MITESOL Messages

February 15, 2023 | Volume 49 | Issue 1

Big picture

President's Corner

Greetings MITESOLers!

Welcome to a new year and a renewed sense of purpose. 2023 brings with it gratitude for all our MITESOL family, so many thanks for all of your continued efforts with multilingual students, families, and communities across the state of Michigan.

There is a lot to acknowledge from the past year, and a lot to look forward to in 2023—including the MITESOL 2023 Conference on October 14th, 2023! Read on for this announcement and more:

  1. Thank you to Past-President and MITESOL 2022 Conference Chair Jennifer Musser for her amazing vision manifested in the MITESOL 2022 Conference: Reawakening Purpose, Motivation, and Joy. This was our first in-person conference since 2019, and while our world seems so different now, we were reminded of what is truly important seeing the MITESOL community show up to support each other. We were inspired by our keynote speaker, Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda, our plenary speaker, Wessam Abdelaziz, and all our invited speakers from the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Adult, Community & Alternative Education Association, the Michigan ESL Professional Advisory Committee, and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Our partnerships make us stronger. Thank you to all our speakers, presenters, exhibitors, and attendees! We hope to see you again at at MITESOL 2023.

  2. March 21-24th is the TESOL 2023 International Convention in Portland, Oregon. We want to know if any of our MITESOL community members are presenting! If you are representing Michigan by presenting at the convention, please contact our Communications Coordinator Helena Kore at and let her know the title of your presentation and who is presenting. We will create a list of all MITESOL member presentations, so check your email and our website for updates the week before the convention!! I know our President-Elect Spencer Riley is also putting together an excellent MITESOL member reception for us. Stay tuned for more information.

  3. We are looking forward to partnering with MABE and the Michigan Department of Education again for the 2023 Newcomer Summit this summer! Last year was amazing, and this year promises to be even better. See the save the date below!

  4. FALL CONFERENCE UPDATE! That’s right! Get ready for MITESOL 2023: Culture, Creativity, and Connection at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids on October 14th (yes, it’s earlier this year!). Keep an eye on your email for a call for proposals, volunteers, and more! More information about MITESOL 2023 will be announced on in the upcoming months, and registration will open this summer! For now, save the date (see below)! We cannot wait to see you there!

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

With gratitude,

Briana Asmus, PhD

President, MITESOL

Big picture
Big picture
Big picture

From the Editor

Hello all and happy nearly spring! I am excited to share a slice of what's new and happening in the world of Michigan TESOL. Thanks for reading this issue of MITESOL Messages.


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

Updates from the field:

  • Capturing the IMAGE: Multimodal Practices for Teaching International Professionals

  • How to MOVE ESL Students out of ESL to Employment

  • Increasing Audience Awareness in an Academic Writing Class

  • Empowering multilingual girls (without devaluing home culture): Reflections inspired by the MITESOL 2022 Conference
  • A Teaching Philosophy

Call for Submissions -- MITESOL Journal
Don't miss the call for submissions for the MITESOL Journal at the very end of this issue!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

I do want to announce that I will be recruiting for my replacement starting after this newsletter. Ideally, I would like to help publish the August newsletter with the replacement editor for efficient and effective training purposes. If you think you may be interested in becoming the next MITESOL Messages editor, please email me with any questions about the position! I've loved my time as the newsletter editor and I want to help make the transition smooth. Thanks for considering!

Your editor,

Kelsey DeCamillis

Big picture
Big picture
Big picture

President-Elect Updates

Happy February, all! I hope my K-12 colleagues are making it through the WIDA ACCESS testing window, and I hope everyone else is enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. My newcomer students all think I was exaggerating back in the fall when I warned them about Michigan’s terrible and frigid winters. They may be in for a big surprise next year!

For those attending the upcoming TESOL 2023 conference in Portland, Oregon, the MITESOL reception will be held on March 23rd at 6:00 PM at BLVD Kitchen & Bar. Due to the restaurant’s policies, only 14 seats are available this year. Please email me directly at to let me know if you plan to join so we know whom to expect.

If you do attend TESOL, be sure to check out these presentations by MITESOL members:

  • “From Burnout to Resilience: Teacher Care in Challenging Times” presented by Fernanda Capraro, Ph.D.

  • “Effective CLIL Programs Promoting Social Responsibility: International Perspectives” presented by Valerie Jakar, Ph.D., Q. Hussein, Catherin Njau

  • “Building a Sports Media Interview Corpus for ESP Class” presented by Michael Pasquale

  • “Open Educational Resources (OER)-Enabled Pedagogy in Language Teacher Education” presented by Pengtong Qu, Ph.D.

Complete presentation details will be available soon, including specific dates and times. If you are presenting but do not see your information listed above, please email Helena Kore at with your name and presentation information.

