Category Archives: Academic

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? 

A young woman reads a book and drinks coffee. A lot of books. Concept for World Book Day, lifestyle, study, education.
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

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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Reading & Presenting Circles

Teaching communication skills to internationally trained professional students has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career. My students have years of experience and vast knowledge in their areas of expertise, yet when it comes to communicating the simplest thoughts and ideas, they often seem to be challenged; confidence and language barriers could be the two biggest reasons behind this challenge.

The curriculum that I teach requires students to present only twice over the span of 4 months. This semester, however, I have started providing my students with more opportunities to present without making it an official presentation task. I have named this approach “Reading & Presenting Circles.” The results have been stellar, so I thought I should share the approach with my TESL Blog community. The class I have implemented the Reading and Presenting Circle approach in is 18 weeks, and I meet my students twice a week.

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The Rewards of Team Teaching

Mandeep Somal and teaching partner Emily Imbrogno
Photo credit: Mandeep Somal

It’s the end of day and I have just finished writing an email update to my teaching partner about what students did in class. I have a sense of relief that I made it through the day, while at the same time I’m glad about what we have accomplished. I’m also delighted that I have someone to share my experiences with who knows the students, the content, and the design of the class. Team teaching works for me!

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Rubric Reflection

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Do you use rubrics to support self-assessment, peer-assessment, and skill assessment? Do you create a separate rubric for each assignment? Do your rubrics look more like checklists? Are your rubrics really assessing skills or simply the ability to follow assignment instructions? Have you ever thought of using one common skill-specific rubric for all related assignments?

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After Decades in the Field, I Am on the Board!

Inspire hand lettering phrase on watercolor imitation background with color splashes frame.  Modern calligraphy inspirational quote. Vector illustration.
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

In 2018, after some 37 years in the TESL field, I joined the TESL Ontario Board. This is the ideal volunteer challenge for me at this point in my life. I am keen to do what I can to contribute to the health of the organization and, most importantly, to the ongoing professionalization of TESL. Throughout the life of a teacher, you gain perspective as your career progresses and at one point you realize that you are ready to pitch in and give some time to the profession at large.

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Cereal Box Book Report

Cereal box book reports produced by Mandy’s students
Source: Mandeep Somal

In post-secondary, students are often required to work on culminating projects comprised of various assignments submitted at different deadlines throughout the term. My teaching partner and I wanted to bring the experience of a post-secondary culminating project into our classroom, but in a way that was both manageable and meaningful to our LINC students.

When doing major projects, my teaching partner and I are always looking for ways to optimize Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). As we focus on teaching our students English to prepare them for post-secondary education and the workplace, we find ourselves utilizing creative ways to incorporate PBLA with scaffolded learning. Thus, we came up with the idea of a cereal box book report.

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The Power of the Warm-Up

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The ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning of an ESL class are so valuable to both teachers and students. That is the time when students are fresh and eager to learn. I would go so far as to say that students may even be optimistic and excited about what they are about to do (at least that’s how I like to view the students in that part of the class). In the spirit of that optimism, the warm-up is a great tool to increase students’ confidence, show them what they know and what they need to work on, and give the teacher a clear understanding of where the class needs to go that day.

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Write, Share, Edit, & Post: An Active Teaching Approach in the EAP Class

How can college writing classes turn into an active learning environment?

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In my writing classes, I try to provide my students with various opportunities to read, write, and receive feedback.  One challenge, however, is when students are asked to write individually; they might not be motivated enough to work on their own.  On the other hand, when assigning an activity to a group, there is often one student who seems to be working on the activity while the other students don’t get as involved as required.

I believe writing is a complicated topic to teach and asking students to produce written work can be a challenging process. To address these individual and group challenges, I have come up with a neat strategy that I would love to share with the rest of the educators dealing with similar challenges.

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A Meaningful Handicraft Project: Collaboration, Learning and So Much More!

The Task at Hand

A handicraft of the alphabet described by the author in the post.
Image source: Suzanne Nicks

Quilting and knitting circles have existed for a long time for the purposes of pleasure and producing a useful final product, but how did a handicraft project for a group of Master of Education students turn into a feel-good, emotional learning journey? It was an assignment for a research methodology course, but it was so much more than that. It was also collaboration, self-discovery and an emotional roller coaster all rolled into some highly memorable academic presentations. At least that was my observation, if not quite my personal experience.

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Effective Feedback in Higher Education

What are some ways you choose to provide feedback to students in higher education? How do you think students perceive and react to our feedback? How effective do you think written feedback comments can be? Nicole and Milligan (2006) have identified seven main principles that effective feedback should entail.

1.     Effective feedback helps students identify what good performance is and assists students in grasping a clear understanding of the goals and standards set for their level. Research suggests that there is often a gap between the expected standards set by educators and students’ perception of these standards. Unless students clearly understand the goals and standards set for them, they cannot succeed in self-regulating their learning process.

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