Category Archives: Activities

Live Poets Society

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It had been a total failure. I had tried to introduce poetry to my class and have them write some, but they were reluctant and bored. However, something inside told me to give it another shot a few months later. I had been introduced to the concept at a TESL London workshop. The presenter was a convincing person and very nice, so

I had to try again.

I looked at ways I could do things differently. Since I teach levels 6 to 8, there were several resources I could draw on.

First, I asked them what they thought poetry was. You know what? I didn’t get much of a response. Things didn’t look too good – again.

So I went to phase two with a clip from Dead Poets’ Society.

I asked the question again,

“What is poetry?”

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Read Your Way Across Canada

bigstock-Book-Covered-With-Canadian-Fla-20361425Have you ever met any students who don’t want to improve their speaking skills?  I haven’t.  It’s more of a challenge to get them to read and write. I did something that got them into reading.

A few years ago, I was trying to encourage my students to read. Fortunately, there was a public library nearby. Once a week we would go there, and I would help them find books. Still, I wanted to give them more motivation to read, so I decided to get them to read across Canada.

I believe this activity will work regardless of your level. All you have to do is adapt the activities to the abilities, and that includes the books that they read.

I did this with my level 1 students. For those who were particularly weak, I had them take out books by Mo Willems. They are fun and easy to read.  Here is an example of one:

Canada is about 7,250 km from coast to coast. I had about 10 students. For every book they read, they earned 100 km, Continue reading


Facebook Club!

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In May 2014, while volunteering at the TESL Toronto spring conference, I was lucky enough to see a presentation by Chris Harwood and Tracy Manning about their experiences implementing a Facebook-based Book Club in their EAP program.

Inspired by their talk, I decided to try this out with my students. It took some weeks of planning, and some trial and error with different books, but in the end it’s become a successful and popular part of my course!

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It’s Grammar Time…

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We’re always out to find what’s the best way to effectively teach our learners. I don’t know about everyone else, but it’s been my experience that grammar gets the short end of the stick in the sense that everyone dreads teaching it, and most learners dread learning it.  Am I the only one who actually enjoys spelling? (Crickets)…

I’m here to tell you that if you turn anything into a game, it’ll be fun. Even grammar! And who said that games are meant only for kids?

A typical student’s thought process is “why do I need to learn how to spell properly? The important thing is to speak properly.”  Yes and no. What if you needed to write a note or a statement to your son’s teacher? What about at work? You need to write toyour supervisor about something important. Or you’re a student and obviously grammatical errors are a no-no. Even if a student doesn’t work, go to school, or doesn’t need to write anything for their kids, don’t they still Continue reading


Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?

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Want something for lower-level ESL students that is fun and informative?

When I taught benchmark one classes, I did something that increased their vocabulary by about 100 words in a month or so. It was also fun. It’s not a very original idea. In fact, I borrowed it from my days as an occasional teacher when I had to teach kindergarten.

In many kindergarten classes, they have show and tell. A child brings in an object in a bag, and the rest of the students have to guess what it is by asking questions. I decided to do this with my ESL class.

We sat down and thought of all of the properties that might be associated with an object, things like shape, size, colour, age, and material.  I got poster paper for each attribute, and then had them make one for each. They supplied me with the words, and I Continue reading


Get Your Head in the Clouds!

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It all started with Lynn Hainer. She’s a local councillor in St. Marys and a good friend. She’s also a bit of a techie. During her recent campaign, she asked friends to provide adjectives to describe her. I provided a few. The result was a word cloud full of positive attributes. I wondered if I could take this idea and use it in my ESL classroom. I decided to try it.

First, I asked my class to put adjectives on a white board that they could use to describe a person, both positive and negative. They came up with many. I added a few. We used them in sentences
to help define the meanings. For example, we discussed different ways to say that somebody was thin, such as slender and skinny, and that using slender was much more polite than using skinny.

Second, I gave them recipe cards. The students put their names on the top. The cards were Continue reading


Encourage Extensive Reading with MReader

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My multiple initiatives to kick-start an extensive reading program using the MReader resource at 4 different institutions flopped for a variety of reasons. My disbelief in these failed attempts led to another kick at the can.

Dozens of outreach attempts through email, voice messages, coffee break chats, and scheduled meetings resulted in the opportunity to run a formal presentation to appropriate stakeholders. At last, the concept of using MReader as a motivational measuring stick while promoting an extensive reading culture was accepted.

At the college where I teach, the extensive reading program, monitored by the MReader, has now completed its first pilot and will encompass additional students and instructors in the fall.  Why was I so persistent in promoting this package? Continue reading


Get-to-Know Activities in the Language Classroom

flickr_imageOctober is here and most of us teachers have completed our get-to-know activities. However, if our classes happen to be a continuous intake LINC or ESL setting, it may mean having to repeat these activities more than once. In addition, in some classrooms, we might even have students who have remained with us. In other classroom settings, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – for example – students might be advancing seven weeks at a time. However, no matter what classroom setting we are in, it is important that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. One way to do this is by spending time with get-to-know activities. These activities do not need to be the same every time. We might not necessarily want to plan for the usual “Hi, my name is ____________,and I am from _____________, and my first language is ___________________,” drill, drill, drill, and stop there. For example, the well-known table name cards activity could be modified according to students’ language level: Continue reading