As the year 2021 wraps up, the Blog Admin Team want to wish everyone a restful holiday and the very best for the new year! We hope you enjoy our look back at some of our favourite blog posts from 2021.
Happy Holidays! Beth, Jessica, Claire, Elyse, Sarah, & Gordon
In this post Gonul offers some great ideas on how to get the most out of text readings in the classroom. Pre-reading activities and discussions are valuable ways to help students make sense of what they’re reading, grasp the core message of the text, and more easily draw on the information presented. The great thing about structured-experience techniques is that the students can be more hands-on in their efforts, while the teacher is there to provide guidance if needed.
First, using predicting activities is a wonderful technique to help students practice their future tense (i.e., the boy will find his dog, then he will be happy and celebrate), and can contribute to their comprehension of the text. Second, answering reader-generated questions as a structured technique got me thinking about how powerful the right questions and answers can be in the ESL classroom. It’s so encouraging for the students when they’re able to ask a question about the text then find the right answer. Third, summarizing a text by reflecting on the key messages and information is yet another powerful way to encourage reading comprehension.
I found it interesting to note that these three techniques can be used for text readings in sequential order, with one technique benefitting from the one before it. Employing all three in the same text reading would be a challenging ESL activity, but one that would undoubtedly promote the acceleration of reading comprehension skills.
Reading Sarah Martinez’s “Ever Just Chat with Your Students?” reminded me of the value of stepping back from grammar lessons and exercises to listen and to share with students. Chatting has helped me to connect better with my students, form closer bonds with them, and to discover what they are still struggling with. When I can establish a personal connection with my students, it is less likely that I will lose their interest and participation.
It reminded me, as well, that we should be encouraging students to try things, to experiment a bit with their newly acquired language skills, and that the classroom should be the best and safest space for this. Language acquisition doesn’t develop passively. It comes from a desire to understand and to be understood. Chatting supports and encourages this desire.
Sarah’s blog has given me some ways to use chat a little more intentionally and productively.
It’s been a pleasure to review and edit many of our guest bloggers’ submissions this year. In particular, I enjoyed the reminder in John Allan’s blog post: “Good Habits for Managing Learning Material.” Personally, I find it so important to be proactive with your lesson plans and assessments and digitalize them effectively for shared use with other educators.
As a high school teacher who recently went on maternity leave, I really had to have my “ducks in a row” and ensure that whoever took over my courses could pick up right where I left off in the current semester! Since our school uses Microsoft Office Suite, I have been uploading my teaching materials to One Note, an online “binder” where you can create organized tabs and store all of your digital files (Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.). I could then share my One Notes with the substitute teachers, and we can all access it and update it in real time.
If your files are all over your personal desktop, or you still stick to using traditional printed copies of lesson plans in a heavy, thick binder, I highly recommend giving this article a read! Our students benefit greatly when we’re all on the same page as an education team, especially since great lessons prepared by great educators should be shared and recycled for future years!
One post I found particularly inspiring this year was Daniela Greco-Giancola’s suggestion for incorporating creative writing into an EAP class. Playing the soundtrack to a movie, and asking students to write a story inspired by the music they hear, is a fun and different way to engage students in the writing process. The music is sure to encourage students to try out new vocabulary and sentence structures so that they can better express their ideas! I encourage everyone looking for a new way to incorporate writing practice in their class to give this article a read. It definitely inspired me to try this practice in my language classes.
One of the many wonderful posts I enjoyed this year was Azi Pordel’s message with tips on how to reduce time typing feedback to students. Not only did I discover a new way of providing feedback using the “Dictate” and “Voice Typing” tools to transform speech to text, but Azi’s outline of how to do this sparked related ideas that worked well, too. For one, these tools can be used for various purposes beyond giving feedback. In fact, they are great for students to “write” with, especially students who struggle with forming words and sentences on paper more so than through speech.
Moreover, while using these tools to give feedback, hearing my own voice inspired me to try another alternative: giving audio feedback to students. Tools like Vocaroo, SpeakPipe, Kaizena, and more make it simple to communicate through not only words but also tone of voice. The beauty of the TESL ON blog is that you never know where a post will lead you! Thanks, Azi, for the inspiration!
Nearly two years after the shift to online classrooms for most if not all of us, Jennifer Hutchison’s blog about Online Fatigue provides helpful insight into what many have come to realize about the deleterious effects it can have on our physical and mental well-being. Jennifer reminds us of what we have missed – the daily exercise we get in simply going out and being at work, as well as the loss of motivation and self-esteem due to a lack of real social interaction. Within this context, Jennifer offers some helpful suggestions on how to recapture some physical and mental wellness habits.
As we move forward post-pandemic, it will be interesting to see how we might find a balance between the interface of technology and human social interaction in the classroom – whether the class remains in an online platform or returns to a brick-and-mortar setting.