MIDTESOL http://midtesol.org Just another WordPress site Tue, 26 Sep 2017 02:46:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Iowa State University Annual Technology for Second Language Learning Conference http://midtesol.org/iowa-state-university-annual-technology-for-second-language-learning-conference/ Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:00:30 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1432 September 22-23, 2017

Iowa State UniversityAmes, IA

Crossing Boundaries: The Geographical and Intellectual Diffusion of Technology for Language Learning

Technology serves as a bridge that crosses historically constructed boundaries between second language teaching and other disciplines. It has created an unprecedented level of interconnection between language learning researchers and language teaching classrooms. It also provides the affordances to connect language teachers throughout the world in mutually beneficial interactions and expanded educational circles.

At the 15th Annual TSLL conference, we will highlight, explore, and celebrate the multifaceted ways that the spread of technology internationally and disciplinarily prompts new paths for inquiry and education. We look back on 15 years of research and development of technologies for second language learning from previous TSLL conferences as a springboard for boundary-crossing work of the future.

Registration Now Open

Classroom Community Builders Book Review http://midtesol.org/classroom-community-builders-book-review/ Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:00:15 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1426 by Jan McClellan

Classroom Community Builders – Activities for the First Day & Beyond by Walton Burns is full of differentiated games to include every student within your classroom. These games are easily adaptable to newcomers and mainstream ELLs as well as native or proficient English speakers. This book can instantly be implemented into your classroom. Every activity comes with a suggested time frame, list of materials needed, and language objectives. All of the activities are easy to implement with minimal preparation or planning.

Classroom Community BuildersOne of my favorite aspects of this book is that Burns is building a virtual classroom of aides through the use of social media and his website, where teachers can collaborate and discuss building a community classroom. Teachers are also able to print and download resources straight from the publisher’s website that related to the activities in the book. Some of my favorite games include “Culture Role Play,” “Don’t Say It,” and “In My Own Words.”

  • Culture Role Play is a game where students are given a list of cultural norms and role play these cultural norms. After the role play, some great conversation aides are given for students to discuss their experiences and attitudes towards the cultures. The book gives descriptions of growth mindset versus fixed mindset; however, it wouldn’t be far off to add to this American Culture relating to Vietnamese Culture or whatever culture you are trying to explain.
  • Don’t Say It is a game where students discuss academic vocabulary without saying the definition and/or keywords related to the words specified on a set of index cards. This seems ridiculously fun yet challenging. This could easily be used in a Beginning English sheltered class with conversational English or a mainstream Science class for concepts like the scientific method.
  • In My Own Words incorporates native language with its English counterparts and allows for the students in the class to build bridges with common phrases from each language. These three games show how adaptable the over 50 games found in Classroom Community Builders are.

With over fifty activities, this book includes tips for building a classroom community, implementing group work that involves every student, and addresses language needs.This book would be a huge asset to any classroom where teachers are focused on building a community of learners. The ebook is only $0.99 and the paperback is $15.00. Visit Alphabet Publishing for more details.

Editor’s Note: MIDTESOL was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Jan McClellan is an ELL Specialist at Carver Middle School in Springfield, Missouri.  She has worked with ELL students for four years in the primary and secondary levels through Co-Teaching and Sheltered English Instruction.  She has presented at MIDTESOL on using technology and iPads in the ELL classroom and has a passion for personalized learning and English Language Learners.  She will be presenting at MIDTESOL 2017 on utilizing video tools to support ELLs in the mainstream classroom.

Eight Lessons Learned from the 2017 TESOL Advocacy Summit http://midtesol.org/eight-lessons-learned-from-the-2017-tesol-advocacy-summit/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 12:00:18 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1411 by Adrienne Johnson

How do you advocate for your English language learners? Maybe you speak up at your school or organization when decision makers have not considered the impacts of rules or practices on your language learners. Perhaps you have created a program in the community that meets an unfilled need for ELL parents or adult learners. It is possible that you focus your energies on providing your ELLs with an excellent education so they have the same opportunities as their native English speaking peers.

