MITESOL Messages

February 15, 2020* Vol. 46, Issue 1

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President's Corner


2019 was an exciting year for our organization. MITESOL hosted another successful annual conference (thank you again to my dynamic co-chair Colleen Brice, pictured to my right). We appreciate all those who completed the conference survey as we review the information while planning for the next conference. Thank you again to our amazing keynote speakers, invited speakers, volunteers, presenters, and attendees. We were also pleased to award over 10 travel grants to assist with MITESOL conference registration! We encourage you to complete a travel grant for an opportunity to attend the MITESOL 2020 conference for free. Mark your calendars: deadline for travel grants is in September!

We are already planning for the 2020 conference! The 2020 conference will be in Sterling Heights. Friday night location will be at the Wyndham Garden Sterling Inn and the Saturday location with be at Sterling Heights High School (Warren Consolidated Schools). We are thrilled to host a conference at a local school district! Warren Consolidated Schools is one of the top five most populated English Learner districts in the state with nearly 4,000 active ELs. The theme for the 2020 conference is Encouraging Diverse Voices. More information will be announced on our website in the upcoming months and registration will open this spring! We cannot wait to see you there! We are very excited to share that we have TESOL past-president Luciana de Oliveira and Nigel Caplan as our keynote speakers!

In March, is the TESOL International Convention in Denver, Colorado. We want to know if any of our MITESOL community members are presenting! If you are representing Michigan by presenting at the international convention, please complete our form here. We will compile your results and create a list of all MITESOL member presentations. All MITESOL members can click here for the list to show your local support!

Finally, I want to extend one more THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered for MITESOL in the past year and WELCOME to those who have joined our membership this past fall. I met so many wonderful new people at the 2019 conference! This organization would not exist without your dedication and willingness to collaborate for our students and programs.

Dr. Tina Kozlowski

President, MITESOL

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From the Editors

Happy 2020 everyone! This cold weather we're having must have inspired a lot of you, because we received so many submissions! With the winter semester in full swing, now is the perfect time to take a breather from your hectic schedules and enjoy taking in the wonderful perspectives of your peers. Wrap up in a warm blanket, grab a cupcake, and enjoy the read!


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

Updates from the field:

  • Creating a Classroom Culture with Conversational English
  • Making the Most of English Picture Dictionaries
  • Confidence 2020: Regaining Our Inner Peace
  • English as a Second "Layer" Language
  • Experiencing Teacher Burnout?
  • International Students in Higher Ed: Pt. I
  • Read by Grade 3!
  • Using Mentor Texts to Create Engaging Grammar Lessons
  • An Opinion Piece on Being an ELL
  • Language After Brexit
  • CLIL-10 Ideas for 10 Months

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

Your co-editors,

Clarissa Codrington

Jessica Piggot

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President-elect Updates

Greetings MITESOL members. As President-Elect, I am excited to be the 2020 Conference Co-Chair with Christina Kozlowski this year in Sterling Heights. In addition, we look forward to welcoming you to our MITESOL reception at TESOL 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Please join us at the Otra Vez Cantina 610 16th St Mall, Denver, CO 80202 on Wednesday, April 1st from 6 - 8 p.m. Otra Vez Cantina is located approximately a half mile from the Colorado Convention Center and is a brief, 8 minute walk. You will enjoy a “menu of classic approachable Mexican favorites that are infused with a unique twist”. You must RSVP and print your receipt in order to attend and receive your free drink ticket. There will also be a cash bar, Mexican-inspired hors d’oeuvres, and social time with your fellow MITESOListas from around the world! Click HERE for a link to RSVP. See you soon!

Liz Sirman

President-Elect, MITESOL

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Past President Updates

Hard Work Bearing Fruit Years Later

Sometimes people work on one tiny piece of a larger project, but they never have the satisfaction of learning whether their hard work would ever bear fruit. Someone else takes the project over, or the momentum fizzles out. People may wonder whatever happened to that project but may never find closure. Wonder no more. If you have contributed to MITESOL’s search for a new website any time since 2017 – such as the undergraduate and graduate TESOL students at Eastern Michigan University in preparation for the 2018 conference, the dedicated members of the MITESOL Board in 2018-2019, and in particular Communications Coordinator Josie Gruber and President Tina Kozlowski, – I am happy to tell you that the organization has transitioned to a new website! Thank you to each and every one of you. Your hard work has paid off.

Affiliate Updates

MITESOL continues to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with IATEFL Poland, a fellow affiliate of the international TESOL organization. After welcoming President Andrzej Obstawski to the MITESOL reception at TESOL in Atlanta in 2019, this year one MITESOL member will have the chance to attend and present at the IATEFL conference in Łódź, Poland. The call for proposals will open to our members shortly. Until then, to pass your time productively, you may wish to practice pronouncing the name of the city. The winner of the competition will receive financial support from MITESOL to present in Poland in September (it may take them until September to get the pronunciation right) and share highlights about their experience with the MITESOL membership upon their return.

Grant Updates

There are none. No updates. Because no awards. Because no applicants.

This year nobody was awarded the Michigan Marckwardt Award because nobody had applied. Graduate students in TESOL/Applied Linguistics/SLA or related graduate program and their faculty mentors should take note. The award will be available again next year. Be sure to familiarize yourselves with the rules of both the Marckwardt Travel Grant and the Michigan Marckwardt Award, and maybe you will be the next lucky winner whose early-bird student registration to the TESOL conference will be paid for by MITESOL.

Leadership Updates

MITESOL would not be the vibrant organization that it is without its dedicated volunteers. Changes on the leadership team since our last newsletter have included Tina Kozlowski of Warren Consolidated Schools transitioning from President-Elect to President and Liz Sirman of Ypsilanti Schools transitioning from K-12 SIG Leader to President-Elect. Tina and Liz are now co-chairing the 2020 conference. In fact, this is Tina’s second conference in a row. She also co-chaired the 2019 conference, that one with MITESOL Historian Archivist Colleen Brice. Thank you to Tina for her endless energy and to Colleen for stepping up and serving as the local host! Suzanne Toohey of Oakland Schools has left the board and we cannot thank her enough for her leadership of the organization. We have also welcomed two new Webmasters: Jannette Bonamie of Saginaw Valley State University and Melissa Vervinck of Oakland University. They filled the vacancy created by the departure of long-time MITESOL Boardies Jennifer Musser of Washtenaw Literacy and Trisha Dowling of the University of Michigan. After the departure of Secretary Ellen Brengle of South Lyon Community Schools (thank you, Ellen!), we welcomed aboard Jackie Tomaszewski of West Bloomfield Schools to serve as Secretary. Rachel Wenskay of Lamphere Schools has been elected as the new K-12 SIG leader and has already increased the K-12 SIG’s presence on social media. The face of the CALL SIG has also undergone change when Allie Piippo of the University of Michigan took over from Austin Kaufmann of Michigan State University and The Dangling Participles.

On behalf of the entire MITESOL membership, I would like to thank all exiting, continuing, and entering Boardies for directing their expertise, time, and enthusiasm to our organization and its members.

In the next few months, we anticipate the following openings as terms expire: Treasurer, Communications Coordinator, and Post-Secondary SIG Leader. If you are interested in learning more about any of the positions, please contact Past President Ildi Porter-Szucs for more information at

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Board Notes

Welcome to a new decade! MITESOL board members are planning for a great fall 2020 conference. In addition, many are working on a new website, the use of G Suite, and welcoming new board members.

  • MITESOL 2019 was a great success with over 250 attendees. MITESOL provided 13 conference travel grant awards.

  • We are working to get a new website with Silkstart and hope to have it up and running in the spring. You can expect to find a friendly, easy to use website.

  • The board is working on a revamp of the MITESOL Organization in regards to the responsibilities of board members and exploring the idea of adding a position.

  • Tina and Liz are working continuously to finalize the Keynote speaker and the hotel for MITESOL 2020 in Sterling Heights, MI.

  • We voted to choose the theme for the conference, stay tuned for the results!

Jacqueline Tomaszewski

Secretary, MITESOL

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Adult Education SIG Updates

I hope 2020 is off to a great start and your teaching, learning, and lives are fruitful. Here are more resources, news articles, and advocacy opportunities to give you something to sink your teeth into. Please save the dates of October 23-24 for the MITESOL Conference in Sterling Heights, MI.

As always, let me know if there are any topics, articles, or concerns of interest that you would like for me to address via the website and/or at the conference.

Collin Blair

Adult Ed. SIG Leader

Professional Development

Guide to Professional Development in TESOL

Resources for Adult Students (and their teachers!)

VOA News Learning English

Just in case you and your students aren’t aware of this PHENOMENAL website. ESL-centered materials in all skills, videos, grammar lessons, idioms, current events and beyond.

Support Ed

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

Public Libraries: Adult literacy, GED, & citizenship classes

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

Citizenship Test Practice

As the printed books + cds are no longer being produced, this website is the place to refer your students for citizenship test prep.

Pure Michigan jobs and skills training

Peruse this website for many options to aid your students with workforce training and jobs:

*Also, refer students to local Michigan Works! offices for asssistance with resumes, interviewing skills, and locating available jobs:

Michigan eLibrary

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

*For example, one learning resource is: home page → eResources → Adult Core Skills → Improve Your Writing, Speaking, and Grammar → Writing Skills Tutorial

LINCS Learner Center

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


We Are All America

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

National Partnership for New Americans

This group represent the collective power and resources of the country’s 37 largest regional immigrant and refugee rights organizations in 31 states.


Various articles that touch on topics and themes that affect our students and our teaching:

NY Times:

A Census Whodunit: Why Was the Citizenship Question Added?

Migration Policy Institute: Employment and the Economy

*Temporary visa holders:

*Reducing social isolation for refugee women and other groups:

Pew Research Center:


Home Language Use: Europe vs. U.S.

Michigan Public Radio:

Michigan community college students can now more easily transfer to 4-year institutions

Non-traditional college students (from 2017)

Detroit Free Press (via Associated Press):

Whitmer tells Trump Michigan will keep welcoming refugees

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Advocacy and Policy SIG Updates

Happy February everyone! Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions after reading these Advocacy and Policy updates.

Sharon Umlor

MITESOL Advocacy and Policy SIG Leader

FY21 Federal Education Budget Request

TESOL International released a statement February 14 expressing disappointment in the president’s FY21 education budget request. The proposal requests deep cuts to K-12 education by consolidating 29 funding streams into one block grant within ESSA, which could affect English learners by removing accountability and oversight. Also, the funding request for Title II of WIOA, which affects adult English learners, remained the same as the previous year. Federal funding responsibilities ultimately rests with U.S. Congress, so please reach out to your senators and representatives to urge them to support funding for English language learners.