Spencer Riley

President-Elect, MITESOL

Big picture

Past President Updates

Greetings MITESOL members! Last year was a reinvigorating year in many ways, and I am thankful for having had the honor of holding the position of President and 2022 Conference Chair for this amazing organization. As Past-President, I am excited to support the development of continued opportunities for MITESOL members to be able to connect throughout the year -- with webinars, our annual conference, and our continuing collaboration with MDE and MABE on the Newcomer Summit. Be on the lookout for announcements about all we have planned this year!

Collaboration Updates

MITESOL is always looking for strong collaborations and connections that can bring new opportunities and perspectives to our membership. Last year, we deepened our relationship with the board of the Michigan Adult, Community & Alternative Education Association (MACAE). We also collaborated with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and Michigan Association for Bilingual Education (MABE) on the first ever Newcomer Summit. And good news! The Newcomer Summit returns this year to the Kellogg Center on July 27th, 2023! Stay tuned for announcements!

As well, since 2017, MITESOL has proudly strengthened our partnership with IATEFL Poland, an Associate Member of IATEFL: International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. Every other year, MITESOL sponsors a member of IATEFL Poland to attend the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo. In alternating years, IATEFL Poland sponsors a member of MITESOL to attend and present at the IATEFL Poland Conference. In 2022, MITESOL and IATEFL-PL were proud to invite Dr. Briana Asmus to Poznań! As our MITESOL representative, she gained free registration to the conference, presented her session "English as a Game: Gaming for a Stronger Classroom Community" at the conference, and received accommodations and travel reimbursement.

On top of all this, MITESOL also entered into a new partnership agreement last year with Ellii (formerly ESL Library)! Now, MITESOL membership benefits include a free 2-month subscription for new Ellii subscribers. You can get the most out of your free 2-month subscription by attending a free platform overview webinar, participating in a free flashcard workshop, or getting your classroom needs addressed in a casual Q&A. Ellii is also offering free trials to organizations, schools, and districts who are MITESOL members.

Grant Updates

Every year, MITESOL offers several conference grants to our members. This past November, we were pleased to award conference grants to the following MITESOL members:

  • Adult Educator Grant: Jane Deon (Ann Arbor Public Schools Adult Education)
  • EC & PreK-12 Educator Grant: Alicia Pearce (Huron School District)
  • Post-Secondary Student Grant: no applicants
  • Northern Michigan Educator Grant: no applicants

Look for 2023 Conference Grant announcements later this year or by visiting!

In addition, MITESOL also typically offers our own version of the TESOL Albert H. Marckwardt Travel Grant to attend the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo for one graduate student who applies unsuccessfully for the TESOL award. Unfortunately, TESOL International did not offer this grant for 2023, so the Michigan Marckwardt Travel Grant is on hiatus this year. However, if you are looking ahead to next year, please note that TESOL Albert H. Marckwardt Travel Grant submissions typically open up in late summer and close on October 1st.

Leadership Updates

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

Changes on the leadership team since our last newsletter have included Dr. Briana Asmus of Kalamazoo Public Schools transitioning from President-Elect & 2022 Conference Co-Chair to President & 2023 Conference Chair. She is already doing a fantastic job taking charge of this Board team and this organization! I, Jennifer Musser of Lourdes University, have transitioned from President & 2022 Conference Chair to Past-President, and Dr. Spencer Riley of Taylor School District joins the MITESOL board as our President-Elect and 2023 Conference Co-Chair. Liz Sirman of Ypsilanti Community Schools left the board after chairing two amazing conferences and spending a successful year as Past-President. She spearheaded our involvement in the Newcomer Summit, and we are so thankful to have had her guidance and expertise during her time on the board. We look forward to seeing her at future MITESOL events and conferences.

In 2022, we welcomed several new board members: Lisa Shin as Social Media Coordinator, Helena Kore as Communications Coordinator, Karyn Goven as Adult Education Special Interest Group Leader, and Jessica Harmon as K-12 Special Interest Group Leader. A special shoutout to Jessica Harmon and Post-Secondary Special Interest Group Leader Virginia David for taking up positions as MITESOL representatives on the 2023 Newcomer Summit Planning Committee with MABE and MDE!

Last year, we also said goodbye to several other board members: Anthony Ocean (Webmaster), Dominic Carino (Newsletter Editor), Collin Blair (Adult Education SIG Leader), Rachael Wenskay (K-12 SIG Leader), Allison Piippo (CALL SIG Leader, position now sunsetted), and Khalil El-Saghir (PD SIG Leader, position now sunsetted). Thanks to each and every one of these individuals for helping to bring MITESOL through a difficult few years and back to the successful face-to-face events we were able to have in 2022.

Finally, we have just recently been able to bring on two new board members!

Please reach out to them both with a warm hello!

Thank you to all of the MITESOL Board, present and past, and to 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 2023!

Jennifer Musser

Past President

Big picture

Board Updates

Our most recent board meetings were held on November 19, 2022 and February 11, 2023. During those meetings, we discussed successes and opportunities for MITESOL 2022 and have begun planning for MITESOL 2023, and chose a theme.

