EFLIS Newsletter

EFLIS News, Volume 5:1 (March 2005)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011

EFLIS News

In This Issue...

  • Articles and Information
    • From Your Coeditors
    • Reading Circles Put Students in Charge
    • Debates for EFL Writers and World Citizens
    • Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development in Teacher Training
    • Writing for the EFL-IS Newsletter
    • Communicative Activities for EFL Setting
    • Reducing Learning Burden in Academic Vocabulary Development
    • Self-Assessment as a Tool for Empowerment
    • About This Member Community

Articles and Information

From Your Coeditors

By Leslie Bobb-Wolff, lbobb@ull.es and Marina González, minushki@yahoo.com

Welcome to our first, and preconference, issue for 2005. You’ll be receiving this issue in two separate mailings because we have too many articles to fit in one standard-size newsletter!

We’ve got lots of good ideas from all over the world—from Mexico to Turkey and from Japan to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The articles in this issue cover all kinds of issues we all have to deal with, such as reading, debates, assessment, vocabulary. There’s an article for teacher trainers on Vygotsky’s ZPD too.

We’re also including our guidelines for publishing in this newsletter; we’d love to include your ideas for other members to see. Send us your short article and we’ll help you improve it (if it needs any help) and you’ll see yourself in print!

If we don’t see you at the TESOL 2005 Convention this year, we hope that the articles in this issue will help make up for it (we both know it’s expensive to get to the convention in the United States; we often can’t get there either!).

And remember that in addition to this newsletter, our Interest Section also has an e-list. To join, send a blank message to join-eflis-l@lists.tesol.org or visithttp://www.tesol.org/getconnected.

Hope your classes go well this semester!


Reading Circles Put Students in Charge

By Allison Dansie, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan, e-mail: allisondansie@hotmail.com

What Is a Reading Circle?

Imagine herding camels in the wind-swept dunes of eastern Pakistan. Put yourself into the shoes of a young American girl suddenly living in Jerusalem. Step into a futuristic community based on control and order rather than on freedom and love. These are only a few examples of the fictional worlds my students have explored thanks to using reading circles in my EFL classroom.

Reading circles are essentially in-class book clubs. Students choose something to read, take it home, read it using specific strategies studied in class, and then meet to discuss their observations and opinions about the reading. Most important, students are in charge of reading circles. They choose the readings, plan how much to read, and lead the discussions. When students feel responsible for their own learning, suddenly reading becomes more interesting and fun.

Teach Your Students the Strategies to Become Successful Readers

The first step in introducing reading circles to your class is to coach students in the reading strategies you would like them to use. What strategies you will teach depends on what you, as an instructor, decide is important for your students’ reading development. I have three personal favorites (which I have based on models from Daniels, 2002).

Questioning: Students learn to write both open-ended and closed-ended questions about the text they are reading. These questions later drive the discussions in their reading circles. Students discover very quickly that open-ended questions are far more interesting than close-ended questions, and therefore usually focus on open-ended questions. This encourages broader thinking and a deeper examination of what they have read rather than a focus on getting the right answer.

Mastering a Passage: When using this strategy, students choose a passage from the text that they think is significant. They then try to explain what the passage means in their own words, and finally offer their own opinion in regard to the passage. (What do they think or feel about the author’s message?) This strategy encourages readers to recognize significant moments in the text and then think about their own responses to those moments.

Making Connections: Students look for things in the text that they can relate to their own lives, the world around them, or other texts that they have read. Students make a comparison between what is happening in the text and what they know about the world, and then explain why that connection might be significant.

With each of these strategies it is extremely important to give students ample examples (through modeling in class), guided practice opportunities, and feedback before expecting them to use the strategies in their own reading outside of class. Once you feel they have mastered the strategies you want them to use, you can move to the next step of choosing a text.

Students Choose a Text and Organize a Weekly Schedule

Reading circles work well with novels, short stories, and nonfiction articles (such as newspaper or magazine articles). The way you organize the reading circle will depend on which type of text you want your students to read.

Novels: When using novels, you can divide the class into small groups of four or five and allow the groups to choose a novel they would like to read (with your guidance, of course). Another option is to provide the class with a certain number of novels to choose from, have students rank their choices, and then divide the class into small groups according to the novel they chose. The element essential to both of these routes is choice. Without student choice, the reading circles will lose the emphasis on student autonomy, and students will lose motivation.

Once the novels have been chosen, establish a meeting schedule (every Friday, for example). I usually give my students 25–35 minutes to meet with their reading circle in class. During the term, each student will take a turn as a reading circle leader. This student is responsible for keeping the discussion going in English and being the “expert” reader for that week. The reading circle leader prepares an in-depth reading journal (using the strategies described above or others you choose) to help him- or herself lead the discussion. In the weeks that they are not a reading circle leader, students prepare a more basic reading journal but are still responsible for actively participating in the reading circle.

During reading circle meeting time, I let the students govern themselves. I jump from group to group and sit with them. Sometimes I offer my opinion, but mostly I just listen. Student discussions may occasionally seem tangential, but again, the key is to let them take charge and independently learn how to lead the discussion back toward a more central theme. They truly appreciate the autonomy.

