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Florida TESOL

May 17, 2013

I am in Orlando, Florida for the Sunshine State TESOL convention and have attended some fine sessions.  The first session I went to was by Robert Deacon, a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida, who presented research on orthographc errors (spelling errors) in writing focusing on Arab learners.  His research provides empirical evidence that Arab students struggle more with spelling than students from other language groups.  We speculated on why this may be so such as an oral culture, transference from Arabic, the unpredictability of English spelling, or perhaps the cognitive load of having to not only get the spelling right but also write paragraphs and essays in a form much different from Arabic practices.

I next attended a session on using video clips from popular television shows to teach recognition and and use of tones in listening and speaking class.  This session was given by Deborah Kellerman and Jennifer Schroeder from the English Language Institute at the University of Florida.  They presented ways to teach tone in listening and speaking which is tested by TOEFL and IELTS but which is not taught in textbooks.  They presented several activities that can easily be adapted for teaching tone and provided a well scaffolded series of steps preparing for the activity.  They showed a clip from the The Big Bang Theory that included several examples of sarcasm as well as ending on an amusing note.

Reima Abobaker presented her Ph.D. dissertation research design and research questions about the effect of captioning on listening.  She is asking questions about the effectiveness of an approach to improving listening I often encourage my students to take when they struggle.  A couple of audience members offered what seemed like useful suggestions for making her research more robust.

The afternoon began with a whirlwind tour by James May from Valencia College on curating engaging level-appropriate content for students in a flipped classroom.  He showed several ways to use Google search to find materials after reviewing pedagogical and psychological research supporting the use of the flipped classroom approach.  His Prezi presentation will be up on http://teachertricks.org.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Janet Zadina from Tulane University School of Medicine who presented an entertaining and informative talk on “Using Brain Research to Enhance and Energize Language Instruction: The Multiple Pathways Model.”  She showed evidence from brain scans that learning changes the brain and without some type of reinforcement the learning can be lost.  Her message in part was to find ways to make the lessons important to the learners, i.e. our brains learn first for survival, and reinforce those pathways through different modalities.

I then attended a session this time by Deborah Kellerman alone on using PowerPoint to successfully teach ESL students oral presentation skills.  She showed an approach that was carefully structured for learners to develop presentation skills around building a PowerPoint presentation.  She says she has the learners evaluate themselves after watching their videos and finds that they are almost always evaluating in line with her evaluations.  This I want to try.  She gives the leaners clear criteria for their self-evaluations.  

The final session I attended was by Mitchell Porter of Full Sail University.  He presented on iBooks and iTunes U.  He showed the power of the tools and clearly was enthused about the applications and showed creative materials.  He teaches in a school that is primarily a Mac school so this approach works well.  However, my school has few Macs, so it would be difficult for me to adopt. 

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