All posts by Gwen Zeldenrust @gwenzeldenrust

Don’t just press play: using video in the ESL classroom

Image source: bigstockphoto.com
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

There are a plethora of videos available to instructors and many  are excellent tools to use in the classroom.  When learners watch a video in the ESL classroom, it can transform a subtle point of language instruction from abstract to concrete.
Learners not only process information with their rational minds, but also with their emotions when they watch and listen together. Exercising more than one domain in a learning situation assists in skill development (Bloom, 1956). Watching a character on video experience a situation simulates a real life experience for the observer promoting use of the Cognitive and Affective Domains (Bloom, 1956).

According to Gibbons, McConkie, Seo & Wiley (2009), using simulation in conjunction with supplementary problem solving materials that promote learner interaction with simulation Continue reading

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Impostor Syndrome

Image source: bigstockphoto.com
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

Do you ever feel like you’re faking it? If you do, you’re not alone. The Impostor Syndrome or Imposter Phenomenon (IP) is found in people who have skills and abilities but who do not feel that they are successful. Many of the sufferers of IP have achieved high rates of success through earning advanced degrees, gaining professional recognition in their field, or obtaining senior management positions. But despite their accomplishments, those affected by IP believe they do not have the ability to perform in their roles; instead they attribute achievement to luck, or some external factor. People from many different types of professions report feeling like an impostor.

Click here for a video describing Impostor Syndrome

 Impostor Phenomenon and Teaching

Due to the public nature of our jobs, teachers tend to experience high rates of IP. Part of the problem with having IP is the anxiety caused by fear of exposure. Often we feel like we should know all of the answers to all of the questions asked by students, and if we don’t then we are at risk of being exposed. Continue reading

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Teachercraft

The Experience

Man jumping over precipice between two rocky mountains at sun light. Freedom, risk, challenge, success.
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Teaching is not a 9-5 job even if you teach 9-5. A lot of preparation  time goes into developing lessons that are useful and valuable for our students. In addition, a teacher often plays multiple roles in the lives of their students. This multiple-role responsibility is particularly important as an ESL instructor who teaches newcomer adults. Much of the time, the interaction with students involves advising, counselling, and mentoring. These roles together with prep-time can sometimes feel overwhelming.

According to Allain (as cited in Simmons, 2011), the first 5 years can be the most demanding, potentially affecting a teacher’s physical and mental health (p. 229).  However, these first 5 years can be a time when Continue reading

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The Whole Package

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
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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Presentations that feel like home

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Presentations are ubiquitous in modern life, so it makes sense to include them as a component in ESL classes.  In North American culture we have certain expectations about how presentations will be given.  The format is low-context, meaning the presenters are making sure that they can be understood by the audience.  The students in our classes not only require the appropriate language skills, they also need to understand how to format a presentation so that the audience can understand its structure.  The following house analogy is one way to teach about how the format of a presentation gives it structure.  This structure makes the content more coherent to the audience.

Welcome

The introduction welcomes the audience to your presentation.  It tells them who you are, why you are giving the presentation and, maybe most importantly, it shows them what to expect.  It’s the first impression that the audience has of what will be delivered.  Much like the front lawn or the walk way to your house, the first impression of the introduction adds value.  Continue reading

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Say It With Confidence!

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

When we are submitting a cover letter to a perspective employer, we want to showcase our skills and to communicate the fact that we have confidence.  In work preparedness classes we promote the idea that confident vocabulary and sentence structure is essential to having our cover letter read.  But where is the line between confidence and over confidence, and how do we teach that to our students?

I once received a homework assignment that was a sample cover letter written by a student.  The format was good, the sentences well formed, and there were no spelling mistakes. However, a few lines made me wince:  I am brilliant.  I am the best person that your company could hire.”  This surely was confidence, bordering on hubris, that may in fact have the same effect as grammatical error on the reader of the letter.  If I were the hiring manager, I’m not sure I would have read much further. So, where do we draw the line? Continue reading

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Pragmatically Speaking

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

For the last 8 or 9 years I have been working in programs that deliver language instruction to adult newcomers who have language levels above CLB 7.  These people have high levels of education and have been professionally trained.  When I first started working with this demographic of students, I struggled with creating content that was relevant for my classes.  I found their language skills to be quite good, and I wondered what else I could offer them. 

Once I started to get to know them a little better, I came to understand that they were having difficulty obtaining employment.  This fact seemed counter intuitive to me because I know that Canada relies on immigration to sustain its workforce.  I had been taught that without immigration, Canada’s population would actually decline.  So, what exactly prevents them from getting a job? Continue reading

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What is the Right Blend?

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

With the ever-increasing availability of technology in education, and ever-shrinking institutional budgets, there seems to be a lot of movement towards online learning.  Blended learning combines face–to-face and online activities, and is much better suited to language learning than online learning alone. The opportunity to use language in real-time situations is important for developing good communication skills. Well-developed blended courses provide an experience for the student where the face-to-face and online parts work together to support the learning in an integrated way.

From an institutional point of view, online and blended courses have the ability to provide more revenue with less overhead owing to the cost savings realized by potentially allowing for delivery of the course to a greater number of students, while at the same time freeing up physical space.  Pedagogically, students are not only able to learn how to use a language, but also how to use technology.  A blended set-up looks like it is beneficial from many points of view.  But how do students and teachers feel about blended language learning? Continue reading

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Uncovering Meaning

Illuminated light bulb in a row of dim ones concept for creativity, innovation and solution
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Early in my ESL teaching career when I had a new class, I found myself asking: “Why don’t my students do what I tell them to do?” They rarely followed up on the advice I gave them, didn’t come back from lunch on time, or even take a break when I said it was break time. I pondered this for some time. It wasn’t until after being in my class for a bit of time, that I noticed them beginning to follow my instructions. But initially they didn’t, so I thought this lag in understanding was due to them misinterpreting my particular pronunciation.

Then, I had an ‘aha!’ moment.  Continue reading

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