IEP Newsletter

IEP News, Volume 25:2 (June 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • Letter From the Editor
    • Our Newly Proposed Mission Statement
  • Articles
    • Pronunciation Matters! The Importance of Aural and Oral Communication in Intensive English Programs
    • Aiming to Increase NNSs’ Participation in Discussions With NSs
    • Creative, Interactive Reading Activities
  • Community News and Information
    • Spotlight on... the ELI at HCC in Columbia, MD: The IEP Interview with Rebecca Price
    • Minutes From the San Antonio IEP-IS Meeting
  • About This Member Community
    • About the Intensive English Programs Interest Section

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

By Elizabeth Anderson, e-mail:

Elizabeth Anderson

Dear IEP-IS Members,

Welcome, all new and returning members to the IEP Interest Section. My name is Elizabeth Anderson, and I'm the 2005-2006 chair of the Intensive English Program Interest Section. Currently, I am the director of the Intensive English Language Program at the University of New Orleans; during my tenure, I have also been an instructor and program coordinator. Before I continue with our Interest Section news, I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks for the wonderful leadership provided by our past chair, Tim Cauller. Tim did a great job getting me acquainted with my responsibilities, and I will be looking to him for further guidance.

The conference in San Antonio was fantastic! The city was beautiful, the weather was great, and the conference itself was well organized and informative with a variety of options available for presenters and attendees.

Two of the highlights were the IEP academic session on extensive reading and the InterSection with Program Administration entitled "Developing Full-Time Teaching Communities Within Part-Time Worlds." One item of interest was the approval of a new writing Interest Section, which has recently been named SLW (Second Language Writing). This designation will be presented and included in the Resolution Action Item that will be presented to the board at the June board meeting.

Also during the conference, the IEP-IS newsletter editor, Tamara Jones, rewrote the mission statement for our newsletter. We invite you to view the new mission statement in this edition and offer your suggestions and inclusions for change.

We are all looking forward to the 2006 TESOL Convention to be held March 14-18 in Tampa, FL. The theme of next year's conference will be "Daring to Lead" in celebration of TESOL's 40th birthday! One highlight of the 2006 conference will be the return of the 20-Minute Report: a short rapid-fire presentation on a variety of topics. In addition, affiliate leaders from around the world will select and financially sponsor "Best Of" sessions. These will be sessions that were presented at local conferences and especially well received by the local conference participants. 
Although the deadline for presentations and volunteering as a proposal reader for next year's conference has passed, I invite you all to consider participating and begin preparing for professional involvement in 2007.

Finally, I would like to remind you all to check out the TESOL Web site at It has been restructured with a focus on content and quality. Many areas are designed for members only (you will have to enter your membership number to enter these areas), but others are open to all interested persons.
Again, welcome to the IEP-IS! I'm looking forward to leading you the year of TESOL's 40th birthday.

Letter From the Editor

By Tamara Jones, e-mail:

In response to popular demand voiced at the IEP open business meeting at TESOL 2005, the IEP newsletter will include a letter from one of the editors, either me (Tamara Jones) or Tiffany Wilson-Mobley. I've never written an editorial before, but I do receive O Magazine regularly, and I always enjoy Oprah's concluding thoughts. So, I thought, if Oprah Winfrey can have a "What I know for sure" feature, than perhaps the editors of the IEP newsletter can get away with a "What I think right now..." column. We encourage readers to respond to any of the ideas expanded upon in the column, although because it is "what we think right now" the editors also reserve the right to revise, clarify, or simply deny positions taken.

What I have been thinking about most recently in connection with TESOL is last month's annual convention. First, let me say that I had a wonderful experience in San Antonio. The people were friendly, the sessions were informative and inspirational, the city was beautiful, and the weather was great. I always get so much out of attending the conference: ideas, motivation, and a sense of community. TESOL 2005 did not disappoint!

The only dark cloud that appeared the entire week hung down over Wednesday evening when, from 5:00 to 7:00, the IEP Interest Section held its open business meeting. I was sitting near the front of the room, and when I turned around to deliver my update on the state of the newsletter, I was surprised and saddened by the number of empty chairs. In the few years I have attended the conference, it seems that attendance at the IEP business meetings has shrunk.

I carried that disappointment back to Baltimore with me, and the more I thought about those empty chairs, the more irritated I became. Now, before I launch into full-on scolding mode, I should excuse two groups of people: (1) those who were unable to make the trip to San Antonio and (2) those who were at TESOL and chose not to attend the meeting but have also never wondered "What is TESOL doing for me?" or "Is TESOL worth my membership dues?" These groups can stop reading now and go about their lives.

The rest of you-where were you on Wednesday at 5:00? Choosing to belong to an organization, paying your dues, and then never doing another thing to participate is the same as paying taxes and not voting; when the government does something you don't like, as far as I am concerned, you can't complain. So the next time you wonder what TESOL has done for you lately, ask yourself what you have done to make it relevant in your life.

It especially surprised me not to see more people new to the field in the IEP open business meeting. I think they might not realize how beneficial these meetings can be for their career. Or maybe they think that open business meetings are just for IEP directors. This is not the case! In fact, the IEP open business meeting can be a great place to get involved on a national level, make your voice heard, and meet interesting people.

When I first came to a TESOL conference, I asked my boss to introduce me to the movers and shakers in the industry. I knew I wouldn't be at that particular job forever and I wanted to know who the program heads were in other parts of the country in case I needed to move to a different state. I was also excited about the opportunity to volunteer for TESOL on the IEP steering committee because I was just starting my career and I knew that this sort of experience looks great on a resume. In fact, one of the things my current boss is very proud of is that a member of her faculty serves TESOL at a national level. Becoming involved in TESOL is, I think, partly to thank for the (rare in Maryland) full-time teaching position I hold.

So, next year, when you are wondering which Tampa restaurant to hit for dinner after a long Wednesday of demonstrations and workshops, think about stopping by the IEP Interest Section open business meeting. Getting involved can be as easy as volunteering to be a proposal reader (a great way to learn what a good proposal looks like) or running for a position in IEP leadership (where you can meet great and powerful people and pad your CV). See you in 2006!

