Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019 American English Teacher Seminar

The entire exchange program was sponsored by U.S. Department of State, implemented by FHI 360, with local programming by San Diego Diplomacy Council. There were 21 participants in total from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. The hosts gave us a brief overview of the program and logistics. As a border city with a considerable population of immigrants, we would be mainly focusing on bilingual education and school visits. Then, for our professional development programs, there would be topics related to Content-Based Instruction, Teaching English in English, Dual Immersion, etc.

Focus Groups with Kate

Kate works with the Office of English Language Programs of the Department of State, which also funded the entire exchange program. We had a focus group discussion with her to talk about our reflections on the AE E-Teacher programs and suggestions to make it better.

I have already attended three ten-week long online English teacher training programs, including Integrating Critical Thinking Skills, Globalization and Language Education, and Building Teaching Skills Through the Interactive Web. They helped greatly with my professional development in terms of lesson planning and teaching demonstrations. I shared innovative teaching practices at workshops and received well from English teachers in Taiwan. Specifically speaking, I learned how to incorporate Task-Based Learning, Backward Design, Rubrics, ABCD Learning Objectives, and so on into international education, English camps, and teaching demonstrations.

Other than professional growth, the best part of these programs was for me to interact with excellent English teachers around the world. For example, I met two Japanese AE E-Teacher alumni at an international seminar in Seoul back in 2014. They both shared the same passion as mine, which is creating an authentic environment for students to use the language. I won the International School Award by British Council Taiwan with some international projects by working with them and their students. 

I can't thank the office enough for pulling off so many amazing programs. As a passionate English learner, I love speaking the language and cross-cultural communication.  It will be perfect if there is a platform that we can talk to each other in person, exchanging ideas and resources or something. 

Chula Vista Learning Community Charter High School

The Dual Immersion 50-50 and classroom observations at CVLCC High School

The school is renowned for its organized and systematic TK-12 bilingual education. During the presentation, we learned about the history, philosophy, and incredible achievements of the school, complete with parents and students' feedback. Also, we observed three classes, with one in Spanish and two in English.

Dual Immersion means students are taught literacy and content in two languages. Students will be immersed in English and Spanish for the content areas, starting in kindergarten and lasting for a certain amount of years into high school. Students who start in an English class for half a day, and another group would start in Spanish at the same time. Halfway through the day, they switch. Therefore, teachers teach in English will teach each lesson twice, and the same goes for the other. The dual immersion curriculum is connected with the four pillars of the school, which are dual language, community engagement, local perspectives, and social justice.

The whole experience at CVLCC was educational and inspirational as well. In Taiwan, bilingual public schools are just about to take shape in many cities, with some subjects taught in both Chinese and English. I wonder how they operate and differ from the ones that I've seen in the States. On top of that, the administrators and teachers shared a wonderful sense of community. They were proud of the school's success and embraced the vision and philosophy of bilingual education.

Educational Technology

Educational technology, from a simple PowerPoint presentation, intriguing apps on a smartphone, to fancy websites that can do many amazing things, is becoming a necessity in the classroom. The purpose of using it, however, is not always so clear. It's tempting to try out a new app without considering how it will help students learn better only because they would find it amusing. There are many workshops introducing apps and websites at workshops back in Taiwan, but very few of them were able to be put under one meaningful context. The lecturers tended to present them separately, but it usually worked.

We learned about four apps/websites today, including Canvas, Kahoot, Quizlet, and Breaking News English. I had tried all of them before, so it was more like a reviewing class to me. However, I never used the first one with my students because I wondered if every one of them had access to the internet at home. More importantly, they didn't have to submit homework or read anything online.

Genre, Audience, and Purpose for Academic Reading and Writing

We discussed in groups how GAP affect writing and how to incorporate it in reading and writing instruction. Then, the lecturer provided a list of examples centering on an environment movement happening in SDSU and then identify the genre, audience, and purpose of each. We proceeded to think about teaching activities that would be applicable in our settings.

The way Myles organized each activity is inspirational for someone who shares teaching practices at workshops like me. He used authentic materials to get us to think and discuss effectively. The highlight of this session was the use of different formats of writing that led to the same theme. Also, we were engaged with one task after another, so time passed quickly.

