Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Communicative Input (CI) “Ensemble Instruction” Demo tonight, 11/6/17 630pm Aderhold 317

 We hope you can make it! If you do or if you don’t here is the presentation link and some information we will share.  Hope to see you there!

11/6/17 Presentation Link from the event “Creativity and Comedy in a Foreign Language” given by Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor & LLED 7504 Students in Aderhold 317 630-8pm


Below is a list of strategies that second/foreign language teachers often use in [Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling [TPRS] focused on communicative input in L2 (second language) instruction. These are some of the strategies you may notice in the demo instruction tonight:


Making Everyone Look Smart in an L2

·      yes/no questions

·      either/or questions

·      one-word answer questions

·      point and pause to written words (with L1 resources) on the board

·      checking for L1-L2 understanding: what did I just say?

·      use signals to slow down or clarify meaning

·      effective use of engaging repetition

·      everything is comprehensible


Physical and/or Audible (fun) L2 Engagement

·      gestures

·      sounds

·      real “materials” used

·      elements of “play” involved in the lesson


Meaningful L2 Use

·      using an image or story

·      using personalized questions & answers

·      co-creating from imagination

·      acting language out













Where and how do I publish an academic article?

A friend of mine with a Ph.D. writes to ask my advice regarding where and how to publish articles from a dissertation. This is a good and wide question, and one that is impossible to answer simply. Here is a list of strategies I use when trying to publish my own work and/or supporting doctoral students, advisees, colleagues, and friends about where to publish and how in the academic world:


  • Read. If you are reading journals in the field then you will begin to notice which journals showcase content that is closely related to what you are interested in and get to know editors who may have similar views regarding what counts as a well written, thoughtful piece of scholarship. By reading journals you get to know the field and the authors publishing in that field.   Who else is publishing on study abroad in Tunisia? Who else has published hybrid pieces of scholarship that include poetry? What online journals embed videos and allow for multimedia technologies? Who else has published another scholar working in a similar field such as landscape ecology or classroom interior design? You get to know the journals and editors by reading other journals.
  • Search. Once you have identified a set of journals by reading them and finding matched content and/or style, then search through the most recent 3-7 years of publication to see what, if anything, has been published there that connects to your work. This is great information to put in a cover letter and shows you are familiar with the journal’s content. It also begins to train your eye and ear to the expectations of style and format in the journal so you can revise or write your own article accordingly. Notice how subheadings are used; the reference style; any patterns in content or form.
  • Themes. A wonderful way to attract an editor’s attention is to submit an article that meets criteria for a theme issue. Not all journals have theme issues but some do. It gives you a leg up if the content of your submission is connected to the editor’s topic or focus.
  • Mentors in the field. Who do you cite frequently in your own work? Where have those scholars published? Have you reached out to connect to these scholars as individuals, to thank them for their inspiration and foundational thinking which supports your own? You may have a dissertation committee or department full of mentors but another way to find additional and helpful mentorship is through the readings you do to prepare your journal article. These are real people who value knowing their work has reached and helped another scholar in the field. A simple note of gratitude or a query may go a long way to beginning a relationship that may realize itself in conference presentations and publications. Scholars are busy and you may not receive a response, but generally scholars are generous people who would be glad to know you have read their work and may share some free advice regarding places they’ve published in a similar area or experiences with journal submissions.
  • Patience. Publication takes time. You must submit and then wait weeks, often months or even a year before you hear back from the editor who has also been waiting for reviewer feedback. In the meantime don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Dissertations spawn many different articles so while you wait for reviews on the submission begin a new piece, write a book review or think piece. Stay busy and in practice and submit something to another journal.
  • Try, try again. If you receive a “reject”–read the response carefully and openly. Decide what is of value and what you may address before submitting the piece elsewhere. Get the same piece rejected twice? This may mean you need to reconsider drafting the article. Rejections can also be about how full the journal is, how busy the editor, or a personal preference so do not take a rejection as the bottom line but as a resource to inform you how the piece meets an unknown audience. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If you don’t succeed twice or three times, then it’s a message you need to revise or start a new piece.
  • A publication by any other name. If you are struggling with longer research articles, don’t forget there are many types of publications in the academic world that can “count” on your resume. Book reviews may not be as esteemed as research articles, but they provide an important service to the field, deepen your understandings of a given text, and may connect you to other scholars and presses in unique ways. What about a think piece for a practitioner or applied journal? A poem? A news item for your professional organization? A blog post or newspaper editorial? Whatever you do, keep writing and keep your writing varied. Today, it may be just as important to have a piece that is “peer-reviewed” by a critical and scholarly journal as it is to reach a larger public audience with a piece written in vernacular language that helps real people access your scholarship.
  • Ask your mentors and friends about their experiences publishing. Where have they published? How was this experience? How long did it take to receive feedback? What cover letter did they use?
  • Collaborate. Publication can be difficult and lonely work and there are times when having a partner can help you focus, stay the course, and push one another to the finish line. You may ask a mentor or more experienced writer if they might like to collaborate. You may ask a peer who can give 50% and has as much interest as you do in publication. You may ask someone who works in a similar field. It’s wonderful if you can pitch an idea for collaboration and quickly develop a proposed outline, timeline and assigned roles. If the publication is important to you, don’t be afraid to take the lead. Maintain clear and consistent communication about the level of work each contributor provides and this should be accurately and respectfully represented in the order in which the authors are listed. When writing 50:50, the listing is alphabetical by last name.