There have been several outgoing and incoming Board positions, including a new President-Elect and Treasurer.

The Board also discussed, at length, recent changes to the GSuite. Several unused or unnecessary accounts were removed in order to help with budget costs.

The Newcomer Summit is approaching and planning is underway for that event as well.

    • Board Member Updates:

      • There are 283 active members as of August 15, 2022

    • Upcoming Board Meeting 2023 Dates:

      April 30th - Okemos Library - Thank you to Lisa - update on booking?

      August 6th - Aquinas College

      CONFERENCE 2023 - October 14th, Aquinas College

      November 19th - Virtual

Jennifer Bashara

Secretary, MITESOL

Big picture

Adult Ed SIG Updates

Please join the Adult Ed MITESOL Message Board here:

More updates to come in the August 2023 MITESOL Messages!

Karyn Goven

Adult Education SIG Leader

Big picture

Advocacy & Policy SIG Updates

Hello, MITESOL Advocates!

Our Advocacy & Policy SIG meeting at the November MITESOL Conference brought members together to discuss the 2023 MITESOL Advocacy Packet. In this document, learn how to use the TESOL Advocacy Action Center, connect with state and federal policymakers, and more! This is a working document that will be continually updated, and suggestions are welcome if there is information you’d like to see included.

Save the Date! This year, the 2023 TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit will be held June 20-22 in Arlington, VA. The Summit provides participants with the opportunity to hear updates from the U.S. Department of Education and other advocacy organizations as well as to meet with members of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill.

If you have advocacy information and resources you’d like to share, please visit MITESOL’s website message board (join here!) and the Advocacy & Policy Facebook group. to participate in current advocacy discussions.

Sharon Umlor

MITESOL Advocacy & Policy SIG Leader

Big picture

Post-Secondary SIG Updates

Dear Post-Secondary SIG colleagues,

Happy New Year! I hope 2023 is off to a wonderful start for you all. We begin the year with a bit of good news about international student enrollment. According to Study International, the United States the number of international students increased 4% this new academic year. Though it’s a slow increase, we hope the trend continues upward.

The latest issue of the TESOL Journal, which was released in December of 2022, includes an interesting research article about the use of phone messaging apps in teaching EAP. I would also recommend reading the article titled “Patterns and functions of I in academic writing: From a local grammar approach,” published in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes in January of 2023. This article explores the use of the authorial I in science articles. This same January volume of the journal includes a study titled “Multimodal interaction in English-medium instruction: How does a lecturer promote and enhance students’ participation in a live online lecture?” The author explored multimodal interaction in online lectures.

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

Virginia David

Post-Secondary SIG Leader, MITESOL

Faculty Specialist & Coordinator of TESOL, Western Michigan University

Big picture

K-12 SIG Updates

Please join the K12 SIG MITESOL Message Board here:

More updates to come in the August 2023 MITESOL Messages!

Jessica Harmon

K-12 SIG Leader

Big picture
Big picture
Big picture

Capturing the IMAGE: Multimodal Practices for Teaching International Professionals

By Alexandra Covell and Claire Molling

On November 12, 2022, we attended the MITESOL conference at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here, when we say "attended,” we really mean attended in the sense of actually being there! Upon arriving at the conference venue, we were greeted by all TESOL/ELT professionals - both new professionals and veterans. It wasn't long before we all mingled in the lobby, taking advantage of the opportunity to network with other attendees and catch up with colleagues and friends.

In addition to attending the keynote, plenary, and concurrent sessions, we co-presented a talk on Multimodal Practices to Enhance English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Students' Intercultural and Pragmatic Competence. Most of the speakers, including ourselves, began their presentations with a variation of "it is so great to speak with you all in person," suggesting this sentiment was shared by the majority of attendees. During our full-house session, we could not help but be amazed at how engaged everyone was in sharing thoughts, questions, and simply reflections regarding how they incorporate multimodal practices into their teaching activities with international professionals. The lively and vibrant engagement brought about by MITESOL's conference clearly highlights the advantages of in-person conferences over virtual ones. As a whole, we are pleased with the MITESOL in-person conference experience, and our gratitude goes out to the conference organizers and committee members who brought it back after two years of virtual attendance.

In this article, we reflect on the content of our session and share our unique IMAGE approach to providing multimodal learning for teaching international professionals.

Our Context

At this year’s conference, we chose to present on our approach to teaching intercultural and pragmatic competence because it encapsulates one of the most exciting innovations we’ve made in our curriculum at Michigan Language Center (MLC), located in Ann Arbor, MI, over the past few years: The "IMAGE" Approach.

