ESL Jeopardy in the… Rhetoric and Composition classroom?

I read somewhere about three or four years ago a paper where someone stated that “TESOL is nothing more than good teaching”. It might have been a professor or some post in some forum, who knows? The point is that the person talked about TESOL instructors as a lesser kind of education professional – one whose practices revolved around whatever “fad” was sweeping their “cute little group” at the time instead of doing “real” teaching and whose content area, a language, was some lesser thing when compared to “real” content. It was probably a theoretical linguist, a theoretical physicist, some economics person, or a medic – usually, they’re the condescending ones. You all know that my stance on instruction is 99% opposite of what this person said – I know that those “fads” are the latest methodologies developed through practical and theoretical research, the “cute little group” is actually a well organized group of professionals, I think that language instruction is one of the most important areas in education (it’s certainly one of the most practical, and when linked with the literature it tends to set minds free), and I know that people who have to complete at least a Master’s Degree, pass a number of tests, and have to attend a number of conferences to keep themselves updated are anything but a “lesser kind of education specialist”. But I do agree with this person in 1% of his / her rant – TESOL is good teaching.

 Before coming to work at the University of Texas at Arlington, I had previously taught ESL. Sure, I also gave “Introduction to Literature” courses, “Basic Composition” courses, and “Technical Writing” courses, but I mostly did ESL. In those ESL classes I managed to develop a teaching style of my own which revolved around immersive, interactive game-based learning. Today at UTA I did the unthinkable (at least the unthinkable in the eyes of the more traditional theoretical physics and economy instructors) and used an ESL strategy in my Reading, Writing, Rhetoric, and Critical Thinking course; and in doing so I rediscovered the knowledge that this (and many other) activities can be used for any course on any classroom.

What activity is this?


Although I can’t write here a detailed description of the rules I use, how classroom interaction should flow, or any of the nuances of the activity (A few years back I published a chapter on it, get the book here: I can say that my Rhetoric students were thrilled. After returning from Spring Break, they got the chance to become engaged in a fun activity (at least fun when compared to more traditional approaches), go back to what they learned, and apply their knowledge to new examples. The competitive aspect of the game kept them on their toes, constantly consulting each other and looking for ways to win, and the collaborative nature (I split them in groups of three) forced them to engage in teamwork as they navigated through their notes in order to tackle the wonderful world of rhetoric.

So, in the end, whether you’re asking your students to “Translate the following sentence” under Translation for 100 points, to “Find the warrant to the following claim and reasons” under Analysis for 300 points, to “Identify the minimal pair between the two following words” under Morphology for 200 points, or even to “Solve the following mathematical proof” under Millennium Prize Math Problems for 500 points, we are all forced to recognize that this activity (and many others) can, and should, be used in every classroom, at least if we are aiming for good, engaging education.

 It certainly beats the hell out of “read on your own and bring me your questions”.

 Find below the PPT Template! You can modify it and put up whatever questions you want!


*Disclaimer – I did not create this PPT, I only modified it. My wife found it on some website and gave it to me ages ago.*


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on March 21, 2011, in Education Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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