Thursday, September 29, 2011

News: N.C. Woman uses Songs to teach English Langauge Leaners

Mary McLaurin has spent more than a decade using her guitar to help young immigrants in North Carolina learn how to communicate in English. Currently, she volunteers to co-teach a community college class that teaches English through song. You can find the whole story via the link below:

N.C. woman teaches English through songs

News: Texas District Expands Spanish Lessons to all Elementary Schools

Arlington Public Schools in Texas started teaching Spanish to all children from kindergarten to second grade last year, and now the district has expanded that policy to include grades 3-6.The stated goal of the lessons is not proficiency but to expose students to the language. The full article can be found via the link below:

Texas district expands Spanish lessons

Reader Reporters Wanted

Got a language teaching related story or piece of news that you think is relevant or something you simply want to spread the word about? We're looking for news from all over the world, regardless of language. Send us an email at and we can post your news (anonymously if requested). Help contribute and enrich the Language Teacher's Toolbox!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

News: Mass. to overhaul ELL teachers

A recent Boston Globe article reports that Massachusetts education officials are overhauling training for teachers who work with English language learners after a recent U.S. Justice Department investigation found that 45,000 teachers in 275 districts lack adequate ELL training. For the full article, visit the link below:

Massachusetts education officials to overhaul ELL teacher training

News: U.S. Intelligence Agencies still struggle with critical langauges

A recent Reuters article reports that training translators to interact with local populations and gather intelligence in critical languages, such as Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu among others, has proved more difficult than expected, 10 years after the 9/11 attacks prompted a major increase in this area. Officials say the languages can be difficult to learn and their slang is even harder to pick up.

Agencies are seeking U.S. citizens who are native speakers, however, the security clearance process tends to be cumbersome. You can find a link to the full article below:

U.S Intelligence Agencies & Critical Languages

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Focus: Belgium Complete

Chris here again with some exciting news for French teachers! We've completed work on the first picture collection for French and below you can view the completed covers for packaging. Focus: Belgium will be our first but certainly not the only picture collection for French teachers. Included are over 230 pictures from around Belgium with a focus on Brussels. Several activities and PowerPoints are included with multiple variants which all make use of the pictures. The collection is available now! This is a great resource to have in order to supplement your teaching materials. These pictures offer a more in depth view than any textbook can provide. Please send an email to if you are interested in ordering a copy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Technology: Can E-readers encourage students to read more?

Can e-readers encourage students to read more? A article in the Cincinnati Enquirer reports on the success an Ohio school has found after students began using the Nook e-reader in their class. Surveys also show that students enjoy having access to textbooks, online libraries and other resources on one device. The school has been testing the use of Barnes & Noble's e-reader since August and now have plans to purchase more devices. For more information, you can view the full article here:

E-readers encourage students to read more

Technology: 4 Tools to help enhance basic language skills

A recent article over at looks at four programs that can help students enhance basic language skills, although write Jonathan Blum comments that "learning a way to communicate remains the work it has always been." To view the full article, visit the link below:

4 Tools to Enhance Language Skills

News: Rural Schools Evolve as ELLs Increase

A recent article featured on CNN's website focuses on the growth of some Midwest school districts. These districts are seeing growing numbers of English language learners, which is having a major effect on schools. However, many rural districts are unprepared for increases in ELL students, experts say. However, the increasing number of students is helping many rural districts stay alive at a time when the norm for schools in recent times has focused on consolidating or shrinking.

Saturday, September 24, 2011




Dr. Gregory H. Wolf
North Central College, Naperville, Illinois

Meeting the Challenges
of the 21st Century:

Language Program Building through Advocacy, Articulation, and Outreach

News: OFLTA Fall Conference

Oklahoma Foreign Language Teachers' Association
2011 Fall Conference

Brock Dubbels : Ways to Teach with Games and Shared Simulations

You can use games in your classroom for inquiry and training!

Brock Dubbels : Ways to Teach with Games and Shared Simulations

Friday, September 23, 2011

German Video: Im Getränkemarkt

Chris here with another useful video I found. This time it is a short video giving a tour of a Getränkemarkt in Offenbach. The video works well for a lesson on Trinkgewohnheiten in Germany.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

News: How technology can help students learn essential skills

A recent article on the site MindShift reports on the various ways in which technology can help students learn essential skills. According to the article author Sara Nolan, video games can help teach students resourcefulness while audio and video technology can be used to help students improve their reading. Social networking sites on the other hand can help students learn how to communicate. For more information check out the full article on MindShift:

Technology & Essential Skills

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ESL Speaker Series 2011

(Socio) Linguistic Innovation & Literary

Creativity in China in English

Presenter: Professor

Margie Berns

Date: 09/23/11.

