Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday morning: getting my TESOL legs

TESOL Conventions are so big, so spread out, so crowded that it's kind of a shock to find oneself at one. The program book has 284 pages, and I just received it on arriving at the Convention Center this morning. How can I possibly decide what to see and where to go? Going through the offerings carefully (or at all) will take up hours, but the first sessions are beginning RIGHT NOW! What to do?

The first thing I did was to make haste to get to a session on Using Class Time Effectively, given by Penny Ur for Cambridge, because I was hoping to meet up with a friend who works for Cambridge (which I did). I also remembered Penny's excellent plenary in New York two years ago, so I figured this would be time well spent; and it was, although arriving halfway through the presentation was problematic. Penny spoke about the primacy of a positive teacher-student relationship, high-interest activities that are sufficiently (but not too) challenging for the students, communicative use of language, progress, success, and enjoyment. However, in the end, she felt that communicativeness and authenticity could perhaps be dispensed with in favor of "optimum quantity of learning, success-orientation, hetereogeneity (=more than one possible response) and interest. I think being a student in Penny's class must be a wonderful experience.

Having arranged to meet my friend for coffee at 3:00, I next made my way to the Electronic Village to see if I could find some webheads. The first EV Fair was in session, and I was able to catch snatches of Ibrahim Rustamov's and Mary Hillis' presentations. It was difficult to hear, though, as the room is rather small and it was quite crowded! I saw some other friends and acquaintances there: Rita Zeinstejer, Holly Dilatush (whom I met f2f for the 1st time), Veronica Baig, Andy Bowman and I apologize to those I forgot.
Rita and Mary


Rita Abdelnour and me (1st f2f meeting)

Derya and me (first f2f meeting)

After that, I sat down and looked at the EV schedule and the program book for a few minutes, trying to orient myself. I noticed a discussion about "Dealing with Plagiarism", moderated by Mark Wolfersberger of BYU/Hawaii. I'm interested in the topic (because students always plagiarize no matter what I do or say) and I was also curious about the discussion format, since my own session is a discussion. There were lots of people there, so instead of a big roundtable discussion, Mark broke us up into small groups to tell our plagiarism stories and consider why students plagiarized and how we responded to it.

After that, I attended another publisher's session by Doug Biber about Real Grammar, the textbook I am currently using with my advanced reading/writing/grammar class, which is a corpus-based text, very different from the traditional ESL grammar book. I really like the book, so it was cool to hear one of the authors talk about it.

Then I found a little table where I could open up my laptop to post to the blog and eat the sandwich I brought. While I was sitting here, two of my colleagues showed up. Considering the size of the convention and the number of people here, it's kind of amazing to run into people you know.

I am particularly hoping to run into Berta Leiva, whom I have known virtually for 4 years but never met f2f. Berta, where are you?

Webheads are meeting at the EV after the CALL-IS meeting at 7:00 tonight to go out to dinner. Nobody knows where we will go or how many are going to show up. Details later.


  1. Hi, Nina!! It all sounds so exciting!! I'd like to be a student in Penny's class too -I remember a talk she gave about homework years ago. She has a way of addressing challenging, complex issues with such clarity and definition without being simplistic that I love.

    I would have attended the session on plagiarism as well -I like how the presenter organized the groups.

    I hope you continue enjoying the conference and I'll come back to read more about your experience.

    Have fun at dinner tonight!!

  2. Dear Bea, it's good of you to check in with the blog. It's the first time I've had a laptop with me at the convention, so I am trying to post more about the sessions I am attending. It's really hard t do that if too much time goes by after the session! By the time one gets home at night at 11 or 12, having been up since 5, it's impossible to sit down and summarize the sessions. Anyway, thanks for following.

  3. What an exciting day!

    The photos are wonderful: thanks for sharing them.

    Douglas Biber is from Northern Arizona University. Did you know that? I've attended some of his presentations, but not recently.

    Enjoy your time in Boston!

    Best from Phoenix--


  4. No, Dennis, I had no idea where Doug Biber is from. I love his book, though!

  5. It was so nice to see your smiling face again, Nina. You're a big part of the warm memories:-)

  6. Hi Nina,

    I haven't been able to come to the blog properly again until today. It looks fantastic!! Keeping a blog while attending a conference, even if you do it collaboratively, is very hard work. Thank you so much to everyone that made this blog possible so we can participate in a way.

    It looks like there was also time to have fun! I hope I can make it next time -meeting you all f2f would be as much of a treat as the conference itself.