Our Newly Proposed Mission Statement

The goal of the IEP Newsletter is to disseminate information regarding the professional interests of its members.  Specifically, the IEP Newsletter's purpose is to inform members about current theories, practices, pedagogies, issues, and materials related to people engaged in teaching and administering at IEPs around the world.

The audience for the IEP Newsletter includes TESOL members interested in issues and activities that affect Intensive English Programs that exist both privately and in connection with higher education organizations.  This group comprises professionals involved in IEP teaching, IEP administrating, and relationships with other IEPS.  The audience may also include administrators or teachers who wish to work for IEPs, such as graduate students in TESOL.

The IEP Newsletter intends to

  1. Facilitate ongoing interaction between IEP members and the IEP leadership;
  2. Enhance and encourage the professional development of IEP members;
  3. Provide a forum for members to share ideas, activities, experiences, and insights relating to the issues facing IEP administrators, students, and teachers;
  4. Initiate and continue a dialogue about timely and current issues affecting IEPs, including immigration and visa concerns, employment opportunities, and teaching strategies;
  5. Assist neophyte writers by providing feedback on how to improve the quality, value, and viability of submissions;
  6. Provide an outlet for advertising the TESOL Convention and TESOL products and to disseminate conference information to Interest Section members who cannot attend;
  7. Communicate information about TESOL positions and advocacy relating to IEP issues; and
  8. Share stories and interviews that demonstrate the success of various IEPs around the world.

Articles Pronunciation Matters! The Importance of Aural and Oral Communication in Intensive English Programs

By Myrna Santos, e-mail:

None of us speaks in a vacuum; our purpose as we speak is to convey information to our listeners. Years ago, the grammatical accuracy of the language produced was the major criterion in evaluating a student's success. Today, a language student is deemed successful if he or she has the ability to effectively communicate and thus be understood in a second or foreign language. A competent communicator may strive for and achieve grammatical accuracy. This is certainly a worthwhile goal, but the knowledge of sociocultural rules of propriety is of primary importance in promoting the desired effect of fluency. As we become fluent in a second language, we find that we are able to think in that language and use idioms and expressions correctly. We begin to recognize our own and others' mistakes and are able to mentally correct them.

Imagine the confusion and the impossibility of comprehension of further material if, initially, the distinction is not made between minimal difference pairs. The difference between "He went to Yale" and "He went to jail" could indeed cause a major problem! Contextualizing minimal difference pairs in an atmosphere of humor and creativity, while teaching stress and intonation, remains a most challenging task. Listening is used far more than any single language skill in daily life. In an average day, we can expect to listen twice as much as we speak, four times more than we read, and five times more than we write. Therefore, if the goal of communication is to be achieved, the comprehension of the spoken language is of primary importance. Deficiencies in aural skills pose major problems in academic and career life. Consider this dialogue, written by Judy B. Gilbert, and the ensuing difficulty caused by poor listening comprehension:

Customer: What can I have to start with?
Waiter: Soup or salad.
Customer: What's Super Salad?
Waiter: What's "Super Salad"?
Customer: I thought you just said you have a Super Salad.
Waiter: No, we don't have anything like that. Just plain green salad. And tomato soup.
Customer: Oh, OK. Well, what do you have for dessert?
Waiter: We have pie and apples.
Customer: I don't care much for pineapples.
Waiter: Are you making jokes or what? We have pie and apples.
Customer: OK, OK. Just give me the soup and a piece of apple pie.
Waiter: Sorry, the only pie we have is berry.
Customer: Very what?
Waiter: What?
Customer: You said the pie was very something. Very good?
Waiter: Mmmm, I said the pie was berry. And if you will wait just a minute, I'm going to get another waiter to serve you!

Thus, one of the most persistent tasks of teaching pronunciation is finding ways to maintain students' concentration on accurate production of difficult phonemes while they are engaged in active communication. As time and focus are particularly important in intensive programs, keeping this task on target can be especially challenging!

Myrna Santos presently teaches ESOL and writing at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Davie, FL. At NSU, she has implemented an ESOL Workshop Program designed to target the writing needs of nonnative speakers, focusing primarily on developmental writing and writing as a process. Prior to teaching at Nova, Myrna had taught intensive English for EF Education in Boston, MA. In addition to her teaching obligations at NSU, Myrna teaches intensive ESOL study online as well as through her own Web site, She has taught in Florida and in Massachusetts for about 16 years-all ages and levels. In addition, she has formed an organization called ESLCARE to address the transitional needs of people beginning a new life in the United States. Myrna is very active in all ESOL support groups, and has served on the board of directors for SSTESOL.

Aiming to Increase NNSs’ Participation in Discussions With NSs

By Caleb Prichard, e-mail:


In mainstream university classes, professors in English-speaking countries often think that nonnative speakers of English (NNSs) are reticent in the class. In a University of Canberra survey of professors, two-thirds of the professors expressed concern that their NNS students were inactive (Jones, Bell, Bush, Cotton, Galloway, & Martina, 1993). Although in one study NNSs participated nearly as equally as did native speakers (NSs) (Furneaux, Locke, Robinson, & Tonkyn, 1991), NNSs from certain backgrounds, especially from East Asia, do seem to be less active in discussions. In a recent study of university students, I examined to what extent NSs dominated discussions with Japanese English speakers. Though matched evenly, four-on-four, in each of the seven 10-minute discussions, the NSs took seven times more turns than did the Japanese advanced-English speakers (Prichard, 2004b).

Being reticent in group discussions in English-speaking universities can pose problems for NNSs. First of all, in many courses a portion of the course grade is often given to participation. In addition, some professors and classmates may interpret NNS silence as a lack of English ability. In a survey at an Australian university, four out of five professors thought the NNS students did not have adequate ability in English, though these students felt otherwise (Braddock, Roberts, Zheng, & Guzman, 1995).

Classroom settings are obviously not the only place where NNSs might engage in group discussions. In social gatherings, interlocutors often debate issues and share experiences in groups. If NNSs have trouble participating in these discussions, this may threaten their ability to develop relationships or interact with the target culture. Business meetings and negotiations are also a form of group discussion, and research has shown that different cultures have different patterns of participation in meetings (Graham, 1991; Yamada, 1992). If native-speaking businesspeople have negotiation discussions with NNSs, there could be financial consequences for the NNSs' company.

