Reading, Reading, Reading. Why it’s so important!

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I was talking with a colleague, Lisa, during lunch break the other day. At our school, the students have a  1-hour class with a pronunciation instructor once per week. Lisa was suggesting  the merits of having a similar intensive lesson every week on reading.  After our discussion, I began to consider the importance of reading versus the other skills. I am beginning to wonder if reading is the key skill to developing English proficiency.

Don’t get me wrong – Teaching pronunciation is one of my favourite classes to teach. I guess I like the focus of language use and playing with the sounds, the stress, intonation and inflection. Many students have expressed that it is important for them, as well.

Anyway, back to reading.  Continue reading


Board Moments: 2018’s New Start

Teamwork, team connect hands togetherness concept, show connection and alliance. Teambuilding in the office, young businessmen and women in casual unite hands for teamwork and cooperation
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2018 has arrived with a lot of new energy and enthusiasm. At our first TESL Ontario board meeting of the year were 3 newly elected directors: Lara McInnis, Art Rekhtin and Amy Yani. Adding to that, David Hazell sits as the new Chair and I’m adding my efforts as the new Vice Chair. Other board members include Brett Basbaum, Alex Harchenko, Geoff Lawrence and returning secretary, Cheryl Fretz. The board is a great mix of experienced and newer members; with such diverse backgrounds, I am reminded of our vast membership.

TESL Ontario’s small staff has been hard at work since the conference in November 2017 and has been busy preparing many of the items raised at the AGM. It will be posted soon on our website. As for the board, planning has already started for the year ahead. We’re eagerly anticipating our joint meeting with the local Affiliate Chapter Representatives in early March. We only have the opportunity to meet twice a year, which is why it’s always a meeting we look forward to.

Having sat in on these meetings both at the affiliate and board level, the landscape of ESL in Ontario is clearly represented. To confess, as a LINC of many years, I often forget the thorny issues faced by my peers teaching in colleges and universities or the demands and challenges of those in administration and coordination. We’re all working towards the same goals of preparing our students for success. The joint meeting is also an opportunity to hear about what is happening in all 12 of TESL Ontario’s affiliate chapters.

My own affiliate chapter, TESL Ottawa, is showing such ambition in organizing new and innovative professional development opportunities. Our first “Ed Tech Jam” was inspired by what was happening in TESL Toronto’s annual T4T conference. TESL Durham tried out their first remote presenter from Ottawa a few years ago. Did you know that TESL Niagara has an “Eat, Talk, Learn” event? Or what about TESL Hamilton’s trivia nights? There’s so many creative opportunities happening at local levels and when we are able to come together, we can really share what works and what was learned.

It’s also an opportunity to come together to share what concerns we are seeing. PBLA seems to the newest acronym across most affiliates, but it’s old news in Ottawa. While international students seem to be dwindling in one area, another area has seen a surplus. One region has received federal pilot funding and another is facing job cuts. Our industry, it seems, is cyclical in nature. It’s either feast or famine. Every affiliate has faced this, and every affiliate has found a way to best handle the challenges.

The attitude at the board and at all local affiliates, I’m sure, is one of collaboration and teamwork. We’re here for each other as friendly colleagues and professionals with questions, suggestions, complaints, compliments and sparks of new ideas.

With the start of 2018, what questions and suggestions do you have for your local Affiliate Chapter? What new ideas would you like to share with the board?


Improvisation to Enhance Fluency


A few years ago, I had the great opportunity to participate in a series of workshops that promoted the use of drama and its technique in ESL. At the time, I felt I was doing quite well for a new teacher trying to impart and share some speaking techniques with  students: I was covering some pronunciation exercises, conducting fun and meaningful role-plays, touching on interesting and hot topics to spark conversation, and lecturing about public speaking and presentation skills. After the workshops, I realized that I was not doing enough to promote fluency. Below, I am going to share a game on improvisation I learned and played during one of the workshops. I have tried it many times across a gamut of levels and I encourage you to try it with your students. Continue reading



Last Spring, as I was sitting listening despondently to students mangling stress, I decided to give up on words, and create a sound pattern that was so visually simple, they’d be compelled to listen.

If you can’t hear a sound, it is very difficult to reproduce it. Our students hear stressed syllables, which would be okay, except in English over 60% of our syllables are unstressed, and we often forget to teach them how to listen for those unstressed syllables.

English spelling compounds the problem.  Continue reading


Encouraging Learner Autonomy

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One of the best things teachers can do for their students is to help them learn to help themselves.  To promote learner autonomy, we need to build students’ self-confidence and give them strategies for teaching themselves.  Some of the ways we can do this include the following. Continue reading


QR Code Treasure Hunt anyone?

Recently, I tried a campus familiarization activity with my students.  In the past terms, students sat at their desks and looked at a map to identify services and their associated locations on a worksheet.  Throughout the term students asked me, or each other, where different campus resources were located. It was obvious that they did not take in the campus resources information.

My challenge was to improve this learning activity.  Reaching into my technology bag of tricks, I was looking for a technology that would improve this learning task.  Continue reading


Journaling – a Means to Enhance Research Writing

I did not know that I was a researcher until I did academic research for the first time. Like many fellow teachers, just hearing the word research used to make me cringe. It might be the vast implications that research entails that put teachers off, myself included. After all, we all do our own research on a daily basis, whether it is preparing for class, looking up or creating new material, providing feedback, etc. We need to give ourselves more credit, for we all do research, an argument supported by Parsons, Hewson, Adrian, and Day (2013), who claim that “research is less rocket science than carefully planned, rigorously attended activity” (p. 5). Continue reading


Don’t Just Think It: Blog It!

Blog Blogging Social Media Social Networking Online Concept
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Have you read this blog and thought hmm I wish they’d write about [insert relevant topic here] or read a post and thought I have another strategy for that? Maybe you’ve seen the emails over the years and thought that’d be neat, but I don’t know… Well, why not make this the year you take on a new adventure, come on board, and lead the conversation! Continue reading


I Came, I Saw, I Had to Teach Verb Tense

Grunge background with old watch. Time concept. Retro clocks on the wall. Old antique clock on aged red brick wall background. Vintage clocks.
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I’ll put it out there, I’m a grammar geek! I love it, honest. Growing up, I learned a lot of languages, and I loved the days when we would create verb charts for conjugation or parse sentences. I’m also a very visual person, so as soon as the teacher would write a new verb on the board, I whipped out my pencil case and started picking out my pencil crayons and ruler. I was like a language archeologist categorizing, sorting, and analyzing, and I find that this has helped me when approaching verbs with students. Continue reading


Using Facebook Groups for CLB Listening and Speaking Competency I – Interacting with Others

As a LINC Home Study Instructor, my classes are all individual and the students’ levels range from CLB 4-7. I found it difficult to address CLB “Interacting with Others” for speaking and listening – particularly:

  • Opening and maintaining a conversation
  • Using a range of small talk phrases
  • Nonverbal communication
  • turn taking
  • adding supporting comments etc.

I noticed that a significant part of my own small talk revolved around common posts on social media with Facebook being the most common. Continue reading