ITAIS Newsletter

ITAIS News, Volume 10:2 (March 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • Articles and Information
    • Letter From the Chair
    • Suggestions to Reduce Second Language Anxiety in Teaching
    • In Other Words: A Template for Practicing Paraphrasing
    • TESOL 2005 Convention Update
    • News From Our Regions
    • Networking Opportunities: POD-TESOL Collaboration
  • About This Member Community
    • ITAIS Steering Committee 2004–2005 (PDF)
    • Editor's Note
    • Call for Contributions
    • About the International Teaching Assistants Interest Section

Articles and Information Letter From the Chair

By Barbara Schroeder, e-mail:; tel: 609-258-1687

Hello Everyone,

I know you are all busy planning your April Fools' pranks for TESOL, but I wanted to remind you of some important convention events:

1. ITA Steering Committee Meeting, Tuesday, 6:15-7:45 p.m., room 204A (Concourse Level)

If you are planning on arriving early and would like to contribute your ideas for the future of ITAIS, please consider attending.

2. ITA Open Meeting, Wednesday, 5:00-7:00 p.m., room 204A (Concourse Level)

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend this meeting. Please bring any ideas you have for the development of our interest section and for TESOL 2006 in Tampa, Florida, USA.

3. ITA Social, Wednesday following the Open Meeting, La Margarita Restaurant (421 E Commerce Street)

To reserve your space send a check for $27.00 as soon as possible (and no later than March 18) to Cathy Jacobson (2575 Peachtree Road, Unit 10-G, Atlanta, GA 30305-3634). The cost covers the meal, dessert, coffee, and tea. A giant thank you to Cathy for organizing the social. Also, thank you to everyone who contributed ideas and suggestions.

4. ITA Booth, Wednesday morning to Saturday morning

Mary Jetter and Diane Cotsonas have graciously agreed to organize the ITA booth this year. This is always one of the conference's most difficult tasks. Please help make their job easier by

  • Bringing interesting materials to the conference to put on the table. These can be anything from program brochures to a great activity you created for your class. You can bring anything that you think might be of interest to other ITA trainers.
  • Signing up for a time slot to work the booth. Soon a request for volunteers will be e-mailed. Please consider signing up for an hour or two.
  • Visiting the booth! During your downtime, stop by the booth to see what's happening.

5. ITA Planning Meeting, Friday, 12-1 p.m., room 204A (Concourse Level)

Once again many people are leaving early so instead of holding the planning meeting on Saturday, we decided to use the alternate meeting time given to us by TESOL. Everyone is welcome to attend this meeting.

6. Schedule of Events

The most important information I have to convey to you is the schedule of sessions. We have a fabulous lineup again this year focusing on ever-important issues such as testing as well as hot topics such as world Englishes. You should have already received the list of ITA events over the electronic mailing list (if you are not on the list and would like a copy, please e-mail me). For the complete schedule of events (which includes all interest sections), go to and follow the links (or do a search) for "Online Program Planner." Or go to

I look forward to seeing everyone over a nice big margarita soon. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks.

Suggestions to Reduce Second Language Anxiety in Teaching

By Soonhyang Kim, The Ohio State University, e-mail:

Teaching at a university is challenging to most new instructors, regardless of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Knowledge of both the academic and student culture is needed to teach effectively. Nonnative-English-speaking international teaching assistants (ITAs) have extra challenges. As newcomers to America, they need to adjust to the U.S. culture, which could be different from that of their home culture. In addition, they may experience emotional stress and anxiety caused by difficulties expressing themselves freely in English.

No matter how accomplished they are as second language speakers, ITAs are likely to experience at least some degree of anxiety over their language proficiency. Many have reported some level of nervousness when they first start teaching in an English-speaking country. Second language anxiety could be even worse for those who still have difficulties expressing themselves in English.