Short Stories or Articles: Setting up reading circles using short stories or articles is slightly different than using novels, but is based on the same premise. In this case, students are each responsible for choosing a text they want to read. I give them guidelines for selecting the text and also show them good sources for finding texts, but in the end, the choice is all theirs.

The week before they are to lead the discussion, students bring copies of the text to class and give a short oral summary. For example, if there are 25 students in class, five reading circle leaders will present a summary of their text that day. After their presentation, they set five copies of their text in the front of the classroom. Other students then come to the front of the class and choose which article they would like to read for the next week. Because there are only five copies of each article, each group is guaranteed an equal number of participants. Each week students have five different articles to choose from. They like the diversity and the chance to meet with a different group of students each week.

Conclusion

Reading circles have energized my EFL classroom. Students have told me again and again that they love the freedom to choose, the chance to discuss what they have read, and the opportunity to see reading strategies applied over time. Putting students in charge makes for a rewarding class experience—for both students and teachers.

References

Daniels, H. (2002) Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading circles. Ontario: Stenhouse Publishers.


Debates for EFL Writers and World Citizens

By Carol Clark, The American University in Cairo, Egypt, e-mail: mailto:cclark@aucegypt.edu

Was the use of force against Iraq justifiable in 2003?
Should governments limit the number of children a family can have?
Is the government justified in implementing a new seatbelt law?
Is boycotting American fast food restaurants in Egypt an effective way of protesting American foreign policy?

Some of these questions are timeless and universal; others are timely and specific. Some are student-generated; others reflect key global arguments or local issues. Regardless of their source or focus, all of them reflect questions that my students at the American University in Cairo have debated. This article describes a process of using debates in writing and intensive English courses that I have developed and used over the past five years with both graduate and undergraduate students.

Rationale

Debates represent an integrated real-life activity with a purpose: to argue a point with supports to convince a group of people about something. For EFL/ESL students, it provides an excellent opportunity to use and practice the four language skills in an integrated activity and also to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes in other areas:

Information Literacy: Students learn to use keyword searches with the library catalog, electronic databases, and Internet search engines, which they analyze as reliable or unreliable sources.

Civic Education: Students experience participatory democracy in action through practicing freedom of expression while considering two sides of an issue, either as members of the debate team or as audience evaluators.

Critical Thinking and Evaluation: Students learn to use reasoning, resources, and persuasion to convince a real audience. Audience members learn to suspend bias and use criteria to evaluate each team according to strength of argument.

Teamwork/Cooperative Learning: Students work in teams to elect a leader, brainstorm ideas, share supporting articles, elect a leader, divide the task, and provide peer feedback.

Steps and Logistics

Timing: Timing of a debate largely depends on the course goals and objectives. It should occur after a safe and self-expressive classroom environment has been firmly established. I introduce debates about a month into a 14-week semester in order to introduce library and electronic database searches and to prepare students for longer individual oral presentations. Planning should occur well before the event, especially if another class is invited to the debate.

Selecting the Topic: Sometimes, the selection of a debate topic will be driven by a dominant global or local issue. For example, in early 2003, the issue of war versus containment in Iraq was in the news every day and was an immediately relevant topic. Other topic selection methods include the following:

  • Have students suggest topics and vote. My students' recent choices included the death penalty and abortion.
  • Use a controversial comment by a student. For example, I used a student comment about population control when reading about the population explosion, and the class vigorously debated whether governments should limit births to one child per family.
  • Peruse local news sources for local issues. Recent examples included whether Egyptians should eat beef during the mad cow disease scare and whether a new seatbelt law was justified.

After the general topic is selected, it is put into a debatable statement, called a proposition, or a question form that can be argued. For example, the proposition statement for the debate in the spring of 2003 was "The use of force against Iraq is justifiable at the present time."

Selecting and Establishing the Teams: There are several methods for creating debate teams. One way is to post (Strongly) Agree versus (Strongly) Disagree signs around the room and then have students cluster around the sign that most represents their position on the proposition, with some rearranging by the teacher if there are not enough students for each side. Another way to select teams is to have students draw straws (i.e., folded papers with pro and con written on them).

It can be a challenge for teachers to persuade students to argue against their own opinion. Teachers should emphasize the value of looking at both sides of an issue and being able to strengthen an argument by considering and refuting a counterargument. Also, the class can express their true opinions in argumentative essays following the debate.

When the debate teams are established, each team meets briefly to select a leader and brainstorm a few reasons that support their arguments, as well as keywords for each reason.

Library Session: In this session, students are introduced to keyword searches with the library catalog and electronic databases. Armed with a debate topic and a position, students have a purpose in learning to use the library's resources.

Article Readings: At this point, key articles for and against the proposition are provided by the teacher and analyzed in class so that students can be sure they capture some of the major arguments for their side and also so they can see different argument/counterargument/refutation patterns used in written argument. This analysis leads to each group finding and reading more supporting articles and books from the library searches.

Presentation Skills Preparation: Students watch a videotape, take notes, and/or discuss aspects of an effective oral presentation.

