Domain Camp Journal June 28, 2019

Hello, Domain Camp!

I will be attending the IndieWeb summit this weekend, remotely.  It’ my first summit but people have been very kind.  Since we have been discussing in Domain Camp how to organize one’s website(s), domains, subdomains, directories and such and this is something I’ve been struggling with, I hope to learn more about how other people organize theirs.

How’s that for a run-on sentence!

I am so glad these posts can be edited.




One Year Later

I’m playing around with linking a WordPress blog to one of my Moodle Sites.  It seems appropriate to add this one because I used it for a class for EVO exactly a year ago.   My Cheerfully Tilting at Windmills is more personal.

If I can learn how to do this, then, hopefully I can teach others.

Private: Week 3 – Experiential Lesson Plan musings

I have to be careful not to confuse the two projects that I’m working on.  The assignment for this class is to come up with an lesson plan for a teacher training course that incorporates the experiential method/cycle.  My IPP is becoming an evaluation of the tutoring program for the last five years that I’ve been involved with it, with interviews with the current tutors, to hopefully determine a way forward, especially in terms of training, ongoing tutor education and support, and materials available. Whew! That was the sentence that never ends.  And I would like to experiment with the idea of incorporating the experiential approach into the training and ongoing support and education of tutors.

I’m so not there yet.

In the tutoring program, the last training class was held by LVECT in (I believe) early 2012.  Because at least one of the tutors found that the training did not give him the confidence to tutor on his own,  we instituted co-tutoring and shadowing.  I also panicked at teaching absolute beginners for the first time and asked for help.  We have done co-tutoring for that couple ever since (and the group varied in size over the years, so it was the closest thing to a class we had, apart from the short lived grammar girls group and the conversation groups).

LVECT basically shut down in late August 2012 (the same month my dad died).  At the same time the tutoring program was heating up.  The first learner connected to the Putnam Science Academy (he was a teacher studying for his GREs) came to us for help.  The connection blossomed and, for a tiny tutoring program in rural Connecticut, we were getting a lot of students.  We were also getting new tutors, mainly by word of mouth.  But no training program.  Some new practices evolved.  I had a handout for new tutors.  I started a wiki and collected manuals from other tutoring programs on there.  I met with the coordinator of the LV program in  nearby Southbridge, MA and got some advice from her.  We continued to offer shadowing as an option for new teachers (with mixed results).  But it always felt like we could do better.  Like I could do better.

At the same time, despite my excellent TESOL training course (a SIT based program), I didn’t feel that competent as a tutor.  One of the main problems was that all the frameworks that I had been taught were geared toward a conventional classroom and I didn’t know how to convert them well.

I also agreed that the LVECT training seemed insufficient.  They had already lost funding at the time they were training us (summer of 2011) and had to cut down their training time.  Also, they spent time teaching us an assessment program that didn’t work well for the majority of our learners.  Most of our learners were, broadly speaking, intermediate level, and the assessment was geared towards assessing speaking and visual recognition skills for early beginners.  It was quite specific on that level, but quite general after that.

We also worked with people who had intellectual disabilities.  LVECT’s advice to “sit down with your learner, find out their goals and work out a plan from there” was really difficult because, at least with the learners I was working with then, their sense of time and abstract thinking simply didn’t work that way.  It could have been my inexperience.  Also LV said that they didn’t work with people with intellectual disabilities or with people with learning disabilties.  Our local library had a tradition of working with people with intellectual disabilities, because the Dempsey center was right there in town and a staff member had run a tutoring program through the library.  We adjusted, but still had no training on the subject.  I found some articles and added them to the wiki (did I ever actually do this?).  I found enough materials to suggest to one man we were co-tutoring that he might want to explore the possibility of his having dyslexia.  And yes, he got outside advice and testing and found that he did have it.  He moved on to someone who specialized in dyslexia, but I’m still very proud that we were able to help him.

I enrolled at SIT almost on a whim.  I’m very happy I did.  However,  I did find myself with some of the same dilemmas I found after finishing the TESOL certificate course.  How to convert theory to practice. How to convert techniques geared towards the classroom into something that would work in a volunteer tutoring program.

