Hello everyone and welcome to my Language Teaching and Learning talk show. I’m Language Pedagogy and here with me is Conversation. Today we’re going to have a fantastic talk about the history and current standing of this amazingly popular ESL task. Well, I have been in this profession since day one and frankly I haven’t seen any classroom task as appealing to students as conversation, so I thought, why not sit together and talk?
Language Pedagogy: Thanks for being with us today. I am sure that our audience is excited to hear from you.
Consider how much time instructors and students spend in front of electronic screens and how essential technology has become within the last eight months. Meetings and lessons delivered via Zoom and other online platforms are the new normal. Given the challenging times that we are facing including new approaches to learning, living, and overcoming adversity, the idea of new materialism is gaining momentum.
No matter how trivial it sounds, in an online class the organization of course content is absolutely essential. Let me share a few practical observations.
1. Materials and Assessments
The most basic organizational tenet of an online classroom stems from the platform itself: in my case it was Google Classroom which gives an opportunity to divide learning content into assignments, quiz assignments, questions, and materials within a section called Classwork. It is a slight deviation from the terminology usually employed in the LINC/ESL world, but one easy for learners to accept. Understanding the distinction between materials and the other options is primarily important for students.
Like many of my colleagues, I was teaching online this summer using Zoom. My adult ESL class (CLB 4) had about 14 regular students. By the end, we had become quite close and it was sad to see them go. Along the way we had a few adventures related to online learning that I’d like to share with you.
Writing is a process, and Díaz Ramírez (2014) gives the steps as follows: “brainstorming, planning, multiple drafting, peer collaboration, delayed editing, and portfolio assessment” (p.34). However, our students perceive writing differently and often skip a few of these steps. Editing is one of these skipped steps.
Editing is one of the vital skills I teach in my higher education communication courses. Interestingly, however, when I ask my students how often they edit, the answers I hear are as follows: “sometimes” and “almost never”. Also, when I ask what tools students use to edit their work, they often seem to be unsure of an existing tool. This is when I introduce Track Changes in Microsoft and the Suggesting Mode in Google docs.
No matter what benchmark my students have in writing (I teach levels 5-7), almost all of them need to improve three things: run-on sentences/comma splices, punctuation (mostly commas) and the use of transition words.
In this blog entry, I will attempt to briefly describe the contents of a presentation my colleague Glenn Ewing and I shared at TESL Niagara on February 8, 2020.
Glenn and I have been interested in EAP Speaking rubrics for many years. Information shared here and during the presentation is based on our personal reflection, professional experience, education, and research. Our focus is mainly on EAP speaking rubrics for midterm assessment. We maintain that typical EAP speaking rubrics often present some flaws which make them ineffective for the learner. We attempt to explain some of the problems, propose some principles of rubric design, and finally, promote, as an alternative, student-centred, formative speaking rubrics.
Since late March, many of our courses have been moved online, and synchronous sessions through Zoom have become a new part of our teaching lives. While testing various features offered by Zoom, I have realized that I really miss my classroom whiteboard, which was used for writing the agenda, teaching notes, upcoming coursework, classroom instructions, and conducting student interactive writing, editing, and speaking activities.
Although Zoom has a Whiteboard feature, I find it limiting, so I have replaced it with Google Docs. I have found this practice quite sustainable and a user-friendly approach to an online whiteboard. Here is how and why I combine Zoom and Google Docs.
Sharing: I have created a Google Doc, named it “Whiteboard” and shared it with my students by placing its link on my Learning Management System (LMS). In every class, my students can click on the same link and find their class notes there.
Organizing: I have organized my notes on the Google Doc by creating a table of contents, and the table of contents is organized by date of the class, list of planned activities, and by placing the newest notes at the top.
Navigation: This way of content organization through a table of contents makes navigation absolutely efficient for both students and instructors.
Agenda: My table of contents also plays the role of an agenda. As an instructor, I place my list of planned activities on the Doc right before the class starts just like when I used to step into my physical classroom welcoming early arrivers and writing my agenda. Now, my table of contents displays my agenda.
Class Notes: Once the class starts on Zoom, and after I greet my students for a few minutes, I start teaching by sharing my screen and displaying my Google Doc “Whiteboard”. Since my list of activities has already been shared, I ask students to locate a certain activity. When I have my students’ attention on that activity, I can add more teaching notes to it, just as we used to utilize our whiteboards/ blackboards and share information.
Interaction: Leading a more sedentary lifestyle at this time, it is now more important than ever to create an interactive learning environment for our students, who might be staring at screens for long hours every day. Therefore, for every assignment, I have a short teaching moment, and then ask my students to work on the activity.
Watching: In the case of showing a video, I place the video link right in front of the planned activity, which has two benefits: It is quick for the instructor to locate the video link and play it right there, and it is already shared with my students for their own future reference.
Reading: The same goes for sharing an article and having students read it. With Zoom’s Breakout Room feature, it is easy to place students in different groups to read and speak about an article. I can assign certain paragraphs to each group, or I can assign a different article to every group. Having all the links shared on one page for the whole semester makes navigating content a highly efficient practice. A little side note: I also use the Zoom’s chat box or the broadcast feature to share a quick spontaneous link or a message when conducting breakout rooms.
Writing: In terms of writing, I can follow the same practice of assigning a page to a breakout room group, where students can write and edit their work. I am writing a whole blog post on writing and editing, coming up soon.
Announcements: Finally, I share reminders, coursework due dates, and announcements right at the top of every class’s list of activities, which makes it easy for students to plan upcoming activities and assignments.
This combination of Zoom sessions with a consistent Google Doc link has been a well-received practice with my students. By placing your whole class on a Google Doc, teaching, learning, note sharing, and storing have become sustainable, organized, and efficient. I highly recommend it to all the educators out there who are trying to make their lives and their students’ lives easier, stay efficient, and make learning more accessible.
Noticing theory in the
context of cognitive linguistics seems to offer an interesting insight into the
processes accompanying second language acquisition focusing on the problems of
attention, awareness and memory. “Noticing” – despite disagreements in defining
the term – seems to function as a gateway into these processes in Richard
Schmidt’s (1995) deliberations. An ESL instructor “in the field,” might have burning
questions such as these: How is noticing initiated? Is it totally subjective
and personalized, or does it have some regularities that could be exploited in
the classroom? If the latter is true, then what are the stimulants? How can one
effectively manage the process of transforming “comprehensible input” into
Since Extensive Reading (ER) is a crucial part of language
learning, I have compiled some important ER resources to help you promote ER in
your classroom. ER can build learners’ confidence, enjoyment and autonomy.