Team Preparation Sessions: Students have at least three sessions of 1/2 hour to 1 hour each to a) refine key arguments, anticipate counterarguments, and prepare supports and refutations of each counterargument; b) divide the team responsibilities into an opening argument subteam and a rebuttal subteam and prepare an outline of each subteam's main points; and c) practice their presentations (each team separately for half an hour) in the room where the debate will be held and share feedback.

Debate Structure and Logistics

Determination of Audience: Small classes may comprise the whole debate team, so another class can be invited to listen to and judge the debate. In larger classes, one group can present the debate while another group evaluates, and later another debate can be held with roles reversed.

Evaluation Method: Audience members can either fill out a simple criteria sheet prepared by the teacher or vote for one team on an index card (by writingpro or con at the top of the card) and write one or more reasons for their decision.

Examples of criteria to use on criteria sheets include the following: content was relevant and addressed the issue; major points of the argument were mentioned; support was adequate and reliable; the speakers were prepared and organized; the speakers looked at the audience and didn't just read their notes; the speakers spoke clearly, loudly enough, and at a good pace.

Audiovisual Aids and Room Setup: Following are some guidelines:

  • Signs and Setup: The proposition should be written on a sign or on the board at the front of the class, and a sign on each side should clearly delineate each group as for (pro) or against (con) the proposition. Participants should sit on the appropriate side of the room, under the relevant sign, and preferably in the order they will present.
  • Index Cards or Criteria Sheets: These are distributed by the moderator at the beginning of the debate, along with instructions on how to use them.
  • Video or Audiotape Equipment: This should be ordered ahead of time for the class to view or listen to later at home for self-evaluation.
  • Timing Device: A stopwatch or cell phone can serve this purpose. Each speaker has 2-3 minutes to speak.
  • Time Indicator Sign: The timekeeper holds up a simple sign with the words Time Over to let debaters know when their time is up.

Moderator: The class teacher or a student can serve as moderator who introduces the participants and the proposition, informs the audience of their responsibilities, and collects and reveals the evaluation and feedback of the audience. The moderator can also serve as timekeeper, armed with a stopwatch (most cell phones have this function) and a sign to let participants know when the time is up.

Debate Structure and Timing: Participants and the audience are given a handout, the schedule, and the names of the team members. Whether each team is composed of three, four, or five members (the following is for a team of eight, four on each side), each side must be given an equal amount of time. If there are different numbers of students on each team, the time can still be divided equally. The debate's structure and timing are as follows:

TIME LIMIT
Opening Arguments

Pro Speaker 1: (NAME)

3 minutes

Con Speaker 1:(NAME)

3 minutes

Pro Speaker 2: (NAME)

3 minutes

Con Speaker 2: (NAME)

3 minutes

Team conference to plan rebuttal

5 minutes

Rebuttals

Pro Speaker 3: (NAME)

2 minutes

Con Speaker 3: (NAME)

2 minutes

Pro Speaker 4: (NAME)

2 minutes

Con Speaker 4: (NAME)

2 minutes

Team conference to plan closing arguments

5 minutes

Closing Arguments

Pro Team Leader: (NAME)

2 minutes

Con Team Leader: (NAME)

2 minutes

Evaluation and feedback from audience

10 minutes

Note that timing for the whole event must factor in settling-in time, the introduction by the moderator, and time spent between speakers. Thus, the whole debate session takes 55-60 minutes.

Debriefing Session: After the debate, the class can discuss what students learned from the experience and exchange feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of each side. Students then evaluate their own oral presentation skills if a recording has been made.

Argumentative Essay: This is the final product of a long process, in which students use the content of the debate to express their opinions on an issue to a real audience, such as a student newspaper or their UN or legislative representative. Through this product, students show how they have learned firsthand the value of debate for themselves as world citizens.

Resources

In addition to local English newspapers and magazines for finding articles about debatable topics, the following are excellent resources for background on debate, argumentation, and a variety of topics:

Books

Freeley, A. J. (1996). Argumentation and debate: Critical thinking for reasoned decision making (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Meany, J., and Shuster, K. (2002). Art, argument and advocacy: Mastering parliamentary debate. New York: International Debate Education Association.

Rieke, R. D., & Sillars, M. O. (1975). Argumentation and the decision making process. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Snider, A. C., & Schnurer, M. (2002). Many sides: Debate across the curriculum. New York: International Debate Education Association.

Wekesser, C. (Ed). (1991). The death penalty: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Web sites

Debate Central (http://debate.uvm.edu/) University of Vermont Web site; Rated #1 by Google; includes debate videos, an archive of debate topics, and a research backfile database.

Debate Central: National Center for Policy Analysis Idea House (http://www.debate-central.org/) Focuses on resources for National Forensic League Topics. In 2003-2004, the general topic was ocean policy.

Google (http://www.google.com/) or other search engine + keywords

International Debate Education Association (IDEA) (http://www.debatabase.org/home.asp). Includes a database of topics accessible by individual topic or theme/category.


Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development in Teacher Training

By M. Martha Lengeling, Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico, e-mail: lengeling@quijote.ugto.mx

This article briefly defines Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD), its advantages, and how it has been used in a teacher-training program. It has been an integral part of a teacher-training program carried out in central Mexico for in-service teachers. This idea is used along with reflection and microteaching. The reasoning of its use was to move beyond the transmission of ideas as input as well as include the trainees within the process of learning. The trainees have a more active role when they participate through doing.

