IEP Newsletter

IEP News, Volume 25:3 (November 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter from the Chair
    • Letter from the Editor
  • Articles
    • An IEP Director’s Account of Hurricane Katrina
    • An IEP Student’s Account of Hurricane Katrina
    • IEP-IS Newsletter Column: Public Speaking in English: Teaching How to Give a Presentation within IEP Programs
    • Why We Can’t Leave Graded Reading off the IEP Curriculum
    • Advanced Grammar Review: A Descriptive Approach
  • Community News and Information
    • Correction
    • The TESOL Professional Development Scholarship
    • The IEP-IS Steering Committee

Leadership Updates Letter from the Chair

Elizabeth Anderson,


Dear IEP Friends and Colleagues,


Many of our IEPs are seeing significant enrollment growth for the first time since 9/11.  It has taken four years for us to get back on our feet, but we've modified, changed, and recreated to become bigger and better programs serving the needs of an even larger and diverse population. 


Unfortunately, at this time of unprecedented growth, IEP's across the Gulf Coast have been hit with the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. My program at the University of New Orleans was one of these.  We may be knocked down, but we're not knocked out!  We will rise again and so will all the other IEP's.  We have learned over the past 4 years that we've got GUTS to stay the course! 


Just as importantly, we've learned that our colleagues in other programs are not our competition; they are our soul mates and our families.  They have felt our pain and they have come to the rescue of our students.  We will be forever grateful.  Thank you.  For everything.....


Ya'll are great!


Liz Anderson



Letter from the Editor

Tamara Jones,


Dear IEP Members,

Recently, I was at a social event sponsored by our local TESOL affiliate and I participated in a conversation that has bothered me ever since. I was talking to an elementary ESOL teacher about the IEP for which I work. She said that she was very interested in working with adults and, after she retires from teaching, she might like to apply to work at my school.

I wanted to scream! I am so tired of other people, particularly those within the profession, referring to working at an IEP as some sort of leisure pursuit. This is not something I do to fill up my time or to get out of the house. Teaching is my profession. I have attained advanced degrees and certificates, I have attended numerous conferences and workshops and I have actively attempted to develop as a professional in this field. Although I love my job, this is certainly not my hobby!

I think the blame for this sad state of affairs rests with two groups: teachers and administrators.

First, teachers share a portion of the blame because so many of us do not approach our job professionally. When I was teaching EFL, I came across a number of “teachers” who adopted the have-guitar-can-teach-English approach to their jobs. In EFL, when native speakers may be hard to find, this reality is distressing, but often accepted. However, I was shocked, upon returning to North America, to also find this sort of teacher in IEP classrooms. I am not arguing that all ESL or EFL instructors need to have Master’s degrees. On the contrary, I do not believe that MAs in TESOL automatically results in better teachers. However, there are teachers among us who never attend conferences and workshops and actively avoid professional development opportunities. I have actually heard a teacher complaining about the excessive number of (optional) workshops we offer at our IEP. Being interested in developing as an instructor is such an important part of being a professional and, in my opinion, it is exactly this sort of teacher that degrades our vocation.

Second, some of the responsibility for the lack of professionalism among some IEP instructors lies with the administrators of these schools. Directors who continue to hire these “leisure time” instructors are doing the field an ill service. Not only do they encourage a lacksidasical approach to professionalism among their staff, but they also run the risk of not being able to offer a unified, coherent program. Recently, an email from a local listserve has been making the rounds at our IEP. In it the sender, Brock Brady of American University, cites a favorite analogy, "If you were sick would you go for advice to a trained physician or to someone who has been ill all her/his life?" If the answer to that question is so obvious, why do administrators continue to hire these teachers who possess no qualifications other than that they have been speaking English all of their lives? Unfortunately, the answer to this question can be summed up in one word: need. Administrators often argue that there are not enough qualified, professional ESL instructors who are willing to work as part-time adjunct faculty members whose classes may be cancelled the night before they begin and who have to drive all over the state to cobble together a full-time schedule.

And therein lies the rub. IEP instructors and directors have been forced into this horrible cycle of unprofessionalism. How can IEP instructors be expected to treat their jobs professionally if they are not treated professionally by their schools? Why bother with workshops and degrees if a teacher’s best hope is for a job that involves no benefits and teaching out of the trunk of his/her car? How can IEP administrators be expected to hire professional ESL instructors if they can not offer health insurance or job security? Ultimately, of course, we can look to the universities and colleges that often house our IEPs and blame their policies. But, in order to break the cycle, we can not afford to wait for university and college presidents to become enlightened and start hiring full-time ESL faculty. Instead, those of us in the ESL field who are concerned about this situation (and I would argue that we all should be) need to fight for professionalism ourselves. Teachers can encourage each other to become involved in professional organizations and participate at related conferences. They can also push for in-house professional development opportunities that can be low cost and high reward. Administrators can push for the creation of full-time positions and increased benefits at their schools. They can also offer strings of classes for teachers and fight for office space so that instructors don’t need to travel so much in order to make a living.

A recent article in Newsweek, (Working for Peanuts, 16, Newsweek, September 19, 2005) which was also sent by Brock Brady, addressed the issue of fighting to be paid what you are worth in the graphic design industry. I think the lesson contained in the article is equally applicable to the ESL field. Professional IEP instructors will never get the respect they deserve until they demand it, and IEP administrators will never be able to hire a staff full of professional, full-time instructors until they demand it.

