Yay! You’re here! Martha, they came! (If you host it, they will come. ) My name is Patsy Vinogradov, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to LESLLA 2011! To some of you, I welcome you to the United States, and to you all I welcome you to Minnesota, to Minneapolis. Welcome to the University of Minnesota, and welcome to this very, very special gathering. When the conference planning really got going and friends and colleagues would ask what I was working on, I typically heard 2 questions. And maybe you’ve heard them, too--
The first is, what on earth does LESLLA stand for? And after hundreds of emails with you all in the last few months, I can see there’s some confusion about the order of these letters… So here, for the record– [slide] . Say it with pride. And the second question I got fairly often, from kind, well-meaning, intelligent colleagues, was ---
“ Do you really need your own conference? Who’s going to come to THAT? I mean, aren’t there plenty of language teaching conferences, literacy conferences, and adult education conferences around?” Well…in answer to “who’s going to come”, as of this morning’s count is 240 people. (clap) This conference continues to grow and evolve, and this year’s response in great part shows how relevant LESLLA issues are to our programs, our teachers, our learners, researchers, and to the fields of literacy and language acquisition.
How many of you have had to describe your learners and the nature of your classroom to your own colleagues because they just don’t get it? How many of you have talked with publishers or your schools’ resource specialists, and have had trouble finding materials appropriate for your learners? Have you perhaps ever browsed materials at a conference and uttered something like: “ This book is way too high for my learners.” “ I need several more pages on this skill.” “ This book moves too quickly.” “ This book is at the right level, but it was created for young children and it is NOT appropriate for my intelligent, resourceful, ADULT learners.” Or asked a publisher: “I need a whole book that would come BEFORE your level one book. What do you have for me?” Only to be met with a blank stare… Perhaps you have gone to regional, national, or even international language teaching/language/literacy conferences in search of sessions that are relevant to teachers of LESLLA learners, only to find that this group of teachers and learners has been nearly if not entirely ignored? Maybe you have looked to academic journals, graduate programs, or other professional development for help, and found that your choices for guidance in teaching LESLLA learners were extremely limited, if there was anything at all? Well friends, that’s why we need our own conference.
[read screen] And as the story goes, a handful of brave and resourceful scholars, some of which are with us today– decided to do something about it!
2012… I’ll hold you suspense for a bit, but look in your conference folders for a flyer . I’d like to take just a moment to think back to 2005, and would anyone who was at that original LESLLA conference in Tilburg please stand and be recognized? These are our founding LESLLA mothers and fathers! Now you’ll notice that the first LESLLA was held in the Netherlands, in Tilburg. And it might not have made our local news here, but something important happened just this month to one of the people who was just standing. AND SPEAKING of the Netherlands… Every year in the Netherlands, a national prize is given out to a Literacy Man or Woman of the Year. This honor is a Dutch valorization prize for work on literacy, a prize for people whose work is extraordinarily important for literacy (research, policy, education practice). Not only is this year’s recipient with us today, but she is also presenting at this conference, as she has, I believe at EVERY LESLLA conference: Jeanne Kurvers would you please stand and be recognized?
[we have something for you] Dr. Kurvers, you have done so much for our field and for LESLLA learners. Your work has impacted not only low-literate adults in the Netherlands, but worldwide as we read your publications and gain insight s from your research. Congratulations, we think that committee in the Netherlands chose very, very well. [more pics on next slide from ceremony]
I’m told that Jeanne is standing next to the Dutch Minister of Education here, and that the woman in the blue-green dress is a princess from the Dutch royal family – someone who has been involved with literacy education in the Netherlands.
So given the international spirit of this conference, I have a trivia question for you. --- I hope it will make you pay more attention to other peoples’ nametags, will make you think about how your work here relates to the work of your counterparts in Germany, Finland, Australia, or Denmark? I hope to see conversations today at lunch between a local Minnesota teacher of Karen and Somali learners, finding common ground with educators of Moroccan refugees in Belgium, or Turkish speakers in Germany. We have a lot to learn, and only three days, so get talking! I promise to tell you tomorrow what the answer is.
No conference happens on its own. It is very much a collaborative effort, and I want to thank --
[Read from screen] Spotlight on Hamline/ATLAS: Kim Johnson, Astrid Liden, Betsy Parrish, and Marisa Geisler for sponsoring 90 Minnesota Adult Basic Education teachers to be here at the conference, and for the gorgeous conference bags! [shout out to Kim]. If there was ever an agency that “got” LESLLA learners and the needs of their teachers, it is this one, and they have proven it over and over again in real and meaningful ways, like sponsoring conference go-ers to this conference. I want to extend a special welcome to our local MN Adult Basic Education professionals– how lucky we are to have you here! This spring I was at TESOL, a large international English as a Second Language conference, and after our presentation a young woman came up to me and said, “Oh, you are SO LUCKY to be doing this work in Minnesota. Minnesota is really WHERE IT’S AT for low-literacy adult education!” And so it is. Where are “where it’s at” and we’re glad today that all of you are WHERE It’S AT as well. One of the reasons that Minnesota is “where it’s at” for this work, is due to the presence of two scholars at this very university. ---
Martha Bigelow is a professor at the U in the Second Languages and Cultures program. Elaine Tarone is is the Director of CARLA, the Center for Advanced Research in Language Acquisition and also a professor in the English as a Second Language department at the University. They are not new to LESLLA, having presented at the 2006 conference in Virginia and Martha also presented at the 2009 conference in Banff, Canada. Each of these presenters has studied, presented, and published extensively over the years, more than I could give justice to in this brief introduction. In the field of LESLLA education, they have a body of research and publications that draw from the fields of second language acquisition, cognitive psychology, and pedagogy. Their unique and critical work is making new connections among alphabet print literacy and oral skills, phonological awareness, and gives important advice for teachers as to how they can better serve these learners. Their 2009 book from Oxford, Literacy and Second Language Oracy , explores these issues in depth. I count my lucky stars that I get to spend time on this campus with such smart, accomplished, dedicated scholars. I was fortunate to have had Elaine as my advisor during my Master’s degree work, and now as a PhD student, Martha as my advisor. And while I look forward to a time when I can introduce myself as a “former” graduate student from the Univ of Minnesota, in the meantime, I am so pleased to keep company with such great minds. This morning they will lay out what they see as the –[new slide]
A research agenda for LESLLA, what we know, and what we still need to find out. Please help me give a warm welcome to Dr. Elaine Tarone, and Dr. Martha Bigelow!
WELCOME ! 7 th Annual LESLLA Symposium University of Minnesota Minneapolis, USA
We thank our generous sponsors. We are proud to work within both a university community and a statewide community of educators that support conferences like this one with generous contributions. Please see page 3 in the program for a full list of sponsors.