This approach was created in response to the needs of international professionals seeking to improve their language skills for the workplace. Typically, our students are individuals working in a range of careers (corporate, healthcare, law, etc.), either in the U.S. or abroad, who have already reached a high-level of English proficiency and workplace success, yet who still feel held back in some way by their language skills, whether it’s lack of confidence in speaking up during meetings or delivering presentations, an unfamiliarity with American business culture, or a perceived barrier due to their pronunciation. To address these needs, MLC developed an online Professional English course in early 2020, which has since expanded into a series of five five-week modules on various topics related to communication skills in the workplace, such as “Speaking Up with Confidence” and “Presenting with Clarity and Impact.”

As MLC reaches the half-decade mark of offering online classes, we are very aware of the “tech fatigue” that can plague these kinds of learning environments. Too many hours of staring at heads in boxes on Zoom can make any student — and teacher! — long for the return to physical classrooms. For this reason, we feel that it’s more important than ever to think deeply about how to make our online classes as engaging and dynamic as possible. One way we’ve addressed this challenge in our Professional English course is by developing the IMAGE approach.

A Brief Overview of the IMAGE Approach

IMAGE is an acronym to describe the general framework our Professional English instructors use when presenting new concepts related to intercultural and pragmatic competence. The approach supports inductive learning by guiding students to make observations about a case study or scenario and asking them to draw on their own personal experiences to deepen their understanding of a particular concept. The lesson then moves from the theoretical to the concrete by providing strategies and language for successfully communicating in these types of scenarios, and finishes by giving students an opportunity to put the strategies into practice.

Here’s how the IMAGE approach looks spelled out:

  • Introduce the concept through case studies (e.g., video scenarios, scripted dialogues)

  • Map the concept onto the Culture Map framework

  • Apply the concept to personal experiences

  • Give strategies (e.g., useful phrases, sentence stems)

  • Experiment with role plays and task-based activities

This approach also supports multimodal learning practices, as a variety of online tools are used throughout each lesson so that students can engage with the concept in multiple modalities. Some of the tools that are most commonly employed in the Professional English course are:

  • Zoom (for conducting the live class sessions)

  • Google Classroom (for providing and organizing class materials)

  • Google Jamboard (for quick think-pair-share activities)

  • Padlet (for personal reflections and threaded discussions)

  • Flip (for oral reflections and pronunciation practice)

Student Impact

Our Professional English program has so far been very well received by all of our students. As part of our presentation, we discussed the importance of developing curricula that are aligned with students' learning needs. Our goal is to provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom to their actual work settings. One student who is currently employed as an agronomist stated, "I now understand how people communicate differently depending on their cultural background. Leaders should take into consideration cross-cultural communication in order to prevent negative effects on their team. As someone who has led small teams in the past and wishes to lead multicultural teams in the future, this lesson is crucial to me." Additionally, a student who is a psychologist indicated that the lesson on giving negative feedback had a positive impact on her career: "Now I am aware of how to give feedback in a more polite way and what I should take into consideration when working with other cultures."

The success stories and reflections of students are what keep the Professional English course in high demand. As part of our commitment to ensuring a positive learning experience for our students, we invite them to share their reflections at the conclusion of each lesson. Often, we are able to gain insight into students' needs and use that information in developing our curricula.

Attendees’ Responses

During our Q&A session after our MITESOL conference presentation, our audience expressed great interest in how we integrate technologies and online tools to teach and engage students. There were several questions raised regarding how technology can be integrated into the classroom for busy professionals who may not be technologically savvy, and whether there is any flexibility for students who do not have access to all the tools and technology.

With such issues in mind, all MLC students, including Professional English students, receive a tech orientation prior to starting class, and most of the time have not experienced technical difficulties. Also, Alexandra, the primary instructor, provides excellent support to students throughout the course to help them become familiar with technology. For example, she uses screenshots and the trending Loom screen recording tool to visually teach students how to use technology step-by-step.

Another excellent question we received during the Q&A session was whether or not MLC’s 5-week sessions are sufficient to teach each module to the students and whether or not they are able to grasp all concepts. Although it may seem impossible, we recall how we initiated the idea for this Professional English course to provide tools that international professionals can use immediately in their working environments. During our discussion, we stressed the importance of avoiding over-emphasizing recitation and rote learning. Instead, students should be able to take advantage of the tools and resources provided to gain experience in practical situations that will allow them to acquire new skills and concepts in a variety of different contexts.



  • Meyer, E. (2016). The Culture Map. PublicAffairs.


Alexandra Covell | Michigan Language Center

Alexandra is the Curriculum Coordinator and IEP Instructor at Michigan Language Center (MLC). She primarily teaches Professional English and Advanced Writing, but she has extensive teaching experience with university students, international professionals, and community members both in the United States and abroad. Alexandra's research interests include culturally-responsive curricula, cross-cultural communication, multimodal instruction, pragmatics, and academic writing. Throughout her career, she has presented at multiple stateside and international TESOL conferences. Besides her administrative and teaching roles, she enjoys exploring new places with her husband, Christian, and spending time outdoors with their two fur babies, Mocha and Mochi.

