Sunday, August 11, 2013

TESOL Seminar @ CSU Fullerton - August 10, 2013

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia, Dr. Ken Beatty, Dr. Hayo Reinders, Dr. Rod Ellis, and Dr. David Nunan speak at the Seminar held at California State University, Fullerton, on Saturday, August 10, 2013, from 2 pm to 5 pm.

During the first 90 minutes, Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia talked about her life in TESOL, from the early beginnings to the present time.  She talked about her parents who had immigrated to the United States from Germany between the two world wars.  She honored a good teacher she'd had in school, one who had taught her the parts of speech. She then went on about her studying German as a second language through the grammar translation method and the teacher who was nonnative German speaker.  Dr. Celce-Murcia attended the University of Illinois, where her major was English and her minor German.  For her major, she studied not only literature but also linguistics, which she found very interesting.  For her minor,  she learned about German literature, history, and culture through skills-based activities.  She then had two practice teaching assignments in her senior year, one at the Franklin Park High School in Chicago and the other for Jean Praninskas, which she completed without having received any mentoring.  Although Marianne Celce-Murcia knew that she wanted to be a teacher since she was five years old, it was during her senior year that she decided that she wanted to teach English as a second language.  She then went to UCLA to get her MA in Linguistics, which she obtained in 1964.  She taught ESL and trained teachers for two years in Nigeria, where she also met her husband.  She had an interesting and challenging experience there teaching pronunciation using a British textbook 
J.  After her two years in Nigeria, in 1966, Dr. Celce-Murcia returned to Los Angeles, where she worked as a researcher and a linguistic consultant with computer programmers for three years.  She then went back to UCLA to complete her Ph.D. in Linguistics.  Once she graduated, in 1972, she was immediately hired by the UCLA ESL section, where she worked for 30 years and finally retired in 2002.  During her years of teaching, Dr. Celce-Murcia experienced various language teaching methods and approaches, and learned about many more through reading, conferences, and demos.  She mentioned discussions of communicative competence (Hymes, Canale & Swain), work on learner strategies (Rubin, Cohen, O'Malley & Chamot), research on motivation (from Gardner & Lambert to Dornyei), curricular innovations, second language acquisition research (Ellis, Larsen-Freeman & Long, Swain), as well as discourse analysis and functional & corpus linguistics (Halliday & Hasan, Biber, McCarthy) as the influences on her development as a language educator.  To conclude, Dr. Celce-Murcia left us with a parting image: "Look at language as if you had an expensive camera -- with a wide-angle lens and a zoom lens.  Whether analyzing discourse with your students or analyzing their output to give them feedback, get the large picture first and then zoom in on the details as needed."

During the second 90 minutes, Dr. Ken Beatty, Dr. Hayo Reinders, Dr. Rod Ellis, and Dr. David Nunan talked about "creativity" in language learning and teaching.  First, Dr. Beatty discussed tending to the needs of the students and keeping the lessons real in terms of practicality and not getting into vocabulary and/or features that the learners won't need to use in the real world.  Second, Dr. Reinders talked about the use of games in language teaching and learning.  He explained the difference between the games that are useful in language learning and those that aren't as well as the role of the teacher in observing the students play and using these games effectively.  Third, Dr. Ellis discussed "ludic" language play and the effectiveness of substituting words in learning a language.  Finally, Dr. Nunan talked about the definition of creativity and left us with one sentence: "Creativity is putting the imagination to work."

I feel honored to have been able to attend this seminar and meet these people who have had such significant impacts on various aspects of teaching English to speakers of other languages.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dr. Cheryl B. Zimmerman

I had the privilege to attend the OC CATESOL conference held on Saturday, April 6th, at Biola University, and listen to Academic Word Knowledge: A Sound Investment, by Dr. Cheryl B. Zimmerman, the main speaker at this conference.
Dr. Zimmerman started by talking about the significance of word knowledge and discussed the five steps involved in this "investment." 

The first step was to identify the goals: whether the goal is social interaction, testing, reading/listening comprehension, or expression. 
The second step was to be familiar with different types of investment to know all the options: the instruction can be explicit, practice in context, through reading, or by using technology (Teaching Channel - 

The third step was to budget to meet the goals and to have a spending plan: to know what it means to know a word -- the different layers of word knowledge -- and a formative assessment, in which students identify their level of familiarity with the word and whether/how confidently they use it in speaking and writing.  The assessment chart can be found in Word Knowledge (Zimmerman, 2009, p. 116). 
The fourth step was to invest to meet the goals and to stick with the fundamentals: the multiple meanings of a word, its cognates, and its collocations (The Compleat Lexical Tutor -

The fifth step was to re-examine the investment goals and strategies: an evaluation of the instruction in terms of what works and what needs more focus.

Dr. Zimmerman also provided a list of useful electronic resources, which are invaluable tools for the vocabulary instructor.  Furthermore, reading some of the sources in her reference list led me to thinking of some new ways instructors can help students learn new words, which has now become a new project for me.
The conference was a remarkable experience for me.  Not only was I able to learn from Dr. Zimmerman about academic word knowledge, but I was also given the opportunity to hear several graduate students talk about the posters they were presenting, all of which were very informative.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all those involved in making this conference happen.
                                                                                                     Noosha Ravaghi

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Good Books...