Anxiety does not always necessarily affect ITAs negatively, but excessive levels of anxiety can have negative effects on personal well-being and on their ability to teach effectively. Sometimes ITAs may even forget things they already know. Consequently, it causes emotional stress and lower self-esteem and self-confidence. This lack of confidence is damaging because it sometimes prevents them from using their current ability and discovering their full potential. They may avoid eye contact with the students and have less interaction with them because of their nervousness. They may hesitate to share their concerns and emotional stress caused by language issues because of their positions as instructors. This language-related anxiety and possible emotional stress should be acknowledged, considered, and overcome so they can display their existing abilities to the fullest (Horwitz, 1996).

Several possible strategies to lessen ITA anxiety while improving their language proficiency are listed below:

Recognize their own feelings of second language anxiety

It is important to be able to identify feelings. ITAs need to remind themselves that it is normal to experience the anxiety and other emotions they may be experiencing as second language speakers. Keeping a personal journal can help during extremely stressful periods.

Share their feelings with others

It is important for ITAs to know that they are not the only ones suffering from those feelings and that it is OK to have such feelings. They may find more support from others when they are more willing to share their feelings with others. They will be surprised that other colleagues have the same feelings. They may share their own experiences and coping strategies.

Give themselves permission to be less than perfect speakers of English

ITAs need to set reasonable, achievable language learning goals to alleviate language anxiety and make the most of their current language ability (Horwitz, 1996). They do not have to attempt to speak like a native speaker. When they have an unattainable goal, such as trying to imitate native speakers, they can be easily frustrated at the failure to meet this goal and they may underestimate their language abilities. It is really difficult, if not impossible, to speak like a native speaker without an accent or achieve native speaker-like fluency as an adult nonnative speaker of English. Even people who have spent many years in the United States still retain their accents. Instead, ITAs should give themselves permission to be less than perfect speakers of English and successful second language speakers in their own way, not failed native speakers (Cook, 1999). They need to appreciate the language skills they have achieved as second language users. They are a multicompetent language user who can speak more than one language.

Have a positive attitude and be confident

A poorly conceived self-image can negatively affect their language performance and subsequently their teaching. Having confidence in themselves as teachers and second language users can be a very powerful tool in teaching well, one that can be even stronger than their language proficiency. It does not mean that it is not important to recognize their limitations as second language speakers and work to improve them. But, it is important to focus on achievement rather than deficiencies to make the most of their existing abilities.

Think of their unique contribution as international instructors

ITAs need to build on their strengths while working on their weaknesses and think of their unique contribution as ITAs. They need to make the most of their origins. As ITAs, they can provide a comparative context in their teaching, which other domestic instructors might not be able to provide.

Be well prepared for class

One of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety is to be well prepared for class and present material with confidence. Language could be a factor affecting teaching, but not necessarily the primary or the only factor. Other factors influence effective teaching, such as their cultural knowledge, pedagogical skills, and presentation skills.

Use quick relaxation techniques

Deep breathing and progressive relaxation exercises are effective in reducing their anxiety. Psychologist Anthony Grasha suggests that tensing the body for a count of 10 and then breathing deeply in and out to a count of four for a period of three to five minutes is especially effective after a tension-producing event.

Some ITAs have special needs and concerns related to language. Their possible anxiety as second language speakers needs to be acknowledged, considered, and overcome so they can make the most of their existing ability. They need to accept their limitations and work on them; and at the same time consciously build on their strengths. It is also important to remember that they may need to focus on other important factors affecting their teaching. They need to keep in mind that their success as teachers depends on their efforts and ability to change attitudes. It is helpful to have a positive self-image as second language speakers so that they can make the utmost use of their potential. Language can be an issue for some ITAs, but they should not allow concerns about their language competence to inhibit them from exercising their academic expertise that will truly qualify them as good teachers in academia.


Cook, V. (1999). Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 185–209.

Horwitz, E. (1996). Even teachers get the blues: Recognizing and alleviating language teachers’ feelings of foreign language anxiety. Foreign Language Annuals, 29, 365–372.

