Page 1

IDIOM New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Vol. 41,

No. 3

Fall 2011

COLLABORATIVE CONVERSATIONS* NYS TESOL Annual Conference Oct. 28-29 Marriott Hotel Melville

by Andrea Honigsfeld

That effective collaboration benefits students (and teachers alike) is affirmed by

the well-deserved attention it has received most recently in the professional literature (see, for example, DelliCarpini, 2008, 2009; Honigsfeld & Dove, 2010; NACTAF, 2009; NEA,

2009; Pawan & Ortloff, 2011) and in the TESOL educational community (e.g., themes of 2011 New York State and Kentucky TESOL conferences). Acknowledging the importance

of collaborative exchanges among teachers is not a completely novel idea, though. Close to three decades ago, Judith Warren Little (1982) examined the differences between more

THIS ISSUE’S THEME: Conversations

and less effective schools and found that the more effective ones had a greater degree of collegiality. She noted four unique characteristics of collegiality (or collaboration) in successful schools, where teachers participate in the following activities:

• Teachers engage in frequent, continuous, and increasingly concrete and precise talk about teaching practice.

• Teachers are frequently observed and provided with useful critiques of their teaching.


• Teachers plan, design, evaluate, and prepare teaching materials together.

Collaborative Conversatins...................1

• Teachers teach each other the practice of teaching (pp. 331–332). Consider

what Warren Little’s (1982) frequently quoted four key ideas could mean

Conversations in Suort..........................3

for ELLs in today’s schools. What if we translated her seminal findings into


a contemporary framework of four Cs, in which “collaborative” serves as

Resources for the Commo Core............6

a defining adjective, followed by a key activity or desired teacher behavior

Talking is leaning..................................10 Small Talk..............................................14 Conversation Table...............................24

necessary for improved student learning? • Collaborative

SIGs and Regions..................................17

Upcoming Idiom Themes…................22


supportive framework, teachers offer and receive feedback on their teaching practices.

• Collaborative Curriculum Development: Through curriculum mapping and alignment and collaborative materials development, teachers match

Calendar and Announcements….......22 NEW Membership Form….……........23


• Collaborative Coaching: Through an encouraging school climate and

Members Only Website .......................18 Editorial Notes……………..................22


responsibility for ELLs’ learning.

Announcements Promising Practies....8 Book Review..........................................12


all teachers have the opportunity to develop ownership and shared

Regular Features/ Special

both their longterm and day-to-day instructional goals and activities.

(continued on page 20)

NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)


FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK by Nanette Dougherty, NYS TESOL President

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you have been enjoying a happy, healthy and restorative summer. I

New York State Teachers of English Speakers of Other Languages Officers and Executive Board 2010-2011

President, Nanette Dougherty NYC Public Schools

would like to update you on some changes and challenges facing educators. On July

First Vice President, Rebekah Johnson LAGCC, CUNY

ers College, Columbia University. The most major changes include the New Evalua-

Second Vice President, Christy Baralis South Huntington School District

13, I attended the Bilingual/ESL COP (Committee of Practitioners) meeting at Teachtion Law for K-12 teachers and principals:

1. Annual evaluations for all teachers and principals

2. Clear, rigorous expectations for instructional excellence, prioritizing student learning

3. Multiple measures of performance


Second Vice President Elect, Olivia Limbu Pace University Past President/TESOL Liaison, Constance Dziombak Mount Vernon City Schools SIG Coordinator, Laura Van Tassell South Huntington School District

4. Multiple ratings: Four performance levels to describe differences in teacher

SIG Assistant Consultant


5. The new system should encourage regular, constructive feedback and ongo-

Regions Coordinator, Tina Villalobos Hicksville Public Schools

ing development

Assistant Regions Coordinator, Lynn Ellingwood Brighton Central School District

6. Signifi cance: results are a major factor in employment decisions. You can view all documents discussed at the COP Meeting at the following link:




Membership & Marketing Chair, Patricia Juza Baruch College, CUNY For more in-

Assistant Membership Chair, Drew Teachers College, Columbia University and see the article in this issue.

Curriculum and Standards Chair, Maria Dove Molloy College

Though it was not considered at this meeting, the 14 Bilingual/ESL Technical Assis-

Assistant Curriculum Position Open

This puts both our schools and our LEP/ELL populations at risk of not having the

Professional Concerns Chair Porfi rio Rodriguez, East Ramapo CSD

next five years.

Professional Concerns Assistant Chair Position Open

Our new Commissioner of Education, Dr. John B. King, Jr., may not be familiar with

Publications/Technology Yonkers Public Schools

at: In addition, you may email the NYS Board of Regents on

Idiom Editor, Cara Tuzzolino Werben Nassau Community College

formation about the Common Core Standards, please consult the website at: http://

tance Centers (BETACs) across New York State closed permanently on June 30, 2011. appropriate resources to meet their educational and programmatic needs over the

the importance of the resources offered by the BETACs. You may e-mail him directly this issue at: RegentsOffi

At the Melville Marriott October 28-29th, I will be passing the gavel to our incoming





Webmaster, David Hirsch New York City

their service to the organization. Special thanks to Cornelia Randolph, a constant sup-

Business Manager/Treasurer L. Jeanie Faulkner, Cornell University

port and inspiration, and Fran Olmos, for her guidance.