Claire Molling | Michigan Language Center

Claire is the Academic Director at Michigan Language Center (MLC). Before joining MLC in 2018 as an instructor, she spent many years teaching ESL to adults in a variety of places, including France, New York City, and Bloomington, Indiana. She now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Daniel, and cat, Olive.

Big picture
Above: Alexandra and Claire at their presentation during the MITESOL 2022 conference.
Big picture

How to MOVE ESL Students out of ESL to Employment

By Karyn Goven and Patrick Brown

Over the last two years, we have seen a significant shift in serving the ESL populations in Michigan as both the emerging learner population and the highly skilled and trained population. The movement to acknowledge this workforce base has taken center stage. According to Michigan League of Public Policy, 47.8% of immigrants in Michigan arrived in the United States before 2000, and since 2010, the number of immigrants in Michigan has increased by 15.7%. In addition, Michigan was home to 144,000 highly skilled immigrants with at least a bachelor’s degree during the 2009-13 period. Of this group, 20 percent—or 29,000 people—were either working in low-skilled jobs or unemployed. Low-skilled among these immigrants employment resulted in $510.2 million in annual forgone wages! The nations sees this “Brain Waste” has a growing concern with inequities. Foreign-educated immigrants in Michigan were more likely to be either underemployed or unemployed (22% ) than US educated immigrants (18%). Immigrants in Michigan were also more likely to experience brain waste if they had limited English skills, had only a bachelor’s degree or were Hispanic or Black.

Adult education programs understand the growing population and the demand to support those who have diplomas or degrees by providing education and support for the right career pathway. Those programs who serve the ESL population, have developed and incorporated in their language development, workforce preparation as well as providing Career Path Navigators and partnerships to transition participants to the right educational path. By doing this, adult education programs provide ESL participants the skills and preparation to move towards a career pathway, get a job and move into higher-wage jobs.

Each participant arrives with skills and strengths that we need to capture to help them move to high school equivalency or diploma, post-secondary, training/credential attainment and/or employment. Our goal with both associations is to make sure there are no “dead ends” and that we are purposeful in the information and transitions we provide to help our ESL participants move ahead.

The Michigan ESL Professional Advisory Committee (MiESLPAC) and the Michigan Adult, Community and Alternative Education (MACAE) Association have joined strategies to create a useful tool for the field. The tool will be a planned resource guide for practitioners and professionals working with an English language learner population to assist them with the resources to navigate entering in postsecondary and employment opportunities.

The guide comes as work project sensitive to the needs of English language learners, their lives experiences and the legal status required for education and employment opportunities.

The guide in its current draft form was presented at the MITESOL Fall Conference 2022. It focuses on the following high-level components to help guide practitioners and professional as they assist learners:

  • Understanding English Language Learners and their goals
  • Assisting English Language Learners in verifying past educational credits or degree transference
  • Assisting English Language Learners in the career options and certification requirements for various employment opportunities required available in Michigan through College and University access to LARA and credential attainment
  • Determining eligibility and assisting Learners with understanding eligibility for employment
  • Understanding VISA types and eligibility for employment
  • Understanding education and training options available throughout the state
  • Understanding the requirements for education and training programs

Our hope is to continue to implement and create a fluid guide for availability to any educator or workforce development professional hoping to assist adult English Language Learners


Karyn Goven is the Director of Workforce Development and Southwest Economic Solutions, a nonprofit parity based organization in Detroit focused on solutions to poverty reduction through education, economic investment and housing and counseling.

Patrick Brown is the direction of the Michigan Adult, Community and Alternative Education (MACAE) Association, the leading statewide professional development, public policy and advocacy organization for educators and integrated workforce professionals.

Big picture

Activities for Increasing Audience Awareness in an Academic Writing Class

By Eun-Young Julia Kim

Those of us who teach writing are keenly aware that defining academic writing is an elusive task. Whenever we try to tell our students what it means to write academically, we are confronted by the fact that a wide range of disciplinary differences exists, and even within the same discipline, a variety of different forms and styles are used.

Despite the difficulty of defining academic writing, one thing we can say with confidence is that successful writers always take into consideration their intended audience. This is hardly a new piece of information to anyone, including our students. However, the concept of audience accommodation doesn’t always ‘register’ in students’ minds when they actually write, even though they may understand the concept intellectually. Unless students are engaged in intentional practice, their understanding of audience awareness can remain superficial.

In this article, I share a series of class activities that I have used and found useful in my writing class when addressing the importance of writing to the audience. Even though I have used the activities with undergraduate students, I believe they can be equally helpful for students at the graduate level, and regardless of whether they are international students or native English speakers; no one is native to academic writing after all.

The theoretical support for these activities comes from a recent approach called ‘writing about writing,’ which has gained wide support from scholars in the field of writing studies in the last fifteen years. The approach was first proposed by Downs and Wardle (2007), who have argued that students benefit greatly when instructors professionalize their writing instruction by taking “writing studies” approach and having students take the role of writing researchers. The rationale is that the act of taking the role of writing researcher helps students acquire meta-knowledge they can tap into when writing.