Language teachers use several methods to encourage active discussions. However, although these steps seem to lead the students to be more active in class, even experience in discussions with NSs will not enable most NNSs to increase their participation (Jones, 1999). Jones suggests taking direct action through awareness activities and skill practice. This article describes such a unit that was created on the basis of research and then tested in a research study (Prichard, 2004a).


Before a unit aiming to lead students to become more active in discussions could be created, it was necessary to analyze how and why NNSs, in this case Japanese students, are passive in discussions in English. The eight-class unit created was based on a literature review as well as qualitative and quantitative analysis from the Japanese-NS university discussions mentioned above (Prichard, 2004b). In each section below, potential causes of passivity are discussed followed by a description of the unit.

Expectations of Participation

Many East Asian students are not expected to be active contributors in university courses. In Japanese culture, silence often represents politeness, especially in the classroom. Thus, even if they are aware that they are expected to actively participate in class in English-speaking countries, they are not accustomed to it and may feel uncomfortable doing so (Jones, 1999).

Thus, following Jones' suggestion, the first part of the unit was to make the students aware that they will be expected to actively participate if they study or work in English-speaking environments. The students were also introduced to research findings that showed exactly how passive Japanese students are in discussions with NSs and other NNSs. The students also brainstormed potential consequences of not participating actively in various settings. This step was to be the key in motivating the students to increase their participation throughout the unit.

Getting a Turn

In the Japanese-NS university discussions (Prichard, 2004b), the NSs took an average of 7.3 turns each per 10-minute discussion compared with just 1.0 for the Japanese students. In the turn-taking conventions of Japanese, each speaker tends to be given a turn (Yamada, 1992). On the other hand, in English-speaking cultures, the pause between turns is usually a fraction of a second, with slight overlaps common, and interlocutors often have to "fight for the floor" when they have something to say. NNSs who wait to be given a chance to speak will likely lose their chance to participate.

Listeners watch for turn-yielding signals to predict when speakers are going to finish their turn. In English, speakers signal that their turn will soon end by one or more of the following measures: relaxing their hands, looking back at their interlocutor, changing their intonation, decreasing the pitch, or drawing out the final syllable (Duncan & Fiske, 1977; Schaffer, 1983). Nonverbal communication features vary between cultures and languages (Gumperz & Roberts, 1980; Hattori, 1987; Strevens, 1987). For example, American businesspeople gaze into their interlocutor's face more than do Japanese businesspeople (Graham, 1991). Perhaps this behavior indicates that Japanese speakers tend to wait for silence instead of watching for turn signals to take the floor.

Indeed, 13 of the 15 Japanese students who took just one turn in the Japanese-NS university discussions did so only after there was a rare silence of more than 3 seconds (Prichard, 2004b). One Japanese student said she "didn't know when to speak" and another said that when he was ready to participate, a NS always spoke first. Again, different turn-taking conventions between the two languages may be a factor. Seven students took their only turn of the discussion only after another Japanese participant spoke. Thus, perhaps they were not able to recognize when a NS had given a turn-yielding signal. This lack of recognition could have led to either them losing a chance to speak or a NS directly soliciting a response with a question. Four of the Japanese had their only turn only after a NS solicited a general response from the group.

In the discussion unit, the English turn-yielding signals mentioned above were reviewed. In one activity, the teacher spoke about a topic and the students had to practice recognizing when a turn signal was given. To encourage the competitive spirit often needed to be able to actively contribute in discussions with NSs, the teacher gave participation points to the students who could recognize a signal first. The students were also introduced to ways of showing that they wanted a turn such as leaning in slightly with an open mouth or saying "hmm." The students were then put into groups. The teacher gave an opinion about a topic to each group and each member was required to respond just once. The students had to look actively for turn-yielding signals, and those who spoke first and second were awarded participation points.

Having a Long Turn

Long monologues seem to be more acceptable in English than in many other languages. Yamada (1992) analyzed Japanese and American business meetings and found that long monologues were more common in American meetings. In the Japanese-NS university discussions (Prichard, 2004b), the NSs were six times more likely to have a turn of 50 words or more. Another possibility as to why Japanese participants do not have long turns when speaking with NSs is that they may not know the strategies to keep their turn, which are so necessary in active English discussions. These strategies include gesturing, looking away, and avoiding silence by using repeated words, fillers, and elongated vowel sounds.

A major focus of the discussion unit was on keeping a turn. The above-mentioned strategies were introduced and practiced. In one activity, the students tried to say a sentence written on the board for 30 seconds using fillers, repetition, and elongated vowel sounds but no silences. Another activity involved having an entire argument written on a series of cue cards. An "incompetent" assistant showed the cards to the speaker, pausing as if daydreaming for 5 to 10 seconds before showing the next one. The speaker could not have silence between cards, instead using turn-keeping strategies.

Disagreeing With the Group

Some cultures do not express their opinions as openly as do English-speaking cultures and value group harmony over individuality. Japanese, for example, sometimes hide their opinions because they reserve frankness for in-group interactions (Yamada, 1992). In the Japanese-NS university discussions, if a NS disagreed with what a Japanese student said, the Japanese students never once countered or clarified their point (Prichard, 2004b).

Therefore, a step of the discussion unit involved refuting and disagreeing with each other. It was pointed out that disagreeing with others is not considered a way of showing disrespect. On the contrary, those who share their viewpoint vocally will usually be respected more, and playing the devil's advocate can even make a discussion more interesting. The students were also introduced to ways of disagreeing politely, so that they would feel less worried about sounding rude or offensive. In one activity, a student had to give his or her opinion on a certain issue, and the other students had to argue against it, even if they agreed. The person in the "hot seat" had to continue refuting the counterarguments for 5 minutes. The students said they felt "lonely," "scared," and "sad" arguing against the group, but most seemed to enjoy the activity.