In the middle of the time that I was at SIT (Spring of 2015?), the main source of our ELLs went away.  PSA was kind of a franchise of schools that had a majority of Turkic culture staff and students.  The management decided to close this school.  The staff and their families, who had been our main group of students, moved away to find other jobs.  Some of our learners from the Russian/Eastern European community also moved away in search of better jobs.  Other students moved on because of changes in their personal lives.  (people who came and went?)

Profile of current learners:

Right now we have 4 ELL learners.  2 are an elderly couple who are studying to pass he citizenship test.  (give extended profile here?) Vieng, Hong, ….possibly Anahita?

Tina, Amy – reading and math, have intellectual disabilities…

Profile of tutors:

Profile of facilities:


Background on town, other sources of community education for adults (ELLs and others)


addendum to week 4 – Loop input lesson idea

Posting this quickly, because I just realized how late it must be in Europe.  

I’ve had an idea for a tutor training lesson plan that would incorporate Loop Input. I’ve been sussing it all out, and querying doubts about it as I go along, as well. 


I would introduce the concepts of scaffolding (I’m thinking of having a “Jargon alert” sign) and engaging their students through visuals, hypothesis forming, eliciting experiences, pair work, etc.  I would also introduce them to the ECRIF/Bloom’s taxonomy as a framework.

I’m thinking about this because, though I’m behind the concept of scaffolding all the way, I find that I make a lot of mistakes in implementing it.  I’ve seen it with other tutors as well. It would be good to have a discussion of that issue.  It would also be a good time to talk about signs that show a student is overwhelmed.  I can see a lot of related issues coming up. 

 I also wanted to give them a framework to work from, but a fairly flexible one.  I do have doubts that even this framework would be too rigid/top down for 1 to 1 work, but I’d like to explore it.  

It would have to be a multi-part lesson, though.  I would like them to experience each stage of the framework, plus have time to decompress and be aware of what they’re doing perhaps at each stage.  That would take time.  

If they were constructing their own grids with the framework, they would have to have ideas of activities available and content/forms where it might be useful.  So, I’m not sure of the overall way in which to order the introduction of those things….





Week 5 – Final Reflection

As it were…..as I am going to write and publish this, but I may well edit it after I have read the stuff from other students in the class, as I suspect there is much for me to learn written therein.

What have I found useful in this course – oh, so very much….

On a light note, it has reacquainted me with blogging and with WordPress.  It’s given me a lot of pleasure and upped my techie skills a bit, too.  Never something to be sneezed at!

Much more seriously, this course came at a really good time.  I’m at a crossroads, between being a student learning how to teach and someone who would like to stick not just a toe, but a firm foot into the tutor training waters.

I’ve been exposed to many different circumstances of teaching and many different ideas about how to teach in the last (nearly) 6 years.  I’ve felt rather overwhelmed.  I’ve been trying to assimilate all that I’ve been exposed to, so that it will change how I teach and so that I can share what I’ve learned with others teaching in the tutoring program, most of whom have had no background in pedagogy at all.

It hasn’t gone very well.

This course has given me a framework and a focus to start to do these things.  I’m going back to the roots of what I’ve been taught, being reminded of what I’ve forgotten.  I’ve taken to digging through my notes, old files and books, to find answers to discussion questions or to provide a concrete example.  The Experiential Cycle has been useful as a way to process the past and to figure out what’s next. I’ve found several of the readings to be very helpful.  They’ve really made me think about the details of Experiential learning and how to incorporate that into teacher/tutor training.  And Loop Input looks really useful!

Last, but definitely not least, mere days before finding out about this course, I had been playing in my mind with the idea of reformulating my MA final project.  I was thinking about evaluating what we tried in our tutoring program and incorporating an Experiential Lens as part of that.  I’ve already added new questions for upcoming interviews with tutors for them to start connecting experience to practice.  I’m drafting ideas for a tutor training program that reflects some of what I’ve learned in this course.  I don’t know if that will make it into the paper, or if, given the crazy and frightening politics of our country right now, if I will ever be able to use those ideas, but one has to live in hope.