Articles An IEP Director’s Account of Hurricane Katrina

Liz Anderson, Director, IELP, University of New Orleans,

Monday, August 29,2005. The first day of our IELP session, our largest ever. Our intensive English program’s 10-year anniversary. We are planning one helluva party. Then Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans. 

September XX, 2005. Now the University of New Orleans is closed, surrounded by flood waters. Windows have been blown out; dormitories are flooded or roofless. Some buildings and facilities have been vandalized. We are unable to enter the campus. 

I’m living in Ponchatoula, a little town north of Lake Pontchartrain, sharing a home with my family, my next-door neighbors, and one of my faculty members and her significant other. I’m also trying to run the business of an IEP on a 26K modem. We have no Web site, there is no way to collect money, no online application. We have no brochures to send to interested students. 

My staff and I are working remotely from all over the country, still trying to locate the international students who came for the August session. We don’t know precisely who entered the United States intending to register that day and weren’t able to. Some of them show up on the Initial Entry records in SEVIS. Some don’t. We anxiously wait for IEPs to let us know that a student of ours has signed up in another program. We’re especially thankful for the generosity extended to those students, both monetarily and emotionally. We worry about them. 

Our next session is supposed to begin October 14. It won’t because we still are not allowed to return to the city. Some of our future students send emails asking questions such as, “Where will we live?” not realizing they will have no program to come to. We explain the situation; we recommend they register in another program. We’re happy and relieved to send them along. Some of our October students don’t communicate at all. Where will they go when they enter the United States and there is no IELP, University of New Orleans? We worry about them, too. 

I’m one of the lucky ones. Some would say blessed. My family and my staff are safe. My home has only minimal damage. I had a comfortable place to land. I had no TV (or electricity) for over a week after Katrina, so I didn’t get to see the devastation of my beautiful New Orleans being shown day in and day out. For this, I’m especially thankful. 

Still, I can’t concentrate. I can’t think logically. It’s difficult to consider the next step. It’s hard to create the future. I worry about my students, and the potential of our IEP. 

January 5, 2006. The IELP will begin its next and greatest session! It may be one of our smallest sessions ever, but we will be back on campus, back in our historic and unique New Orleans. We are optimistic! We are confident! We will survive! We will have our 10-year anniversary party…6 months late. And it will be one helluva party! 

An IEP Student’s Account of Hurricane Katrina

The following is an Intensive English Language Program (New Orleans) student’s account of his experience during Hurricane Katrina as shared in an email with his former teachers.

Takuro Irie,

Aug. 27, 2005

I heard the news on TV that stated that the greatest hurricane in American history, Katrina, might be coming to New Orleans directly. Then my roommate from Taiwan named Nathan suggested that we get out of New Orleans and go to Alabama in his car. But, I refused his suggestion because people in Japan always stay in our house when our city is struck by a typhoon. I thought it would not be terrible. Nathan left for Alabama in the night and Ryohei, another IELP student from Japan, came to my house in the uptown district of New Orleans because he was kicked out of Bienville Hall by a janitor. 
Aug. 29, 2005 
In the early morning, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina. My house was shaking, so I couldn’t sleep. When I looked out of the window it was unearthly and I thought what a hell!!! The electricity was already cut off, the roof of my house was destroyed by the strong wind, and trees near my house were blown down in the gale.

New Orleans was within Hurricane Katrina until noon. Early in the evening, at around 4:00 p.m., I went outside and walked along St. Charles Avenue. It was too hard for people to walk because many trees lay on the street and there were a lot of pieces of broken glass there. At night, I couldn’t see anything because the lights had already gone out. 
Aug. 30, 2005 
There were a lot of ordinary people, homeless people, and gangsters on the street who attacked the grocery stores to get food, water, and things like that. At that time I had no food so I decided to join the people who attacked the store and got some food and water. I had no choice. I just had to choose whether I would die or attack. Suddenly a police officer who was driving a patrol car appeared and then he stopped us from taking things. At this moment I thought that police were an enemy to us. People said that somebody shot a police officer with a gun; I think that’s why he didn’t try to arrest us. 
Aug. 31, 2005 
I got up in the morning because of a bad smell. I saw the shadow of water on the ceiling. Why? I lost no time in looking out of the window. I saw a flood on the street in front of my house. According to the radio, Lake Pontchartrain was damaged. That’s why a flood happened. I was worrying about the damage resulting from the flood. As expected, New Orleans stopped the supply of water. I just listened to the radio that day. 
Sept. 1, 2005 
In the dead of night, at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., I was woken up by the sound of a low voice from my backyard. I timidly went to watch by the window, and just then I saw two guys who were talking in my backyard. They seemed like gangsters and maybe they would try to attack my house. But, at the same time, an old person who lived next to my room coughed, so I think that they recognized the sound of the coughing and gave up their plan to attack my house. I guessed that maybe there wasn’t enough food at the store and they had eaten up all their food and water. If so, what was going to happen? That’s why they broke into my backyard. For that reason I made up my mind to go to the Super Dome in the morning.