2020 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit

Your opportunity to attend the 2020 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit is this June 22-24 in Washington D.C. Registration is now open for educators to learn about U.S. federal education issues and advocate for policies that support English learners. For an in-depth review of what the experience is like, take a look at the accounts of MITESOL members who attended in the past in the presentation How to Advocate: Our Experiences at the TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit.

2020 U.S. Census

April 1 is Census Day, and all residents are encouraged to participate. An accurate count of our country’s population helps determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities every year. Educators can have a profound effect on disseminating factual information in order to increase participation. Please visit the The U.S. Census Bureau site to get the facts of the Census. Also, The National Coalition for Literacy offers Teaching and Learning Resources for Educators, Census 2020 Resource Links, and the opportunity for educators to Pledge to Be Counted! to share their knowledge of the importance of taking the census.

Immigration Data

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) published the annual update to its article, Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States where you can get current statistics on immigrants in the U.S and changing immigration trends regarding educational and linguistic demographics, immigrants in the labor force, temporary visas, refugees and asylum seekers, unauthorized immigrants, immigration enforcement, and much more.

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Post Secondary SIG Updates

How wonderful seeing so many people at the MITESOL conference in November 2019! It was a great opportunity to learn about what is going on in TESOL around Michigan. A big thank you to those of you who came to the Post-secondary SIG meeting. We had 23 participants from twelve post-secondary institutions come together to discuss collaborations in our post-secondary contexts. Thank you to everyone for sharing your experiences. I have to say that it was very heartening to hear about so many positive projects going on amidst all the anti-immigrant discourse reported on in the press of late. Let’s keep that positive momentum going! I am very excited that MITESOL is launching a new website next month. Watch for a discussion board feature for our SIG to continue to share our stories and inspire more collaborative projects in the future.

Issues to reflect on….

In the latest issue of TESOL Quarterly, Heath Rose (2019) laments the increasing separation of TESOL research from pedagogy and he proposes a ‘dismantling of the ivory tower in TESOL.’ He cites various scholars who suggest that TESOL research is becoming “more conceptual, theoretical, and written for a researcher readership, rather than directed at practitioners” (p. 896). To what extent do you perceive a gap between TESOL research and the work of ESL teachers?

While I acknowledge this reality, I am impressed that MITESOL is an organization that challenges this divide, as it very successfully brings researchers and teachers together. Just look through the MITESOL conference program and you will see presenters from K-12, higher education, and community programs all presenting sessions - often together as co-presenters! Our strength comes from our collaborations that demonstrate connections between research and pedagogy. I am also proud that, at my university, faculty teach both TESOL and ESL. In addition, faculty often work collaboratively with ESL instructors, as well as students, on research projects and publications. What about in your context or elsewhere?

The gap between research and pedagogy has clearly been identified as problematic in TESOL Quarterly. In an effort to address the gap, the Forum (comment section of TESOL Quarterly) is being reformatted “to highlight how the knowledge produced by the TESOL research community can inform the everyday practices of other TESOL professionals” (Subtirelu, 2019, p. 816). Presumably, there will be a mutual exchange of information, in that issues raised and information shared by ESL teachers will inform research directions, and that the research will involve teachers as researchers (or co-investigators) and authors.

The new format of the Forum deliberately includes discussions of issues relevant to language pedagogy. Recent publications focus on TESOL professionals and the struggle against xenophobia and white nationalism. Sadly, this is a hot topic today that affects multiple levels of education, but hopefully these articles will inspire us to learn more. By educating ourselves, we can build our understanding and act in informed ways. Sayer, Martínez-Prieto, and Carvajal De La Cruz (2019) give insights about the situation for TESOL professionals in Mexico. Puntí and Wright-Peterson (2019) provide helpful suggestions on how TESOL educators can support undocumented students, and Duran (2019) outlines steps we can take to help refugee students meet the challenges of xenophobia. What is your institution doing to address xenophobia and white nationalism?


Duran, C., S. (2019). On issues of discrimination and xenophobia: What can TESOL practitioners do to support and advocate for refugee students? TESOL Quarterly, 53(3), 818-827 doi: 10.1002/tesq.523

Puntí, G, & Wright-Peterson, V. (2019). How can English language educators support and work with undocumented and DACA students in higher education? TESOL Quarterly, 53(3), 827-835. doi: 10.1002/tesq.498

Rose, H. (2019). Dismantling the ivory tower in TESOL: A renewed call for teaching-informed research. TESOL Quarterly, 53(3), 895-995. doi: 10.1002/tesq.517

Sayer, P., Martínez-Prieto, D., & Carvajal De La Cruz, B. (2019). Discourses of white nationalism and xenophobia in the United States and their effect on TESOL professionals in Mexico. TESOL Quarterly, 53(3), 835-844. doi: 10.1002/tesq.492

Subtirelu, N. C. (2019). Introduction: TESOL professionals and the struggle against xenophobia and white nationalism TESOL Quarterly, 53(3), 816-818. doi: 10.1002/tesq.524

Upcoming Conferences

Get out your calendars and save the dates for these upcoming events:

Check out more national and global events at

MITESOL Award Opportunity

If you are a MITESOL member enrolled in a preservice or inservice education program and are interested in learning more about what is happening in the field of TESOL, it is not too early to think about applying for the MITESOL Conference Travel Grant for Post-Secondary Students. Application details are posted on the MITESOL website ( – click MITESOL Grant for University Students. The deadline is September 11, 2020.

Please let me know if you have any publications, book reviews, announcements, events, and/or collaborations that you would like me to share with post-secondary SIG members.

I hope 2020, the year of the rat, is a productive one for everyone!

Cynthia Macknish

Post-secondary SIG leader

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K-12 SIG Updates

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


It’s that time of the year again! The WIDA ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS testing window is open from February 3-March 20, 2020. Click the link in the heading to find MDE’s WIDA ACCESS for ELs page. If you need additional help, MDE encourages you to contact When you need support directly from WIDA, contact or (866) 276-7735.

  • New WIDA Standards

After releasing their updated Guiding Principles document in 2019, WIDA has announced the 2020 Edition of their English Language Development (ELD) Standards. Stakeholders were invited to provide feedback about these new standards from November 18, 2019-January 20, 2020. A 2020 Vision Flyer outlines the rollout on the 2020 Vision for Standards page, and PowerPoint Slides have been made available for download. The five core WIDA ELD standards will not change, but the updated edition complies with all federal requirements under ESSA while providing clear language expectations and incorporating a new set of resources based on the latest theory, practice, and policy. It also offers shorthand reference codes so educators can note which sections of the standards will be addressed in their lessons.


The January 30th edition of the Michigan Department of Education Spotlight Newsletter includes important WIDA testing window reminders, information about student transfers during the test, and student screening during the testing window. If you have not signed up to receive the Michigan Department of Education Spotlight Newsletters, click on the heading above to subscribe to the Spotlight Listserv.

Are you aware that Kelly Alvarez, State English Learner Educational Consultant, offers EL Director’s Messages? If you are interested in receiving Title III and Section 41 updates click above to subscribe.

  • Read by Grade Three Law

This year, Center For Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) will be mailing letters to the guardians of all third grade students whose reading level fell below the 2020 M-Step cut score. It is important to note that districts have the option to apply for good cause exemptions, despite the fact that all students in this category will receive letters. Educators need to be informed about how they can support English Learners and their families. Be sure to check out the available resources.

This document will be extremely useful as you make decisions regarding retention for your third grade English Learners. Be sure to share this with your team.

This document offers specific information about how the law affects English Learners.

Use this link to find video explanations and translated letters for parents/guardians.

The link above leads you to resources for teaching reading to all students.

New Kindergarten Assessment

In the fall of 2020, state law requires Kindergarten classes to participate in Michigan’s Kindergarten Entry Observation (MKEO) using the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA). The assessment, which will need to be completed by November 1st, contains observational-based questions in order to measure the school readiness of incoming Kindergarten students. The assessment website, MKEO Guide: Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, says that it is a developmentally-appropriate assessment across four domains: Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Social Foundations, and Physical Well-Being and Motor Development. It cites that benefits include identifying students’ strengths and challenges, providing teachers with information that helps them differentiate their teaching, informs families about their child’s strengths and abilities, and provides stakeholders (teachers, districts, school leaders) with information to help them make informed decisions about professional development, teacher support, and programming.

MeL-Michigan e-Library Resources

If you have not tapped into the amazing MeL system, be sure to check this out! According to the website linked in the heading, “The Michigan eLibrary (MeL) is a statewide service of the Library of Michigan, which is an agency of the Michigan Department of Education.” Information can be accessed for free if you are within the state limits (or with a license number when you use a Hotspot). There are a great number of resources for English Learners and their families. Many of the articles can be translated or read aloud and free e-books are available for students/families. Educators can find curriculum resources within the “Educator” link on the home page, elementary students have access to interactive information about high-interest topics through Pebble Go, middle School students can research information for nonfiction essays, high school students can access ACT/SAT prep courses, and families can locate vocational resources. Learning to navigate the A-Z system may seem tricky, but the new buttons make it very user friendly. If you are just starting out, go to the MeL homepage, click “Educator” and find Curriculum Resources for your level.

2020 Professional Development:

March 31-April 3: TESOL International Convention and Language Expo, Denver, Colorado

April 17-April 18: 2020 Mitten CI Conference, Saline, Michigan

May 5: English Learners with Suspected Disabilities: Guidance Document & Case Studies, Oakland Schools-Pontiac, MI

May 14-15: MABE Institute, Dearborn, Michigan

June 19: Supporting Diverse Learners in Mathematics, Oakland Schools-Pontiac, MI

August 18-19: Bridging Success for ELs, Oakland Schools-Pontiac, MI

October 23-24: MITESOL Conference, Warren, Michigan

October 26-29: WIDA Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado

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

Thank you for reading!

Rachael Wenskay

ESL Teacher/Coordinator, Lamphere Public Schools

K-12 SIG Leader, MITESOL

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Updates From the Field

Making the Most of English Picture Dictionaries

By Maximiliano Orlando


Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) learners may attend schools or adult centers in which, at some point, they use an English picture dictionary. It is well known that one of the uses of an English picture dictionary is to look up words that have been sorted out into semantic fields, e.g. parts of the house, parts of the body, sports, etc., and whose meaning is expressed by means of illustrations. In standard English dictionaries, by contrast, words can be explained through definitions and sentences. Furthermore, in these dictionaries, entries may include additional information, such as phonetic symbols, grammar forms, parts of speech, etc. Because of these differences, it could be claimed that adult learners of ESL in general and beginner ones in particular may find English picture dictionaries easier to use and to read than standard English ones.

