MITESOL Messages

August 15, 2019 * Vol. 45, Issue 2

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President's Corner

Greetings MITESOL Colleagues!

Whether you are recharging your batteries depleted during the school/academic year or using the summer to get even more work done, we hope this issue of MITESOL Messages finds you well.

I am happy to report that the MITESOL Board has been engaged in various activities for the benefit of our members and students as you will see below.

The International TESOL Convention in Atlanta, Georgia offered four invigorating days of professional development. MITESOL members were well represented there among both the attendees and presenters. Carmela Romano Gillette and Deric McNish, the winners of the Best of Affiliate competition, were invited to present to an international audience on the use of drama in the language classroom. Student member Deniz Toker attended the conference in part courtesy of MITESOL, as he was the winner of the 2019 Marckwardt Travel Award. Be sure to read about grants & awards on the MITESOL website if you would like to be the next lucky winner!

Also at the TESOL conference, we hosted over fifty current and past MITESOL members at the annual MITESOL Reception. Food and drinks were plentiful at the Thrive Atlanta Asian fusion restaurant. Our special guest was Mr. Andrzej Obstawski, the Vice President of our sister affiliate: IATEFL Poland. In 2018, MITESOL member Casey Gordon was sponsored by MITESOL to attend the conference in Poland (you can learn about her trip at the upcoming conference); this year our Polish partner visited us. Keep an eye out for MITESOL’s competitive travel grant to attend IATEFL Poland’s 2020 conference.

Thanks to MITESOL Past-President Suzanne Toohey’s efforts, MITESOL has continued to strengthen its ties with the Michigan Association for Bilingual Education (MABE). After MITESOL hosted MABE representatives at our 2018 conference, K-12 SIG Leader Liz Sirman and I had the pleasure of being hosted at the 2019 MABE conference in Dearborn. Over the last year we have already advocated jointly on behalf of our common constituents and we’re looking forward to future collaborative efforts as well as welcoming MABE representatives at our upcoming conference in Grand Rapids.

Under the leadership of Communications Coordinator Josie Pickens, all MITESOL files have successfully been transferred to the Google Suite platform. Not only will this allow our information to be stored more securely but email addresses will be tied to positions rather than individuals. In an all-volunteer organization where office holders change annually, this move will ensure consistency and continuity. Thus, if anyone would like to reach the President, you won’t have to know who holds the presidency at any given time, a message to will reach the current office holder.

Advocacy & Policy SIG Leader Sharon Umlor and Newsletter Co-Editor Clarissa Codrington represented MITESOL’s interests at the TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit in Washington, DC. Be sure to read about their account in this newsletter and listen to their update at the fall conference in Grand Rapids.

The 2019 conference team is hard at work at offering you two days of superb professional development and entertainment. President-Elect Tina Kozlowski, as part of a larger restructuring of Board members’ responsibilities, has agreed to organize not one but two conferences (!). This year she is assisted by local co-chair, past MITESOL president, and current Historian Archivist Colleen Brice. You can read below about what they have planned for you on November 1-2 at Grand Valley State University.

It is my great pleasure to report to you on the vibrant state of our professional organization. Let us keep working together for the benefit of the profession, even as so many of our students are becoming increasingly vulnerable and our colleagues are acutely experiencing difficult times.

Ildi Porter-Szucs

MITESOL President

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From the Editors

Happy summer everyone! It is hard to believe that August is already here. Hopefully everyone has a chance for one last fun-in-the-sun hurrah before the busy fall semester begins. And, to help you keep the spirit of summer going, we have a great newsletter for you! So, pour yourself a nice cold glass of lemonade, kick back, and enjoy some summer newsletter fun!


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

Updates from the field:

  • Review of 'Changing practices for the L2 writing classroom: Moving beyond the five-paragraph essay'
  • A Reflection on Teacher Identity
  • Teacher Reflection: Class Culture that Celebrates English Learners
  • What Good Is a Vocabulary Notebook?
  • Beyond Zombieism to ESL Student Engagement

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

Your co-editors,

Clarissa Codrington,

Jessica Piggot,

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President-Elect Updates-MITESOL Conference 2019


by Christina Kozlowski & Colleen Brice, 2019 Conference Co-Chairs

We’re excited to be holding MITESOL’s annual conference at Grand Valley State University this fall—on Friday, November 1st and Saturday, November 2nd—in Eberhard Center, on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. Autumn in Grand Rapids is a beautiful time, and there are many exciting attractions within walking distance of the University, including museums (Public, Art, Gerald R. Ford), shops, and breweries.


We have an exciting program planned for November. It includes two internationally-recognized keynote speakers; a luncheon plenary, four invited speakers; a publisher’s exhibit; and more than 60 concurrent sessions on a wide range of issues related to ELT. We received many outstanding proposals in July, and we’re currently in the process of sending out invitations and compiling the program, so keep your eye on the conference website for more detail and the complete schedule. In the remainder of this article, we highlight some of the major events and address some FAQs.


We are honored to have two renowned scholars in AL/TESOL as keynote speakers for this year’s conference—one to open the event, and one to close it.

Nick Ellis, Research Scientist and Professor of Psychology & Linguistics at University of Michigan, will open the conference Friday night with a presentation on how we learn language through our experiences and explores usage-based approaches to language to investigate how this happens, entitled, Usage-based Language Acquisition: Implicit and Explicit learning and their Interface.

On Saturday, Deborah Crusan, Professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics at Wright State University and specialist in L2 writing assessment, will close the conference with a talk addressing the unintended yet insidious influences of standardized testing on L2 writing pedagogy. Her keynote, The myth of the 5-paragrapah essay: When good writing isn’t, will offer teachers at all levels practical suggestions for teaching and assessing L2 writing in meaningful, authentic ways that also serve students’ needs to perform well on high-stakes tests.

Lunch Plenary

In addition to an opening and closing keynote, the conference will feature a Saturday Luncheon plenary by Madeline Mavrogordato, Associate Professor of K-12 Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Dr. Mavrogordato will present a talk titled Expanding Educational Opportunity for Michigan's English Learners: Bridging Research and Practice. The talk will challenge participants to reframe the way they think about the EL achievement gap, leverage policy to expand educational opportunity for ELs, and translate research into action in our work.


How much does it cost to attend?


Conference registration is open online, with discounted, early registration rates available through October 1. After October 1, standard registration rates go into effect. Register here now.

