—Attendees were fortunate to welcome five speakers at the CATESOL Orange County Chapter’s fall professional-development workshop: Bruce Rubin, the plenary speaker, followed by featured speakers Dave Coleman, Roger Dupuy, Laura Jacob, and Meg Parker. The workshop was held Saturday, December 10, at California State University, Fullerton.
Bruce Rubin: “Critical Thinking in ESL: Sequence, Substance, Style, and Skill”
By NOOSHA RAVAGHI
Plenary Speaker Bruce Rubin gave a fantastic presentation on the significance of applying techniques that promote critical thinking in ESL classes. “Make it communicative!” Mr. Rubin started his lecture with the origin of the word critical from the Greek word kritikos, meaning “able to discern,” and gave various definitions of critical thinking, some of the “more joyful” ones being “multidimensional thought,” “spectrum thinking,” “attentive reflection,” and “thought experimentation.” He discussed the importance of asking the right questions, mainly why and how, which lead to classification, explanation, discovery, accuracy, and credibility. “Good answers are complicated answers.”
Mr. Rubin described critical thinking as a valuable tool, or rather tool kit, consisting of observing, understanding,
analyzing, and synthesizing—a simplified version of Numrich’s sequence of critical thinking—leading to effective decision making, judging, and planning. Furthermore, he specified that despite its challenges in a second language because of the amplified ambiguity and the subtlety of nuances, critical thinking can help one understand language features. Mr. Rubin demonstrated how critical thinking can be applied to engage ESL learners at all proficiency levels:
Low—Visual contexts, simple questions/responses, and hypotheses can be introduced with a focus on question formation, question words, frequency adverbs, and quantifiers. Various photos, ads, and charts can be used to practice critical thinking at this level.
Intermediate—Questions, problems, analogies, and hypotheticals can be good points of entry with an emphasis on modals, passives, transitions, conditionals, intensifiers, and compare/ contrast. A good way to practice critical thinking at this level is “the Five Whys,” a technique used to explore cause-and-effect relationships.
High—Making inferences, noting ambiguity, and differentiating causation and correlation can be introduced while focusing on adverb clause connectors/prepositions, reporting verbs, and numerical hedges. Some exercises at this level include close reading of newspaper articles, reading/writing research reports, reordering scrambled paragraphs, listening to/engaging in public debate, and using Freakonomics in any format (book, movie, podcast).
I found this workshop genuinely fascinating: First, it was both enlightening and pragmatic. Also, Bruce Rubin’s approach to addressing the importance and challenges of using critical thinking was engaging in that it generated critical thinking and interaction among the participants, who were eager to complete the various tasks they were handed, including identifying restatements/inferences and rating credibility indicators.
Dave Coleman: “Self-Monitored Learning for ELLs
in the College and Career Readiness Era”
By CHRISTIE SOSA
Among the four ongoing presentations was Dave Coleman’s “Self-Monitored Learning for ELLs in the College and Career Readiness Era.” Coleman acknowledged that he was covering a “big topic” but promised participants that he would provide a “buffet of a lot of different things you can use the next day of class.” In his presentation, Coleman discussed team-building activities, college- and career-readiness demands, goal setting, monitored-learning techniques, rubrics, and self-reflection activities. The takeaway for teachers, Coleman emphasized, is to recognize it is our job not only to teach English, but also to create opportunities for learners to recognize their goals. Upon realization of these goals, teachers must work together with their students to teach them how to monitor their progress through engaging activities and tools, which Coleman demonstrated throughout his presentation.
Mirroring his own practices, Coleman began his presentation by giving participants the choice of choosing what they’d like to focus on. Among the choices provided, participants, by a show of hands, were interested in learning more about different activities that promote self-monitoring practices among students. The first activity consisted of a quick-write in which participants were asked to free-write for two minutes in response to the following question: How do I feel about preparing my students for college and career readiness? Why?
After the quick-write, participants were asked to count the number of words they wrote and record the number in a chart in their handout. Then, with partners, participants discussed what they could do next time to produce more language in the next quick-write (the goal being to develop fluency). “The idea is,” Coleman explained, “to promote autonomy—to get students thinking about what they did, what they can do, and what they want to be able to do. Boom. Employers want employees to be able to do this, right?” This activity, he further explained, could be used for any kind of skill, for example, reading fluency, speaking fluency, and so on. The goal is to give students time to think and discuss specifically what they can do to improve and ultimately, reach their goal.
Another notable activity Coleman illustrated to participants was what Coleman likes to call “Where, Who, What Pictures,” in which students draw where they would like to use English, whom they would like to talk to, and what they want to be able to say. “If I know where, who, and what, then I know my student’s goal.”
Much of Coleman’s presentation followed this pattern; that is, giving participants power to choose what they wanted to learn followed by Coleman’s instruction and then working through a self-reflection/monitoring activity in which participants had the opportunity to assess themselves.
“Assessment is key,” Coleman explained. Formative assessment is especially important in self-monitoring learning as it focuses on, in Coleman’s words, “learning as a process—and, students see their progress, which can be very motivating.”
In closing, Coleman encouraged participants to get their students involved and invested in their (the students’) learning as much as possible. From identifying their goals to monitoring their progress, students should be deeply involved in this process. One way to do this is to “give students the opportunity to participate in the generation of rubrics or even make their own,” as it not only makes the expectations and goals clear, but it also is another way for students to participate in their journey of reaching their personal goals and assessing their progress.