These are all forms of advocacy, above and beyond what we often typically think of as advocacy work with policy makers and elected officials.

At this summer’s 2017 TESOL Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C., Diane Staehr Fenner, author of Advocating for English Language Learners, asked, “How do you see your role as an ELL advocate and leader?” I consider myself an ELL “advocate-in-training.” While some of my colleagues may have extensive experience working with political leaders, my advocacy work started in my classroom, my school, and my district. I do not have a degree in public policy, have never interned in a representative’s office, and only began navigating the world of elected officials very recently. Like many teachers, I tried to “stay out of politics” and focus on my students.

The problem was, politics kept affecting me and my students, regardless of whether I was “involved.”

At the recent Advocacy Summit, I shared information about ELL challenges, successes, and opportunities with Senators and staffers representing the MIDTESOL region (see the MIDTESOL Matters Newsletter for a complete list). I also continued my advocacy training and wanted to share a few lessons that I learned.

Lessons learned from an “advocate-in-training”

  1. If you do not talk to your elected official, someone else will. Staffers and representatives are always busy, but they are also available for meetings. For many, it is part of their job description to meet with and listen to constituents. That means that if you are not requesting a meeting on Tuesday at 3:30 pm, someone else is. The question is – is that person someone who is going to share your viewpoint? Your needs? Your students’ perspectives? If you want to be sure that your voice is being heard, call or show up.
  2. If you do show up, people will actually listen to you. I know that many people think that their voice does not make a difference, so why even show up? However, most staffers are interested in learning new information and being well-informed about the issues they are in charge of. This year I met with a number of staffers that I had met in previous years, and I could tell they knew more than the last time I spoke with them. Now, I cannot take credit for all of this increased knowledge, but I would like to think that as we all speak up more, learning cannot help but grow.
  3. Teaching English language learners crosses political boundaries. The recent political climate has caused many teachers and students varying degrees of stress. However, John Segota, one of TESOL’s policy experts and a Summit organizer, pointed out that English language teaching issues matter to all representatives, regardless of their political leanings. In addition to appealing to representatives’ sense of humanity and empathy, advocates can make connections between a highly educated ELL community, a productive workforce, support for local businesses, and a strong national defense system. Some of the most engaged and interesting meetings I had were in offices of representatives who are not traditional supporters of English learners.
  4. Preparation and professionalism matters. Being on time matters – everyone is on a schedule. Being polite helps to continue the conversation, even when you may disagree. The staffers I met with appreciated numbers and facts – I always wish that I brought more. Sending a thank you note helps develop relationships and trust, and this is true for both sides. For the record, when I sent thank you notes to staffers from MIDTESOL states, those from the offices of Senators Sasse (NE), Blunt (MO), and Ernst (IA), actually replied. I certainly gained some respect for their staffers.
  5. Don’t make assumptions. I met more than a few staffers who had family members in education and grew up in diverse areas, surrounded by ELLs. While there were some who were not aware of “basic” issues in education, many more clearly had the knowledge and experience needed to be qualified advisors on educational issues. What may surprise some is that the level of knowledge and interest in educational or ELL issues was not closely related to political party.
  6. MIDTESOL members have allies in government, but politics is, well, political. One of the staffers I met with said that her “boss” could not vocally support an issue because that Senator had to be selective regarding which issues to promote. A few others were eager to discuss education issues but passed on discussing possibly more contentious issues like immigration. Even if senators want to support a bipartisan issue, they may not if they feel they will experience a backlash from constituents. (See #1 above – what type of backlash depends on who chooses to speak up.)
  7. Sometimes your biggest concern is just not their biggest concern. It is hard to hear and accept, but sometimes your issue is just not a priority. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up, but just do not get discouraged when changes are not immediate. When I visited D.C., the Senate healthcare bill was just about to be released. As I sat in offices, the phones were ringing off the hook with angry constituents. A number of people with various health concerns were waiting to speak with staffers before or after me. I actually had one staffer say that the Senator would not even look at education issues or the budget until August or September. That said, a few other staffers did mention that the information I shared would be useful when conversations on the budget began.
  8. Doing something is better than nothing. Complaining never changed anything, unless you are “complaining” to the right person, in the right way, at the right time.