Registration rates

Early (through 10/1)

Member, employed full-time: $95

Member, employed part-time: $60

Member, student: $40

Non-member: $130

Standard (after 10/1)

Member, employed full-time: $115

Member, employed part-time: $75

Member, student: $50

Non-member: $150

Can I attend for free?

MITESOL Conference Travel Grants

Yes, we offer 4 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.

  • K-12 Educator Grant 6 available annually

  • Post-Secondary Student Grant 3 available annually

  • Adult Educator Grant 3 available annually

  • ESL professional in Northern Michigan & U.P. Grant 2 available annually

Awards: All grant awardees have their Conference Registration Fees Paid

Northern MI/UP grant awardees also receive a $500 stipend for travel expenses

Application Deadline: September 14

For eligibility requirements and application directions, see our grant website.

Does the conference fee include any food?

Yes, the conference registration fee includes a lot of food. On Friday, we’ll serve food at two times. From 4-6 p.m., light appetizers will be served to refresh attendees as they arrive in GR from cities around the state. Then, on Friday night at the Reception, we’ll offer a buffet of heavy hors d'oeuvre (hot & cold; enough to constitute a meal) and a cash bar (for which registrants receive one complimentary ticket). On Saturday morning, a continental breakfast (coffee/tea, pastries) will be provided, and on Saturday afternoon, a sit-down luncheon, with a choice of entrée (chicken, vegetarian, or vegan/DF/GF), will be served. Note: only attendees who register before 10/2 are guaranteed a ticket for Saturday’s luncheon, due to catering deadlines.

What will I do after the opening keynote?

Friday Reception

On Friday after the keynote talk, MITESOL hosts a Reception, which, in addition to an abundance of good food and drink, will feature live entertainment by The Kufflinks this year. The Kufflinks play 1920's vaudeville style renditions of songs from the 1800s to the present—a joyful trip back in time. The band encourages everyone to sing along and dance, so, come hungry—and plan to stay to the end—to enjoy the reverie.

Is there a conference hotel?


Yes, we have secured a block of rooms for a discounted rate at the Holiday Inn—Downtown Grand Rapids, which is directly across the street from Eberhard Center, the conference venue. The rate ($139/night, excluding taxes/fees) will be available to MITESOL attendees through October 22 (or, until all 80 rooms in the block are reserved, which may be earlier). Any rooms in the block that remain unreserved on October 23 will be released to the general public at the standard rates. To get the conference rate, MITESOL attendees must phone the hotel directly and specify they are attending the conference. See Accommodations for more detail.

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 2019. Please check the SCHECH page on our website for more information. We will update this page as we get official details from the MDE.


In addition to the conference, we’re pleased to be able to offer MITESOL-ers a full-day, pre-conference workshop on The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners, TESOL’s most recent publication.

Pam Schwallier, Regional EL Consultant for West Michigan, and Suzanne Toohey, ESL/Title III Consultant for Oakland Schools, will lead participants in an engaging professional development session designed to help them learn to apply the 6 principles in their own classrooms. The workshop will feature practical examples, vignettes from various instructional settings (K-adult), and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from across our organization. Connections between the 6 Principles, SIOP, and CAL's Go-To Strategies will be established through interactive learning experiences.

Pam & Suzanne are well-known EL consultants in our state, who have done great work on behalf of ELs. If you have not yet participated in one of their fantastic workshops, now is your chance.

Registration for the Pre-Conference is $30, and includes both a laminated copy of TESOL's 6 Principles—Quick Guide and a boxed lunch. Participants also have the option of adding a copy of the relevant 6 Principles book (K-12 or Adult Ed version) to their registration for $30. Attendance is limited to 90. See the pre-conference page for more detail.

What if I have Questions about the 2019 Conference?

Please see the conference website, which contains details about all aspects of the conference. And, if your question is not addressed by the website, just contact us, at www.mitesol.conf

Farewell, for now, fellow MITESOL-ers

Best wishes for a wonderful last month of summer. We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

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Past-President Updates

To think about what makes MITESOL such a great organization, one must think about the dynamic educators who lead our organization. As we gear up for our annual conference we look forward to a transition of MITESOL leadership. We are pleased to announce the following slate of nominees for leadership positions on the MITESOL Board:


Jacqueline Tomaszewski completed her BA degree with a major in Psychology at Michigan State University. She began a career in social work and continues to maintain a SW license. She studied at Oakland University to earn her MA in Elementary Teaching in 2012. She completed the ESL endorsement at Oakland University in 2016. She currently teaches middle school ELD classes in the West Bloomfield School District. In her free time, Jackie enjoys reading, traveling, walking, and going up north with her family.

K-12 SIG Leader

Rachael Wenskay is a K-5 ESL Teacher in the Lamphere School District and a member of the Oakland Schools ESL/Title III Professional Development Leadership Team. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University, a Master’s degree in Teaching Reading and Language Arts from Oakland University, and an ESL Endorsement from Wayne State University. Throughout her 18 year career, she has also worked as an elementary classroom teacher, K-5 Title I Reading Specialist, and briefly taught 7-8 ELA. She considers herself a lifelong learner, and loves sharing strategies with other teachers.

Webmasters (two candidates for two vacancies)

Jannette H. Bonamie teaches in the English Language Program at Saginaw Valley State University. She has been teaching ESL for fifteen years. Jannette has a PhD in Educational Linguistics from the University of New Mexico. Jannette has taught ESL in schools and colleges in Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and Michigan. Jannette is certified as a 6- 12 secondary English teacher in the state of Michigan. My technological background is pretty basic, and I would say I am very clever dealing with social media accounts and different apps. This summer I am taking a class to certify myself as an online ESL instructor at Saginaw Valley State University. I am interested in the webmaster position because I want to acquire more experience with different platforms and websites maintenance and design. The MITESOL board is an excellent opportunity to do this because right now the ESL field is facing many innovative changes.

Melissa Vervinck holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Wright State University, an ESL endorsement and a master’s degree in Linguistics from Oakland University and a Doctorate in Educational Technology from Central Michigan University where her dissertation focused on using microblogging for personal and professional development. She has over thirty years of experience in the field of education and has had the opportunity to teach at the preschool level, in the public schools, in adult education and at both the college and university level. Most recently her career path has taken her to Oakland University where for the past 11 years she has had a variety of positions including Special Lecturer for ESL and Linguistics, ESL Program Coordinator and ESL Institute Director. Besides overseeing the ESL Institute, she has also been involved in the TESOL program and has been a practicum supervisor for students earning their TESOL certificate and for those adding an ESL endorsement to their MI teaching certificate. She has experience integrating technology into all linguistics and ESL courses she has taught along with experience developing completely online courses. Her current area of interest is working on integrating 360° videos into ESL classes and to develop ESL courses using virtual technology so that students from around the world can interact with each other in authentic situations while improving their English proficiency.