Vygotsky’s ZPD was first applied in the area of child development and more recently has also been applied to the area of teacher education. Here I am using it to specify the difference between a trainee’s level of ability with and without the assistance of another person. A trainee can carry out some tasks on his or her own without the help of the trainer, but then there are tasks for which the trainee needs the support of a more experienced teacher trainer. Using dialogue between the trainees and the trainer, the trainees construct meaning from what is being taught. Through this social interaction the trainer helps the trainees to reach the next higher level of expertise. The task of the trainers is to recognize the level that the trainees are at and know how to aid them.

Scaffolding, another term associated with ZPD, refers to the support that is given to go beyond the current level of expertise of the trainee to the next higher level. The words that come to my mind in relation to scaffolding are aid, support, confidence, and assistance. Once the necessary support has been gained, the trainee can carry out the task at the higher level without the collaboration of the trainer.

Within my program and other teacher-training programs, microteaching is used as a way for trainees to feel comfortable with new techniques and methods. Microteaching is used to exemplify and analyze specific skills, techniques, or methods. It is also a training tool that the teacher trainer can use to see if the trainees have mastered a specific skill. What better way to evaluate the mastery of a skill than by seeing if the trainee can carry it out? Microteaching and ZPD correlate with each other because microteaching offers a way for ZPD to be put in practice.

The roles of teacher and student are ones of mutual collaboration. The trainee learns new techniques or strategies and in the process of this mastery, the trainer acts as a guide, a facilitator, and a mentor. The trainer gives feedback to the trainees and aids in the reflective process. Social interaction is a basis for this process. Reflection is carried out in a number of ways within our program; among these are journal writing and group discussion. An openness of dialogue is established, which aids in this collaboration.

Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development has strong implications for teacher education because implementing the concept consciously helps promote a positive relationship between the trainer and trainee. Social interaction and dialogue are a basis for this relationship. Furthermore, the use of this concept is valuable because it creates a community of people who work together with a common goal in mind.

To conclude, I would like to add my reflection as a teacher trainer who has used Vygotsky’s ZPD. My question is, What happens to the trainees once they have gained a wealth of techniques, skills, and methods during this course? Do they have the confidence as teachers to use all of this gained information and do they scaffold once they are in their own teaching context? Space, time, and security are provided during the course, which in turn lets the trainees explore, examine, and construct meaning from the input that is given to them. But what about the reality of the trainees’ teaching context? Does this prevent them from continuing on? I would like to think that it is possible if the trainees have the possibility for dialogue with another person. Creating an environment that allows social dialogue and interaction is an answer to the dilemma of what happens to the trainees after they finish the courses.


Writing for the EFL-IS Newsletter

The EFL-IS Newsletter is published twice a year and distributed to all EFL-IS members.

Length: 500–1500 words, with a limit of 2–3 citations. Many articles do not have citations.

Topics: Articles are accepted on a variety of topics of interest to our EFL members. Topics can range from specific classroom action research to successful classroom techniques and practices, to a description of teaching conditions in a specific country or region, to conference reports, conference papers, or book reviews.

Format: You can submit the article on e-mail or on hard copy (see address below). Please also include your school affiliation. We ask you to type in Arial 12 font and not double space between sentences. If you are including charts or appendixes, please contact the editor for further instructions.

The deadline for the fall issue is June 30; for the spring issue, November 15.

Send your article to:

Leslie Bobb Wolff (e-mail: lbobb@ull.es)
EFL-IS Newsletter Editor
Facultad de Filología
Campus de Guajara
Universidad de La Laguna
38071 La Laguna
Tenerife, Spain

Writing for E-Newsletters: Three Tips and Why You Should Follow Them

1. Write for the Web.

Do

  • use half the words you would in print and insist that authors do the same
  • put central ideas or conclusions first
  • keep sentences to no more than 16 words
  • keep paragraphs short
  • chunk information
  • use heads and subheads

Don’t

  • use exaggeration and hyperbole
  • use marketese
  • dumb down the content

Why?

Web readers

  • tend to skip all ideas but the first in any paragraph
  • tolerate about only half the number of words on screen as in print
  • want quick, straightforward, useful information
  • don’t process subordinate clauses as well online as in print

2. Develop intellectual content with the same rigor that you would lavish on a print publication.

Do

  • offer readers original, engaging, useful material
  • respect the readers’ time and intelligence
  • create a bond with your readers to encourage them to look forward to your publication
  • use links to get to more material, but avoid plagiarism

Don’t

  • dumb down content just because your newsletter is published in electronic format
  • allow the format to make you too informal or chatty—an e-newsletter is different from print, but it’s not the same as e-mail

Why?

Just as print publications are only as valuable as their content, the content of online publications needs to be created with care, respect, and enough heft for readers to look forward to reading them—and to want to contribute to them.

