The 30 Days Song

IWTLE will host all of its audio contents on PodBean. This will make access to the audio tracks that correspond to the textbook much easier with phone apps and free download options. We are nearing the official launch of the textbook. Check out this sample.

The 30 Day Song

Do you know how many days are in each month? Well, here’s a fun way to remember. Sing along.

30 days has September, April, June and November.

The rest have 31 days, you see, except February.

An Audio Sample From The Textbook “I Want To Learn English”

city-road-street-italy

Here is an audio sample for the “soon to be released” Level 1 ESL Textbook “I Want To Learn English.” It comes from Unit 3 which focuses on consonant blends. The textbook will be released in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

blue-play-button_fyMs9LUO_L33.1 Listen to the following short conversation and repeat. Then, practice with a partner.

Student A: Excuse me, sir. Where is the Florida school?

Student B: It’s on twelfth street.

Student A: Do I need to travel very far?

Student B: It’s just three blocks away. If you walk fast, you can get there in a few minutes.

Student A: Thank you very much.

Student B: Oh, you are very welcome.

TESOL International Conference in April 2016

 

tesol

As in the past, I will be attending the TESOL International Convention. The difference is this year time I will be representing Baltimore City Community College and will also be presenting my findings of using phonics more explicitly with adult learners and how this methodology is prevalent in my own teaching practice. I presented at the Maryland  TESOL Conference in 2014 and shared the results of using my phonics based textbook (I Want To Learn English) with colleagues and other professionals. The response was very positive. Now, the book is in the final phases of publication and I will have physical copies of the book to share with professionals from around the world this April. This, as you can imagine, is not only exciting, but a long time coming.

It is fitting since BCCC has been supporting me in the project since day one. I cannot express enough how thankful I am for Doug Weimer and others at BCCC for their continued support of this textbook project. But all that aside, the numbers simply do not lie. This book and the strategies it employs are immensely effective in teaching adults English. Students’ CASAS scores have improved significantly. That was my goal at the onset, my purpose when I set out to write this textbook, and I can honestly say “Mission Accomplished!”

The obvious question I get a lot is, of course, when will the next book in the series be available? I don’t think it will take nearly as long as the first one (which took 5 years to complete), but depending on the financial success of the first book will likely be the greatest determinant of how swift the second will come along. If the book does well in sales, then it will obviously demand and Book 2 be available sooner rather than later.

Level 1 Textbook Due for Release Winter 2015

We wanted the book to be released by the end of summer, but due to financial setbacks (and logistical challenges) it was concluded the best thing to do would be to wait to release the I Want To Learn English textbook around the holidays 2015. Even though there were grants to help fund the project, the amount of money was insufficient to get everything in order for a late summer release. Therefore, more time to use the textbook on another sample of students to get more accurate data is clearly the silver lining here.

Kickstarter Campaign Launched

Now that the “I Want To Learn English” textbook (prototype) is going on its third year in use, the data collected thus far shows this program works for adult English Language Learners at the beginner level. It even proves to be a very useful tool for students at intermediate levels. Now, the textbook is in its final stages before completion. With an eye on publishing the first edition this summer, a Kickstarter campaign is being launched to fund the project. Students and instructors both can make pledges to help make this textbook project a commercial reality, and also be among the very first to receive of the textbook.

Please take moment to look at the Kickstarter page, watch the video promo and make a pledge today. Your time and consideration is greatly appreciated. At the end of the day, this project is all about helping people learn English and building stronger communities. Thank you very much.

Textbook Update

The original plans for the first textbook (level 1) was slated to have six units. However, after two years of trials in adult ESL classes, it became clear getting through just three units for the whole 72 hour course was difficult. It’s difficult because there are so many basic components of the English language that students need to understand in order to lay the foundations for more advanced comprehension. The three units address these fundamentals which are rich in phonic activities, listening and speaking exercises, and grammar components.

