MITESOL Messages

February 15, 2018 --- Vol. 45, Issue 1

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President's Corner

Happy New Year, Fellow MITESOL Members!

2017 was a busy and productive year for our organization. We awarded seven free TESOL memberships, three free MITESOL conference registrations, and one Michigan Albert H. Marckwardt Conference Travel Grant. We also sent two members of our board (Sharon Umlor and Jennifer Musser) to the national TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit in Washington D.C.

I look forward to welcoming you to our MITESOL reception at TESOL 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Please join us at the Salero Restaurant 621 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 on Thursday, March 29th from 6 - 8 p.m. Salero is located approximately four miles from the conference venue and is most accessible by taxi or Uber. You must RSVP and print your receipt in order to attend and receive your free drink ticket. There will also be a cash bar, Spanish-inspired Hors d’oeuvres, and social time with your fellow MITESOListas from around the world! Click HERE for more information and a link to RSVP.

There are always changes in MITESOL’s leadership from year to year. In our annual election, we voted in a new President-elect, Ildi Porter-Szucs (Eastern Michigan University), who will be chairing the 2018 fall conference. Ildi is a long-time MITESOL member and has previously served on the MITESOL Board as Newsletter Editor. She is a regular presenter at MITESOL and “big” TESOL. Also elected in October and joining the Board are Anthony Taylor, U of M Flint, new Professional Development SIG Leader, and Kendra Seitz, Rochester Community Schools, new K-12 SIG Leader. They both have made excellent contributions to the virtual presence of MITESOL already! Check out the refreshed K-12 SIG page on the MITESOL website and consider joining the Professional Development SIG Facebook group. Please help me thank Andy McCullough, who completed his service as Past President. Under Andy’s leadership, MITESOL attracted a number of new members to the Board and fostered a deep and collaborative partnership with IATEFL Poland. Brian Pickerd and Stacy Tanner completed their two years of SIG Leader service for the Professional Development SIG and the K-12 SIG, respectively. We appreciate their contributions to the organization. We are looking for the next President-elect to join us and chair the 2019 MITESOL Conference. The new President-elect will be supported by an outstanding, enthusiastic, and passionate Board. Please email Ildi, Suzanne, or Jolene if you have any questions, or if you wish to nominate yourself for this important position.

The TESOL 2018 International Convention & English Language Expo is next month in Chicago and the MITESOL Board would like to know which of our members are presenting. Please use this link to tell us about your presentation so we can share it with the rest of MITESOL. View the list of MITESOL member presentations at TESOL 2018 in this document.

I’ll close this by extending a BIG THANKS to everyone who volunteered for MITESOL in the past year. Your organization would not exist without your dedication and professionalism.

Suzanne Toohey, President, MITESOL

Once again, MITESOL hosted another successful annual conference. Here are a few pictures:

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Welcome at long last to the spring edition of the MITESOL Newsletter. As you can see from the slightly delayed production of this issue, things are busy as usual in our respective corners of MITESOL. The updates in this issue are sure to keep you current with all the latest events in our field:


  • Board Notes
  • MITESOL 2018 Conference Call for Proposals
  • Adult Education SIG
  • Advocacy and Policy SIG
  • Post-Secondary SIG

Updates from the field:

  • Emails from the Corps, Part I
  • The Winding Road to Being Launched
  • The Clash of Educational Theories
  • Empowering Our Prisoners
  • Online English pronunciation training: Experience from a Vietnamese teacher
  • The Parent-Student ELL Team: Resources and Ideas for English Language Learning Outside of School

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

Your co-editors,

Clarissa Codrington

Melanie Rabine-Johnson

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It’s here! MITESOL is pleased to announce the launch of MITESOL Journal: An Online Publication of MITESOL, a peer-reviewed academic journal with articles that are relevant to your teaching. It is free to the public and available online now!

MITESOL Journal is always accepting manuscripts for review. If you wish to share your scholarship and add a double-blind, refereed journal publication to your CV, the MITESOL Journal is an excellent place to do so. We invite all members of our readership to submit manuscripts: those new to scholarly publication and those who have experience publishing their work, from graduate students to pre-school teachers to college professors.

Visit to peruse our published articles and for more information on how to write and submit a manuscript for publication.

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MITESOL 2018 Conference Preview

MITESOL 2018 – Call for Proposals

October 26-27, 2018

Eastern Michigan University: Student Center

900 Oakwood Drive, Ypsilanti, MI, 48197

Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages invites individuals involved with English language learners to submit proposals for our annual conference.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Reaching All Learners.” Traditionally when we think of “teachers of English to speakers of other languages,” we think of those in ESL/EFL and TESOL classrooms. These ESL and TESOL professionals are, indeed, the pillars of our organization. However, instruction of and interaction with nonnative speakers of English takes place in countless other settings.


MITESOL 2018 invites proposals on recent research, zero-prep activities, standards-based instruction, differentiated instruction, ESL students in the content classroom, assessment, policy & advocacy, CALL, administration, professional development, best practices from other disciplines (such as speech-language pathology, learning disabilities), and more related to all aspects of ESL/EL/EFL/TESOL in diverse contexts.

Watch out for further conference information soon.

With questions, please turn to conference co-chairs Ildi Porter-Szucs and Mary Tillotson

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Board Notes

August 2017 - February 2018 - another very busy six months for the MITESOL board!

  • Many hours of work completed by Conference Chair, Suzanne Toohey, and team on a well attended, informative, and much enjoyed October 2017 MITESOL conference at the Oakland Schools facility in Waterford.

  • Best of MITESOL 2017 awarded to Carmela Romano Gillette and Deric McNish for “Finding Meaning in Playing”.

  • Arrangements made for MITESOL reception at TESOL 2018 in Chicago at the Solero restaurant, 6-8 PM on Thursday, 3/29.

  • Launch of online MITESOL Journal by editors Kay Losey, Christen Pearson and Dan Brown in October - accessible world-wide on ScholarWorks. Congratulations!

  • Anthony Taylor, from UM-Flint joined the board as our new Professional Development SIG leader, and Kendra Seitz from Rochester Community Schools will take over as K-12 SIG leader. We look forward to having your expertise and participation.

  • Jolene Jaquays, Trisha Dowling, Josie Pickens, Colleen Brice, and Austin Kaufmann working on updates for the MITESOL website

  • Congratulations to Jennifer Musser, who has been awarded the Marckwardt Stipend for TESOL 2018!

  • Ildi Porter-Szucs, conference chair for MITESOL 2018, established a one credit course called “Professionalization” at EMU, meant for students to learn by doing, as they participate in helping to produce the next MITESOL conference.

  • Much planning and organizing already completed by Ildi and her team for the fall 2018 conference. This year’s theme, “Reaching All Learners” aims to extend our ESL outreach to encompass the many and diverse populations in which ELs are found.

-Ellen Brengle

Secretary, MITESOL

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Adult Education SIG Updates

Professional Development Opportunities

National Geographic/ Michigan State University 2018 Learning Symposium: Best Practices in Teaching Speaking and Pronunciation

April 14, 2018 in East Lansing, MI

Despite its clear connection to both listening and speaking, pronunciation is often overlooked in the ESL classroom and in ESL programs more generally. Teachers—first-year instructors and seasoned veterans alike—often shy away from teaching pronunciation due to a lack of training or to the misguided belief that it is an endeavor largely wasted on adult learners. However, oral fluency and intelligibility remain high on both the lists of ESL programs’ learning objectives and students’ needs. Come, learn, and become a leader in the pronunciation revival!”