3. Respect copyright in your e-newsletter as scrupulously as you would in print.

Do

develop a working knowledge of fair use

get written permission to use not only extensively quoted text but also any graphics, illustrations, or photographs that you did not create

remember that Web content is not public domain


Communicative Activities for EFL Setting

By Silvia Pessoa, Carnegie Mellon University, USA, e-mail: spessoa@andrew.cmu.edu, and Fabiana Sacchi, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, e-mail:fsacchi@mail.utexas.edu

Communicative language teaching (CLT) has been widely promoted for over 20 years in teacher education programs and textbooks; thus, the goal of most language courses nowadays is to promote communication. According to Brown (2000, pp. 266-267) some of the principles of the CLT approach include a) the teaching of communicative competence and not just grammatical competence, b) an emphasis on the teaching of function over form, c) an emphasis on both fluency and accuracy, and d) productive and receptive use of language in unrehearsed contexts. Sometimes the implementation of CLT in EFL settings can be problematic because of the teacher’s proficiency in the language, cultural issues, or educational systems that promote teacher-centered curricula. In addition, the inaccessibility of materials and the lack of opportunities to interact using English in real-life situations have impeded the fostering of CLT language activities in many environments.

Despite facing the same constraints, many EFL private institutions in Argentina and Uruguay have succeeded in adapting communicative language activities. There are sound reasons why these language schools have managed to create an environment in which students of all levels and ages use the target language in a meaningful and interactive way. First, CLT is emphasized in teacher-training programs. Second, the learning styles of South American students (more toward the oral, kinesthetic, and extrovert side of the continuum) predispose teachers to have student-centered classrooms and utilize CLT in their daily lessons. Finally, there is much competition for language schools to seem innovative and progressive; thus, teachers constantly adapt materials to serve the specific purposes of their language class and are willing to go the extra mile to implement CLT in their classrooms.

Our experience learning and teaching EFL in Argentina and Uruguay has exposed us to a wide variety of CLT activities in and outside the classroom. For the purposes of this article, we will describe three activities that are likely to engage students in communicative language use.

Find someone who . . .

A speaking activity that is very communicative and that our students always enjoy is “Find Someone Who. . . .” This very flexible activity can be done with students of different ages and proficiency levels. The teacher gives a list of statements to the students to transform into questions and walk around the classroom “finding someone (a student) who” can answer “Yes” to their questions.

Example

Walk around the class and ask your classmates questions until you find someone who answers “Yes” to your question. Write the name of the person who says “Yes” on the space provided.

You: Do you like learning English?
Sara: Yes, I do.
You: What’s your name?
Sara: My name’s Sara.

___Sara___likes learning English.

1) ____________________ likes learning English.
2) ____________________ is a university student.
3) ____________________ likes reading.
4) ____________________ plays a musical instrument.
5) ____________________ lives alone.

Follow-up: Once the students have finished the activity, the answers are shared with the whole class and the teacher should always ask follow-up questions such as “Why do you like learning English, Sara?” to give students the opportunity to keep using the language for meaningful purposes. This is an effective icebreaker and can be done the first day of class to get students to start learning the names of their classmates and some information about them. It can also have many variations because teachers can include different statements in the worksheet according to what the students are learning in class (experiences, past events, plans for the future, etc.).

Songs

A very important underlying principle of CLT is the use of authentic materials in the classroom whenever possible. Even though it may be difficult in beginning courses, songs can be used in intermediate courses to bring authentic materials and culture to the classroom. Understanding the lyrics can be very difficult and sometimes frustrating for students, so teachers should give students as much information about the song as they can before asking students to listen to it. There should be a prelistening activity to talk about the singer and the topic of the song. A good idea is to give students a glossary of the new terms that appear in the song. One type of activity that can be done with songs is fill-in-the-blanks with information from the song. Teachers can give students the lyrics of the song with some blank spaces for them to fill in with the words they hear. The words that teachers erase should not be random ones; they could be vocabulary that students have studied recently (food, health, etc.) or verbs in a tense that the students are learning (past, present perfect, conditional, etc.). After students have completed the activity, a possible postlistening activity can be to connect the story in the song to the students’ personal life. For example, if students listened to a song about what a person would do if he or she had a million dollars, students could then discuss what they would do if they had a million dollars themselves.

Films

Films are an excellent resource to use in the language classroom to expose students to the culture of the target language and as a springboard for a great array of communicative activities. One film that can be used with upper-intermediate to advanced students of EFL is Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. This film deals with issues of AIDS, homosexuality, and discrimination, which are topics that are likely to engage students in critical thinking and discussion in the classroom. Prior to watching the film, the instructor may provide students with a brief synopsis of the film. This brief introduction may be followed by prediction and reflection questions to activate students’ background knowledge before viewing the film.

Example Questions

1) Look at the cover of the film and read the synopsis. What do you see in the cover of the film? Why do you think the film’s name is Philadelphia?

2) What do you know about the city of Philadelphia? Where is it located in the United States? Is it an old city? How important is this city to the history of the United States?

Providing students with a list of vocabulary words from the film is also essential for students to be able to comprehend the film and to be able to use these words when talking about the issues raised in the film.