I would like to give credit where credit is due, by the way, so do let me know how to do that.

But it also has been challenging.  Good challenges!  I’ve realized that teacher training is a field with its own body of learning and expertise.  I’ve still got a lot to learn.  It’s become very clear to me that optimal learning in being a teacher requires just as much scaffolding as teaching EFL/ESL.  You can’t just give potential tutors a lot of resources to read, have them shadow tutoring sessions until they feel comfortable.  It seems like new tutors/teachers (myself and others) will learn best if all the parts of the Experiential Cycle are used.  People need time to put the pieces together, experiment, get good feedback and go it again.  It needs to be a more active, softly structured process.  The readings really came in handy here.

I was also challenged by having to actually get down to details and turn things into lesson plans.  One of the reasons I loved Tessa Woodward’s book was her portrayal of new teachers trying to come up with a lesson plan: wandering around staring into space, surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper, and endless cups of tea.

So thank you for keeping my feet, ever so gently, to the fire. 🙂



Week 4- Loop Input

How can I integrate Loop Input into a course I teach? 

I quite like the Loop Input technique.  I’ve been trying to suss out in my head whether or not they used it in our course of study at SIT.  It certainly seemed like it; I remember the “Ah-ha!” moments I had.  I don’t remember if we explicitly discussed afterwards that it was happening, so it may have been experiential teaching only. 

Putting all that to one side, I do have a bit of a dilemma.  I don’t teach any courses on teacher training, though I have been imagining how a training program might work. I’m still in the information gathering stage, at this point.  It is very nice to have the point raised, however, because it gives me a specific issue to work out. 

Sorry, this is insufficient. Hopefully, I will be able to come up with a hypothetical situation and be able to answer this question properly. 

Thanks for reading! 

Week 3 – First ideas about lesson plan

This is going to be the quickest of posts because it is almost the end of week 4! 

I haven’t really refined the kind of lesson plan that I would like to do…

There is one lesson we had at SIT that I liked very much and would like to incorporate into tutor training.  It was one of our earliest classes, taught face to face by Marti Anderson as part of our Approaches course.  I don’t know if it would be appropriate for this assignment, first of all because I haven’t talked to Marti and it feels rather like stealing to do anything without talking to her.  Secondly, there are some formats and new ideas that I would like to experiment with.  

Marti’s class was this: 

Think of when someone taught you to do something. Remember and write down in as much detail what happened. 

Discuss with class. 

Think of something that you know how to do and can teach in class in about 10 minutes.  

Teach in small groups/pairs (I can’t remember). 

Regather as a group and discuss.  By the way, there were 9 of us in the class. 

To go onto formats I would like to explore: 

I’ve read/viewed the Loop technique materials.  Sounds quite interesting and will save the rest of my thoughts on that for the next post. 

I like the ECRIF framework for learning (Mary Scholl was the leader of the school I did my internship at in Costa Rica).

 ECRIF Website

Also, at a convention in Costa Rica, two young faculty members of a school in Guatemala did a workshop on combining Bloom’s Taxonomy with the ECRIF model.  I’ve always wanted to try it. 

Thanks for reading! 

Week 3 Reflection – Reflections from this week’s readings…


It’s good to read about beliefs and practices as a teacher.  In some ways my beliefs translate into practices and in some ways they don’t.

I enjoyed the reading and the web article.  I enjoyed reading our teacher’s article on how she had to reflect on her learning strategies and figure out why students weren’t utilizing what they had been taught in their final project.  As both a student learning teaching, and a teacher teaching – boy oh boy – have I been there.

I think internalizing and being able to apply what we’ve been taught is a challenge and it was very good to focus on reflection and scaffolding.  I love to reflect and wallow in theory.  When I look back at my education at SIT (and also the SIT certificate course) I was rather lucky in how much reflection, feedback and scaffolding was incorporated into the overall course of study.  Very often one course would leave you with questions that the next course would answer.  The questions that our teachers raised and the discussions that followed helped to clarify my own thinking.  We examined our own beliefs and did activities and discussions on implicit versus explicit learning (the conclusion rather came out to be that both were needed…).