Current MITESOL members will receive an electronic ballot via email prior to the conference.

Have you ever thought about joining the MITESOL leadership team? If so, look for the annual call to join the Board emails and announcements via the MITESOL website, during the summer of 2020.

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Board News Update

Google G Suite is a go!

In May, MITESOL Board members were set up with Google's G Suite to help keep things organized when we collaborate and to facilitate the transitions when new people join us on the Board. We even have new email addresses ( to match our website domain. We look forward to being able to serve our members better through the use of these new tools!

Josie P. Gruber,

MITESOL Communications Coordinator

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New Advocacy Leadership Opportunity for MITESOL Past-President

MITESOL is a vibrant and inclusive organization and it has been my pleasure to serve as President in collaboration with all of the passionate and dedicated Board members. As I wrap up my final year of MITESOL leadership, I am reflecting upon the state of the organization and looking for new opportunities to advocate for equity for K-12 English Learners. During the last three years the MITESOL leadership team can be very proud of the following significant accomplishments:

· Significantly increased number of K-12 educators serving on the Board and gaining general membership

· Increased attendance at both the 2017 and 2018 annual conferences

· Re-structuring of the duties of each year of Presidency to more evenly distribute conference planning responsibilities

· Implemented virtual Board meeting options, which increased Board member participation in Board meetings

· Re-established the collaboration between Michigan’s two professional organizations for teachers of English to speakers of other languages, MABE (Michigan Association for Bilingual Education) and MITESOL; through this partnership we:

o co-authored several joint position statements on controversial topics such as Separating Immigrant Children from their Families and the Reaching English Learners Act, H.R. 4838.

o re-established invitations for MABE Board members to attend MITESOL conference for free

o defined the role of “MABE/MITESOL Liaison” to fall under the duties of the K-12 SIG leader

· Introduced a new platform for publishing MITESOL Messages

· Developed a renewed relationship with IATEFL Poland, to include shared sponsorship and collaborative opportunities between our two affiliates

When we consider that the MITESOL Board is comprised entirely of volunteers, we can appreciate the enormity of these achievements! After the 2019 MITESOL Conference I will no longer be an official member of MITESOL leadership. However, I hope to continue contributing to our dynamic organization.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that I was recently selected to serve as the “LEA Member-at-Large” for the National Association of English Learner Program Administrators(NAELPA). NAELPA is a non-profit organization whose leadership is made up of State Title III Directors. NAELPA acts as a resource for SEAs and LEAs, advocating on the national level regarding important issues concerning the education of ELs. As NAELPA LEA Member-at-Large I hope to represent MITESOL, MDE, and Michigan educators well and use this platform to advocate for our English Learners. The MITESOL Messages publication makes an excellent venue to share information from NAELPA, so please stay tuned for updates in future issues.

Wishing you all a wonderful back-to-school season.


Suzanne Toohey

ESL/Title III Consultant, Oakland Schools

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Adult Education SIG Updates

Happy summer! Here are more resources, news articles, and advocacy opportunities to give you something to think about during the lazy days of summer. Please let me know if there are any topics, articles, or concerns of interest.

Collin Blair, Adult Ed. SIG Leader

Professional Development

Guide to Professional Development in TESOL

Resources for Adult Students

Public Libraries: Adult literacy, GED, & citizenship classes

Detroit Public Library (but many offer these services)--

Citizenship Test Practice

Pure Michigan jobs and skills training

Michigan eLibrary

MEL Databases allow you instant access to full-text articles from tens of thousands of magazines and newspapers. Databases are available for kids, adults, and on specialized topics such as car repair, practice tests and art images.

LINCS Learner Center

Connects adult learners to free online resources to learn how to read, get job skills, and more.

U.S. Department of Eduation

Educational experiences of English learners

Support Ed

Free tools to help educators and administrators better serve English learners.


We Are All America is a national campaign that aims to uphold and strengthen our nation's commitment to welcome and protect those seeking freedom, safety and refuge in the United States.


Trump Considering an Executive Order to Allow Citizenship Question on Census

The Changing Face of Congress in 6 Charts

Migration Policy Institute: Employment and the Economy

Pew Research Center: U.S. unauthorized immigrants are more proficient in English, more educated than a decade ago

Public Education in Michigan (Opinion)

What if all nations viewed refugees as invaders? (Opinion)

Teaching English as a Foreign Language With The New York Times as the Textbook

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Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates

MITESOL participates in 2019 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit

by Sharon Umlor, Advocacy and Policy SIG leader

On June 17-19, 2019 Clarissa Codrington and Sharon Umlor joined more than 100 other TESOL educators and members of TESOL International Association from 25 US affiliates in Arlington, VA for the 2019 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit. The program featured two days of issue briefings, breakout sessions and advocacy training, followed by a full day of visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. The goals of the Summit were not only to learn more about federal policy issues impacting TESOL educators and English learners, but also to provide an interactive experience for participants to actively engage in advocacy on behalf of their schools, programs, students and fellow educators. By the end of the Summit, TESOL members had visited the offices of over 150 Representatives and Senators.

Clarissa and Sharon prepared for the Summit by first inviting MITESOL members to record advocacy messages to be shown to our representatives using Flipgrid, a video response tool used in many EL classrooms. They then scheduled Capitol Hill meetings with the offices of both Michigan Senators, and four Representatives: Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07, Committee on Education & Labor), Congressman John Moolenaar (MI-04, Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12, Clarissa’s Representative), and Congressman Justin Amash (MI-03, Sharon’s Representative).

All meetings were conducted with legislative assistants of the representatives, and began with sharing a quick summary of who MITESOL is, what our organization does, and some current statistics of ELs in Michigan as well as some resources to stay current with that information – such as English Learners Data from OELA and Migration Policy Institute. Clarissa and Sharon then shared what a day in the life looked like working with ELs in Adult Education and Higher Education, and also shared three Flipgrid video testimonials from MITESOL educators that explicitly supported TESOL’s Policy Recommendations for the 116th Congress. All of the representatives’ legislative assistants were receptive to our information and queries, and also encouraged MITESOL membership to keep in touch in order to update their offices on how federal legislation affects ELs and educators. Several offices also proposed we educators contact their home offices in Michigan to invite legislators to our classrooms and work environments in order to see how policy directly affects ELs.