To learn more about issues discussed at the 2017 TESOL Advocacy Summit, check out the highlights here.

MIDTESOL Matters Summer 2017 Issue Published http://midtesol.org/midtesol-matters-summer-2017-issue-published/ Mon, 10 Jul 2017 17:37:12 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1408 The Summer 2017 issue of MIDTESOL Matters, our affiliate newsletter, is now available.

This issue includes:

  • MIDTESOL 2017 Conference Details
  • MIDTESOL Member Profiles
  • ESL Student Essay Winners
  • Top Posts in TESOL
  • State Updates

Click here to download your PDF copy. For back issues of MIDTESOL Matters, click here.

2017 Student Essay Award Winners Announced http://midtesol.org/2017-student-essay-award-winners-announced/ Sun, 09 Jul 2017 14:46:00 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1402 Congratulations to our ESL student essay award winners! The first place essays from each category will be published in the Summer 2017 edition of MIDTESOL Matters.

Best ESL Student Essay Award Winners: Di Zu 3rd Prize (left), Huilin Mao 2nd Prize (center), and Richard Yampanya 1st Prize (right)

Best ESL Student Essay Award
1st place – Richard Yampanya
2nd place – Huilin Mao
3rd place – Di Zu

All three are students at the University of Missouri. Their sponsoring teacher is Ms. Mary Browning.

Best K-12 Essay Award
1st place – Ibrahim Mohammad
2nd place – Romain Vianney Obame Ndoutoume
3rd place – Lucero Garcia Martinez

All three are students at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa. Their sponsoring teacher is Ms. Kendall Schuldt.

Thank you to the sponsoring teachers and students who submitted essays for the contest as well as to the Awards Committee and Awards Chair, Denise Mussman, for their work! Look for details about the 2018 ESL Student Essay Awards to be posted on our website early next year.

Interacting with Americans http://midtesol.org/interacting-with-americans/ Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:00:13 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1386 by Terry Barakat

How can we get our international students to interact with Americans and other speakers of English in authentic situations? At the English Language Institute of Missouri State University (ELI of MSU), this is an especially poignant question because the ELI building is located in downtown Springfield, a few blocks from the main campus. So, the internationals in our programs have to make an effort to put themselves in main campus situations, or we need to make sure to facilitate events.

The ELI has built co-curricular relationships with professors and instructors to facilitate just such opportunities. One example of this occurred in April of 2017. Our five EAP Level 6 Graduate Capstone students, who are from Mongolia, China and India, spent a morning with two different sections of psychology majors in their PSY 411-Psychology of Diverse Populations class, taught by Professor Adena Young-Jones. The description of this course in the 2017 MSU course catalog is:

“Capstone course reviewing research and theory in social cognition, biological bases of behavior, development, individual differences, and psychopathology as they apply to ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, language, exceptionality, aging, privilege/disadvantage, and other aspects of diversity. Similarities and differences in human thoughts and behaviors will be evaluated to better understand individual and group outcomes.”

Here are the discussion topics we prepped both sets of students for:


  • How/when did you learn English?
  • What are your plans after completing the ELI program?
  • Why did you choose psychology as a major?
  • What career do you hope to have with this major?

Talk about social and cultural norms in the U.S. and your country:

  • Greetings
  • School experiences
  • Social media sharing practices
  • How does one find a marriage partner?
  • Family life—How much of the nuclear and extended family live together?
  • What happens to the aging population?  Where do they live?  Who cares for them?
  • Definitions of beauty / fashion / modesty
  • Gender equality
  • Homosexuality
  • Safety
  • Healthcare
  • Homelessness – how are the homeless treated?
  • What is the definition of freedom?

