Great KOTESOL weekend (part one, probably)

I’ve been to a few kotesol conferences and felt that this would be my last one.  This one was great in so many ways that I definitely want to return next year.  I learned a lot during the conference, had a lot of ideas that were not directly connected to the seminars I was currently in and connected with a lot of old friends.  I almost always felt good about teaching; now I am recharged and excited about planning the next semester and trying new things.

First, Tom and Barbara real fantastic hosts.  I was wonderfully taken care of and would not be able to offer the same level of care at my own home to visitors.  Thanks so much T&B and if you visit Busan, I will help you find a nice hotel.

Alright, it’s Monday morning and I need to start a discussion of the seminars I attended before I forget.  The summary and critique below is partly to help my reader(s) and partly to organize my own thinking on the subjects.  I need to this summary of the weekend now because last year I kept pushing it to the next day and the next day… I never published.

On Saturday morning, the conference started out strong with a great talk by Heidi Nam.

Heidi Vande Voort Nam, who I think has been very involved with KOTESOL for years, discussed “six techniques for monitoring students’ comprehension in class.”  I already understood the problem but really enjoyed her suggestions on how to solve it.

After teaching some material, it is a waste of time to ask, “Is this okay?” or “Do you understand?” Even asking, “Do you have any questions?” can be a waste of time.  (I do like asking “Do you have any questions?” and feel that encouraging questions (and proper formation in English of questions) is important.  I continue to ask this question and thanking my interrogators in the hope of hearing more).

Nam offered a hierarchy of ways to check comprehension, starting with translations and building up to “cold calls”.

The six techniques were:

  1. Through translation.  Even if you don’t know the translation, if most people in class are saying the same word, it is probably right.
  2. Through TPR.  “On the faucet, the left side is hot and the right is cold.  Turn on the hot water.”
  3. Asking a Yes’No question or a discrimination question.  “Is this KOTESOL?”, “Is this JALT?”, “Is this KOTESOL or JALT?”
  4. a written check
  5. pair check
  6. cold calls.  After using some of the previous checks and the students are warmed up, one can “cold call”.  “Jae-won, where are we?”
I enjoyed a nonsense sentence Nam gave us both for the reasons she mentioned and as a grammar test.
“Hwilim Frolaff, the givnotcher, ikdarfluffed kloggishly through the sladran until wimdroff.”
You can show that you understand grammar without understanding anything about this sentence.  Nam considers this a problem, and I agree, but I also think it can help students know where to look for information and think about sentence construction.  Here are some ‘comprehension’ questions: 1) who is the sentence about?, 2) what is her occupation?, 3) how did she ikdarfluff?
    Better comprehension questions might ask “Wimdroff is: a) a locaiton, b) a season, c) a time of day, or d) an event.”  We know that somehow wimdroff is an endpoint, but this question tests our actual comprehension of the word.
A large fraction of her talk was on tpr and she offered a website:


Next, I went to Ken Morrison’s talk on “From politeness to participation” which was more a discussion of culture and sensitivity than on techniques for use in class.  It was not bad, and Ken was an interesting speaker, but I haven’t given it enough thought to describe quickly.  I have to say I probably won’t, either.  Again, there were points that I liked but it wasn’t what I expected and my note-taking suffered accordingly.  The link I gave above offers his presentation slides.

Next up, Krashen.  That’s for another post.

Oh, Koreabridge was active throughout the weekend, recording interviews with many speakers.


3 Responses to “Great KOTESOL weekend (part one, probably)”

  1. Sean Smith (@CS_sean) Says:

    The most important question is did you go to Ipanema post conference?

  2. surprisesaplenty Says:

    That’s part four, Sean. You’ll have to wait.
    More seriously: no, we didn’t. I stayed at the conference until around 7:00, and Joe Seoul Man, Duane and others stayed almost as late. We ate Dalk-galgbi near the uni.

  3. Jasmine Says:

    It seems like we attended the same workshops. I also enjoyed these.

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