I attended my first KOTESOL International Conference this past weekend. I was impressed and had a few good experiences. I just want to share some of the ideas and experiences gained.
I was only able to see four presentations as I was also volunteering. I’m very grateful for the volunteering experience. I was able to work with a Korean college student who spent 17 years living in Uzbekistan. It was nice to hear her comparison between the two cultures.
Of the four presentations, I would say that Neil Anderson’s discussion about “Improving L2 Reading Fluency” stands out the most. Who knew that the average rate of English Language reading for high school students was 63 words per minute (which contrasts with a native speaker norm of 214 for ninth grade students)? Anderson offered a variety of tips to increase reading fluency, which included a technique he labeled “shadow reading.” There are five major steps, which Anderson describes as:
- Students listen to the reading passage.
- Students listen and follow the text with their eyes.
- Students listen and speak the text.
- Students silently read the text.
- Students orally read the text.
The key to making this effective is to time students, establish benchmarks, and then progressively attempt to move at a faster rate each time. A phrase Anderson used a lot during this presentation was “under time pressure.” I clearly see the value of time pressure as it pertains to developing fluency in the right context.
This was certainly the most memorable presentation I attended. The plenary left me uninspired. I think the majority of the audience was already well sold on the idea of “communities of practice.” I also saw a presentation concerning effective lead-ins. One can get quite deep on that topic, such as how to best elicit personal experience during a lead-in. The presenter, Roger Fusselman provided a good illustration of an effective lead-in, both at the start of his presentation, as well as through a video example.
All in all, I had a good time. I found about five small ways to tweak my teaching right now—which is always a great feeling. I got to meet a ton of people I never would have met otherwise and was well fed gratis the whole time. What more could one want?