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.