One highlight of the Summit that was especially impactful was recognizing the effect TESOL educators can make on federal policy – Last year, with TESOL support, Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-2) introduced the Reaching English Learners Act -- legislation that would provide grants for the training and development of preservice K-12 teachers of English learners. Even though there were numerous co-sponsors and a companion bill in the Senate, the bills were not voted on in time to pass during the last Congress’ session. With TESOL’s continued advocacy efforts, the Reaching English Learners Act was reintroduced in the current 116th Congress (H.R. 1153 & S.545), and was a primary topic of discussion in all Summit attendees’ meetings on Capitol Hill. So far, there are not any co-sponsors from Michigan on either bill, so please contact Senators Stabenow and Peters as well as your House representative to ask for their support!

TESOL’s new Advocacy Action Center makes it easy to contact your representatives on all relevant policy issues happening at the federal level. Once you enter your name and address, the action center will not only email/text you policy alerts, but you can also personalize pre-composed email messages and tweets regarding current TESOL policy issues. With one click, you’re able to send messages to both your Senators and your Representative! Don’t forget to use the phone to advocate as well…Several legislative assistants explained that volumes of constituent phone calls regarding the same issue or bill carry a lot of weight with the representatives. It is our responsibility to communicate what we need and want!

At the upcoming MITESOL conference November 1-2, please join the affiliate’s Advocacy & Policy Summit’s attendees from the past four years – Trisha Dowling, Jennifer Musser, Clarissa Codrington, & Sharon Umlor -- in a panel discussion for a more detailed rundown of what it’s really like to participate in federal advocacy at the Summit, and how you can be a more active advocate as well!

EL Advocacy in the News

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K-12 SIG Updates

Greetings from the K-12 world. I look forward to seeing you all November 1-2 at the MITESOL conference, “Collaboration for Success” at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids. Below I’m sharing articles and resources that may be of interest or use to you. I am including links to a variety of state tools which have been shared previously but are always relevant and important.

  • The Summer EL Director’s Message 2019 from Kelly Alvarez, State English Learner Educational Consultant should be reviewed if you have not already seen it. In addition to numerous training announcements, please note:

    • LEAs receiving Title III funds must submit your program evaluation by October 1, 2019.

    • EL flags for Kindergarten will NOT carry through from preschool. New Kindergarten students must be flagged again for the fall collection.

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

  • ELs can have high rates of absenteeism for a variety of reasons. ESSA has been putting pressure on schools to reduce chronic absenteeism and offers strategies to help.

  • Social-Emotional Learning curricula are being implemented more frequently as it is evident that social-emotional and academic health are intertwined. This article highlights one of the curriculum choices, the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA). Ypsilanti Community Schools is beginning its second year using the DESSA in combination with School Connect for a social-emotional learning program with ELs. Contact Liz Sirman for more information.

  • Special Education and ELs is at the forefront currently. Dyslexia can affect any person, but it can be much more difficult to identify in students learning other languages. “Dyslexia and the English Learner Dilemma” provides some recommendations for diagnosis and intervention.

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

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

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

Liz Sirman


EL Coordinator / Teacher Ypsilanti Community Schools

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Post-Secondary SIG Updates

TESOL professionals continue to worry about global, national and local affairs that affect our field. We are a caring profession, so the conditions that force people to flee their homes, the mistreatment of migrants, and declining enrollments in our institutions cause us moral heartache and personal stress. Nevertheless, there are reasons for hope. The current state of affairs has galvanized people to protest policies, advocate for others, run for office, and collaborate on projects to help. Ann Arbor, for example, was one of multiple cities participating in the Lights for Liberty Protests over border camps ( Globally 600 events took place on July 12, 2019.

As events bring us together, it is fitting that the theme of this year’s MITESOL conference is Collaboration For Success. Collaboration enables us to build on our individual strengths and take action to overcome challenges in a powerful way. Collaboration inspires us to learn from each other and gives us confidence knowing that we are part of a larger and supportive force. Collaboration allows us to speak with a louder voice. Recently, collaborative projects have been highlighted in the literature, for example, Crawford, et al. (2019) identify linguistic evidence of collaboration in student interactions, Skinner and Williams (2018) describe university and school district collaborations for bilingual students, Winn and Beck (2018) explore learning through global, online collaborations, and Stewart, et al. (2018) advocate team learning in TESOL.

In our Michigan post-secondary institutions exciting collaborative projects are bringing people together as well, including service-learning projects in the community, professional development projects, grants for teachers to enroll in ESL endorsement programs, TESOL practica and internships with local resettlement organizations, community centers, and more.

Make sure to mark your calendars for the MITESOL conference 2019 on November 1-2, where we can join together in our SIG meeting to share details of collaborations in our institutions and suggest ideas for more collaborative projects!

Read more:

Crawford, W.J., McDonough, K., & Brun-Mercer, N. (2019). Identifying linguistic markers of collaboration in second language peer interaction: A lexico-grammatical approach. TESOL Quarterly, 53(1), 180-207. doi: 10.1002/tesq.477

Skinner, E.A. & Williams, P. (2018). Friends with benefits: Collaboration between a state university and a school district designed to improve teaching and learning for bilingual students. Journal of Multilingual Education Research, 8 (1), 61-74. Retrieved from:

Stewart, T., Dalsky, D, & Tajino, A. (2018). Team learning potential in TESOL practice, TESOL Journal. Retrieved from:

Winn, W. & Beck, K. (2018). How ESP pedagogy in international virtual collaboration contributes to the authenticity of the learning process: A case study. International Online Journal of Education and Teaching (IOJET), 5(4), 1031-1038. Retrieved from:

Upcoming events:

  • MITESOL Conference 2019, “Collaborating for Success”, November 1-2, 2019, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids. See you there!

  • Midwest Association of Language Testers (MwALT) Conference, 2019, “Building Pathways Between Language and Assessment”, October 4-5, Indiana University Bloomington

See you in November!

Cynthia Macknish

Post-secondary SIG leader

Eastern Michigan University

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Updates from the Field

Review of 'Changing practices for the L2 writing classroom: Moving beyond the five-paragraph essay'

by Colleen Brice

Within days of its release, I had a copy of this edited collection in my hands. It couldn’t have come fast enough. It was the end of Winter term, and I was finishing up teaching a course on the teaching of second language reading and writing in which the five-paragraph essay had featured as a major source of controversy. With memories of heated debate among class members fresh in my mind, I dove into this collection, looking for counsel, if not affirmation. I was not disappointed.