In the following activities, students explore how audience awareness is manifested in published texts by analyzing two sample texts written on the same topic by the same author, who differentiates the language, structure, and discursive strategies to appeal to different audiences.


In my class, students read and discuss several essays from Language Diversity and Academic Writing (Looker-Koenigs, 2018) that address academic writing and identity. After completing their first essay on “language and identity,” students move on to the second essay in which they comparatively analyze an academic and a non-academic writing sample, in order to help their own target audience—in the case of my students, school seniors or college freshmen--better understand how audience awareness leads to vastly different texts. The following activities, done sequentially, are designed to prepare students to complete the writing assignment.

Texts Used
The activities utilize two texts that are freely available online. They center on the same information based on a study done by Angela Duckworth, a renowned psychologist, and her associates. The academic version of the text is taken from a subsection, ‘Study 4’ (p. 1093-1096) of a scholarly journal article published in 2007, and the popular version is taken from Duckworth’s (2016) New York Times best-seller, Grit (p. 3-12). The two sample texts, labeled as AD (academic discourse) and PD (public discourse) hereafter, identify the qualities of successful West Point cadets who survive the grueling summer program called Beast Barracks. In the PD, Duckworth ‘brokers’ scientific knowledge to the general public so they can benefit from her research.

Students find the PD on the West Point cadets interesting and relatable. It is written in an informal style, has interesting stories using novelistic dramatization, and directly addresses the audience as ‘you.’ On the other hand, students usually respond to the AD with puzzled looks and eye-rolling; it is not only dry and full of jargon, but is also written in a much smaller print and presented on a densely packed two-column paper with esoteric charts and graphs. Juxtaposing these two texts elicits interesting discussions on what makes us drawn to one text over the other, why academics write the way do, and what impact the format and the author’s linguistic and rhetorical choices have on the reader. The following examples provide us with a glimpse into the different writing styles:

  • By the time you set foot on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, you’ve earned it. (PD, p.3)
  • The United States Military Academy, West Point, graduates more than 900 new officers annually, about 25% of the new lieutenants required by the Army each year. (AD, p. 1094)

In this example, we see the PD using the second-person pronoun, putting the reader in the center, whereas the AD starts with an inanimate subject and uses passive construction and statistics.

In the next example, the PD uses an informal emphatic adverb to boost the message, whereas the AD strikes a more neutral tone:

  • Grit scores bore absolutely no relationship to the Whole Candidate Scores . . . (PD, p. 9 )
  • Grit was not related to Whole Candidate Score nor any of its components. (AD, p. 1095)

The two texts are replete with linguistic examples that contrast in style and tone, as well as other interesting differences that make each text uniquely effective for the target audience while conveying the same message. The goal of the following activities is to increase students’ language awareness and help them discover concrete details that make a piece of writing effective for its target audience, not through mere impressionistic judgment but through data analysis characteristic of so-called scientific studies.

Activity 1: Priming

Students read the two sample texts as homework and journal their responses. They may write about the content, differences they observed, feelings, questions, or any other thoughts that may have occurred during the reading. Students bring their journal entries to class or submit them digitally.

Activity 2: Discussion and qualitative analysis

As a warm-up, students share their reactions in groups or in pairs. And then, the teacher leads a more structured discussion and invites students to find specific examples from the texts supporting their points and highlights them in the texts projected on a screen while students take notes. The class discusses why they think the authors made certain choices, and what impact the choices have on the reader. Concepts such as discourse community, disciplinary conventions, rhetorical strategies, and genres are discussed.

Activity 3: Quantitative analysis

Students analyze the two texts using an online text analysis tool, such as There are other similar tools. But does not have a word count limit for text uploads, unlike some other ones, so it is useful when working with longer texts. Before class, the teacher prepares the two texts in simple formats using Word or Google Docs without formatting or graphics, and students access them through a learning management platform. In class, students open two tabs of In the first tab, they copy and paste one version of the text—either AD or PD--and do the same in the second tab. The tool gives basic statistics, common words and phrases, readability scores, and lexical density, among others. Students fill out a comparison chart prepared by the teacher by recording their analysis as the teacher walks them through the process by modeling the analysis and explains the results. Using the statistical information, the teacher engages the students in further discussions by asking questions, such as why PD is almost twice as long and has many questions and pronouns, what details are added or left out in each text, and why. Students discover that these statistics help explain why they found the PD easier to read. For example, written academic discourse is usually built around abstract nouns, whereas informal texts utilize more verbs similar to spoken English (Biber, 2006). In addition, informal texts (PD) use lots of pronouns and questions to engage the audience, whereas their lack in the AD makes the text neutral and objective.

