After Decades in the Field, I Am on the Board!

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In 2018, after some 37 years in the TESL field, I joined the TESL Ontario Board. This is the ideal volunteer challenge for me at this point in my life. I am keen to do what I can to contribute to the health of the organization and, most importantly, to the ongoing professionalization of TESL. Throughout the life of a teacher, you gain perspective as your career progresses and at one point you realize that you are ready to pitch in and give some time to the profession at large.

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October 22 #CdnELTchat (Technology, Organization, Blended Learning and Online Learning)

Image source: #CdnELTchat

by Jennifer Chow

On October 22, enthusiastic #CdnELTchat participants talked about “Technology, Organization, Blended Learning and Online Learning”. We were excited to have Rob McBride (@LearnIT2Teach) of New Language Solutions join us as our guest moderator for this chat. Rob is one of the project managers for the EduLINC coursewareand LearnIT2Teach/ Thank-you to all those who added their thoughts before, during and after the chat. 

It was a fast-paced chat with many conversation threads. Here are some of the key ideas that came out of the chat:

  • The definition of blended learning is flexible and may describe classes with face-to-face instruction combined with online teaching and learning activities, but could also include exclusively online teaching and learning environments with synchronous and asynchronous activities.
  • Blended learning may include “flex-time” models, where students can choose to attend in person or via remote conference services.
  • Blended learning is always changing, and instructors have to keep adapting and refreshing modes and methods.
  • Blended learning helps students build or develop multimodal literacy skills, digital literacy skills, learner autonomy, self-reflection, and online social engagement with other learners. 
  • Some of the challenges of blended learning include time management, lack of tools and resources, tech difficulties, equity in access, and isolation.
  • Some of the blended learning tips that were shared include engaging in better practices via a Community of Practice, consulting learners through classroom discussions and surveys, using interactive screencasts, creating a digital orientation, creating and sharing a style guide to support a program, developing “Transitions” classes to get students ready for blended learning and engaging in course design evaluation.

All the resources that were shared can be found here: Resources for Blended Learning. Please feel free to add resources to this live document. 

You can find the tweets by searching Twitter for our hashtag, #CdnELTchat, but we’ve also collected the tweets from both the live and the follow-up asynchronous chat using Wakelet: #CdnELTchat Summary on Technology, Organization, Blended Learning and Online Learning

These are the questions we used in the chat: 

Q1: What is blended learning? Is there a single accepted definition? 

Q2: What are the benefits and challenges of blended learning? What are the unanticipated challenges – what do most instructors fail to plan for? 

Q3: What do teachers and students need to know before trying blended learning? 

Q4: What are some better practices for blended learning? How do we identify these? And how can teachers work together to support each other and share ideas and best practices?

Q5: What questions should we ask ourselves to evaluate the design of our blended learning courses? Are there any tools we can use to do this?  

Q6: How can we deal with questions of access and accessibility in blended learning? For example, what about students who do not have regular access to an internet-enabled device and a reliable, high-speed internet connection outside of class?

The #CdnELTchat team is looking for people who would be interested in facilitating one of our bi-monthly chats.  Please let a member of the team know if you are interested in co-moderating a live chat, or in collecting and writing the summaries which are posted on the BC TEAL and TESL Ontario blogs. Other provincial #ELT associations are also welcome to share. If you would like to volunteer, or have ideas for chats, contact any of us: Jennifer @jennifermchow, Augusta @ELTAugusta, Svetlana @StanzaSL, or Bonnie @EALStories.  Post ideas anytime on our Padlet,

Our next chat will be on Tuesday, Nov. 5 with special guest moderator, Sandhya Ghai, who will talk about Intercultural Fluency in LINC Classrooms.


Cereal Box Book Report

Cereal box book reports produced by Mandy’s students
Source: Mandeep Somal

In post-secondary, students are often required to work on culminating projects comprised of various assignments submitted at different deadlines throughout the term. My teaching partner and I wanted to bring the experience of a post-secondary culminating project into our classroom, but in a way that was both manageable and meaningful to our LINC students.

When doing major projects, my teaching partner and I are always looking for ways to optimize Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). As we focus on teaching our students English to prepare them for post-secondary education and the workplace, we find ourselves utilizing creative ways to incorporate PBLA with scaffolded learning. Thus, we came up with the idea of a cereal box book report.

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Meaningless Grammarisms

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When you hear a newscaster say, “The hurricane has WENT from Hawaii to Osaka overnight,” perhaps, like me, you yell, “That’s GONE from Hawaii, you knucklehead!” Nevertheless, you have understood that knucklehead perfectly despite the grammatical error.  There is no ambiguity in his meaning.

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Self-care for teachers: #CdnELTchat September 24, 2019

image source: #CdnELTchat

written by Bonnie Nicholas

As always, during the live chat, participants had a lively discussion responding to the questions posted by our moderator, Augusta Avram. And as always, people who couldn’t participate in the live chat added to the richness of the conversation afterwards through the #slowburn format. Thanks to everyone who participated! A couple of themes emerged from the ongoing conversation: #ELT can be stressful work, and we need to take care of ourselves and support each other. Some ideas that were shared included having an emergency self-care kit, remembering that “no” is a complete sentence, making  time and space to debrief, blocking off me time, advocating for ourselves as well as for our students, setting boundaries, and remembering the importance of exercise and physical health.

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Once Upon a Time: Using Stories to Teach ESL

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When I was a student in elementary school, I used to love “story time.” Some of my earliest and fondest memories as a child were sitting around in a circle and having the teacher read stories to the class. I’ll never forget the time my Kindergarten teacher cried while reading us “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. Stories are powerful. Story time was the best!

I love stories, whether they be novels, movies, or a friend’s adventure. So, naturally, as a teacher I like using stories in my classes.

Here are a few examples of how I have used stories as an ESL Teacher.

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Who has the Final Say about Student Marks?

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Recently, we had a lively discussion at our school regarding who has the final say regarding student benchmarks at the end of the term – is it the teacher or the program administrator? 

When we look at the PBLA 2019 guidelines, it makes a number of statements like the following:“In all PBLA assessment practices, teachers’ professional judgments are central. From selecting or developing appropriate tasks, choosing or developing assessment tools, giving feedback on writing and speaking performance, to deciding when a learner is ready to progress to the next level, teachers make decisions based on professional interpretation and judgment” (PBLA Reporting, 2019, p. 31, emphasis added).

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The Power of the Warm-Up

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The ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning of an ESL class are so valuable to both teachers and students. That is the time when students are fresh and eager to learn. I would go so far as to say that students may even be optimistic and excited about what they are about to do (at least that’s how I like to view the students in that part of the class). In the spirit of that optimism, the warm-up is a great tool to increase students’ confidence, show them what they know and what they need to work on, and give the teacher a clear understanding of where the class needs to go that day.

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A Positive Group Volunteer Experience

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While teaching a module about working in Canada, I found my students were a bit surprised when I told them that volunteer work was not only valuable to have on a resume, but also one of the best ways to gain work experience in Canada.  For many, “paid” work experience seemed to be the only valued work experience they had known.  So, when I mentioned to my class that employers like to see volunteer experience on resumes and hear about it in job interviews, students started asking how they could do it.

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What I Did on My Summer Vacations

Image Source: Patrice Palmer
Palmer, second from left, with staff of Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce Training Centre, 2017.

Do you remember having to write about your summer vacation on your first day back to school?  It doesn’t seem like a very original topic, but I want to share my experience as a volunteer in Honduras, Ethiopia, and Guyana with Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO).  You are probably wondering how this happened since I’m an ESL teacher, not an executive.  Let me explain. 

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