Edited by Nigel A. Caplan & Ann M. Johns, the volume represents the outgrowth of a panel organized for the 2017 TESOL Convention by the Second Language Writing Interest Section to address controversies surrounding the use of the five-paragraph essay in L2 writing instruction. The resulting collection includes contributions from all members of the 2017 panel and a few invited pieces.

What’s inside?

The book contains ten chapters divided into three parts, as well as an introduction and conclusion by the editors. Part 1: Understanding the Five Paragraph Essay (henceforth, 5PE) comprises three chapters that provide much-needed historical context for the collection while dispelling major myths. Together, they explain what 5PE is not: old, a genre, universal. In the opening chapter, Caplan traces the genesis of 5PE back only to mid-nineteenth century USA, showing how it developed as a “quick fix”—an attempt to help students with increasingly varied educational and linguistic backgrounds learn the so-called “basics of college writing.” In Chapter 2, Christine Tardy reviews the defining characteristics of genre, explaining how 5PE fails to meet each. Arguing that there is and should be a distinction between form (which 5PE exemplifies) and genre (which 5PE does not), she offers seven strategies post-secondary teachers can use to help students learn to disambiguate the 5PE formula from more dynamic, rhetorical genres. In 3, Ulla Connor and Estela Ene detail the status of 5PE in three broad linguistic contexts: ESL, EFL, and other (first) languages. Their conclusion: 5PE is by no means universal. They recommend the application of principles of Intercultural Rhetoric to help students learn to negotiate complex differences in writing expectations across cultural contexts.

The second part of the collection, Writing practices beyond the 5PE, contains six chapters that offer research-based, practice-tested possibilities for teaching L2 writing in meaningful, non-formulaic ways. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on writing in elementary and secondary schools, respectively. In 4, Luciana de Oliveira & Sharon Smith present a genre-based curriculum centered around the three text types (narrative, explanatory, argument) into which The Common Core has divided writing. They describe and exemplify each of the four phases of a Teaching/Learning Cycle teachers can use to scaffold elementary students’ writing development across content areas. In Chapter 5, Christina Ortmeier-Hooper asks us to reconsider the notion that 5PE constitutes an effective scaffold for secondary students’ future writing, addressing two important questions: for whom does 5PE serve as a scaffold, and toward what are we trying to scaffold writers? She deftly refutes common arguments for 5PE as a temporary scaffold by simply reviewing the material conditions of writing instruction today. Following this, Ortmeier-Hooper presents seven concrete ways teachers can create better scaffolding for secondary school writing instruction—ways that go beyond the survival genre she identifies 5PE as having become.

The remaining four chapters of Part 2 focus on writing at the post-secondary level. Chapters 6 and 7 address early undergraduate writing. In 6, Dana Ferris & Hogan Hayes address another unfounded assumption underlying 5PE pedagogy: skills transferability. After reviewing research on learning transfer, which suggests 5PE skills are not transferable, they present an alternative approach that addresses the need felt among teachers for a foundation upon which to start when teaching complex writing tasks. In 7, co-editor Ann Johns offers suggestions for helping novice undergraduate students learn to analyze the features that comprise various genres, which include offering students multiple opportunities to respond to timed, in-class writing tasks.

Chapters 8 and 9 shift the focus to disciplinary writing. In 8, Silvia Pessoa & Thomas Mitchell unpack the language required by three discourse patterns that are common across disciplines (namely, description, analysis, and argumentation). They present and clearly illustrate two strategies for helping students learn to recognize the expectations of writing assignments in their disciplinary coursework. In 9, Christine Feak discusses the ways in which a focus on 5PE in EAP writing instruction fails to prepare prospective graduate students for the kinds of writing they will be required to do in graduate school. She offers three strategies for preparing graduate writers that take into account key characteristics of graduate writing (namely, genre-specificity, intertextuality, and situatedness).

Section 3 (Chapter 10) moves beyond the classroom to address the wider socio-educational context within which writing is taught. Deborah Crusan and Todd Ruecker discuss the pernicious influence of high-stakes, standardized testing on L2 writing pedagogy at all levels. The authors link the narrowing of classroom writing instruction to rigid formulas like 5PE to the design of popular standardized writing assessments, characterizing the problem as an unintended washback effect, and they conclude with practical strategies instructors can implement to teach writing for authentic purposes alongside/within their current test-driven realities.

Should you read this book?

Yes—for several reasons. First, because it addresses one of the most persistent controversial issues facing L2 writing teachers today. Whether you were aware of the problems with 5PE pedagogy before reading this review or not, you’ll benefit from the collection. For those of you who have reflected on the problems of 5PE, this volume will expand your understanding of the historical context that gave rise to it and offer research-based, field-tested practical suggestions for you to try (whether you teach at the elementary, secondary, IEP, undergraduate, or graduate level). For those of you who are skeptical of criticisms of 5PE and those who haven’t considered the issue—you’ll learn a great deal, and likely be convinced to change your mind.

Second, you should read this book because it has its roots in our organization. The first editor is a former member of MITESOL’s advisory board, and he cites a question he received at a MITESOL Conference presentation as the catalyst for the entire collection. In addition, two of the chapters were written by upcoming MITESOL Conference speakers. MITESOL 2019 keynote, Deborah Crusan, is coauthor of the final chapter (on 5PE and L2 writing assessment), and 2020 keynote speaker, Luciana de Oliviera, coauthored the chapter on elementary writing. Read the book now, and bring your questions for Professor Crusan to the 2019 Conference in Grand Rapids this November.

Colleen Brice is associate professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics in the Department of English at Grand Valley State University, where she teaches courses in linguistics, TESL, and ESL writing for undergraduate and graduate students. She has been a member of MITESOL's board for the past seven years, and she currently serves as historian and co-chair of the 2019 Conference. Her research interests include issues in second language writing, teacher education, and LESLLA (Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults). Her work has appeared in the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of English Studies, TESOL Journal, and Language. You can contact her at

A Reflection on Teacher Identity While Co-Teaching EFL American History to 5th Graders in Montenegro

By Michelle Medved

“Where is Montenegro?” I was often asked when I explained my study abroad plans for the summer. Truth is, I had to look it up myself. Still, I was excited to go to another country, experience a different culture, and learn from new students.

