By GLORIOUS FEALING
—I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 CATESOL Annual Conference held November 17-20 at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, California. The jaw-dropping event helped me tremendously with my students. Of particular note was the presentation by Dr. Jin-Suk Byun and Ms. Soo Min Lee of Alliant International University: “ESL Learners’ Perspectives on Extensive Reading and Strategy Use.” I learned about the benefits of extensive reading combined with reading journals for improving the reading skills of ELLs. I had been using journals in class for about a year, but the information I received from this lecture, combined with my graduate study under Professor Gabseon Lee about teaching ESL reading, led me to improve my teaching strategy. I wanted to include some type of graded reader with my reading lesson. The conference provided two periodicals in the attendee packets, but at the close of the conference, there were leftover newspapers to be given away. I took a class set of both periodicals. I am pleased to say that the easy reader newspapers came in handy with my extensive reading lesson.
The Monday after the conference, I introduced to my two classes one of the easy reader newspapers, which we used as graded reading material. We read the newspaper and I gave my students instructions to guide the journaling process. They could engage in free writing, but they also had to address certain question prompts. The lesson was a hit in both classes. Students constantly told me how good it was to have the easy reader newspaper. They liked the journaling. One student in particular filled page after page in her journal. When the time came for me to review students’ answers to the question prompts, I found she’d torn out her several pages of free writing so that only her answers to my questions remained. I like her having private entries because it means she took ownership of the assignment on a truly personal level. Moving forward, I expect to see my students’ reading skills improve more quickly than they would have without this strategy.
The conference helped me to stay current and informed about TESOL. It provided research to substantiate using specific methodologies. Because of the conference, it has been easier to justify my methods in my weekly reports to management. Additionally, I received a surprise visit on Monday from my site supervisor, who liked seeing the students reading the newspaper and journaling about it. I told her about the session on extensive reading at the conference and why I’d adopted it for class. I told her that if the students really liked it, I would buy my classes a subscription, but something better happened. She asked for a copy of each periodical to see if management would buy a programwide subscription instead. I am grateful because the conference information is immediately applicable to my job and studies.
The conference also enhanced my personal and social life. My hotel room in the Regency Tower was very clean, comfortable, and beautifully decorated. I made several new friends and had stimulating and pleasant conversations, especially at the Friday networking dinner at Casa Guadalajara. The Alliant reception for students, alumni, and friends made me feel special and more connected to my school. It was great to meet professors, students, and alumni. I anticipated each day because, as the conference progressed, each event outdid the last. I was soaring by Sunday and did not want it to end.With respect to future conferences, some attendees suggested grouping the strands in one location because they could not easily find certain conference rooms. For them, returning to the same conference rooms each day would make it easier to navigate the hotel grounds. That was not a problem for me, however. Like most TESOL professionals, I like to travel and explore. I liked discovering a new hallway or passageway and a new conference room each day. In my opinion, this conference was a perfect 10 and I thank the committee for putting on such a successful event.
Glorious Fealing is an ESL instructor at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) in the Division of Workforce and Economic Development and the Adult Literacy and Language Program. She lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada, and has been teaching at CSN since 2014. She is a MA Ed in TESOL student at Alliant International University in San Diego and will graduate in May of 2017.