I went to the Super Dome on foot in the water. When I arrived close to the Super Dome, I couldn’t enter. The U.S. army stopped us from entering there. Why? I listened to the radio and they said, “Please come to the Super Dome as soon as possible. If you do that, you can be safe.” But what they were saying on the radio was quite different from the facts. There was a great difference between what I had heard and what I actually saw. Finally, I arrived at the Super Dome by walking in the water for several hours. However, I heard the people there had been kept waiting for 3 days! What a hell!

There were a lot of people around the Super Dome; the crowds stretched as far as the eye can reach. To my surprise, I couldn’t distinguish the ordinary people from the homeless. Of course I also looked like a homeless person. It was like the Third World. When I tried to enter the Super Dome, I couldn’t. I couldn't see anything because we didn't have electricity. Everyone relieved themselves everywhere in the Super Dome. It was so stinky that I couldn’t stand it any more. That's why I couldn’t get into the Super Dome.

I also tried to wait for an opportunity to get on the bus to Houston in the crowd of people. In spite of waiting for a long time, I couldn't get my turn. It was terrifically hot and humid. Some people started fighting with each other. I heard booing, crude heckling, and countless swear words there. Finally, I was dizzy and I gave up the turn of going to Houston on that day.

I hit upon a good idea after I took a rest. As soon as I got up, I went to talk with the U.S. army. I told a lie to them. While I was showing my passport, I explained my situation like this. I said, “I'm from Japan. I have to come back to Japan as soon as possible because I have a serious visa matter. How can I return to Japan immediately?” The soldier said, “Ok. You’re going to be able to be transported by helicopter. But we also have to give sick people a ride. After that we will call you.” I said, “Sure, you must save sick people first of all. Thank you so much!”

I slept outside of the Super Dome after I ate a box dinner from the U.S. army. When I looked up at the night sky, it was star-studded. Because we didn’t have electricity, I could enjoy the sight of shooting stars. 
Sept. 2, 2005 
I got up early in the morning. I felt it gradually became hotter and more humid. I just continued to wait for my turn on the helicopter with a crowd of people while I was listening on the radio. At 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., the U.S. army finally came for me. They led the way to the heliport. I shook hands with a captain of the U.S. army. I was really excited because I saw a military helicopter without doors right in front of me! As soon as I got on the helicopter, the helicopter took off into the air. When I looked down from the air, I could see some houses suffering from fire and enveloped in smoke. Almost all of New Orleans was flooded. The helicopter flew over Lake Pontchartrain and the bayou. I was so impressed by the scenery from the air. About one hour later I arrived at the Baton Rouge heliport. 
After that my long trip to Los Angeles by way of Houston, El Paso, and Phoenix started. 



IEP-IS Newsletter Column: Public Speaking in English: Teaching How to Give a Presentation within IEP Programs

Myrna J. Santos,


People speak in public for many reasons. One of the most common forms of public speaking is the “Presentation.” In a presentation, you “present” or introduce something (a product, an idea, a project) to your audience. According to Josef Essberger, the speaker gives a presentation because he/she wants to “communicate” something. Generally, your goal might be:


  • to inform
  • to train
  • to persuade
  • to sell


A presentation is one of the best ways of communicating your message. For the ESL student, a public presentation can be especially traumatic. The ESL learner not only has to deal with the anxiety of speaking before a group, he or she must also simultaneously overcome a multitude of language obstacles during the process.


This column will give you some important areas to consider when giving any presentation.



Prepare! Good preparation is essential for any successful presentation. With good preparation and planning, you will gain confidence and your audience will feel your confidence. Confidence inspires confidence. Confidence will give you control. With control, you will be “in charge” and your audience will listen positively to your message.



A good presentation has a clear structure. According to Andy Cirelli, a well-known authority on giving successful oral presentations, a good presenter should focus on three topics only. For example, there should be an Introduction, followed by Topic 1, Topic 2, and Topic 3, and a Conclusion. Anything more would only detract from the effectiveness of your presentation.



When you are not focusing on yourself but on the content of your material, you will find that your fears and feelings of anxiety dissipate immensely. When faced with a question that is difficult for you to answer, you can divert the attention away from yourself by asking a question of your audience. In other words, involve your audience in the presentation and much of the stress will be taken from you!


Mr. Cirelli also has recommended the following helpful hints to make your presentation more effective:


~Speak 15% Louder than Usual

~Use Visual Aids and Handouts within your Presentation—Most people respond well to visual stimuli and this reinforces retentions

~Remember to cite your information sources—This lends good support for your argument

~Focus on the future in your Conclusion--Talk about outcomes

~When the audience leaves, what do you want them to know? What is the purpose of your information?

~As you practice your speech, dress in the same type of clothing you would be wearing when you deliver your presentation. This will alleviate   some of the tension experienced when you have to “dress up” for your speech.


For some, public speaking is more stressful than for others. For ESL students, there is always the additional burden of pronunciation and clarity of expression. IEP Programs can help ease some of this burden by implementing positive strategies for success among their students. In following the aforementioned suggestions, you may find yourself actually enjoying your role as a public communicator! And, as with any skill, the more you practice, the better you will become!


Myrna Santos presently teaches ESOL and Writing at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida. 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 for her own website 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.