As a relatively new teacher, I had had a stressful school year trying to balance starting a MATESOL program, working full time, and having a semblance of a personal life. A lot of challenges had come up throughout the year, and I was finishing up in June feeling uncertain about myself as a teacher. Safe to say, I was unsure of how my study abroad experience would go, but I was ready for something different.

My professor asked us to co-teach the 5th graders of our Summer Language Institute about American history—all things that I hadn’t done before. I had trouble visualizing how to teach relatively young students with little background knowledge about an unfamiliar topic while also teaching them English and working with another teacher. Add in my disheartening feelings about my second school year teaching—I was worried.

Teaching is a very personal career. Everyone has their own style, their own best way of doing things. It’s a career that seems to be open for societal criticism because everyone has been through school. Everyone has stories of their favorite teacher ever and the one time a teacher caused a horrible experience for them as a vulnerable youth. Educators are often made out to be do-gooders who sacrifice their lives for their students. Our state requires new teachers to be frequently evaluated by our administrators. Add in parental and student concerns, especially when students in underserved populations like ELs are involved, the pressure can be overwhelming.

My experience in Montenegro, though new territory at times, felt like educating at its most pure. The students were at our Summer Institute because they wanted to be and they were excited to learn English. I adored their hugs and interest when I showed them photos of U.S. National Parks. They genuinely enjoyed our lessons and made tremendous growth in two weeks. Students who were silent in English the first day were trying to speak by the end of the first week.

Teaching abroad was not without its challenges. Collaborating with another teacher required a lot of communication. There was definitely a number of cross-cultural miscommunications with the school, and the students. Our cumulative project was a moving target and we had to adjust plans to address it.

Ultimately, our highlights with the students came down to, following the basics. We were more successful when we slowed down the content far more than we anticipated. Everything needed visuals, repetition, and very clear directions. The students loved intriguing images and topics like the Grand Canyon and pirates. They found value in purposeful tasks and ultimately in painting two tables about what “freedom” means. The students now have a permanent fixture at their school that they can walk by and know that they contributed to it. And they are so, so proud.

All of them said something in English at our End of Institute parent ceremony, and I was so proud of them too. My most rewarding moments with students were the little ones—when the quieter students finally spoke to me, when they came up with thoughtful answers during our See, Think, Wonder, and when they brainstormed descriptive words together and translated for each other.

As a teacher, especially a new one, these moments are so important. I need the validation that I’m doing something right, that my pedagogical instincts are in tune, that my students see the purpose in what we’re doing. When teaching English language learners, these moments are not always so frequent. Not all of my students are open about how much they understand. With my newcomers, sometimes it’s a matter of gestures, single words, and Google Translate.

When I was in undergrad, teaching English to a total beginner seemed like a very abstract thing—something that I could not fathom being able to do. But over the years, it’s gotten easier. It still feels mind boggling at times, but it becomes a more familiar feeling. Teachers need these moments of validation to feel effective, to maintain their own faith. If it wasn’t for my experience in Montenegro this summer, I’m not sure where I would be.

Michelle Medved is an EL and Social Studies teacher at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, MI. She is currently pursuing her MATESOL from Eastern Michigan University where she is a participant in the WritEL research program. She is passionate about research, teacher and student identities, and bettering the K-12 educational process for all those involved.

Contact her at

Teacher Reflection: Class Culture that Celebrates English Learners

by Maggie Wunderlich

I read the email in disbelief. With less than two months left of school, I was getting a new student from Brazil. What was “Fausto’s” English proficiency? How could I best help him adjust to a foreign country, new school, and culture? My moment of trepidation turned into confidence and excitement. Regardless of Fausto’s English proficiency, I knew he would adjust well because my first-grade classroom was a safe learning environment in which English learners (ELs) were viewed as assets.

Decades ago, at the beginning of my journey as an English learner, I felt humiliated when my teacher said, “He isn’t cheating from your paper because your paper is all wrong.” A classmate had been kicking my foot under the table across from me, but my verbal complaint was misunderstood by my teacher. Many of the other students giggled, but I did not. In an instant, I distrusted her. I became silent in class for the next few days. What if that teacher had created a safe learning environment in which ELs felt safe to take risks with language and their differences were celebrated instead of ridiculed? How do teachers create such a class culture? I offer this teacher reflection in order to share my practices, in the hopes that other teachers will make the paradigm shift from a deficit-based perspective to an asset-based perspective.

I learned about the importance of having an asset-based perspective through TESOL graduate courses at Eastern Michigan University. As most teachers know, when ELs arrive in our classrooms, they come with a wide range of linguistic proficiencies and academic content knowledge. Moreover, they need accessible and comprehensible instruction (and resources) since they are challenged with learning various content areas while they are learning the English language. Given this, it is not surprising that ELs are often perceived by teachers as having a deficit, as problems that need to be fixed. Thus, when we shift our perspectives from deficit-based to asset-based, we utilize the ELs’ assets through affirming and celebrating their cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Long before Fausto’s first day, I provided and read multicultural texts that celebrated differences, discussed the difficulties and courage of moving to another country, and shared anecdotes about my own English learner experiences. I enlisted the help of ELs as experts whenever I read bilingual books, and during geography lessons when I asked them to share experiences, such as how long was their trip to India? Singapore? Mexico? I made travel journals for my students to take on extended family trips to India, and provided opportunities to share their journals and experiences upon their return.

After I learned that Fausto was homesick and nervous about starting at a new school, I reassured his parents that he would make friends quickly. I provided a way for them to easily communicate with me and made myself accessible at all times. I answered their questions about school hours, lunch, transportation -- everything was new to them. I explained how the school website could be translated into Portuguese. I shared our class SeeSaw account (a digital student portfolio) where Fausto could look at class pictures in order to ease his anxiety about what to expect. Furthermore, knowing that we would have a Mother’s Day celebration on his first Friday, I provided all of the logistics and said his younger brother was welcome since she did not have childcare.

At that time, I spoke with Fausto’s parents about his English proficiency and later confirmed that our class iPads had Google Translate installed. I assigned several students as class buddies, including one sitting next to him that was fluent in Spanish since there are several cognates in Spanish and Portuguese. Other students would help with routines, including our morning, reading rotations, end-of-day pack up and going to lunch, recess, and specials. Each morning, eager students asked if Fausto was starting that day and we discussed ways to be a good friend.

So…with only 28 days left of school, Fausto entered our classroom for the first time. He came early before school started so that I could show him and his parents the class and answer any lingering questions. Fausto was a bit nervous, but those first few minutes without the other students made a huge difference. I showed Fausto his seat, where to hang up his things, his mailbox and more.