Note: A longer version of this article, including strategies to improve language proficiency, can be found in Kim, S. (Ed.), Teaching in the U.S.: Handbook for international faculty and TAs, Faculty and TA Development, The Ohio State University. (Also available on the Web at

Soonhyang Kim is a PhD candidate in foreign and second language education at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA. Her research interests include classroom discourse research and NNES professional issues. She has worked at the university-wide teaching and learning support unit at that institution for several years, with special emphases on addressing the needs of ITAs and faculty and supporting all instructors with teaching and learning issues concerning international students.

In Other Words: A Template for Practicing Paraphrasing

By Brenda Prouser Imber, e-mail:, and Sung Kyung Park, e-mail:, English Language Institute, University of Michigan


“I can say it only one way” is one of the most frequent frustrations expressed by ITAs even after they have completed good language training programs, and even after they are well into their teaching experiences. Yet, one of the most essential components of instructional discourse, especially when ITAs are teaching introductory-level undergraduate courses, is the use of paraphrasing, which we define as a simplified restatement of a text or passage in another form or in other words without changing the original meaning. In addition, paraphrasing is generally agreed to be an effective teaching method to guide the learner to the basic core of the concept. The skill of finding another way to say the same thing in a simpler form requires a high degree of control over content and structure vocabulary, control that NNS TAs often lack.


The problem of how to facilitate learning the skill of effective restatement for NNS finds ITA language trainers continually searching for methods and activities. Many of our activities are influenced by Michael McCarthy’s view that “vocabulary learning is primary in second language learning” and that “language is lexis . . . not syntax-driven” (e-mail interview with Mark McBennett, ELT News, January 2005). We all teach vocabulary in context, stress extensive reading in professional journals and texts to expand students’ professional lexicon, and search for tasks that focus on the use of natural authentic chunks of speech.

This article describes an ITA language training activity that arose out of the need to provide progressive lexical and grammatical practice in paraphrasing within the individual context of each ITA. The main goals are to focus NNSs’ learning on vocabulary that emerges from the specific field, to enhance their ability to search out alternate terms and phrases from within the particular discipline, and then to increase their ability to shift the grammar so it is appropriate to the new content and structure.


This activity provides a step-by-step template that can be applied to a wide range of topics that ITAs frequently teach in undergraduate humanities and sciences courses. The formula limits the ITA to the repetition of no more than two words at each step. In addition, the handout below functions as a script guide for systematic practice in paraphrasing, the step prior to spontaneous paraphrasing activities.


Preparation time should include instructor and peer input; oral brainstorming should occur before drafts are written. Feedback should be primarily from lay listeners who have minimal knowledge about the concept and require the most cognitive support. ITAs should keep a log of new content phrases, synonyms, collocations, and formulaic expressions, including tips on usage, register, and pronunciation. And, after a number of rounds, the ITAs should be encouraged to move to spontaneous practice using the same template but no written script. Above all, this should be viewed as an introductory-level activity for working with paraphrasing.


ITAs report that being forced to stay within the two-word restriction helps them avoid excessive appropriation (plagiarism) as well as helps them search out new ways to talk about the topic. As they begin teaching, they find this a valuable skill in explaining new or difficult concepts and in providing hints to their undergraduates. Equally significant is what the ITAs learn about their own control of the concept itself. Overall, the learners indicate that this exercise is a fun and simple way to reinforce conciseness and to prepare for effective communication in the classroom.

In Other Words: A Template for Paraphrase Practice

Definition: A paraphrase is a simplified restatement of a text or passage in another form or in other words without changing the original meaning.


Vocabulary: To increase inventories of field-specific terms, collocations, and formulaic expressions and to increase awareness of the concept of lexical register

Pronunciation: To practice word and syllable prominence / word & syllable stress / pausing / linking

Directions: In rounds one and two, brainstorm your ideas with your peers before you write.

