February 2021 * Vol. 47, Issue 1
Hello Fellow MITESOL members!
I am sure most of us breathed a sigh of relief leaving 2020 behind; however, in spite of all the challenges everyone faced, it was still a wonderful year for MITESOL. Our MITESOL professionals faced the pandemic head-on and stepped up to provide amazing support for each other and educators throughout the state as we tackled virtual teaching and learning from preschool through graduate school!
After a first successful MITESOL webinar on June 9th where we received wonderful training from Kelly Alvarez, Michigan Department of Education, we moved on to our 2020 Virtual Conference: Empowering Diverse Voices. The virtual platform allowed people to attend from all over the world! 259 registered attendees enjoyed the opportunity to attend 34 concurrent sessions, 6 Special Interest Group meetings, and were honored to learn from our amazing keynote and featured speakers: Dr. Caelan Soma, Starr Commonwealth, Rebecca Ontiveros-Chavez, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Kelly Alvarez, Michigan Department of Education, Dustin DeFelice, Patricia Walters, Lawrence J. Zwier, and Mark Albee from the English Language Center at Michigan State University, and Carol Salva, Seidlitz Education.
Additionally, MITESOL extends our deepest gratitude to our Exhibitors and Sponsors for supporting this event. Gold Sponsors: U.S. Department of State English Language Programs, Savvas Learning Company, and Seidlitz Education. Exhibitors: Cornerstone University, Imagine Learning, LLC International University, McGraw Hill, TESOL International Association, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, University of Michigan Press ELT. Raffle Prizes & Donations: Cornerstone University, Imagine Learning, Language Magazine, McGraw Hill, Seidlitz Education, and Saddleback Educational Publishing.
Finally, thank you again to our current Past-President and my co-chair, Tina Kozlowski for all her hard work!
We appreciate all those who completed the conference survey as we review the information while planning for the next conference. The feedback we received is crucial, because while we would love to see everyone in person this year, the board has decided that the 2021 conference must remain virtual for one more year to ensure everyone’s safety. Be on the lookout for more information to be announced on our website in the upcoming months in respect to dates, call for proposals, final conference dates, and keynote speakers.
In March, is the virtual 2021 TESOL International Convention. We would like to know if any of our MITESOL community members are presenting! If you are representing Michigan by presenting at the international convention, please complete our form here. We will compile your results and create a list of all MITESOL member presentations which will be posted on www.mitesol.org.
THANK YOU again to everyone who has volunteered for MITESOL in the past year and WELCOME to those who have joined our membership this past fall. This organization would not exist without your dedication and willingness to collaborate for our students and programs.
From the Editor
- President-Elect Updates
- Past President Updates
- Board News
- Adult Education SIG Updates
- Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates
- K-12 SIG Updates
- Post-Secondary SIG Updates
Updates from the field:
- Music as the Universal Language – Or Is It?
- MITESOL and IATEFL Poland Meet in Cyberspace
- Constructing a Media-Based Corpus for ESP Class
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Greetings MITESOLers! Some of you I have known for a few years now, and some of you I look forward to meeting soon. In fact, that first opportunity may be approaching quickly. As President-Elect, I am of course thrilled to be the 2021 Conference Co-Chair with Liz Sirman, but I’m also pleased to be planning our first ever virtual MITESOL Reception at TESOL!
The MITESOL Reception is known every year as a celebratory event to give thanks and networking opportunities to our amazing ESL educators in attendance at the TESOL Convention. Given that this year’s convention will be virtual, we thought that would be the perfect chance to open up our reception to all MITESOL members for free — regardless of your attendance at the convention. You will enjoy a signature cocktail (and mocktail!) demonstration by Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings (Ann Arbor, MI), a fantastic practical session on the 5 elements of self-care for educators by Annette Lauria of Yoga. (Mount Clemens, MI), plus raffles and networking, all from the comfort of your own home. You must register to attend. Check out the event flyer, or click here for event details, FAQs, and registration.
