Category Archives: Academic

Adventures in Summer School

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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.

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Making Editing Fun

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.  

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EAP Speaking Rubrics: A Student-Centred Approach

A Brief Introduction

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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.

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Zooming your Docs

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. Navigation: This way of content organization through a table of contents makes navigation absolutely efficient for both students and instructors.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10.  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 – An Essential Tool for L2 Acquisition – Part 2 of 2

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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 “noticed intake”? 

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Extensive Reading Resources

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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.

If you missed my first blog post, The Role of Extensive Reading in Language Learning, please read it when you get a chance so that the resources below will be most helpful.

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Noticing – An Essential Tool for L2 Acquisition-Part 1 of 2

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 I often think of my classroom, in which I teach advanced English learners, as a laboratory. The analogy seems appropriate since both parties – students and I – are involved in some intense and sometimes experimental brain manipulations. Often by design, but also incidentally. Sometimes stemming from theoretical reflection, often just from common sense and intuition.

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Authentic Listening Materials

Summary for Jan. 28, 2020 #CdnELTchat

By Jennifer Chow

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Happy 75th to #CdnELTchat! When Nathan Hall (@nathanghall) and Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL) started #CdnELTchat (also known as #LINCchat) in 2015, I taught evenings as a LINC instructor, and I had been feeling a bit isolated at the time. #CdnELTchat gave me a chance to connect with other Canadian ELT educators. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the #CdnELTchat team and community of practice.

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The Role of Extensive Reading in Language Learning

Why is extensive reading important for language learning? And how can students be motivated to read for pleasure? 

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As an international student and immigrant, I know how difficult it is to read extensively in English. Diverse backgrounds and school experiences can create different profiles of reading strengths and needs. As an experienced EAP/ESL/EFL instructor, I did a case study about Extensive Reading (ER) for my MA, and I learned things I wished I had known much earlier! Now I would like to share that knowledge with other instructors because ER touches every skill we teach (Reading, Writing, Grammar, Speaking and Listening).

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