Category Archives: Approaches

Thank You for the Music!

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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

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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?

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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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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

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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

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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.

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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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Today Wasn’t Great

bigstock-Business-Woman-Customer-Servic-84197477Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class.  It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.

And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense.  So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman.  If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.

I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading

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Is Two Better Than One?

bigstock-Image-of-two-young-pretty-busi-49672886I was looking for something inspirational to write about when I came across this very interesting and thought-provoking article online by Judie Haynes, and felt the need to share it with everyone: http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/cooperative_teaching_two_teach_83908.php. The article discusses co-teaching and begs the question: Is two better than one when applied to ESL classrooms?

Judie breaks it down quite nicely and explains that collaborative teaching can be of great benefit to the learners in the sense that they get better and more individualized attention from the teacher because there would be two teachers in the room.

On the other hand, she believes that an ESL teacher would have some challenges to face, as co-teaching may complicate lesson planning, make it more difficult to effectively deal with learners, or worst of all, one of the teachers being looked at or referred to as a helper instead of the instructor. Judie is of the opinion that the benefits of collaborative teaching outweigh any potential negatives that accompany the practice. She mentions how sharing a classroom would equate to Continue reading

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Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP): What Do Students Need?

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This question is not new. The answers are ongoing (just do a quick library search on “EAP debate” and you’ll find great peer reviewed articles on the topic, including articles written by Krashen, Ferris and Hedgcock, Grabe and Kaplan, Krapels, Silva, Cummins, and Belcher and Hirbela – you name it). EAP continues to be a HOT topic, especially as more and more second language learners (L2) enter post-secondary education. Hence, the question needs to be re-asked to arrive at possible solutions and to meet the needs of a diverse group of students. Let’s face it, in addition to first year L2 learners, the 1.5 generation (those who arrive as children and learn English at an early age) also require guided instruction in ESL – and don’t forget L2 students who already hold degrees and need to bridge their skills. The list of variables does not end there! Variables include students coming with different English skills and levels, differences between academic and industry standards, the existing prescribed entry-level assessment benchmarks, and well…as you can see, I could keep going.

And don’t forget the debate:

  • Should EAP focus on teaching the five paragraph essay or should it be sector specific?
  • Should it focus on multi-literacies or extensive reading and writing?

Continue reading

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