You will be receiving ballots for the Executive Board slate in the mail shortly. Thanks

to our Nominating Committee, led by Cornelia Randolph and Terri Brady-Mendez,

for their time and efforts. Members, please do not forget to vote for your new leadership in our organization by returning your ballots. As always, please continue to keep

in touch with issues, concerns, and ideas on how our organization can best serve you. Best wishes for a great school year to all. Peace and blessings to you,

Nanette Dougherty, President, NYS TESOL P.S. We’re so very excited to be launching our new Members Only website - please read more about it in this issue and log in soon to check it out. Please contact us with ideas!


NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)



Dialogue Editor, Sue Peterson St. John’s University

President, Rebekah Johnson. I would like to thank the many wonderful members of my Executive Board and the many SIG and Region Leaders for


Certifi ed Public Accountant Jim Stotz

NYS TESOL Executive Board Meetings and General Information Members are welcome to attend Board meetings. For information, contact: NYS TESOL Box 185 Teachers College, Columbia University 525 W. 120th Street New York, NY 10027 Tel./Fax: (212) 678-3074 E-mail: Web site:


helped them pass content-area fi nals and New York State Regents examinations. When asked how the support class could be im-

proved for the following year, ELLs suggested that I allot more time to science, continue teaching math and social studies, and re-

Adolescent ELLs are second language learners who are

tain computer instruction on TeenBiz3000. One student, who was

they are learning English at the same time they are studying core

later admitted he benefi tted from content-area instruction by his

must perform double the work of native English speakers in the

bilingual content area glossaries I provided.

still developing their profi ciency in academic English. Moreover,

particularly resistant to my teaching anything but ESL all year,

content areas through English. Thus, English language learners

ESL teacher. All students expressed a deep appreciation for the

country’s middle and high schools. At the same time, they are

In the second year (Experiment II), I spent less time on

being held to the same accountability standards as their native

dictionary/glossary skills; did not teach idioms; and,

English-speaking peers (Short & Fitzsimmons, 2007, p. 1).

upon careful review of recent livingenvironment Re-

Conversations with ELLs and colleagues are viable ways for ESL

gents exams, added an ecosystem unit, a lesson on pH,

short time at Jamaica High School has been fi lled with conversa-

the formal versus informal English lesson with daily aca-

my charge.

defi nitions. Students assessed their multiple intelligenc-

teachers to help their students navigate academic challenges. My

and group activities on bar and line graphs. I replaced

tions that have driven my instruction to best support the ELLs in

demic English and everyday English explanations and

es (Gardner, 1983; Gardner, 1993, 2996; McKenzie, 1999),

Curriculum Experiments Based on Conversations with ELLs

and learning styles (Dunn & Dunn, 1993; Dunn & Griggs,

2003, 2004, 2007; Missere & Dunn, 2005). I added native-

language translations of key content vocabulary to my

At Jamaica High School, an ESL support class is offered

student notebook grading rubric. Groups researched

ELLs with additional targeted interventions. September

slide shows to ELLs in other classes. TeenBiz3000 was

each year is an ongoing curriculum development action

on New York State standards, that provided all Jamaica

resource room and advisory class model. Based on daily

science, and social studies Regents exams; and for na-

I provide homework help; teach problematic topics in

Placement (AP) exams. Based on requests from Experi-

and teach diverse skills necessary for academic suc-

practice, I created lists of Web sites and links with pod-

zero period, 7:22 to 8:06 a.m., to provide intermediate

continents and explorers and presented their PowerPoint

2011 will be the third year I am teaching zero period, and

replaced by Study Island, Web-based instruction built

research experiment. I conduct the course as a combined

High School students practice for English, mathematics,

conversations with my students about their challenges,

tional Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) and Advanced

mathematics, science, and social studies; and assess

ment I participants for Internet resources for speaking

cess. The first year of the experiment, my curriculum

casts and speaking exercises.

included mathematics symbols and word problems; the

living environment topics of scientific method, evolution, and organ systems; social studies topics of feudal-

ism, estates, and analysis of political cartoons; English

language arts topics of idioms, formal versus informal language, and dictionary/glossary skills; and academic readiness in test-taking strategies, study skills, time

management, notebook organization, public speaking skills, and computer skills. I also taught graph skills across the disciplines. This class was one of a select few

Jamaica High School English and ESL classes that benefited from TeenBiz3000 (Empower3000), a Web-based individualized reading program by Achieve3000.

As I gear up for Experiment III in the 2011-2012 school year, I

plan to devote more time to dictionary skills, such as alphabetizing, and contentarea textbook structure, with special attention

to textbook glossaries and indices; the participants in Experiment II were lacking in dictionary/textbook research skills and did not make optimum use of these resources. I provided a list of Web

sites and links for Regents practice and bilingual glossaries, and

will again provide copies of bilingual glossaries in Experiment III. I have decided to step up test-taking strategies and content writing practice in the zero period support class beginning in September. Conversations with Families Individual writing conferences

often involve reinforcing the student’s strengths and discussing

specifi c areas in need of improvement (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001).

Conversations with ELLs form part of the data collection that

I had conversations with each student about his/her multiple in-

ticipants in Experiment I) reported the lessons and activities

drives my curriculum changes. Several fi rst-year students (par-

telligences and learning style profi les generated from the Dunn.

(continued on page 26)

NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)



Acting is a sport. On stage you must be ready to move like a ten-

nis player on his toes. Your concentration must be keen, your refl

exes sharp; your body and mind are in top gear; the chase is on. Acting is energy. In the theatre people pay to see energy.

—Clive Swift

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.