The Refugee Education Center: Converging Paths Conference

May 1, 2018 in Grand Rapids, MI

“The Refugee Education Center would like to invite school staff throughout Michigan to our 4th annual Converging Paths Conference. Join other inquisitive school staff in their walk alongside local experts in supporting our refugee students and families. Topics will include: refugee pre-arrival experiences, effective communication with refugee families, promising practices in working with English Learners in school subjects.”


U.S. Department of Education Launches New English Learner Data Story

January 29, 2018, “The U.S. Department of Education launched a new interactive web page dedicated to data on English Learner students (ELs). The site uses colorful maps, bar graphs and charts to provide a clearer understanding of America's diverse ELs population in a "data story" format based on data from the Common Core of Data (CCD).The data story shows nearly every state has at least one school district where the EL population has increased by more than 50% since the 2010 school year and answers three main questions - Who are ELs? Where are ELs? And what languages do ELs speak?

The Data Story Includes:

  • A state by state chart of the most common non-English languages spoken by ELs, highlighting the more than 400 different languages spoken across the country.

  • A district level map that shows current EL populations, as well as changes in the EL populations over time.

  • Graphics highlighting how likely ELs are to attend schools and districts with high concentrations of other ELs

These data elements will serve to dispel commonly held misconceptions about ELs and help educators better understand the needs of this diverse group of learners.”

Articles and News

Why Teachers are Training Themselves to be ‘Dreamer’ Allies

From PBS NewsHour

All of Michigan is an ICE ‘Border Zone’ – Here Are the Rights All Immigrants Should Know

By Lee DeVito for Detroit Metro Times

Deportations, Despair and Big Court Backups amid Michigan Immigration Crackdown

By Ryan Stanton for The Ann Arbor News

Immigration Policy Creates an Underground Railroad in Detroit

By Roz Edward for Michigan Chronicle

How America Benefits from the Refugees among Us

By Helen Thorpe for Los Angeles Times

What the Latest Immigration Polls Do (And Don’t) Say

By Danielle Kurtzleben for NPR

The State Immigration Laws You Should Know About

By Tory Johnson for Immigration Impact

Rising Number of ESL Students Poses Challenge for U.S. Schools

By Corey Mitchell for Education Week

-Casey Thelenwood

Adult Education SIG Leader

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Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates

Advocacy and Policy SIG Update

Greetings Advocates! 2018 brings us new and continued challenges to raise our voices to. What follows are some topics that affect ELs and educators along with resources to stay informed. If you would like to participate in any of these advocacy efforts to offer expertise, lend service, or ask questions, please reach out!

-Sharon Umlor

Advocacy and Policy SIG Leader

  • Advocacy Sessions at TESOL 2018 International Convention in Chicago, IL -- March 27-30

Attend sessions specific to Public Policy and Advocacy at TESOL 2018. See you there!

  • Immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

The fight for immigration reform in our country continues. TESOL International Association has long advocated for common-sense and respectful immigration reform in the United States. In September of 2017, TESOL released a new position statement on U.S. immigration reform and joined more than 50 organizations in a letter urging the President of the United States to maintain DACA, which has provided work authorization and protection from deportation to undocumented young adults since 2012.

So far in 2018, Congress has been unable to pass legislation that addresses this issue. President Trump released his formal budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, which carries an aggressive immigration enforcement agenda and mirrors the yet-to-be-passed FY 2018 funding request. The proposed budget seeks to fund the border wall, as well as increase funding for immigration enforcement, detention, and deportations. Congress has been passing multiple continuing budget resolutions in order to fund the government for weeks or months at a time leaving the immigration issue uncertain for many.

For comprehensive updates and facts regarding DACA and immigration, check out Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and American Immigration Council.

  • Michigan English Learners and the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Michigan’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was approved in November of 2017 by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Some of the new features of Michigan’s plan includes a Parent Transparency Dashboard, identified “Comprehensive Support Schools” and “Targeted Support Schools”, the continued use of the Partnership Model, and a greater focus on developing the best educators by providing targeted professional development for teachers.

Provisions regarding English learners are addressed in several parts of the plan under English Language Acquisition and Language Enhancement (p. 89), Progress in Achieving English Language Proficiency (p. 120), and English Language Data Sources (p. 124).

  • Michigan’s 3rd Grade Reading Retention Law and English Learners

In October of 2016, Governor Snyder signed legislation commonly known as the Third-Grade Reading Retention Law. Starting in 2020, a third-grader who doesn't meet a certain reading proficiency level will have to repeat that grade. Educators and school leaders are concerned about the impact this law will have on high numbers of English learners (ELs). In conjunction with Michigan Association for Bilingual Education (MABE), MITESOL is preparing a statement to educate policy makers about the negative effects this legislation will inflict on ELs. To gain more insight into this issue, listen to Michigan Radio Stateside program’s interviews with Paula Winke, from Michigan State University’s Second Language Studies Program, and Suzanne Toohey, a curricula developer and assessor for English language learners in Oakland School (also our MITESOL president!).

  • TESOL Affiliate Advocacy Pages

Several TESOL affiliates around the country have Advocacy pages besides MITESOL… Take a look at these informative advocacy sites from MIDTESOL, ITBE, and CATESOL.

  • Save the Date: 2018 Advocacy and Policy Summit in Washington D.C. – June 18-20

Want to learn from experts about the latest federal education policy and share a powerful message with your members of Congress? The Advocacy and Policy Summit is for you!

Join the conversation on the MITESOL Advocacy and Policy Facebook group page!
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Post-Secondary SIG Updates

Post-secondary SIG Update February 2018

Thank you to everyone who attended the Post-secondary SIG meeting at the MITESOL Conference in October, 2017! Our discussions touched on the following issues as they affected our institutions:

  • immigration and enrollment trends

  • re-thinking the notion of English-only classrooms

  • social class and teacher identity

  • safe spaces & trigger warnings vs. academic freedom, free speech & informed debate.

Although we may not have solved any problems through our discussions, sharing our views and experiences with each other was informative and reassuring… and it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues that we hadn’t seen for a while.

Recently, other trends have been emerging in the media on English language teaching. What are your thoughts on:

Mark your calendars for these exciting upcoming events:

AAAL Conference, Chicago: March 24-27, 2018

TESOL International Convention, Chicago: March 27-30, 2018

National Geographic Learning Symposium, MSU: April 14, 2018

MITESOL Conference, Eastern Michigan University, October 26-27, 2018. I hope to see everyone there!

Please let me know if you have any publications, book reviews, announcements &/or events that you would like me to share with our SIG members.

Wishing everyone a happy and productive Year of the Dog!

-Cynthia Macknish

Post-secondary SIG leader

Eastern Michigan University
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Emails from the Corps

We’d like to include a serial article from an EMU MA TESOL grad, Lauren. She is currently serving in the Peace Corps and located in Mozambique. Follow along on her journey by joining us in future newsletter editions to continue reading Lauren’s story!