Nonetheless, I think that beyond the easily accessible and informative functions that English picture dictionaries may have, they can be exploited in such a way that adult learners of ESL can combine several semantic fields using different sections of these dictionaries and their own background knowledge. To this end, I shall suggest three activities that can be done in ESL classes in which English picture dictionaries are used, but, before doing so, I will need to refer to semantic field theory briefly.

Semantic Field Theory

It can be argued that one of the pillars that sustain the structure of English picture dictionaries is semantic field theory. While discussing the basic assumption of semantic field theory, Mansouri (1985) maintains that “The lexical items of language can be classified into sets which are related semantically […]” (Mansouri, 1985, p. 39). For example, tennis, soccer, volleyball and basketball belong in a set of words that are related to sports. Indeed, hyponymy is one of the ways in which lexical items may be organised, and, as a result, one of the methods that have been suggested for teaching vocabulary (Wangru, 2016). As shown in the examples I have just presented, “Hyponymy is a relation of inclusion” Wangru (2016, p. 70), and, according to Gao and Xu (2013), it “[…] is the most common branch of semantic field theory” (Gao and Xu, 2013, p. 2031). This relation of inclusion called hyponymy pervades English picture dictionaries. For example, these dictionaries may contain a semantic field that will be used in the activities below and where the superordinate, i.e. the general term (Wangru, 2016), occupation may include hyponyms, i.e. specific terms (Gao and Xu, 2013), such as doctor, teacher, carpenter and plumber.

Having referred to semantic field theory and to how this theory may be reflected in English picture dictionaries very briefly, I shall present the above-mentioned activities in the next section.


As advanced in the introduction, the goal of the following activities is to help adult learners of ESL to make the most of the semantic fields that English picture dictionaries provide and, as a result, to give these dictionaries a function that goes beyond those of being informative and easily accessible. In these activities, adult learners of ESL will refer to the following semantic fields: occupations, tools, equipment and ailments.

Activity 1

In the first activity, learners combine different semantic fields by sorting out terms using their own background knowledge. For example, they visit the section of their English picture dictionary that deals with occupations, and classify those that are cited in this section while taking into account variables that they are already familiar with. Learners may, for instance, group these occupations according to the employment sector they belong to or according to places where they may be found. For example, doctor, nurse and surgeon are related to the health sector and to hospitals. By contrast, bricklayer, surveyor and architect are connected with the building sector and with building sites.

Activity 2

In the second activity, learners work on different sections of their English picture dictionaries. For example, they may be asked about what equipment or tools people who have different occupations might use. In the case of doctors, for example, they would look for equipment that is generally used in hospitals, such as stethoscope, defibrillator or syringe, whereas, when talking about occupations in the building sector such as bricklayer, they would come across other equipment or tools, such as ladder and spirit level. However, it has to be pointed out that this activity can only be done if there is a section devoted to these tools or equipment in the English picture dictionaries the learners are using. Nonetheless, there may be other semantic fields that are present in these dictionaries and that are related to occupations. A case in point is ailments. Learners may be asked about what ailments a bricklayer, an architect or a surveyor may get while working outdoors, i.e. on a building site, on a cold, rainy day. They may also discuss what ailments a doctor or a nurse working long and unsocial hours may be prone to suffer from.

Activity 3

At this point, learners personalize the content of the previous two activities. Therefore, they may be asked questions such as what occupation they would choose if they changed careers and what advantages and disadvantages this occupation has. As regards tools and equipment, they could discuss which of these items they would find easy or difficult to use if they chose the occupation in question. As for ailments, for instance, they may talk about what preventive measures they would have to take to avoid getting sick at work.


In this article I have discussed semantic field theory briefly and how this theory has a bearing on the structure of English picture dictionaries. I have also suggested three activities that transcend the informative and accessible functions of these dictionaries. Indeed, even though reading and repeating lists of hyponyms or identifying hyponyms while using English picture dictionaries are activities whose usefulness I do not question, I propose that adult learners of ESL establish relations between these hyponyms to make the most of these dictionaries and to personalize their content.


Gao, C., & Xu, B. (2013). The application of semantic field theory to English vocabulary learning. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(11), 2030-2035. doi:10.4304/tpls.3.11.2030-2035

Mansouri, A. N. H. (1985). Semantic field theory and the teaching of English vocabulary, with special reference to Iraqi secondary schools. (Doctoral thesis). University of Sheffield. Retrieved from

Wangru, C. (2016). Vocabulary Teaching Based on Semantic-Field. Journal of Education and Learning. 5(3), 64-71. doi:10.5539/jel.v5n3p64

Maximiliano holds a degree in English Language Teaching, a master’s degree in Linguistics: Language Didactics, and a PhD: Language and Literature Didactics Programme. He has taught EFL/ESL in Argentina, Canada, and Spain and is now part of the English Montreal School Board. He can be reached at

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Confidence 2020: Regaining Our Inner Peace

By Jerome Washington

I’m writing to bring to attention an issue that I feel students and teachers are struggling with this year so far: confidence. Throughout my time working in 2019, I have decided to change my way of thinking in 2020. New year, new me, right? But as I have started my journey in 2020, I have noticed a trend that I hope can bring hope to whoever reads the words in this article, whether you are a teacher starting a new job at an ESL school, or a student that feels that their English is not good enough.

During the early days of this new year, I have had plenty of students (some of my own and some not) come to me and express that, “My English is not good enough.”, “I really would like to speak up more, but I am afraid of making a mistake.” and so on. In the past, I will admit I would always give a generic answer of, “Do not worry. Everything will be ok.” But when I had a chance to sit down with a student and really dig deep into the root of this issue, I have come to learn that confidence was missing. I feel that students these days are under so much pressure to succeed that they forget that learning English can be a fun experience. I feel that students forget that it is ok to make mistakes and that saying or writing the wrong answers does not mean you are a fool.

Coming from Detroit, Michigan to Lublin, Poland, I have heard from a lot students that they always have this fear of speaking to me because they feel that my English is perfect and that I would laugh at them because their English is not perfect. To those students I will say this, No one is perfect. We are all learning every single day. There is nothing wrong with feeling the way you feel. But I challenge you to take a different approach to your fears. I challenge you to change your way of thinking. Go from, “I am not good enough.” to “I am making progress.” Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” There is nothing wrong with mistakes. This is how we as humans learn. You have already come so far as a learner. Think about all the new vocabulary and grammar you have learned thus far. Even think about the new vocabulary you have learned today. It is way more than yesterday, even if it is just one new word, it is still progress nonetheless. There may be times that there are some struggles with pronunciations, or spelling, or knowing when to use past simple versus present perfect, but your teachers are here and ready to nurture you so that you can reach that next level in your English journey. The more you begin to trust your knowledge and everything you have learned thus far, the more confident you will become in the future. I guarantee it.

To the teachers starting work at a language school for the first time, or to the seasoned veterans, this one is for you. Trust in yourself; embrace the butterflies you are feeling. You are about to pass down knowledge that will help students reach their goals when it comes to their journey in studying English. What an amazing job right? I know that it can be nerve-racking at times. When I started my first courses (two B2 classes and one C1 class) I was excited, yet petrified. I questioned, “Am I doing enough, is this too much work for one class, are these activities good enough for these students, am I pacing my classes too fast?” and so on. It was to a point that I would create these mental barriers in my head and even question if I had bit off more than I could chew.

Over the Christmas holiday, I sat down and did some soul-searching and I felt that I had to change a few things about my approach to my lessons. One of those key things…you guessed it, my confidence. Think of those moments when you are in the middle of explaining something and a student just blurts out a question that catches you off guard. It is even worse when that question is way off topic. Sometimes I would freeze up; maybe even question if I am answering that students question properly. As I feel all the eyes of the other students awaiting my response, I felt like they were staring deep into my soul, ready to judge me should I not answer the question in an adequate way. I am here to tell you that it is ok to feel these feelings. But do not let these feelings cloud you, or bring you down, or make you feel like you are inadequate. You have the knowledge; you have the expertise to answer these kinds of questions. And even when you may not know the answer, there is nothing wrong with telling that student, “I am not quite sure, but give me a little time and I can get back to you on that.” It does not mean you are clueless. It just shows you have the confidence to admit that while you do not know right now, with some research you can get the right answers for that student. Remember, we as teachers are humans too, we do not know everything in the world, and there is nothing wrong with taking a step back and finding the best answers for our students.

When it comes to lesson planning there is nothing wrong with going crazy and thinking of innovative ideas and new activities for your students. Depending on your class or classes, some ideas may seem great in our minds, yet in practice they did not turn out as we envisioned, but it does not mean you did a horrible job. Instead, have the confidence to re-work those ideas and try again. It is like learning how to ride a bike. We may fall down at times, but we always get back up. Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I know at times our jobs as teachers can become extremely stressful, maybe our bosses gave us a bad review on our lesson or lessons, or maybe we sometimes lose that drive and motivation to work. What I am here to say is, never lose that confidence. It is ok to make mistakes, it is ok to be spontaneous and change your lessons half-way through because you feel your students need extra help with a topic. We as teachers are stamping our students passports and are guiding them to their future goals. Remember the next time you feel like you are not good enough; do not believe it because you are good enough.

In closing, together we as teachers and students are intertwined in this learning process. It is time that we change the way we think about certain situations throughout the year 2020 and beyond. The next time you feel your confidence has taken a hit I want you to stick out your index finger in the air and just point at an object nearby. Your pointed index finger is the question: Why did this situation affect my confidence? But notice, you have three fingers pointed back at you. Those three questions are: What can I do to improve this situation? What knowledge or lessons can I gain or learn from this situation? And lastly: How can I help others that may experience this situation in the future? Answering these four questions will not only give you the perfect time to reflect, but the last question will no doubt give you your confidence back because there is no greater feeling than helping people who may be experiencing what you have been through before. Angela Watson says in her podcast Truth for Teachers, “Remember, it’s not going to be easy – it’s going to be worth it.” To all the students reading, enjoy this journey of learning English, it will have its ups and downs, but you can do it, I have faith in you. And to all the teachers reading, continue to be the beacon of light for all your students. You have the knowledge and the credentials, trust in yourself and always keep your head held high.