Beginning with the first section of PSY 411 at 9:30 am, the five ELI students each gathered in a circle of desks with a group of 4-5 psychology students for 20 minutes, then rotated to the next group for the same amount of time until they had met with all of the class. They followed this same procedure for a second section of the PSY 411 class in the later morning until about 12:15 pm.

In the first round, all of the students were fairly subdued yet engaged, and the topics were covered at superficial levels. However, as the rotations continued and affective factors improved, discussions deepened and became lively. When the second section of students arrived and the process began again, the ELI internationals were hosting their groups like they were Jimmy Fallon, cracking jokes and leading the discussions like experts. By the end of the second section class, Facebook connections were being exchanged and a group picture was insisted upon.

The feedback from the internationals was that this was one of the best activities they had ever done, and the psychology students wanted to know how soon they could get copies of the pictures. Bayar from Mongolia said, “Teacher, if I did this every day, I would speak English already!” Mission accomplished.

ESL Students’ Writing in English – Part 2 http://midtesol.org/esl-students-writing-in-english-part-2/ Fri, 09 Jun 2017 12:00:17 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1383 by Kendall Schuldt

One Student’s Writing Journey

One high school student who entered the U.S. recently had no background in English and hadn’t been in school for over two years. I found as she adjusted to her new setting in the U.S., she felt pressured to use English. She insisted she write only in English for my class which resulted in very little writing and a lot of frustration. She knew what she wanted to say, but it took so long to translate in her head that she often lost focus or ran out of time to finish an assignment.

After several attempts in English resulting in little writing, I finally convinced the student to start by writing in her first language (L1), Spanish. The results were not surprising. When she wrote in Spanish about her home, she could write in detail; she was focused and much more productive than when she wrote in English. Once she had finished her writing, I had her explain it as best she could in English since I don’t speak or read Spanish. She explained it to me, and I made notes about certain errors I wanted her to focus on when she rewrote the paper in English. For example, I began by asking her to focus on capitalizing “I” and using correct personal pronouns. Then I sent her back to her desk to rewrite the piece in English, applying what we had talked about to her writing. She didn’t use a translator, so if she didn’t know the word in English, she left it in Spanish. I would introduce those words when we conferenced a second time. Once again, the results showed improvement from her previous attempts at writing in English. She wrote just as much as she did when she was only writing in Spanish. She was so proud of her work, she asked if she could take it home to show her father.

As time went on, she continued to use this process in her writing assignments. I began to change her writing task from descriptive pieces about her home and family to narratives about her life and argumentative pieces about her opinions on different issues we read about in our class and in her content area classes. For example, she wrote about who George Washington was after we discussed the Revolutionary War in U.S. History, and she wrote about growing plants in biology and the process that her class went through in doing so. Her writing in English continues to improve, and she is meeting content area standards in her language arts class. The process of switching between her L1 and L2, or code-switching, with a teacher conference to help her apply new vocabulary and English skills has improved her confidence as well as her productivity and focus while writing.

Considerations for Implementing L1 Writing in the Classroom

In order to help students meet the rigorous standards placed on them in schools today, teachers must allow students to use the skills they have readily available to them.

1. First and foremost is the students’ first languages.
The focus of teachers should be on the standards and whether or not students have the skills to meet them in any language. The students’ English will develop as they are surrounded by it every day in school; teachers should make sure there is a focus on academic skills regardless of which language is used to show those skills.

2. Don’t get caught up in whether or not teachers can read or understand a student’s first language.
Allowing a student to use their L1 requires the teacher to give up an element of control, but it can result in better writing and understanding for the student. Ask a foreign language teacher to help, or use a translator to check work to ensure that students are on topic and have the knowledge to meet content area standards. If teachers are able to conference with students, they can help them apply some English writing skills to their L1 writing and begin to translate or transition their writing to English.