-Clarissa and Melanie

The contents of this publication are the volunteer’s personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Email Update #1:


Left the Mitten: August 28, 2017

Arrived in Mozambique: August 31, 2017

114 Days Into My Peace Corps Journey

8,687 MILES:

Maputo, Mozambique (the capital of the country) is exactly 8,687 miles from The Mitten - and it takes a hell of a long time to get here. I said goodbye to my mom and sister at the airport on August 28th. We cried, stood together awkwardly not knowing how exactly to say a 2-year-long goodbye, and then hugged 12,000 times. In retrospect, 12,000 times was not enough. From that point on, orientation in Philadelphia and international travel was a whirlwind. We left Philly for JFK airport by bus at 2AM on Wednesday, August 30th and after countless hours of waiting and an absolutely excruciating, 14 hour plane ride, we finally made it to the African continent - Johannesburg, South Africa to be exact. From Joburg, the flight to Maputo was (by comparison) a piece of cake - a couple of hours in the air and we had finally reached Mozambique. Once we arrived in Maputo, we weren't actually allowed to leave the hotel, so my first few days in Mozambique, I didn't really get to SEE Mozambique. Although, as many Mozambicans have told me: Maputo is not an accurate representation of the country as a whole. Now, I can say that I very much agree. After a couple of days in Maputo, we made our way to Namaacha, a small town about 2 hours outside of Maputo, for 13 weeks of training.


My first night in Namaacha with my host family, I wrote the above sentence in my journal. It was probably in this moment that the whole Peace Corps Mozambique adventure hit me for what it actually is - I finally got a glimpse of what being a Peace Corps volunteer meant. It's easy to sign up to volunteer in some far away place, and talk about how resilient, and open-minded, and down for adventure you are. I will tell you: it's a totally different story when you're here and all of the things you thought you understood (and 1,000 things you never considered) become your everyday life - and you're peeing in buckets, and killing cockroaches the size of your hand, and pouring pitchers of water over your naked body, in the dark, surrounded by frogs, spiders, and God knows what else. It didn't take long for this culmination of a very different way of living, a new language, and being around virtually no one who knows me outside of this bizarre experience to hit me - and it continued to do so, in different ways, throughout those 13 weeks of training. I sometimes questioned if I was strong enough to spend 2 years here: away from my family and friends, away from a culture and language that I know and am comfortable navigating. Needless to say, though it was sometimes tough and weird and uncomfortable, it was also exciting and wonderful - and so, I left Namaacha and my host family with an aching heart and a bit more confidence.


As some of you may already know, I'm now living in a fascinating, little mountain-top town called Espungabera in the province of Manica. Espungabera is roughly a 5-6 hour chapa ride from the Chimoio airport through forest and farmland and a few villages, but mostly forest. A chapa is a large, 16 person van where often, many more people are crammed inside. This is the main form of transportation for most people in Moz - the country has a transportation problem (not enough transport, people live very far apart, etc.), but that is a story for another time.

Espungabera: I've yet to figure out this strange, little town. It is small (I can walk from one side of town to the other in about 30 minutes), but it is also the district capital, meaning Espungabera has a few more public facilities than the surrounding villages - for example, the district library and hospital are both located here and there are a number of small shops and even a bakery! The town is located not even 5km from the border with Zimbabwe. I see the Zimbabwe tea fields on my way to the market each day - and it is a wildly beautiful sight. Perhaps because of its proximity with Zim, or because (this is my guess) it is a hidden gem in this country, the amalgam of people and language and culture found here is astounding and unlike anywhere I've been before. There are people from all over Mozambique and Zimbabwe here: a shop owner from the beach town of Beira, a carpenter and a glass-maker from Zimbabwe, a librarian from Maputo, a student who temporarily left the country to study before returning home. On my walk through town, I commonly greet people in at least 3 languages (Portuguese, Ndao, English, and sometimes a fourth - Shona). It's often confusing and my brain struggles to find the right words in the right language, but there is definitely something really special about it - though I'm not capable of totally defining what that is, just yet. I think it's that long term travel, and Peace Corps service, entails a certain level of assimilation - which often means giving up or altering things about yourself to fit in...and likely still feel like an outsider to an extent. But in this mysterious, little border town I often feel like I can be me. I can maintain many aspects of 'self' because there are so many unique people, languages, and stories here. Anyways, I've yet to figure out Espungabera and it's overwhelming charm, but luckily I've got 2 years to do so!

Email Update #2:


Left the Mitten: August 28, 2017

Arrived in Mozambique: August 31, 2017

150 Days (5 MONTHS!) into my Peace Corps Journey

Feliz Novo Ano! Happy New Year!

Wow. Today is exactly 5 months. Time has both flown by and also, strangely, passed quite slowly. Christmas and New Years have come and gone and now, the new school year is just around the corner here in Mozambique (official start date: February 5!).

I’m really looking forward to getting into the classroom and getting to know my students. Honestly, I’ve started to go a bit crazy here with no work. I mean, there’s tons of work: I moved into a totally empty house not even 2 months ago (yet, I just this week got a table and a chair), I’m learning 2-3 languages simultaneously (and trying, unsuccessfully, to differentiate between 2 of them), and I’m cutting my lawn with scissors (long story, but not a quick process). But, I mean WORK.

Well, let’s get to it. Below are some insights into the past month and a Mozambique playlist including some of the most popular, overplayed (albeit very catchy) tunes. VAMOS!:


I spent New Years Eve with my best friend Tsitsi and her family, mostly us and a bunch of children, and it was phenomenal! When I arrived at her house, she had little carvão (coal), single-burner stoves set up all over the yard. She cooked an insane amount of food and baked not one, but two cakes! She also wanted to prepare a goat head for Lizzy (my roommate), but for some strange reason Lizzy politely declined. Again, I am happy to be a vegetarian, so I don’t have to think-up reasons why I can’t eat goat head.

We ate and played music and drank Manica beer (named after our province and a beer people here are definitely proud of). Tsitsi’s favorite song came on at one point and, in the middle of dinner, she popped out of her chair to sing and dance. We all laughed. She insisted we cut the cake and then consume way more of it than we should have.

Side note: These moments are so precious to me - the ones where I feel totally comfortable and am not worrying about my Portuguese grammar or if I’m behaving in a culturally acceptable manner. These moments tend to happen with Tsitsi and I hope she knows how grateful I am.

Anyways, after dinner we went outside for “fireworks”. Guys, these are not fireworks - they are impending death-bombs hurled through the sky by tiny, fearless children at war with one another. They don’t have the shimmer and sparkle (which is the point...or I thought it was) of the fireworks in the states. Basically, they just start on fire and are thrown into the dark sky to make a giant BOOM. I don’t fully understand the appeal and it seems wildly dangerous for children, not long out of diapers, to be tossing these fire-bombs around. But, I digress.

We set off a lot of “fireworks”. The kids screamed and giggled. We all screamed and giggled. Later, as Lizzy and I walked home, a war broke out between two, opposing child gangs. They hurled fireworks at one another and laughed in the darkness. I walked right through the battle and lived to tell the tale. It was exhilarating.