Activity 4 - Drafting an essay

Having completed the analysis, the students start drafting their essays. The teacher explains two organizational structures for writing a comparison paper—subject-by-subject and point-by-point methods--and instructs students to draw from the select essays from the textbook they have read to provide a conceptual framework. She checks upon students’ drafts and gives feedback during class or individual conferences.


I have learned that these activities help students understand the importance of audience awareness in a tangible way. Building on this knowledge, students move on to the next project where they analyze writing samples from their own disciplines using similar strategies.



  • Biber, D. (2006). University Language: A Corpus-Based Study of Spoken and Written Registers. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Downs, D., & Wardle, E. (2007). Teaching about writing, righting misconceptions: (Re)Envisioning "first-year composition" as "introduction to writing studies." College Composition and Communication, 58 (4), 552-584.
  • Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner.
  • Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthew, M.D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.
  • Looker-Koenigs, S. (2018). Language diversity and academic writing. Bedford/st. martin’s.


Eun-Young Julia Kim is a coordinator of English for Academic Purposes program at the University of Notre Dame. She teaches TESOL and EAP courses offered through the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures.

Big picture

Empowering multilingual girls (without devaluing home culture): Reflections inspired by the MITESOL 2022 Conference

By Kawther Mohammed and Briana Asmus

Kawther Mohammed and Briana Asmus are middle and high school ESL teachers for Kalamazoo Public Schools. They presented “Empowering multilingual girls (without devaluing home culture)” at the 2022 MITESOL Conference. In this presentation, they articulated their vision of empowerment, shared some of their practices, and offered case studies representing the cultural identities of their students. Here, they reflect on what it means to carry the work of empowering multilingual girls forward from the conference back into the classroom.

We want to thank everyone who attended our presentation and contributed to the conversation in ways that affirm and support the identities of multilingual girls from all over the world. What a joy it is to be involved in this meaningful work! Post-conference, we reflected on some of the ideas sparked during our session. Attendees also offered some wonderful examples from their own classrooms, and as a result, everyone was able to walk away with more strategies to help their ML girls see themselves as the superheroes they are. Below are some things we have been thinking about and working on since the conference:

Classroom and building-wide leadership

How do we continue to encourage ML girls to take on leadership roles?

Adolescence offers its own set of challenges on top of the cultural, linguistic, and lifestyle adjustments that many of our students face. Within our classrooms, we consider ways to confront stereotypes that can prevent any of our students from reaching their full potential. This means we have to create a culture of trust, and confront our own biases. One example we discussed in our presentation was the ways we assign group roles. In Dr. A’s class, one of the roles is “the recorder,” which is similar in nature to the role of an administrative assistant. On their own, students often decide that this is a “girl” role, even if students who don’t identify as female would be better suited to it. When students are allowed to pick roles, or even types of projects, we might ask them why they chose what they did, but no matter what they pick, we want to ensure that they feel confident by giving them time to practice. If a student feels confident, we try to encourage roles like “reporter” (speaking out to the whole class) among our ML girls, while ensuring the audience is practicing active and reflective listening. Listening to women when they are speaking in a group may run contrary to some societal norms, so modeling and building listening into our classroom management plan is important. When a girl is trying to speak–often one who is soft spoken–and is interrupted, holding students accountable by asking for a paraphrase of what the speaker said is one way to follow through. The more we identify these issues on a micro level, the more we see a shift in classroom behaviors on a macro level.

In our buildings and district wide, we want to open doors for our ML girls, and expose them to new experiences and examples of leadership within their own communities. Recently, Miss Mohammed hosted an event at her school where every performance was led by a woman and the majority of resources promoted either developed by or for young women. An event like this communicates to the girls that there are supports in the community that can not only help you, but empower you; just look beyond the classroom doors.

Noticing gender in conversation

In what ways do gender roles shape the outcome of interactions with others?

Both of us devote a substantial amount of classroom time to discussing disparities that may result from different social interactions. In one classroom demonstration, Miss Mohammed’s class played the game “telephone.” Girls instinctively wanted to stand by their friends, and boys on their own. She took this as an opportunity to make observations about the differences in interpretation of her instructions. The end result led to a discussion of why there might be such a difference in the message that was communicated down the line: girls spread the message that “Miss Mohammed loves” her paraprofessional, while boys spread the message that “Miss Mohammed said he (paraprofessional) is fat.” Students noted that rumors can affect each gender differently. Many of the students in class thought that a rumor that targets girls is more damning in the long run than if the rumor were about a boy. The game led to a deeper discussion of multiple ways women are oppressed across all cultures, inclusive of Western society. This exercise also created the perfect touchstone to draw on when girls found themselves tangled in a web of drama (remember, we are dealing with teenagers here).