When it came to types of reflection  – I like the idea of keeping a journal, but I’m lousy at actually doing it.  Whenever I take notes on a class or a tutoring session that I have taught, it helps. I need to find a way to make it a habit.  There is a self-reflective feedback sheet that my TESOL Cert. course teacher (Susan Berry) gave us.  I should dig it out (and maybe spread it around).   Peer observation – that’s a winner with me!  We used it in our TESOL Cert. course; it really helped.  The co-teaching model we tried out in Costa Rica was a real winner.  I’d love to do something like that for a year and peer observation and feedback was part of that (though it was the whole enchillada that helped, especially the help with lesson planning!). Adviser observation and feedback helped as well, but it was the ones that were more day to day that helped the most.



Week 3 Reflection Part 2 -What kind of teacher am I?

What kind of teacher am I? How do my practices affect my students?

As a relatively new teacher, I sometimes think that it’s the roughness, the learning curve, the occasional flashes of “Yes! Everything worked!” that affect my students more than practices based on ideas about teaching and learning.  However, my  beliefs about teaching and the kinds of teaching practices I’m drawn to also play a part.  I do try and incorporate them. 

Applying things – that’s the hard part. My belief is that learning should be a partnership, the teacher’s role to facilitate learning. I believe in student centered learning and like implicit learning, but I find myself teaching in the traditional top down and explicit way. I’d like to rely on planned lessons but end up winging it and relying on textbooks. I believe in scaffolding, but often end up giving my students info in one big indigestible chunk or not explaining things clearly.  Why? The nature of the material we have to cover (augh – citizenship test)? Inexperience?  Lack of time? Lack of planning? My students’ preference for the straightforward, traditional way?  

Of course, overall, things aren’t so stark.  Actual teaching seems to be a continuum, sometimes closer to what matches the ideas and sometimes not, and making real life adjustments all the time.

 I do think that I try and keep my students needs and preferences to the forefront and to keep it as a mutual respect thing.  I do try and always remember what’s going on in their lives and how that affect them.  I don’t always get it right, but I think they appreciate it. 

Two textbooks that I have found really helpful (especially in connecting beliefs to practice)  are: 

Planning Lessons and Courses by Tessa Woodward (no I’m not kidding – looking forward to reading about Loops)

Designing Language Courses by Kathleen Graves

To write more specifically about my practices and how they affect my students, I am going back to a paper I wrote for my curriculum design course, (we used Kathleen Graves’ book as the text for the course).  We were reflecting on our beliefs and how they played out in our teaching situations.  I contrasted two tutoring sessions.  E and H were both Turkish mothers of young children and we had sessions (with varying success) at E’s house.  

  • E and H.  To work on as…as was a request from E.  It came out a real need and circumstance.  She had attended a parent-child conference.  The teacher used as…as all the time to talk about E’s son and his progress.
  • Even though I stumbled about a bit, it came about that it was broken down into a simple structure, then on to the more complex structure, there was lots of input and working together by H and E (so good to watch).  They problem solved it a bit, in that process, even though I had explained the structure, they had to discuss, find examples and think it through together – they, at the same time, figured out the Turkish translation.  Then, again by E’s request, we stopped, so the learning was manageable and relaxed.  Also, it was something that I could explain with confidence.
  • Some other aspects of the language (the pronunciation of as, thus seging into a discussion of curses and American culture) were brought up.  Not sure if this counts as teaching all aspects of the language.


V came from Laos with her family as a refugee 30 years ago when she was 16.  Her conversational skills were good, but her academic skills were much weaker.  She was working full time and attending ESL classes at the local community college. 

  • Environment was different.  I was wired, and tetchy.  V was exhausted and stressed out over the situation at work.  The material was advanced grammar (adjective phrases) that I hadn’t taught before and didn’t know the details of for usage.  I should have reviewed in my own mind, because a lot of my guesses were wrong in some detail.  It was one of a series of grammar concepts that V had to do lots of exercises on, and they had to be done exactly right or the computer would complain.  It didn’t come out of a real life need, other than to get caught up in class and pass the class.  The way they were structuring the course made me mad and I said so (bad idea!).  I have to admit that some learning was happening, but I don’t know how much it will stick in the long run (and V and I both said so).
  • The material was out of our control and not of our choosing.  There was overwhelming amounts of it.  The way of it’s presenting was also out of our control.