Being Confident and Ready

Another reason NNSs may be passive in the mainstream classroom is that they are still not comfortable with their fluency (Jones, 1999). Asian students are often afraid of losing face with a grammar mistake. Research shows that Japanese contribute less in terms of length of utterance when they feel their interlocutor has a higher proficiency (Takahashi, 1989; Yamamoto, 1991). In questioning Japanese students as to why they were not more active in group activities, Yamamoto found that they felt inferior when speaking English with other NNSs. When paired with NSs, they may be even more insecure. After the Japanese-NS university discussions, one mentioned she had been "very nervous" and was surprised how "fluently" the NSs gave their "very good opinions" (Prichard, 2004b).

During the discussion unit, the students were encouraged to focus on content and not to worry about mistakes. Aiming to build their confidence, the teacher also reminded them that they were advanced English speakers. Realizing that they would still probably be unconfident and hesitant to speak, the teacher informed the students that if they are prepared for a discussion, they could preview the vocabulary and ideas they wanted to use. The students were also told to try to think of what to say before a speaker finished so that they could be ready to speak as soon as a turn-yielding signal was shown.


An experimental study was carried out to determine whether the unit would lead Japanese advanced EFL students to become more active in discussions with NSs (Prichard, 2004a). One group of Japanese students, the experimental group, was taught discussion skills immediately following the pretest in a series of eight 90-minute classes. The other Japanese students, the control group, also had a discussion unit, but they were not taught any specific discussion skills.

Overall, the students in the experimental group showed improvement in words and words per turn (Prichard, 2004a). In terms of taking turns, however, they seemed prepared for the discussion but not enough so to anticipate the depth and variety arguments the NSs gave. They still seemed to lack the courage to openly disagree with what the NSs had said. As in the words of one Japanese student after the discussion, perhaps they "needed to be more tough."

The experimental group did have longer turns, though not significantly longer (Prichard, 2004a). In addition, they participated significantly more in terms of overall words spoken. In light of the fact that the pre- and post-unit discussions were their first ever with NSs, these moderate gains seem to indicate that the skill training was at least somewhat helpful. It is very likely that these activities would help other students, especially those already studying in English-speaking environments, to be more aware and more active in discussions with NSs.



Braddock, R., Roberts, P., Zheng, C., and Guzman, T. (1995). Survey on skill development in intercultural teaching of international students. Sydney, Australia, Macquarie University, Asia Pacific Research Institute.

Duncan, S, & Fiske, D. (1977). Face-to-face interaction: research, methods, and theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Furneaux, C., Locke, C., Robinson, P., & Tonkyn, A. (1991). Talking heads and shifting bottoms: The ethnography of academic seminars. In P. Adams, B. Heaton, & P. Howarth (Eds.) Social-cultural issues in English for academic purposes (pp. 74-85). London: Modern English Publications / British Council.

Graham, J. (1991). An exploratory study of the process of marketing negotiations using a cross-cultural perspective. In R. C. Scarcella, E. S. Anderson, & S. D. Krashen (Eds.), Developing communicative competence in a second language (pp. 239-270). New York: Newbury House.

Gumperz, J., & Roberts, C. (1980). Developing awareness skills for interethnic communication. Singapore: RELC.

Hattori, T. (1987). A study of nonverbal intercultural communication between Japanese and Americans - focusing on the use of the eyes. Japan Association of Language Teachers Journal, 8, 109-118.

Jones, J. (1999). From silence to talk: Cross-cultural ideas of students' participation in academic group discussion. English for Specific Purposes, 18, 243-259.

Jones, J., Bell, J., Bush, D., Cotton, F., Galloway B., & Martina, M. (1993). Survey of the attitudes of teachers to the performance of their international students. Unpublished report. Canberra: University of Canberra Committee for the Enhancement of Teaching Quality.

Prichard, C. (2004a). Enabling English students to be active participants in discussions. JALT 2003 Proceedings.

Prichard, C. (2004b). Japanese reticence in discussions with native speakers. Kwansei Gakuin University Annual Research Report, 7.

Schaffer, D. (1983). The role of intonation as a cue to turn taking in conversation.  Journal of Phonetics, 11, 243-257.

Strevens, P. (1987). Cultural barriers to language learning. In L. Smith (Ed.), Discourse across cultures (pp. 169-178). New York: Prentice Hall.

Takahashi, T. (1989). The influence of the listener on L2 speech. In S. Gass, C. Madden, D. Preston, & L. Selinker (Eds.), Variation in second language acquisition: Discourse and pragmatics. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Yamada, H. (1992). American and Japanese business discourse: A comparison of interactional styles. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Company.

Yamamoto, N. (1991). Effects of setting on Japanese students' interaction patterns. Unpublished masters thesis, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.


Caleb Prichard has taught ESL at the university level in the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

Creative, Interactive Reading Activities

By Winnie Cragg, e-mail:


Teaching students to read faster with increased comprehension and acquisition of new vocabulary is a challenge ESL instructors face on a daily basis. ESL teachers have long realized that choosing a good skills textbook and various class readers is just the beginning to achieving this goal. The next step is to plan creative, interactive lessons, one of the key words being interactive according to Mikulecky (1990). However, this interaction is not merely between the student reader and a text (Johnston, 1983). Peer interaction is equally important and can add interest, fun, and an increase in learning in the reading class. Also, listening, speaking, and writing activities can be utilized to enhance and expand the reading program. The following summary of my TESOL 2004 poster session addresses and offers suggestions to achieve these instructional goals. Specifically, four areas of reading instruction will be discussed: scanning, extensive reading, in-class readers, and student-authored mini books. The prerequisite for all activities is that they be student-centered, interactive, and, where possible, fun.


Scanning is an important skill that requires students to read a text to find answers to specific questions such as who, what, when, where, why, how much, how many, or what kind.  Speed and accuracy are the focus of this skill. ESL students can practice this on their own using their skills textbook in the classroom or at home and check their answers. However, the teacher can prepare interactive activities that require very little preparation but involve the skills of listening, speaking, and writing as well as the usual reading on the part of the student. 
 Activity #1: (adds the skill of listening)

  1. Teacher provides each student with a copy of a short article to be scanned.
  2. Teacher asks all students to stand up while holding their article.
  3. Teacher reads aloud the first question. 
  4. All students listen and scan the article for the answer.
  5. The first student to answer correctly sits down.
  6. The teacher continues with more questions until all students have answered and sat down.