The necessity of support networks

When we talk about support networks for our students, we also mean support networks for ourselves. We encourage students to talk to teachers or staff other than ourselves who might share the same cultural traditions, language, or interests. Our district is lucky to have many of the cultures of our students represented in our ESL staff. As a result, we have teachers across the district who can empathize with the experiences and struggles of our students. In our interactions with ML girls, you can often hear us say something like, “You should talk to (staff name) about that. They had something similar happen to them.” We recognize that as individuals we don’t have to be the bearer of all knowledge or experience. Instead, we can leverage the strengths of our team, recognizing that we will share many of the same families as they pass through the district. Though we have not formalized a full-on mentorship program, it is something that we hope to consider in the future.

Ultimately, we continue to explore inroads to supporting ML girls by encouraging them to empower themselves and each other. We can work tirelessly at driving home this lesson, but better to embolden our girls to draw these conclusions themselves with time, empathy, and practice. As teachers, we are lucky enough to walk beside our students on their journey toward finding their authentic selves, while we are still on that journey ourselves.

Big picture

A Teaching Philosophy

By Emi Shinohara

Before a teacher, I was (and am still) a learner. I was taught English by what I would call a “Grammar First” approach. Every class hour was spent on learning a new rule and applying the new knowledge to carefully designed written exercises. And I call it a success. The explicit grammar knowledge that my education rigorously provided became the backbone of my improvement and pride. And therefore, I had a strong, unbreakable belief that a language learner must solidify grammar first and foremost and then be allowed to produce output. That is how I approached teaching English to my former police officer students, but to my disappointment, they always happily expressed their love for the interactive, communicative activities that a native speaker teacher prepared for them. I never understood why. I was firmly convinced that their grammar was still immature and that letting them use the language would reinforce errors.

However, teaching in the Community Language Program (CLP) at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University helped me to have a more forgiving attitude. I came to realize, through teaching ESL with the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach, that input as well as output are an essential part of language learning, along with a language focus. Although my belief still remains that grammar cannot be sacrificed in language teaching, now I recognize the importance of providing meaningful input and preparing the students to be successful in using the language in a meaningful manner. The teacher’s role is, in other words, to promote understanding of how the language is used among its users and assist the students in fluently applying the knowledge into use in an authentic context.

Thus, in my CLP class, I promoted and maximized interaction between the students so that they were pushed to use the language to accomplish a task, negotiate meaning, recover from miscommunication, etc. I also regarded interaction as an opportunity for the students to monitor their language use. Oftentimes, my students corrected each other’s mistakes and learned from each other, which led me to believe in the power of peer feedback. Hence, I let my students explore, experiment with the language with each other, and learn together to be proactive, autonomous, and responsible for their own learning. My role as a teacher was to keep the students at the forefront of the learning experience.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that the teacher can sit back and relax. The teacher’s assistance is equally important. Corrective feedback in particular requires the teacher to employ the most delicate and sensible tactics, and it is the skill which I am and will be struggling for a long while to hone because it can be a double-edged sword. When employed effectively, it will lead to success and improvement. Yet thoughtless feedback can hurt the students’ self-esteem. A barrage of explicit feedback, in fact, can be understood as merciless attacks on students’ errors and devastatingly discourage them. As I tend to provide explicit corrective feedback, the type of feedback I mainly received in the past, my goal is to become better at providing implicit corrective feedback, guiding the students to self-correction, and more importantly, genuinely believing that they are capable of noticing and self-correcting their errors with a little help.

Most importantly, however, my teaching philosophy centers on giving up on the self. The teacher’s work must be selfless dedication which requires her to be brave and humble. To be brave in the sense that she admits her mistakes and humbly accepts and listens to feedback, no matter how negative it may be. To be humble, Thomas Jefferson beautifully summarized it for me: “He who knows best knows how little he knows.” Indeed, his quote is where I want to climb at the end of my teaching journey. Language learning as well as teaching have been a humbling process for me, but I am not yet (rather far from) where Jefferson referred to. As it is my ultimate goal that the students witness a glimpse of humbleness in the teacher, my journey continues, sometimes painfully, but at some other times with joy. My hope is that the ordeal will strengthen and polish me and eventually make me a teacher who gracefully shines with years of humbling experiences.


Emi Shinohara is an Assistant Professor of English as a Foreign Language in the College of Foreign Studies, Kansai Gaidai University. Her interests include music & language acquisition and technology & language learning (especially writing).

Contact Information:

Emi Shinohara (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor

College of Foreign Studies

Kansai Gaidai University


Big picture


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

  • Original research that you have conducted

  • Issues in the field of TESOL

  • Theoretically-grounded discussions of teaching methods and pedagogy

  • Research-based program descriptions

  • Books and materials reviews.

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

For submission guidelines and current articles:

Have questions? Please contact:

Katie Coleman

Submissions Editor

Big picture
Big picture

Have a great rest of the school year! Summer will be here before we know it. Please reach out if you are interested in the position of Newsletter Editor! The vacancy will be posted sometime in the near future, but I'm happy to answer any questions in the meantime.

Kelsey DeCamillis

Editor, MITESOL Messages