If you are interested to learn what journals I like or where I have published recently, I give a partial list of 2015-2016 journal publications and encourage you to check out my c.v. online or “publications” at http://www.teachersactup.com


*Cahnmann-Taylor, Melisa (2017) ““I’m Not Talking to You” “You Don’t Have to!” Trans/scripting the Bland-Encinia Case,” Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Journal: Vol. 2 , Article 2. Available at: http://scholarworks.uni.edu/ptoj/vol2/iss1/2

**NOTE**This is an online journal with a superb editor who was quickly responsive and helped me improve the piece considerably through her editorial care. The journal accepts a wide range of genres including a “manifesto” and has theme issues.


*Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2016). Robinson Jeffers, Big Read, and Me. Georgia Review.

**NOTE**This is a literary journal that also includes essays and book reviews. I was honored to publish this essay as the acceptance rate is very low. I do have a relationship with the journal editors and this was helpful to the publication of this piece.


*Cahnmann-Taylor, M., Bleyle, S. & Hwang, Y. (2016) Teaching poetry in TESOL teacher education: Heightened attention to language as well as to cultural and political critique through poetry writing. TESOL Journal, 8 (1), 70-101.

**NOTE**This is a practitioner-oriented online journal for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). We worked as a writing team for many years and have varied publication outcomes from this project.


Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2016). Imperfect tense: An ethnodrama of Americans learning Spanish in Mexico. The Reunion: The Dallas Review, 6 (1). http://www.utdallas.edu/ah/reunion/index.html

**NOTE** I had seen a call for the publication of new plays in this journal and I had just completed mine. This publication from submission to print took a long time but it was worth the wait.


Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2015). Ethnographic poetry and the leaping bilingual mind. Savage Minds. Writers Workshop, Season Four blog post. http://savageminds.org/2015/01/26/announcing-the-spring-2015-writers-workshop-series/

**NOTE**This publication was queried from the editor and had a quick turn around. I enjoyed being a part of this dynamic and speedy online forum.


Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2015). Imperfect tense: An ethnodrama of Americans learning Spanish in Mexico. Centre for Imaginative Ethnography. http://imaginativeethnography.org/imaginings/literary-experiments-in-ethnography/c-june-23-misha-cahnmann-taylor/


**NOTE** this piece was also queried from the editors and this was because we are all working in circles that braid together social science investigation with creative genres of representation.


*Cahnmann-Taylor, M., Zhang, K., Bleyle, S. & Hwang, Y. (2015) “Searching for an entrance” and finding a two-way door: Using Poetry to Create East-West Contact Zones in TESOL Graduate Education. International Journal on Education and the Arts. http://www.ijea.org/v15.html


**NOTE**This piece is related to the TESOL journal piece listed above. We wrote from similar data for different audiences. This is an audience of scholars looking at the arts in all forms of education. The other piece is more specific to second language scholarship. “One” piece of research turned into several publications for various members of our collaborative team.

pre-order discount: Arts-Based Research in Education (by M. Cahnmann-Taylor & R. Siegesmund)

Enter FLR40 at checkout for 20% discount (advance order). Course by this title will be taught Fall 2018 at UGA!
I would love your thoughts on the content–we are very proud of this book and putting out into the world for rigorous wonder and dialogue.
LINK to book

Improv Theatre & Language Education

This semester I have had the joy of rehearsing improv theatre in language education.  Working with first year and graduate students at UGA, we explore ways to connect “language education” to improv theatre games and performance.  How best to explore what we do with language, than to play with it?!  This new youtube playlist cohere’s examples of these improv games and some notes on how to connect them to themes in second language acquisition.

Youtube Link to Series

I hope this is a way to help share the fun we’ve had as well as illustrating the games so that other language teachers and improv theatre artists can have fun making these connections too!




More than fun & games: theatre & #Blacklivesmatter

I am grading my online course materials and preparing for my two theatre classes this afternoon and evening.  The first was designed for first year students to study “improv comedy” and apply it to public education and self awareness.  The second is to add performance tools to the language educator’s “toolbox”–applied and theoretical.  Here is a link to one such improv game, “Yes, Let’s!”

