||Friday, March 6th 2009 [ versión español ]
What does the English language really represent in Puerto Rico? How do social conditions in this rapidly changing context affect the teaching of English? What do the most recent studies indicate in regards to the teaching of English? What strategies can be utilized to achieve affective learning?
These questions and others were just some of the questions proposed in a series of conferences, which were all part of English as a Field of Change and Flow, an educational contribution from the Department of English of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). The purpose of the event was to present the work of professors, graduate and undergraduate students of the Department who offered alternatives for the effective teaching of literature and linguistics in English, specifically at the elementary and intermediate levels of the educational system in Puerto Rico.
“One must take into account the actual context, one that is culturally diverse and unfolds informatively. In that sense, we know that students and the rest of the members of the Department of English have many ideas and have researched various aspects that could be applied in classrooms across Puerto Rico,” indicated doctor Mary Sefranek, one of the event’s organizers.
Doctor Betsy Morales, director of the Department of English, reemphasized the importance of defining the education of this language as a dynamic project in which students actively participate. She added that learning should stem from the knowledge, abilities, circumstances and peculiarities of each student, the central theme for the majority of presentations.
“The Rebel Poets, a dynamic non-profit group, formed by teachers in the United States who focus on serving students of limited resources that show artistic abilities, presented at the conference. They introduced an effective and different way of utilizing the power of language and creativity as an alternative for change and learning,” explained Morales.
The event kicked off in the morning at the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheatre with the conference: We Speak in all Tongues: Language and Literacy in the Diaspora, presented by doctor Maisha Tulivu Fisher of Emory University. It was followed by a series of presentations by various students of the Department.
In the afternoon, diverse groups were formed at an interactive workshop which incorporated some of the various strategies introduced by The Rebel Poets.
“The message is that English education in Puerto Rico needs to be redefined. The response from teachers and visitors has been incredible. As a student I am proud that our University held the first activity of this kind. I believe that those of us who are starting out in the field of English education have a lot to contribute to the field and that this was the perfect opportunity to do so,” stated Zaira Raquel Arvelo Alicea, graduate student of the Department of English.
First year graduate student Jo.Alexis Robles Lugo defined the activity as “a unique opportunity that allows students in the Department to demonstrate what they have learned and present their research to their fellow students and professors, in an interactive manner.”
The activity concluded during the evening with a stellar performance in the Amphitheatre by The Rebel Poets, which utilized their innovative educational strategies.
In customary order: doctor Mary Sefranek, students Zaira Raquel Arvelo Alicea and Jo.Alexis Robles Lugo, and doctor Betsy Morales.
Doctor Mary Sefranek shows the application of one of the teaching strategies presented during the workshop.
The activity included diverse groups and an interactive workshop that incorporated some of the strategies that were introduced.
At each corner, from the lefthand side: event organizers, doctors Mary Sefranek and Judy Casey, accompanied by The Rebel Poets: Maisha Tulivu Fisher, Joseph Ubiles, Ramón De Jesús, Ronald Jay, Arline Hernández and Amanda Maisonet.
Photographs by Marta Yazmín García Nieves / UPRM Press