—Gail Godwin

If “acting is energy,” teaching is many things: a combination of knowledge, experience, awareness, expertise, and care. It is also

the energy we, as language instructors, bring into the classroom that absolutely affects the order of the day. As a theater lover and past occasional performer, I have often thought about the parallels between teaching and acting. Here are a few that come to mind.

students must agree to the unspoken contract of trust that bonds them to you in a vulnerable learning situation. Your ability to cre-

ate that atmosphere of trust is important; your dynamism helps your class generate energy that in turn feeds you and helps the learning environment be dynamic. This is important for learning

as well as for the teacher’s ability to sustain energy and passion both within a class and over her entire run.

Actors use their voices as tools, relying on not just word choice but inflection, intonation, varying

volume, and the judicious use of pauses to capture the audience’s attention, rivet them, spellbind them, draw them forward in their seats wondering

“What’s next?” You too can use your voice itself as a tool that weaves the bewitching spell of energy,

dynamism, and trust that makes for a lively and effective learning environment. The show must go

on. There are days when you can’t imagine gener-

ating that energy at all. On those days, you have to “act as if”: put on your teaching persona as an actor dons a mask or stage makeup, preparing her-

self to go before the lights. If you don’t show up, or show up without energy, you might flop. This

You’re on stage. All eyes are on you. You’re the

leads us to the all-important teaching persona. As

shifts the energy in the room. Sometimes, you lit-

riosity, and the desire to share emotion and infor-

before you like patrons at a theater. There is noise,

teaching persona, comprised of your sincere and

lights dim. Curtain up! Enter stage left, the profes-

strategic sass, and teacher’s tools you’ve learned

placed to the side. Chitchat dies down. The room

the way.

initial focal point of attention. Your presence

an actor slips into a role through preparation, cu-

erally have a podium, with desks arrayed in rows

mation with an audience, you can slip into your

chatter, laughter, shuffl ing in the room until the

genuine self with a soupçon of public-role poise,

sor. Cell phones get put away, or at least discreetly

throughout your teaching days that help you on

is hushed a moment, the pause of anticipation before the fi rst words of dialogue are spoken.

Is your persona the classic scholar? Do you have a little playful clown thrown in? Are you the compassionate guide, leading stu-

All eyes are on you. An actor uses her body to convey information

dents to the knowledge they already possess? Can you switch

you dressed? Does what you wear convey some message about

very best? It can be useful to think of the teacher role as composed

er, or facilitator of the energy in the room? How do you walk in?

ous processes of learning, including enabling you to reach stu-

at the end of a long week, or do they sparkle? Do you walk in the

you are not like that, your alter ego, “Professor Picky”, can be. Al-

the cycle of give-and-take necessary for effective language learn-

as necessary to whip an underachieving class into shape. Being a

emotion, even comedy? These are things worth thinking about,

not train for it and fi nd useful tools and approaches that may aid

about her character before she even speaks. So do you. How are

hats to that of the taskmaster, pushing for and demanding the

your position in this play, your role, your persona as teacher, lead-

of these different personae that serve useful functions in the vari-

Are your eyes downcast, reflecting your students’ spent energy

dents of different backgrounds, needs, and learning styles. Even if

room with pizzazz, transmitting vital energy to them, to create

though you are more lenient, “Scholar Strict” can be called upon

ing? Do you use gestures, winks, and nods to convey information,

teacher is a public role that requires daily public speaking; why

because one of the most important ways you are like an actor is in

in maintaining your interest, creating a positive learning environ-

this all-important function. Your energy and presence set the tone.

ment, and aiding in efficient classroom management?

Just as audiences must have faith in actors and suspend their dis-

If you think some training might help you focus your body as in-

belief to fully enter into the world the actors are creating, your


NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

strument and help you channel energy more effi ciently and effec-

tively in the classroom, here are some suggestions to get you started:

• Take an acting class. Learn how to use body


language, breath, and voice to create energy and atmosphere.

• Take a public speaking class. Learn relaxation techniques, visualization techniques, and tips for effectively conveying a message.

• Join a group such as Toastmasters International, where you’ll learn tips for public speaking.

• Listen to and read poetry aloud. Learn about cadence, rhythm, and volume to use your voice more effectively—and to save it from too many of

those hoarse, raggedy, “I’ve-spoken-too-much” days!

• Similarly, take a vocal or voice training class. Learn specific breathing exercises to strengthen

your voice and to become expert in effectively and

effi ciently using and saving your voice. Here is a website to get you thinking about your own parallels between acting and teaching: http://www/

References Godwin, G. (1974). The Odd Woman. New York: Ballantine Books.

http://www/ actingquotations.html

Elizabeth Fonseca is an avid traveler who has taught ESL/EFL in

such countries as Italy, Turkey,

and the United Arab Emirates. Her work has been published in

the Arabia Review and the Trav-

eler’s Tales series, among others. Her interest in acting stems from

high school and community theater days, as well as more recent poetry readings. She currently teaches at Nassau Community College in New York.


