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.
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.
It’s always an honor to be selected to present at a conference, since so many people from various backgrounds submit their proposals. However, the MD TESOL Conference 2014 is particularly exciting because Dr. Stephen Krashen, a well respected figure in the field of TESOL, is the keynote speaker at the event and also a presenter on Common Core. Although the excitement is evident, the primary focus for my presentation is to introduce colleagues in teaching English to adult ELLs to the crux of my research project: “Swing Differentiation.” It’s this concept that has lead me to begin creating a prototype textbook I call “I Want To Learn English,” or IWTLE. The birth of this concept came from the inherent need for adult learners to be able to acquire at least some understanding of the essential phonetic foundation of the English language. After some trials and error, I discovered just teaching adults the “bare bones” basic phonetic symbol representations of, say, long and short vowels, paid great dividends in their overall performance throughout the course. For this I needed to work almost exclusively with level 1 students to verify my conclusions. After two years of trials, I had the necessary data to submit to my supervisors at Baltimore City Community College’s Basic English Language Skills (or BELS) program. The number of students who were able to score higher on the CASAS exams and advance to the next level rose exponentially, which made the program director take serious notice of what I had been doing. It was because of their encouragement and support that I have been allowed to continue my methods and studies, which has only become more efficient with each new class. So, my findings, methods, theories and data are at the center of my presentation at the MD TESOL Conference, which I hope will generate more interest from my fellow colleagues and perhaps entice them to participate in my ongoing project. If you were not able to attend the conference, a video stream of my presentation will be made available both through the MD TESOL website (mdtesol.org) and on my channel on You Tube. Stay tuned.
I Want To Learn English began as a research project aiming to improve adult ELLs’ scores on the CASAS exams in Baltimore, Maryland. What I discovered in over two years of implementing phonics intensive curriculum at the onset of beginners’ coursework was it not only improved their overall scores, but a greater number of students were retained throughout the semesters. Curiously, I looked deeper into this unexpected effect and learned adult students found the initial lessons on the phonetic foundation of the English language helped them, generally speaking, grasp the the language more analytically, which is something many students felt was very beneficial in the overall course. This added an intrinsic component to seemingly mechanical methods. This opened my eyes to the multi-faceted, complex miracle that is language acquisition in the adult years. There are so many angles to this phenomenon and much more research is needed to gain more of an understanding of the importance of establishing the basic fundamentals for acquiring English as an adult learner. IWTLE is both a tool and an ongoing research project, which is why I am actively seeking other adult ESL instructors to be a part of this project and put together a more efficient textbook for adult learners than what is currently available on the market. To inquire, please email directly me at firstname.lastname@example.org.