After watching the film, you can use a series of activities to check students’ comprehension of the plot of the film and the main characters. Plot activities may include a true-false exercise, putting events in chronological order, completing a chart with the missing events, or identifying the main events of the film from a list of events. As for main character exercises, the following could be used: Venn diagrams to compare characters, character sketches, character relationship charts, surveys, guess the character type of exercises, and so on. To lead students to think more about the issues of the film, provide students with a list of quotes from the film and ask students to indicate who said the line and why. Finally, students can start thinking about the major issues raised in the film and make connections to real-life situations so that students can analyze the major themes in the film, as shown below:

Example Questions

>How is Andy portrayed at the beginning of the film? What is his relationship with his law firm partners at the beginning of the film?

Why do you think Andy seeks help from Joe Miller with his case? Why doesn’t Andy hire a different lawyer? Do you think the fact that the lawyer is African American has any significance in the film?

In this section, an extended quote may be chosen from the film and may be transcribed for students to analyze its significance.

With the issues raised in the film, the students can engage in a series of activities that go beyond the film that will allow them to use a variety of language skills, as shown below:

Examples

  • You are the actor:
    Imagine that the senior partners in the law firm that fired Andy Beckett give a press conference after the jury’s decision. One group should be the different lawyers and the other group should be the reporters. Before starting, each group should prepare what they are going to ask and say.
  • You are the writer:
    Write a newspaper article about Andy’s case and the court’s decision. Include testimonies from Joe Miller, the other lawyers, and Andy’s family and friends.
  • You are the critic:
    In two groups, organize a debate about whether or not Andy should have been fired. One group should agree that the decision to fire Andy was correct and should present their arguments. The other group should disagree with the decision and present their arguments.
  • You are the researcher:
    Find information about homosexual marriage and its current status in your country and in the United States.

In conclusion, our experiences in Argentina and Uruguay show it is indeed possible to use a variety of CLT activities, such as the ones described above. With the advances in technology, it is much easier nowadays to have access to authentic materials and to adapt those materials to meet the needs of each teaching context.

Reference

Brown, D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.


Reducing Learning Burden in Academic Vocabulary Development

Ayþegül Daloðlu, Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Education, Ankara, Turkey, e-mail: daloglu@metu.edu.tr, and Meltem Tarhan, Bilkent University, School of English Language, Ankara, Turkey, e-mail: tarhan@bilkent.edu.tr

Teaching vocabulary, especially academic vocabulary in EFL settings, is one of the main challenges in English language teaching. As English language teachers who believe in the importance of developing students’ academic language skills, we have emphasized vocabulary development as one of the main components in our courses.

Academic vocabulary can be defined as the most frequently occurring words in spoken and written discourse that students encounter during their academic studies in English-medium universities. Improving students’ academic vocabulary knowledge is crucial to ensure students’ academic progress but, at the same time, difficult as students have limited exposure to the English language outside class.

The learning burden of a word is “the amount of effort required to learn it” (Nation, 2001, p. 23). Different words impose different learning burdens for learners with different language backgrounds. In addition to this, the way the learner uses the new vocabulary item can contribute to its learning burden.

The general principle about learning burden is that if the word represents patterns and knowledge the learner is already familiar with, it is easier to learn that word. Therefore, the burden is lighter. Learners can obtain the patterns and knowledge from their experiences with their native language, another foreign language, or English. Teachers can help reduce the learning burden of words by drawing attention to systematic patterns and analogies within the second language and by pointing out connections between the second language and the first.

The distinction between receptive and productive vocabulary also contributes to the learning burden of a word. Receptive vocabulary use involves perceiving the form of a word while listening or reading and retrieving its meaning. Productive vocabulary, on the other hand, involves wanting to express a meaning through speaking or writing, and retrieving and producing the appropriate spoken or written word form.

Knowing a word involves form, meaning, and use. From the point of view of receptive knowledge, therefore, knowing a word involves

  • recognizing it when it is heard
  • being familiar with its written form so that it is recognized when seen in written form
  • recognizing that it is composed of written forms (how affixation influences the usage and meaning of the word)
  • knowing the particular meaning of the word in the given context
  • knowing words that are related to the given word (lexical set)
  • being able to recognize if the word has been correctly used in the given context
  • knowing the collocations of the given word

The main aim of vocabulary teaching is to lead to learner-focused vocabulary learning. Although recognition-level learning is easier to achieve at most levels of language proficiency, production of the learned item is more difficult to achieve because students experience problems in forming chunks.

The following are some difficulties associated with vocabulary learning:

  • limited encounters with the new vocabulary item
  • limited student experience in language learning
  • low teaching emphasis on word environment
  • lack of sensitivity to word forms
  • low awareness of sentence structure of target language
  • interference of the native language sentence and lexical aspects

Therefore, we believe that presenting the language in chunks together with the word environment, not as isolated words, helps academic vocabulary development in EFL settings. To improve both receptive and productive vocabulary learning, the teacher can follow five key principles:

1. Presenting and practicing vocabulary with its collocations

When introducing new lexical items, we should make an effort to present them with the words or types of words that commonly occur with the given word. For example, when presenting the verb to lose, we need to also present the nouns it collocates with: to lose your way, to lose your temper, to lose your purse, to lose your mind, and so on.