Jerome Washington is from Detroit, Michigan and has been living in Lublin, Poland for the past couple of years. Since living in Lublin, he has worked in numerous language schools, as well as with IT companies in helping them improve their Business English. He is currently studying Polish...a hard language indeed, but a challenge worth conquering. He can be reached at

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Creating a Classroom Culture with Conversational English

By Connie Wolfe

Teaching English with Michigan State University International Students has led to various strategies that work in a conversational setting in a VETP class. I have mostly PhD Students, Masters Degree students, visiting scholars, and a few spouses who have professional careers in their native country. I remember thinking how I could get to know each student beyond the “hello, my name is, and I am from…”.

Because most of the students learn English in their own countries before coming to the United States of America, their vocabulary is focused on the words that most international business use or British English. Out of concern for understanding our daily USA vernacular, our idioms and collocations often form the basis for ESL conversation classes.

Collocation refers to the way in which some words regularly occur together. An example is we say that someone is a heavy smoker. That means the person smokes a lot, but we don’t say he is a strong smoker or powerful smoker. (, online 2018.)

Idioms on the other hand, are made of 1000 plus sayings in American English, many of those are derived from other languages and countries. An idiom is “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., over the moon and see the light) (The Oxford Dictionary, 2018).

Then Slang Words and New American Words enter the picture causing students to puzzle over such expressions as “What’s Up”, meaning what is happening with you. Or words like “Shut Up” meaning someone’s surprised response to news.

While all that is important to understand American conversation, I believe the way to learn conversational English begins with identity and knowing the student first. Teachers can achieve this through various methods: asking what the students want to know first, then provide classes around these categories: food, photography, music, and the arts. What the students want to learn brings to light how to proceed. Even if there are different levels of English speakers in a class, everyone identifies with these categories in some way.

Thus, I developed lessons on how these four areas would relate to each student and individual cultures using culturally responsive pedagogy. Geneva Gay (2000; 2010) defines culturally responsive teaching as the implicit use of the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them.

First, I created a format for each class so students would feel some comfort as to what would occur each time class met. I put the format on the whiteboard. I took a leap of faith thinking that students would be able to read the English format, or some would look up words on their phone.

This is an example of one daily format for a weekly class meeting.

Date: 9/14/2018 Wednesday 10-12 am

  1. Say: Hello, my name is and I am from…

  2. Tell us what you did this week.

  3. Theme: Food Apples-watch a video on Michigan apples; select a photo/ photos of apples from your home country

  4. Sample various Michigan apples-your opinion of best one

  5. Learn a few Food Idioms about Apples

The introduction at the beginning of class usually takes about 30 minutes with 12 students. Each student briefly states their name and their country, then tries to explain in a few words their weekly experience. This often promotes cross-talk with other students, and ultimately builds a community of friends and learners.

Then I define that week’s theme using multiple intelligence styles and multi media: watching (closed caption) and listening to a video, relating and responding to photos of their own country’s food, kinesthetic, i.e., touching, cutting, and tasting the apples; reading and using the idioms; and finally discussing their opinions and questions. Sometimes I would ask students in pairs to act out one of the idioms for the class once the students gained some confidence.

All students fill out a brief information sheet and make a name card to set at their place. They gather their name cards when they come into class. Names are an important piece of their identity, and the name cards help to get to know each student. One whole class can be about names and their meanings in each one’s culture.

My class is as much learning about the American culture as it is exchanging ideas and information about the students’ cultures. The International Student Office and student organizations at MSU do an outstanding job organizing activities about various cultures of students. For instance, to name just a few there are Malaysian, Indian, Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, African, Brazilian, Columbian, Sri Lankan student weekends with events. I try to attend as many of these activities to support my students and learn more about them. Cultural activities and events reinforce the importance of Identity and build community.

The next step to enhance identity and strengthen community is a home visitation and social gathering. I have organized a pizza party for the students at my home. For some this was the first time in an American home. One of the students from Pakistan suggested each person sing a song from their homeland. What enfolded was a beautiful evening of entertainment as students sang love songs, opera, and holiday songs. We shared in the realization that we are all more alike than different. One student videotaped and took photos of our party that evening. In addition she photographed each gathering and class we had. At the end of the semester I shared such wonderful photos of our journey together.

With photo journalism I realized how important photos are to understanding English words. Whenever we learn a new word or concept in class, I use my computer to find a picture or photo of that word and then project that on the screen.

One time we discussed how grapes are harvested. By viewing a short video on YouTube, we learned what a “grape Harvester machine” looked like, then saw it gather grapes in a vineyard in Michigan. Google images also provide many photos that depict various words and concepts. In one class we learned about the various apps on phones to use for groceries, and apps to communicate such as SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. How to use available databases enables everyone to access information quickly, many times in their native language as well as English. So we use every technology available to learn English.

Furthermore, I do think some adult conversation about traditions in the USA may provide adult learners with what to expect. Holidays with religious origins such as Christmas or Easter may not be unique to some international students.While New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day parades, Memorial and Labor Days, and July 4 are only USA holidays, and some communities have celebrations that the students may want to participate.

Halloween as a unique USA holiday can be a great lesson in idioms, jargon, and vocabulary. “All Hallows Eve” and “All Saints Eve has origins in Europe and South America.

So a few students may already be familiar with the religious connection. We have a Halloween Party celebration with costumes, games, food, treats, and a short PowerPoint presentation on how it began. Then I show how Americans celebrate it. This is especially helpful to those students with children.

Another strategy for classroom opportunities is learning about the State and the City where we hold class. I took scrapbooking kits on Michigan and made them into a laminated game. I went to the Michigan Tourist Centers to collect State and City Maps. Then in class we made a journey around the state to discover various cities of interest.

Many of my students like to travel to see the USA, so this is particularly helpful for them to know the best travel sites. Because they like to travel, getting a USA driver’s license is also important. So discussions around how to go to the DMV and obtain booklets, and where to take the road tests are popular to students.

In summary conversational English can evolve into so many avenues for students. For me this journey has been particularly rewarding as the students have taught me so much about identity, our conversation, and our place in the world.

Connie Wolfe is an Education professor who graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS in Ed, a MA in Ed from Michigan State University, and an Ed.D. in Multicultural Education from the University of Kentucky. She currently tutors and teaches conversational English classes in VETP at MSU in East Lansing. She can be contacted at

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English as a Second "Layer" Language

By Monica Rocha-Antonin

This article discusses my experience for the past three-and-a-half years as Academic English and English for Special Purposes instructor in two universities and a technical college in the North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany. Prior to moving to Germany, I had worked as TEFL/ESL instructor at the University of California, U.S. Since fall 2016, I moved to Germany where I currently teach Academic English courses and English for Special Purposes. Most recently, I started teaching Business English at a technical college for mostly Syrian refugees studying computer coding.

Since the U.S. is a multicultural, multiracial society, multiculturalism is inherent within many of us, if not racially, socially and intellectually. Thus, having grown up in an environment where intercultural relations are part of the daily life, and having been trained in diversity and multiculturalism, transitioning to the environment of the “new Germany” under the “Integration” goals established in 2015, was a natural step for me.

In both universities I have worked, language departments play a crucial role in helping students develop the level of academic English necessary to be admitted into a master’s or doctorate program, to write a master’s or doctorate thesis, to be admitted to an international university or to earn a scholarship from the German government, and etc. These English programs also offer English for Special Purposes courses that cater to students in various academic areas, but most notably engineering, chemistry, and other STEM areas.

For the past three years, there has been a notable increase in the number of international students being admitted to German universities. As of the winter semester 2017/18, 374,951 international students were enrolled in German higher education institutions, representing 13% of the total student population. Of these students enrolled, 36.5% were attending a bachelor’s degree course, 36% a master’s degree, 10% PhD programs, 8% other degrees and 10% non-degree courses. In spite of this stark increase in the number of international students, German universities have done very little in terms of offering support to language programs that offer Academic English or English for Special Purposes, both for native German speakers and for international students. Both types of English courses are necessary to support or supplement students in various academic areas as above mentioned and are often degree requirements.

However, teaching English within this new “international” context represents only one aspect of the equation. With Germany becoming a very attractive country for immigrants and students, and the country having accepted around 1,4 million refugees from differing ethnic, socio-linguistic and racial backgrounds since 2015, the profile of the “typical” German university student has changed significantly in the past three years and this, to a professional with my background and training, appeared at first easy given my vast experience teaching for an international English language programs in California. Many of my own classrooms now consists of 80% of students from countries other than Germany and in the past, I had at least 5-10 languages represented in any given classroom.

However, the issue that stands out is not the fact that the body of students has become extremely diversified linguistically, but mainly, how to deal with the increase of a linguistically, culturally and ethnically diverse body of students in the classroom and how to best address their academic needs within the context of English as a “second layer language?” Presently, there is no clear strategic plan to deal with this collaboratively and the dialogue is only beginning to take place within some academic institutions.

Current English placement tests given by universities tend to be outdated and use dated software that does not reflect up-to-date language fluency assessments, and these tests can often present an even greater challenge to the English instructor, as the levels in the classroom are not properly measured. And this prevents the English instructors to properly address their students’ academic needs as much time is spent adjusting the language levels in the classroom. And these needs vary from offering academic courses based on the CEFR levels, to English for specific subject areas, including STEM areas, preparation for writing a master’s or doctorate thesis, applying for international scholarships, to mention a few. In spite of the fact that English courses being offered within these institutions serve various academic purposes and are crucial to the success of international students, they are not dully acknowledged or valued by these institutions which are often “ill-equipped in terms of staff and administrative support to meet the demands that have arisen as a result of internationalization.”

Furthermore, it is important to highlight the role of the English instructor as a mediator in the increasingly diverse classroom in Germany, a role that transcends the basic academic needs of students or of the program, and often requires cultural mediation and an emotional empathy that promotes a sense of unity and greater cultural understanding within the classroom. In addition, English courses currently being taught in German universities play a “back-up” role, so to speak, as a second “academic” language of choice for non-German native speakers who are working on getting a degree from a German university or a technical college.

Fortunately, some institutions are now beginning to discuss the implications of international students in German universities and hopefully this dialogue will transcend the realms of “faculty meeting” conversations and expand to a greater circle, hopefully having an impact on how institutions and administrators value the crucial role that the English instructor plays within this context, especially in mediating culture and offering a space where students can express themselves and perhaps, more comfortably discuss their cultural and language challenges.

Furthermore, another issue at stake is that most of these students are learning German and taking their courses in German and yet, are enrolled in English courses, thus this second “layer” of language acquisition can create confusion, especially given the many similarities between English and German, and many students rely on transfer skills both in oral and written expression. This again, requires further dialogue to help determine how can international students be best instructed in both languages concomitantly and how can departments collaborate during these challenging times. The various repercussions of his scenario which is fairly recent within the context of German tertiary education is of paramount importance if we are to continue to offer students quality English programs that prepare them for their future academic lives.