The field of ESOL has lost one of its most revered members, Jeanette D. Macero, who died May 9, 2011. Jeanette was passionate in her dedication to non-native speakers of English as exemplifi ed by her teaching, mentoring and participation in professional organizations. Jeanette, one of the founders of NYS ESOL BEA (now NYS TESOL—see note below), was a leader in that organization nonstop until her retirement from Syracuse University in 1998, as associate professor of English and TESOL coordinator of languages, literatures and linguistics. She moved to Medfi eld, MA to be near her family. Many NYS TESOL members will testify to the mentoring they received from Jeanette, who held leadership positions in the organization for her entire career. Jeanette graduated with a BA in English from Barnard College, an MA in linguistics from Columbia University, and did doctoral study in linguistics at the University of Michigan. She was president, second vice president twice, and chair of various TESOL committees: publications, paper selection, awards and nominations. Twice, she received the NYS TESOL Distinguished Service Award. In addition to Jeanette’s full-time teaching at Syracuse University, she published skill books for beginners of English through Laubach Literacy (now known as ProLiteracy), as well as a number of scholarly papers and addresses, edited books of readings, and acted as consultant to many groups. All those who knew Jeanette are aware of her many accomplishments in professional organizations and her skillful teaching, but those closest to her will remember most her kind and compassionate manner to all she met and worked with, her hearty laugh, and her engaging personality. Jeanette’s friends and colleagues have lost a treasure. Vel Chesser, retired from Syracuse University, can be reached at <> Editor’s note: With thanks to NYS TESOL historian George Morris: The very fi rst organization was called NY TESOL (No “S” for State), then NYS ESOL BEA. The founding date is 1970 (hence our 40th anniversary in 2010). The split into NYS TESOL and NYSABE was in the early 1980s. NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)



The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have been

adopted by dozens of states. The NYS Board of Regents adopted the

states to share experiences and best practices within and across states

that could lead to an improved ability to serve ELLs. The K-12 English-

language arts and mathematics standards do include information on the Application of the Standards for English Language Learners, located at

new P-12 CCLS for ELA, Literacy, and Mathematics in January 2011;

One segment of the Application of ELA Core Standards recommends

13, NYS assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics will

essential that they have access to:

it will be phased in over the next year. Beginning in school year 2012-

measure student achievement of the P-12 CCLS. Find New York State’s complete CCLS timeline at www.usny.

that to help ELLs meet high academic standards in language arts it is

• Teachers and personnel at the school and district levels who


are well prepared and qualifi ed to support ELLs while taking

The initiative began in the spring of 2009 and was coordinated by the


National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSO). The advisory group

for the initiative comprises Achieve, Inc., ACT, the College Board, the

National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), and the State Higher Education Executive Offi cers (SHEO).

advantage of the many strengths and skills they bring to the

• Literacy-rich school environments where students are immersed in a variety of language experiences; • Instruction that develops foundational skills in English and enables ELLs to participate fully in gradelevel coursework;

The Common Core State Standards Initiative released a draft of the

• Coursework that prepares ELLs for post secondary education or

tember 2009, and the individual K-12 grade-level content standards in

ing content in a second language (through specifi c pedagogi-

math and language arts content standards for public comment in Septhese subjects were released for public comment in March 2010. Both sets of content standards were finalized in 2010.

Criteria for Development

the workplace, yet is made comprehensible for students learncal techniques and additional resources);

• Opportunities for classroom discourse and interaction that are

designed to enable ELLs to develop communicative strengths in language arts;

This process differed from past standards initiatives because it was

• Ongoing assessment and feedback to guide learning;

as prominent education, business and state leaders’ organizations. The

• Speakers of English who know the language well enough to

state led and had the support of educators across the country as well standards were developed by the following criteria: • Aligned with expectations for college and career success; • Clear, so that educators and parents know what they need to do to help students learn;

• Consistent across all states, so that students are not taught to a lower standard just because of where they live; • Inclusive of both content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills;

• Built upon strengths and lessons of current state standards and standards of top-performing nations; • Realistic, for effective use in the classroom; • Informed by other top-performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; • Evidence and research based (Quay, 2010); • Application of the Standards for English Language Learners. Common standards can potentially provide a greater opportunity for


NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

provide ELLs with models and support; • Need for English Language Proficiency Standards. The Common Core did not spell out how the standards applied to

specific levels of English profi ciency. It was left up to states to cre-

ate English Language Profi ciency Standards that align with the Core Standards or to explain how specifi c standards can best be taught to

students depending on their level of English profi ciency. In her July 12 blog at Education Week, “Learning the Language,” Mary Ann Zehr recognized this need by reporting that Stanford University has received a $1 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York

to create English Language Proficiency Standards for the states’ Common Core Academic Standards. Dr. Kenji Hakuta, a professor of educa-

tion at Stanford University, a member of the Common Core Validation Committee, and a long-time expert on ELLs; and Maria Santos, the

former director of programs for ELLs for the New York City school

system, are co-chairs of this national effort to write standards for ELLs to parallel the Language Arts and Mathematics Standards of the Common Core, as well as the Science Standards that are expected to be de-

veloped. This grant award fills the gap in the process of implementing the Common Core for ELLs (Zehr, 2011). The grant, which lasts for

two years, is called “Building on Common-Core Standards to Improve Learning for English-Language Learners.”

“The effort is to think about the content areas in the common core that offer strategically fertile areas around which language instruction can take place,” Dr. Hakuta explained. “The standards will elaborate on what ELLs should know and be able to do in the content areas at different English proficiency levels,” he added. (Zehr, 2011).