3. It might not work for everyone.
As educators apply this process, it is important to remember that like any other strategy, it might not work for everyone and not all students will progress at the same rate. Students will need at least some level of literacy in their first language. This doesn’t mean that students have to be completely literate, just that they have some level of writing ability. If students can write in a way that helps them to clarify their ideas, this process can be applied to them.

In conclusion, teachers can encourage their students’ progress by ensuring that they make the best use of the skills students walk into school with. Students’ L1 is an excellent tool for developing literacy in English. When talking to one of my students about her writing progress in class, she said she prefered writing in her first language and then English. “I think it is better for me. I can write in Spanish, like I think, and then not be thinking ‘how to say this in English?’ I can just write and then think about English.”

Editor’s Note: Part 1 in this series introduced the reasons behind using student’s L1 as a scaffold for developing their English writing skills.

Kendall Schuldt has taught ESL at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa for four years. Her students have won awards in the MIDTESOL Best K12 Essay contest for the past three years. She received her Master’s in Literacy Education from Drake University in 2016. Her undergraduate degree is from Grand Valley State University in Michigan in English Language Arts. This fall, she will fulfill a lifelong dream by moving to Seattle, WA where she will continue teaching ESL.

ESL Students’ Writing in English – Part 1 http://midtesol.org/esl-students-writing-in-english-part-1/ Fri, 02 Jun 2017 12:00:53 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1374 by Kendall Schuldt

Throughout the United States, the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the public school system is on a sharp incline. As of the 2014-2015 school year, there were 4.6 million ELLs attending public school in the U.S. (National Center for Education Statistics). As these students enter the U.S. school system, it is crucial educators prepare themselves to meet students’ needs. Students struggle to comprehend brand new content and then respond to it in writing in English. How can teachers better support these students in their attempts to express their thoughts, feelings, and understandings of grade level content?

One support teachers can offer students is one that they have before instruction even begins: their first language or L1. A student’s L1 is a strong support, specifically when it comes to expressing ideas and understanding content. Allowing students to use their L1 as a scaffold in the development of proficient writing in English is one way to support and differentiate for these students. In her book, Writing Between Languages: How English Language Learners Make the Transition to Fluency, Danling Fu (2009) observed, “When English language learners write in English they are thinking in a limited or less fluent language, which results in thought blocks” (p. 13). Allowing students to write in the language they naturally think and process information in can lead to a clearer thought process and therefore better writing.

Of course the goal is for students to achieve proficient or even fluent writing in English. However, that doesn’t mean students can’t begin drafting a writing piece in their L1 and slowly apply their knowledge of English to what they have already drafted. As students’ English comprehension increases, the amount of time spent drafting in their L1 will decrease. This method of writing can allow students to transition into their second language while still maintaining their first language literacy. The process mirrors the transition native speakers of English go through when transferring their oral skills to writing which suggests this could align with the natural progression of students’ learning of a second language or L2.

A Classroom Example

Over the last three years as an ESL teacher, I have worked with 9th-12th grade students from many different countries with varying levels of English proficiency. All of them have some level of literacy in their L1. While many of my students come into my classroom already having some literacy skills in English, there are a few who are complete newcomers to the U.S. It is with those students that I have found their L1 to be a great asset.

In order to help my ELLs develop their writing skills, I begin having them write in their L1 and then conference with me, applying their knowledge of English and gradually transitioning to less and less of the L1. The process begins with students writing completely in their first language, then drafting their writing again in English focusing on specific skills. Eventually the students write more in English and less in their first language. It might be a long process, but so far it has been very effective.

Editor’s Note: Part 2 will focus on how this technique helped a specific student improve her writing in English.


Fu, Danling. (2009). Writing between languages: How English Language Learners make the transition to fluency, grades 4-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). Fast facts: English Language Learners. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96.