Activity #2: (adds the skills of student speaking, listening, and writing) 

  1. Teacher divides students into pairs: one student is the "scanner" and the other student is the "runner."
  2. Teacher gives all the scanner students a copy of a short article.
  3. Teacher puts questions that he or she has prepared outside the classroom on the hall wall for the runner students (one in each pair of students).
  4. When the activity begins, all runner students run outside to study question #1 and then return to the classroom to relay the question to their partner. 
  5. The scanner student scans the article and reads the answer to his or her runner partner who listens and then runs back outside to write the answer on the question paper.
  6. Students continue until all students have finished all questions.
  7. As students finish, the runners give their finished question paper to the teacher who numbers the papers in the order they were finished.
  8. Finally, the teacher checks the answers orally with the class. Optional: the teacher gives a small prize to the first pair of students who completed the most questions correctly in the shortest time.

Note: This is a challenging activity, but extremely enjoyable.

Extensive Reading

Extensive or pleasure reading should be an integral part of any reading program.  Though the program itself requires very little work on the part of the teacher, the benefits to the students have been well documented. For example, according to Mikulecky and Jeffries (1998), pleasure reading is an easy way for students to read faster and better, learn new words, find examples of good writing, and learn about the cultures of English speakers. In addition, though all of the reading is done outside of class, follow-up activities in class allow students to share their stories with their peers. This activity requires a little written preparation by both the student and the teacher, but offers a very enjoyable benefit to all.

 Follow-up activity #1: (adds the skill of speaking and listening)

  1. Students bring their extensive reading books to class.
  2. Students sit in pairs and orally share their stories, pointing out any important pictures their books might contain.
  3. While one student is speaking, the second student listens and asks questions, when possible.
  4. The second student repeats the process.
  5. This may be repeated 3-4 times with different partners.

Follow-up activity #2: (adds the skills of speaking, listening and writing)

  1. After reading their books at home, students are asked to make a small poster about their books. The teacher gives a handout outlining the requirements.
  2. Students bring their posters to class and arrange their desks in two lines facing each other.
  3. All students in line 1 show their posters and tell their partners in line 2 about their books. This means that all students in line 1 are talking at the same time. The teacher times them (about 4 minutes).
  4. All students in line 2 listen and ask questions, when possible.
  5. When the teacher calls time, students reverse roles, and the procedure is repeated.  
  6. Next, all students in line 1 stand up and move down one desk so that they are facing a new partner. 
  7. The procedure is repeated 3-4 times.
  8. The teacher may collect the posters and display them in the classroom.

Follow-up activity #3: (same skills as #2)

  1. This is the same activity as #2 except that students are asked to make 5x8 summary cards about their books.  The teacher gives a handout outlining the assignment.
  2. Students bring their summary cards to class to share with classmates.
  3. The procedure is the same as in #2 (above).
  4. The teacher may collect the cards and display them in the classroom.

In-Class Readers

In addition to extensive reading outside the classroom, many reading programs include in-class readers such as Little Women or Sarah, Plain and Tall. The whole class reads the same book at the same time and the teacher usually assigns the number of pages to be read for any given week. Unlike extensive reading, these books can be read in class during silent sustained reading or at home or both, and usually the student passes in and the teacher corrects a written homework assignment. In addition, the ESL teacher can create extra follow-up activities that are both interactive and fun. The following are a few samples of such activities

 Follow-up activity #1: (adds skills of speaking, listening, and writing)

  1. Students are asked to prepare one 3x5 card about one reading homework assignment.
  2. On the card, each student writes three true/false sentences, comprehension questions, or yes/no questions with answers on the back.
  3. The next class period, students stand up with their cards and readers.
  4. They find one partner to ask their three questions to.
  5. The partner must answer the questions. If the partner doesn't remember an answer, he or she may use the reader.
  6. Students then reverse roles.
  7. As soon as they each finish their cards, they find new partners, and the procedure is repeated 3-4 times.

Note: It is important for the teacher to collect and check the cards for grammar and correct answers ahead of the activity. If there is no time in class that day, the activity can delayed until the next day.

Follow-up activity #2: (adds skills of writing and speaking/student teaching)

  1. Teacher prepares a handout with student-teacher assignments. There are two kinds of activities: vocabulary and comprehension. For example, for vocabulary, students are asked to make a crossword puzzle or matching words with definitions handout, and for comprehension, students can prepare a true/false or wh-question handout. 
  2. Before handing out the student-teacher assignment sheet, the teacher asks students to make groups of three.
  3. Each student group is assigned one chapter of the reader for which they must prepare both vocabulary and comprehension activities. They usually have about one week to prepare. 
  4. Before student teaching day, each student group makes an appointment with the teacher who checks all the student-created materials. Students make any necessary corrections at home.
  5. Before class on student teaching day, the teacher collects all materials and makes copies for the class.
  6. At the beginning of the class, the student group teaches a mini lesson using the materials they have created.
  7. The teacher sits in the back of the room and evaluates the student lesson.

Note: This is a lot of work for the teacher but well worth it.

Student-Authored Mini Books

This activity is done in reading class, but the first part of the assignment is a writing activity. Students are asked to choose a topic that lends itself to illustration. This could be a short story or description of a recent field trip that the students and teacher took together. For example, each semester my students write and illustrate a mini book about their 6-day trip to the East Coast. The book contains five pages, each page about a different place they visit. Each page must have a picture or illustration related to the place. For example, when they visit Quincy Market, they may use a picture of a lobster as illustration or include a postcard of the place. Students are given a detailed assignment sheet before they leave, and upon their return, they have about two weeks to write their mini books. The following activities are done in the reading class upon completion of the books.

 Follow-up activity #1: (adds skills of speaking and listening)

  1. Students arrange their desks in two lines facing each other.
  2. Student #1 reads his or her book to student #2, one page at a time.
  3. Student #2 listens and asks questions about each page.
  4. Student #1 answers. 
  5. When student #1finishes his or her book, student #2 does the same with his or her book.
  6. Then students in line #1 move down one desk so that they are facing new partners, and the procedure is repeated 3-4 times.

