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Creating an Online Community for Trainers of English Teachers

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER: On the eve of Tuesday's presidential primary in New Hampshire, we were on the phone to a teacher at a nearby school in Massachusetts, to discuss something other than the election.

RS: We were talking with Susan Schwartz about teaching teachers. She teaches English as a Second Language, but her work extends far beyond her own classroom. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, taught English in China and Indonesia, and went to India last summer for a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad program.

AA: Not only that, for ten years she published an annual, peer-reviewed online journal called Nexus: A Journal for Teachers in Development. But now, Susan Schwartz is developing Nexus into what she hopes will be a continually updated Web site that will offer information about issues related to the training of teachers of English to speakers of other languages. And she is looking for material.

SUSAN SCHWARTZ: "The e-mail address is n-e-x-u-s-j-o-u-r-n-a-l,, and feel free to e-mail me and send in articles about teacher training, things that you have done that are practice oriented or research based or theoretically oriented. I would love to have articles from people all over the world. And I would love to have ideas about what people would like to see the Web site become."

RS: "Well, what are you looking for?"

SUSAN SCHWARTZ: "Just basically to create a place where people who are interested in teacher training can offer ideas and suggestions, resources for other people who are interested in the same topics, the same issues."

AA: "Let's talk a little bit about current trends in teacher training, for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. From all your correspondence with your friends around the world, what sense do you get of the top issues that they are interested in?"

SUSAN SCHWARTZ: "Maybe the one that comes first to my mind is having to do with distance learning. Nowadays people have the opportunity to take courses, university courses or just standalone courses, either completely or partially online. And I've seen a lot of programs for teacher training and in ESL in general that do have some kind of distance learning or virtual learning component.

"I think another trend is using the Internet or using the Web in general for teacher training purposes. I think a lot of courses use sites like Blackboard and Nicenet, online bulletin boards, to communicate with learners.

"I think another trend is to use authentic materials to teach skills rather than textbooks that are specifically designed for teaching discrete skills. For example, I think it's much more common now to use novels to teach reading skills, and I think there's been more training of teachers for how to use authentic literature. Also maybe tied into that is a trend that has focused on the teaching of vocabulary and how to teach vocabulary effectively."

AA: "You're talking about [emphasizing vocabulary] versus teaching emphasizing grammar over vocabulary."


RS: "What about teaching across the curriculum, not just learning the vocabulary words but learning them through their history class or in a geography lesson?"

SUSAN SCHWARTZ: "Yes, I think for teaching English, definitely, teaching English through the content of another course, such as teaching English by teaching chemistry or as you say by teaching geography has definitely become a lot more common. Especially I think in the U.S. in public schools, where I work now, that's much more the case than to teach ESL in a separate, isolated instance."

AA: Susan Schwartz, speaking to us from her classroom in Methuen (meh-THOO-en), Massachusetts. Again, her e-mail address is

RS: The easiest way to find her Web site and the free archives of Nexus is to do a search for "Nexus: A Journal for Teachers in Development." We'll also put a link at our site,

AA: And that's all for this week. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.