I taught my language teachers about the concept of speaker-listener economy–a fundamental human trait is to want to do the least amount of labor for any given result.  So we compress language to its most essential parts–“Do you want to go to the movies?” While the answer could be: “Yes, let’s go to the movies.”  One common way to shorten the response might be “Yes, let’s [go; go to the movies]” or “Sure, this afternoon?”
So we play this game over and over and draw students attention to this concept while having fun imagining the craziest “invitations” one might give to another and to teach a fundamental improv rule: Yes, and.  That is, improv actors learn to accept another actor’s suggestions in order to build a scene up rather than knock it down.
Q: Do you want to go to the movies?
A: No.
Q: Do you want to go to the movies? (spoken in a heavily accented English)
A: What? (expressed in frustration, disdain)
Answering “no,” or “what?” above, is a punch to the gut.  It stops the invitation in real life; it stops the scene on stage in an improv show.  What about:
Q: Do you want to go to the movies (spoken with a heavy accent)?
A: Still tuning my ear to your music and I didn’t catch what you said–can you ask me again?
Q: I know it’s sometimes hard to understand me (pause, speaking slowly), ‘would you like to see a movie with me?’
A: Yes!
Sometimes what is “economical” (the short way to say something) is not always the best choice!
Improvisation on stage may seem to be “just fun” but in real life we can make great use of these skills–seeing all human actors as connected to bubbles of influence that inform what they say, how they say it, to whom, for what purpose and to what end.  What if we taught ourselves that we always had choices in each lived conversational moment? What if we could see all the bubbles informing what a speaker says and be better able to speak to that “side” of any given human actor?
This article I recently published is a way to “take a knee” in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and with a call for greater human dignity and care.  I am happy to see this article in print and hoping it gives me more courage to practice that which I write about with students in my courses and with real people in everyday living.
Take one.  Take two. Take three.  Every day is a rehearsal for learning how to perform as a more compassionate and considerate human being.

Rosh Ha Shana Poem for Secular Jews

Before moving to Athens, GA I had lived in cities with major Jewish American populations–I didn’t have to remember the high holidays or worry about finding Chanukah decorations or connecting culturally–stores were fully stocked to serve large Jewish populations and non-Jewish community members were well familiar with Jewish holidays and traditions. I remember Rabbi Marcia in Philadelphia asking us, “What hurts about being Jewish?” I never imagined then that I’d live 16 years in the Southeast where Judaism was so much more a minority (invisible and by some, detested) identity, where you’d have to buy the round challah in their first hour of sale on Rosh Ha Shana or you’d be out of luck.

My town of Athens, GA is prosperous and growing, attracting more and more residents from the new Jewish diaspora–so running out of round challah at the bakery is a good thing–they are making it!

Few of my secular and/or intermarried Jewish peers are observant or involved enough in synagogue life (now there is one reform synagogue and one chabad house, and one conservative minyan for worship) to remember and plan for the many Lunar calendar holidays in our tradition and most of us are all too happy to eat Cheeseburgers and take holidays on Christmas and Easter like everyone else.  Last night we laughed at moments of guilt, but I am still uneasy about this, still meditating on what it means to “fully” identify with one’s origin religion and culture and what it means to revise oneself, to reconnect with “homies” in order to once again stretch out into diverse surroundings.

Here’s a draft poem for my wonderful Jewish neighbors with whom it was easy to gather and laugh, share favorite foods and sing a few familiar prayers (almost all the way through).  This is likely unfinished but I wonder if it will resonate with others who want to forgive themselves for doing what humans do and changing.


Secular Jewish New Year

Gathered last minute in a weeknight kitchen,

no commitment, arriving late


to not-enough forks or chairs, forgotten

traditions, mismatched plates,


no one knowing the full, Hebrew prayers.

All we know is that the broom doesn’t worry


if it’s broom enough to sweep apple cake crumbs;

wine glasses don’t apologize, sorry


they’re only “half” a glass or that they never attended

wine school. Even silver nutcracker prongs


retired in their velvet cushioned drawer

might have forgotten, gone


to work on the holidays, as always,

in the walnut bowl.