Monica Rocha-Antonin works as an English for Special Purposes Instructor at the University of Duisburg Essen, Germany, and the Digital Career Center in Dusseldorf, Germany. Prior to moving to Germany, she worked as English faculty for the University of California Irvine and Riverside where she taught academic and business English for a diverse population of students. She can be reached at

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Experiencing Teacher Burnout?

By Evelina Senyavina

Everything starts with recognizing and acknowledging the problem, and burnout is no exception. According to a recent research teacher leaving and moving is at the highest rate since 2010 and still continues to grow. But how do teachers themselves explain it? They mainly blame it to the workload, rising demands and the amount of red tape, of course.

On average, teachers work 60 hours per week during term time, take their work home and to ensure everything is done on time they to sacrifice their holidays to finish the tasks and so on and so forth. Such schedule simply makes it impossible to maintain work-life balance. So, there is no clear distinction for educators, where work finishes, and the rest starts. Teachers tend to think about their work, students, problems in the classroom almost round the clock. This leads to insomnia, arguments with colleagues and loved ones.

Those not involved into educating often say that teaching, in their opinion, seems equal to doing almost nothing and what you need to do is just repeat the same thing over and over again. And – probably the most common delusion – that no other job is so relaxing because of such long holidays. To a certain extent it does make sense, but hardly anyone pay any attention to the continuous pressure and overtime teachers have during the school year.

It’s best to recognize burnout before it’s too late

To me, it started by obsessive preparation, going to bed thinking about my classes, frightening myself with pictures of angry, annoyed, dissatisfied students giving me bad feedback and waking up several times in the middle of night. Needless to say, I started having problems with memory, concentration and relationships with anyone outside of work. So what are the alarming signs? Although symptoms can vary, here are only some of them:

  • Insomnia

  • Constant tiredness, muscle pain

  • Lowering self-esteem and self-confidence leading to self-doubt

  • Irritability and (constant) dissatisfaction

  • Constantly feeling sleepy – which is a sign of depression – and difficulty waking up

All the above can lead to more serious consequences if no action is taken. As it turned out, burnout is actually an international epidemic, and leads to teachers leaving profession at an increasing rate.

Burned out, so what?

So what’s wrong with being burned out and maybe no one will notice if we play well? Doubt it. The main result of constant stress is aggression which sometimes spills over. Evidently, this harms not only our personal relationships with our loved ones, but it also hurts our students and impair their ability to learn. Cliché as it may sound but we all lead by example and this is partly why a teacher always participates in the race to be better, faster, funnier, more engaging, trying to satisfy various request – and some of them – let’s be honest – are not even clear or do not make any sense all, to say the least.

How is teacher burnout different to other professions?

Since burnout has just started being recognized as a health issue, not that many of us are ready to report it. Due to the nature of our profession, it’s quite hard to admit and share that we are struggling and experiencing burnout, or even thinking of dropping all that we’ve been doing for such a long time.

So shall we do anything about that?

First, start from granting yourself the right to rest and letting go of the bad thoughts that bring you down – as much as possible, of course. And just relax. Let yourself be yourself and others be themselves and try to switch your attention from the thoughts racing in your mind to something that brings you pleasure and joy.

Every action should be taken on a regular basis and only constant repetition and practice – and we as teachers know it very well – can bring great results. These results also start by promising to yourself and keeping your word – that from now on you will choose not overreact but instead take a moment and step back from the situation.

Every day remind yourself that people around you act out of their best intentions and don’t be afraid to ask for help, people are willing to listen to you and provide you with what you ask for. Don’t just throw all your problems over to someone, make sure a person is ready to listen.

Psychologists keep repeating that we cannot just get rid of a particular habit until we find the right replacement for it. Thus, choose relaxation over worrying, good, positive thoughts over negativity, love over hate, confidence in bright future instead of dreading the future.

Discover your voice. Be more assertive and confident in what you’re doing – whether you’re changing your schedule, asking for a pay rise, taking up a new group of students or giving up an old one. Stop worrying about the reaction of others, and remember that a change, even a seemingly negative one, is likely to be for the better.

Practical things that could change your life for the better? Yoga, meditation (opt for a guided meditation if you’re a beginner), physical exercises, massage – all of the above raise the level of endorphins in your body, remove the blocks in your body and enhance your mood, you will see your life improving very soon. Take up a new hobby to develop new neural connections in brain. Take a moment and think what makes you really happy, make a list if necessary. Be it a walk in a park, sitting on a bench reading a book, riding a bike or something else. Most of this do not cost us anything.

Some people do tell me that they feel they are not in control of their thoughts and therefore of your life. This is not true. Only you are responsible for what is happening in your mind and only you can choose from now on react in a different way. Your reactions will give a new impulse to your organism, and its processes will start working in different ways, leading you to the betterment of your life.

And not matter what happened, never blame yourself for that. Whipping yourself will drag you even further from achieving positive results.

Evelina can be reached at

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International Students in Higher Ed, Pt. I

By Christen M. Pearson, PhD, Nguyet Nguyen, M.A., Abdulah S. AlAsiri, M.A.


In a global world, few would argue the importance of having international students as contributing members of graduate programs, especially to MATESOL and related programs such as are found here in Michigan (e.g., Grand Valley State University Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, Eastern Michigan University Master of Arts in TESOL, Michigan State University MA-TESOL, Western Michigan University MA-TESOL, among others). Yet, unfortunately, the numbers of international students are declining across the U.S. This article seeks to explore the benefits offered by and to international students studying in the U.S., reasons for the recent decline in enrollment, and, most importantly, some of the challenges international students experience in attending a U.S. graduate program, based on both the existing literature and personal experience. The overview of these issues will then lead to a focus on what graduate international students need – from their own perspective.

Benefits and Contributions

International students make many contributions to the programs they attend, as well as receive benefits for studying abroad. These benefits can include lifelong prestige in earning a degree at a highly-ranked institution, academic and professional achievement from earning a graduate degree in general, and clear evidence of having attained a high level of English proficiency and literacy (Choudaha, 2016; Shapiro, Farrelly, & Tomaš, 2014). These benefits can then potentially lead to a higher level of social status compared to those who have studied within the home country (Choudaha, 2016). In return, international students contribute much, providing universities with documented evidence of internationalization (Knight, 2004) and showcasing the standing of the U.S. as a world leader (Strauss, 2017); increasing cultural awareness for the entire student body (Leask, 2009) and providing “opportunities for U.S. citizens to connect to the wider world” (Strauss, 2017, para 10); and, especially for TESOL-oriented programs, offering significant enrichment for discussions - thus benefiting domestic students - across an array of linguistic and teacher education topics, which thereby models “promoting an inclusive approach to teaching” (Shapiro, Farrelly, & Tomaš, 2014, p.7)

Reasons Enrollments Are Down

As recently as 2016, U.S. higher education institutions were some of the most desirable for globally mobile students, attracting 26% of the world market (Choudaha, 2016). During the 2015-2016 academic year, U.S. international student enrollment was up 7.1%, the 10th successive year of expanding enrollment (Strauss, 2017). Yet by 2017, with the first drop in international applications in over a decade, projections of declining enrollment were already being heard with hints that the cause could be due to the political climate (Beaderly, 2019; Strauss, 2017; Wong, 2019). This drop then continued for the second consecutive year, the first time this had been seen; however, during the same time period, international applications were seeing an 11-20% increase in Canada and Australia (Beaderly, 2019).

Many reasons for this decline in U.S. international student applications have been discussed in both news and academic sources, all revolving around sociopolitical concerns, including current immigration policy and messaging (Wong, 2019). These concerns include longer waits for visas with processing times increased by 46% and a lag time of five months beyond the previous time frame, increased denials of visa applications, and the potential need to reapply for each year of study; trade tensions which impact restrictions and increase delays; and the potential for travel bans (Beaderly, 2019; Green, 2019; Strauss, 2017; Wong, 2019). These problems can, in turn, cause serious financial difficulties for potential students, impacting their ability to start programs they have already been accepted in, and resulting in loss of rent, flight expenses, and tuition (Green, 2019). There are also concerns about the safety of living in the U.S. during the current sociopolitical climate and the degree of discrimination on campuses, as well as the treatment students might receive once here, especially if they are perceived as “stealing” U.S. jobs (Beaderly, 2019; Glass, Wongtrirat, & Buus, 2015). These problems conspire to cause potential students and their parents to question the value of a U.S. education and increasingly to look elsewhere (Beaderly, 2019; Strauss, 2017).

Importance of Supporting Those That Do Come

As noted above, international students offer much to U.S. universities and their student bodies, yet the current climate increasingly discourages many from applying. Therefore, it is critically important to support those students that do tackle the difficult process of coming to the U.S. to study. Universities often see their role as one of setting strategic goals which include recruitment of international students, as well as financially supporting writing centers, learning centers, library support services, and international student centers (Shapiro, Farrelly, & Tomaš, 2014); however, little direct practical support or engagement is offered, leaving this “hands-on” work to programs and teachers (Glass, Wongtrirat, & Buus, 2015). Programs seek to make sure students are enrolled in appropriate courses, are progressing through their program, and have found adequate housing, transportation, and such, yet often do not actively engage with students beyond a cursory level. It is left to teachers to have direct contact with students, making assumptions about what their needs might be, and then modifying/adapting course material and format to meet those assumed needs (Shapiro, Farrelly, & Tomaš, 2014).

What is frequently missing in this chain from university level down to instructors (which too often is based on assumptions) are the perspectives of the students themselves on what they need. Some studies coming out of GVSU’s graduate programs that address student need include Mueller (2012) which explored student need from the very narrow perspective of Saudi students preparing for study in the U.S. and the use of code-switching in the Saudi English classroom to better augment language acquisition. More recently, AlAsiri (2019) explored student need from a broader perspective, though also constrained to Saudi students, examining the critical impact of socialization and acculturation while studying in the U.S. It would seem that more studies of student need, with commentary from the students themselves, would be beneficial; further, instead of a trickle-down approach to need, it would be more appropriate to establish a “trickle-up” approach, where student perspectives inform instructors, who inform programs, which in turn drive university policies and resources.

So, what do students feel they need? What problems do they encounter and how might they be supported? A first step would be to explore what expectations students bring with them.

