge of our state’s English learners” (p. 3). It is an important piece of the puzzle to guide district-level discussion about supporting English Learners in the classroom and school community.

Click the link to see a 2021-2022 list of free professional learning opportunities.

2022 Professional Development:

March 22-March 25: TESOL International Convention and Language Expo, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/Virtual Option

May 5-6: MABE Institute, Dearborn, Michigan

November 11-12: MITESOL Conference, Ann Arbor, Michigan

September 28-30: WIDA Annual Conference, Louisville, Kentucky

All questions, comments, or suggestions are welcome. Please contact me if you would like more information about reaching and teaching K-12 English Learners.

Thank you for reading!

Rachael Wenskay

K-12 SIG Leader, MITESOL

ESL Teacher/Coordinator, Lamphere Public Schools

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Limbo Between Two Languages

By Emi Shinohara

This reading response will first briefly summarize “Narrative Construction in Interpreted Police Interviews” (Nakane, 2020) to introduce its purpose, the kind of data collected, the kind of analysis conducted, and its main findings. Next, it will discuss how the findings relate to my professional experience. It will then provide a discussion of what I would add to Nakane’s (2020) analysis, using the perspective of a former police interpreter. Finally, the paper will end with the broader implications of the study.

In “Narrative Construction in Interpreted Police Interviews,” Nakane (2020) aimed to elucidate: (1) “the impact of interpreter mediation on the construction of narratives in police interviews” and (2) “challenges for interpreters in achieving a pragmatic equivalent of force and quality of strategies” (p. 180). The data collected were: Audio-recordings of two Australian Federal Police interviews to which the author was given access through attorneys. The suspects in both interviews were native speakers of Japanese alleged to have smuggled illegal narcotics. Both denied the allegation and claimed that they had no knowledge of the substance. The interviews were transcribed by the author. For further details of the data, see Appendix 1.

Nakane (2020) conducted her analysis using three aspects of tripartite interaction relevant for narrative construction: (1) turn-taking; (2) questioning strategies; and (3) resistance strategies. First, the analysis of turn-taking revealed that the additional layer of interpreter mediation complicates the process of turn-taking and could affect coherence and completeness of the narratives (Nakane, 2020, pp. 181-185). Second, distortions of questioning strategies through interpreter-mediated interaction could affect narrative construction efforts by police interviewers and suspects. Third, the pragmatic force of suspects’ resistance strategies was not always translated, resulting in the weakening of suspects’ versions of events. For example, non- and incomplete translations of the suspects’ utterances silenced their resistances in their narrative construction effort.

Moving onto the study’s relevance to myself, I worked as a police interpreter in Japan for seven years before coming to Teachers College, Columbia University. Thus, Nakane’s (2020) study closely resonates with my professional experience. First, the findings confirmed my intuition about what was happening in a police interview. For instance, when I was in a police interview room interpreting, I sensed that the three of us (investigator(s), suspect, and interpreter) were hearing three different stories. For these reasons, I personally appreciate the author for listing the impact of interpreter mediation.

Next, I appreciate the analysis of turn-taking because oftentimes I was distressed by the primary speakers’ blockade of my translations. Nonetheless, I also wonder whether investigators’ diversions from normative turn-taking may not be so particular to interpreter-mediated interviews but a reflection of the social reality. For example, in police-witness interaction (Fairclough, 1989, p. 18), the investigator did not wait for the witness to finish her line but dismissed her offering of the information on the man’s clothing. I believe that this monolingual interaction is very similar to one of the interactions in Nakane’s (2020) study where the investigator pressed on with the next question and prevented the suspect from continuing his narrative. Thus, I would argue that interviewees’ narratives are vulnerable to fragmentations in both monolingual and bilingual interviews because the existing social conditions allow the investigator to control the course of the interview (Waring, 2018, p 187).

Furthermore, I might expand the discussion of the challenge for interpreters to maintain pragmatic equivalence. Coming from the police interpreter background, I would argue that maintaining pragmatic force is not as straightforward as it may sound. Rather, it challenges the interpreter’s face and identities. Reflecting on my own experience, for example, I now see that I was engaging in face-work while interpreting (Goffman, 1967); I wanted to maintain my positive self-image (“I’m a nice, polite person”) and thus avoided sounding as coercive as the original utterers. Similarly, to protect my female identity, I kept speaking feminine Japanese in my translations which sounded much softer and more polite than the investigators’ rather crude, masculine language. By the same logic, the interpreters in the study might have engaged in face-work and subsequently produced the translations that softened the original questioning and resistance strategies.