Why We Can’t Leave Graded Reading off the IEP Curriculum

Rob Waring,

“A teacher’s goal is to make herself unemployed.” — Anonymous

This paper puts forward the idea that all IEPs, irrespective of their focus, must have a graded reading or extensive reading component. Teachers the world over know that reading is good, but my own research shows that the vast majority of teachers in IEPs do not provide enough opportunities for learners to meet the huge amount of text their learners need to meet in order to learn a foreign or second language. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that graded reading or extensive reading is a totally indispensable part of any IEP, if not any language program.

You may have heard of extensive reading (sustained silent reading), but you might ask, What is graded reading? Graded reading as a concept is not well known within the United States but has been enjoying a huge boom in popularity over the past decade within Asia and is now becoming mainstream all over Asia, Latin America, and Europe. The United States is well behind the rest of the world in this area. My visit to TESOL in San Antonio last April made this fact even more clear to me as I interviewed teachers from all over the United States. Basically, graded reading involves the learners in reading a huge amount of self-selected text at their own level of difficulty, at their own pace with the aim of developing or practicing the skill of reading. It can be likened to sustained silent reading (SSR) but graded reading is a kind of SSR that ensures that what is read is comprehensible and suits the learner. Reading materials that have been “graded,” or simplified, for the learner are selected. Typically graded reading is done with graded readers, which are not well known in the United States. Even advanced-level learners struggle with native text as they cannot read them fluently, so graded reading is something that every IEP should take seriously. Read on.

Thousands of graded readers on all manner of subjects are available from major publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Pearson Educational, Oxford University Press, and so on. However, not many American publishers, except Thomson Learning, produce graded readers. American publishers such as Scholastic Inc., Houghton and Mifflin, and so on, tend to publish materials for natives and promote their sales to nonnatives and learners in IEPs under the assumption that they will be able to read them at one or two grade levels lower. This assumption is very dangerous because the books written for natives contain thousands and thousands of words native children know before they even learn the alphabet. The natives only have to tie a new spelling to an existing word, whereas the nonnatives have to learn the word, its spelling, and its meaning, which makes it a hugely different task. Graded readers, in contrast, are written for second language learners and are not children’s books. They are written within a simplified vocabulary and grammatical set. The easiest books have 100 to 200 different headwords (not 100 words long) and have a few basic grammatical items, which are recycled many times within the texts. When books at that level can be read smoothly, then the reader moves up to the next level, which has more vocabulary and more grammatical features. This same concept was used when we were children learning to read in our first language. Graded readers are, however, a temporary bridge to native materials, not a substitute for them. In the rest of this paper I will put forward the case for the use of graded readers within IEPs.

Learning About Versus Learning to Use

Let us first look at what learners need to do to learn a language. Unquestionably, they need to have a good grasp of the grammar and vocabulary systems. They also need to learn the strategies for learning as well as get enough practice in the four skills among other things. It is useful to separate the two kinds of learning within a classroom setting. The first is learning about language. The second is learning to use language.

Learning about language involves finding out about the language and the way it works. An analogy would be taking apart a car engine to see how it works. Our textbooks often take a piece of language, such as a tense, some vocabulary, or a strategy, and analyze it so the learners can find out how it works. The learners get this information from their input—in other words, from a teacher’s explanation, a textbook, a dictionary, a friend, or a reading passage. Note that this knowledge isabout how the language works. For example, they may learn the difference between lend and borrow, or they may learn the difference between the past perfect tense and the present perfect tense, about when we say too or very, when we say bring and when we say come, and so on. The next stage in the learning is to consolidate this knowledge by checking that it is understood and can be manipulated and controlled. At this stage of learning, the teacher may give some kind of drill or a test so that the learners can find out for themselves if they have learned the item correctly.

The important point here is that the language being learned and manipulated when learning about the language is devoid of context. Our course books and teaching in general necessarily remove the feature from its context so we can examine it. The aim, of course, is to learn about how the feature works and how native speakers put it together, such as how we make passive sentences active; how we form questions in the present continuous tense; and so forth. Note that the aim is not about being able to make meanings, but about being able to get control over language features. Thus the learning is discrete and separated from language use. Once we have satisfied ourselves that the feature has been learned and can be controlled, we move on to the next grammar point, the next unit, the next chapter, and so forth. The basic underlying theory is that if we learn the language brick by brick, eventually we’ll have a house to live in.

Collocations and Colligations

All this learning about language is fine. But how much language do the learners need to learn? We know from vocabulary research that in English, very few extremely common words make up the bulk of the language we meet. In written text, about 2,000 word families (inflections such as helped, helping and common derivations such as helpless, unhelpful) cover about 85 to 90% of general texts (Nation, 2001). In spoken language, the same coverage is achieved with far fewer words, possibly as low as 1,000. This may seem like good news because it means that with the knowledge of a small number of words, learners can understand the majority of what is being read or spoken to them.

However, vocabulary learning is more than just learning words. To learn words well the learner must also learn the word’s collocations, which are the semantic relationships between words—for example, why we say a beautiful woman but not a *beautiful man, or why we say here and there not *there and here, andblonde hair, not *yellow hair. In addition, many words, especially verbs, have grammatical relationships between each other that are called colligations. For example, we say depend on someone not *depend of someone, and we say be obsessed with something not do obsessed by something. But how much is there to learn about each word? Here is a short sample of some of the main collocations and colligations for the very common word idea (taken from Hill & Lewis, 1997).

