SLA and non-native teacher trainees

This series of posts will address issues I’ve come across in the development of a Second Language Acquisition (SLA) course for NNESTs in a post-graduate teacher training program in Seoul, Korea. I’ve been coordinating the course for a few years now, and we think we are finally gaining some ground in the battle against the perceived inapplicability of course content. I will share some of the major issues we’ve faced and how we’re beginning to overcome them. Though the posts will focus mainly on SLA, the approach we take can be applied to any EFL course that also teaches some academic content.

This post will describe our most recent course change, which we hope will completely change the experience students have in the course and make the practicality of content obvious.

A major challenge we face teaching language and content in a course that already has a ‘theoretical’ reputation is the difficulty of course readings. Fools are we, and we may have been, to think that students would be able to connect course content to their own teaching while only understanding the main ideas of the text. So, maybe a solution to our text difficulty problem can solve our ‘practicality’ problem as well.

I had some success with literature circles (click here) and then found Tyson Seburn’s  academic reading circles (click here). Our plan this semester is to use ARCs to solve our text difficulty and practicality problems.

I will try to update as the semester progresses as much as possible. For now, here is our assignment sheet that outlines the roles of each group member. Prior to this semester, students were reading independently and answering focus questions before class. The questions covered the key concepts of each reading.

Academic Reading Circles in SLA

What are Academic Reading Circles (ARC)?

 An ARC is an adapted version of a literature circle in which groups of students come to understand course readings in groups, or circles. Each time you read something for SLA class, you will be reading for a specific purpose that is designated by your role (see page 2). By reading for a specific purpose and then discussing what you’ve found online and in person, you will gain an understanding of the material that is far superior to reading it on your own.

What do I need to do?

  1. Prior to class, each member of the circle reads the text and posts an appropriate response to the discussion leader’s initial post (the discussion leader will post first).
  2. After the discussion leader has created the first post for their circle, each member of their circle needs to reply to the initial post (the discussion leader will ask several questions) and then add information related to their specific role.
  3. At the beginning of each class, circles will have 5-10 minutes to discuss anything confusing or interesting that came up during the online discussion.
CODE Roles and Responsibilities
DL Discussion Leader:

  • Create the blog post.
  • Create 3 comprehension questions about information in the reading.
  • Create 1 discussion question about something you are curious about in the reading or something you do not clearly understand.
  • Keep track of the time during the discussion so everyone gets a turn.
  • Remind members that they should not read exactly from the textbook.
  • Ensure that no one person dominates the discussion and everyone speaks.
HL Highlighter: Highlight at least 7 words from the text that are unknown to or seem important to understanding the main ideas of the reading; find the appropriate meaning and post a list that contains the word and your paraphrased definition.
AP Applier:Think of ways that this material can be applied in actual Korean English classrooms. Consider the following questions:

  • How does this information help an English teacher?
  • Can this information be applied to real classrooms?
  • If so, what are some examples of how this information can be applied in the classroom?
SU Summarizer:Summarize the main points of the reading (150 words or less)


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