Preparing ELLs for the Common Core—A Webinar On May 5, 2011, Dr. Hakuta presented a webinar at called “Research to Practice: Preparing ELLs for the Common Core.” He offered his thoughts

and ideas during the webinar under the topic of planning for the Common Core, including: • Recognize that language is necessary to teach, learn, and demonstrate understanding in school subjects, and that this is true for all students, but especially for ELLs;

• Engage in the idea that excellence in instruction and assessment around content revolves around the idea of rich language use; • Build the professional development around the idea that language instruc-

tion is the domain of all teachers, not just English Language Arts and ESL teachers;

• Identify your objectives, assessments, and best practices in classrooms and ensure that you’re making progress toward those objectives; • Use the Common Core to recognize and amplify the opportunity for rich language development for ELLs and for all students (Hakuta, 2011). According to Dr. Hakuta, there are some key elements for ELLs regarding the Common Core, including: • The Common Core provides a strong incentive to examine the role of lan-

guage in content instruction and in assessment; there is a role for leadership to take advantage of this opportunity;

• Even though the Common Core says nothing about the English Language profi ciency expectations of ELLs, there is a requirement that English language profi ciency be aligned to the Common Core; • There will be more commonality across states in the identifi cation of students because there will be more common profi ciency tests; • The Common Core has the potential to move ELL performance/ proficiency both across schools and across the country (Hakuta, 2011).

Criteria for Writing Common Core Curriculum Materials Last summer, the nonprofi t group Common Core issued a set of free curriculum

Some Helpful Resources - Common Core Curriculum Maps: - Common Core Standards and English Language Learners: educators/common_core - Common Core State Standards Initiative Web site: - Common Core Standards Work for ELLs: The Importance of Linking English Language Proficiency Standards to the Common Core Standards powerpoint/ELLELPStandardsPPT%20Slide.pdf - K-6 Units in ELA Aligned with Common Core Standards: - P21 Common Core Toolkit www.p21. org/images/p21_toolkit_fi nal.pdf - Websites of the members of the advisory board to the Common Core Initiative: Achieve, Inc.: ACT: The College Board: National Association of State Boards of Education: State Higher Education Executive Officers:

maps. The maps are designed to give an understandable sequence of thematic curriculum units that connect the skills provided in the ELA.

(continued on page 17) NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)



Idioms pop up everywhere in English media, often met with confused looks by our students. Even more advanced students have diffi culty using them with any degree of competence, especially if the idioms are culturally different from their own (Irujo, 1986). Given their importance, more attention should be paid to teaching idioms in ESL settings (Cooper, 1998). It is up to teachers to help students not only learn idioms, but also to encourage their usage in an intelligible manner. How can we incorporate idioms into classroom settings in a relaxed, communicative, and student-centered way? More important, how can we teach the intonation of idioms to achieve students’ maximum intelligibility? I have found the following three activities to be helpful for my students.

BYOI—Bring Your Own Idiom Each student chooses one idiom to “teach” the class. They may

choose from any source, and learn it well enough to be able to explain it in front of their classmates. This is a great warm-up; it’s student-centered and exciting, since they have chosen these

idioms themselves based on their own interests. Don’t be sur-

prised if a number of idioms come from Gossip Girl or Glee, American television programs centering around high-school

students, so idioms relating to dating and shopping tend to surface quite often (i.e., It’s on me; She’s into him; Those shoes are

totally you). During the students’ explanations, I stay off to the

side and will assist only if the situation calls for it; I have even done this activity remotely via Skype when I was home sick in bed. Having the students in charge of this activity made it quite

manageable. It can also act as a springboard for all kinds of culturerelated discussions.

Where Is the CHAnge? A major obstacle facing our students is intelligibility, especially when using idioms. While pronunciation may be a factor, an equally important factor is proper intonation. As the pitch in our voices rises and falls, these changes in intonation are processed by the listener (Cruttenden, 1986). If you have ever studied Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese, you may be familiar with the inextricable link between the proper tone and communication.

In English as well, when language is given the correct intona-

tion, communication can be greatly enhanced. To emphasize this point with my students, I imitate the “wa wa” teacher from

Charlie Brown. I walk around the class, lock eyes with a stu-


NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

dent, raise my hand, and slowly say “Wa, wa wa Wa?” What I am actually saying is “Hi, how are You?” Students inevitably

guess correctly and are quite surprised that they can under-

stand what I am saying. Once they have caught on, we can then

create contextual situations and apply the proper intonation. A mini-dialogue I might have with a student in front of the class, in which my role would be B, is as follows:

A: What are you doing this weekend? B: This weekend? Nothing special. I’ll probably just hang OUt. A: OK. Give me a call. B: Alright.

After the classmates have heard the dialogue, I will ask them,

“Where is the change?” Hopefully, they will hear “OUt” on the

fi rst try. I will then mark it on the board. The rise in pitch at the beginning of “OUt” rather than on the word “hang” is essential to the intelligibility of the idiom as well as to the rest of the

dialogue. Teachers play a vital role here. Once an idiom is presented, either the students or the teacher should provide/elicit

the proper intonation and then mark it. This marking system is especially important for non-native-English-speaking teachers who may be unfamiliar with the proper intonation of idioms.

The good news regarding idiomatic phrases is that there are general intonation patterns. In an emphasized two-syllable

word, such as “brainer” in the expression “no-brainer,” the

word tends to receive a higher tone or pitch on the fi rst syllable. It’s a no-BRAIner. In the case of a one-syllable word, such

as “cake” in the expression “piece of cake,” there is a higher tone on the fi rst half of the word: It’s a piece of CAke. In either

case, the rising intonation at the beginning is then followed by

a falling intonation. Saying the idiom in front of your students

in slow motion can really help to clarify this, and it is also good for a laugh. When students know the proper intonation, communication can be achieved even with less-than-perfect pronunciation. This is good news for our students, as it is generally

much easier to change the pitch of a word than to pronounce the word properly.

