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!

image source: John Allan

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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Notes From a Registered Dietitian: Helping Newcomers Make Healthier Choices at the Grocery Store

Image says "Join the movement. Bike. Walk. Play. activeto.caIn my practice as a Registered Dietitian at Toronto Public Health, I have heard many newcomers tell me that they get overwhelmed by the huge number of choices at the grocery store. Think about the last time you went down the cereal aisle. How many different cereals were there? What are the factors you considered in making your choice? Did you read the fine print? Was it just based on the price tag? Or did the cartoon characters or other pictures convince you (or your child) to pick them?

Helping your learners interpret the fine print on nutrition labels can make Continue reading

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Culture Is a Verb

Vertical Culture versus Horizontal Culture

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Shavitt, Torelli, and Riemer (2010) distinguish between vertical culture, which emphasizes hierarchy and horizontal culture, which values equality. According to them, individuals who come from vertical- individualist cultures (e.g., the US, the UK, France) focus on how to improve their status, hence the emphasis on competition, achievement, and power which allow them to stand out. People who belong to horizontal- individualist cultures (e.g., Denmark, Norway, Australia) Continue reading

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Notes From a Registered Dietitian: Talking About Healthy Eating

Image says "Join the movement. Bike. Walk. Play. activeto.caAs a dietitian with Toronto Public Health’s Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention program for the past 11 years, I have had many years of experience bringing healthy eating messages to newcomers. In my experience, what influences my audience isn’t dazzling them with details about the science of nutrition, it’s helping them to understand how to make healthier choices delicious, easy and practical.

Healthy eating is one of those topics that can be complicated to communicate. Often people get caught in the details, like the whole butter vs. margarine debate.  Continue reading

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Reflections on Canada’s 150th birthday – creating unity in diversity

Over the years, I have always found it interesting that the first three words many of my students have seemed to master by day one are peace and safety. Oh, the third? – double-double, or so it seems. I’ll get back to that in a moment. Most of my students come from places where conflict and corruption create an environment that lacks peace and safety, two things that we as Canadians often take for granted. So, when asked why they come to Canada, these two words form a neat summary without needing much grammar. Sometimes they say or write: Peaceful and Safety, or Peace and Safeful, but we get the idea.

And though they certainly did not come here for the double-doubles at Tim Horton’s, considering many left behind the delights of Turkish coffee and various forms of baklava, or real tea brewed in pots, this is the comfort Canada offers them so they take it. Continue reading

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