After the holidays, I decided to leave Espungabera and do a bit of exploring! We stayed one night at Ndzou camp in the Chimanimani Forest (Ndzou means elephant in the local language). Unfortunately, we machetted our way through the jungle for 6 hours without seeing any elephants. The next day, we stood by the side of the road, in the middle of the national forest, hoping we’d be able to flag down a chapa heading to Chimoio. We waited 2 hours. No chapa. We left to quickly use the bathroom. As we came down, a chapa passed in the direction of Chimoio. We missed it. I was not happy.

But, alas, patience is key in this country. In 2 1/2 hours, the only private car that passed by gave us a ride. Yes, I hitchhiked. It’s a thing here - and it far outweighs sweating profusely, packed like sardines into an ill-maintained chapa for 5 hours, trust me. I was careful. It will happen many more times.

I sat in the front and chatted with the driver, who turned out to be a police officer from our district. The other two passengers were, coincidentally, from Espungabera: a nurse and a primary school teacher (see mom, so very safe). We chatted until the police officer, Bernardo, insisted that I put on some American music. I threw on my upbeat running playlist. Every 2 minutes, he said how much he loved it and turned it up. We danced in our seats.

During our time in Chimoio, we met up with them again and bought them a drink to say thank you. They brought friends and significant others. I brought friends and invited random guests from the hostel. It was a weird, wonderful hodgepodge of people - most of them didn’t know one another. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to hanging with them again.


Over the past month, Lizzy and I have been working on our garden. Luckily, because people are so helpful and welcoming, we didn’t do it alone. Our friend James, who is kind-of-Mozambican and kind-of-Zimbabwean (many in Espungabera would likely describe themselves as this) and definitely an incredible human, helped us with every step. He is also a builder and a carpenter. He helped us negotiate the price of wood and chop them into posts. He helped us put up the fence and dig out the beds.

He has spent hours baking with us in the African sun - and has asked for absolutely nothing in return! When I tried to ask how much he would usually charge for this work (which is his WORK), he said “We’re friends. I don’t charge friends.” We made him brownies, but there will need to be many more brownies in order to pay for his kindness.


People here are wonderful. My friends are reliable, and caring, and giving human beings. Community is important here. Relationships are important here. I (mostly) love this.

I do not love it at 6am when children are knocking on my door for 10 minutes and saying, far too many times, “Excuse me! Professora Lorena!” I also don’t particularly enjoy it when I feel like relaxing and people randomly show up at the house, or call me 12 times in a row until I finally give in and answer in a quiet rage, or send me text messages in all caps asking me how I’m doing after we just spoke 40 minutes ago.

Sometimes the constant interactions are absolutely exhausting. They would be exhausting in English, but they’re even more exhausting in a language that’s not my own. Sometimes I want to hide in my house. Sometimes I want to shut off my phone and ignore the texts and phone calls. But mostly, I tell myself to chill out and be grateful that people want me here and have welcomed me fully, despite how odd I must often seem.

MOZ Jams:

Vida Boa - Mr. Bow

My Number One - Mr. Bow

If - DaVido

Fall - DaVido

The Way You Do - Mr. Bow feat. Lizha James

Oh No No - Wande Coal

As you can see, Mr. Bow and DaVido are pretty much monopolizing the market. Enjoy!

Ate a próxima,


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MITESOL Journal: The Winding Road to Being Launched

By Christen M. Pearson

Good news – the MITESOL Journal has launched! It has been a long and winding road involving many MITESOL members, but on October 25, 2017, the new online MITESOL Journal was officially launched. Are you wondering how we got here? Well, the seed of this project actually first began with a different publication. During the 2004 MITESOL conference, held at Grand Valley State University, the first time the event had been held at a large university conference center, there were so many concurrent sessions to choose from that attendees could not take in all that they wanted, thus sparking a conversation between Carol Wilson-Duffy (MSU) and Christy Pearson (GVSU) about the possibility of a Conference Proceedings. The soil and water to this idea then took hold at a post-conference MITESOL board meeting a year later in late November of 2005. Members of the executive and advisory boards had spent the day discussing another very successful conference that had taken place at Michigan State University, where, again, there were so many interesting sessions offered by members that attendees hoped for a way to have access to talks which they had missed. Carol (In-coming President) and Christy (President) again asked – could we make a Conference Proceedings happen? Also in attendance at that board meeting was Nigel Caplan (MSU*) who was interested in the project. The mission set forth from that meeting was that the Conference Proceedings was to be a voice of and for MITESOL members and that the editors would take on a mentoring role for those presenters who submitted interesting manuscripts yet were not familiar with the publication process and standards.

Less than one year later, State of the Art: Excellence in TESOL: Selected Proceedings of the 2005 MITESOL Conference was published through Michigan State University Press. Editors of this inaugural volume were Christen Pearson, Nigel Caplan, and Carol Wilson-Duffy, with 23 authors contributing 14 papers. These papers were sorted into four categories with multiple papers within each: 1) Research Studies (e.g., 3 Rs: A Review of Reading Research by Jo Ann Aebersold, Kurtis McDonald, and Kevin Morgan, all of EMU); 2) TESOL Issues (e.g., Interpreting Research Articles by Andrew Domzalski and Boguslawa Gatarek, Madonna University); 3) Materials Development (e.g., Dialogues in the Margins: Improving L2 Writing? by Susan Ruellan Oakland Community College and Madonna University); and 4) Teaching Tips (e.g., Cooperative Learning in the ESL Classroom by Miguel Fernandez and Juan Garcia, of Cicero Public Schools, Illinois).

Over the years, there have been many helping hands contributing to the success of the Conference Proceedings. Contributing authors have ranged from undergraduate students to graduate students and from K-12 teachers to community ESL educators to university professors. For example, Mary Sulek, then an undergraduate student at GVSU, contributed an issue paper developed from her 2006 conference talk entitled Implications of Frequency Effects in the Field of SLA: A Review of the Literature, while Anne Roth and Rebecca King, also GVSU undergraduates at that time, worked with Christen Pearson to develop a paper titled From Tongue-Tied to Empowered: Teacher-Training on Migrant Issues Using Project-Based Learning from two of their 2008 conference talks. From Cornerstone University, undergraduate students Amber Pearson and Gillian Ferwerda worked with Michael Pasquale on Chicano English as Linguistic Reconstruction (2007 conference).

Graduate students have also been represented, for example: Joel Hensley working with Cathy Day, both of EMU, co-wrote Implementing Cooperative Learning Structures in a Collaborative Situation in a Graduate Level ESL Class (2007 conference). Other graduate students have submitted individual work, including Can Equal Language Access Be Achieved? by Jessica Cook (GVSU) in 2005; The Impact of Culture in English Language Teaching and Learning: Reflections and Recommendations by Shelly Page (GVSU), also in 2005; and Tips for Teachers of Adult Migrant ESL Learners by Bernadette Joyce Fox (GVSU), again in 2005.