One more additional thought is that video-recordings might have been better, if that was possible. For instance, I wonder where their gaze was during the interview because, in my experience, both investigators and suspects kept looking at me during their turns. I suspected that by not looking at each other, they were excluding themselves from reading potentially important non-verbal messages. Therefore, if Nakane (2020) could have provided an analysis of what the primary speakers possibly missed from visual information, the findings could be utilized to remind investigators to keep their eye on the suspect and pay close attention to non-verbal signals (Waring, 2018, pp. 106-111).

With respect to the broader implications of this study, I strongly believe that Nakane’s (2020) study has practical values beyond academia. One value is its mention of discourse because, in my experience, the police interpreter training almost exclusively focused on delivering word-by-word, dictionary-based translations. On the other hand, pragmatic implications went undiscussed or even unrecognized. Hence, the study is significant in that its findings can be utilized to help police interpreters to understand the importance of communicating “beyond each word” and preserving the dynamics of original narrative construction (Nakane, 2020, p. 197).

In the end, narrative construction is collaborative effort of all the parties involved. Thus, no matter what challenges and complexities interpreter mediation creates, its ultimate goal is to help enable all the interlocutors to equally participate in and be understood in one of the most important interactions one may have in life. Therefore, both police investigators and interpreters must strive in cooperation to achieve this purpose, utilizing research findings such as Nakane’s (2020).

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Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. Longman.

Goffman, E. (1967). On face work. In Interaction ritual (pp. 5-45). Pantheon books.

Nakane, I. (2020). Narrative construction in interpreted police interviews. In M. Mason & F. Rock (Eds.), The discourse of police interviews (pp. 179-199). The University of Chicago Press. 10.7208/chicago/9780226647821.003.0009

Waring, H. Z. (2018). Discourse analysis: The questions discourse analysts ask and how they answer them. Routledge.


Emi Shinohara is a Fulbright-sponsored master's student in Applied Linguistics at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is interested in the effects of music in language learning and is currently working on her MA project on how to effectively use songs in an ESL/EFL classroom. If you want to learn more about Emi, please visit:

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Black Lives Matter: A Starting Point in the EL Classroom

By Tristan Burk

In response to the racial inequality and political turmoil that has been facing the United States recently (and throughout its history), racial equity practices are more frequently becoming topics of conversation when discussing education and pedagogical practices. ESOL specialists and educators are increasingly aware of how cultural sensitivity and an awareness of equitable practices directly impacts those we work with, as many EAL individuals identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

During this year’s MITESOL Conference, Kelsey DeCamillis, Shelby Eaton, and I presented curated resources and practical applications to teaching racial equity in the classroom. These resources focus on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in a way that is comprehensive, but also EL friendly. We wanted to focus on a historical based approach to BLM as many ELs do not have a very in-depth understanding of U.S. history and racial tensions. When addressing topics that directly impact ELs, it is critical that history and current-day events are taught in a manner that focuses on BIPOC voices and experiences. In doing so, educators have the ability to draw upon the experiences of their students, but do so in a safe, responsible, and productive manner.

The materials that we created are rooted in authentic, real-world conversations. Within the folder (pictured below), there are two types of lessons: multi-session and single-session. We wanted educators to be able to spread the lesson out over one day or multiple days, depending upon the proficiency levels of their speakers, class size, amount of background knowledge that students have, or any other number of factors. The content does not change between the single and multi-session lessons, only the types of activities change as time is a strong constraint in the single-session outline. The lesson begins with a discussion that serves as a warm-up/anticipatory set activity. In addition to that, there is a video about BLM, a short reading, vocabulary practice, and more activities/discussion prompts to deepen learning and build literacy skills. Included in the materials is an instructional guide that provides more insight on how to use the lessons in a classroom.

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Although this is just a starting point when discussing racial equity in the school, it is our hope that more educators take initiative to include discussions and lessons on racial equity within their classrooms. It is incredibly beneficial to provide ELs with the language needed to discuss topics that directly impact them. Racism is something that impacts all who are within a society where it exists, so it is necessary that all should learn how actively be anti-racist. A starting point is just that, but it is also a place from which to grow and have deeper, more meaningful conversations and actions.

Follow this link to receive access to the teaching materials.


Tristan is currently a third-year undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University studying TESOL and K-12 Spanish Education. She has additional passions in research based in racial equity to promote more equitable classrooms and a more just world.