By the way, as one part of our 2021 MITESOL Reception, we’d like to feature our members and what the past year has meant to you. If you have a photo you’d like to share for our reception slideshow, please send it to me! It could be personal, professional, serious, or fun — expect to see my cats! (Remember not to include any photos of students unless you have their written consent.)
See you soon,
Past President Updates
I am pleased to write to you all as Past-President. My two years as the conference chair/co-chair have been extremely rewarding, but I am also thrilled to broaden my focus during my last 10 months on the board. This year, as Past-President, I look forward to increasing the opportunities we have for members to connect virtually through our website and future events and help lead the MITESOL board in reviewing its processes and practices as we continue to improve our organizational structure and benefits we can offer our members.
MITESOL continues to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with IATEFL Poland, a fellow affiliate of the international TESOL organization. While IATEFL Poland also had to adjust their conference to a virtual presence, we were grateful to have our Past-Past President Ildi Porter-Szucsattended on behalf of MITESOL. Look for her article in this newsletter about the experience! We hope to host an IATEFL Poland guest at the TESOL International Convention being held virtually this March. Check out www.tesol.org for registration information. The virtual event has made this convention much more affordable and accessible for those interested in connecting to ESOL colleagues from across the globe.
MITESOL offers several grants to our members. We offer travel grants for our annual MITESOL conference as well as our own MITESOL version of the Marckwardt Award. This past November, we awarded virtual conference grants to the following MITESOL members:
Melissa McDonald (2019) Hazel Park Schools
Tanya Wood (2020)
Ypsilanti Community Schools
I Putu Indra Kusuma (2020) Western Michigan University
Tiffany Stachnik (2019) Northern Michigan University English Language Institute
Haley Gardner (2019) Alpena Community College & Alpena Library READ Program
Look for 2021 conference grant announcements later this year or by visiting www.mitesol.org.
This is our second 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 2022!.
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, in addition to the new board members we announced in the August newsletter and at the annual conference. Changes on the leadership team since our last newsletter have included Liz Sirman of Ypsilanti Schools transitioning from President-Elect & 2020 Conference Co-Chair to our President & 2021 Conference Chair. MITESOL is in great hands with Liz as our president! Jennifer Musser has returned to the MITESOL board as our President-Elect and 2021 Conference Co-Chair. Jennifer and Liz are already working hard on the fall conference. Ildi Porter-Szucs of Eastern Michigan University has left the board and we cannot thank her enough for her leadership of the organization. We are sad to see Ildi go but know that she is no stranger to MITESOL and we look forward to her enjoying MITESOL as a member.
We are ready for a Winter 2021 MITESOL Board Election! We have had some immediate openings and want to take advantage of the opportunity to bring members to the board during this transition time! Please read about the candidates here on this Google Form and submit your vote for the new board members! We are thrilled to bring on a new webmaster, newsletter editor and exhibits manager as we prepare for the work ahead in 2021! Please vote by March 20th to share your voice with the board.
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 2021! I hope to see you all at the MITESOL Virtual Reception in March where we can officially announce our new board members after the election closes on March 20th!
It has been quite a year of learning new technology and gaining skills in engaging with others online. The board and sub committees did a fantastic job of planning, organizing and facilitating the fall 2020 virtual conference. It was very successful with participants from Michigan as well as several countries.
Mitesol currently has 335 members!
The board continues to work on the internal organization of documents and a running calendar.
At the February board meeting, the board voted to host the Fall 2021 conference virtually. Stay tuned for the theme and more details.
Board meeting dates for 2021
April 24th - Michigan Library (tentative) (Collin with help with this!)
August 21st - Virtual likely
November 13th - Virtual
Adult Education SIG Updates
Winter, 2021 MITESOL Adult Education SIG Update
How is the winter going?! As the corona vaccines find their way to some, and not to others, here are more resources, news articles, and advocacy opportunities to give you something to think about while waiting for the next Zoom meeting.