Having only three units simplifies many aspects of this textbook as well. For example, concentrating on pronunciation of words with specific digraphs, such as the “ch” and “th” sounds, also gives opportunities to engage in modeled conversations that have words embedded in them with these specific digraphs. This also extends to incorporating a short storyline, grammar practices, writing and reading activities. The concentrated portions of the lessons are in the main units, but the supplemental sections (toward the back of the book) give many more exercise and practice activities to further examine details explained in the main units. This also allows for more emphasis to be placed on details within each lesson without overwhelming students with too much information processing too quickly.

I believe the approach of going step by step renders more language dividends in the long run. Since 2012, students who worked with the I Want To Learn English prototype units have improved their scores on the CASAS exams and some even jumped two levels within a single semester. Some may attribute these highlights to a number of factors, but going further back to years before I developed IWTLE, the success rates did not have the kind of surges I see in the overall numbers now. And with help coming from other instructors using IWTLE with their students, overall student scores will reveal its effectiveness. Stay tuned for these results in the coming months.

The Voiced and Voiceless “Th” Sounds

One of the trickiest digraphs to teach new English Learners is the “Th” sound. This is because it isn’t a common sound produced in non-Latin based languages. In fact, with some exceptions like Arabic, Greek, Albanian and Burmese (for example), many languages do not have voiced or voiceless fricative “Th” sounds in their language at all. For Spanish speaking students, for example, learning words with the “Th” sound is very difficult. Most English Language Learners in my classes have expressed their frustrations in learning words with these voiced and voiceless “Th” sounds. What I always recommend to my students is their dedication to practicing words and sentences with these sounds in them to help them produce the sounds a little more fluidly. This is the primary reason I spend a great deal of time going over digraphs in the first place, especially when working with low beginner students and even all the way up to intermediate level students. An entire unit in the “I Want To Learn English” textbook is dedicated to practicing digraphs. I produced the following video for students to practice the voiced and voiceless “Th” sounds and give some examples to practice with. Please feel free to share this video with as many people as you like. Stay focused and practice as much as possible.

Voice-overs and Other Updates

voice over1

The one thing that has consistently made me curious about ESL textbooks is the homogenized voice actors on so many English learning tools and textbook audio companions. I understand the need to establish “standardized” English vernacular to model for students just starting to learn the language, but the reality is Americans have all sorts of accents, including those from other nations. Essentially, I believe, making simulated conversations without any ethnicity other than Caucasian is truly an unrealistic representation of the American melting pot ELLs face in work and community interactions. For this reason, I have enlisted the help of people with various backgrounds to help with creating the simulated conversations that go with the I Want To Learn English textbook in development. And not only do they vary in ethnicities and accents, but also in age. Some very young voice-over actors (including my 7 year old daughter) and members of our senior citizen community participate in this project. I like the idea of using some of these dialogues for the swing differentiation conversations and listening activities because they present more challenges for those students in the upper proficiency levels.

What is truly useful about having different people participate in the simulated conversations is the sense of “real” people. The nuances in speech are difficult to master when your first language is not English. Americans take this for granted, of course. This is one of the principle reasons it is essential to have a myriad of voices simulating conversations: to give adult ELLs a sense of being in a authentic conversation. Or at least, listen to them for the purpose of deciphering meaning and recalling details about the subjects being discussed. Perhaps this will be realized as students progress, not only in their overall test scores, but in their confidence level and English proficiency. This will ultimately pay major dividends for students working through general comprehension activities to improve their hold on the language, as well as in their improve their articulation skills.

Long and Short Vowels [Review Lesson]

The following video features part of a review lesson on long and short vowels. It demonstrates visual associations with auditory and articulated comprehension of distinct pronunciations of English sounds (specifically long and short vowels) in English words. The words used in the examples are one-syllable words so students may have the least amount of distractions (to avoid confusion) in focusing on the specific vowels sounds being targeted and studied.