The underlying beliefs that I’ve extracted from this are that:

  • the material should be something that is clearly relevant to the student’s life.
  • it should be done in a way so that the student/students can figure it out in their own minds and have enough time to do so.
  • I found going from a simple step to a more complex step comfortable myself, especially if doing so will give them some underlying rules for them to figure out other rules of the language.
  • Students should be able to have lots of input, work together and be able to be a bit creative. Problem solving is good, as long as they have the materials to solve the problem.
  • Learning should be given in manageable chunks.
  • The atmosphere should be comfortable (and even fun).
  • Learning should be deep – not just for today, not just to pass an assignment.
  • I like to have things under my and my students’ control.

If I am confident in my knowledge, and I know what I’m doing (!!!!) the lesson is better.

If we are all relaxed, the lesson is better.  If we can work from an underlying structural framework, the lesson is better.  If we can provide interesting relevant real-life examples, and involve children, etc. the lesson is better….

 As a student teacher, there are things that I’ve found very helpful.   Incorporating the experiential cycle into our classes at SIT clarified a lot for me.  In our SIT cert course, our teachers gave us a sheet to quickly reflect after lessons, which I will stick in here when I figure out the technology. 🙂  Peer teaching was very helpful, as was co-teaching during my internship.  Having feedback during prep time and feedback afterwards on a regular basic has been what has helped me the most to actually put theory to practice.   One of the weaknesses of our tutoring program is that we don’t have that as an explicit structure.   



Week Two Reflection

What is experiential teaching and how can it be implemented in EFL/ESL teacher programs?

What does experiential teaching mean to you? Considering the structure and the objectives of your teacher education program, how could you implement it in your courses?

This is such a big subject.  I’m glad that we’re going to spend weeks on it, because I can only begin to address it in a single essay.  

I enjoyed the readings and the video and have found another couple of things that were fun/useful in addition.   It’s been really nice to revisit the concept and application of experiential education and teaching.  Both my TESOL certification course and my soon-to-be-completed-I-hope MATESOL program are from SIT and experiential education is the cornerstone of their philosophy of teaching.  I have also, since 2011, been involved with a local tutoring program which, a year after I became involved, lost all it’s administrative support (Literacy Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut lost its funding and couldn’t pay any admin staff) and hence, it’s training program for new tutors.  So that has been one long experiment and exercise in trial and error ever since.  At this point,  I find myself beginning the reflective stage (looking back at the tutoring program, what we did and didn’t do for training and support, and starting to solicit feedback from the other tutors).  

I’m seeing this from two perspectives – as a student teacher and as someone who would like to set up a training program.  Reading the two articles on teacher education programs, especially the first one,  I looked back at the training I have been given, and noted what matched and didn’t match, what went right and didn’t go so right (through no one’s fault).  Part of the reason that I decided to do SIT’s MATESOL program was to share what I learned with the tutors in our local program.   I have been thinking recently that sharing not just the content of what I have learned, but the methodology, that is, the experiential method, might work particularly well.  It’s worth exploring as a possibility!

As for what experiential teaching means to me:

 Kolb’s experiential cycle is certainly something that provides a framework – both for reflecting on where you are and for planning the future.  It’s also a nice concrete framework for planning courses.  

Experiential teaching also literally means to me valuing people’s experiences (and our tutors have had a lot of life experience).  Also that respect for diversity of experience is a good orientation for working with people who come from many different cultures and backgrounds. 

On the theoretical side, it means the ideas of Constructivism (which seem to be supported by emerging neurological research).

It means connecting theory and practice via the means of reflection, support (very important!) and new experimentation.  It means enabling new teachers to consciously draw from their experiences, plus have enough structure and support so that they feel comfortable in new situations and have a game plan for when things go wrong.  

I also like the idea of group work but I know not everyone thrives in such an environment.  My most comfortable role as teacher is as a facilitator (though I know that a teacher has to play many roles).  I quite like Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.