Here are some of the books I've enjoyed reading the last few months:

Three Cups of Tea

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Cutting for Stone

A Thousand Splendid Suns


The Help

Sarah's Key

Little Bee

Friday, May 18, 2012

Professor Diane Larsen-Freeman

Professor Diane Larsen-Freeman had a conference at UCI on Monday, May 14, 2012, from 3pm to 5pm.  The 14th was the day before my final exam in TESL 527, or SLA.   Although Second Language Acquisition is a new field, there are a million articles written about it, and the process of learning is never ending because this baby is still growing.  Anyway, it was either go to the conference or review for the test.  While the grade I will get on my final exam might reflect that I should have reviewed - and should have tried to maintain my 4.0 GPA in the program - I chose to go to the conference and I am so glad that I did.

I was very excited about the conference.  In fact, I was so excited that I arrived there before everyone else - even before the caterers, according to the Humanities Language Learning Program coordinator, Ms. Newman, who came and unlocked the door to the conference room.  I was the first one to put my name down on the list of attendants.  After a few minutes, others started to arrive, and Professor Diane Larsen-Freeman was accompanied by Dr. Glen Levine, the director of Humanities Language Learning Program.  My first reaction, when I saw Professor Larsen-Freeman, was that she and my grandmother shared many facial features.  I got distracted by that for a few minutes, as I sadly felt how much I missed my grandmother.  However, as soon as she started talking, I came back to reality.  It wasn't 3pm yet, and people were still coming.  Of course, my SLA professor, Dr. Zimmerman came, and when she arrived, she gave me and my classmate, who was sitting next to me, a surprised look.  She just asked, "The day before the test?"

The title of the conference was "A Complexity Approach to Teaching Language."  Professor Larsen-Freeman started her speech by talking about science - actual science - and she let us think about its connection to language.  "Complexity theorists study complex, nonlinear, dynamic systems. Language is one such system."  She talked about fractals in nature.  She mentioned that for her all of this started when she read a book by James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science.

"Teaching can be seen in a complexity approach as managing the dynamics of learning, exploiting the complex adaptive nature of language use in an iterative fashion while also ensuring that co-adaptation between students and teacher and among students works for the benefit of learning."

She then talked about the dynamicity of language.  In addition to the two ways language is known to be dynamic, she proposed a third way - organic dynamism.  Professor Larsen-Freeman mentioned her book Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics, which she wrote with Lynne Cameron.  Another concept that she mentioned was "morphogenesis" - which involves appropriating and innovating.  She also talked about "affordances" - giving opportunities to learn. 

Professor Larsen-Freeman discussed several activities that could benefit language learners.  The first one was presenting a picture of a room full of objects and asking "Who lives here?"  The students have to explain their choice by using the verb "to be" - "There is a dress in the closet."  "There are earrings on the table."  The second activity was showing a family portrait in which the parents appear but there is an empty space where the child should be.  This gives teachers the opportunity to describe the child using the possessive form - "The child has the mother's eyebrows" - and ask the students to draw him/her.  The third activity was telling a story and having the listener repeat it to another listener, and another, and so on.  Repeating a story will create not only fluency but also accuracy because once the facts of the story become evident in the teller's mind, s/he can focus on grammar.  The fourth activity was drawing or, as Professor Larsen-Freeman did, creating a town with a main street, a park with trees and benches, a city hall, a post office, and a library using Cuisenaire rods.  This will provide the opportunity for the teacher to explain the difference between using "There is a tree next to the bench" and "The library is next to the post office."  "There is" is used only when new information is introduced; when some information is expected, such as a town having a library and a post office, "There is" should not be used.

These activities led Professor Larsen-Freeman to explain the concept of "techneme" created by Earl Stevick. The idea is to take a technique, change it a little bit, and an new activity is created, as well as a new learning opportunity.

Attending this conference was an amazing experience, and I felt special listening to and seeing Professor Larsen-Freeman in person.  She is a fantastic lecturer and she has a great sense of humor.   Many thanks to all of those who made this event possible and to Dr. Zimmerman who mentioned this conference in her SLA class.  I look forward to another opportunity to attend one of her conferences.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Noosha Ravaghi

Noosha Ravaghi, born in Iran in 1970, spent her first four years in Tehran with her father and paternal grandparents.  She spent the next six years of her life traveling with her father to a number of countries, such as the United States, France, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, and learning different languages (English, French, Arabic, and Farsi) before she went back to Iran just in time to start high school.  After Noosha graduated from high school, she started teaching English as a Foreign Language to students of various ages at different schools.  She then decided to study French literature and worked with several magazines proofreading French and English texts and translating literary articles from French into Farsi.  Noosha got her Masters  in French Literature at University of Tehran in Iran.  She then went to France, where she attended Sorbonne – Paris III.  In 1997, Noosha went to California, where she got a second Masters, and graduated with honors, in Education – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at California State University – Fullerton.   Noosha is now in Orange County, California, where she has been editing books and teaching English, Farsi, and French to children as well as adults since 1997.   She enjoys traveling, watching movies, and writing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011