What do I mean when I say Interpretive ESL?

Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature poised on a pedestal, this object is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. The soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometres high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star. Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighbourhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. The tower may be a giant incubator for those newborn stars. A torrent of ultraviolet light from a band of massive, hot, young stars [off the top of the image] is eroding the pillar. The starlight also is responsible for illuminating the tower's rough surface. Ghostly streamers of gas can be seen boiling off this surface, creating the haze around the structure and highlighting its three-dimensional shape. The column is silhouetted against the background glow of more distant gas. The edge of the dark hydrogen cloud at the top of the tower is resisting erosion, in a manner similar to that of brush among a field of prairie grass that is being swept up by fire. The fire quickly burns the grass but slows down when it encounters the dense brush. In this celestial case, thick clouds of hydrogen gas and dust have survived longer than their surroundings in the face of a blast of ultraviolet light from the hot, young stars. Inside the gaseous tower, stars may be forming. Some of those stars may have been created by dense gas collapsing under gravity. Other stars may be forming due to pressure from gas that has been heated by the neighbouring hot stars. The first wave of stars may have started forming before the massive star cluster began venting its scorching light. The star birth may have begun when denser regions of cold gas within the tower started collapsing under their own weight to make stars. The bumps and fingers of material in the centre of the tower are examples of these stellar birthing areas. These regions may look small but they are roughly the size of our solar system. The fledgling stars continued to grow as they fed off the surrounding gas cloud. They abruptly stopped growing when light from the star cluster uncovered their gaseous cradles, separating them from their gas supply. Ironically, the young cluster's intense starlight may be inducing star formation in some regions of the tower. Examples can be seen in the large, glowing clumps and finger-shaped protrusions at the top of the structure. The stars may be heating the gas at the top of the tower and creating a shock front, as seen by the bright rim of material tracing the edge of the nebula at top, left. As the heated gas expands, it acts like a battering ram, pushing against the darker cold gas. The intense pressure compresses the gas, making it easier for stars to form. This scenario may continue as the shock front moves slowly down the tower. The dominant colours in the image were produced by gas energized by the star cluster's powerful ultraviolet light. The blue colour at the top is from glowing oxygen. The red colon in the lower region is from glowing hydrogen. The Eagle Nebula image was taken in November 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
 The Eagle Nebula image was taken in November 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

I used to call it Improvisational ESL when I was referring to the actual classes. This was probably because I was teaching my students the fine art of improvising in English.

Interpreting: Finding

alternatives to

traditional thought

I didn’t want to feel trapped by the accepted interpretations of my work as an ESL teacher. I was not satisfied with what others told me would work, I had to find out first if they were right, second if I could offer an alternative.

Reinterpret: Shedding new light on

an old thought

 I began to take concepts such as grammar, pronunciation,listening, speaking and redefine them, both for myself and my students.

  • Grammar became a discovery of patterns.
  • Pronunciation became vocal dance lessons.
  • Listening became the recognition of some, then more, then more of already learned material.
  • Speaking became theatre.

 Speaking as theatre

 It is there that Interpretive ESL teaching has its basis. Theatre is an art that can include all arts, music, painting, dance, drama, comedy, voice, interpretation. Interpretive ESL is a training program quite similar to that which actors and actresses go through: movement, voice, memory, interpretation, communication, understanding, listening, speaking.

 All aspects of ESL methodology can be included in Interpretive ESL. I chose only a few in my own practice, which I have chosen to share in the books and blog.

 So many times I’ve had fellow teachers tell me that what I do is more because of who I am, my own training and formation, impossible for anyone else to do. Perhaps this is true; however, I am not sharing a method, I am not giving a gimmick that will work if you follow the instructions.

I am sharing my own interpretation of what ESL teaching can be.


2 thoughts on “What do I mean when I say Interpretive ESL?

  1. I’m a career-switcher turned ESL teacher with master’s in education. My principal keeps telling me “it’s not my show” and I get it, but they are middle schoolers who don’t know how to have a civil conversation. My undergrad was in speech and drama, so I have been searching for structures to provide them with roles and speaking lines. All I had up to this point was literature circles. Your ideas above are the kinds of solutions I have been looking for. You have helped me see that IT CAN BE MY SHOW as a producer and a director by creating scenes and roles for them to practice how people interact. Your wisdom confirms my instincts have been right all along. As an ESL aide, I pulled ESL students out to cover content through role-play. Now as a professional, I’m measured by the formatting and detail of my written lesson plans using the Marzano brand of language. Receipt of your suggestions gives me hope of getting back to my roots and strengthening the academic literacy of ESL students–which was the reason I went back to school in the first place. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Stephana.

      So glad to hear that my thoughts have been inspirational for you.

      Though ESL teachers often have to do some “lip service” to administrators, and administrators often look to items like lesson plans and grades to evaluate teachers, one important aspect that comes into that evaluation equation of your work is student satisfaction. Despite perhaps using “unorthodox” methods, if students are both achieving the proficiency expected in the curriculum and are also coming out of your classroom laughing and with a desire to attend the next class, that can give you “administrative leeway” when it comes to those same lesson plans.

      Administrators are all-too-often just that: administrators. They have to think about budgets, results, statistics. And though many of them are former educators and probably have strong backgrounds in education, once they have to administrate, they seem to “forget” what being on the front line is like. We have to be empathetic to them. Struggling or rebelling against administrative policy only makes the struggle worse and does not make for a good working relationship between teachers and directors. Meeting the goals set up for you while implementing alternative methods goes a long way in keeping that relationship healthy.

      Finally, though it does take a “special” kind of teacher to reach the balance between textbook / testing standards language teaching and creative, communicative objectives, most of what I “preach” is fully supported in any number of reputable “methods” out there. For example, a great deal of my warm up activity is based upon the “Audio Lingual” method. Though “debunked” in its day, it remains a respected source of material for the ESL classroom.

      Good luck with your teaching work and do tell your fellow teachers about what you’ve gleaned from my site!



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