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TESOL Connections (February 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/09/2011

• Explorations in Second Language Reading, edited by Roger Cohen: Read Chapters 1 & 2
• The Road to Leadership, by Gabriela Kleckova

Association News

  • The 2010 Board of Directors and Nominating Committee Election Results
  • 2010 Convention and Exhibit in Boston, Massachusetts, USA:
  • Advance Program available online now
    TESOL 2010 Itinerary Planner now available online
  • Pre- and Postconvention Institutes (PCIs): Register today
  • May 5 TESOL Virtual Seminar: Assessment for Learning with Young Learners,

    with Anne Katz and Radmila Popovic

  • TESOL/NCATE Campus Representatives' Workshop on March 24 in Boston

  • TESOL issues joint statement with AAIEP and UCIEP on IEP governance
  • Final month for the TESOL Trivia Challenge! Win a free registration to the 2010 Convention!
  • TESOL Calls
  • TESOL Journal Call for Special Topic Proposals
    New calls for book submissions: Focus on Form and Teaching Idioms
  • 2010 Call for Member Resolutions to be considered at the Annual Business Meeting


  • TRC Featured Resource: Papers from the 2009 TESOL Symposium on ELT Standards in Panama
  • TOEFL Grants and Awards Available: Deadline February 15, 2010
  • Webinar: New Measures of English Language Proficiency and Large Scale Assessments
  • Video Series on Classroom Management from the British Council
  • Helping Haitian Students Cope with the Earthquake
  • Newcomer Programs in Secondary Schools in the U.S. (2008-09)

    TESOL Connections Archives (members only)


    Explorations in Second Language Reading download to PDF

    Edited by Roger Cohen

    Defense Language Institute

    San Antonio, Texas, USA

    Chapter 1

    Emphasizing Reading in the ESOL Classroom

    by Roger Cohen

    At a conference several years ago, I attended a presentation on teaching reading. The presenter’s research supported the widely held views that reading can improve vocabulary, increase student motivation, and provide much needed input for ESOL learners to raise their general linguistic competence. After the session concluded, I fell into conversation with several other instructors. We all readily agreed that despite the importance of reading, it had long been neglected in ESOL classrooms. As most students were interested in improving their speaking and listening, the majority of ESOL programs stressed discussion and aural comprehension activities. Even though it was clear to us that increased reading in the classroom could also enhance our learners’ overall communicative skills, it seemed that in most instances, reading was de-emphasized.

    I wondered aloud to my colleagues what I could do to more fully integrate reading into my syllabus. I admitted that I had been relying on only several types of activities, and although they were moderately successful, I was still looking for methods that would help my students grasp the importance of reading in improving their English. My colleagues brought up the schema-building and sustained silent reading activities that I was familiar with, but after a few helpful suggestions, they mentioned that they too had had little chance to investigate other innovative techniques.

    During the ensuing months, I reflected on this conversation and began spending more time on classroom reading and trying to develop activities that would engage my learners and improve their overall communicative ability. I frequently relied on TESOL’s New Ways in Teaching Reading (Day, 1993) for daily activities, but as I continued to emphasize reading in my courses, I began looking for other ideas that I could work with over an entire unit or even a full semester. There were resources on teaching reading from this broader perspective, but they often lacked new and innovative ideas that I could easily adapt to my own courses.

    This volume attempts to bridge this divide by providing classroom-tested reading activities and thematic units that can be utilized by ESOL instructors for a week of classes or even a several-month-long course. Each chapter also discusses various trends in reading research and theory and how they apply to classroom practice. In addition, there are sample lesson plans, exercises, and instructional models that can be used as the basis for further explorations in classroom reading.

