First-Second-Third…In Conclusion

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What is academic writing? Are we all on the same page? Is it a five paragraph essay? I don’t think so. Let me explain.

I always read with great enthusiasm my students’ essay writing diagnostics. This helps me to understand their way of thinking and their prior working understanding of academic writing. For some, the question posted is somewhat forgotten as they go about making their essay fit into a five paragraph structure. I perceive trains of thoughts interrupted as these students try to inject the three point parallel structure at the end of the so called introduction paragraph, while moving on to adding transitions throughout the remaining paragraphs as they seek to achieve the perfect five paragraph layout. The structure looks good…Hmm…Let me go inside and look.

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Special Post: Leadership, Professional Development, and the Annual TESL Ontario Conference

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Fellow TESL O members, it is almost that time of year where we get a chance to share our knowledge with each other and develop our skills as educators at the annual #TESL2016 Conference.  This face-to-face experience Continue reading

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Solve the Question

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

I’m privileged to have been teaching newcomers for the last few weeks. It’s definitely been an interesting class, more so because of the extreme level differences in learning. Having a multilevel class can be quite challenging because you want to ensure that no one is bored and everyone is engaged.

Forming questions to match answers is a great way to challenge your students at any level. (Although I wouldn’t recommend this to first time English language learners). I’d say it works anywhere from from a high CLB 2 or low CLB 3 and up. Continue reading

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Cool Tools – Collaborating with Padlet

http://padlet.com
https://padlet.com

Are you looking for a useful tool to facilitate collaborative work for your students? For the past year, I have been exploring the use of Padlet, a free online application that serves as a ‘multi-media friendly, free-form, real-time wiki’ (according to Padlet.com). This easy to use tool allows you to easily provide content for your students online and customize it in many creative ways.

In a nutshell, Padlet works like a digital bulletin board or canvas. Once you have created your free account at https//:padlet.com, you can create individual ‘walls’ or padlets on which you can place content. An unlimited number of users can contribute to a padlet at the same time, making collaborative work very easy. By double-clicking anywhere on the screen, you can insert text, video, documents, images, or other padlets.  Your padlet with all of its content can then be shared with your students via email, link, or on social media. Continue reading

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The Whole Package

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

The way we deliver our message has a big effect on how it is received.  Not only do we receive the message, but we receive the way it is presented or “wrapped”. It’s the whole package.  How we say things adds another layer of meaning to the message.  Teaching about the delivery of a message in ESL classes adds a lot of value for students. Continue reading

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Aligning your Assessments to Improve Learning

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Most of the time, ESL courses and activities are considered non-credit by their host institutions. Private language schools and larger corporations usually run some form of progress assessments for their students, but rarely are these associated to grades. In some rare cases, ESL courses may be graded and may also count for credit, especially in the case of EAP (English for Academic Purposes). To many, the fact that they are “non-credit” courses seems to imply that they are taken less seriously or are “less important” than for-credit courses. Regardless of how your language institution handles success in language courses, timely and “aligned” formative evaluations are a must in the teaching and learning process. The “non-credit” label given to ESL courses may lead to inadequate assessment and/or feedback for students, which can ultimately lead to less achievement. Below are a few guidelines for creating assessments that promote learning and self-reflection as well as target the language skills you are trying to develop in your students.

Aligned Assessment

The concept of “aligned assessments” revolves around ensuring that the learning outcomes set out by your course or student expectations are properly assessed through “authentic” assessments. How many ESL conversation courses have you taught in which the final assessment was a paper-and-pencil grammar exam? Continue reading

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Focusing on Writing Strategies: Attention, Please!

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I have been teaching writing at the college level for over six years to both first and second language learners. Unless I am teaching EAP, where my students are second language learners, my classes have been mixed: native language students at various language levels and experiences as well as non-native language learners, including 1.5 generation (people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens) with different levels of language proficiency. Note that no matter who the students are, my job is to help my students achieve the learning outcomes of the course (e.g. to be able to write an academic essay), which means I must pay attention and therefore take into consideration each student’s individual needs. How do I reconcile all these differences in a writing course? Well, among many teaching strategies, I focus on selective attention.

Selective Attention

According to Richard Schmidt (2010) our ability to focus is dependent on our awareness of the existence of stimuli. It is difficult (even impossible) to pay attention to every bit of information around us, so we need to be consciously aware it exists to be able to notice it. Hence, not knowing what to focus our attention on can leave us paying attention to unimportant information, unaware of what it is we should be focusing on! Continue reading

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Come Again: You Said What?

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Imagine if someone said something overtly sexual or crude to you. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Now imagine that the speaker is your ESL student. Of course, your response has to be different.

Sometimes because of pronunciation or improper word usage, ESL students inadvertently say or write the most shocking things. A while back, one of my students wrote this in a peer review (a student response to a student assignment, in this case an essay): “Your hooker is not very appealing and is unlikely to attract the reader.” Of course, he meant hook. What a difference two letters can make. This situation was easier to deal with because the student had not uttered this sentence aloud to the class. I took him aside and explained the meaning of the word, resulting in him blushing quite a bit.

Sometimes students mispronounce words such as sit, beach, can’t etc. I deal with this issue Continue reading

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Supply Teaching – A Positive Experience

Some of my students working in a computer lab

I was recently assigned the role of a full-time supply instructor in an English as a Foreign Language department of approximately 70 instructors. “Take this on as a new challenge” was my first thought, and I haven’t looked back.  Our EFL department has two divisions. These are the academic and the technical preparatory programs. I had not yet taught in the technical program and was interested in these students with different needs. I had always been curious about the technical program and was anxious to jump right in and teach.

We have just completed midterms and I have had a generous sampling of most of the courses that our department offers. I have benefited from this experience in more ways than I had anticipated. I have continued to learn about my peers, technology integration, institutional facilities, and most of all the students. Here is a brief overview of the things I learned:

Technology integration

Our college supports education technical technology through an environment of well stocked and supported digital learning options. It is interesting to see the varying degrees to which technology is being used by the staff and students. Student behaviour often reflects their instructor’s education technology routines. When I direct the students to use some technology, their efficiency indicates whether or not they use technology on a regular basis.  I have been very impressed by those teachers who have integrated technology seamlessly into their instructional practice.  Continue reading

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