Coleman ended his workshop demonstrating a Post-it–note activity in which participants were asked to write down what they learned and what they want to learn. Then he invited participants to place them on a chart in the room as they exited, illustrating another way a teacher can collaborate with his or her students in their learning process.
Other activities and handouts included in Coleman’s presentation were “I can/I can’t” checklists, “Heads Together,” and various self-monitoring charts for exams, attendance, and reading/writing fluency.
The takeaway? Students’ goals are as much theirs as they are their teachers’ and by working with students to help them monitor their goals, teachers help them (their students) see that reaching their goals is possible.
Meg Parker: “Lights, Camera, Action: Teaching Grammar With Video Clips”
By ALICIA THEADORE-JAQUBINO
One of four concurrent sessions for CATESOL OC Chapter’s Fall 2016 Workshop, Meg Parker’s “Lights, Camera, Action: Teaching Grammar with Video Clips” was as entertaining as it was informative. Ms. Parker’s rationale for using video clips in her grammar classes is to emphasize to students that grammar is a living part of the English language, not simply a list of rules in a textbook. She uses a three-step process to select grammar points and related video segments. First, ask yourself what is the meaning or use of the grammar point, how is it used in real-life situations, and last, which videos could be used to match those situations. Then the audience was given an opportunity to practice using a couple of activities Meg uses with her own students. The “Truth or Lies?” activity used the start to a movie to practice relative clauses. The practice “Grammar List!” used a commercial to practice time clauses. An additional challenge activity could be introduced requiring students to add more context by writing a larger paragraph. After each practice activity, Meg asked for audience suggestions for additional grammar points to go with the clips used during the session as well as other ideas for video clips.
Roger Dupuy: “Using the iPad (and the iPhone)
for Real Work in a Language Classroom”
By BRENT WARNER
Roger Dupuy’s session “Using the iPad (and the iPhone) for Real Work in a Language Classroom” introduced users to practical ways to use their iPad or iPhone in the classroom and in the office. Roger started by delivering practical tips on using Bluetooth to work with music in the classroom (and the conference) and sharing “hidden” features of iOS devices, such as text-to-speech. He shared ideas that are beneficial psychologically (organize your devices’ screens by themes) and practically (No document camera? No problem—use your iPhone).
Roger’s biggest message, though, was to encourage us to explore. He described his night job as that of a “mad scientist,” ready and willing to bend and break things in order to see what he can accomplish. This mind-set led him to making his own discoveries and creating original applications for his iPad and iPhone in the classroom, office, and home. The ideas he shared can be used by anyone today and can help engage students tomorrow. If Roger had anything he’d like us to walk away with, it’s that we can all be our own mad scientists.
Laura Jacob: “Promoting Social Justice in Our Classrooms … and Beyond”
By DENISE SCHUMAKER
Laura Jacob’s session, “Promoting Social Justice in our Classrooms… and Beyond,” comes on the heels of the publication of Social Justice in English Language Teaching, edited by Christopher Hastings and Laura Jacob. She began her presentation by giving attendees an opportunity to discuss in small groups which news headlines of 2016 have affected their classrooms and their students, and in what ways these “hot topics” may have marginalized ESL students. She followed this up with an overview of the scope and sequence of Social Justice in English Language Teaching and how it can be used in instruction. She next asked participants to look through two “windows” for analyzing social justice in the ESL teaching profession: the historical context and teacher self-reflection.
Laura urged teachers to look inward to root out their own conscious or unconscious biases and “perceptions of who English belongs to.” She then gave participants a chance to express their own experiences with social justice (or injustice) in the classroom, both as teachers and as learners themselves.
Laura left readers with one final question, borrowed from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the City College of New York commencement: “ … When you get a seat [at a place of influence, ask], ‘Whose voices aren’t being heard here?’” Laura’s message is that we need to be the voice for those who are marginalized in our classrooms and in our communities and speak up for them when we see the opportunity.
At this full-day workshop—8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—participants enjoyed a delightful breakfast catered by Corner Bakery followed by an opportunity drawing. In addition to the plenary presentation, attendees had the opportunity to visit exhibits, talk to colleagues, win numerous prizes in opportunity drawings, see the remarkable poster presentations, and choose two featured speaker sessions.
The exhibitors were Fisher-Hill Publishers, National Geographic, Pearson ELT, and Schools First Federal Credit Union.
Poster presenters were Kevin Samejon; Roxy Jien and Ralph Rodriguez; Alissa P. Wolters; Roland Lomeli; Lijuan Lai and Penny Tsai; Ralph Rodriguez; Young Suk Hwang and Konstantinos Vrongistinos; Tiffany Sun; Caleb Acton; Hanna Wallace and Emily Smith; and Brent Warner.
This event wouldn’t have been possible without team effort. Our sincerest thanks to:
- Our co-sponsor, the TESOL Department at California State University, Fullerton;
- Our contributors, Fisher-Hill Publishers, National Geographic, Pearson ELT, and Schools First Federal Credit Union;
- Our volunteers;
- Our committee members who assisted with facilities, publicity, registration, exhibits, poster presentations, food, evaluations, signs, decorations, photography, opportunity drawing, and membership.
CATESOL Orange County Chapter always welcomes new chapter board members and volunteers. Please contact Denise Schumaker at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join our team. Also, please visit our chapter’s website, http://catesoloc.weebly.com, and our chapter’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CATESOLOrangeCountyChapter, for photos and announcements. We look forward to announcing the details of our next workshop soon.
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