    Chapter 2, “Purposeful Reading,” by Frank Noji, Shawn Ford, and Anthony Silva, discusses the dichotomy of learning to read (e.g., finding the main idea) and reading to learn (e.g., reading for a purpose). According to the authors, most textbooks attempt to have students read to learn but instead utilize approaches that befit only a learning to read paradigm. The chapter argues that purposeful reading, which focuses on a single theme throughout a unit and emphasizes task-based activities, is better oriented in a reading to learn program. By having learners read more deeply in a specific area and with a specific purpose, learners’ comprehension skills and ability to interpret texts can be increased. The chapter also includes an example of a purposeful reading curriculum on the theme of food and an extensive set of activities that can be used in a variety of classrooms.

    Chapter 3, “Building Reading Abilities With Graphic Organizers,” by Xiangying Jiang and William Grabe, presents a detailed study of how graphic organizers can aid reading development. Rather than relying on the typical format of reading a text and then asking questions to evaluate learners’ understanding, the two authors point out that visually mapping text structures and examining how topics and subtopics relate to each other can improve reading comprehension skills. The chapter also describes how graphic organizers can make reading more interactive by prompting class discussions and enabling students to evaluate information in different types of texts.

    Chapter 4, “P4 + C: Cracking the Culture Code in ‘Story,’” by Jennifer Jabareen, answers the question, How can learners accurately read and evaluate a text when it is written by someone from a different culture? The author mentions that even such basic cultural concepts in stories such as volunteering, which she encountered in her own class, may create confusion for English as a foreign language (EFL) readers. In order to crack the culture code, the author offers an approach that depicts a graphic representation of the persons, products, practices, and perspectives (P4) of culture, and how they intersect with the community (C). The author then illustrates how this model for analyzing culture can be used in three popular stories.

    Chapter 5, “Reading the World in L1 and L2,” by Sara Expósito and Alejandra Favela, presents various classroom reading activities from the Oregon Language Literacy and Culture Institute. The institute, which trained K–12 ESOL teachers of immigrant communities, included topics ranging from schemabuilding activities and interactive reading strategies to storytelling, as well as using multicultural literature and postreading activities such as sharing cultural perspectives through the visual and performing arts. The chapter provides a number of practical examples for K–12 classes, which can be easily adapted for adult ESOL courses.

    Chapter 6, “Making the Most of Literature Circles: Effective Literature Discussions for the EFL Classroom,” by Hadija Drummond, explores how discussing literature not only can improve students’ reading skills but also can greatly increase their communicative competence. By providing examples from her classes in Japan, the author introduces us to the literature circle and describes how students assume specific roles during the reading process. For example, one student may be the Discussion Director and facilitate discussion, while another may serve as the Word Wizard and bring new vocabulary to the circle’s attention. As students learn cooperatively, the author notes that the literature circle enables students to read stories more comprehensively and critically.

    Chapter 7, “Beggars Can Be Choosers!” by Deepti Gupta, discusses the importance of advanced reading skills in the literature classroom. When Gupta began teaching her university course in India, she was prepared to discuss literary theory and standard curriculum texts with her students. However, she quickly found that although students could comprehend the required reading, they had difficulty overcoming their lack of second language reading skills. This prevented them from adequately interpreting and interacting with the texts on a meaningful level. This prompted the author to adjust her approach and integrate the learning of critical reading skills into the class. The chapter details these sessions and presents the reader with a framework for pre-, during-, and post-reading activities.

    Chapter 8, “Reading ‘Between the Lines’ of Academic Texts,” by Shawna Shapiro, introduces the novel idea of critically reading a syllabus on the first day of class. The chapter opens by addressing the issue of first day of class activities. In her previous experience, Shapiro found that most students regarded “Find Someone Who . . .” types of icebreakers as hackneyed and a waste of time. She therefore decided to involve students in an activity where they discussed and evaluated her course syllabus. The author describes how this can introduce critical reading to a class in an interesting and nonthreatening manner. The author shows how this approach can incorporate higher level thinking skills from the beginning of a course and help students understand what is involved in the critical reading process.

