Round-up of Classic Classroom Activities

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Do you have some go-to activities that you use for multiple teaching points?  I have a few.  I think it’s reassuring for students to see activities they recognize.  They feel confident when they know what to do, and they can focus on the point being taught instead of learning the rules of a new game (ahem, I mean “learning activity”).  It also doesn’t hurt that reusing ideas and materials reduces teacher prep time.  For these reasons, here are three of my favourite flexible activities.  Continue reading

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Data-driven learning with WordSift

image source: John Allan

I recently came across a web resource that reminded me of using Data-driven learning (DDL) with students.  I have not tried using DDL for a few years but I think that WordSift will allow instructors to use basic DDL techniques with their students.

What is DDL?

Data-driven learning is a learning approach in which learning is driven by research-like access to linguistic data (Johns, 1991). DDL examines a corpora or body of text. WordSift can generate useful usage data Continue reading

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Tasking the Adult Language Learner To Do Tasks

Close up of old English dictionary page with word task
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Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) has created a new world, where  the doing of tasks is a must, with no exceptions whatsoever. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word task is the notion that you have something to do, most likely something you are not too keen on doing.  A task by any definition is a piece of work you must do or undertake. The Merriam-Webster dictionary goes further to add: “Something hard or unpleasant that has to be done.”  Some common synonyms for the word task are chore, job, duty, labour, toil, and burden.  Both as a noun and a verb, the word task does not evoke anything pleasant someone has to do. How the word task came into adult ESL teaching methodology now troubles me. There has to be a better Continue reading

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Joining In: How I Joined the Board

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Recently I had written about why I joined TESL Ontario and my local affiliate chapter in Ottawa. To follow up, I would like to explain how I went about the process in hopes that this would inspire others to see just how easy it is to participate. Having attended a number of TESL Ottawa events, I was in awe of the amount of work and effort put forth by the local volunteers. There were always messages encouraging new members to join its executive and when curiosity got the best of me, I Continue reading

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I (Don’t) Understand!

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Have you ever explained a task to your students, checked to make sure they understood, and then let them go to work – only to realize as they stared blankly at their work, that they actually didn’t understand?  In my first years of teaching, I was so puzzled by students telling me they understood when they clearly didn’t.  Even when I would ask directly, “Do you understand?” the answer I was given was often “Yes, teacher” before it became clear that the opposite was true.  This was frustrating!  It seemed so obvious Continue reading

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Reading Progress Reports

It’s fall again and that means it’s time to talk about progress reports. Whether you are talking about LINC learners’ progress reports, or the progress reports their children bring home from school, reports often contain a grade and some coinciding comments. However, in my experience, I find most of my students only look at the grades and don’t even read the comments. This is a shame because the comments can add helpful information, for both parents who may be learning English in a LINC program and their children. Continue reading

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Celebrating National Dictionary Day

Fake Dictionary Dictionary definition of the word encourage.
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This weekend has been filled with social gatherings and sharing our thanks with friends and family – and our students, but in the world of teaching, before one major theme is complete, our thoughts are filled with what’s next.  October is filled with major themes – Fall harvest, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, but did you know it’s also the month of National Dictionary Day?  As Shakespeare said, what’s in a name? Well for many language learners, the answer is Continue reading

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Let us be thankful

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Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

This blog isn’t really about being thankful… unless you are thankful for a few ideas that you can use this week to teach about Thanksgiving. Are you tired of the same old worksheets that you use year after year? Are you looking for something different?  Here I want to offer some (hopefully) fresh ideas that you can consider using in your classroom. Also, please share any ideas that you love to use in the comment section below.  So, let’s freshen up our Thanksgiving activity repertoire. Continue reading

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Try something different this year, adopt an app!

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As language teachers, many of us agree that technology is useful for assisting our instruction.  Videos, animations, virtual tours, audio clips, interactive games, self-correcting quizzes and digital online resources are some of the possibilities offered through technology. Until recently, technology based learning events have been delivered on institutional workstations, laptops or tablets.  The personal device revolution is migrating learning events/objects to mobile device applications or apps.

For security reasons, institutions have been organized to control digital resources. This includes networks, hardware, software, online subscriptions and website access.  The advent of Bring Your Own Technology or B.Y.O.T. tests this control. Continue reading

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‘I don’t know why!’

Years ago the ESL program at Brock University welcomed a cohort of remarkable students on scholarships to pursue graduate studies in Canada. All of them were optimistic and highly motivated, but one – let’s call her Marianna – stood out for her exceptional diligence. She was a geneticist, and perhaps that academic focus promoted her extremely methodical approach to studying English; in any case, she wonderfully exemplified the self-aware style that often characterizes successful adult learners. One of my experiences when teaching her was especially memorable.

But first, the background: Guided by theoretical findings that were emerging at the time, we required every ESL student to read one entire easy-reader per week. We offered a large bank of fiction and non-fiction texts, and students could freely select whatever title and difficulty-level they wished. Continue reading

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