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Teaching Memoirs to English Learners: A Reflection

by Yevgeniya Pukalo

While planning my memoir lessons for virtual class sessions, I was thinking about finding activities that offer my students choices and incorporate the right amount of technology support without overwhelming my students. The challenges I was facing were to teach my students to use the beauty of English to read, write, and revise, look deeper into their memories, and feel comfortable enough to share personal experiences and life lessons they learned. Knowing my students (their background, interests, and language proficiency) allowed me to anticipate their language needs and levels of engagement.

Mentor Texts and Accompanying Activities:

One thing I needed was to show sample memoirs and excerpts that were interesting and meaningful to my students, that could stir emotions and feelings through creating images and activating senses. One of the first works that I came upon was Feruzah Dumas’ book “Funny in Farsi.” The story is very engaging, easy to read, and most importantly, funny. As my students read about the author’s experiences coming from Iran to America, they found they could relate to the story in some ways, for example, the difficulties some Americans have when they have to pronounce a foreign name, or about Feruzah’s first days in an American school. After reading “Funny in Farsi,” we continued our virtual memoir journey with more texts, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story,” Rex Ogle’s memoir “Free Lunch, and a memoir titled “From Colombia, 1969” by Patricia Olaya which is part of “Newcomers to America.” I was lucky to come across the Patricia Olaya text -- It happens that one of my reluctant readers also came from Colombia. Her eyes filled with excitement as soon as I introduced the memoir to the class. In addition, she was one of the first volunteers to read the memoir aloud.

Through these stories, my students explored themes of stereotyping, labeling, fear, anger, shame, and regret. As we read the texts, my students were directed to read with a partner, summarize while focusing on emotions and feelings, and identify common elements of memoirs using Google’s Jamboard so all work could be shared with the class. Students began every class with quick write prompts encouraging them to look deeper in their thoughts and to reflect on their feelings and emotions. One of my favorite prompts was to write about the happiest childhood memories. A lot of students wrote about coming to the US, about celebrating birthdays and cultural holidays, and about having their accomplishments in the new country. After working through the themes and commonalities of the memoir genre, we moved into some more creative assignments.

Creative Memoir Assignments

One of the creative assignments was a mini-project “My 16 memories,” inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From.” My students were asked to create a Google Slides presentation that would include 16 different memories. We started with listening and reading the original poem, then brainstormed our own memories and recorded them.The next step was to reorganize the memories into groups (stanzas), reword each memory, color code, add details, etc. I use my own memories to model each part. The last step was to add the memories to the slides, include images, and record themselves reading the poem. This is what one of my students wrote:

“I am from the friends I left in Colombia, and the last time I played soccer.

I am from my first winter in the United States, and my first time skiing.”

After the slides were completed, I revealed to my students that the original poem inspired others to share their memories and to create a “crowdsourced” poem of remembering. After we listened to this version of the poem and made connections, I invited my students to pick their best memory from their presentation in order to write our collaborative poem.

Adding Student Choice

An important aspect of choosing mentor texts is selecting relevant stories and offering choice to students in what to read. The Teen Ink website is an impressive collection of memoirs written by teenagers. I asked my students to pick a memoir of their choice and think about the reason the author wrote that memoir. To share their findings, the students were asked to post their thoughts in Jamboard:

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Culminating Task: 100-Word Memoir

Our memoir reading time ended with one of the most challenging and culminating tasks I gave my students: write a 100-word memoir. I introduced the challenge as a contest. We started with brainstorming ideas for memoirs using many different prompts:

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After the topic was chosen, the students faced a number of challenges, including how to use figurative and descriptive language, careful word choice, and determining the value of words chosen. My students learned that writers must be creative in their use of language, sentence structure, words, and ideas in order to stick to the 100-word limit. I shared a quote by Kathaleen Flinn to inspire my students as memoir writers: “Most memoir writers will tell you that the hardest part of writing a memoir isn't what to include, but what to leave out.” After many sleepless nights and multiple revisions, all memoirs were finally submitted in Padlet. I couldn’t wait to invite the best memoir experts I could find virtually (a counselor and a colleague of mine) to judge the competition.

Here are some excerpts from personal stories my students shared:

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The winners were super excited and very proud of their amazing work. I am very grateful to them to be able to open up, be vulnerable and brave at the same time.