Teaching English in English

Well, it was not quite a class I had expected, but we picked up some useful techniques regarding this topic with a mini lesson. The idea was to teach a foreign language to the whole class without using any English, including some simple vocabulary words and sentence patterns.

My partners and I chose to teach Chinese. We decided to use classroom objects to teach words like pen, book, and ruler. We first got them to repeat what they heard when holding up a pen, two pens, and three pens. They then practiced with each other in pair work. Finally, I selected some participants and put them into two teams for a competition, showing the exact number of pens that they heard.

The trick is having students immersed in the target language, repeating the vocab words many times, and figuring out the sentence structure. As a teacher, our job is to create opportunities for our students to use the language.

Back in Taiwan, the MOE has been encouraging high school English teachers to teach English in English but to no avail. The common excuses would be, "Our students are of mixed abilities, and those slow learners would find it more difficult to keep up.", "We don't want to make English learning, especially grammar, even harder.", and "That doesn't help with the test scores."

Well, it sounds almost right, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, being a Taiwanese English teacher doesn't have to speak English in the class a bit. For me, I used EMI for special occasions for an extended period of time, such as teaching demonstrations, English camps and clubs, and international education.

The key is to create an authentic environment for students to finish tasks with scaffolding collaboratively. 

Writing Assessment

Rubrics can help assess whether students have achieved our desired goals. We can look for ready-made writing rubrics online or go to Rubistar and create a new one that caters to our needs. For example, based on the purpose of the writing assignment, we can choose the categories like topic sentence, content, sentence structure, to name just a few.

Content Based Instruction

Learning about CBI and some interesting activity ideas

Kelly's delivery style is fantastic. She's good with her intonation and inflection. Her pitch, pace, and tone varied a lot so that it's hard to get bored. When she explained an idea on the slide, you wouldn't think it was all theoretical but feel her passion in a storying-telling like tone. Then, she would stop and share an exciting activity to go with it. Without showing photos or video clips, we didn't know how students respond to the activity. However, I was still enamored with her way of presentation.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), Engish as the Medium of Instruction (EMI), and CBI are getting trendy at workshops in Taiwan. The government has established a policy to promote using English as an official language by 2030. It also means English teachers are expected to teach in English, which of course, drew criticism by lots of naysayers.
I represented my group to share teaching activities ideas with the class three times in a row today, and it was received well by my fellow participants. I considered myself a passionate English learner, practicing speaking online and doing workshops in the language. Being recognized as a fluent speaker made my heart sing.

Monarch School

The mission of the Monarch School is to educate students impacted by homelessness and to help them develop hope for a future with the necessary skills and experiences for personal success

Some staff members gave us a campus tour. I was impressed by how the school provided lots of programs to help students get into college. We interacted with some 12 graders who were working on the preparation for university admission.

Nestor Language Academy Charter

Learning about how Dual Immersion took effect through many classroom observations

This whole experience at Nestor, including program introduction, classroom observations, and staff reflections is the best site visit I ever had during our stay in San Diego. Not only did we learn about Dual Immersion teaching practices, but everybody felt the genuine enthusiasm and dedication from the staff.
First, the program director shared the school's achievement in establishing a bilingual learning environment along the way, from K to eighth-graders. I was especially impressed by the 90-10 model because it helped students master two languages in an organized and systematic way.

Following that, we got to participate in numerous classes, featuring reading, geography, science, and so on. Though I knew nothing about Spanish, based on students' participation and engagement, I dared to say they were all paying attention and collaborating with their partners for some tasks. Also, we got to interact with some students while they were doing the assignments.

Last but not least, the staff shared a lot of heartfelt ideas about teaching and classroom management during the Q&A session. I could relate to what they said about getting students to interact, instead of lecturing throughout the class. Based on what we say in those classes, I would say they all did a fantastic job.

Volunteer Activity at Tiffany Elementary

Helping with the setup of the Ninja Warrior obstacle course for lower elementary students

It was a brand new experience that we did volunteer at a local elementary school. The principal requested us to set up for the activity. We had no idea what to do with the obstacles, but then slowly we figured it all out.

It was fun to watch those lower elementary students run through the obstacles. They finished a lap and got a slip of paper. I guess the more you collect, the better. Some of them bumped against the barriers, and we volunteers put them back up.

