TESOL 2013: Day 1


I arrived in Dallas this afternoon and made my way to the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown. Both the hotel and the weather are amazing. We’re staying on the 20th floor, which I think is the highest I’ve ever stayed.

After dropping off my bag, I headed to the convention with my cohort (3 other ladies in my MA program with whom I’m staying during the convention). We checked in, got our fancy name tags, which I put my Twitter handle on, got our complementary convention bags with huge eventĀ catalog, and headed to the opening general session speaker.

The speaker was John Hunter, whom I had not heard of, but he is an award-winning teacher who focuses on helping children reach their full potential. His talk was calledĀ Solving for X: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Essentials, and it focused on his World Peace Game in which students try to solve real-life problems through collaboration.

The main take-aways from the talk include:

  • Learning takes place in the tension between love and fear. As in, students are able to create meaning and knowledge when they are presented with challenging tasks that they are interested in.
  • The purpose of the World Peace Game (according to the students who engaged with the lesson) is to express compassion; everyone has to think of everyone else and then themselves if they want problems to be solved.
  • Students eventually realize that they are not playing the game against each other, but they are playing with each other against the game.
  • Failure is ok. Within the support network of the classroom, students learn to accept the presence of failure and move past it in their problem solving.
  • Every student has the potential to be really awesome. (Those are my words.) If you treat students as such, they are more likely to live up to their potential.

Here’s a video of Hunter’s TED talk.


Thoughts on: Using an L1 in the ESL classroom


I have to admit that I feel inclined towards an English-only classroom, for the most part. My current students come from a variety of countries and first languages, so my own language skills do not allow me to be of much assistance in their L1s. However, today in class I decided to allow the use of my students’ various L1s during a writing assignment. Their assignment was to write imperative sentences describing how to do a task. We had watched various “How-To” videos and practiced making sentences together (in English). However, the variety of possible topics for the “How-To” writing assignment left many of the students lacking the basic vocabulary to express themselves. The basic idea behind assigning their writing in their L1 was that they could focus on meaning for the first draft, and then we could all work together to work out the specific vocabulary in English.

So far, the assignment seems to be going alright. The students had no problem writing their first draft in their first language, but the process of changing their sentences/ideas into English was laborious at best.

What are the benefits of allowing students to use their L1 in the ESL classroom? What are the drawbacks? Would it have been easier and more effective teaching to practice only certain verbs for the imperative sentence practice (most of the students chose to write about making food anyways)?