Verb uses of Idea.  “Abandon an idea.”

abandon, absorb, accept, adjust to, advocate, amplify, advance, back, be against, be committed/dedicated/drawn to, be obsessed with, be struck by, borrow, cherish, clarify, cling to, come out/up with, confirm, conjure up, consider, contemplate, convey, debate, debunk, defend, demonstrate, develop, deny, dismiss, dispel, disprove, distort, drop...

Adjective uses. “An idea is …”

abstract, absurd, advanced, ambitious, arresting, basic, bizarre, bold, bright, brilliant, classical, clear, common, commonsense, confused, controversial, convincing, crazy, diabolical, disconcerting...

These are just a few of the verb collocations and colligations of one word—idea. And I listed only those up to the letter d; there are about 100 more! I’ll save space and not even attempt the noun or adjective uses of which there are dozens. Clearly nobody has class time to teach all these collocations and colligations. Moreover, where are the learners going to pick up the tens of thousands of useful phrases and chunks of language that characterize much of native language such asI’d rather not; If it were up to me, I’d…; So, what do you think?; We got a quick bite to eat; What’s the matter?; The best thing to do is… and so on, almost ad infinitum. 

No learner has time to methodically go through them one by one; no textbook or course can possibly hope to teach a tiny fraction of them. There is too much to do. Moreover, doing so would be downright painful, boring, and discouraging.

If we now turn to the grammar we can see a similar task ahead of us. Let us look at some examples of the present perfect tense.

A government committee has been created to…

He hasn’t seen her for a while.

Why haven’t you been doing your homework?

There’s been a big accident in Market Street.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Here we see that the underlying pattern of the present perfect tense in its various guises are masked by various forms. The tense comes with differing subjects and objects, as questions, negatives, or declaratives, in active or passive, in continuous or simple, with irregular and regular past participles, and so on. To be able to induce the rules underlying the forms, let alone the different uses and nuances of the present perfect tense, must take thousands and thousands of meetings. Our textbooks don’t give the learners this level of coverage and neither can our courses.

More Benefits of Reading

Our textbooks concentrate on new language items, new chapters, and new themes. They do not concentrate on the revisiting and revising necessary for acquisition. The assumption is that our learners have “met” or “done” that now and we don’t need to go back to it, so we can move on. This view of language teaching that “teaching equals learning” implicit in these materials is a massive mistake if that is all we do. Half a moment’s thought tells us that our learners won’t have mastered it, that they will forget it by tomorrow, and that we need to repeat our teaching again at some other time. How then, if we and the learners do not have time to learn these consciously, are they going to pick them up? Where is the recycling of language we need for acquisition? The answer is graded reading or extensive reading. Graded reading and extensive reading and listening are focused on several things. Most important, graded and extensive reading and listening are primarily about meaning. The aim is to read or listen to a massive amount of comprehensible text with an aim to build fluency over the text. The second most important principle is that in order to build fluency, the reading should be easy and achievable and preferably enjoyable. If the text is processed fluently and smoothly, more brain space is left in working memory to pay attention to the language as it is processed. If the language is too difficult and the learner has to stop every few seconds to work on a new word or work out a grammatical feature, then the learner goes back to a “study about language” mode.

Third, the learners should read massive amounts of material on a wide variety of topics. How much reading is necessary? To answer this question we have to consider the rate at which learners can pick up vocabulary from fluent reading and how many times a word needs to be met for it to be learned. Considerable evidence (e.g., Nation, 2001; Waring and Takaki, 2003) suggests that it takes between 10 and 20 meetings of a word receptively for the form (spelling or sound) of an average word to be connected to an approximate meaning. This does not mean that the word is available for productive use, but that it is understood when it is met. Not all words need 20 meetings but many words need many more meetings. Probably a far greater number of meetings will be needed to learn one word’s collocations and colligations—perhaps thousands of meetings (consider the word idea above). We know also from research that the word must be met in the right conditions for it to be picked up from reading. Laufer (1989), Nation (2001), and many others have shown that unless we have about 98 to 99% coverage of the vocabulary of the other words in the text, the chance that an unknown word will be learned is minimal. This means that at minimum there should be one new word in 40 or 50 for the right conditions for learning unknown words from context. This guideline corresponds to the five-finger rule that says fluent reading cannot take place if there are more than five unknown words on a page.

Moreover, we also know from research into the mathematics of the frequency of vocabulary that advanced learners need to read much more than do beginning learners. Beginning readers meet new words all the time and they do not have to read much in order to find new language. Advanced learners, by contrast, already know thousands of words and because of the nature of the frequency of vocabulary, they will meet unknown words rarely—maybe one new word every 1,000 running words or so. But, to meet the conditions to learn the new word, the reading must be done at the right coverage level (98-99%), and the right number of times (10-20 meetings) as well as at the right distance between meetings of words so that the word is not forgotten in the meantime. Thus advanced learners have to read much much more than beginners just to stay still.

The fourth and probably most important benefit of being exposed to massive amounts of text is the opportunity it gives the learner to consolidate the language that was learned discretely in the “learning about” phases. In the “learning about” phase the learners learn things out of context, in a dry, analytical, and often mechanical way. This method is fine, and good to use, but the learners also must meet these features in real contexts to see how they work and how they fit together; in other words, they must get a sense of or feeling for how the language works. And they can do this by meeting the language features very often.