Mini Dialogues The mini dialogues written by the students, followed by an inclass role play, are not only a lot of fun but practical and effective exercises for ESL students (Nunan, 2003; Scott & Ytreberg,

2000). They could be done as homework or in class individu-

ally, in pairs, or in groups. These dialogues supply the context necessary to achieve natural usage and effective communication (Nippold & Martin, 1989). The task is to write mini dia-

logues, where each dialogue contains at least one idiom from

class, either from our text or from one of the students’ BYOI. There should be just enough context (4-6 lines) for the exchange to be meaningful (Nippold & Martin, 1989). Make sure the students understand that even though these dialogues are being

written down, they should be striving for spoken and not written English. I also ask them to consider the roles of the speakers as in the following student dialogue (the professor is putting on her coat as her student enters the office):

A: Excuse me. Professor? Are you busy?

B: I’m running LAte, actually. I’ll be here tomorrow. A: Ok, thank you. B: Alright.

This exchange meets the criteria in that it is a spoken dialogue, the roles are defi ned, at least one idiom is used, and the idiom is marked with the proper intonation. Once their dialogues are

done, I collect, correct, and return them. Afterward, I circulate, taking student questions on my corrections. Then, I have each pair practice and perform at least one of their dialogues in front of the class. Eye contact, body language (students must sit facing each other), and voice man-

agement should be emphasized during practice time. Be sure to circulate, as some students will simply read the dialogue together. I walk around with a blank sheet of 8½ x 11 paper, which I use

to cover up the dialogue they are working on. This forces them to look up and, hopefully, at each other. The students then perform at the front of the class. I act as the director, yelling “Action!”

and opening/closing my cell phone like a director’s slate. The class listens for the idiom used in the dialogue. This is always fun, as students enjoy watching their classmates perform. I like to supply props/wigs to spice it up. Be prepared for the cameras to come out! I also quiz them on the idiom and the intonation right after each dialogue.

Conclusion English continues to be a global language. Proper knowledge and usage of idioms are powerful tools for anyone requiring English in daily communication. By focusing on the proper intonation for our students to achieve maximum intelligibility, we are better equipping them for the English-speaking world. It is important for us as teachers to go the extra mile.

References Cooper, T. C. (1998). Teaching idioms. Foreign Language Annals, 31(2), 255-266. Cruttenden, M. (1986). Intonation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Irujo, S. (1986). Don’t put your leg in your mouth: Transfer in the acquisition of idioms in a second language. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 287-304.

Nippold, M. A., & Martin, S. T. (1989). Idiom interpretation in isolation versus context: A developmental study with adolescents. Journal Speech & Hearing Research, 32, 59-66. Nunan, D. (2003). Practical English teaching. New York: McGraw Hill. Scott, W. A., & Ytreberg, L. H. (2000). Teaching English to children. New York: Longman. Andrew Schneider has been teaching ESL/EFL for 20 years, having taught in Japan, Spain, and the United States. He currently teaches medical students in Kanazawa, Japan. <>

Promising Practices

This is an ongoing column, featuring advice for effective teaching. Please send article submissions to the column editor, Ann C. Wintergerst (contact information on page 22 of this issue).





am delighted to combine my background in publishing with my love of TESOL as the new editor of Idiom. Thank you to my predecessor, Julie Dziewisz, for her great work and help with a smooth transition. I also thank the column editors, copy editor, NYS TESOL leadership and members for the warm welcome. My career began with a B.A. in journalism from NYU. After I switched to marketing, and later fundraising, I volunteered in an ESOL classroom and loved it. I enrolled in Teachers College, Columbia University, graduated with an Ed.M. in TESOL, and began working as an adjunct at Pace, CUNY, and Columbia. Presently, I work in an intensive English program at Nassau Community College. We focus on improving students’ skills through an integrated, holistic approach, so that they can exit our program and be prepared for college-level work. I also instruct and mentor aspiring TESOL teachers at the Literacy Assistance Center. I welcome the chance to meet with interested writers during the Annual conference in October. See you there! --Cara <> NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)


FOR ELLS, TALKING IS LEARNING by Elaine Caputo Ferrara

with their conversation group. In groups, students generate their own questions using the Reporter’s Questions. When the class comes together, one student from each conversation group writes one question

ESL teachers employ a variety of instructional tools in the classroom. Conversation can be used to help students practice pronunciation, to prepare and develop a well-thought-out paragraph, and to enhance listening skills. Most important, conversational activities tap into students’ schema to help them fully develop critical thinking skills in English. Below are several activities I have used

on the board—the questions should not be duplicates of other groups’ questions. Students read each question aloud. I ask the whole class for grammatical corrections to the questions. After completing the exercise, students write a summary of the biography—they can use these questions or the ones from the conversation group—and show this to their conversation partner for feedback. Their homework is to create a revised version of the in-class written summary that incorporates their partners’ feedback. They staple the draft to the top of the rewrite.

with my students.