2. Presenting and practicing vocabulary with its grammatical environment

When introducing new lexical items, we should make learners aware of different patterns the word occurs with and the patterns we must use the word in. When presenting an item, we should make the learners aware of the changes in the grammatical structure of the sentence. For example, they need to differentiate between an adjective and a verb such as in “to apply for something” and “to be afraid of (doing) something.” When emphasizing the grammatical environment, draw learners’ attention to aspects such as using a noun after dependent prepositions, as is emphasized by something in the above examples.

3. Vocabulary with emphasis on register

When introducing new lexical items, we should emphasize the content of the message conveyed, its sender and receiver, its situation and purpose, and how it is communicated, which means we should also stress where, when, and with whom this word is used. For example, drawing learners’ attention to level of formality and social distance among speakers makes them aware of the register.

4. Vocabulary with emphasis on word form

When introducing new lexical items, we should emphasize what meaning this word form signals and what relationship exists between meaning and form. Learners should be aware of the functions of prefixes and suffixes. For instance, they need to know that prefixes change the meaning of the word whereas suffixes change the word form. With this awareness, they should be able to comprehend and produce appropriate word forms as required by the context.

5. Vocabulary with emphasis on connotation

When introducing new lexical items, we should emphasize what kind of effects connotations have when transferring lexical meaning from the native language. On this basis, we can identify the problem causing lexical items for the learners. One way to achieve this is to encourage the learners to use monolingual dictionaries. If learners do not have adjectives that correspond to the meaning differences among annoyed, disappointed, and frustrated in their native language, the monolingual dictionary will make them aware of the connotation of each.

In conclusion, we think that vocabulary learning in the EFL context is enhanced if attention is paid to the five principles above when presenting and practicing lexical items. We hope that these guiding principles encourage learners to transfer their knowledge to production of these items rather than only recognize them when they encounter them.

References

Nation, I.S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Self-Assessment as a Tool for Empowerment

By Sally Ali, United Arab Emirates University, UAE, e-mail: mailto:sally.ali@uaeu.ac.ae

Introduction

Students need to have a voice in their assessment to accept responsibility for their actions and productivity. This article shows how self-assessment challenges, motivates, and places the responsibility where it belongs-with the student.

Assessment is important not only because it shows us what students know and do not know, but also because it provides students and teachers with feedback. We need to look at means of evaluating language other than the traditional quizzes and tests. There is rarely a one-to-one correspondence between what the students are taught and what they actually learn in the language classroom. We must promote meaningful involvement of students with material that is central to our teaching objectives. We also need to construct assessment instruments, but before that, we need to know what each instrument is assessing and how to label it. We can best describe assessment instruments according to their primary function: administrative, instructional, or research oriented (see box; Jacobs, Zinkgraf, Wormuth, Hartfiel, & Hughey, 1981).

General purpose of the assessment

Specific reason for the assessment

1) Administrative:

General assessment
Placement
Exemption
Certification
Promotion

2) Instructional:

Diagnosis
Evidence of progress
Feedback to the respondent
Evaluation of teaching or curriculum

3) Research:

Evaluation
Experimentation
Knowledge about language learning and language use

Types of Assessment

There are three types of assessment:

  • Diagnostic assessment: at the beginning of a new lesson, unit, course, or program.
  • Formative assessment: throughout a lesson, unit, course, or program.
  • Summative assessment: at the end of a lesson, unit, course, or program. (Kinsella, 1999)

Self-assessment is a key factor in authentic assessment and student empowerment because it provides students with the opportunity to reflect objectively on their own accomplishments and learning. They become more reflective as they learn how to look at themselves and their work in a more productive and critical way. They can even choose their own learning activities and plan the time they need to achieve their goals.

Self-assessment also provides students with the opportunity to understand the grading system. They can eliminate the controversy regarding subjective grading and gain ownership in their learning process. When students are involved with self-assessment, they are better able to work with other students, exchange ideas, get assistance when needed, and be more involved in cooperative and collaborative language-learning activities. As these students go about learning, they begin to construct meaning, revise their understanding, and share meanings with others.

As with other procedures, the use of self-assessment may not be very successful, depending on the circumstances in which it is used and the assessment instruments employed. On the basis of a review of 16 self-assessment studies, Blanche and Merino (1989) identified five factors that can threaten the validity of self-assessment methods (Cohen, 1994):

  1. Learners' lack of training in how to perform the types of self-assessment that are asked of them

  2. A lack of common criteria for learners' self-ratings and for teacher interpretations of these ratings

  3. A conflict between the cultural backgrounds of the learners and the culture on which the self-assessment tasks are based

  4. Any inabilities that learners may have in monitoring their behaviour (i.e., learners may not be able to report on what subconscious behaviour -is- for them)

  5. The intervening effects of subjective influences (past academic record, career aspirations, or expectations of others)

Here, a small study was done with 20 level 1 repeating students to see whether self-assessment could be useful.

Procedure

Following are the steps of my procedure:

  • Numbered students from 1 to 20.
  • Gave students their English midterm exams and checked the results (out of 30). (See Appendix 1.)
  • Asked students to complete Progress Form #1 (on a 4-point scale) to assess their overall work (total out of 40). (See Appendix 2.)
  • Checked each student's total (out of 40).
  • Gave students the same progress form (Progress Form #2) a couple of weeks later to see the difference and had a conference with each student.
  • Checked the total again (out of 40).
  • Noticed that the results for Progress Forms #1 and # 2 were similar, which indicated accuracy regardless of their midterm grades.
  • Had students complete a study-habit form. (See Appendix 3.)
  • Checked to see how students studied and had a conference with each one. (See Appendix 4.)