Time: 5:30P-6:30P

Location: RAWL 2058

ABSTRACT: In the broadest terms, this talk is about the varieties of English associ-ated with China and the ways in which the innovative and creative function is realized in English by Chinese. These two areas are of interest because they illuminate the Chineseness of English in literary works and Chinese attitudes toward their Englishes. Literary creativity is one means of sharing Chinese experiences and a Chinese point of view through the use of English in ways that can ade-quately represent those experiences, for example, as in the work of Ha Jin. Social attitudes and issues of national identity appear to play a key role in discussions of how to name the English that Chinese learn and use, for example, whether it should be known as China English or Chinese English.

In narrower terms, this talk explores, first, the choice of “China English” as the option preferred for labeling the Chinese variety of English and, second, the “solecisms” that John Updike finds in Jin’s novel, A Free Life. It then argues that both are elements of the Chineseness of English. The assumption grounding this claim is that the –ness of an English is characterized not only by its formal linguistic features. Equally relevant are broader social and cultural contextual proper-ties, such as dominant language teaching traditions; history of contact with the English and the means of its spread; sources of norms and standards users are to follow and learners are to model; and the functional range of English within the society.

Animoto Activity

1. First, find a picture online that you feel represents YOU at the beginning of your second/foreign language learning experience -- You may download images from Facebook, Flickr, or some other website, but remember: The photo does not necessarily have to be OF you (for example, I might choose a picture of a baby crying).
2. Next, think about where you are NOW as a language learner and find another image to represent that.
3. Finally, find a photo that represents how you plan to develop your language skills in the future.
4. If there’s time, go back through the different stages of development and find more pictures. For example, you might have one that represents your first day of class, followed by one that represents the first time you had a conversation with a native speaker or getting back the results of your first exam. You may have up to 10 photos for this activity.
5. Go to and make a slide show with your photos from the previous steps.
6. Add music.
7. Watch your Animoto at least twice. Focus on any ideas, connections, or directions of thought that arise as you watch these images and listen to the music that you've selected.
8. Write a paragraph about what you notice about your development as a second/foreign language learner as it appears in the slide show.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Video: Teaching Unplugged (BBC)

Hello all, Claudia here with a couple of excellent and truly informative videos from the BBC. One video focuses on teaching 'unplugged' while the other focuses on language testing. Enjoy!

20 steps to teaching unplugged TeachingEnglish British Council BBC

"Luke Meddings builds a picture of teaching unplugged in this seminar, filmed at the British Council in London earlier in 2011." The Dogma Approach, teaching without textbooks.

Language testing: looking back and looking forward TeachingEnglish British Council BBC

"Barry O'Sullivan takes a look at language testing, all the way from Imperial China to the present day global industry, and considers where testing might be going in the future."

News: Increase of Special Needs Students using Ipads in the Classroom

A growing number of students with special needs are using iPads in the classroom this year. The lightweight, mobile devices can be customized for students with disabilities and help give them a sense of inclusion with their classmates.

Increase of Special Needs Students using Ipads

News: Technology Alone Won't Improve Schools

A recent article in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog features an article by Karim Kai Ani, founder of the curriculum developer Mathalicious, which is rewriting middle school math curricula around real-world topics. Ani's article warns of the dangers of placing blind faith in the investment of technology to aid in teaching. Technology alone will not improve schools and test scores. The article focuses on the common disconnect between technology and content, noting that new technology often just repackages current content without actually improving or truly innovating the ways in which we teach. The full article can be found here:

Technology Alone Won't Improve Schools

News: Budget Cuts eliminate Latin Program at Colorado High School

Dakota Ridge High School in Jefferson County, Colo., will end its Latin program after this school year, 11 years after the curriculum began. Deep cuts exceeding $30 million the past several years have decimated languages, art and other subjects in the district, according to principal Jim Jelinek. The declining number of students taking Latin made it a target for cuts.You can find the full article in the Denver Post here:

Latin Program Cut in Colorado

News: K-12 Language Programs face budget cuts

Congress is debating cuts to the Foreign Language Assistance Program, which is the sole federal source of funding for K-12 world language courses.  Several government agencies have a shortage of personnel proficient in other languages which means the U.S. risks falling further behind in language skills if the funding is cut. For the full article, please visit the link to the Huffington Post below:

Foreign Language Budget Cuts

News: Verbling Video Chat Site

The video site Verbling helps speakers of different languages to connect and practice their speech with one another. The site features beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels and users can choose from a list of discussion topics or create their own. For more information check out the full article at Venture Beat


Friday, September 16, 2011

News: Why Some Languages Sound Fast

Ever listen to speakers of an unfamiliar language and it sounds as if the conversation is moving at light speed? The answer may have been discovered! Researchers at Université de Lyon in France wanted to see if they could pinpoint why some languages seem to be spoken faster and why. The study found that languages contain different information densities per syllable and the average number of syllables spoken in some languages is faster, but all the languages convey the same information within the same time span. Thus, each syllable in English and Mandarin conveys a high amount of information which allows speakers to move more slowly, while Spanish and Japanese are less dense and can be spoken faster. You can read the full article here:
Why Some Languages Sound Fast

News: Tennessee District struggles to create a Bilingual Program

A recent article reports that Williamson County schools in Tennessee have been working on a plan to start teaching students a second language in kindergarten -- either Chinese, French, German or Spanish. The children would continue learning the language through high school in an effort to make students "globally competitive," Mike Looney, director of schools, said. However, district officials have struggled to select a language and teaching methods, and a previous attempt to teach foreign language in elementary schools did not work. For the full article, click here:

Tennessee Bilingual Programs

Thursday, September 15, 2011

News: TPRS Workshops and Webinars

The Fall TPRS schedule of workshops and webinars is available on the TPRS Publishing website! You can find all of the information here:

Workshops and Webinars

PDK: Integrating Technology in ESL Classrooms

"Professional Development Kit (PDK) was funded by the U.S Department of Education in collaboration with SRI, International, to create professional development tools for adult educators.
Employing case-based instruction in the context of facilitated adult education teacher professional development, PDK can adult educators explore and develop their practice in new ways and to investigate new materials and strategies for instruction.
With video case studies of adult education classrooms; online tools for practitioners to structure their own cases; resources that include a knowledge database, digests, portfolio, group discussion and class products; and staff development and user guides; PDK provides resources and a framework to support participants efforts to generate questions and brainstorm solutions to challenging professional situations.
PDK is available on CD-ROM, and some of its tools may be accessed online at"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

News: 2011 IWLA Conference

"Survival Guide to the 21st Century Language Learner"

2011 IWLA Conference

Dates: October 7-8, 2011
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Venue: Des Moines Downtown Marriott

Sunday, September 11, 2011

News: ICLLL 2011 Call for Papers

Call for Papers

2011 International Conference on Languages, Literature and Linguistics - ICLLL 2011 is the premier forum for the presentation of new advances and research results in the fields of theoretical, experimental, and applied Languages, Literature and Linguistics. The conference will bring together leading researchers, engineers and scientists in the domain of interest from around the world.

News: XLV Congresso SLI

XLV International Conference of the
Italian Linguistics Society
September 26, 27, 28
Coesistenze linguistiche nell'Italia pre- e postunitaria

Go Fish (in Japanese)

This is a really fun game to memorize Hiragana (Japanese letters). The rule is same as regular Go fish. Prepare at least 1/2 sets of Hiragana flash cards (25 cards) per 4 students.

1. Work in a group of 4. (make sure to include at least 1 person who knows the rule)
2. Each member gets 5 cards. (Do not show them to others.) The rest of the cards should be piled on your desk.
3. Before starting the game, if you already have matching cards, put them in the pile.

4. A-san asks B-san, “(hiragana) ga arimasuka?” if B-san has it, B-san has to give it to A-san, saying “hai arimasu” Then, A-san puts the matching cards in the pile.
5. If B-san does not have it, say “iie arimasen”, then says “Go fish” to A-san, and A-san gets one card from the pile.
6. The first person who doesn't gave any cards wins!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

German: Compliment Game (Dative)

Chris here with a fun activity I came up with for one of my German classes. This can also be used for other languages so feel free to adapt it as you need.

German uses the dative case to make compliments. You can see a few examples below:

Dein Hemd gefällt mir echt. oder

Die Karfoffel, die du gekocht hast, schmecken mir.

There are of course many things one can make compliments about. For this activity I had the entire class stand in a large circle. I explained that one person would begin by picking another student and make him/her a compliment. The student would have to answer appropriately by thanking the person making the compliment and/or downplaying the compliment. If the person making the compliment made a correct compliment without any grammar mistakes, then the student who received the compliment would be free to choose another student and make him/her a compliment.