TESOL professionals serving in the K-12 context, smaller community colleges, and other educational organizations in various Michigan communities have also shared their thoughts and expertise. Some examples include: Karen Gelardi (Rochester Community Schools), Suzanne E. Haxer (Bloomfield Hills Schools), and Rita Digirolamo Krause (ESL Consultant) contributing Using Tiered Lesson Design to Differentiate Instruction for English Language Learners in Content Classes (2007 conference); Scott Riggs (Language Center International, Southfield, Michigan) offering An Analysis of English Tense and Aspect (2008 conference); and Theresa Pruett-Said (Macomb Community College) sharing her thoughts in The Challenge Faced by Teachers of Generation 1.5 Students at the Community College (2008 conference).

Finally, professors and researchers at larger universities across the state have shared their work in both oral and written form. A couple of recent examples include Assessing the Speaking of LESLLA, SLIFE, and Community College Students by Ildi Porter-Szucs (EMU) in 2014; and Complexity Theory and SLA by Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior (Madonna University), Andrew Domzalski (Madonna University), and Boguslawa Gatarek (Madonna University and University of Windsor) also in 2014. Finally, several plenary speakers have graciously converted their plenary addresses into written form for the Conference Proceedings, among them Diane Larsen-Freeman, internationally known TESOL and SLA expert from the University of Michigan and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, whose 2006 plenary talk was titled Prediction or Retrodiction?: The Coming Together of Research and Teaching; Martha Bigelow (University of Minnesota) with another 2006 plenary titled The Role of Literacy in Oral Language Processing: Implications for Research and Teaching; and more recently Adrian Wurr (The University of Tulsa) sharing his 2012 plenary address titled Learning Service and Service-Learning in Turbulent Times. Many, many others have shared their expertise and knowledge with us through the years, but the above are simply to show the diversity of authors, from those who have yet to embark on their professional careers to those who are well-established in the field. All have voices that have been heard not only at MITESOL conferences, but also through MITESOL’s Conference Proceedings.

In addition to the above authors, a steady stream of editors made the conference proceedings a reality through the years. Following those first co-editors, many others have stepped forward into this role in some capacity, including: Kay Losey (GVSU), Michael Pasquale (Cornerstone University), Pamela Bogart (University of Michigan), Rachel Anderson (GVSU), James Perren (EMU), Dinah Ouano Perren (EMU), Alison Piippo (EMU), Trisha Dowling (EMU), Jeff Popko (EMU), Lauryn Gallo (EMU), Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior (Madonna University), and Alyce Howarth (Southfield, MI, Public Schools). Finally, just as a diversity of authors and editors have shared their thoughts and skills, topics of articles themselves have included a wide range of interests, including language genetics; complexity theory and SLA; the impact of nutritional status on language learning; the needs of LESLLA, SLIFE, and community college students; differentiated instruction; ELL funds of knowledge; service learning; bullying and the ESL special needs student; computer assisted language learning (CALL); teaching vocabulary, writing, and math; and many others. If these have piqued your interest, many of the volumes are available through Eastern Michigan University’s digital site, linked through the MITESOL website. Feel free to gain new knowledge, gather innovative ideas, and see what your colleagues have written!

As can be seen, that small seed planted back in 2004, provided with nurturing soil and water in 2005, bloomed! However, as those who live and work in Michigan know, the weather can sometimes negatively affect our gardening plans, and travel down roads can require alternate routes. More recently, after the 2015 publication of the Conference Proceedings based on the 2014 conference, and with no new co-editors in place, Kay Losey (GVSU), Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior (Madonna University), and Christy Pearson (GVSU) gathered to talk. It was a decade later and the publishing field had made rapid changes. We held to the original mission: a voice by and for MITESOL members; however, at the same time, in an increasingly global world, we wanted to be more inclusive, and we wanted increased accessibility. We wanted more voices to have a chance of being heard, including those who do not present at conferences and those beyond Michigan who have much to offer those of us within this state; and we wanted more ears to be able to hear these voices. Therefore, we presented to the MITESOL board the idea of an online journal to replace the Conference Proceedings, keeping to the original mission of a voice for MITESOL members and a mentoring publication, though broadening both authorship, readership, and hopefully accessibility. Two years ago we were given the go-ahead, and we began the long process of finding a university sponsor (GVSU), securing an online site (GVSU ScholarWorks, part of Digital Commons, powered by bepress), putting together advisory and review boards, finding a submission editor for the double-blind review process (Dawn Evans, GVSU), sending out a call for manuscripts, reviewing manuscripts, mentoring authors, and preparing the online site for activation. Marian has needed to bow out (we hope only temporarily!) due to a recent change in position; however, we have very happily welcomed Dan Brown (GVSU) to Michigan, MITESOL, and the MITESOL Journal co-editorship. As a member of MITESOL, you, too, are now part of an organization with a branch that has bloomed again after a circuitous route, publishing an online journal, with an international readership, reaching a global audience. In the journal’s first five days of going live, with only three initial articles posted, there had already been 20 downloads. How many more were accessed in a read-only format? Wouldn’t you like to be part of this? Wouldn’t you like to share your thoughts?

So, that is the story of how the MITESOL Journal came to be and was launched! We invite you to be part of this new, exciting, global adventure – please read what we have posted so far, and please consider sharing your ideas by submitting your manuscripts. Full details and instructions can be found at:

*Affiliations listed are at time of occurrence/participation in the conference proceedings and/or journal.

Christen M. Pearson is a Professor of English at GVSU specializing in Applied Linguistics and TESOL. Her interests include the interface of second language acquisition and language learning disorders, especially in the population of internationally adopted children. She has also served MITESOL through the years in various capacities as President, Conference Chair, SIG Leader, and Co-Editor of the Conference Proceedings and MITESOL Journal. She can be reached at

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The Clash of Educational Theories: The Saudi Educational System Story with Learning and Language Learning

By Abdulah AlAsiri

I am a graduate student in the Applied Linguistics Program in the English Department at Grand Valley State University. I came to the United States following my professor and mentor’s advice in order to get closer to achieving my life dream, which is to be a language professor in the future. Moreover, I am very interested in human language and its origin. My passion for language started when I was studying applied linguistics, Arabic, and English in my old college in my country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). I wanted to know more about language, I wanted to do more with that knowledge, and I wanted to be more involved in the field of applied linguistics. Furthermore, after coming here to the United States and after attending one of my first classes as a graduate student in the applied linguistics program (Teaching English as an Additional Language) I have learned a lot about the theories of education and second language acquisition, and have been encouraged to compare these with the practices in my home country. This has made me start thinking, comparing, and analyzing the differences between the theory of education that has been used in my country in the last 15 years.

KSA is one of many countries in the world that aspires for greatness in every international and national field and arena. It is developing so rapidly that it is literally racing time itself to try to catch up with first world countries. The Kingdom is keen to improve everything now, in order to be better in everything tomorrow. These rapid improvements and developments include, and focus sometimes on, the educational system in the Kingdom. The Saudi educational system has always followed the behaviorist approach in teaching language and other school subjects. However, this approach to teaching has switched to social constructivism in the past few years and it is still the current educational theory used throughout the educational system nowadays. This change was not as gradual as it could have been. It happened rapidly enough that it was not easy in the public’s opinion. In addition, some experts, teachers, and even parents were concerned with regards to this rapid change, and were questioning its applicability and future with the students from a cultural and educational point of view. Therefore, the ministry of education has been trying to deal with the difficulties, challenges, and the fallout of this educational system overhaul with little success by setting up workshops and devising plans and programs tailored to improve and redefine teachers’ roles in classrooms in order to be prepared to help students in their relatively new learning journey. This, however, will take a long time to show concrete results.

