The cherry blossoms are out! It’s spring and finally warm enough to ride my bike to work. I do my best thinking on that bike. With a new semester starting, I find myself reflecting on the semester gone by. Peddling on cold, rainy days tends to cause me to remember my failures, but on warm, sunny mornings, I recall my successes. For 16 years I have been teaching university prep writing, grammar, reading, speaking, and listening to students from around the world.Continue reading
Do you ever teach CLB 5 narrative paragraph writing? Do your students usually write something with pencil on paper that they later discard? Have you ever thought of using Storybird to engage and enhance writing skills or create a class anthology of stories?
Publish itContinue reading
“You have to get your SBA’s, SUA’s, T’s and A’s in order to have an organized portfolio, Sridatt,” said the Lead Instructor of Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) implementation. “You also have to get,” continued the official, “peer evaluations [PE’s], learner reflections [LR’s], and inventory checklists [IC’s], all in order to have a good, organised portfolio.” The order and presentation of the portfolio, not the teaching of the language itself, seems paramount. I welcome myself to the new world of English as a second language teaching, even though my new teaching practices are not aligned with my educational philosophy.
By the time the individual was finished, I was beginning to see a sort of preoccupation over skill building activities (SBA’s), skill using activities (SUA’s) tasks (T’s) and assessments (A’s). When the individual was gone, it didn’t take much reflection to conclude that Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) seems to be a faulty assembly line approach to education. Continue reading
Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) has created a new world, where the doing of tasks is a must, with no exceptions whatsoever. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word task is the notion that you have something to do, most likely something you are not too keen on doing. A task by any definition is a piece of work you must do or undertake. The Merriam-Webster dictionary goes further to add: “Something hard or unpleasant that has to be done.” Some common synonyms for the word task are chore, job, duty, labour, toil, and burden. Both as a noun and a verb, the word task does not evoke anything pleasant someone has to do. How the word task came into adult ESL teaching methodology now troubles me. There has to be a better Continue reading
I always attend conferences to try to improve myself as a teacher, and sometimes I come away exceptionally motivated. This was the case a few years ago when I attended a great session on rubric creation. At the time I was working in a private language school and also doing some part-time LINC teaching. I kept wondering how I could mark student writing in a way that was useful to the students but also less time-consuming for me. This session seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Continue reading
I am trying to fully understand the translingual approach – specifically how it aligns with English for academic purposes (EAP) or the much needed skill of clear, concise written communication. The idea is great, but how do we go about it?
Horner, Lu, Royster, and Trimbur (2011) propose a translingual approach for dealing with student writing in academia.
Although I agree with most of the underpinnings behind the new approach, I am not so sure how they envision it. I agree with many of their ideas, but…
I agree that students’ right to use their language (English and otherwise) should be respected. I also agree with the authors’ opposition to the monolingual “view that varieties of English other than those recognized as ‘standards’ are defective” (305). Varieties of English, they explain, include what monolinguals Continue reading
Most of the time, ESL courses and activities are considered non-credit by their host institutions. Private language schools and larger corporations usually run some form of progress assessments for their students, but rarely are these associated to grades. In some rare cases, ESL courses may be graded and may also count for credit, especially in the case of EAP (English for Academic Purposes). To many, the fact that they are “non-credit” courses seems to imply that they are taken less seriously or are “less important” than for-credit courses. Regardless of how your language institution handles success in language courses, timely and “aligned” formative evaluations are a must in the teaching and learning process. The “non-credit” label given to ESL courses may lead to inadequate assessment and/or feedback for students, which can ultimately lead to less achievement. Below are a few guidelines for creating assessments that promote learning and self-reflection as well as target the language skills you are trying to develop in your students.
The concept of “aligned assessments” revolves around ensuring that the learning outcomes set out by your course or student expectations are properly assessed through “authentic” assessments. How many ESL conversation courses have you taught in which the final assessment was a paper-and-pencil grammar exam? Continue reading
For some time now, I have been having some reservations about the effectiveness and value of the competency based form of assessment that my paymasters have asked that I use in my class of older English as a second language (ESL) learners.
For starters, I don’t think that I am that competent to give what is generally called an objective “competency standard.” A number of items in a portfolio, including can-do lists, which by themselves seem to put too much pressure on older learners, still leave me questioning myself: What is my standard of competence? And am I assessing my students against my standard of competence? And not what I think they can do? Is the notion of competency superseding everything else in class? The questions keep popping up. And the more they do, the less competent I feel. Continue reading
Of recent, it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more ESL students entering our classrooms are expecting a rapid transmission of information, structured presentations, concrete outcomes, a course syllabus, and direction from teachers. Such expectations are not new; they come with most formal classes. Such expectations, common in traditional classroom settings, coming from Adult ESL learners, necessitate a rethinking of our present learner-centered or constructivist approach. It raises a question: Is there a place for direct instruction in today’s adult classes? Or, is there not a place for the traditional approach? By that, I don’t mean the uncreative and non-liberating approach to education so well described by Paulo Freire. I mean a Continue reading