Excited voices rang out across the room as students dashed to Fausto right away. Sitting next to him during class activities was in high demand. We played a name game using hand and body motions. This was a non-threatening way for Fausto to learn other students’ names because its silliness put him at ease. I could see that Fausto knew some English, but his vocabulary was lacking at times. When I offered him the iPad and showed him Google Translate, he was visibly relieved. I made sure not to speak too quickly, avoided idioms, and used several gestures and visual examples. Fausto looked a bit overwhelmed and jet-lagged at times, but his huge smile told me that he did really well on his first day.

Soon, I made Fausto a "star student of the week" in which he could share show-and-tell items every day. He literally beamed! This was helpful for the rest of the students to get to know Fausto. They could see him as an asset because he taught us about several things -- like he brought in a book about "cities around the world" and I asked him to read one part in Portuguese. He did a beautiful job and his pride showed through his wide smile. Since my students were accustomed to celebrating others’ cultures and languages, they were open-minded and acted impressed with Fausto’s language. They gave him compliments and asked good questions.

Shortly after that, I gave Fausto the opportunity to create and share a "hall of fame" poster that is displayed in the hall for the whole school. Fausto shared his poster, with colorful photographs about his family and interests. Again, he shined. At times, he grasped for the right words and the other students were accepting and did not laugh since our class mantra is “mistakes are proof that you are trying.” Lastly, I scheduled Fausto’s mother as our "mystery reader" -- this is something we do all year long, but she had missed the sign-up sheet. Prior to coming, I explained what we do and even asked if she could share something about Brazil. She was super excited about this and asked if she could bring a PowerPoint and special Brazilian cheese bread. Um...YES! Talk about having ELs and their families as assets.

When Fausto’s mother was our mystery reader, she shared with the students that she was nervous since English was her second language. I took that moment to say that this was a safe place and we make mistakes all the time - including me - and all of my students said the mantra "mistakes are proof that you are trying.” (Proud teacher moment). She read beautifully and the kids loved the cheese bread (me too) and then she shared the AMAZING PowerPoint about Brazil, including short videos showing many of the unique animals. My students were thrilled.

The importance of creating this class culture was confirmed to me when I read Dr. Ildiko Porter-Szucs’s personal narrative Prevention Over Cure: A Tale of Two Study-Abroad Experiences in Elementary School (2018). The story is about her daughter’s two drastically different study-abroad experiences in which she felt celebrated at one school while she felt ostracized at the other. One can see that much of her experiences, good and bad, can be traced back to whether or not the teachers created an environment that celebrated newcomers.

Since Fausto’s first day, his mother has thanked me profusely for making her family (and her son in particular) feel welcome at school. She said, "[Fausto] looked very proud when he came home! You have been fantastic to him and to me too. Thank you, I have felt very safe with the school, mainly because of you!" Not only did Fausto and his family benefit from being part of this class culture where ELs are viewed as assets, but all of the students’ lives were enriched by learning about another culture, country, language, and being more acceptable of others who were different, which has far-reaching benefits to society long after they leave my classroom.


Porter-Szucs, I. (2018). Prevention over cure: A tale of two study-abroad experiences in

elementary school. InterCom, March 2018. TESOL International Association. Retrieved


Maggie Wunderlich is a first-grade teacher at Orchard Hills Elementary in Novi. Maggie attained a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. She is dedicated to inspiring all students to become lifelong learners and specially to love language arts. You can contact her at

What Good Is a Vocabulary Notebook?

by Jeannine M. Lorenger

Vocabulary notebooks are a staple of many Intensive English Program (IEP) reading classes. An instructor may ask students to keep a vocabulary notebook (VN) with categories such as definition, part of speech, other words in the “word family,” and an example sentence for each new word. The instructor intends that students will better learn to use the word by doing this, but the students sometimes do the work cursorily, copy down unhelpful example sentences, or do not return to their VNs to review the new words. They may even complain that a VN is “just busy work” and not beneficial. How can we help our students utilize this tool so that they can actively use new vocabulary? While there are options for online vocabulary practice, this article will offer my suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of a traditional VN previously assigned as homework or class work. Feel free to adapt them as you like!

Guess the missing word

Perhaps you have come across the game where students take turns reading a random sentence from their latest VN entries aloud to a partner(s). The reader should read the whole sentence EXCEPT the target word aloud; the partner(s) must guess the missing word. Here are my variations on that activity:

  • The easy way: For the first few times a VN is assigned, students all use the same dictionary (printed or online). This ensures that everyone will have the same example sentences. The instructor may want to look the words up first to check that the examples provide a clear context appropriate to the class level. If there is more than one definition, the instructor could also specify which definition to use. When students play the guessing game in class the next day, they will find it relatively easy since they have all seen the same examples.

The example sentences could also come from a class reading passage if the sentences are short enough and clear enough.

  • Adding some challenge: Once students are familiar with the activity, they do not all need to use the same dictionary to look up their VN entries. The variety of example sentences will provoke more thought during the game. Alternatively, they could write their own example sentences. Note: In either case, the instructor will probably need to check these and give feedback before the activity begins! Then students may self-correct for homework or class work before playing. Part of the learning process is to discover why certain examples work well and others do not.

When students do not have identical example sentences, the activity can be repeated the same day or the next day with a different partner.

  • Another option: Advanced students who need to choose their own target vocabulary can still play the game by trading notebooks with a partner. The partner simply uses the writer’s own example sentences for the game.

Trading VNs can also be a good “reality check” technique for lower level students who insist on copying long complex sentences as their examples! “Longer” is not necessarily better; “clear and easy to remember” is better.

  • For review or additional practice: After the class has some familiarity with the new vocabulary, assign half of the words to certain students and half to other students to write/find new example sentences. (Dividing the words among three or four groups also works well.) In class the next day, learners play the game with a partner(s) who was assigned different words.

  • Practicing word forms: The instructor chooses words with multiple forms, e.g. simple/simply/simplicity/simplify, and decides who will write example sentences with adjectives, who with nouns, etc. Before the game the instructor checks these sentences (see #2 above). I recommend that students play in small groups representing a variety of word forms, but some overlap (e.g. one partner with adverb sentences, one with noun sentences, two with verb sentences, etc.) is not a problem.

This activity works best with a rather short word list, or the reader may tell the “guessers” the base form of the word each time for a quicker game.