Kendall Schuldt has taught ESL at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa for the past four years. Her students have won awards in the MIDTESOL Best K12 Essay contest for the past 3 years. She received her Master’s in Literacy Education from Drake University in 2016. Her undergraduate degree is from Grand Valley State University in Michigan in English Language Arts. This fall, she will fulfill a lifelong dream by moving to Seattle, WA to teach ESL.

Call for Proposals: University of Northern Iowa Education Summit http://midtesol.org/call-for-proposals-university-of-northern-iowa-education-summit/ Mon, 29 May 2017 16:37:31 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1368 On behalf of the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education and the Center for Educational Transformation, we would like to invite you to respond to our Call for Proposals for our upcoming Education Summit scheduled for Nov. 6-7, 2017. The call for proposals can be accessed at https://cet.uni.edu/ed-summit-2017.

Designed for teachers, educational leaders, university faculty, and policymakers, UNI’s Education Summit, Inclusive Praxis for 21st Century Education: Advocacy, Challenges, and the Public Good, will explore the opportunities and challenges of 21st century education in a P-20 system. The Summit’s theme has four strands for proposal submission:

  • diversity and cultural competence
  • social emotional learning
  • personalized and blended learning
  • community engagement and partnerships

This Summit will feature presentations and panels, interactive workshops, and dialogue sessions led by experts from Iowa, the Midwest, and the nation.

The deadline for proposals is Monday, July 17, 2017, at 5 pm CST. All proposals must be submitted electronically via email to Edsummit@uni.edu.

Proposals will be blind peer-reviewed. You will be notified by Aug. 1, 2017, about your proposal.

TESOL Statement on the Proposed U.S. Federal FY 2018 Budget http://midtesol.org/tesol-statement-on-the-proposed-u-s-federal-fy-2018-budget/ Mon, 29 May 2017 16:31:28 +0000 http://midtesol.org/?p=1365 TESOL posted an official statement in response to the proposed U.S. Federal FY 2018 Budget:

TESOL International Association is deeply troubled by the U.S. president’s proposed FY 2018 federal budget. It recommends deep cuts to critical education programs impacting students and teachers across the United States and around the world. Education serves as the cornerstone of a well-informed and civically engaged society, so it is alarming that the administration is proposing more than $9 billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of Education and $305 million in cuts to educational and cultural exchange programs within the U.S. Department of State.

Although TESOL appreciates that the proposed budget maintains funding for the Office of English Language Acquisition at current levels, the president’s request to completely eliminate numerous programs within the Department of Education is unsettling. Programs such as Title II state grants, Teacher Quality Partnership grants, international education for language studies programs, and comprehensive literacy grants help our teachers become better educators and ensure that our students (including 4.6 million English learners) will be prepared to enter a growing global economy.

The president has proposed other cuts that TESOL finds troublesome:

  • The significant funding cuts for adult, career, and technical education, including state grants funded under Titles I and II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which help to prepare thousands of adult English language learners to enter the workforce or obtain a higher education degree. Any reduction in funding would be harmful to the thousands of individuals and families who receive job training and English language education services from these WIOA funded programs.
  • Reduced funding for educational and cultural exchange programs at the Department of State. These programs serve a vital role in public diplomacy and help support English language teaching and learning in many countries. Given the increased importance of intercultural understanding and diplomacy in today’s world, these suggested cuts are steps in precisely the wrong direction.
  • The elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which helps ease the financial burden of student loans for thousands of teachers, many of whom work in the country’s most underserved rural and urban schools. This cut would not only place a tremendous financial strain on teachers but would also discourage future teachers from entering the field, further increasing the need for qualified and motivated educators.
  • The proposed elimination of a number of staff positions at the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education. This office plays a vital role in ensuring that all students in the United States—including English learners—have access to the educational opportunities to which they are entitled under federal law. With the office now facing a greater case load than ever before, more resources are needed to support these efforts, not fewer.

TESOL calls on members of the U.S. Congress from both parties to reject this proposal and enact a more realistic budget that demonstrates an unwavering commitment to education and provides all students, including the nation’s growing population of English learners, with the support that they need to succeed.