This change, from a behaviorist teaching model to a social constructivist one, was historical in the Saudi context because of the media hype created around it and because the educational system is a vital part that touches our children’s daily lives and future. This change was obviously severely criticized at first because it was done quickly without a transitional period or enough introduction and discussion which caused an opposite reaction from some professionals working in the educational system to parents who had to deal with a new teaching approach they were not adequately familiar with. Teachers tried their best to cope with the change by attending national seminars and conferences that the ministry of education held as an attempt to ease this transition. These attempts have helped to some degree as the community began to understand and see the need and benefits of this major shift in the educational system. The social constructivist approach was thought to be a better approach by the ministry of education because it was the international trend, and because it was accepted and used in the educational system in most of first world countries. Also, it was chosen because of a need the ministry felt to upgrade the educational system to improve the students, the community, and the outcomes of the education to fulfill the labor market needs.

The issue, as I see it, was not the change itself, but the way the change took place. Even though KSA has always been developing left and right in all fields rapidly, still there are things that should not be developed rapidly, but should instead be taken as slowly as possible and given enough time to change no matter how fast other sectors of the country are developing; a government educational system is a valid example. Teaching languages in the government educational system in KSA, mainly the English language, has always followed the behaviorist approach. A change from that approach to anything more modern and different needs time, patience, appropriate curricula, qualification of teachers, and preparation of students. Such a transition should have been gradual by giving time to everyone involved in the learning system to absorb and understand the benefits of such change by taking their time to prepare and be ready.

Moreover, this sudden change from the behaviorism approach to the social constructivism approach in less than a year and the huge impact it brought on teaching, in general, and specifically on language teaching, damaged the process as a whole in the beginning. Later on, it took about a year and a half for everyone involved to realize what happened and adapt. Nowadays, however, language learning in the Kingdom has never been better because teachers are working as instructors in the learning process and students have been assigned the responsibility of their learning progress and have also been given the appropriate curriculum to do so. Nowadays, the result of this transition speaks for itself in KSA. Students are winning national and international awards in mathematics, different sciences, and other subjects too. Although the educational system needs some overall minor adjustments such as adding and using the internet more and some modern educational technologies as well, it is still better than it was 10-15 years ago. Moreover, students are learning and actively using the English language better in their classrooms and community. They are more responsible for their learning process and progress now. Teachers also enjoy their role as being facilitators in this new learning approach. By the time everyone got used to the new approach, the results have been nothing but positive with students’ learning, including language learning. Although the sudden change was not appreciated at all on so many levels, everyone at the end praised the ministry of education for these new ideas, and the system has started working again better than before.

In my opinion, however, taking the nature of rapid development and growth of KSA, the educational system in the Kingdom will not stop developing any time soon, and, if anything, it will continue to develop at a fast pace every year. This enthusiasm could probably make the ministry face new or similar problems. We (everyone concerned with teaching and language teaching in the world) need to take into consideration that the process of developing public education is similar to renovating an old house, where an ambitious family is working with designers, architects, and construction workers as fast as they can without thinking that this renovation could very much affect their everyday life in a negative way or hinder it completely. So, this process needs to be taken as slowly and gradually as possible for everyone inside that house to be happy and safe without any regrets.

Hopefully, after going back to my country with my Master’s degree at the end of my applied linguistics program, I plan to update everything in my classroom at the very least. My country is one of the fastest developing countries in the world. The Kingdom will always thrive to develop in all fields, and education will always be one of the important fields my country is concerned with. Fearing that this major shift in educational theories will be repeated in the same way, I will try to write a message to the Shura council (a council in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia concerned with discussing public policies, development plans, and concerns of the Saudi society) and to the ministry of education to hopefully avoid such drastic changes that could harm the educational process. We all must understand that change takes time.

Abdulah AlAsiri, currently a master’s degree graduate student at Grand Valley State University in the department of English, Applied Linguistics, got his bachelor’s degree in English, Arabic, and Translation from King Saud University, College of Languages and Translation. He can be reached at

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Empowering our Prisoners: TESOL in the Prison System

By Nicole De Windt

Growing up in a fairly homogeneous community, I was surrounded by people who were just like me. We all shared the same culture, relatively the same background experiences, and the same language. It was not until I attended college that I started to form close friendships with people who did not consider English to be their first language. After hearing about their cultures and their transition coming to the United States, I became fascinated with learning about other cultures and languages which led me to want to become an SLA teacher. Currently studying as a graduate student, it is quite clear that there are still many challenges associated with SLA that people are presently working to resolve and many types of populations that English teachers are reaching out to with customized teaching methods. But one marginalized part of the population I have not seen much study on are non-native English speakers in the prison system.

The United States incarcerates more people than any other county in the world, and as of 2015, over two million people were being held at either a federal or state jail or prison (Wagner, 2016). Why does this thought of non native English speakers in prison come to mind? In college, I studied the issue of recidivism for one of my classes. Through my research, I discovered the immense amount of difficulty inmates face when trying to return to normal life after incarceration. Various challenges include lack of family support, temptation to return to their old crowd, returning to a society that is completely different than they remember (new technology, new music, new buildings and construction, and new family expectations), and, due to a criminal record, difficulty finding a place to live, and especially, finding a job. One of the solutions that is discussed on the topic of recidivism is restorative justice and the idea of helping prisoners prepare for life outside of prison so that they can take care of themselves rather than returning back behind bars. Having education and job training is now suggested as a huge resource inmates need before their sentence ends. Programs are already starting to pop up in various prisons across the country that offer prisoners education and job training. But this leads me to ask, if it is so hard for people to transition back into society after being imprisoned, how much harder would it be if they do not have full proficiency of English?

At this point, I want to introduce my friend. He was born in South East Asia and at the age of thirteen, had to flee his country. After being split from his Uncle and brother, he worked alone for two years in a different country while awaiting status as a refugee where he was assigned to a foster family in the United States. He attended a few years of high school here and then went on to study at college, and it was around that time when we met. Although he came to the United States as a teenager and had some formal English academic education, his English skills are not perfect, especially his writing. To jump to the point, my friend ended up making one bad decision violating the law and has been incarcerated now for the last three years and has many more to go. I often wonder what is going to happen to him when he is released. He has no family here, no money, no home, and now a criminal record. I wonder if he will make it on his own and if he will be able to get a job. My friend, although not native-like, has a fairly strong grasp on English, but how much harder would it be for people who are not as fluent as him to find a job and move on with their lives? And this begs the question, how many more non-native English speakers are in prison? Are there only a few, or are there are great number in a similar position of imprisonment?

I think we could all imagine that there are other non-native English speakers in American prisons that need help learning English, but I did a little digging to find out for sure, to know if this is even an area we should concern ourselves. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Sabel, 2009), there were 94,724 non-US citizens in our prison system in 2008. Surely some of them are not fluent in English. In 2015, eight percent of people in prison were there due to immigration charges (Wagner, 2015). Again, there is a high probability that they are not native English speakers. This does not even include those who have come to the United States as legal immigrants yet have not fully developed their English speaking and literacy skills. Although there is no hard data on how many non-native English-speakers there are in the U.S. prison system, this can at least point to the fact that there is a need for TESOL in the American prison system.