Using conversation sheets, such as those available at, also provides

To introduce the concept of students’ origins, I show students how to

opportunities for interaction. Each conversation

use the Reporter’s Questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and

sheet centers on a theme such as seasons, media,

How) to gather information. Students partner with one another to ask

habits, and customs. These can be used to talk

these questions and record the answers. When the class comes togeth-

about the topic in conversation groups, to learn

er again, I ask the group, “Who has a partner coming from a country

vocabulary specific to a topic, and to practice pro-

whos name begins with the letter A?” Students might answer Argenti-

nunciation. I ask students to look up definitions of

na. The class then identifi es which continent Argentina is on. Students

highlighted words on the sheets. As an instructor,

check the map in the classroom to know more about their partner’s

using these sheets is a way to determine students’

home country. This is repeated until the end of the alphabet. Students

familiarity with American culture and to plan

work with their partners to see what they already know about these

class trips. Students can also conduct research to

countries. This prior knowledge helps students realize that they know

enhance their knowledge about media.

more than they think about geography and other topics. Next, the class discusses the variety of languages spoken by the students. After obtaining this information, students put the names of these languages on the board. This fi rst conversation in class provides information needed for the first writing assignment, which is the biography of a

I used these conversation activities with levels 3 to 7 students (as measured by the Best Plus) enrolled in non-credit ESL CUNY courses for a semester or more. Students ranged from 18 to 60 years, were from all over the world, and spoke a wide variety of languages. Some were recently arrived professionals who had university degrees; others had a basic education in their native country.

class member. The fi rst draft begins in class and is

Students developed a sense of community be-

peer reviewed for content by the student’s conver-

cause of the shared conversation exercises. Many

sation partners. Their homework is to review the

good friendships began in class and continued

draft and to rewrite it at home on the computer.

after graduation. These friendships made it more

The next day, I review the homework with stu-

enjoyable for many to attend class on a regular

dents and focus my comments on a grammatical

basis and did lead to fewer absences. By the end,

topic, such as verb tense usage. I choose to focus

students learned how to express their ideas more

my feedback on one or two aspects of the writing

clearly in English and how to formulate questions

assignment so that a completely marked-up paper

for future educational use. Their critical thinking

does not increase students’ writing anxiety.

skills were used to evaluate the new information and to compare it to what they already knew.

The next assignment involves reading a biography about a famous American. It might be a commonly known American like George Washington or someone from a particular fi eld. After forming groups and prior to reading, students discuss what they already know about the person and what they expect to see in the article. I introduce the concepts of topic and main idea as well as vocabulary specific to the story. After reading the biography, students individually answer the Reporter’s Questions from the article, and then share their answers


NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

Elaine Caputo Ferrara received a Master’s degree from N.Y.U. in educational psychology, with a specialty in reading and special education. At the College of Staten Island, she teaches reading and writing to college students in ESL classes. Recently, she developed a citizenship class for students. <>


CALL FOR AWARDS EXCEPTIONAL PROFESSIONALS To honor contributions made within our fi eld, NYS TESOL presents several awards annually, including: James A. Lydon Distinguished Service Award

October 28-29, 2011

Outstanding Teacher Award Recognition Award

New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Lifetime Achievement Award James E. Weaver Memorial Award Special Award


41st Annual Conference “Enhancing English Learning: Connecting Communities Through Collaboration” Marriott Hotel Melville, NY For further information, go to and check your e-mail on the NYS TESOL Listserv If you are interested in volunteering or have questions, contact Conference Chair Christy Baralis at


Recognition Award Outstanding Teacher

Dr. Anita Batist Dr. Maria Dove


Lifetime Achievement Award Recognition Award Outstanding Teacher

Estee Lopez Dr. Walter Sullivan & Saul Cohen Barbara Suter


James E. Weaver Memorial Award Recognition Award Outstanding Teacher

Alison O’Neil Sam Hoyt Donna Bove


James A. Lydon Distinguished Service Recognition Award Outstanding Teacher

George Morris Maria Neira Dr. Andrea Honigs feld & Caryn Bachar


James A. Lydon Distinguished Service Outstanding Teacher

Dr. Frank Tang Patricia C. La Rose


James A. Lydon Distinguished Service

Diana Segovia Praus

2011 Award Winners will be presented at the 41st Annual Conference October 28th & 29th, 2011 Please review our available awards and criteria for submission at Submit all nominations and supporting documentation as attachments via e-mail to: Meredith Van Schuyler, All submissions due September 23, 2011. NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)


Book Review This is an ongoing column, featuring reviews of books and other materials for ESOL teachers and students. Please send article submissions to the column editor, Nanette Dougherty (contact information is on page 22).

The first section includes competitive games, which are designed to increase motivation by fostering collaboration within groups while creating a safe, spirited environment. Many of the games in this section focus on the correction of material provided by the teacher. This, of course, means that the instructor must devote time to the preparation

More Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Movement Activities for EFL Students. By Mario Rinvolucri and Paul Davis. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. UK. (2010). 176 pp. ISBN: 978-0-52146630-1 Reviewed by Kathryn North

Mario Rinvolucri and Paul Davis’ More Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Movement Activities for EFL Students provides a revamping of their earlier work Grammar Games, which was originally published in 1984. The authors designed the text to provide EFL/ ESL teachers with a framework for games that can be modified to be appropriate for different age groups and varied English proficiency levels. Therefore, while the usefulness of the book as a supplemental text in the adult ESL classroom is the main purpose of this review, its utility can be applied to various teaching scenarios. The text is divided into nine sections including “Competitive Games,” “Cognitive Games,” “Feelings and Grammar,” “Listening to People,” “Movement and Grammar,” “Meaning and Translation,” “Problem Solving,” “Correction” and “Presentation,” for a total of 81 games, or mini-lessons. As the titles suggest, many lessons are rooted in the principles of well-known English language learning methodologies including the Silent Way, as well as Counseling-Learning/Community Language Learning (CLL). The book begins with a table of contents noting the games and page numbers. This is followed by a detailed map of the book with the game titles, grammar topics covered, and levels and time needed. The introduction also includes commentary from the authors on how the book can be used and their rationale for the methodologies utilized by section. Each game begins with the title of the game and a box restating the details from the map of the book. If the game can be adapted for other structures and levels, a sub-box states this. To start the main portion of the mini-lesson,


need to rewrite these in Standard American English.