Overall Results and Observations

Following are my results and observations:

  • Students were actually able to self-assess their progress and themselves correctly.
  • Students were able to identify their study habits accurately.
  • Most students tended to study alone at home.
  • All students preferred listening to their teachers.
  • Most students improved because they organised and used their portfolio.
  • Conferencing with each student helped students improve their study habits and grades.
  • Students could set their own goals and judge their own work.
  • Both oral and written feedback from students was helpful.
  • Students must be given a chance to reflect on their performance.
  • Teaching methods need to be altered to meet students' needs.
  • Self-assessment is a necessary tool.

Conclusion

Self-assessment is a key tool that provides students with the possibilities for reflection, redirection, and reassertion of their learning efforts. They then become more empowered and independent evaluators of their own future learning and progress.

References

Cohen, A. D. (1994). Assessing language ability in the classroom. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Jacobs, H. L., Zinkgraf, S. A., Wormuth, D. R., Hartfiel, V. F., & Hughey, J. B. (1981). Testing ESL composition. Rowley, MA: Newbury.

Kinsella, K. (1999). Participation scaffolds for active, inclusive ESL/EFL classrooms. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco State University.

Other Useful References for Student Self-Assessment

Bassano, S., & Christison, M. A. (1995). Community spirit: A practical guide to collaborative learning. Burlington, CA: Alta Book Center.

Bumaford, G., Fischer, J., & Hobson, D. (2001). Teachers doing research: The power of action through inquiry. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Chamot, A. U., Barnhardt, S., Beard EI-Dinary, P., & Robbins, J. (1999). The learning strategies handbook. White Plains, NY: Addison-Wesley Longman.

Chamot, A. U., & O'Malley, J. M. (1994). The CALLA handbook: Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach. Wokingham, England: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

O'Malley, J. M., & Pierce, L.V. (1996). Authentic assessment for English language learners: Practical approaches for teachers. White Plains, NY: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Appendix 1

Student Self-Assessment Progress Reports

Student #

Midterm

Progress 1

Progress 2

1

16

35

34

2

27

34

33

3

24

37

30

4

16

33

29

5

16

34

31

6

20

35

34

7

16

34

32

8

15

25

27

9

22

33

28

10

17

28

33

11

13

34

37

12

21

30

30

13

18

22

21

14

13

28

31

15

16

32

31

16

18

28

25

17

24

27

29

18

16

34

31

19

17

25

19

20

15

31

Average

18

30.95

29.74

out of 30

out of 40

out of 40

Appendix 2

PROGRESS FORM

YES

NO

I am trying to improve in my listening ability.

4

3

2

1

I am trying to improve in my speaking ability.

4

3

2

1

I am trying to improve in my reading ability.

4

3

2

1

I am trying to improve in my vocabulary.

4

3

2

1

I am trying to improve in my grammar.

4

3

2

1

I am trying to improve in my writing ability.

4

3

2

1

I am happy with my work in class.

4

3

2

1

I am happy with my progress.

4

3

2

1

I am satisfied (happy) with my midterm exam grade.

4

3

2

1

I have done everything to improve my grade.

4

3

2

1

Appendix 3

STUDENT SELF-ASSESSMENT

STUDY HABITS

Name:

ID #

Always

Usually

Sometimes

Never

I study at home or the hostel.

4

3

2

1

I study alone.

4

3

2

1

I study with my friends.

4

3

2

1

I ask someone to help me when I need help.

4

3

2

1

I do my best in class.

4

3

2

1

I listen to the teacher and other students.

4

3

2

1

I work well with my group.

4

3

2

1

I do my homework.

4

3

2

1

I bring my books to school every day.

4

3

2

1

I organize my portfolio.

4

3

2

1

I use my portfolio to study.

4

3

2

1

I go to the Activity Resource Center to get help.

4

3

2

1

I go to the office and get help from my teacher.

4

3

2

1

Comments:

Appendix 4

ALWAYS

USUALLY

SOMETIMES

NEVER

STUDY AT HOME

3

8

4

5

STUDY ALONE

11

5

2

2

STUDY WITH FRIENDS

2

2

10

6

ASK FOR HELP

3

12

5

0

DO BEST IN CLASS

4

13

2

1

LISTEN TO TEACHER

9

11

0

0

WORK WITH GROUP

8

5

7

0

DO HOMEWOR

10

4

6

0

BRING BOOKS

9

7

3

1

ORGANIZE PORTFOLIO

8

9

3

0

USE PORTFOLIO

14

4

2

0

GO TO ARC

10

5

4

1

GO TO OFFICE

8

5

5

2


About This Member Community

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Interest Section

TESOL's English as a Foreign Language Interest Section facilitates idea exchanges on global and specific EFL/ESL issues, bringing together professionals who have had/intend to have EFL/ESL experiences in different countries, and provides an international network on teaching positions and professional interests worldwide.

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