    Chapter 9, “Developing Pragmatic Competence for Critical Academic Reading,” by Roger Nunn, presents an activity on creating source evaluations as part of a research project in a university communications course. The chapter outlines the process of how students develop critical reading criteria and academic writing skills for their source evaluations and includes several examples of student work to provide classroom instructors with a clear picture of how the activity works in the classroom. After analyzing the results of the activity, the author emphasizes one of the most important aspects of critical reading: “that reading is rarely an end in itself. It commonly has a vital role to play in order to complete a more holistic multiskilled task” (p. XX).

    Chapter 10, “Maximizing ESL Freshman Readers’ Skills With Online Instruction,” by Reima Al-Jarf, shows how using an online conferencing program can increase students’ reading skills in a university English as a second language (ESL) program. This online component included posting messages and discussions, links, and class readings. At the end of the course, the author found that students had increased their motivation to read, raised their self-esteem, and enjoyed the feedback provided by the instructor. The chapter also includes an appendix of reading activities from the course Web site that other instructors can easily adapt for their own classrooms.

    Chapter 11, “Designing Materials for EAP Students: A Balanced Approach to Reading,” by Esmat Babaii and Hasan Ansary, begins by discussing the question of how to develop and select reading materials for English for academic purposes (EAP) and English for specific purposes (ESP) courses. The authors compare the two major views of “wide” and “narrow” angle approaches to EAP/ESP materials development and conclude that a more balanced approach is appropriate. To illustrate how this approach for developing materials can be relevant to the classroom, a framework for a task-based reading unit is included. The chapter also mentions how EAP/ESP learners can select specialized materials on their own and how classroom instructors can use these materials for creating more authentic lessons.

    Chapter 12, “The Play’s the Thing: Using Drama for Pleasurable Reading and Genuine Communication,” by Natalie Hess, encourages instructors to use plays as interactive reading texts. According to Hess, plays and scripted drama can improve reading skills and general language acquisition as they provide students with opportunities for sustained pleasurable reading and analysis of genuine language in different contexts. Plays also significantly lower the affective filter of the classroom when students assume the parts of characters and act out various scenes with different voices and gestures. In an easy to follow process, the author illustrates how to utilize integrated reading activities in the play Death of a Salesman. The chapter concludes with reflections on how reading Death of a Salesman allowed students to identify with the play’s characters and comfortably participate in postreading communicative activities.

    Chapter 13, “Teaching the Text Sdrawkcab: Moving Beyond Educational Fads,” by Margret M. Guntren, prompts classroom instructors to change their thinking about teaching reading. Rather than focusing on postreading discussion, vocabulary teaching, and comprehension questions, the author recommends teaching the text “backwards” and emphasizing schema-building and experiential activities in the prereading stage. The chapter also includes reading lesson outlines that instructors will find useful for their classroom.

    The chapters contained in this volume present a wealth of activities and techniques for diverse classrooms. They display the importance of reading in the classroom and how instructors can use reading as a bridge to improve learners’ other linguistic and interpersonal skills. Most significantly, each author prompts us to rediscover how enjoyable ESOL reading can be and how it can increase learner motivation. TESOL practitioners of all levels will find this volume beneficial whether they are planning a full curriculum, weeklong reading unit, or single-day integrated reading activity.


    Roger Cohen teaches in the Instructor Development Branch at the Defense Language Institute in San Antonio, Texas. He has written for publications such as Asian EFL Journal, Essential Teacher, and World Englishes among others. His book Danger in the Desert: True Adventures of a Dinosaur Hunter was published in 2008.

    Read Chapter 2, "Purposeful Reading," by Frank Noji, Shawn Ford, and Anthony Silva

    Purchase Explorations in Second Language Reading.