Please stay active on the Adult Ed message board!
--Collin Blair, Adult Ed. SIG Leader (Adultfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Michigan’s superintendent calls for increasing required school days
Online courses and virtual seminars at TESOL.org
Even if we’re not having in-person conferences, there’s no reason to stop growing professionally!
Jobs and Skills Training
February is career and technical education month!
Pure Michigan jobs and skills training
Peruse this website for many options to aid your students with workforce training and jobs:
*Also, refer students to local Michigan Works! offices for asssistance with resumes, interviewing skills, and locating available jobs: https://www.michiganworks.org/
2020 Michigan Census numbers
Be an advocate for ELLs
7 effective ways teachers can advocate for their English learners
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?
Resources for Adult Students (and their teachers!)
VOA News Learning English
One of my all-time faves. ESL-centered materials in all skills, videos, grammar lessons, idioms, current events and beyond.
Free tools to make your students better writers
Public Libraries: Adult literacy, GED, & citizenship classes
Detroit Public Library (but many offer these services)--https://detroitpubliclibrary.org/services/adult-literacy-ged
Citizenship Test Practice
As the printed books + cds are no longer being produced, this website is the place to refer your students for citizenship test prep.
Various articles that touch on topics and themes that affect our students and our teaching:
Changes in USCIS processing:
Michigan community college students can now more easily transfer to 4-year institutions
Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates
Welcome to 2021! Here are some Advocacy & Policy updates from SIG Leader, Sharon Umlor:
Registration is now open for the 2021 TESOL Virtual Advocacy & Policy Summit (Jun. 21-23)! Over the course of three-days, topics that will be discussed include: K-12, higher education, IEP, and adult English learner policies; U.S. immigration law and public policy; Global English learner advocacy issues; TESOL’s priorities for the new 117th Session of the United States Congress; and Policy resources for educators. The third and final day of the Summit will not only be dedicated to meeting virtually with your members of Congress and sending messages through the TESOL Advocacy Action Center, but it will also include a special session featuring representatives from TESOL’s Affiliate Network.
If you are attending the virtual TESOL International Convention Mar. 24-27, be sure to check out these Public Policy and Advocacy sessions!
Since the beginning of the year, TESOL has released many press releases regarding advocacy issues set on the national stage. Topics include: President Biden’s executive orders, immigration reform, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, WIDA ACCESS testing, and the U.S. federal budget and COVID-19 relief bill.
How to Advocate Efficiently for Policy Change? Sometimes it feels policy issues are too big for the ordinary person to make a difference, but this guide on how to advocate effectively from Michigan’s Children outlines why it’s necessary for policymakers making the decisions to hear from people really experiencing the effects of policies -- children, your family, and your neighbors. You know what could be done differently to make things better. Read the guide, and contact your Michigan policymakers!
You can also contact your legislators easily using the TESOL Advocacy Action Center. Sign up for alerts so you can reach out to policymakers on TESOL-related issues. Currently, there is a federal campaign you can lend your support to Tell the Senate to Support Adult Education Funding.Consider joining the conversation on the Advocacy & Policy SIG message board as well as our Facebook group! Also, please feel free to email SIG Leader Sharon Umlor at email@example.com with any questions or ideas of how you’d like to be more involved.
Post Secondary SIG Updates
Happy February! I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy and warm. This is my first newsletter as Post-Secondary SIG leader and I am very excited to have joined the MITESOL board. I hope you find the information below helpful. If you want us to feature a particular topic in our next newsletter, please let us know.
We have all seen a significant decline in international student enrollment in the past four years. However, here are some exciting news pieces that will hopefully bring more international students to our colleges and universities in the near future.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order to end the travel ban put into place by the previous administration. The travel ban prevented people from several Muslim and African countries from coming to the United States. The president stated that “we will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.”
President Joe Biden is planning to help international students stay in the United States after graduation, especially from science and engineering programs. If this plan is put into action, it could attract more international students to American colleges and universities.
