Category Archives: Approaches

ROLES, REFUGEES, AND REFUGE

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

I attended my first PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting at my son’s school last week. The Chair had asked if I’d be interested in joining them to help execute a healthy food initiative for the students. I happily obliged because I’m a tad obsessed with food — the wholesome and tasty kind that’s kid approved. Anyway, I digress.

What struck me at this meeting was a new project directed at helping refugees, (particularly those who have fled from war torn countries), acclimate to their new community. The school is planning on raising a significant amount of funds to help them out, whether it be through financial or psychological support.

This got me thinking about the work we do as ESL instructors. During my ESL teacher training, a big part of the program focused on recognizing the students’ cultural backgrounds so that we could understand our students’ perspectives better and adjust our lessons accordingly. Continue reading

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“Hey! Only English in my class!”

Group of teenagers over the background with the many words from the different languages (language school concept)
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It happens across the board. It is a pervasive notion that seems to have been adopted with little to no research. It is somehow implicit in most English-learning environments, explicit in many course outlines and used as an evaluative tool in measuring the efficacy of language instructors. I have actually been refused employment because of my “renegade” attitude towards this ill-researched tenet of TESL. However, it stands in complete opposition to evidence-based educational research in second-language acquisition; not to mention a panoply of related motivational issues.

We’ve all heard it, said it and even followed it. “Only speak English in my class!” I used to insist. “Hey, you guys in the back, no Spanish!” was another one. “Stop translating everything! Focus on English!” I used to believe, only to my students’ dismay of course.

By doing this, we inadvertently omit how the brain works from our teaching and learning strategies. 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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Thank You for the Music!

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Have you ever noticed that when ABBA sings they don’t sound Swedish? Country singer Mel Tillis, a chronic stutterer, lost his speech impediment when performing. There has to be something that happens to your voice when you sing. That’s why I often use music in the classroom.

 

In June, we were working on noun/verb contractions. One student said he had difficulty with “that’ll.” I had everyone sing “That’ll Be the Day”, and as quick as you can say: “Buddy Holly ”, his problem was solved!

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Uncovering Meaning

Illuminated light bulb in a row of dim ones concept for creativity, innovation and solution
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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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A Discrete Approach to Teaching ESL – What Does it Mean?

A human figure stands behind a warning sign with one hand raised
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I have been thinking about my past experience teaching discrete ESL. It is one of those experiences that I wish I could forget – erase out of my head, but the more I try, the more I think about it. Well, I read that the best way to deal with bad memories is to either talk or write about them– so here it is:

You should not ask students to read aloud! You are only to focus on reading – when they read aloud they are speaking, which is not the focus of the lesson,” said the person in charge. Continue reading

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Centred and Balanced

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image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

What is student-centred learning?  There are many facets to this idea.  It can be lessons based on students’ needs.  It can mean choosing topics based on students’ interests.  But one of the concepts that is most commonly related to student-centred learning is learning through discovery.  When someone learns through discovery, they are given enough autonomy to interact with materials and consequently discover how things work (think figuring out grammar rules implicitly).  On the other side of the coin you have teacher directed learning where knowledge is transferred from teacher to student (think explaining how grammar rules work). Continue reading

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WorkPlace ESL

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

Struggling to communicate, being misunderstood, or not being understood at all, is a very stressful and daunting feeling for anyone especially when it affects your lively-hood. The class I’m currently teaching is experiencing this very feeling. And although they attend ESL classes on a daily basis, their English comprehension levels are lacking.

This is where WorkPlace ESL comes into play. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this branch of ESL, it’s a program that was designed some time ago to help those who need specific language training in order to excel in the work force. Continue reading

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About Reflective Practice

Young woman on a train writing notes
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How many of us sit down at the end of the day and reflect on the lesson?  I mean really sit down and think about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the potential.  For many of us, I’m sure the intentions are there, but on a really bad day, we’re probably more inclined to pack up our things, get home, call it a day, and think “tomorrow will be better”.  In these moments, as much as with the great days, it’s important for us to reflect because reflecting doesn’t mean kicking us when we’re down, but rather it means finding ways to bring us back up and truly know that tomorrow will be better because today wasn’t terribly horrible.

Continue reading

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What is EAP?

bigstock-Writing-Steps-Pyramid-Edit-Wri-59394623I have been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for a little over five years now. Compared to my previous jobs teaching general ESL and Business English, I find it incredibly satisfying; I think this is partly due to the course having a clear objective: preparing students for college and university.

But an important question that arose early on in the course, was

What does it mean to prepare students for college and university?

Are we talking about having their English at an equivalent level to their peers? Or is it more about mentally preparing them with academic skills needed for success? Continue reading

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