Recent ATESOL ACT events


The Role of Classroom Talk – 13 May 2017


On 13 May, 2017 Dr Jennifer Hammond held a three hour workshop on the role of classroom talk in building curriculum knowledge, and the implications for working with EAL/D students in mainstream classes. The ATESOL session was targeted for practicing EAL/D teachers, and mainstream teachers with an interest in EAL/D issues. While Dr Hammond drew on research findings from studies in primary schools, the material was relevant across teaching sectors.

Dr Hammond is an honorary associate professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney. She has taught for many years in the fields of language and literacy education, EAL education and research design. Her research interests are in literacy development; classroom interaction, and the implications of socio-cultural and systemic theories of language and learning in EAL education. She has published widely in these areas. She is currently involved in research addressing the needs of newly arrived EAL and refugee students in Australian schools.

The program addressed the role of classroom talk in developing higher mental processes and deep learning. It explored implications for teachers working with EAL/D students in their mainstream classrooms, including the need to balance talking to learn and learning to talk. Examples highlighted the need to provide all students, but especially EAL/D students, with access to high levels of support to ensure they are able to participate in high challenge curriculum programs. Dr Hammond noted that not all group work and talk is constructive; for talk to be useful, both teachers and students need to explore the central purposes of the lesson in depth. Achieving this requires scaffolding to be planned into lessons, and to be provided at points of need as lessons unfold.

The presentation drew on data from curriculum programs where teachers deliberately designed-in opportunities for their EAL/D students to engage in sustained talk in learning, while they also drew on notions of scaffolding and message abundancy to provide support for their students’ language and literacy development. Dr Hammond argued that the kind of balance achieved in these programs is a necessary pre-requisite for EAL/D students in their development of higher mental processes and deep learning. She also argued that a balance of talking to learn and learning to talk provides a solid basis for students’ academic literacy development. Student engagement in extended and in-depth “literate talk” supports learning academic English, which in turn supports the development of reading and writing.

Group work by workshop participants identified the importance of teachers identifying oral language requirements and explicitly developing oral skills. In referring to work by Pauline Gibbons, Dr Hammond suggested that teachers should interact with all students, including EAL/D students, as if they are worthy conversational partners.

During the workshop Dr Hammond set out how this approach is supported by major educational and language learning theories, including Alexander’s work on dialogic teaching, Vygotskian theories of learning, and on Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics. For those interested in further study, Dr Hammond provided the references included below:

Alexander, R (2008a) Toward Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking classroom talk (4th ed) York, Dialogos, Thirsk, UK Ltd.
Alexander, R. (2008b) Essays on Pedagogy. London, Routledge.
Hammond, J. (2016) Dialogic space: intersections between dialogic teaching and systemic functional linguistics. Research Papers in Education. 31(1), 5-22.
Hammond J. & Miller J. (eds) (2015) Classrooms of possibility: Supporting at-risk EAL students. Newtown, Primary English Teaching Association Australia.
Hammond, J. (2015) Teaching and Learning Practices with at-risk EAL students. In Hammond J. & Miller J. (eds) Classrooms of possibility: Supporting at-risk EAL students. Newtown, Primary English Teaching Association Australia.
Hammond, J. (2014a) The Transition of Refugee Students from Intensive English Centres to Mainstream High Schools: Current Practices and future possibilities. Sydney, NSW Department of Education and Communities.
Hammond, J. (2014b). An Australian perspective on Standards-Based Education, Teacher Knowledge and English as an Additional Language students. TESOL Quarterly, 48(3), 507-532.
Vyotsky, L. (1978) Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Edited by M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

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Spelling it out – Associate Professor Misty Adoniou – 18 February 2017

Associate Professor Misty Adoniou presented her ground-breaking approach to teaching spelling.  The session explored phonology, etymology, morphology, and spelling pedagogies.

