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Brooke Kaye, Oregon State University
Received 2018 International TESOL Travel Grant, along with a coworker.
A few weeks ago I was working with Iman, an international ELL student, on an essay for her reading and writing class. She had come to the Undergraduate Writing Studio at Oregon State University because her instructor had highlighted sentences that were confusing and she didn’t know how to express her thoughts more clearly. I encouraged her to talk through her ideas while I transcribed what she said. Sharing her thoughts aloud helped her to compose several beautiful sentences full of meaning. I read the sentences back to her and she was pleased with the results and relieved to have moved through this roadblock in her writing. Iman confessed to me that she had been feeling very stressed – midterm exams were looming, and on top of school demands she had a newborn baby, a 3 year old and a kindergartner to care for. She was also busy getting ready for the holy month of Ramadan. I was in awe of how much she was managing, all in an unfamiliar cultural landscape with no extended family support.
This interaction made me reflect on the excellent plenary talk that Mary Helen Immordino-Yang gave at the 2018 TESOL International Association conference in Chicago in March. Immordino-Yang presented research showing how a person’s sense of emotional well-being has a strong impact on their ability to learn. Essentially, emotion is the driving force behind thinking – meaningful learning always involves emotion. When we feel safe and connected we are motivated and able to create meaning and learn.
In life as in writing projects, connection and meaning are built at many levels - from vocabulary choice and sentence-level grammar to discourse level and audience analysis. At the TESOL conference, I learned tools for using theme and rheme to help create cohesion and meaning at the discourse level. I also learned how ELL teachers are using corpus tools to help students analyze word choice and see patterns in academic writing. I have been excited to use these strategies to help second language learners improve their writing. Immordino-Yang’s lecture, though, reminds me that before we strive to create meaning in text we must first create connection through meaningful interpersonal interactions.
I wanted to help Iman create meaning, not just in her writing, but also in her life. I knew from Immordino-Yang’s lecture that the more connection and support she feels the more successful she will be in school. I empathized with her as a mom who was also trying to manage my own work/life balance. Iman mentioned to me that she didn’t have many other mom friends, so I told her about an international mothers’ group and gave her the contact information. She seemed excited to connect with other women who shared that aspect of her life.
After attending the TESOL conference, I now have more strategies than ever to help students like Iman. The most important of which is tuning in to their social-emotional landscapes. As Writing Studio tutors, we are trained to look at a hierarchy of rhetorical concerns in student writing – addressing issues in purpose and content before grammar and punctuation. Immordino-Yang’s lecture reminds me that the first order of concern should be to meet the writer at an interpersonal level, to create meaning and connection in that interaction, before diving into the complex and beautifully surprising world of second language writing.
The James Nattinger Travel Grant for the TESOL Convention gives an ORTESOL member the chance to attend the international convention when they might not normally be able to due to finances. TESOL Convention provides a wealth of opportunities for networking, learning and growing professionally. For more information about grant opportunities check out the membership tab on the website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
ORTESOL BLOG IS COMING TO A COMPUTER NEAR YOU!
ORTESOL monthly blog is a place to grow professionally by writing and reading about relevant ESOL news.
The mission of ORTESOL is to promote scholarship, disseminate information, strengthen instruction and research at all levels in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages, and to cooperate in appropriate ways with other groups having similar concerns. We are continually looking at ways we can equip, challenge and support ESOL educators in the state of Oregon.
The ORTESOL Newsletter has historically been a place to hear about ORTESOL news, teaching tips, research theories, and relevant information on different special interest groups (K12, Refugee Concerns, Adult Education and Higher Education) from Oregon. We are shifting our quarterly newsletter to an the ORTESOL blog. This online format will allow more up to date information to be shared and allow us to link relevant articles from other education forums.
The ORTESOL membership is rich with varied perspectives, backgrounds and expertise. We would love to have members share their voice on the ORTESOL Blog!
There are many possibilities for articles, but here are a few ideas:
● What activity have you done in the classroom recently that had great success?
● What fun field trips or active learning projects have you done around the region?
● Do you have a book or resource review?
● What reflections do you have to new ESOL teachers?
● What advice would you give to planning an outside learning task?
● What content-based teaching ideas do you have?
● How do you use technology in the classroom?
● What highlights or knowledge do you have on a specific student language group?
● What is student perspective or story you could share? (You could interview them!)
● Who could you interview in the field of ESOL?
● Did you attend or know of an upcoming cultural event that would be relevant for members?
Be creative and tell your story! Check out our Newsletter Guidelines for additional tips on how to make your blog a success.
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