Category Archives: Classroom Ideas

Ideas and suggestions to use in your classroom.

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

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Taking the Tech-less Challenge

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I’ve been using, and embracing, technology in the ESL classroom for a few years now.  Working with Level  2 learners in a course partnered with a workplace experience, it was a natural fit.  I had a SMART Board from day 1, access to a computer lab, and training and support provided by LearnIT2Teach to set up a Learning Management System using a Moodle platform.  I also had free and dependable Wi-Fi in the classroom.  I have to admit, I had been getting spoiled.

Some of my colleagues had joked with me about what I would do if I were to be stripped of the technology that I used every day, or if my location were to change,  say, to a church basement or similar.  Then one day last November, it happened.  New location.  No SMART Board.  No Wi-Fi.  Continue reading

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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

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Signposts Show the Way to Good Communication

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Fluency is a critical element of communication and is often a basis for how language levels are judged.  Signposting is a technique which makes speech more fluent.  Words or phrases that link speech together to make it coherent, and give the listener an indication of where our verbal communication is headed, are considered signposts.

Does receiving an indication of the direction that a conversation will take make a difference to the listener?  Absolutely!  When we have a good idea about what we will hear, we can process the meaning faster.  Hearing something contrary to what we are expecting causes our brain waves to spike.  The spike causes a diversion of energy which can contribute to longer processing time.  Considering how fast a brain processes language, a matter of milliseconds can slow down comprehension.  The delay in comprehending could cause a listener to completely misunderstand what was said. Continue reading

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It’s Investment, My Dear Watson!

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No, this is not a blog about Sherlock Homes. It’s about investment, a termed coined by linguist Bonny Norton.[1]

Bonny Norton is one of my favourite linguists. She takes a critical, post-structuralism theory approach to explain how adults become engaged (or disengaged) with their own second language (L2) learning. For those of you who are new to this topic, post-structuralism looks at language from the perspective of language as capital, dominance/non-dominance, and possibilities.

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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

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Come and Moodle with Me!

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Technology and using it in the classroom have become a major issue in the last few years. Teaching online and using more computers and computer-based resources in the classroom are becoming commonplace in almost every school. One word that you may have heard in passing (or may have already been using in class) is Moodle.

I have been working with Moodle for almost two years, and it has the potential to be a great resource for any ESL class.

What is Moodle?

Moodle is a Learning Management System (LMS) platform that many education providers use to host either a few courses, a whole program, or a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)! Continue reading

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My Annotated Web Resource List

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So you’ve been hired to teach ESL – congratulations on making it this far!  But the question now remains: How? What? And where? If you were to look online for ESL resources, you’ll be surprised and relieved (perhaps also overwhelmed?) at what you’ll see before you.

There are many resources available to you aside from your colleagues (an obvious choice, and an invaluable one at that).  Scouring the Internet can prove daunting and endless.  However, here are a few tried and tested sites that will take you to your class with confidence.

Some good finds:
www.eslgold.com/

ESL Gold is a very popular and widely used site for ESL teaching material.  The site is categorized nicely for you to easily select what area, skill, and level(s) you’d like to focus on, which is especially Continue reading

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She Went Out With Newman? How Seinfeld Helps Teach Pronunciation!

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Like many of you, I have taught pronunciation from some books. You know, the ones that have the schematic diagrams of where the tongue is supposed to go. I’ve even seen some teachers have mirrors in their classroom so the students can see the acrobatics going on in their mouth. Does this method work? I suppose so, but I find it really boring. I know it isn’t fun for the students because it certainly isn’t fun to teach. One day, I decided to try something different. I don’t think this would work for lower level students, although I would like to try.

I really am a fan of Seinfeld. What I like about the characters is that they are over the top when they deliver their lines, even more than most comedies. I thought I would experiment with a scene from this TV show to see how it would work with my students. Continue reading

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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

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