The business of education is riddled with complexity and counter-productive demands. Teachers are often content-centered, students diploma-oriented and administrators bow down to the almighty dollar when making pedagogical decisions. In other words, students just want a job, and teachers want to profess the wonders of their discipline, while administrators want to show a profit. It is no surprise that the real goal of education is obfuscated by these demands, and the expectations that our students have are often misplaced.
Picture this. It’s the first day of an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) class. A particular student approaches you at the end of class and in broken English asks, “Teacher, will my English be like yours at the end of this course?” You want to say yes, but you know it is impossible. By telling the student the truth, you risk demoralizing her to the point that she drops the course. Why? Because she wants a job and she wants it now. Her motivation is employment. Yours is to improve her English. How do we square that circle? Simple. Chocolate. Continue reading →
Happy New Year to all of you! How did you celebrate the New Year? My husband and I had planned to host a party but that plan quickly fell apart and thankfully so. We weren’t in the mood to do anything big, and our kids fell asleep early. So, I ended up getting dressed in my finest cotton pyjamas and watched a movie right in the comfort of my own home. Nothing beats that feeling. Besides, isn’t that how you roll when you’re a parent of young ones?
Speaking of the New Year, I can’t believe we’re halfway through January already. Our weather this year has felt more like springtime than winter, but today is a completely different story —It’s actually starting to feel like the winters we’re used to in Canada. This awful dip in temperature had me thinking about all of the New Year’s resolutions that were made, and I wondered how long we typically follow through with them when the going gets tough. January is a great month to start fresh and focus on accomplishing goals over a new year, but to stick to our resolutions requires commitment and patience as you set out to achieve what you’re looking for, whether it’s losing a few pounds, taking on a new challenge, or simply spending more time with family. Continue reading →
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office being told that you have a serious, life threatening condition. Blood races through your veins, heartbeat pounds between your ears, breath is shallow, and you can feel your clothes sticking to your skin. Your body is in a heightened state of arousal. Do you recall the term “fight/flight/freeze” from science class? This is it — you are in what is called “survival mode”. By the time you get home, you realize how many questions needed to be asked but were forgotten while in the doctor’s office, and you barely remember what was said. This is an example of the psycho-physiology of trauma.
If you can relate to this scenario, (or one like it), then you can understand how difficult it is to function normally in this heightened state of arousal. It’s understandable that this state of anxiety can occur during a traumatic or highly stressful experience, but what you may not be aware of is that it can also persist for long periods after the traumatic event.
Why is this important now? With the refugee influx coming into Canada, you may encounter a surge of students in your classroom displaying symptoms related to post traumatic experiences like violence, displacement or loss, which will have an impact on how they learn. As a teacher, you may see a trend of problematic behaviours or students’ lack of progress in the traditional learning environment. Continue reading →
Teaching grammar is a challenge. Making grammar fun is the real challenge, especially when deep questions about existence emerge during a lesson.
One of the things I do as an ESL instructor is to try to find a fun application for a grammatical point I am teaching. Recently, I came up with a great idea for teaching punctuation. After I finish teaching a class on punctuation, I ask the students to imagine that they are a punctuation mark and pick which one best defines them. I prompt them to say: “If I were a punctuation mark, I would be…” This exercise is not only fun (there are a lot of giggles when I introduce this), but helps reinforce the students’ knowledge of the role of punctuation and use of the conditional. Students say things like: “I would be a period because I like things to be clear and definite” or “I would be a question mark because I have a hard time just accepting things. I want to know why.” Although I could usually predict what punctuation mark a student would select, there were times when I was completely flummoxed. Usually, it was Continue reading →
My learners struggle to retain vocabulary. The problem arises when I review the key words a week later, and my learners are unable to recall meanings. Hence, I decided to test the value of using a series of reviewing techniques in language teaching in order to endorse the assumption that the more stir created, the more likelihood that favourable learning results occur amongst lower level learners.
In exploring and determining the validity of this taxonomy, I used one of my Friday sessions on a current week’s themed vocabulary: college and classroom. As a result of this, I hoped to generate value by helping my learners increase their retention rate. My other key aim was to promote accountability in learning, and make students aware of the benefits of revision techniques by empowering my learners during the process. Thus, I divided the session into 4 separate segments.
Review Key Vocabulary
The first segment was reviewing the key vocabulary individually for 5 mins. in preparation for the activity. I used Continue reading →
Supply teaching has its benefits for sure. I know. I did my share. Although the job is unpredictable, the experience is valuable. What is a day like? The phone rings and you answer. It’s 6:00 a.m. so you know that other than a family emergency, the person on the other side of the line is…Yes! You got it. It’s the school secretary asking if you are available.
What you do after this point will depend on your supplying experience – but my advice is to stay cool as a cucumber. If you are available, say yes.
First Things First
Ask if there is a lesson plan. Don’t count on it every time. If there is no plan, don’t sweat it. You have several choices: Continue reading →
I am always searching for additional resources to integrate assessment into courses. This past summer, I stumbled across Ted Ed. Ted Ed is a creation from the popular Ted Talks, non-profit, series of videos and live events. Ted Talks are currently inspiring, challenging and teaching all who spare the time to listen.
What’s in it for Teachers
Ted Ed Lessons allow anyone to feature any YouTube hosted video, not just Ted Talks videos, and build a lesson around the video/animation. The Ted Ed resource provides a simple process and interface for educators to create learning quizzes. There is no coding or technical expertise involved in this process. These digital lessons can be easily shared through social media or email and with some skill a lesson can be embedded into your institutional learning management system or your class homepage.
I have recently been trying to include more technology-based activities in class in order to ‘modernize’ the feel of the class and appeal to my tech-savvy EAP students.
One activity that has worked well recently is Kahoot! – a free application which allows teachers to create multiple choice quiz questions that students can answer using any mobile device. This application can be adapted for individual or collaborative work, and is equally useful for reviewing content, introducing new concepts, generating discussion or simply energizing the class with a quick ‘warmer’. Anyone who has previously used ‘clickers’ in class for any reason will appreciate the versatility of the program, which requires only internet access, a shared screen and a mobile device (all of my students used their phones). No player accounts are required, so in-class time is used efficiently. Continue reading →
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 →