So this raised another question for me. If there is a need for TESOL in prison, what type of teaching model should be used? Considering the limitations- high security population where certain activities involving human contact and great amounts of interaction may not be tolerated, and certain materials may not be allowed inside of the prison walls, should there be a unique model for teaching that could compliment SLA in prison? How could teachers set up teaching an effective curriculum? How would one have to teach differently in prison? If we consider how individual differences can affect learning, how would a group of people with various criminal activity backgrounds, possibly feelings of guilt, great loss, internal conflict, shame, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and possibly anger, learn differently than a typical student taking a TESOL class? How would limited time out of a cell (thus limited time for formal instruction) inability to take the students on field trips to interact with the native English-speaking population, lack of every day English speaking interaction, and large amounts of isolation during cell time where self study may occur be utilized? If inmates have about twenty two hours every day where they are locked in a cell, could TESOL professionals utilize literature, guide individual activities, and teach learning strategies to encourage English learning independently? How could a teacher best supply motivation that is needed to learn, build self esteem, and teach in an environment when inmates are often transferred to other locations? In order to best design a curriculum for inside of prison, affective factors common to those in prison and material and logistic limitations due to a high security environment are important to consider and may not allow for the ability to use current teaching methods that are used with other populations. This also leads us to ask if the communicative approach, which is the most common teaching approach today, would be the best method when teaching in a possibly hostile environment that holds strict rules for what types of interaction can occur.

TESOL has done great work so far investigating linguistic challenges and working towards solutions, but I propose that TESOL in the prison systems is an area with great opportunity which needs to be explored. In the United States, having a grasp on English can be used for empowerment. When we are talking about a high-risk population that feels isolated, unlovable, and defeated, with the added challenge of a language barrier, what greater gift can we provide than the tools they need to feel empowered to start their life again?


Sabel, W. (2009, March 31). Prison inmates at midyear 2008 - statistical tables. Retrieved October 03, 2017, from

Wagner, P., & Rabury, B. (2016, March 14). Mass incarceration: The whole pie 2016. In Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved October 3, 2017, from

Nicole De Windt is an MA Applied Linguistics student at Grand Valley State University. Her goal is to teach refugees and immigrants. She can be reached at

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Online English pronunciation training: Experience from a Vietnamese teacher

By Nguyet Thi Minh Nguyen

With the development of technology, Computer-Assisted language Learning (CALL) has become more and more popular as a way to aid with the language learning process. In Vietnam, my home country, online learning is a new trend. In this article, I would like to share my own experience of teaching English pronunciation online to Vietnamese students.

English pronunciation plays a crucial role in improving Vietnamese learners’ speech comprehensibility to English native speakers. Vietnamese learners are well aware of the importance of English pronunciation. However, many of them do not have access to pronunciation training as most pronunciation courses are in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. So I decided to offer online pronunciation training courses to meet the needs of learners from different parts of the country.

There are currently two main ways of online English pronunciation learning in Vietnam. The first way is automatic, which means learners pay an annual fee to have access to some online tutorial materials and exercises. Normally this method is inexpensive; however, there is no interaction between teachers and students. The second way, in which teachers communicate with students based on online classes, is considered more interactive. My pronunciation course is also offered based on recurring classes with a limited number of students through an online platform.

There are some differences between online and offline classes. Traditional classrooms, unlike online classes, offer face-to-face interaction, which promotes better connection between teachers and students. Particularly, it is often easier for students to observe teachers’ mouth movements and it is also more convenient for teachers to give students corrective feedback on their sound production. Moreover, while offline group work is fun and interactive, online discussions can be quite noisy and disturbing. In addition, online learning requires students to be highly-motivated and self-disciplined. It is very easy for learners to lose track and feel demotivated at anytime during the course. Therefore, special care for each student during class hours would give them a strong boost. My online teaching experience has shown that online pronunciation training, with good utilization of technology, could be very interactive and effective.

First, video conferencing and portable internet devices with a video camera are two fundamental tools in my online teaching. Zoom is a teleconference platform, which allows teachers and students to see and talk with each other. With Zoom, I can easily share my laptop screen, audio files and whiteboard with my students. It actually provides me with all necessary tools that a teacher might need in a normal classroom setting. My students, with a laptop, Ipad or smartphone connected to the Internet, could sit anywhere in the world and study. Distance is no longer a huge problem as I could observe my students’ mouth movement and help them speak clearer English. After a 2-month online training course, my students are able to speak English with clear sounds, clear word stress and a good rhythm of speech. All of them are satisfied with online learning as they have made great improvement.

Second, social networking sites (SNSs), particularly Facebook, are used to promote social interaction among students. Facebook “allows users to express themselves, build profiles, form online communities of shared interests, and interact socially with others. In their social networks, they can engage in relationship, build friendships” (Lee & Brown, 2015, p.242). For each online class, I will create a closed Facebook group, where I can interact with my students. In this group, I post extra tasks to complete after class and allow my students to post their assignments. Other sources for self-study will also be posted here. The group is an interactive platform for my students to share their own study tips and come up with questions related to the course. My students and I often become friends on Facebook, so even after the course is over, we still keep in touch and constantly update each other’s Facebook news feeds. Facebook actually helps build a stronger relationship between students and teachers.

Third, one principle for using technology in language teaching is letting learners “use their personal digital knowledge and skill in order to complete assignments” (Lee & Brown, 2015, p.245). In class assignments, my students are required to videotape themselves reading English words or stories, and have their videos uploaded on the Facebook group. They are also required to provide self-assessment on their English pronunciation. By listening to themselves speaking English, my students are able to realize and fix their own problems. As a teacher, I also promote students’ interaction by frequently commenting on their speaking performance and ask them to give feedback on each other’s English speaking videos.

Next, Youtube videos have become a great source for pronunciation instructions. My students have free access to my Youtube instructional videos. There are plenty of tutorial videos on English pronunciation online; however, all of them are in English, which may cause some difficulties to Vietnamese students in listening comprehension. Therefore, I have made a series of instructional videos on English phonology (both segmental and suprasegmental parts) in the Vietnamese language to equip my students with all they need to speak English clearly. I often have students watch my Youtube instructional videos and do some related assignments prior to each class, so that they can be well-prepared for the class. Even after the course, they could continue updating all instructional videos on Youtube to revise and for self-study.

In online teaching, other available online sources should be utilized. Some online dictionaries are introduced to students as a reference. Besides, when they want to know how an English word or phrase is spoken in American English or British English, they can simply use the website as a great tool. Speech to Text software on smartphones is another useful tool for students to check their English speech clarity. Podcasts are also introduced as a great source for listening practice. Additionally, my students also share with each other their own self-study online websites.

In short, online English teaching, particularly pronunciation training, is a new trend in Vietnam. With the aid of online training platforms, Youtube videos and Facebook, interaction between teachers and students are well enhanced. Therefore, Vietnamese learners can save time traveling but still reach their goals of speaking English clearly.


Brown, D. & Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by Principles (Fourth Edition). White Plains, NY: Pearson.

