Teaching English in Saudi Arabia: An Interview With Daniel Johnson

14787112_10104428013821697_477744730_oI met Dan Johnson at the University of Illinois where we both received our Masters’ degrees in TESL. After graduation, I went to Missouri and Dan went to Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, we’ve had some different post-grad experiences. I got in touch with him to hear about his life and work in the Middle East.

Unlike my previous interviews, which were in person, my interview with Dan was done over email. It starts off with a few general questions about teaching English and then gets into his experiences in Saudi Arabia later. You’ll find Dan to be an interesting, eloquent answerer of questions. I’m very appreciative of the time and effort he put into these answers and I think you will be too. Enjoy.

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How to Forge Ahead After Midterms

The weeks after midterms are a depressing time of the year for teachers in the United States. Some teachers even have a name for it: DEVOLSON: Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.

The beginning of the semester seems like a lifetime ago. The freshness and excitement of August and September have worn off a long time ago. Students are becoming more tired and apathetic. Winter is right around the corner and yet the end of the semester is nowhere in sight.

The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break is the longest stretch without a break in most schools’ calendars. It truly is a test of endurance. As the days drag on, sometimes you just want to curl up and shut the world out for a few days. Of course, for teachers, that’s not an option. We have to be leaders and drag students, sometimes kicking, sometimes screaming, through the remaining classes of the semester.

Teachers can do a few things to help them make it through and come out on the other end less frazzled, if not all rosy. Here’s how I get through these most difficult months.

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How to Help Your Class Review for a Big Test

Midterm examinations are upon us here in the United States. My classes have their midterms this week. Since the exams are cumulative, we’ve been reviewing everything that we’ve studied so far this semester.

I have a different method of review for each class – my grammar class’s review looks nothing like the review we do in my speaking class – but I always try to consider a few key principles.

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Input Junkies: Can Teachers Infiltrate Social Media?

The illustrious Stephen Krashen was the guest speaker at the MIDTESOL conference this past weekend. Since I follow him on Twitter and know of his inclination to retweet Bill Murray, I was able to predict the opening salvo of jokes, which was actually pretty funny. The rest of his speech was eye-opening (see page 46/48 for his presentation notes). The main focus was on literacy, specifically the connection between the mere presence of books and the ability to read well. And it doesn’t matter what kind of books: Krashen encouraged the attendees to check out comic books and graphic novels and see for ourselves how compelling they are.

His argument was related to a past article in which he argues for the benefits of “junk reading,” meaning reading that isn’t considered “quality.” Pleasure reading, regardless of what language it’s in,  has the potential to put readers in a “flow state,” which can in turn lead to getting readers hooked on reading.

But why does this matter for college-age ESL students? When do they ever read for pleasure, even in their own language?

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