Students were also informed that the following rules would also apply:

- A compliment could only be made once. Thus, if someone said "I like your shoes" then no one else could make the same compliment.

- The other stipulation was that students had to come up with a compliment within 20 seconds and it needed to be grammatically correct.

If a student was unable to make a correct compliment or if they repeated a previously made compliment then they would be eliminated. In effect, this would be similar to the game dodge ball. The game proceeds at a very rapid pace and once the obvious or easy compliments are exhausted students are forced to dig deeper into their repertoire of vocabulary in order to continue to make compliments. Eventually one student remained as the winner of the activity. I would estimate that the entire class covered over 100 things to compliment each other on. Every student was able to participate several times before eliminations began to occur. This activity helped them review dative verbs as well as a great deal of current and previous vocabulary. I encourage you to try the activity and hope you find adds to your lessons.

Better Speaking: A Guide to Improving Your Spoken English

Hello everyone, Claudia here,
Today I would like to share a very useful resource I found online for ESL teachers and learners. It is part of the BBC called Better Speaking and it is a booklet designed to help overcome some of the most common problems people face when they are learning to speak English.

Using extracts from the BBC World Service radio series, Better Speaking, this booklet looks at how you can become a more fluent speaker of English, and at some of the skills you need for effective communication.

The topics they look at include:

Becoming a confident speaker
Fluency or accuracy?
Finding the right words
Learning language in chunks
Showing where you are going
Keeping the listener interested
Being a supportive listener
Sounding natural

Better Speaking

Thursday, September 8, 2011

CALL Videos

Hello all, Claudia here with a couple more useful videos I found. These videos describe what CALL or Computer Assisted Language Learning is and how it is used in the classroom. Enjoy!

Video: How do you motivate the unmotivated to learn?

Hi all, Claudia here,
I would like to share this video with you about motivating people. This of course applies directly to helping unmotivated students. Enjoy!

"How Do You Motivate The Unmotivated To Learn?" from LarryFerlazzo on Vimeo.

Useful Websites: ESL

Hello all, Claudia here,

A few colleagues have shared some very useful TESOL sites I think you would enjoy using. You will find lots of fun activities and games for teaching English as well as grammar and listening practice for your students.
These sites provide interesting articles and video webcasts:
This is a very nice website with stories you can use as learning material:

News: Government Program draws English teachers to South Korea

The Teach and Learn in Korea initiative has been a successful program since its launch in 2008 by the Korean government. The program is the result of president Lee Myung-bak's effort to fulfill a campaign pledge to improve English education in public schools throughout Korea. Teachers get the benefit of experience life and culture in a foreign country while students get the benefit of learning from a native speaker.

Teach and Learn in Korea 

Monday, September 5, 2011

News: U.S. Military struggles to help troops with foreign langauge skills

While recently addressing 2,500 troops, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta highlighted the Pentagon's progress in teaching troops foreign languages, but admitted that "frankly, more needs to be done." This was underscored by an active duty officer serving in Saudi Arabia posted on an independent website that more needs to be done. The full article can be found here:

U.S. Military & teaching troops foreign languages

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Spanish: Word of the Week

Hi everyone! Claudia here,

I remember my high school French teacher used to write a word on the board every Monday and keep it there for the week so we could learn it. I think this would be a neat way to get your class to learn some uncommon words and verbs.
You can keep the word up for the whole week and have students use it in a sentence every day at the beginning or end of class.
Another fun twist to it could be to make it a refran, adivinanza or trabalenguas of the week!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

French: étudions la "Joconde" au fil des siecles!

Level: FR 101 and higher
Assignment: Please provide in the most detailed vocabulary you possess (in French) the words to describe these images/portraits, then compare and contrast them through history and time.

-La Joconde ou "Portrait de Mona Lisa". Léonard De Vinci. 1503-1506

-La Jeune Fille à la perle ou "La Joconde du Nord". Johannes Vermeer. 1665

-La Beauté de Tanger. José Tapiro y Baro. 1876

a useful website for reading authentic materials

Konnichiwa. This is Yumiko.

Reading authentic materilas is thrilling, but it sometimes takes time to comprehend them if you have to look up unknown words in a dictionary. Today I would like to share a useful website that can help you enjoy reading authentic materials. The website is called You just put a website address you would like to read or cut and paste a text you are interested in, and click the Go! button. Then, you can read the text without using a dictionary because English translations will appear by placing your cursor on unknown words. That is neat, isn't it? Please try to read Japanese newspaper or magazines online!


Teaching Topics

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