During this unit, my students had a chance to work on their English, learn new terms related to memoirs, and enjoy reading them. Most importantly, I hope that they found it valuable to look back and reflect on their most important memories. Sometimes our memories can still be very painful to recall. Yet, our feelings and emotions help us be stronger and more courageous to take risks. We can inspire others as we feel it’s a good decision to share a story about lessons we learned, mistakes we made, and the world around us we explore every day.


Yevgeniya is currently an ESL teacher at North Farmington High School (Farmington Public Schools). Yevgeniya has experience teaching K-12 English learners as well as adult learners. She has a BA in English and an MA in TESOL.
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Homesickness and How it Can Affect Language Development

By Breanna Withrow

From February 2020 to August 2021, I was in South Korea participating in the Teach and Learn in Korea program (TaLK). For the program, I lived on a small island called Ganghwa, located about two hours from the capital Seoul. It was a beautiful island full of so much history and offered experiences that I never tired of. My time in Korea was something I was extremely grateful to participate in. My orientation group was the second to last to finish the program because of budgeting changes within the Korean government.. My position there was to be a teacher in a public school in the countryside teaching conversational English.

Before moving to Korea, I had been highly interested in Korean culture and language for years. I taught myself how to read and write basics in Korean and always had an interest in the entertainment world of Korea, like K-pop and Korean Dramas. I knew teaching there was something I always dreamed of. By the time I was leaving for Korea, I felt comfortable in my language proficiency because at that time I had just finished taking Korean courses for a year at Eastern Michigan University. I noticed that the many others of my orientation group knew the same amount of Korean as me, but some knew nothing of the language. I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to work on my Korean and become as fluent as possible during my stay in Korea. However, that was not the case the longer I lived there.

The first few months of my time there, the COVID pandemic was at its peak, meaning schools were doing online classes, every city had strict guidelines. Overall, not a fun time for those living abroad like me. Being inside my apartment every day for almost two months was not an enjoyable way to spend my time abroad. I spent my time studying my Korean books and practicing my speaking, but the longer I was isolated in Korea, the less motivated I was to achieve any of my language goals. I usually never get homesick, but with the pandemic and staying mostly to myself, it came unexpectedly. I missed my friends and family and just overall my life back home. When classes resumed in person, I was so tired of just hearing Korean all day that when I came home, I only wanted to hear and speak English. This was not a good mindset to have because it made me think about all the other ELL’s that have been in my shoes before and how they still managed to keep going.

Homesickness affects the learner's ability to find meaning and connections with their target language because they are spending most of their time missing their loved ones from wherever they call home. Even though I was feeling homesick, I was not completely giving up on Korean, but just took a break from acquiring new vocabulary and language skills. I would still use Korean when communicating with my younger students who are not learning English academically yet, or while making trips to town for cafes or grocery shopping, but once I got home, it was like all learning stopped.

I wanted to get out of this negative mindset, so I tried to be more engaged at school, making close friends with one of the native Korean teachers and having my students teach me random words or phrases in our after-school class. Being more active and engaged with my students helped me pick up my learning again.

My time in Korea was such a huge learning experience for me in multiple ways. Even though my Korean is not where I want it to be, it has improved a lot. It is safe to say I can survive an entire day on my own using the language I have mastered, for which I am extremely proud of myself. It made me realize how serious being homesick is and the impact it can have on a language learner. This experience has shaped how I will now comfort my future students who might end up in a comparable situation that I was in.


The author, Breanna Withrow, is working towards her BA in Elementary and Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages with an endorsement of Language Arts at Eastern Michigan University. She loves working with children of various backgrounds and has had many opportunities to do so, including participating in the TaLK program in South Korea. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio where she is able to take courses online from. When not studying or teaching, Breanna loves to visit museums and galleries and engage in the beauty of art.

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A Language Learner History

By Emi Shinohara

“Good morning, everyone. How are you?” asks Mr. Kimura.

We answer: “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”

And Mr. Kimura ends the opening remarks with his never-changing response: “I’m so-so.”

That was the ritual we seventh graders had to perform at the beginning of Mr.

Kimura’s English class. Back then, Japanese students in the public educational system started

studying English in middle school, and I was no exception. I began studying English at age

twelve with Mr. Kimura and have been learning it for over two decades. But attention must

be also paid to my prior, important exposure to the language. When I was ten, my family took

me on a trip to the U.S. where I became friends with two Japanese girls who amazed me with

their perfect American-sounding English. As my foreign language learning progressed, I

found myself following their shadows, which helped me become a strong-willed, self-driven

learner who was determined to speak English without the slightest hints that reminded of my

native land.