TESOL Quarterly published an interesting study in December that investigated teachers' perceptions of plurilingual practices in a university ESL program in Canada. The authors found several benefits of plurilingual education, such as more engagement from students and a sense of pride in students for being valued for their linguistic repertoire. The teachers in the study also reported that plurilingual instruction created a safe space for students to discuss language and culture.
Galante, A., Okubo, K., Cole, C., Elkader, N. A., Carozza, N., Wilkinson, C., ... & Vasic, J. (2020). “English‐Only Is Not the Way to Go”: Teachers’ Perceptions of Plurilingual Instruction in an English Program at a Canadian University. TESOL Quarterly, 54(4), 980-1009.
2021 Professional Development
March 24-27: TESOL Virtual Convention
Useful Resources & Tools for Teaching Online
Thank you for reading!
Post-Secondary SIG Leader, MITESOL
Faculty Specialist & Coordinator of TESOL, Western Michigan University
K-12 SIG Updates
Hello! I hope this winter finds you well. As you know, our field is constantly evolving. With that in mind, we have developed ways to keep you informed outside of the biannual newsletter. Please use your login to join the K-12 Message Board on our 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, as well.
It’s that time of the year again! The WIDA ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS testing window has been extended and will be open from January 27-April 9, 2021. 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 MDEfirstname.lastname@example.org. When you need support directly from WIDA, contact email@example.com or (866) 276-7735. As you may know, the state did apply for an assessment waiver, so we are eagerly awaiting a follow up response.
WIDA’s new ELD Standards Framework is available on their website for download. After releasing their updated Guiding Principles document in 2019, WIDA announced the 2020 Edition of their English Language Development (ELD) Standards. Stakeholders were invited to provide feedback about these new standards from November 18, 2019-January 20, 2020. The five core WIDA ELD standards will not change, but the updated edition complies with all federal requirements under ESSA while providing clear language expectations and incorporating a new set of resources based on the latest theory, practice, and policy. It also offers shorthand reference codes so educators can note which sections of the standards will be addressed in their lessons.
Many of the recent editions of the Michigan Department of Education Spotlight Newsletter include important WIDA testing reminders/information. 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 website offers great resources for teachers, including Translation Resources and Communicating with Families of ELs.
Resources and Websites
Be sure to check out the links below for a number of helpful tools and resources that have been designed to support the teaching of English Learners. If you have resources or websites to share, to share, please add to our K-12 padlet that is posted on our Membership Board.
2021 Professional Development:
March 24-27: TESOL International Convention and Language Expo, Virtual event
May 6-7: MABE Institute, Dearborn, Michigan
All questions, comments, or suggestions are welcome. Please contact me if you would like more information about reaching and teaching K-12 Multilingual Learners.
Thank you for reading!
K-12 SIG Leader, MITESOL
ELD Teacher/Coordinator, Lamphere Public Schools
Updates from the Field
Music is the Universal Language....Or Is It?
by Christen M. Pearson, Ph.D
“Music can serve as an effective mnemonic device to facilitate verbal learning and recall in healthy persons [e.g., typically developing SLLs] …and children with learning disabilities” (Thaut, 2005, p. 75). This article, therefore, is a preliminary exploration into the potential role of music therapy techniques with the goal of supporting Second Language Learners (SLLs), both typically-developing and at-risk for Language Learning Disorders (LLDs).
Decades ago, in my training as a music therapist (before moving into TESOL), we were taught that we could reach most anyone through music. More recently, though, I have begun to question that assumption. For example, years ago in working with monolingual English speakers and vocabulary acquisition, we would simply set words and phrases to music using a basic I-IV-V chord progression. However, when working with SLLs, we have to consider that the music of their home culture might use different harmonic patterns. If so, instead of helping our learners, we would actually be asking them to perform a more complex task: to not only learn a different language’s sound system, including both individual sounds and coarticulation patterns in words/phrases, but through a different tonal system and different harmonic structure found in American/Western music.