Select a term or concept that you can define or explain in one sentence.

Now write a one-sentence definition or explanation of that concept in the space below.

[Sentence One: Definition / Explanation]

Next, to restate your idea, create a paraphrase of your first sentence and write it in the space below labeled Sentence Two. You may repeat only two of the words from Sentence One.

Some formulaic expressions that might be useful are

In other words

To put it another way

To put it more simply

Another way to say / explain this

[Sentence Two: Restatement / paraphrase of Sentence One]

4. Now add a for example or a for instance statement in the space below.

[Sentence Three: For example / for instance]

Finally, write a concluding sentence that paraphrases the definition/explanation of the term or concept. You may not repeat more than two of the words from sentence one or more than two of the words from sentence two.

Some formulaic expressions that might be useful are

So, in a nutshell

So you see

All in all

In brief

In effect

For all intents and purposes

Final Sentence:

TESOL 2005 Convention Update

A complete schedule for the TESOL 2005 Annual Convention & Exhibit is available online at An ITA-specific schedule of events will be distributed via e-mail shortly.


News From Our Regions

If you would like to have announcements for regional events and activities listed in our next newsletter, please send the detailed information to Pamela Pollock at no later than August 31, 2005.


Networking Opportunities: POD-TESOL Collaboration

By Virleen Carlson, Center for Teaching and Learning, Cornell University, e-mail:

One of my goals as POD president (March 2005-March 2006) is to make connections whenever possible, particularly with like-minded organizations. The ITA Interest Section (ITAIS) is the perfect, and previously unexplored, link.

I am about to experience my first TESOL connection. In light of that, I wish to make the most of my time, which includes meeting as many people from the ITAIS as possible.

POD is a confusing name for a wonderful organization. It stands for the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education. It is the premier faculty and TA development organization in North America with over 1,400 members. Our 30th Anniversary Conference will be in Milwaukee in October. Approximately a third of the sessions will appeal to people who design programming for teaching assistants.

More information can be found on our website at

The ITAIS has members who belong to both organizations, members who have been to POD conferences, and members who coauthor and copresent with POD members both on campus and off.

I look forward to meeting you at TESOL. Please make yourself known to me when our paths cross at a session or event.


About This Member Community ITAIS Steering Committee 2004–2005 (PDF) Click to view the article. [PDF]
Editor's Note

By Chris Fox,

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work as editor of the ITAIS newsletter this past year. The members of the steering committee and the general caucus constituents have raised my awareness of who we are as a community and of all the fantastic work that we do. Please join me in welcoming our new editor Pamela Pollock and all the newly elected committee members.



Call for Contributions

The ITAIS newsletter encourages submission of articles and book reviews on topics of significance to ITA practitioners.

Articles, including program descriptions, course descriptions, best practices, teaching techniques, or editorials on any topic of interest to ITA practitioners, are welcomed.

Book reviews that provide the reviewer's analysis of books that are relevant to the practice and theory of ITA education are strongly encouraged.

Please send your contributions to Pamela Pollock at before August 31, 2005, for the next issue.


About the International Teaching Assistants Interest Section International Teaching Assistants Interest Section (ITAIS)

The International Teaching Assistants interest section (ITA IS) serves TESOL members who work with nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants as researchers, teachers, and program administrators.

ITA-IS seeks to encourage the sharing of expertise and specialized knowledge among ITA practitioners, to promote research into the spoken discourse of ITAs and the nature of classroom communication, and to foster communication between researchers and practitioners.

International Teaching Assistants Interest Section Community Leaders, 2004-2005

Chair: Barbara M. Schroeder, e-mail
Chair-Elect: Allison N. Petro, e-mail
Editor: Chris A. Fox, e-mail

Discussion e-list: visit to subscribe to ITAIS-L, the discussion list for the community, or visit if already subscribed.

Web sites: and