Student Expectations

Nguyet and Abdulah are two former international students, alumni of GVSU’s Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, who successfully navigated a U.S. graduate program, though not without facing numerous challenges. These included unrealized expectations, both pre- and post-arrival, challenges in both the campus community and general locale, and unmet needs at the university and program levels. Pre-arrival, student expectations can generate considerable fear. Nguyet was concerned that U.S. teaching styles would be different than in Vietnam and that her English reading and writing skills might not be sufficiently developed. In sharing her experiences, she says that “I expected the courses to be very challenging with lots of requirements. I thought I would have to study continuously without having any break…and was not so sure that I could meet the course requirements.” Abdulah also experienced apprehension:

I expected my experience in the U.S. as an international student to be mostly unpleasant

because of what I had heard from other international students who were studying in the U.S. Unfortunately, I was worried, anxious, afraid, and lost at the time because I did not have any valid source for information about what to expect as a Saudi international student in the U.S. In addition, my expectations were mostly negative because of the general political atmosphere in the world when I was finishing my visa and student applications because of my nationality, religious beliefs, and culture. There was a time, I remember, that I started to work on an alternative plan for my graduate goals.

General concerns can feed into more specific concerns, both academic and non-academic. Nguyet expected that her program would have many American students, yet the majority were international students, such as herself. Abdulah’s concerns were different:

I was not worried about other U.S. students before coming to the U.S. I only had doubts

about how well I would integrate in a classroom with both genders. I did not know at the time what to do and how I should behave.

Beyond the classroom, there can also be concerns with the logistics of life in general, for example, housing. Both Abdulah and Nguyet desired on-campus student housing in order to immerse themselves with other students and take full advantage of a vibrant campus life. Instead, Abdulah found that campus housing was no longer available by the time his application and visa were finally approved. Nguyet, here with her husband and young children, found that no family housing even existed on campus. Thus, because of a lack of expected housing, both Nguyet and Abdulah were forced to find housing outside the university community.

Such a situation can provide both advantages (e.g., greater exposure to general culture and easy access to museums, zoos, and such), as well as disadvantages (e.g., more limited access to school events, less cocooning/more isolation). As examples of encountered problems, Abdulah was pleased to be invited to a community gathering where food from his home country was served, only to find that conversation quickly turned to religion (a topic he had been cautioned not to discuss) with an evangelical bent, provoking a sense of pressure to adopt the community’s faith and causing Abdulah considerable discomfort. Nguyet, who had previously lived in Grand Rapids for a couple of years, was disappointed this second time:

When I came to the U.S. for my graduate study in 2017, I had a feeling that Americans

were less friendly to international people. When we entered restaurants or talked to the leasing office, I didn’t feel that they were as friendly as in the year of 2012.

With these two examples, we can see the trickle-down effect of the current sociopolitical climate which was discussed earlier.

Tied also into housing and the need to commute to campus is weather, a concern especially for those students who come from a very different climate. Abdulah shares that: “The weather was harsher than I expected. It was mostly cold and cloudy. I have never been to a place that was colder than Allendale, Michigan.” However, in sum of expectations, Abdulah continues: “My expectations were not all correct. I did not expect the weather to be so cold, yet the people to be so warm.”

“The People To Be So Warm”

The above statement by Abdulah perhaps provides a direction to take in support of our international students. Glass, Wongtrirate, & Buus (2015) note “the human cost of inadequate support and short-term thinking that does not fully consider the fundamental human need to belong” (p. 97). Perhaps by making sure that students feel warmly supported by professors, staff, and other students, along with building a strong sense of community, their needs and wants can be better addressed. Part 2 of this article will explore these needs and wants, again from the student perspective, at the university, program, and course levels. Part 2 will also discuss ideas to support current students, as well as recruit new international students, keeping in mind all that international students offer their U.S. institutions, faculty, and peer students.

*For the purpose of this article, international student is taken to mean a student who moves to another country (in this case, the U.S.) in order to pursue higher education and who may or may not have English as their first language. An example would be students who have come to the U.S., specifically to attend GVSU, who are from China, Nigeria, Vietnam, or Saudi Arabia.

Christen Pearson is Professor of Applied Linguistics/TESOL at Grand Valley State University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in linguistics, language learning disorders, and TESOL. She is also a past-president of MITESOL.

Nguyet Nguyen earned a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics at Grand Valley State University. She is the founder of MoonESL English Training Center in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Abdulah S. AlAsiri earned a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics at Grand Valley State University. He is an interpreter/translator working for the Saudi government, where he translates, revises, proof-reads, and interprets legal and other documents.


AlAsiri, A. S. (2019). Influences on international Saudi students’ sojourner acculturation in the U.S. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI.

Benderly, B. L. (2019, March & April). A frayed welcome mat. Prism (American Society for Engineering Education). Retrieved from

Choudaha, R. (2016). Campus readiness for supporting international student success. Journal of International Students, 6(4), i-v.

Glass, C. R., Wongtrirat, R., & Buus, S. (2015). International student engagement: Strategies for creating inclusive, connected, and purposeful campus environments. Sterling. VA: Stylus.

Green, E. L. (2019, June 16). Visa delays at backlogged immigration service strand international students. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Mueller, A. W. (2012). Strategizing instructor code switching in Saudi English education (EFL): Preparation of international TESOL students in the US (Unpublished master’s thesis). Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI.

Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomaš, Z. (2014). Fostering international student success in higher education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.

Strauss, V. (2017, July13). Why U.S. colleges and universities are worried about a drop in international student applications. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Wong, A. (2019, September 6). Colleges face growing international student-visa issues. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

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Read by Grade 3!

By Suzanne Toohey and Christy Osborne

In 2016, the Michigan Legislature passed a law that requires schools to identify learners who are struggling with reading and writing and to provide additional help. The law states that third graders may repeat third grade if they are more than one grade level behind beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. No student is exempt from the law. However, there are additional considerations for multilingual learners. Educators must be aware of linguistic and cultural factors to ensure that English language proficiency is not the primary cause for a delay in literacy development.

Assessments are given to all children who are in Kindergarten through Third grade within 30 days of the first day of school. An Individualized Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) will be written for all learners who have been identified through these assessments as having a reading concern. Office of Civil Rights requires that parents have access to the content of the IRIP. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are required to provide interpretation and/or translations of the IRIP, if needed.

EL Considerations and Resources:

  • English Learners may have difficulty demonstrating proficiency on grade level assessments. Educators might substitute assessments with lighter linguistic loads for newcomers. They are encouraged to keep a portfolio which includes artifacts demonstrating literacy skills as well as other language and content assessments for all ELs.

  • English Learners who are part of bilingual programs may take assessments in the “language of instruction.”

  • Ensure that language development is considered alongside literacy development. The IRIP should include WIDA scores, language information and schooling history. Here is an example of IRIP with EL considerations.

  • Ensure that the parents receive notification of the IRIP, Read by Grade 3 law and assessment data in a language they can understand. Here are some sample notification letters in seven common languages.

An IRIP is developed following identification of a reading concern within 30 days of the screening assessment. The IRIP is developed with the help of teachers, the principal, parent or legal guardian, and anyone else that the team agrees needs to be involved. A child will remain on an IRIP as long as there is a reading concern. A child will be assessed several times throughout the school year to check on his or her progress. IRIPs should be updated to reflect the needs of the child.

EL Considerations and Resources:

  • The IRIP should include language learning goals based on WIDA Can Do descriptors to ensure that language is addressed along with literacy needs.

  • Involve an ESL specialist or staff member who is knowledgeable about second language acquisition and evidence-based practices for English Learners.

In grades K-3, tools need to be provided to parents to address, at home, the deficiency or delay. The legislation does not specifically address a “Read at Home” plan until grade 3. While the “Read at Home” plan is only required at grade 3, districts are encouraged to provide this plan for all students in K-3 as well as for students who are passed on to grade 4, who exhibit a reading deficiency. Districts and Public School Academies (PSAs) have the authority to determine the format and content of “Read at Home” plans and training for parents and caregivers.

EL Considerations and Resources:

Each child will take the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) in the spring of the third-grade year. The M-STEP measures what a child should know and be able to do academically. If a child scores one or more grade levels behind the third-grade reading level on the M-STEP, then a notification will be generated for families and the school, stating that the child may be retained.

If a child’s reading score on the English Language Arts M-STEP is more than one year below grade level, families and the school will be notified by the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) by June 1 of that school year. CEPI is the agency responsible for collecting, securely managing, and reporting education data in Michigan.

EL Considerations and Resources:

  • Ensure that parents receive this notification in a language they can understand. CEPI will post translated letters in 13 languages on their website. School districts will be responsible to send these letters to families in their districts who need translations.

The following chart displays ELA cut scores on M-STEP 2020 and the corresponding response required by each school:

*Resources and supports: the school will provide a reading program and must consider and document interventions and services that support each child’s literacy and language development. Note that Newcomer English Learners may need research-based ESL services to meet their linguistic and cultural needs. Children may also be assigned to a highly effective teacher of reading, a reading specialist, an evidence-based reading program, daily small group instruction, ongoing assessments, or specialized reading help while continuing their participation in English language development services.

If families do not agree with the decision to retain, they should request a meeting with the child’s school and file a Good Cause Exemption within 30 days of receiving a notice regarding potential retention. School personnel must make themselves available to discuss any child identified for possible retention. A parent or guardian, any teacher, the Section 504 coordinator, or any member of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team can request a Good Cause Exemption.

EL Considerations and Resources:

  • It is a school’s legal responsibility to ensure that multilingual families understand their rights for a good cause exemption in a language they can understand. Schools should hire interpreters and send home translated letters and resources whenever possible.

There are several “good cause” exemptions from retention. A student may be granted a “good cause” exemption under any one of the following conditions:

  • The student has an individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan, and is granted an exemption by the school.

  • The student is an English Learner with fewer than three years of English language instruction.

  • The student was previously retained in kindergarten, grade one, grade two or grade three, and had previously received intensive reading intervention for at least two years prior.

  • The student had been enrolled in their current school or district for less than two years, but was not provided an adequate individual reading improvement plan.

  • The superintendent grants a good cause exemption, after being successfully petitioned by a parent or legal guardian.

The district superintendent will make a determination in writing of the requested exemption.

Schools need to make decisions about retention 30 days before the first day of school. This decision is made by the school principal and/or superintendent and is a final decision.

EL Considerations and Resources:

  • English Learners require five to seven years of instruction to acquire Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). Students who demonstrate language the lowest levels of proficiency (1– Entering or 2– Emerging) are still developing Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and most likely do not have the CALP to be successful on the state summative assessment. Therefore, retention of these students is not appropriate. Students currently at the intermediate proficiency levels, (3– Developing, 4–Expanding, 5– Bridging, 6–Reaching) may also not have sufficient levels of CALP to be successful on the state summative assessment.

