Running Toward Engagement at 2016 San Diego Regional

Mar 19th, 2016 | By | Category: Conferences, Regional
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author image of Jacquewyn Chambers-Martin

Jacquewyn Chambers-Martin


—A runner’s race as the graphic backdrop for the webpage for the 2016 San Diego Regional CATESOL Conference certainly incited the motiving drive with which this year’s conference took off. To start, teachers were initially fitted with appropriately sized “running shoes” in the guise of an insightful and enlightening plenary address given by the current president of the Fulbright Association’s San Diego Chapter—Dr. Eniko Csomay of San Diego University. Dr. Csomay engaged us all on the topic of “Engagement”—inside and outside the classroom and on the teacher/student ratio in in-class discussions—in the contexts of behavioral-, emotional-, and cognitive-engagement descriptions. We stretched our thinking muscles through flow theory, lexical exchange, and general turn-taking patterns in the way teachers talk, and the value of content, compared to student turn patterns. In other words, though teachers take shorter turns, each turn comprises three times more words. Analyzing the timing ratio forced the focus toward weighing the percentage of talking on the teacher’s part in class and allocating increased engagement exercises to enable the student to practice and apply speaking and listening skills more expansively. After providing the orientation of the runner’s course by navigating through the Brigham Young University’s Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) website, and examining the word- and phrase-analyzing tool, Dr. Csomay shot the gun and got the teachers racing to the presentation’s locations of engagement!image of SD regional website featuring runner for Paths to Success theme

Of course, whichever presentation you choose, you are inevitably going to miss other good stuff. The first session I attended was Brent Amburgey’s (Hitotsubashi University) “Student Motivation at a Top Tier Japanese University.” As a teacher for a predominantly Japanese class of adult English language learners myself, I found it presented relevant information on the cultural factors of Japanese learners regarding communication challenges in the classroom. The presentation addressed “why” there is a question of making Japanese students more proactively communicative and why there is a question of making them project global competitiveness in the classroom in speaking up and conveying their points to present their views.

The second session presentation I attended was Mary Louise Baez’s (Cambridge University Press) “Cultivating Proficient Academic Writers.” Here again, we were taken to the American English corpus as an invaluable tool for analyzing and demonstrating student writing value and for focusing on academic language writing. Separating out grammar for general writing, attention is focused more on academic grammar, narrowing in on “purpose of phrase,” collocations, plagiarizing, and analyzing writing. Given a free workbook of a level of choice, I actually used exercises the following day, engaging students in teams for brainstorming topics and creating paragraph outlines to map short essays.

The third-session presentation choice was entirely without second thought! I stepped into Richard Lederer’s (Verbivore) “Lederer on Language.” This fast-paced segment of English language aesthetics was like running the last leg of a relay! “Oh, the Places We Can Go” with the brilliance and quirky manipulations and creativeness of the language. Try explaining to your student why “through/tough/thorough/thought/though differ in language conveyance and sound, or how a palindrome quickly turns into a HARASS SARAH “Palindrome!” There were “flip-flop” subject/object phrases—“He knows her, and she knows him,” and finally—the commonality of a cat and a comma—“A cat has claws on its paws, where a comma has a pause on its clause.” It does not get any better than that!

Finally, there were busy talking points during the Poster Sessions. I was hesitant to agree on the “Facebook and ESL” topic, but the presenter successfully sold me on the concept of using this social network site for topic hunting to create individual “writing papers” sessions in the classroom based on the personal and favored interest of each student.

Everyone came in first place at the finish line of an efficient and activity-packed conference that was well organized and successfully moderated to its promise of time. As a CATESOL Education Foundation Regional Conference Stipend awardee, I am grateful to have been granted this opportunity that actually comes back to the students as a reformed perspective and engaging creativity for their English learning environment.

Jacquewyn Chambers-Martin is trainer and director of Content Management for Global Elocution Training (GET) of Greater Los Angeles and Orange Counties.


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