Finding Your Voice & Writing the “Not Me”: Rigorous Wonder in Creative Qualitative Inquiry [ICQI Workshop May 2018]

Workshop with Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor <www.teachersactup.com>

830-1130am Morning Session

International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry [ICQI]



As a scholartist who works with ethnography, poetry, and theatre, I will guide our group’s review of the affordances, risks, and ethics of both writing in the “not me” and finding one’s own voice in creative, qualitative writing. Participants will become acquainted with a small tribe of poetic anthropologists who form part of the movement for “humanistic anthropology.” Inspired by the work of “antropoetas” such as Kusserow (“Hunting Down the Monk,” 2002; “Refuge,” 2013), Stone (“Stranger’s Notebook,” 2008), Rosaldo (“The Day of Shelly’s Death: The poetry and ethnography of grief,” 2013), and Faizullah (“Seam,” 2014), we consider the affordances of socially informed art and artfully informed social science. Sharing examples of “flash (ethnographic) fiction,” “persona poems” and “dramatic monologues,” we discuss how writing in forms may shape greater connections to the diversity of what it means to be human as well as connections to animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds. Participants will consider aesthetics to be illuminated through ethnographic tools and techniques of participant observation, taking fieldnotes, designing and recording interviews, and selective transcription, as well as strategies to ground “deep theory” in sensory images and resonant detail.


The practice of rigorous wonder in creative qualitative inquiry affords new opportunities for gaining access to others’ stories, in ways that subscribe to public, ethical, aesthetic, and scientific “goodness.” Participants will review contents in the forthcoming second edition of Arts-Based Research in Education (Cahnmann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008; In Press), stirring one another with resonant knowing as we discuss four principles when engaging in creative inquiry (Cahnmann-Taylor, In Press).


  • The Principle of Social Commitment and Public Good
  • The Principle of Attribution, Subjectivity and Ethical Good
  • The Principle of Impact and Aesthetic Good
  • The Principle of Translation to Scientific Good



Participants are encouraged to bring one page of writing to share with others in the workshop to apply our principles to best practice with humility, creativity, and care.

For those who may study or teach Spanish grammar

For those who may study or teach Spanish grammar,please read this fantastic post:

I am more than convinced of the effectiveness of TPRS approaches to L2 instruction. This examination of outdated grammar teaching helps explain why we need new world language practices and books for learners, especially beginners.

Visual Broadsides – Maggie Zurawski’s “Companion Animal”

I usually just assign my students to convey an understanding of craft visually accompanied by word–but I seldom do this assignment myself.  This time I joined my students in an “ekphrastic” exercise in reverse–visual art in response to poetry.  “Ekphrastic” refers to a form of poetry where the poet responds to another work of art, usually visual, rendering its symbolism and impact through words.   I require students to also add a short statement about the choices they made to capture the tone, craft, and impact of the poem they are considering and to consider ways the visual medium can render more than words can say.  “Broadsides” are artfully rendered letter press printings of a poem.  So I refer to these class works as “visual broadsides”–an idea stolen/borrowed/gifted from the great poet/teacher Dorianne Laux.  Read Zurawski’s book, view our interpretations, make your own!  Having now experienced this assignment first hand, I can attest that it deepened my relationship to the poem, to the book as a whole, and to the power of visual meaning-making.  I believe this would be a super exercise in K-12 classrooms as well.

Chelsea Ward’s youtube video visual broadside: https://youtu.be/t869hPwPON8

book: http://www.litmuspress.org/books/companion-animal/

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see previous examples from former students here: https://teachersactup.com/2011/11/04/visual-broadsides-of-anne-waldmans-poems/


Predatory Journals: Academics Beware

Dear Peers, Students, and Academics far and wide,

Beware.  I have increasingly received emails inviting me to “submit” my article or books to journals or presses that sound legitimate but are actually scams in clever disguise. Preying on those who don’t yet know, these publishing opportunities come with a price–often asking scholars (or creative writers or others seeking publication) to pay a fee to publish their work.  Sometimes this fee can be quite large.

To someone who doesn’t know the difference, the titles of these publications and presses may look and sound legitimate and may indeed appear so on a C.V. to someone who isn’t aware of these types of scams.  Below is a thoughtful guide from the anthropology association about how to tell a scam from the real thing.

“Peer review” is  rigorous, subjective, and time consuming process that is often done as unrecognized and unremunerated “service” by other faculty in similar fields across the world.  I am not against paying reviewers and editors and submissions that bear a cost to compensate what is a process that is often paid for by faculty members in the organization or universities.    But paying modest costs for consideration is different from most scams that aim to make a small business out of academic needs to “publish or perish”–who unwittingly submit to a fee-based publication opportunity only later to learn that this publication will reflect poorly on the scholar/author.  Below is a link with some guidelines for how to avoid such scams.  When in doubt, don’t submit until you’ve had a more experienced academic help you to review the publication or press.



Afternote: My colleague Dr. Trena Paulus adds this helpful addition:

TP: Where this becomes especially confusing is the move towards an open-access model – where the author (or their university) *does* legitimately pay a fee up front, so that they can freely share their work with others, rather than letting publishers charge those same universities ridiculously high subscription fees in order to gain access to that same work.

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