  • Careful consideration should be given when considering retention of any English Learner. It is important to engage parents early around their rights, roles, and responsibilities pertaining to the good cause exemption process.

District teams may find the following decision tree useful when considering retention of third grade English Learners:

Decision tree available for download here:

District educational teams should meet with the family of each child qualifying for retention. Educators of English Learners (ELs) are encouraged to keep up to date on Read by Grade 3 requirements and advocate for best practices for ELs at the school and district level.

Resources for additional learning:

The Read by Grade Three Guide is now available:

MDE translated parent videos and literacy resources:,4615,7-140-28753_74161-498394--,00.html

The MDE website for Read by Grade Three-Parent Awareness Toolkit:,4615,7-140-28753_74161-490688--,00.html

MDE Cut Score Information:

Reading Tips for Parents (13 Languages):

For questions regarding the RBG3 reading cut score, please contact the Office of Educational Assessment and Accountability at

For questions regarding the RBG3 law, please contact Early Literacy at

Suzanne Toohey, M.Ed. is a MITESOL Past-President, a current Member-at-Large for the National Association of English Language Program Administrators, and a member of the Michigan Department of Education Title III Advisory Council. Presently, she is Supervisor of Instruction and Pedagogy for Oakland Schools Intermediate School District. the Supervisor for Instruction & Pedagogy Unit and ESL/Title III Consultant for Oakland Schools. She can be reached at

Christy Osborne is an ESL Consultant at Oakland Schools Intermediate School District. She provides Title III/ ESL/integrated school improvement consultation, coaching, and professional development for educators and administrators. She earned her Master’s degree in Linguistics with TESOL endorsement at Oakland University, and held ESL Coordinator, ESL and classroom teaching positions for 16 years. She can be reached at

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Using Mentor Texts to Create Engaging Grammar Lessons

By April M. Burke, Madison Cummins-Freund, Madison Farstvedt, Aubrianna Schultz and Genevieve E. Sypien

Mentor texts can take various forms, from children and young adult literature to texts on websites and blogs. These texts serve as models for developing writers. As the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) (2004) explain, “In order to take on a particular style of language, the writer needs to have read that language, to have heard it in his or her mind, so that he or she can hear it again in order to compose it.” Mentor texts can also be used to introduce and reinforce grammatical concepts. In this article, we summarize the advice we shared at the 2019 MITESOL Conference for using mentor texts to teach grammar to English learners (ELs). We focus on four types of mentor texts that can be used to create engaging lessons for ELs: children’s and young adult literature, graphic novels and comic strips, bilingual texts, and online resources.

Children and Young Adult Literature

Children and Young Adult Literature can be used as mentor texts in numerous ways to teach grammatical concepts. For example, Dr. Sean Ruday (2013), author of numerous grammar textbooks, provides the following advice when using mentor texts for grammar instruction: (1) discuss the grammatical concept with students by showing examples of it in a book, (2) have students find additional examples of the concept, and (3) have students practice the concept in their own writing. Ruday also stresses the importance of fostering students’ metacognition by asking students to explain why they used a particular grammatical concept and what effect it had on their writing.

Additionally, to foster English language acquisition and content knowledge, mentor texts can be combined with graphic organizers, as well as word study and word sort activities, to teach and reinforce new vocabulary words. For example, by exposing ELs to texts filled with adjectives, we can help to build their repertoires of descriptive vocabulary and their ability to apply newly acquired words to their own writing. The Grumpy Duck by Dunbar and Horáček (2019), is an example of a picture book that can be used to engage a class discussion about how the author is using adjectives and what information the adjectives provide. After, the teacher can guide students in small groups as they create a class picture dictionary of new adjectives found in the book to hang on the wall.

Graphic Novels and Comic Strips

Quality children and young adult literature provide exemplary models; however, other genres can also be used as mentor texts for grammar instructional purposes and reading skills. Comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels are great texts for helping ELs acquire English grammar. Often inexpensive and appealing to children and young adults, these texts include visual aids that reinforce the printed words, and these texts include primarily short sentences, mostly based on speech. Thus, these mentor texts are useful tools for linking speaking and reading instruction as well as teaching English grammar heard in daily life. Furthermore, comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels often represent diverse populations. For example, Miles Morales, the latest Spider-Man, is a bilingual and biracial protagonist (Bendis, & Pichelli, 2016).

Research supports the use of graphic novels and comic strips with ELs. The Visual Language theory suggests that sequential images use a “narrative grammar” that is structured and understood very similarly to the grammar of spoken and signed languages (Cohn, 2018). The pages are still ‘read’ the same way as text (top to bottom, and left to right) and conveys a scene without the use of words. This means that with very little background a students could express what is happening in various scenes, indicating that comics are no less valuable in regards to reading comprehension than reading text without pictures (Chute, 2008).

Research also indicates that supplementing texts with comics can be useful for improving ELs’ reading comprehension and recall. In one experimental study, the test group of ELs who were given a high-level text with an accompanying comic strip had better recall and understanding of the text than the group that read the text without the comic strip (Liu, 2004).

We recommend that TESOL educators provide opportunities for students to read graphic novels and comics that interest them. A teacher can have students create comic strips that include a particular grammatical concept such as interjections. These comic stories could then be read aloud or acted out. These activities provide enjoyable means of teaching the construction of authentic communication.

Bilingual Texts

Bilingual texts can be used to support ELs’ bilingual literacy development and comprehension of grammatical concepts in two languages. For example, the “Oxford Picture Dictionary” is a bilingual picture dictionary that can be used to teach vocabulary from two languages by connecting new words with pictures. Additionally, bilingual educators can use bilingual mentor texts to help students compare the grammatical structures of two languages. Please keep in mind that as with monolingual texts, teachers should ensure bilingual texts are aligned with students’ lexile levels.

Newsela and Other Online Texts

In addition to the printed texts described above, there are also numerous online texts that can be used to support ELs. Additionally, these online mentor texts are great resources to help teachers differentiate their instruction. For example, Newsela ( is an online text repository that features news articles covering a range of topics such as sports, politics, math, science, art, music, and language. Teachers can set parameters on the website to narrow their search for texts by grade level, text level, and specific reading skills. Newsela provides versions of articles in multiple lexile levels, and some articles are also available in Spanish.

Another tool to use when finding good mentor texts for ELs is the Scholastic Book Wizard ( Teachers using this website can search for ESL and bilingual books by reading level (Guided Reading Level, DRA, Lexile Measure), fiction or nonfiction, and grade levels pre-K to 12. There is an ESL book link on Scholastic Book Wizard that is specific to ELs and provides activities to do with the book of your choice.

Research indicates that recurrent use of mentor texts can improve reading comprehension and help students improve their writing. From our experience and our discussion with other members of MITESOL, mentor texts provide excellent language models for ELs and can be used in numerous ways. As we discussed, comics and graphic novels reinforce reading with visual aids while bilingual texts can be used to compare and teach grammatical concepts in two languages. Additionally, tools like Newsela and Scholastic Book Wizard can help find mentor texts that are sure to interest your students and can be modified on the website to meet many needs. Although we focused on the use of mentor texts in English classrooms, these texts can be used cross-curricularly in other subjects as well, including science, social studies, and math.

We were inspired by our conversations with other educators at the MITESOL Conference about using mentor texts, and we look forward to continuing these discussions and discovering new ways to use mentor texts to support ELs.


Bendis, B. M., & Pichelli, S. (2016). Spider-Man: Miles Morales Vol. 1. Spider-Man #1-5., Marvel.

Chute, H. (2008). Comics as literature? Reading graphic narrative. PMLA, 123(2), 452-465.

Cohn, N. (2018). In defense of a “grammar” in the visual language of comics. Journal of Pragmatics, 127, 1-19.

Dunbar, J., & Horáček, P. (2019). Grumpy duck. Walker Books.

Liu, J. (2004). Effects of comic strips on L2 learners' reading comprehension. TESOL Quarterly, 38(2), 225-243.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). (2004). Beliefs about the teaching of writing. In Ruday, S. (2014). The Common Core grammar toolkit: Using mentor texts to teach the language standards in grades 6-8. New York: Routledge Eye on Education.

Ruday, S. (2013). The Common Core grammar toolkit: Using mentor texts to teach the language standards in grades 3-5. New York: Routledge Eye on Education.
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An Opinion Piece on Being an ELL

By Tri-An Hoang

I am a full time undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University but alongside school, like many of my other peers, I have a job to support myself through life and university. I work as a nail technician and because it is a job that many people do as a full time career I make a decent earning. The work hours are also extremely flexible, so, I am able to work around my more inflexible school hours. I truly believed that the benefits of that job ended at wage and flexibility but, because I am a TESOL minor, I have realized that there is a different sort of advantage I have over my peers because I work in a nail salon. This benefit has a direct correlation to my hopes of being an ESL or EFL teacher and is somewhat of a unique opportunity.

The nail salon business as a whole, and the businesses in the city of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in general, are dominated by a small Vietnamese or Vietnamese American community. From my personal experience of working at a few salons for the past four years these business owners or managers all speak Vietnamese and English. Their proficiency levels in those languages range from extremely literate (their register of the language is at a college level) or not literate at all (they know how to speak the language at the most but reading or writing it even at an Elementary school level is difficult). Many of the owners, managers, and workers included, use Vietnamese at a higher register and then English at a lower register.

This is because English is a second language for many of these people and they were not exposed to the language until adulthood. These people are immigrants with little to no education in the United States and the English language they use is limited to the vocabulary they need to understand while working in a nail salon. Scientific terminology of the human’s nail anatomy that is not commonly know because it is not taught (in depth or not at all) in the United States’ curriculum these people know. They only have this knowledge because it is necessary for them to communicate this to the clients of the salon. In addition, they are well versed in the terminology for spa, beauty, and salon care. The nail technicians are able to convey a multitude of meaning to their clients when they pair their expert vocabulary with some very simple and conversational English phrases. Are these people literate in English then?

I can attempt a definition at the word literacy but because we live in a world where its denotation is adjusted dependent on the situation therefore I do not want to focus on a topicality debate. Instead, I wanted to call attention to the fact that many ELs can learn English in very unconventional ways (like within a nail salon). They can also limit the amount of English they know to what they feel will be necessary for them to survive when they are away from their mother tongue’s country. Working in a nail salon, and even asking these ESL speakers why they will not go to school to learn “better” English, I came to the realization that the process of learning English is different for everyone.