Follow-up activity #2: (adds skills of speaking, listening, and writing)

  1. Students arrange desks in two lines facing each other.
  2. Student #1 gives his or her mini book to student #2.
  3. Student #2 reads page 1 silently and looks at the illustration.
  4. Then student #1 asks student #2 a few questions about page 1. These questions were written ahead of time by student #1 and corrected by the teacher before this activity started.
  5. Student #2 listens and answers each question.
  6. This procedure continues until the book has been finished.
  7. Then student #2 gives his or her book to student #1, and the procedure is repeated.
  8. Students move down one desk so that they are facing new partners, and the procedure is repeated 3-4 times.


As Rivers (1987) wrote, "Small group-work on a reading task stimulates student participation" (p. 78). If the ESL teacher is willing to take the time to create small-group activities to expand the reading program, he or she will be rewarded with active, more successful second language readers of English. In addition, students will learn how to take responsibility for their own learning and will enjoy themselves as well. Finally, ESL teachers should experiment with including other language skills in the reading classroom. The benefits will speak for themselves. The time has come for reading classes to be more dynamic, creative, and interactive.


Johnston, P. H. (1983). Reading comprehension assessment: A cognitive basis. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Mikulecky, B. S. (1990). A short course in teaching reading skills. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
Mikulecky, B. S., & Jeffries, L. (1998). Reading power, second edition. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Rivers, W. M. (Ed.).  (1987). Interactive language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Winnie Cragg, a former ESL instructor in Kuwait and Oman, now teaches English at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Spokane, WA.

Community News and Information Spotlight on... the ELI at HCC in Columbia, MD: The IEP Interview with Rebecca Price

By Tamara Jones, e-mail:

This interview was conducted as part of the IEP newsletter's new series, "Success in Challenging Times," which looks at the strategies IEPs are relying on across the country to keep afloat during this difficult period.

IEP Newsletter: I'm sitting down with Rebecca Price, director of the English Language Institute at Howard Community College (HCC) in Columbia, MD. The first question I have for you is, Could you please describe your IEP? How many students do you currently have?

Rebecca Price: Currently, I believe our number is around 90 students. At least 12 of those are permanent residents so we have 78 international students.

IEPN: How many teachers work for the ELI?

RP: My program is larger than just the IEP. The entire staff is usually around 45 instructors and probably about 25 of those are exclusive to the IEP.

IEPN: Where is the ELI housed?

RP: Our IEP is unusual because we are housed in the continuing education side of the program but it's a program that is shared between the credit and the noncredit ESL divisions. The location of the management and administration is on the continuing education side and the funding and all of the budgets are on the continuing education side. However, the students take classes offered by both the credit and noncredit divisions.

IEPN: Can you explain a little more about how that works? Maybe it would be helpful to talk about how the ELI was founded.

RP: This was originally a joint effort with the head of the credit ESL program working with me, the director of noncredit ESL. We were trying to decide how we could best benefit students that we shared between the two of us. We felt that the academic program on the credit side taught certain specific skills but it wasn't complete and should be supplemented, especially in the areas of conversation and pronunciation. Actually, the noncredit side also offers additional academic work that is very helpful to certain students, especially writing or reading courses. So what we decided is that we would establish an English Language Institute. At the lower levels, the students are taking primarily noncredit classes because the credit side doesn't offer the lower levels. As the students advance, though, they get a shared schedule between credit and noncredit. That way they are developing a complete array of skills while they are completing the requirements to move into a degree program.

IEPN: By credit, do you mean "in-house" credits?

RP: Yes. When I say "credit" when referring to ESL classes, I mean nontransferable credits.

IEPN: Do the students take IEP-specific classes? Are they studying only with other students from the English Language Institute?

RP: No. I think that's one of the benefits of the way the ELI is organized. Our students are integrated into existing classes-much the same way an F-1 student who is coming to HCC to study history would be. The college wouldn't have history classes that were specifically for I-20 students. Our students come over and they are integrated into existing ESL classes, whether they are on the continuing education side or the credit side. The classes are filled with students from different backgrounds and different countries with different goals, and not exclusively with IEP students.

IEPN: What classes do the students take? You mentioned classes such as pronunciation and conversation, but do they have a set schedule or take blocks of classes?

RP: We try to offer all skills to every student. So, we have a selection of grammar, pronunciation, reading, writing, and listening and speaking classes available. We also have a range of extra classes. We offer home study and independent study classes, service learning classes, culture classes, and custom classes.

IEPN: Custom classes?

RP: Advanced-level students can opt to enroll in a mainstream college class with a pass/nonpass option. This course shows up on their ELI transcripts but does not affect their official HCC GPA. This allows the students to experience what it is really like to be in an economics class or business class or a computer class.

IEPN: How old is your IEP?

RP: We are 4 years old. We were established in the spring of 2001 with six students.

IEPN: Where are your students primarily from?

RP: Probably 60 percent are from Korea. But we are starting to diversify more and we have had students from all over the world: Africa, other parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

IEPN: You mentioned custom classes. What other kinds of extras do you offer?

RP: We try to offer as many extras that would be helpful to our students as we can. We have a well-developed homestay program. As we don't have housing on our campus, we work with the students to try to place them in homestays if they wish. That's gone very well. It's a lot of work; but it seems to be something we absolutely have to have.

Another extra that I think is a real plus for our program is the activities that we have available. By participating in the activities and field trips, students begin to feel that they have a home here at HCC. The activities really bring them together and help to create lasting bonds. They can go on field trips to places like Washington, DC, New York, Lancaster, PA, Niagara Falls, or Baltimore. In addition to that, students can participate in monthly birthday parties and other regular get-togethers. We also have an excellent Conversation Partners program. It is offered as a zero-credit class so it shows up on students' transcripts that they have participated. This program is a joint effort between credit English freshman composition classes and our ELI. The ELI students are paired with English students and they meet once a week with their partners. The ELI students also meet once a month with the director of the Conversation Partner program to review where they are and discuss any problems or issues that may have arisen. I personally have gotten feedback from students who say how much they have enjoyed this program.