Taking a brain-based approach, what is often not realized is that “music [is] a highly complex, temporally ordered and rule-based sensory language” (Thaut, 2005, vii-viii) that is actually in parallel to the human linguistic system (Patel, 2008). Additionally, there is “differential processing of music and language as two aural communication systems” (Thaut, 2005, vii-viii) in two different areas of the brain.
In order to better understand this, we need to understand that there are two foundational areas of music: rhythm and polyphony (melody, harmonies, etc.). These have similarities/parallels to human language, both structurally and analogically: 1) Phonological: phonemes (language) and notes (music), as well as prosodic features, including pitch, duration, timbre, intensity, accents and inflection patterns; 2) Morphological: the smallest units that convey meaning, in both language and music; 3) Syntactical: organization of word (language) or note (music) patterns into rule-based structures; and 4) Pragmatics: cultural contexts which shape both language and music.
There are also, however, differences between language and music. First, music is more abstract, lacking semantic or referential meaning. Second, language and music have different neurological bases in processing, where speech is more localized with a lateralized neural network in the brain, whereas music is more widely distributed across brain areas.
Implications for Teachers
The above noted difference in brain processing, however, can be optimized to support learning in an enjoyable and motivating manner for all students. We do, though, need to keep in mind the i + 1 concept, where we only add in one new feature or level of difficulty at a time (Krashen, 2003). For example, we would only want to teach new vocabulary with known syntax or new syntax with known vocabulary. The same would hold when using music as a support mechanism – we must be aware of different tonal and harmonic systems, as well as different rhythmic patterns, as we seek to teach a new language. That is, we would not want to use the western tonal system and rhythms (new to our learners) to teach language (also new to them). Instead, we must first start with the music system with which they are already familiar. In order to do so, it becomes incumbent upon teachers to have a basic understanding of the music systems of their students’ home cultures. This can be overwhelming, though, even for someone with a music background.
One solution – a more manageable first step for teachers - would be to focus on rhythm, rather than incorporating the totality of music. The primacy of rhythm and pulse has been noted to occur across all languages and cultures. Historically, techniques with a strong emphasis on rhythm have shown themselves to be useful in a variety of teaching areas. Some well-known techniques include those of Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze (Eurhythmics). (A caution is in order, though: while pulse and beat are universal, metrical systems can differ cross-culturally. Some cultures are ametrical (having free rhythms). Examples include the free jazz movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, music of the serial classical movement, some West African music, and Indian ragas.)
So, What Should a Teacher Do?
Does all of the above mean we should not use music, or be cautious even about using rhythm and pulse? No, but as with much of life and learning, there is a need to be aware that what on the surface looks simple, can actually be complex. As noted above, techniques for using both Orff, Kodaly, and Eurhythmic methods have a long history and are readily available. They are especially recommended for teachers of students learning basic, functional English and/or teachers working with very young and active learners.
The Orff method, a multisensory approach, was developed in the 1920’s. The early stages of the method involve percussive rhythm, as Orff considered it “a natural basic form of human expression” (Wikipedia). One of the many applications of the method is to use chants and call-and-response, both with a percussive beat, to improve speech and language. Full movement body percussion can also be used, especially when working with young children or children having difficulty sitting for longer periods.
The Kodaly method also uses percussive rhythm in the early stages, then adds in walking, running, marching, and clapping, all to a percussive beat. As with the Orff method, it is a holistic approach based on experiential learning. The approach stresses developmental readiness and sequencing of steps, both of which are also stressed when discussing TESOL techniques.
Eurhythmics, introduced into the U.S. in 1968, is another method with a focus on rhythm, considering it to be primal. Students are taught to feel the pulse, beat, meter, and rhythm of music; this is then connected to human activities of language and emotion (Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008).