If you would like to purchase Misty’s new book, Spelling It Out – How Words Work and How to Teach Them, here are some links;

Angus and Robertson –

Booktopia –

Book Depository –

Amazon –

Follow this link to download Misty’s slide;

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Bilingual tools to enhance EAL/D students’ language development – 30 July 2016

Presented by Mallika Das (Auburn Public School)

With over 18 years of experience, Mallika has participated in PIEP (Primary Intensive English Program) for Refugees, Using Mobile devices for EAL/D learners, Multicultural Story-box Project, Leadership Project as well as Developing Student’s Linguistic Repertoires for Language development project.

On Saturday 30th July 2016, a highly motivated group of teachers gathered at Duffy Primary School to take part in a most informative presentation by Mallika Das, an EAL/D teacher mentor at Auburn Public School in Western Sydney – a school with a population of 99% EAL/D students.

Mallika started by providing a rationale for bilingual reading programs at her school.  We heard all about her research based evidence that reading in the home language can positively affect reading ability in the target language.  She also touched on the positive effects for parents as they gain knowledge of how Australian school systems function.

We moved on to playing a game of Bilingualism – Myth or Fact? We discussed such myths as “Bilingualism causes language delay” and lamented the fact that not all educators recognise that “Parents should discourage use of home language in order to assist their children develop the majority language” is absolutely a myth.  But, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as Mallika assured us of the truth of “Bilinguals are better listeners” and “Bilingualism promotes all areas of cognitive function.”

After reviewing some relevant legislation and policy documents, Mallika went on to detail some of the successful programs in place at her school.  We watched video clips of Bilingual Stories in Class and heard about Community Language Programs.  Mallika explained how classes were structured according to home language in the first year of schooling and consequently how students shared their learning with their parents.

Parents are valued as active participants and Mallika runs various parent information sessions, providing training in how to read with children, ensuring their access to bilingual texts and enlisting their help in creating resources.  They are even assisted in gaining their WWVP cards!
Mallika outlined the school’s Bilingual Story Time program and shared some related activities to enhance comprehension and writing skills.  We saw how Language Maps were used effectively in the classroom and got the chance to draw our own!

As always, we ran out of time and had to farewell Mallika as she made her way back to Sydney.

A huge thank you Mallika for taking the time to share best practice with us here in chilly Canberra!

PL event report by Isabel Winch

Also on the program for the morning were the presentations by ATESOL ACT’s 2016 ACTA Conference registration scholarship winners Jennifer Mayers (School sector winner) and Lesley Cioccarelli (Adult sector winner).  Read their Conference reports on our Blog page.

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Minimal English as a Pedagogical Tool: Workshop – 6 May 2016

On Friday 6th May, interested professionals from all sectors gathered at the ANU for a workshop facilitated by Lauren Sadow, a PHD candidate with an extensive background in the fields of Linguistics and TESOL.

Lauren launched us straight into our first activity.  How would we explain the concept of “proof” in our classrooms?  This generated much lively discussion.  Would we use scientific, mathematical or textual examples?  Would we physically demonstrate?   One thing we all agreed upon was the difficulty in explaining concepts which are not directly translatable into other languages or which don’t exist in many languages.  “Proof” is a classic example!

Luckily, Lauren’s work with Minimal English provides a tool to help.  Lauren has built upon Natural Semantic Metalanguage to create a core list of basic vocabulary relating to universal concepts.  Minimal English is a structured approach which is clear, universal and translatable.   Lauren guided us in creating explications, or grammatically correct, if not naturally sounding (to the native ear) sentences for explaining “proof.”

Lauren then led us through another exercise where we applied the Minimal English tool to explain other concepts –  amazing, interesting, fantastic, wonderful, great and terrific.  There was much debate about the nuances of meaning in that list!

Lauren impressed upon us that when applying Minimal English to feelings we needed to bear in mind that every culture has value judgements on emotions, and that this knowledge helps us to create our explications.

There was so much more to explore in Lauren’s research, but sadly, time dictated that our session draw to a close.  Most participants could still be heard debating  the differences between “amazing” and “terrific” as they walked through the door.  We were fortunate  indeed to have Lauren present such cutting edge research which many of us will apply in our classrooms.

report by Isabel Winch

Lauren’s Slides and Handouts from the session:

ME Slides image
Imprisoned in English cover imageM

Imprisoned in English: The Hazards of English as a Default Language
by Anna Wierzbicka

If you’d like to know more about Minimal English and Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM),
Lauren has recommended this book as a “great one to get people started … It’s aimed at
non-experts so is really accessible. It is primarily NSM and not Minimal English though, but
the discussion on concepts is still just as valid.”