IEPN: It sounds like the students are kept busy.

RP: Yes, the students have many options. And, of course, I mentioned the custom classes. I have a good example of how this option attracts alternative students to the ELI and how it can benefit them. Last year we had a Japanese businessman who studied in our ELI. He had already completed a master's degree in engineering in Japan, but he wanted to learn the English vocabulary associated with his field by taking electronics classes. So he took two electronics classes as custom classes just for his own benefit so that he could return to Japan and conduct his English business a little more professionally.

IEPN: Are there any other extras you would like to mention?

RP: The other program that has just been excellent and resulted in huge gains in language development for our students is the service learning class. It offers a very structured curriculum with clear learning objectives. The instructor does a lot of training and prepares the students for what is expected on the job in the United States. She carefully matches the students with the service learning positions. The students have been placed in art museums, in senior centers, in after-school elementary programs, and with the Red Cross. The instructor also meets with the employers and the students regularly to deal with any potential problems in a timely manner. This class has been a win-win situation. The institutions have been extremely pleased with our students; in fact, they have asked for additional students. On the other side, the students benefit from the intense exposure to real English and the chance to practice their spoken English.

IEPN: You started 4 years ago with 6 students and now you have 90. What factors do you attribute to the success of your IEP?

RP: I think there are many factors. One of the most important factors, from my perspective, is getting a staff and faculty team together that can meet the needs of the students and anticipate trends and situations in the field.

Another factor that I think is so important is that we are able to offer a range of diverse classes. That has helped so much because if students come in with writing problems, they can take extra writing classes. If they need extra speaking practice, we can offer those classes. We can tailor our program to meet individual needs. So many IEPs just offer blocks of classes. The students might study reading and writing all morning and listening and speaking the afternoon and they can't get a more flexible schedule. I think our flexibility has allowed us to grow.

IEPN: So you can create schedules for the students based on what their needs are when they register for classes.

RP: That's right. Another factor that has been so important to our success is the relationship between the credit and noncredit programs. If a student's goal is academic and his or her goal is to go on to a 4-year institution, we can help him or her get there. If a student's goal is to develop English skills for the workplace or to return to his or her home country, we can do that as well. So I think this combination of academic and more general ESL classes has allowed us to provide more options for our students.

IEPN: Is there anything else you would like to add?

RP: I think another reason for our success lies in the support we receive from our college. Often IEPs aren't well recognized in their own institutions and it is hard work to involve upper-level administration in events and projects, but we have needed their support. As a program, we have to be out there telling and showing people how our IEP is beneficial, not just for the students, but for the whole institution.

IEPN: What challenges are you facing right now?

RP: There are many different challenges that face us as we grow. Testing and assessment are, I think, issues in academic programs across the country. In our situation, we need to quantify the progress made by our students in all of our classes. We know, intuitively, when students make progress and sometimes we can capture that in test results, but we are always looking for better ways to test and evaluate more accurately and effectively.

IEPN: Right.

RP: We are also going through some growing pains, right now. We are working to counsel the number of students we have but as we grow, it is a challenge to make sure that the counselors are trained and able to meet student needs.

IEPN: How many counselors and administrative staff members work for the ELI?

RP: We have eight people working in the office. However, only three of them work full-time with the ELI: the ELI admissions specialist, the ELI program assistant, and the ELI lead instructor. Because we handle all aspects of the program including marketing, admissions, placement and counseling, and program development, we keep very busy.

IEPN: Are you facing any other challenges?

RP: Another big challenge for us has been working with an adjunct staff. That's something I am working to resolve right now. Many community college programs are staffed with adjuncts and there is always the problem of communicating with adjuncts and also the problem of turnover. We are trying to go one step further and look into how we can turn some adjunct positions into full-time positions. That's very difficult for us as it is for many institutions. Those are some of the biggest challenges facing us right now, but in the end, we are thankful to have a program that is growing and meeting student needs.

IEPN: Thanks for your time and for sharing your innovations and ideas with the IEP newsletter.

Can the IEP newsletter interview you? Please e-mail Tamara Jones at to be our next Spotlight On… interviewee.

Minutes From the San Antonio IEP-IS Meeting

The IEP-IS Open Meeting began at 5:15.  There were 27 people in attendance.  A number of topics were covered.  Following is a summary of the meeting.