of the game. For some this could be less than ideal. The cognitive games in section two are unique in their structure as, according to the authors, the exercises are mostly open-ended ones: this differs from many grammar exercises that require one correct response. The flexibility of the activities allows students to discover various aspects of the language without the direct infl uence of the instructor. While these types of activities can be very creative and have their place in certain contexts, giving students unlimited control over the types of sentences produced can cause the direction of the lesson to be diverted. For this reason, although this section follows the Silent Way method in its purest form (Larsen-Freeman, 2000), the lack of fi nal language destination does not follow the integrated and pragmatic way that the Silent Way is often practiced in the classroom. Sections three and four, which deal with feelings and listening to others, respectively, are arguably the strongest chapters. Here, games are designed to promote healthy interpersonal discussions, which require speakers to make use of a specific grammar structure. Many teachers can attest to the positive influence that mutual understanding, respect and personal investment in the classroom can have on productivity (e.g., Counseling Learning and Community Language Learning—see Larsen-Freeman, 2000). Section five is made up of games that incorporate grammar and movement. While there is a modicum of Desuggestopedia inherent in games throughout the text, this section explicitly focuses on the usage of movement to instill language concepts. The rationale seems to be that students are more open to language learning when the preconceived mental and emotional barriers to learning are “desuggested” through lighthearted activity (LarsenFreeman, 2000).

the authors note any preparation required before class.

In the meaning and translation games found in section six, the miniles-

This is followed by a breakdown of the in-class proce-

sons focus on having students develop a deeper grasp of the nuances

dures of the game. The authors also include examples,

and root meaning of language by linking English with their mother

variations, a rationale overview, and notes or acknowl-

tongue. While the debate over the use of translation in the ESL class-

edgements when necessary. Lastly, any required hand-

room continues, using native languages as a resource in the foreign/

outs are provided. On a minor note, the examples and

second language classroom can help to build linguistic abilities in both

handouts are written using British English vocabulary.

languages, bridge existing knowledge to the acquisition of the new

In the case of classes in the United States, instructors will

language, and give validity to the first language (Baker, 2006; Gibbons,

NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

2009). Therefore, if instructors use these mini-lessons, they may find

Learning in the Challenge Zone. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

that when properly administered, deep learning can take place during games that use translation.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Teaching and Principles in Language Teaching (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

The last three sections are less substantial. Section seven deals with problem solving. Section eight offers techniques for self, peer and teacher corrections. Finally, section nine recommends alternatives for the presentation of new grammar topics to a class. Both students and teacher have much to gain from More Grammar Games. The authors offer ideas for games that appeal to many different learning styles. With the exception of musical and natural intelligences, this book contains games that promote all the multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2006). The book also lists games specifically designed to strengthen receptive skills to help students become more active listeners and readers. Furthermore, utilizing grammar games, an instructor can adeptly introduce grammar topics without the use

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2001). Teaching grammar. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed.) (pp. 251-266). Boston: Heinkle & Heinkle Thomson Learning. Rinvolucri, M., & Davis, P. (1995). More Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Movement Activities for EFL Students. New York: Cambridge University Press. Kathryn N. North is a recent graduate of New York University’s Master’s Program in TESOL. An ESOL instructor with the New York Public Library, Kathryn also tutors writing and developmental reading at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. <>

of overt grammatical language. Although the discussion of teaching grammatical form vs. focusing on communicative interactions is still very predominant in the ESL teaching fi eld, research has shown that the integration of grammar with contextualized language creates the most effi cient mode of learning (Larsen-Freeman 2001). To offer some criticism, the organizational structure of the text can be challenging. For those who normally organize lessons in a progression of scaffolded topics, the division by underlying pedagogical approaches may be less intuitive. In addition, the organization within the sections is unclear and finding a game for a specific grammar topic or level requires some hunting within the map of the text. Further, many of the games, especially in sections one and two, require a fair amount of setup. While an instructor may hope to use a book of games as a quick reference for lesson ideas, the time required for finding an appropriate lesson and setup prevent the book from being used in that manner. Finally, while one would assume that all of the games are related explicitly to grammar, some have a more semantic focus. This does not deter the student from gaining knowledge but should be noted.

References Baker, C. (2006). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (4th ed.). Toronto: Multilingual Matters. Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New Horizons. New York: Basic Books. Gibbons, P. (2009). English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking:


NYS TESOL SIG Coordinator In coordination with the 2011 NYS TESOL annual conference, “Enhancing English Learning: Connecting Communities through Collaboration,” the topic for this year’s student essay contest, “How has your community helped you learn English?,” revolved around communities and the role that living, working, and interacting in them plays in the English language learners’ (ELLs) acquisition of English. The essay contest was held for students who are current or former ELLs within three categories: students in grades four through eight; students in grades nine through twelve; and students enrolled in a university or an adult education program, including students enrolled in Intensive English programs, community colleges, degree-based programs, and ESOL programs. The student essay contest was very successful, with 113 essays received from throughout New York State. A winner and an honorary mention were chosen from each of the three categories. The names of the winners and honorary mentions will be announced during the Friday luncheon at the annual conference and their essays will be printed in the conference booklet. The winning essays will also be included in the winter edition of Idiom as well as be posted on the NYS TESOL Special Interest Group (SIG) Student Essay Contest page. Please join me in thanking all of the students who submitted essays to the sixth annual student essay contest! Watch for news about the 2012 contest in an upcoming issue of Idiom, as well as on our website. NYS TESOL Idiom Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2011)


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