But how much text do IEP learners read? My own investigations have revealed that most of the reading that is done in IEPs involves the intensive rather than extensive kind of reading. Intensive reading involves the learner in the “study about” mode. The texts are usually short (often a few hundred words) with comprehension questions and grammar and vocabulary activities following. Often the aim of the text is not necessarily for the student to learn the language but to set up a discussion task, often to debate some kind of issue. There may be some reading aloud, and reading strategies are often taught and practiced. Another important difference between intensive reading and extensive reading that I noticed in the IEPs that I sampled is that the reading is done as a class whereby all learners, irrespective of their reading level and language level, all read the same materials. When learning about language, this method is fine and is necessary to ensure all the learners get a particular point. However, when reading for fluency, not all learners can cope with the same text. Some will find it instructional and others may find it just frustrating because it is either too easy or too difficult. Thus the extensive or graded reading component must allow for self-selected reading at the learner’s pace and ability level. (For more information about this distinction, see the Useful Links at the end of this article.)

Bluntly stated, IEPs that do not have an extensive reading or graded reading component of massive comprehensible sustained silent individualized language practice will hold back their learners. Most IEPs I know of have a library of books, but the library is often not used, or not well used, or full of inappropriate, easy-to-get native materials that are unsuited to many IEP learners. Moreover, most IEPs do not require their learners to read much; instead, they consider the reading as somehow supportive or supplemental and rarely set fluent reading for homework.

I have argued that it is a fundamental mistake to consider sustained silent reading as supplemental. Extensive reading is the only way in which learners can get access to language at their own level and read something they want to read, at the pace they feel comfortable with which will allow them to meet the language enough times to pick up a sense of how the language fits together. As I have mentioned, it is impossible for us to teach a sense of language; we don’t have time and it’s not our job. It’s the learners’ job to get that sense for themselves. It must, and can, be acquired only through constant exposure. Course books will never state the difference between blonde and yellow hair, or why we say here and there not there and here. Learners have to pick up these nuances, as well as tens of thousands of other collocations and colligations and useful phrases, as they meet the language. It’s a massive task that requires massive amounts of reading and listening.

Getting a sense for how the language works is vital if learners want to use the language well. Until they have met enough language enough times and under the right conditions they will never be able to pull together the language features they have learned discretely in the “learning about language” phase. The knowledge will stay the way it was learned: separate, discrete, unconnected to other aspects of the language systems. Thus they will not be able to read, speak, or write fluently as they do not know how the language fits together. They can pull it apart and demonstrate control over the parts, but can’t meld it together for communicative purposes. If all they do is plough through course books and endless intensive reading books, they will never be able to pick up their own sense of how the language works.

When they do acquire this sense, they will able to use it to produce language. If a learner wants to say or write that someone is good-looking but does not know whether to say handsome or beautiful, he or she cannot look in a dictionary for the answer. Rather, the learner has to rely on his or her own judgment thathandsome man sounds better than *beautiful man, that rancid butter sounds better than bad butter. Learners may not know why (and how many native speakers know why, or care?) but they knew the right thing to say because they have met handsome + male many times but have never met beautiful + male,and have learned the collocation. Until they have met the collocations and colligations enough times, they will not have a sense of what feels right. Time on the job is the only way. Teachers and learners can opt out and avoid extensive reading if they wish but no matter what happens it will still take a certain amount of time to get that sense of what’s right. Getting a sense of a language takes time. There are no shortcuts. There is no “instant English” medicine.

I have concentrated here on putting forward the case for having extensive reading or graded reading in all IEPs. However, I wish to also put the case forward for extensive and graded listening for exactly the same reasons pointed out above. Learners need to hear massive amounts of language at their level of understanding so they can decode the sound stream into meaningful chunks, and process text faster and more smoothly. Moreover, spoken and written texts are different in many ways and therefore learners should be exposed to spoken language as much as they are exposed to written language.

At the risk of being repetitive I wish to restress the level of the reading or listening needed to get the benefits of consolidating language knowledge. If the text is too hard (less than 98% coverage of the other words), then learners won’t be able to pick up new words or collocations from context. Very often in IEPs I see teachers using native materials with the intention of exposing the learner to authentic texts that they will need in the United States. Doing so is fine if, and this is a huge if, the learner can deal with it; if not, then the text is noise; it is frustrating (for the teacher and learner) and is not instructional but interferes with instruction (in Krashen’s terms, i+5). Most often I see learners writing translations in their reading materials that show me they are in “learn about” mode, not fluency-building extensive reading mode. What they need are fluency materials at their level, or below their slow reading level (i1), that allow them to read quickly and smoothly to gain the benefits of extensive reading.

So you may say, “What you’ve said is fine and makes sense, but we don’t have time for this reading; we have so many other things to do.” If so, then the price is that until your learners meet enough comprehensible language, they will not get that sense of how the language works, which will prevent them from sounding like a native. Where else are they going to pick up the collocations, the colligations, and the tens of thousands of lexical phrases they need to sound native-like? Certainly not from their course books or word lists. Unless they read extensively, they will be tied to classes and teachers, dictionaries, and course books forever.