  • Still more challenge: Every example sentence in the VN (or in a review – see #4 above) must contain two target words! (The instructor may choose to reduce the number of example sentences.) Before students play the game, they write down the pairs of words used in their sentences on a separate sheet of paper and give their partner(s) this “word bank,” so the partner(s) will guess which pair fits, sentence by sentence.

On a quiz, students may be given a bonus half-point for any original sentence (i.e., a sentence that was spontaneously created during the quiz time) with two target words.

Learning is a process, and collaboration can support that process. For all of the above variations of the guessing game, I allow students to “coach” their partners if needed by saying things like “It’s a noun” or “It means big” or “It starts with L.” In most cases, I also allow both the readers and the “guessers” to use their own VNs during an activity. Below are a couple of ideas that are not based on the guessing game.

  • Themes: Here is a technique from my colleague, Colette Urian. On a quiz, ask students to choose a given number of words from a word bank and write an original sentence with each one. Every sentence must be connected to the same theme, which the instructor specifies but students do not know in advance! This prevents students from simply memorizing a few sentences to copy down on a quiz.

The same technique can be used with a VN if the words lend themselves to a theme – but of course, the instructor needs to change the theme for the quiz!

  • More practice with word forms: This activity works best when it goes quickly. With their completed VNs, students go to the board in pairs or groups of three. The instructor directs one student in each group to write a short sentence from his/her VN on the board. The other(s) in the group will change the sentence slightly as the instructor dictates. Students take turns originating or altering the sentences. All pairs or groups work simultaneously.

For example, Student One in each pair may need to write a sentence with a target verb (the student can choose which target verb to use). Then the instructor calls out something like, “Make it past!” or “Make it a question!” The partner has to change the sentence accordingly. If there is another partner, s/he gets a new command. After that, Student Two is directed to write one of his/her own VN sentences on the board, e.g. with a target noun of the student’s choosing. Next, the instructor may call out, “Singular!” or “Add an adjective to describe that noun!” Student One makes the changes. Partners may help one another. The instructor can be as creative as s/he would like with the directions!

This becomes a bit “messy” when students work at different speeds or when there are no changes to be made (for example, when some students have written sentences in the present and some in the past), but it provides good opportunities for immediate feedback. (Do this all along!) If the instructor keeps the activity moving, it is enjoyable.

As students assist and occasionally compete against each other in these classroom activities, their appreciation of VNs will increase. They will learn to use not only the VNs but also their new vocabulary.

Jeannine Lorenger, M.A.-TESOL is a senior ESL Specialist at Saginaw Valley State University's English Language Program. She can be contacted at

Beyond Zombieism to ESL Student Engagement

by Bright Egwim

Technology plays a significant role in teaching and learning especially when a teacher knows how to use it in teaching English as Second Language (ESL) to English Language Learners (ELLs) who are from diverse language backgrounds. You may agree with me that some technology tools are ineffective and boring perhaps based on their constructs. For that reason, they make our students look like “Zombies,” staring at their computers praying and hoping for class to be over. In this article, I am sharing with you my experiences using a technology tool called Nearpod, what I have been doing with it, as well as move us beyond zombieism to student-student and teacher-student engagement using Nearpod technology in our ESL classrooms.

Nearpod is one of the technologies that provides a teacher with control over students learning experience. The technology allows the teacher to either launch a live or student-paced lesson. I prefer launching the live lesson for instruction. For example, in my class I launch a live lesson during presentation. My students are provided with a code to join the lesson using their Chromebooks. To avoid boredom, I instruct my students to listen and take notes on each slide, and then click on the send or save icon to submit their notes. Depending on the lesson, sometimes, I would have them take two different notes (e.g. one from the teacher and the other from what their pairs have written) before using them to engage in conversation with pairs in the class. Sometimes, it is important to differentiate tasks or have students engage in independent reading, which is a reason to launch a student-paced lesson. Unlike the live lesson, the student-paced lesson allows my students to execute assigned tasks at their respective pace. The technology provides me with the opportunity to time my students’ assigned tasks as well as monitor their progress from my end (e.g. computer, phone or iPad). This enables me to multi-task. In fact, while walking around offering support and spot-checking, I can also access the app from my phone to keep checking on their work. In other words, with Nearpod I can monitor my students’ performance, see who has completed a task and who is still working on one.

Speaking of checking my students' work, Nearpod allows students to write, draw, erase, choose text color, color, take quizzes and play games, including a Nearpod version of the Kahoot game. It allows me to generate a report sheet of everybody’s performance on each task ranging from note taking, writing, drawing, poll, quiz, open and close-ended questions and so on; including their overall performance in percentage. The best part of it is that my ESL students do not have to lose their assignments because of excuses like, “the wind blew it away”, “I forgot it at home”, “I did not want to miss the bus so I rushed out of the house” and so on. It is fully online. As such, students can pick up from wherever they left off if they have the access code that allows them to join the lesson.

Furthermore, Nearpod technology tool provides access to virtual reality and the best part for me is the ability to go paperless, yet having the job done while ensuring my ELLs academic success. During instruction for instance, we may talk about Paris and visit the place using virtual reality provided through Nearpod. The first time my students were exposed to it, they were like, “Wow! This is cool!” That is not all. With this technology tool, I can upload documents such as word, pdf, power point and even pictures to any lesson or activities and tasks that require me to do so. The goal is to make learning fun, engaging, challenging and at the same time, effective. This technology tool makes my class achieve all that and more. My students are motivated to perform tasks and always asking questions, which makes me feel successful. However, to be more effective using this technology, the teacher also has a role to play. The teacher must learn and know how to use Nearpod to maximize its potential if lessons are to be effective. This technology like many others will be less effective unless the user knows how to optimize them to achieve an academic goal.

Finally, Nearpod technology is not perfect in the sense that it is not free, it is fully online which means that schools would require a high speed and reliable internet connection to have students and teachers benefit most from it. Often, my students complain of being logged out suddenly. I cannot tell if it is an issue with their Chromebook, network or the technology tool itself. However, the good news is that they are always able to sign in again using the code provided to continue to perform their academic tasks. For more information about this technology, visit:

Egwim Bright Onyekachi works with Kalamazoo Public Schools as a paraprofessional but currently teaching Summer school. Prior to that position, he served as a Graduate Research Assistant at Literacy Studies/TESOL unit, Western Michigan University where he obtained his M.A. TESOL degree. He is passionate about teaching and research, which is the reason he plans to pursue a PhD in TESOL starting Fall 2019. He can be reached at

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Feel free to contact us with any comments or concerns. Enjoy the end of summer!

Clarissa Codrington

Jessica Piggot