Ms. Nguyet Thi Minh Nguyen is an M.A student in Applied Linguistics at Grand Valley State University.

She is the founder of MoonESL English Training Center in Hanoi, Vietnam and has worked as an EFL teacher in Hanoi for more than 5 years..She can be contacted at

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The Parent-Student ELL Team: Resources and Ideas for English Language Learning Outside of School

By Marla Metler

The amount of English support at home can vary for English Language Learners in grades K-12. Parents may be beginners or at an intermediate level of English language proficiency themselves and may not be able to fully help with their child's English language development at home. To help teachers and administrators aid their ELL families in their English language development, they can provide following “toolkit” to parents and students to help them strengthen their English language proficiency outside of school.

The “toolkit” is a framework with three main buckets (that parents and students can do): Observe, Practice, and Connect. Under these three buckets are resources and/or ideas that parents and students could have access to/could do. For instance, websites that are free and could strengthen English language skills.

The first bucket, “Observe”, is about how parents and students can observe how English is used in our environment. For instance, they can collect “artifacts”/view/listen to samples from books, articles, magazines, newspapers, cards/postcards, brochures, websites, TV, radio, signs, etc. Note: it is important to keep in mind that these “artifacts”/samples should be age/grade-level appropriate. Parents and students can then take these artifacts and translate the English into their native language if needed. They can then discuss what they see/hear together and make connections/comparisons to their native language if possible (for example, are there any cognates?).

The second bucket, “Practice”, is about how parents and students can practice their English, both offline and online. To practice offline, parents and students can create flashcards for vocabulary and include a vocabulary word and a picture (if possible). They can also write down the translation of this vocabulary word next to it and then they can test each other on the words. Parents and students can also create a matching game. Note: one card should have the vocabulary word on it and another card should have a picture of it and/or the translation of the word. They can then shuffle/mix the cards and then try to match the vocabulary card with the correct picture and/or translation card for it. They can also use these cards to play memory. They can shuffle/mix the cards and then lay them face down in front of themselves. They can take turns choosing two cards and flipping them over to see if they are a “match” and continue playing until all of the “matches” are found.

Parents and students can continue their offline practice by reading both literature and informational texts together. For reading literature, they can read to each other and make connections, predictions, and talk about what they have read either in English or their child’s home language. The following questions can be asked to make connections: What do you have in common with the character(s) in the book? Have you read another book like this one before? Additionally, the following question can be asked to make predictions: What do you think will happen next? Lastly, the following questions can be asked to talk about the text: Who are the characters? Where is the setting? What happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Similarly, for reading informational text, parents and students can read to each other, make connections, and talk about what they have read either in English or their child’s home language. The following questions can be asked to make connections: Have you read another book like this one before? Have you seen or heard of something like this before? Where?

Additionally, the following questions can be asked to talk about the text: What are three facts that you learned about…? What do you notice about this book/article that is different from reading literature (talk about the features of nonfiction text that you notice). It is important to keep in mind that whether parents are students are reading literature or informational text together, they should be talking about the text in ways that incorporates the use of academic language (for example, words such as characters, setting, and features of nonfiction text). In doing so, parents and students will be able to create a stronger “bridge” from the English that is being practiced at home to the English that is being used in the classroom.

Furthermore, parents and students can study sentences together offline. They can find a sentence(s) to study together from a textbook, book, article, etc. They can write down each word on a separate card, shuffle the cards, and practice putting the words back into the correct order to build the sentence. They can then practice their reading and writing skills by reading the sentence and writing it down on a sheet of paper after it has been reconstructed.

Additionally, parents and students can work together on educational games that are offline. They can use the game Bananagrams® and use the letter tiles to practice spelling words. After spelling them, they can practice pronouncing the words. They can also use the words they built to create sentences. Furthermore, they can also use the game Apples to Apples® to aid in their English language learning. For instance, they can play this game and talk about the vocabulary words. They can look up new words in the dictionary or on

When it comes to online resources to aid in English language learning, there are several to choose from. It is important to note that the following online resources are all free and can be accessed by parents and students outside of school. Also, if parents and students do not have a computer or device to access these resources outside of school, then I would suggest that they go to the library together to access these.

There are several online resources that I would recommend. For example, parents and students can use to look up words, listen to the correct pronunciation, review definition(s), etc. They can also view the “Difficulty index” to see how well-known the word is. They can use the translations options to translate words and use the translate popular phrases option to see translations for several different categories ranging from Basic Phrases to Weather. Note: some of these categories/some of the information in these categories are for adults. Parents and students can also use to look up/learn synonyms and antonyms, listen to the correct pronunciation, review example sentences, etc.

Furthermore, parents and students can work together on activities on websites. On the site, there are Grammar and Vocabulary Quizzes at different levels (Easy, Medium, and Difficult), Bilingual Quizzes, and other activities/links. Additionally, the site offers news in different levels and multi-speed listening. Parents and students can read and/or listen to a news article together and discuss it. Note: I think that this site would be better for older students that are working on current events/working with news articles in school. Additionally, I would recommend that parents screen the articles first as well to find an appropriate article for the age/grade level of their student. Parents and students can also work together on the site This site has English Vocabulary and English Grammar among other things on it. What is unique about this site is that the questions posed adapt to your “level”, so the questions get easier or harder depending upon how you are doing. Also, for those that are at a “beginning” level of English language proficiency, I would recommend the site This site is for beginners to learn the Alphabet, phonics, and read stories. Parents and students can listen to a story together and look up in the dictionary/ and/or translate unfamiliar words.

Additional online resources include translation sites. Parents and students can utilize translation sites for English language learning; however, it should be noted that sometimes sites like Google Translate are not perfect. I would recommend that parents and students cross-check translations from one site to another. The translation sites that parents and students can use together include the following: (, Google Translate (, and WordReference ( Word Reference features multiple definitions of a word and how it is used in a sentence. This can further help parents and students to pick out the exact translation for the word they are looking for by seeing how it is used in context. Note: these translation sites also offer Apps for mobile/iPad use. So, parents and students can utilize these for translation and learning as well. These Apps are as follows: App ( 436?mt=8), Google Translate App (, and App (

The third bucket, “Connect”, is about how parents and students can utilize community resources and connect with other families. For example, parents and students can utilize community resources such as the library. Parents can take ESL class/join ESL conversation groups (for example, Adult Education classes in their city). Also, families can meet to practice English together outside of school.

Lastly, teachers and administrators can provide this information to the Parent-Student ELL Team through several channels. For instance, they can post it on a website (and notify parents/send home a sheet for parents to the website). They can present/distribute this information at district or school ELL events. They can also give it to an ELL Parent Liaison/Family Coordinator at their school to inform families.

Marla Metler is currently an ELL Teacher at an elementary school in Ann Arbor Public Schools. She holds a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She also has an ESL Endorsement from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

She has experience teaching ESL to children and adults in addition to other teaching and

professional experience. She was recognized in 2015 by the State of Michigan (she is a Teacher Spotlight winner) and has co-authored a chapter in a book in the TESOL field that was published in 2017. She can be reached at

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If you have any questions, ideas or contributions you'd like to see in the next issue, please feel free to email us.

Clarissa Codrington -

Melanie Rabine-Johnson -

Co-editors, MITESOL Messages