You may say, “But we don’t have a budget or the resources to do this.” My answer is, Speak to the people who make decisions and tell them why it is vital (not just a good idea) that your learners have chances to read (and are required to read if necessary) massive amounts of comprehensible texts (graded or extensive). If necessary, reallocate budgets and redraw curriculums that give your learners a chance to get out of your classes instead of pinning them in them. Aim to make yourselves unemployed—it is our job!


Hill, J., & M. Lewis. (1997). Dictionary of selected collocations. Language Teaching Publications.

Laufer, B. (1989). What percentage of text-lexis is essential for comprehension? In: C. Lauren & M. Nordmann (Eds.). Special language: from humans thinking to thinking machines. Clevedon:  Multilingual Matters.

Nation, P. (2001). Teaching vocabulary in another language. Cambridge University Press.

Waring, R., & M. Takaki, (2003). At what rate do learners learn and retain new vocabulary from reading a graded reader? Reading in a Foreign Language, 15(2), 130-163.

Useful Links

The extensive reading Web site at This site has a wealth of information for those new to extensive reading.

Rob Waring’s extensive reading, extensive listening, and vocabulary acquisition Web site at

Dr. Rob Waring teaches at Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan. His primary research interests are extensive reading, vocabulary acquisition, and curriculum development. He has published widely in these fields. He is a founding member of the Extensive Reading Foundation and is list manager of the Extensive Reading and Extensive Listening yahoogroups discussion lists.


Advanced Grammar Review: A Descriptive Approach

Virginia D. Lezhnev,


Advanced students often still struggle with grammatical accuracy. New approaches are needed to make them aware of their problems and to guide them toward more consistent accuracy in both their written and spoken language. An 8-week advanced grammar review course was designed to meet these needs. The approach is descriptive rather than prescriptive. The grammar rules that students have learned may not serve them well as they try to communicate with native-like fluency. They need to notice how the language is used by native speakers. In the course, the students go through a four-step process designed to help them rediscover grammar: Noticing, Discovering, Practicing, and Applying.


Selected Grammar Structures

As the course is only 8 weeks, selective grammar structures are studied because they presented persistent problems. First, in verb tenses, the class focuses on three areas: past tense versus present perfect; past perfect (once discovered, students tend to overuse it); and modal verbs (a mass of confusion). Second, articles are targeted because they are either underused or overused. Third, students learn about prepositions, which are a mysterious group of words with no logical explanation for their use. The following categories are covered: directional prepositions, phrasal verbs, and idiomatic chunks of language. Finally, sentence structure is analyzed: compound, complex, and compound/complex. Then the variety of sentence structure within an article is explored.



The first step in reviewing a grammar structure is to notice how it is used by native speakers. To do this, the students explore newspaper editorials and highlight the targeted structure. On a grid worksheet (Exhibit 1), they categorize the varieties of the form and note the context. For example, in appropriate columns, they listed the different verb tenses used to describe the past: simple past, present perfect, and past perfect (and their progressive forms). They also noted the context for that form, such as adverb of time, frequency, and so on. For example, they might have read “Ronald Reagan died in 2004” and noted that the simple past tense was used with a definite date, but later they might have read “George Johnson has died today.” Although George Johnson’s death occurred in the past, it was the recent past and the present perfect tense is used. This is a good example of how native speaker usage might differ from nonnative speaker usage. The nonnative speaker would probably use the simple past in all cases.


Exhibit 1. Verb Grid Worksheet

Search for Verbs

Editorial From The Washington Post

1. Circle all the verbs.

2. List the verbs.

3. Name the verb tense.

4. Name the reason for the verb tenses. Adverb used? Time reference? Context of the story?





Simple past

Happened last month

Has persuaded

Present perfect

Used with recently

Had known

Past perfect

Used with before to describe a previous action


When analyzing article usage, the students must read through a short editorial and circle or highlight all the nouns they find. Then they determine whether or not an article precedes the noun. They look at the noun to see if it is count or noncount; if count, whether it is singular or plural. Again, the students categorize the nouns and article usage on a grid worksheet (Exhibit 2).


Exhibit 2. Noun/Article Grid Worksheet

Search for Nouns

1. Circle all the nouns you can find in the article.

2. Put them in the correct columns.

Common Noun:

Singular, count

Common Noun: Plural, count

Common Noncount Noun

Proper Noun









3. Look again at the common nouns. Are they general or specific? Go back to the chart and put a “G” beside the general common nouns and an “S” beside the specific nouns.

4. What are your observations about the functions of the articles a, an, and the or the absence of articles before certain nouns?


Noticing a specific grammar structure in isolation builds the students’ awareness of how native speakers actually use that structure. That native-speaker usage may go beyond the prescriptive grammar rules that the students have learned. In this approach to grammar, the students learn to describe language usage.


Grammar Journals

As part of noticing, the students keep a grammar journal. Each week, they search three to five newspaper articles, highlight the targeted structure, note the context, and explain its use (time for a tense, type of noun following an article, meaning for a modal). In the journal, they can also ask questions about confusing structures. For example, one of the students came across ain’t in an article. He had never seen it before and needed an explanation. The students hand in their journals every week with the newspaper articles attached. The journals are checked, not graded, and returned.



After noticing grammar structures, the students need to discover the rules that describe how these structures are used. For example, when the students examine the grid worksheet for article usage (Exhibit 2), they look at the noncount nouns to see if an article precedes them or not. What is the article? What determines the presence or absence of the article? They discover and write a rule. The discovery process continues with count nouns, singular and plural. The concepts of definite and indefinite and specific and general can be determined in this way. See Exhibit 2 above.