The burning desire to master English as I were a native speaker was the driving force

that kept me committed to learning the language. Throughout middle and high schools, I

endured and succeeded in tedious tasks of memorizing grammatical rules, spellings, and

pronunciation. There were about forty students in the classroom where a teacher taught

English grammar in our shared native language and made us translate each sentence from an

English textbook. Although we read out a sentence in front of a teacher, not much attention was paid to pronunciation. But when somebody stumbled on a particular grammatical rule,

our teacher would explain grammatical structures and help us translate. In fact, my English

teachers seemed to be more concerned about our acquisition of English grammar and

vocabulary than pronunciation. In short, we were in a teacher-centered classroom and taught

by the classical nineteenth-century Grammar Translation Method in the twenty-first century

(Brown & Lee, 2015, pp. 18 and 45).

There was a reason, however, behind our retro learning style, and we all understood

it. Japanese secondary education existed (and still does) to prepare students for college

entrance exams which mainly tested knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary. Thus,

even though there was a course called “Oral Communication” in our high school, we

exclusively focused on learning grammatical rules that would appear on university admission

exams and applying our knowledge in translation. The “oral” communication course was

very quietly conducted. The teacher had made it clear on the first day: “We have no time

for oral practice!”

Nevertheless, every stage of my language learning had meaning. After high school, I

attended Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in Massachusetts where I could not have enjoyed

success without the solid grammar and vocabulary foundations my Japanese secondary

education had nurtured in me. Furthermore, they turned MHC into a place of content-based

language learning for me (Brown & Lee, 2015, p. 57). I had to learn and understand modern American literature, racial dynamics in the U.S., world politics, and more in my second

language. Substantial readings, quality lectures, class discussions, and paper assignments not

only required and sophisticated all four skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing but

also taught me cultural nuances and authentic usage of the language. Up until this day, I have

never heard an American say: “I’m so-so.”

More importantly, my experiences with English consolidated my beliefs in language

learning. The first belief is that a learner must be autonomous and committed. In middle and

high schools, I spent more time outside of the classroom memorizing, reviewing, and practicing what I had learned in class. Additionally, in order to avoid producing heavily-

accented English, language-learning programs on the radio played a critical role. I listened to them almost every day and made conscious efforts to make myself sound like native English

speakers on those programs. It indeed took me a long time to familiarize myself with

grammatical rules, spellings, and pronunciation, but the language gradually flowed into me,

and I did not find the process painful. As a result, I was led to conclude that “as long as you

have motivation and dedication to succeed, you can,” which resonates with some research

findings: “good language learners take charge of their learning, seeking out opportunities to

use the language, experiment with the L2, make guesses, use production tricks, allow errors

to work for them, and learn from their mistakes” (Brown & Lee, 2015, p. 52).

My second belief lies in building firm foundations at an early stage of learning. As

already mentioned, my fruition at MHC would have been impossible without my prior

education. In other words, I came prepared to MHC to use English as the medium of learning.

No longer did I need to study the language itself, but could focus on understanding content

materials and polishing my second language onto a higher level (Brown & Lee, 2015, p. 57).

Moreover, MHC’s rigorous education prepared me to become a successful professional

translator in a stressful environment, which ultimately brought me to one of the world’s finest

institutions to study how to teach the language I have been learning for long. All of those

events could not have occurred, if there had not been that vocabulary-, grammar-centered

training in my teens. Therefore, my experiences have led me to believe that a learner must

endure an initial, repetitious, and long process of memorizing and eventually internalizing

grammar and vocabulary.

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” said Steve

Jobs in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. Indeed, each stage of my life has

revolved around acquiring the second language and for a long time was floating like a dot.

Looking back from here, I am starting to see the pieces coming together in a linear shape on

which I have been walking to be a teacher. The learning experiences are blended into who I

am. And now I have launched into another journey, the lifework of self-refinement.


Brown, H.D., & Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by Principles: An interactive approach to language

pedagogy. (4th ed.). Pearson Education.

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MITESOL Journal: An Online Publication of MITESOL is a refereed, academic journal that is disseminated online via ScholarWorks. Its mission is to promote excellence in TESOL education and teacher development. We are seeking articles that focus on:

  • Original research that you have conducted

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We seek both experienced and novice authors. While MITESOL Journal is a double-blind peer reviewed journal, it is also a mentoring journal. Editors will work with authors of accepted manuscripts until they are ready for publication. Authors do not need to be members of MITESOL to submit.

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