Highlights from TESOL 2018

I attended the TESOL International Convention last week, which was a great experience. It was my first time attending the conference, and I went to a lot of interesting sessions. I decided to write up a little bit about a few of my favorite sessions here:


Namhee Suk, “A Guide to Implementing Extensive Reading in ESL/EFL Classrooms”

Namhee Suk explained how she has implemented an extensive reading program in her EFL classes for university students in Korea. It’s always interesting to me to hear how other teachers structure their programs. She also shared with us about the research study she conducted in her program. The article, “The Effects of Extensive Reading on Reading Comprehension, Reading Rate, and Vocabulary Acquisition”, was published in Reading Research Quarterly. Her study compared two groups of students: one group that did intensive reading and a second group that did both intensive and extensive reading. At the end of the semester, her results showed that the group that did both intensive and extensive reading improved more than the intensive-only group in the areas of reading comprehension, reading rate, and vocabulary acquisition. Hearing about this study reinforced my own views on the importance of extensive reading and inspired me to try to find even more ways to get my students interested in reading. I also wonder what the research results would have shown if there was a third group that did only extensive reading and no intensive reading.


Scott Thornbury, “The Persistence of Grammar”

Scott Thornbury presented on the topic of basing a curriculum around a grammar syllabus and why this idea has persisted in language education despite the lack of research evidence supporting it. I just wrote about this topic in my last blog post, so I won’t go into all the details here. In the presentation, it was interesting for me to hear the thoughts of other teachers during the Q&A time. There are definitely a lot of reasons why the grammar syllabus persists in textbooks and in classrooms, so it’s easy to understand why the focus on explicit grammar instruction has persisted for so long—and why it will probably continue for the foreseeable future. But it’s great that there are conversations like this going on, and I’m glad that influential leaders like Scott Thornbury are helping us to think more deeply and critically about how we teach.


From Scott Thornbury’s presentation


Contee Seely, “Achieving Early Fluency via Comprehensible Input and High-Frequency Structures”

This presentation described how teachers can use the method of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling) in their classes. TPRS focuses on providing students with a lot of comprehensible input to help them acquire the language. In TPRS, the teacher and students work together to collaboratively create a story. The presentation reminded me of some of the core elements of TPRS that can help our students be more successful. For example, students need to hear numerous repetitions of words and phrases before they can acquire them. Teachers can provide these repetitions by asking students questions and through the process of creating a story together.


Walton Burns, “4 Conditions for Building Classroom Community”

Walton Burns gave a good presentation on how to help build a strong community in class. He gave some ideas for specific activities that require students to work together to achieve a clear outcome. I discovered that he has a lot of resources on his Teachers Pay Teachers page, where he posts a lot of “Clue-by-Clue Mysteries,” where students are given individual clues related to a mystery, and they work together in groups or as a class to try to solve it. I love this idea! I just downloaded his free “Break In” mystery, and I’m hoping to use it with my intermediate-level students soon.


Several other sessions I attended were very interesting and thought-provoking, but I don’t have the time to cover them all here in detail. I had such a great experience at the conference that I’m already thinking about my plans and hoping I’ll be able to attend next year’s TESOL convention in Atlanta.

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