After a few laps, they were panting and covered in sweat. Though getting winded, some of them kept going. Some parents took part and ran alongside their children, which was pleasant to see.

The principal then briefed us about the school vision, mission statement, the dual immersion program, etc. What impressed me most was that they could cater to parents' requests and apply for Spanish language curriculum accordingly. You rarely see this in Taiwan except for some private alternative schools.

Throughout our visit, the principal was all by himself to accompany us. Some participants said that principals in our home countries would dress formally and have help from the staff.

University of San Diego, Department of Learning and Teaching

We enjoyed exploring the beautiful campus of USD for a while before heading to the Department of Learning and Teaching. Everybody was busy taking pictures here and there. The book store was more like a souvenir shop for me.

Dr. Sarina Molina's areas of expertise include TESOL, teaching practices in multicultural settings, immigrant students' English learning, and so on. She gave a lecture on world Englishes, language and identity, and her works on textbooks incorporating global perspectives.  

 San Diego County Office of Education

"To have another language is to possess another soul."
Global California 2030

Dual Immersion is one of the main themes of the seminar. With previous school visits, I got to participate and observe how local teachers implemented the policy in the class. Students were learning subjects, including science, math, etc., in Spanish. With the presentation at SDCOE, we got a better understanding of how the whole idea and policy took shape.

During the presentation, we also learned about Global California 2030, complete with its vision, goals, and various programs. People in California voted to have Spanish and other languages taught in schools to replace English Only policy. They viewed immigrants' first language as an asset, not something to discard.

Through the video clips, I found it fascinating that students were learning Chinese in their science class. Some students expressed how they enjoyed learning the foreign language in an interview. 

The presenter told us that the most challenging part was to recruit eligible foreign language teachers. Also, we discussed how the government assisted immigrant students with similar programs in our settings. Taiwan relies heavily on foreign labors in many ways. Do we have language learning resources for them in schools? 

Connect English

A classroom observation featuring useful techniques to teach English in English

Connect English is an English language learning institute. They offer a variety of programs, including general, test preparation, conversation English, and so on.

The teacher we observed was vibrant and energetic. He was good at using real-life examples to explain new words and grammar. Throughout the whole class, most students were engaged with activities like discussion, role play, listening comprehension, and so on.

The students in the class come from Brasil, Saudi Arabi, and Turkey. They came here for English learning from one to six months. Their English level ranged from elementary to intermediate. I got to chat with two of them during recess, learning about why they wanted to learn English in the States.

This class got me thinking about two things related to learning and teaching the language. One, these students were still learning very basic English, but they had this chance to be immersed in such an environment. I couldn't help thinking about how I got to this level without studying in an English-speaking country. Also, the teacher didn't use any fancy apps or even a PowerPoint presentation, but he still delivered a good class. If I get to teach gifted students again next semester, I definitely will review the video a lot.

Networking Mixer and Dinner Hospitality

As a passionate English learner, I would definitely love to put my English skills to the test during my stay in San Diego. By networking with total strangers, I got to practice striking up and carrying on a conversation with locals.

During the mixer, I had a long conversation with Molly, who is also an educator specializing in STEM teaching activities. Also, I talked with an experienced ESL teacher about how challenging it was to get students to practice speaking the language in an EFL and test-oriented setting.

Thanks to Alexa, who cooked the iconic Mexican dishes, we had a good time having do-it-yourslef tacos and burritos with minced meat filling. She invited three of her friends to join us, and we chatted about so many topics. We exchanged the beauty of our cities and cultures with the famous Sun cakes and pineapple cakes I brought from my hometown. On top of that, we couldn't stop talking about our favorite TV series, such as Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, 13 Reasons Why, and so on. This would be one of the fond memories to bring back to Taiwan.

Excursions in San Diego

Other than professional development and site visits, excursions also played an integral part in this exchange program because we got to experience a bit of the history and culture of San Diego. The above photo collages and videos showcased the beauty of the following popular tourist attractions, including La Jolla, San Diego State University, University of San Diego, Waterfront Park, Old Town, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado Island. Of course, there's still a lot remaining to be explored, so I'll just have to expect to come back someday.  


  1. Good job Richard! Very Precise! Impressive!

    1. Thanks. Blogging is a hobby of mine. I'm glad you enjoyed it.