    The Road to Leadership

    download to PDF

    by Gabriela Kleckova

    University of West Bohemia

    Plzen, Czech Republic

    The word leadership used to puzzle me a lot. I just could not truly comprehend its meaning and I did not like finding it on school- or work-related U.S. application forms I had to fill out or any statement of purpose I had to write. I never knew what to say about leadership roles I played in my life. I recognized it as something highly valued around me yet very abstract and confusing for a Czech. I can only speculate now why the word “leadership” used to confuse me so much in the past. Was it my cultural background? Was it my lack of knowledge and experience? Or was it just the fact that I did not have any clear equivalent to the word in my mother tongue?

    All this confusion is history now. The word leadership no longer puzzles me. After 10 years of membership and active involvement with the TESOL association and a wide range of professional experiences, I now have a much better understanding of the meaning of leadership and its importance in professional and public life as well as some knowledge of leadership styles, skills, and strategies. I have learned that my understanding of leadership evolves as my professional and life experiences evolve. I think I have partially grasped the meaning of the word and understand how leadership works in the world around us though I am still exploring its nature. Here is a short map of the road I have taken to leadership.

    In the summer of 2005 I returned to the Czech Republic after 7 years in graduate school in the USA. I set out to continue my professional life as an assistant professor in applied linguistics in the Department of English at the University of West Bohemia. At this point, I had had opportunities to participate at TESOL state, regional, and international professional conferences as an attendee and/or presenter. I had also volunteered for TESOL and its affiliates. I had become familiar with our field, started to understand its complexities, and had an initial realization of the importance of leadership and collaboration with other fellow professionals. However, I wondered what my professional life and development would be like back at home, far away from those who guided me in the profession in the United States.

    To my surprise, shortly after my return to the Czech Republic, Mary Lou McCloskey nominated me for the Leadership Mentoring Program (LMP) Award, and I won! This program allowed me to take part in the Leadership Development Certificate Program and work closely with a TESOL leader and professional mentor, Denise Murray, for a period of one year. I was honored to receive the award and believed that participation in the LMP could be the first step in strengthening my ties with TESOL and growing as an international TESOL professional. I hoped that the LMP could giveme opportunities to interact with a variety of professionals, broaden my knowledge of the structure and organization of TESOL, and provide me with more insights into the life of an international professional association and fellow international professionals. I expected that this experience would equip me with knowledge, resources, and experience to serve the profession and contribute to the English language teaching community within and outside TESOL.

    In reality, all my beliefs, hopes, and expectations were surpassed. The Leadership Development Certificate Program workshops opened the door to many new experiences and people in TESOL. I was able to select workshops relevant to my needs and work context and interact with professionals sharing questions or concerns similar to mine. The program was my first formal training in leadership providing essential background knowledge on a variety of topics in leadership. It built the initial schema for future readings on leadership and made me realize that leadership is a set of skills and values to be learned about and developed through experience. Furthermore, my rich professional relationship with my mentor, Denise Murray, did not end after one year and continues today. Her expert knowledge shared regularly at our encounters at TESOL conventions or in her recent book Leadership in English Language Education (Christison & Murray, 2008) has equipped me with knowledge for my leadership roles.

    Since completing the LMP, I have taken on various leadership roles in TESOL, my department, my institution, and the TESOL professional community in the Czech Republic. Just to name few current, I am an assistant Chair of the English Department at my university, serve on the Strategic Planning Team for the Faculty of Education, chair an annual conference for language teaching professionals hosted by my department, serve on the University Academic Senate, and coordinate the TESOL Professional Development Scholarship Award. I have volunteered for some of these roles have, some have been assigned to me and others have come to me purely by chance. (We all like those unexpected roles, don’t we?) In all instances, I have realized that problems around me will not change unless I take on at least part of the responsibility for the change. I understand that leadership means that I cannot passively accept what happens but must take an active role even at times when inaction (or play) seems like a much better option than leading.

    I wish everyone great leadership experiences and when possible, some fun along the way.

    Learn more about the Leadership Mentoring Program.


    Christison, M., & Murray, D. (2008). Leadership in English Language Education: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Skills for Changing Times. New York, NY: Routledge.