  • There was an introduction of members of steering committee.
  • A discussion of volunteer sheet and IEP booth followed.
  • The outgoing Chair, Tim Cauller, provided some TESOL conference statistics.
    • There were 600 proposals submitted in 2004.
    • 166 proposals were submitted to the IEP-IS.
    • Approximately 25% of all proposals were selected.
    • All submissions were read by three reviewers.
    • The IEP-IS got 40 "slots."
      • 1 colloquium.
      • 4 workshops.
      • 12 papers.
      • 18 demonstrations.
      • 11 discussion groups.
    • Membership Information:
      • The IEP-IS ranks 9 out of 19 TESOL Interest Sections.
      • We have lost 311 members, a 28 percent drop.
    • Next year's Academic Session will be about extensive reading in IEPs.
  • A Newsletter report followed.
    • One of the IEP Newsletter Editors, Tamara Jones, reported serious problems getting TESOL to publish our newsletter.  She said that she hoped improvements would be pending for next year.
    • Tim asked how many people read the newsletter regularly and not all raised their hand. He discussed the recent improvements that have been made in newsletter and said would like to know if the newsletter was working for people and told how his e-mails and other e-blasts had not been answered.
    • People then responded to Tim's question: Do you think the newsletter is serving the membership?
      • The first comment complimented newsletter. 
      • The second comment also positive.
      • The third member asked if newsletter editor wrote things and suggested that the newsletter editor interview people and then write articles.  This was greeted with a very positive response by the newsletter editor.
      • The fourth comment said that if they could send in rough drafts of the articles and someone polished them that they would be happy to send in something. Tim added that informal unpolished pieces would also be welcomed and not only academic articles
      • The fifth member suggested including administrative articles passed on from NAFSA etc
      • The sixth member asked about administrative interests and the editor confirmed that there was great interest in publishing articles about administrative issues.
      • Tim then asked who skips over letters from the chair and lists of announcements.  He wondered how do we make members read important info?
      • The seventh member suggested bulleted lists and Tim said we should experiment with format
      • The eighth member asked if it was necessary for the president to write an article or was it just tradition and editor agreed to experiment with that.
      • The ninth member suggested getting an article about international IEPs.
      • The tenth suggested including editorials.
      • The eleventh member suggested including open-ended questions for people to write in about.
      • The twelfth member suggested links in newsletter to info about presentations at conference.
      • The thirteenth member asked about how the newsletter is actually sent out by TESOL and Tim gave some details about the problems the IEP-IS experienced in the past year.
  • Dawn McCormick (the past chair) said that her responsibility was to take care of the nominations for the coming year so she explained each position and talked about problems she had had in getting nominees
    • Nominations were taken from the floor.
    • Nominees spoke and then a vote was taken.
    • Dawn McCormick and Tamara Jones, the newsletter editor, counted the votes.
    • Tim announced the election results.
      • Chair-Elect = Nancy Storer
      • Secretary = Dayna Ford
      • Member-at-Large = Ginger Pugh and Kimberly Chavis
  • Then, Eric Wire from the TESOL board spoke.
    • He gave a certificate of appreciation to Tim for being IEP chair.
    • He also encouraged us to give feedback to the board.
  • Another guest speaker, Chris Tardy, spoke about why TESOL needs a writing IS.
    • She listed a number of the benefits to having a writing IS.
      • Hopefully it would be a way to recruit new members and a complement to other ISs.
      • The topic of writing appeared in 60% of the 2004 proposals.
      • There are two other ISs that are skill based.
    • Other members spoke of the problems with including a new IS.
      • A new IS would lower the number of presentation slots each IS was given.
      • Members were going to be limited as to how many ISs they could belong to. However, Tim said that there is an underrepresentation of K-12 writing presentations and that a new IS would facilitate this.  Tim stated that many presentations were not accepted because they didn't fit any of the ISs. 
      • Number of presentation slots is based on how many proposals are received and this could mean fewer people are submitting to the IEP-IS.
    • Tim said that he felt that it will be debated at the council meeting. Tim asked what opinion he should take to the caucus—do we support or oppose the addition of a Writing Interest Section whose goals are:
      • to increase awareness of the significance of writing in teaching ESL/EFL;
      • to encourage and support the teaching of writing to ESOL students at all  levels;
      • to provide a forum to discuss issues of writing assessment and the placement of second language writers; and
      • to disseminate and promote research on second language writing.
    • Tim took a show-of-hand vote (show of hand decided by consensus):
      • In favor = 14 
      • Opposed = 6
      • Abstain = 2
    • It was decided that rather than bring numbers, Tim would report trends from our vote.
  • TESOL 2006
    • Tampa is a much smaller facility, so we could lose 40 percent of the presentations
    • Some suggested solutions have been
      • Start one hour earlier and stay one hour later
      • Reduce the time of some presentation
      • Bring back the 20-minute presentations (reports)
    • Miscellaneous Information
    • Hot topic presentations will require 250-word submissions.
    • "Best of" presenters will be sent by affiliates.
    • The deadline for proposals is June.
    • This is the first year that proposals must be online—no exceptions
    • Academic sessions have the option of staying with same amount of time but separating into two 45-minute sessions.
      • This could be done because these sessions have the least number of attendants.
      • Elizabeth Anderson, the new IEP chair, said that the IEP may do an InterSection / Academic session with the Program Administration IS.
    • A new rubric for rating proposals will be used.
    • All presenters accepted this year were given an article about "What makes a good TESOL presentation" in an effort to improve presentations.
    • In the past, proposals have been accepted or rejected without being read by three readers, so beginning next year it is mandatory and if the IS cannot get this done then there will be a team from the conference planning committee to do it.
    • There will be a 40th anniversary celebration.
    • The slogan is "Daring to Lead"
  • A discussion of changes as to how TESOL functions followed.
    • The TESOL board is trying to devolve IS interests from the board to the ISs.
    • The ISs will have to decide what our purpose is in addition to organizing the IEP part of the TESOL program at the TESOL convention.
    • ISs will be able to reexamine how we want our convention to be and how we want to function within TESOL.
    • If we think we know what to do about a problem, it will be our responsibility to put a plan together to submit to the board about what we are going to do.
    • A new committee of four has been appointed to be the liaison between the ISs and the board. Next year each IS will elect someone to do this. The objective of this committee is to make the work begin with the IS and move to the board. Ideas about what might happen in this restructuring were discussed. This is a 4-year transition so that ISs' methods can be decided by the ISs. Clarification on parts of this was given by the board liaison to the IEP interest section, Lisa Harshbargar.
  • As the governing rules for the IEP IS have not been updated since 2000, Tim asked for volunteers for a committee to look at these to see if these need to be changed. He asked that interested members indicate that on their volunteer form.

The IEP-IS Open Meeting ended at 7:03

About This Member Community About the Intensive English Programs Interest Section

TESOL's Intensive English Programs Interest Section deals with methodology, curriculum design, materials development, placement, evaluation, and research relevant to the teaching of English primarily to nonnative speakers who are foreign students attending intensive/semi-intensive programs prior to (or during) regular academic study.

Discussion E-List: Visit to subscribe to IEPIS-L, the discussion list for IEPIS members, or visit  if already a subscriber.

Web site:

IEPIS Community Leaders, 2005-2006

Chair: Elizabeth H. Anderson, e-mail





Tim Cauller 1Past-Chair: Timothy Cauller, e-mail




StorerChair-Elect: Nancy Storer, e-mail




Tamara Jones1Editor: Tamara Jones, e-mail




Tiffany Wilson Mobley 1Coeditor: Tiffany Wilson-Mobley, e-mail




Dayna FordSecretary: Dayna Ford, email




Judy Dillon1Historian: Judy Dillon, email




Member-at-Large: Kimberly Chavis

Member-at-Large: Ginger Pugh