Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Natural Language


By Agung Kristianto, ELL Instructor at MCC

I attended a workshop facilitated by Dr. Randi Reppen at the MIDTESOL Conference. In this workshop, she focused on the use of corpus research (research on large collection of natural language) to inform language teaching decisions and resource in the language classroom. She also proposed the use of corpora as a resource for material development and student activities. She started the workshop with providing the rationale of using corpora for vocabulary and grammar instruction. She claims that using corpora can provide insights into language use where intuition fails. In addition, she believes that corpora can serve as teaching materials by providing examples of authentic language.  Then, she continued to share some online corpus and corpus softwares. Some example of free online corpora are COCA (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/) , Word and Phrase (focused on academic language, http://www.wordandphrase.info/), MICASE (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/c/corpus/corpus?page=home;c=micase;cc=micase), and Wikipedia corpus (http://corpus.byu.edu/wikipedia.asp). Whereas, some example of corpus software are Monoconc, Ant Conc, and Word Smith.

Having shown some basic functions and features from some of the above corpora, she proposed that the use of corpora may also help English language learners’ vocabulary acquisition in the following areas: lexical verbs such as irregular verbs, affixes, multi word and single word verbs, and collocation. In addition, using corpora can provide a language teacher with example of patterns such as the use of preposition ‘in’ and ‘of’.

Additionally, in this workshop the facilitator showed how corpora can inform language teacher the most frequent verbs used in English that both are irregular verbs and have multiple meanings. Therefore, acquisition of these lexical verbs can be challenging for English learners. Thus, using corpora may inform teacher with some ideas and authentic language examples to deal with this particular challenge. Another example the facilitator mentioned was the use of corpora to provide advanced language learner in academic writing skills improvement. She gave an example of how corpora can serve English language learners to find better collocation. Finally, she encourages language teachers to explore and use corpora as one tool that can be useful in helping English language teachers and learners in the area of vocabulary and grammar acquisition.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Challenges & Opportunities for English Learners

By Agung Kristianto, ELL Instructor at MCC

Image result for inquiryI attended a workshop entitled “Challenges and Opportunities for English Learners (ELs) in Mathematics and Science Language” facilitated by Dr. Lia Plakans, Renka Ohta, Crissa Stephens, and Warren Merkel at the Iowa Culture and Language Conference (ICLC) pre-conference session. In this workshop, the facilitators proposed the following ideas: bridging language, math, and science for ELs; recognizing linguistic challenges; supporting language learning opportunities; and cultural considerations.
First, the facilitators suggested that language teachers should be aware of the challenges of ELs. These challenges depend on the following factors: their English language (L2) proficiency, first language (L1) and home culture, prior educational experience, literacy levels in their L1 and L2, and grade level. Having known these challenges, the facilitator argued for the following strategies to bridging the language challenges. That is, by minimizing linguistic challenges and supporting language opportunities.
Second, the facilitators encouraged math and science teachers to recognize the ELs’ linguistic challenges. Some examples of these particular challenges are unfamiliar words/ phrases, sentence complexity, and cultural knowledge. An example of unfamiliar words can be found in the use of polysemous words in math. Another example of this problem often appears in the use of prepositional phrases such as the preposition ‘by’ used in the following examples: the room is 12 ft by 16 ft; the number can be divided by 3; and by noon the temperature had risen. In addition to these word level problems, sentence complexity can also pose challenges for ELs. Some examples of this are the use of passive voice, conditional clause, and relative clause. Next, the facilitator discussed the challenge of ELs’ cultural knowledge. That is, a particular cultural knowledge that only certain cultural group of students is familiar with. An example of this is a test question that requires the knowledge of particular sport such as American football.
Third, having recognized those challenges, the facilitators proposed some strategies that could support language-learning opportunities. These strategies are, for example, activating prior knowledge before reading; introducing strategies for reading science and math texts; illustrating academic language function: describe, explain, predict, infer, conclude; teaching the use of graphic organizers: before, during, after; and using writing to support reading and analysis: using informal journal.
Finally, in the area of cultural challenges, the facilitators offer the following strategies: create a community of inquiry using discussion questions with more than one answer, recognize the complexities and multiple ways of seeing content in learners’ subject areas, use their background knowledge as a basis for introducing new material, and create an environment where diverse linguistic and cultural resources are asset to learning. At the end of the workshop, the attendees had the opportunities to apply the strategies through an activity that required the workshop attendees to modify some challenges found math and science questions.