With all of these methods, ESL teachers can teach stress patterns for English words, first by teaching a strong steady beat on one syllable content words (e.g., nouns and verbs), then by varying the pulse to include both stronger and weaker beats, as one would find in two-syllable words. This can then be expanded to include multiword phrases or short sentences. Once the primary pulse of words and phrases is mastered, inflectional patterns across longer units, such as sentences, can be tackled.
In closing, we can now see that music, itself, is its own language. Therefore, when using it to teach an additional language such as English, we are actually using three languages: the learner’s first language, the language of music, and English. As such, even though music is known to facilitate learning, we can be making learning more complex, and therefore more difficult. However, to utilize the power of music and still keep the learning tasks manageable, we can first start by using the universal primacy of pulse.
It is hoped that this brief article has provided a small introduction to the possibilities of music and language learning. Additional sources of information can be found in the references.
Appreciation for conversations on world music goes to Dave Stamps, DMA, Associate Professor of Music at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where he teaches world music and jazz.
Christen M. Pearson, PhD, Professor at Grand Valley State University, currently teaches courses in applied linguistics.
Davis, W. B., Gfeller, K. E., & Thaut, M. H. (2008). An introduction to music therapy: Theory and
practice. Silver Spring, Maryland: American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
Habermeyer, S. (2014). Good music brighter children: Simple and practical ideas to help transform your
child’s life through the power of music. North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Henriksson-MaCaulay, L. (2014). The music miracle: The scientific secret to unlocking your child’s full
potential. London: Earnest House Publishing.
Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in language acquisition and use. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Patel, A. D. (2008). Music, language, and the brain. New York: Oxford University Press.
Thaut, M. H. (2005). Rhythm, music, and the brain: Scientific foundations and clinical applications. New
MITESOL and IATEFL Poland Meet in Cyberspace
By Ildiko (Ildi) Porter-Szucs, Ph.D
Among the benefits of MITESOL membership is the little-known partnership with the Polish affiliate of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL PL). Since 2017 every other year, a member of the Board of IATEFL PL is hosted by MITESOL at the international TESOL convention while in alternating years a member of MITESOL presents at our sister affiliate’s annual conference. In 2020, it was my pleasure to do so at the “29th ELT Professional Development Event: HighTech – A Teacher’s Promised Land” on September 18-19th. Had the world not been in lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, the hundreds of participants would have been able to enjoy the conference in person, at the Łódź University of Technology. However, as it stood, the event took place online.
During the conference, I attended a dozen invigorating presentations ranging from interdisciplinary online collaboration involving multiple countries, through project-based learning and assessment, to neuroplasticity. I was even invited to give two talks. One was a workshop entitled “Oral Fluency-Building Activities for Teachers and Their Students.” The other was a lecture entitled “How Do You Know that Your Students Are Learning: Practical and Impactful Classroom Assessment,” a version of which my colleagues Cynthia Macknish and Suzanne Toohey and I had co-presented at the 2019 MITESOL conference. The latter is based on our upcoming textbook manuscript with the working title “How Do You Know That Your Students Are Learning: A Practical Guide to Language Assessment.” Following the positive attendee feedback, I have received an invitation to address the IATEFL Testing and Assessment Special Interest Group (IATEFL TEASIG) on May 19, 2021: Content or Language: Do you Know Which One You’re Assessing?
Although the notion of an international conference in the middle of September may give many Michigan teachers a pause, I would like to urge you to jump at the opportunity. Watch out for calls from the MITESOL Board to present at the IATEFL PL conference in September 2022 with substantial financial backing from MITESOL for one fortunate MITESOLer. While you wait for the call for applications, get vaccinated so that you may travel freely as you take full advantage of your MITESOL membership.