Guiding the students to discover their own rules of grammar will help them understand the underlying structure of the language and retain that grammar structure better.



Practicing the grammar structures reinforces the rules they just discovered. Grammar books that primarily use fill-in-the-blank exercises are not recommended for this step. First of all, many of the students are very familiar with these kinds of exercises. If they are still making the same mistakes that these exercises were meant to correct, the fill-in-the-blank exercises will not help. Second, these exercises tend to be mechanical, and sometimes students can do them successfully without thinking. 


Exploring Grammar in Context by Ronald Carter, Rebecca Hughes, and Michael McCarthy (Cambridge University Press, 2000) is very useful in helping students practice grammar structures in a different and descriptive way. Selected chapters were used in the course.

Here is a sample exercise on the use of the past and present perfect.


Exhibit 3. Exercise: Past and Present Perfect Tense

Match each question on the left with a suitable answer from the right.

Have you ever* been to Moscow? I studied there, actually.

How long have you been at college? I’ve studied a lot.

What did you do in Oxford last year? I’ve been there three weeks.

How many weeks were you in Paris? I’ve studied there, actually.

What have you done at college? I was there three weeks.

*Ever is similar in meaning to up to now.


For exploring prepositions, students used Phrasal Verb Organiser: with Mini-Dictionary by John Flower published by LTP as well as Exploring Grammar in Context. As learning correct use of prepositions is largely a matter of memorization, the students were given a quiz, the only test in the course. They had to retake the quiz until they got 90% or better.


The Advanced Grammar Book by Jocelyn M. Steer and Karen A. Carlisi (Heinle & Heinle, 1991) was very useful for analyzing sentence structure. The exercises on sentence combining and clauses reduction were interesting and practical.



Once the students have practiced the grammar structures, they need to apply their newly learned grammar to their own work. There is an application exercise after each unit and a final project at the end of the course. Over the years, I have collected Norman Rockwell calendars. At the end of each unit, these calendars are passed out to the students. Each student chooses a picture and a month and writes a short story based on that picture. The students can work in pairs or alone as they wish. They can use their imaginations and write amusing stories using the grammar structures they have just studied.


Final Project

At the end of the course, the students have to write a 3-page biography about a famous person, living or dead. In this way, they can use all the verb tenses they studied in addition to the other structures focused on in the course. Students have written about Albert Einstein, Vera Wang, George Washington, and many others. They then give a 5-minute oral presentation based on their biography. Thus both their written and oral accuracy are assessed. 



Many students found this review of grammar more interesting than their previous grammar classes because they were exploring real language and discovering how native speakers use language rather than trying to follow rules that they had learned before. 

[For a list of references used in this article, contact the author.]

Dr. Virginia Lezhnev is a senior instructor in the Center for Language Education and Development at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. 


Community News and Information Correction

Tamara Jones,


In the Spotlight On … section of the Summer 2005 Edition of the IEP Newsletter, Tamara Jones wrote, 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., However, it should be acknowledged that IEPs across the world, not just in the USA, are facing a difficult challenge. Apologies to Tamara’s homeland, Canada, and other nations housing IEPs for the oversight.


The TESOL Professional Development Scholarship

The TESOL Professional Development Scholarships(PDS), established in 1995, are offered to support the TESOL membership with ongoing professional development and to make the TESOL convention more enriching, fulfilling, and accessible to all members. This year, 40 scholarships will be awarded, one for each year of TESOL's history.  These scholarships are available to any TESOL member to assist in the professional development of TESOL members by facilitating attendance at the annual convention. Recipients may also choose to attend a pre- or post convention institute (PCI) in addition to the convention.

Cynthia Wiseman was honored as a PDS recipient at the TESOL conference held in San Antonio, TX this past March. After reading about the awards that TESOL offers, Cynthia chose to apply for the PDS award because it seemed particulary suited to her as being a student, (on track to finish her PhD) her professional development is ongoing. Having recently found a full-time, tenure-track position at a community college, Cynthia was pleased to have her many years of teaching and learning acknowledged by her peers and she sees the award as yet another small aid to her long road to tenure. 

Having been relieved of the financial stress of attending the convention, Cynthia was able to attend many interesting and infomative presentations as well as present her own work. Additionally, Cynthia enjoyed interacting with a great number of her peers and while sharing her ideas and experiences, she was able to establish new contacts who could prove helpful in her career.

Cynthia’s advises all those who are focused on their professional development to apply for the PDS award. 

“TESOL offers this support to all dedicated language teachers who are involved in their teaching, interested in their own professional development and eager to share this phenomenal experience that TESOL conferences offer. It is an exhilarating week of stimulating presentations and encounters that can change the career path of anyone willing to open up to the experience.”

To those interested in applying, please visit the TESOL website for more information at The deadline for applications to all TESOL Awards and Grants is November 1, 2005. 


The IEP-IS Steering Committee

Past Chair

Tim Cauller,


Elizabeth Anderson,


Nancy Storer,


Tamara Jones,


Tiffany Wilson-Mobley,


Dayna Ford,


Judy Dillon,


Kimberly Chavis


Ginger Pugh