These two short papers, prepared for a 2015 Symposium by Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka,
might also be of interest: Global English, Minimal English: Towards better intercultural communication, and What is Minimal English (and how to use it)

At the end of her workshop Lauren gave us a very brief overview of “typographical nuance” on the Internet.  The blog post on ‘no’ that she mentioned can be found here: … how we Young People Today use ~improper~ punctuation/grammar in actually really defined ways to express tone without having to explicitly state tone…

Lauren’s PhD project is to create a teacher’s resource using Minimal English. The resource will work its way through the hierarchy of cultural scripts discussed in the workshop all the way down to the cultural keywords that embody the core values of the master scripts. This resource will also include classroom activities based in Minimal English. The explications, scripts and activities will be developed in consultation with teachers in Semester 2, 2016. If you’re interested in getting involved with this project, watch the ATESOL ACT website and Facebook group!

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ATESOL ACT AGM and Youth Coalition of the ACT – 10 March 2016

Our 2016 Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 10th March 2016 at the Youth Coalition of the ACT, 46 Clianthus St, O’Connor.  2015 President Jennifer Mayers delivered a report on the past year’s activities, our new Committee was elected, and our new Constitution was passed.

Read PRESIDENT’S REPORT                   Read about our NEW 2016 COMMITTEE


YouthCoalitionLogo        MYANlogo

Following the 2016 ATESOL ACT AGM, Emma Robertson, Director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT  provided an excellent overview of the work undertaken by the Youth Coalition and its partnership with the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN ACT)

While the Youth Coalition website  will provide you with a very comprehensive coverage of the organisation’s objectives and activities, you may decide to go there because:

  1. The Network is a key body for information about policy relating to young people in the ACT
  2. Policy is agreed upon in close consultation with its members, including young people
  3. The Network represents members’ interest to other stakeholders, including the ACT Government, Australian Government and to independent Commissions and statutory bodies
  4. The Network provides relevant information on young people and provides a summary of important activities, events resources and information relating to young people and the youth sector in the ACT.

EAL/D teachers may find the following resource of assistance if reviewing cultural awareness in their workplaces – MYAN ACT Cultural Competency Good Practice Guide – a resource for both organisations and individual workers to enhance cultural competence and improve supports to multicultural young people. The Guide includes six good practice standards:

  1. Respect and Commitment; 2. Staff Knowledge and Development; 3. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Workforce and Employment; 4. Culturally Appropriate Service Delivery;   5. Engagement with Communities; 6. Service Development and Evaluation.

You may just be looking for information on what the Youth Coalition and the MYAN are all about, but they seem like a good resource or contact point for anyone working with young people between the ages of 12 – 25.

report by Jennifer Mayers

More information and Links from the Youth Coalition of the ACT and MYAN:

  • Check the Youth Coalition of the ACT YouTube channel for video recordings from the Just Sayin’ event hosted at the ACT Legislative Assembly during National Youth Week in April 2015. Just Sayin’ featured a panel of young people who spoke to their own experience and passions, as well as addressing the question, “Why should decision-makers care what young people have to say?”
  • Rate Canberra – Survey of Young People
    The Youth Coalition has recently launched Rate Canberra 2016, the biggest survey of young people in the ACT.
    This 10 minute survey of 12 – 25 year olds aims to collect information on what it is really like to live in Canberra as a young person, and the issues that are important to young people.
    Schools and youth services can win $1000 for having young people complete the survey, and prizes are also up for grabs for individual participants.
  • National Youth Week 2016 – 8–17 April
    The Youth Coalition coordinate National Youth Week in the ACT.  Emma mentioned that they are trying to get a Student Ambassador from each school in the ACT. Please contact them via this webpage for more information.

additional links by Lesley Cioccarelli

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pre-2016 events

For events prior to the current year, please check the Past ATESOL ACT events page.

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