Ildiko (Ildi) Porter-Szucs, Ph.D., is a former President of MITESOL, an Associate Professor of ESL/TESOL at Eastern Michigan University, and a founding board member of the Polish Language Center of Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Constructing a Media-Based Corpus for ESP Class
This paper discusses the use of Data-Driven Learning (DDL) as a scaffolding method to support language learning in an English for Specific Purposes (ESP) class (e.g., Johns, 1991). The class created a corpus that compiled both lexical items and phrases which resulted in student engagement in different tasks based on their analysis (Boulton, 2016). The result was encouraging and students who used DDL improved their language skills in their actual, real-world practice. In this context students were confronted with a “massive but controlled exposure to authentic input,” (Cobb and Boulton, 2015, p.481) which is foundational for language acquisition and involved the concepts of language awareness, noticing and ultimately, autonomy. In a classroom-based, corpus approach, the process of investigation and of building a corpus helps students with building linguistic and sociolinguistic competencies (Bennett, 2010).
I have been a baseball fan since I was a boy growing up in Michigan. I was excited to be invited to work with the team that I have followed all these years. I was not asked to play or coach, but to conduct teacher training and teach ESL to international professional baseball players with the Detroit Tigers. My excitement in joining “my” team was not matched by the players’ enthusiasm for attending English classes. We struggled through the daily classes that focused on grammar or pronunciation tasks. The lessons were planned with English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in mind for professional baseball players. So in addition to life skills, we covered vocabulary and communicative contexts related to social interactions with fans or interactions at work with coaches or stadium staff. However “practical” or helpful the lessons were, we did not seem to find class energy or student “buy in.” One area that my students needed help was with media interviews in English. This included talking with newspaper reporters and live, “on air” interviews over the radio or television. Most players opted to use an interpreter if available, however. I found that most of the curriculum on interview skills mainly focused on job interviews and the kinds of questions for that context. The example dialogues did not seem to match what my students would face in a media interview.
A CORPUS-BASED APPROACH
Our solution was to build a corpus of words and phrases that the students would encounter as they used English in specific contexts, particularly in media interviews. The goal for the class was to practice these dialogues that we constructed and conduct mock interviews to mimic authentic interview situations. The goal was to prepare students for interviews in English with the media. After observing hours of media interviews on television and radio, it was clear that there were some idiosyncratic phrases and words used for sports-related media interviews. So we started to build a corpus of common words and phrases. Three common phrases emerged:
How ______ were you …?
Tell me about _____.
What was the ___ like?
We started building a database on Google Sheets. The students also helped build the corpus from what they observed from personal experience and from listening to media. We compiled a corpus of all of the examples of words and phrases that fit within these sentence frames. For example, in “How X were you …?” we found examples such as happy, surprised, and excited. For example, “How excited were you after that big inning? or “How surprised were you that you were pulled after throwing only 82 pitches?” We were able to build vocabulary lessons around these words so that students were able to learn them in context. We then moved to conducting mock interviews in class, including the use of cameras and microphones. Over two seasons we continued to build the corpus and rotate in new players and revise the class experience. The next season we invited the local play-by-play radio announcer to come to class to conduct practice interviews. These were recorded but not used on air. Their confidence grew and personally it was gratifying to see my students flourish.
Last season our classes were limited and were conducted solely online via Zoom. However, one of my former students got his call to the big leagues. I was proud as he was interviewed by the media after his Major League debut. One of the questions presented by the interviewer started with “What was the adrenaline like …?” He handled that question like a pro and my adrenaline was pumping as I saw my student succeed in this real-life context.
Bennett, G.R. (2010). Using corpora in the language learning classroom: Corpus linguistics for
teachers. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Boulton, A. (2016). Integrating corpus tools and techniques in ESP courses. Asp [Online], 69.
Cobb, T., and Boulton, A. (2015). “Classroom applications of corpus analysis,” in The Cambridge
Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics, eds D. Biber, and R. Reppen (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press), 478–497. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139764377.027
Johns, T. (1991). “From printout to handout: grammar and vocabulary teaching in the context
of data-driven learning,” in Classroom Concordancing. English Language Research Journal 4,
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Michael Pasquale is an English language educator for the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club and Professor of Linguistics at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His current research areas focus on the folk linguistics of second language acquisition and policy in relation to English language teaching. He can be reached at