My goal in learning English as a English Language Literature and Writing major is to have the ability to discuss at a collegiate level English language and literature. My nail salon co-workers have absolutely no need for that sort of language. Whilst trying to adjust to a foreign culture at an older age they end up deciding for themselves that “nail salon English” is enough for them because it is sufficient for them to make a living off of. People understand them, they understand people. At the end of the day is that not the basis of a language (the ability to convey meaning from person to person)?

My experience working in a nail salon, other than the fact that I have a really good back up job if my ESL or EFL career does not pan out, has given me further insight into an EL’s mind. This EL can be a bit different from the one that I might be teaching in a classroom setting but is an EL nonetheless. The problem that I am left with, though, is how to teach English if this “different” sort of EL does show up in a future classroom.

Tri-An can be reached at

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Language After Brexit

By Jason Chan

Now that Brexit is a reality, would the role of English in the EU change in the foreseeable future? Would its significance diminish in Germany, where it has enjoyed its status as the de-facto second language? In this short article we will briefly examine the factors which have potential influence over these questions.

Brexit = Engexit?

Currently, English is an official language of the EU and in the European parliament, but up until the 90s, the dominant language of the EU was actually French, when the European Union was still the European Community, with Dutch, French, German and Italian as the working languages identified in the official language policy. Only as more countries joined, which either had English as a second or additional language, did English gradually become the majority common language. Prior to Brexit, there were 24 listed official and working languages within the EU; with the UK as the only member country that has English as its official first language.

Interestingly, there were a few countries which used English as a common language but chose to nominate a different language as their official EU language, for example, Ireland (Gaelic) and Malta (Maltese). Now that Britain has withdrawn from the EU, there might be reasons for other member countries to choose to remove English as an official language, although this decision would have to be made by a unanimous vote in the European parliament. Such scenario seems unlikely, however, as in 2016, German EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger, speaking at the time of the referendum, explained that English will continue to be accepted due to its world language status and the fact that a considerable number of EU member countries do speak English.

Language of the Oppressors

Even if English were to be removed from the EU, would its global dominance diminish? If history is any indication, this development would seem improbable, as English has proven its resilience in the past. It might have seemed logical for ex-British colonies to reject the language of their oppressors and to remove it from their societies and governments. Not only did this not happen, on the contrary, English continues to remain an official first or second language in more than 70 countries globally, many of them ex-British colonies. This phenomenon is due in part to the socioeconomic and political status English continues to enjoy, consequently prompting a continual growth of the number of English speakers as a second language.

In addition, surprisingly, English has proven to be, in some postcolonial contexts, the neutral choice. For example, English was meant to be phased out after India’s independence from Britain in 1947, to be replaced by Hindi as the official language. However, as Hindi is not spoken by all of the population and carries certain cultural and political connotations, English was eventually selected as the official language. Yet another example is Hong Kong, where English remains one of the official languages despite the city’s return to China in 1997. However, unlike in India, where English was favored to avoid cultural and political conflicts, in Hong Kong, English was chosen for pragmatic reasons, as Hong Kong was and still is a major international financial hub.

World Englishes

Although linguistic remnants of British colonial rule remain in ex-colonies, it is important to point out that the Englishes used in these countries have deviated from their British origins. The speakers of these variations of World Englishes have, over the years, developed localized lexical items and grammatical structures, creating versions of Englishes which are uniquely theirs. Similarly in Europe, Euro-English no longer belongs only to the mother tongue English speakers. It has, unsurprisingly, as it has in ex-colonies, evolved to accommodate the needs of all European speakers of English. While English’s status as lingua franca in the long term rests on its uncertain political and socioeconomic clout, it is doubtful that in the foreseeable future, English will lose its allure on the European stage, particularly in Germany.

Linguistic Transition

Germany is a country in linguistic transition, particularly in the education sector. Policy makers and school officials are in the difficult position of balancing between striving for academic excellence in schools and higher education reforms. Sandwiched between the inevitability of the rise of multilingual curriculum in primary education and the dominance of functional bilingualism in higher education, secondary education is under increasing pressure to bride the cap, highlighting inconsistencies of language policies.

These inconsistencies, which significantly hinder second language acquisition, are most apparent in secondary schools, partially due to the school streaming system, where pupils are ushered into schools that offer three distinct levels of academic rigor, based on their performance at the fifth grade. There have been intense debates on a parliamentary level regarding the reformation of this divisive system, which to its critics, only promotes discrimination and elitism. Additionally, although English has widened its reach exponentially in Germany, the effects of Anglicism in Germany are often overstated, due to inadequate assessment of English’s functional and attitudinal effects within contemporary German society. Despite the early signs of emerging nativization, bilingualism as a major trend remains obscure, as bilingual speakers of English continue to be the curious minority. Readiness to commit to short-term educational reforms might provide positive impact on future German generations, who, in today’s globalized world, are undoubtedly seeking to acquire a common European language.

Hong Kong born and Canadian raised, Jason Chan has been engaged in the area of English teaching and intercultural training in Hong Kong and Germany for the past 15 years. Currently he is an adjunct instructor of English at local higher education institutions in Nuremberg, where he resides with his family. Always up for new challenges, he is at the moment pursuing his Ed.D with the University of Glasgow. He can be reached at

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CLIL: 10 Ideas for 10 Months

By Anna Przybylo

There are different ways to motivate students during the lessons. Since I have started my work I tried really a lot of them: tables with smiling faces, pasta in a jar, beans, pluses, grades, etc. However, I found out that they only work for some time because children get bored with the system, just the same way they get bored with every new toy.

That is why I found out a new way to motivate my students - „A special lesson”. This was my present for the students. Once in a month I was preparing a lesson that would be completely different than other lessons. Not from a book, no grammar exercises, no writing in a notebook. A lesson that would engage curiosity, creativity, team-work and involve students with all their hearts. I thought that nothing can work better than experiments:) and the method of CLIL.

Using Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) we concentrate on the most important aspects of language – we combine the communication with culture and other subjects. Not grammar itself is important but understanding the instructions and reactions as well as production of the second language. Through the involvement into different tasks students are not concentrating on the mistakes and stress connected with speaking. Moreover, they can see that it is important to prepare for the lesson before in order to perform better during the tasks given. Students start to explore the topic, feel that the language is useful and becomes a means of communication opening the borders.

Nevertheless, we need to remember that there are also some disadvantages, especially for the teachers. The lessons need to be well prepared and planned. We need to remember that the students need to get some basic knowledge of the language to understand the lesson. Furthermore, the instructions need to be clear and simple. It is also good to prepare some worksheets in order to build a portfolio that could be taken home in the end of the school year. Portfolio is another very important thing because it reminds students about the content of the lesson and shows parents the effects of work. Therefore, to prepare a CLIL lesson a large amount of time is needed.

So if you want to improve general and specific language competence of your students, prepare them for professional life, develop multilingual interests and attitudes and increase the learner's motivation to learn a second language – CLIL is for you!

To make it easier to start, I would like to introduce 10 ideas for the lessons, which I already tried during my classes. Sometimes it gets dirty and messy but what really matters is fun!

What was there for me in those lessons? - No boredom, no routine, fun and motivation for all of us, not only my students.

The lesson ideas:












LESSON 1 – The human eye – How do we see?


The aim of the lesson is to explain n how human eyes work. Children learn new vocabulary connected with the eye and study how we see the objects.


  • writing – we write down the words and take short notes, preparing portfolio worksheets

  • listening – films watched in order to memorize and visualize the material

  • speaking – revision of the lesson


  • ready to use worksheet ora just white sheet of paper:)

  • projector and a whiteboard


State the topic of the lesson. What is SIGHT? Why is it important for us?

  • A short experiment can be conducted – you can tell your students to close their eyes for two minutes and walk around the classroom – Ask about their feelings? What are the problems of blind people? - encourage the students to use english language

Next, ask the students to draw with you – The Parts of The human eye – label the picture with the correct words:

  • eyelid - powieka

  • eyelash - rzęsa

  • pupil - źrenica

  • iris - tęczówka

  • cornea - rogówka

  • lens - soczewka

  • to blink – mrugać

It is good to have a little break and watch a short video:

After that, complete the notes about how do we see. This is a simple picture to make it clear for students – they can describe how they understand the pictures.

Some other videos to watch:

Some extra activities – idioms with “an eye”; let the students guess the meaning – they can write it down:





To get a bruise around the eye eg.: Mike got me a black eye when I said that I didn't like his sister.


To gain sb's attention eg. That girl caught my eye. She was so beautiful.


To cry for a very long time eg.: She was crying her eyes out. Her dog was dead.




The aim of the lesson is to practice reading with understanding and conducting the experiments connected with optical illusions.


  • reading – students read instructions in order to prepare the experiments

  • listening – students listen to their teacher giving them instructions

  • writing – making short notes of the effects


  • projector and the whiteboard

  • white cardboard sheets (or white sheets of paper)

  • adhesive tape


Before saying anything I show my students a PPT presentation with the photos that would trick them like:

  • a rabbit or a duck

  • the legs of the elephant

  • a vase or two faces

  • longer or shorter

  • moving or not

During the presentation kids tell me what they see, describe the pictures and the illusions. Later we explain what happens?

Optical illusions occur because our brain is trying to interpret what we see. Optical illusions simply trick our brains into seeing things which may or may not be real. There are variety of optical illusions connected with colors, shapes, brightness etc.

There are also numbers of ready to use compilations on YT:

Next, we try to go through the 3D pictures – PICTURE UNDER THE PICTURE – this is also PPT presentation of few pictures.

We practice different instructions like:

  • come closer

  • squeeze your eyes

  • shake your head

Every time pupils describe what they see.

The next experiment is connected with making a moving image – A BIRD IN A CAGE:

(Students read the instructions and follow them, sometimes with a short and clear explanation of a teacher):

  • cut out the circle out of the piece of plain card

  • draw a cage on one side and a bird on the other

  • stick the circle to a pencil

  • hold the pencil with both hands and rub it quickly

Ask the students to complete their notes with the effects.

One more simple experiment: You will need just a sheet of paper.

  • Roll a paper into a tube

  • take the tube in your right hand, hold it up and look through the tube, keeping your both eyes open.

  • Now, place your left hand against the left side of the tube

  • What can you see? (The students should see a hole in their hands.)

Ask the students to complete their notes with the effects.

Probably the students would get really interested into the idea of illusions, some of them would bring the 3d books, some will draw some more pictures. Their ideas are amazing.

Anna is an active teacher of English and History in Open Future International School, manager of “WISHES” school of English, teacher trainer at KIRE, Kraków. She can be reached at

Example of CLIL Activity

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Feel free to contact us with comments, suggestions, or feedback. See you in August!

Clarissa Codrington

Jessica Piggot

Co-editors, MITESOL Messages