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 →
ESL Week makes me think about a particular student. Her first day is still crystal clear in my memory. Nervous, shy and just plain scared, she chose to say, “No English” mostly with gestures. I must have been blind as I did not see the butterfly about to emerge from that cocoon in a few months’ time. About six months later, one day, I made an announcement in class about the ESL week contest. Collectively, the class groaned, “No!”
In my experience, a yes becomes so much better when it begins as a no. 🙂
We then started playing with the contest idea. A scaffolded version of the ESL week guidelines became a reading comprehension task. We brainstormed ideas through a speaking lesson on the topic. She came up with a few different movie (video) concepts. The voice inside my head nervously said, “How are you going to help her? Do you know ANYTHING about editing?” But I did not interrupt her vision. We moved on to writing the story board for her idea. In the days that followed, she Continue reading →
I am currently developing learning opportunities for blended learning courses with English as a Foreign Language students. Over the summer, I have had a few months to add some motivating learning objects to these courses. One of my courses calls for a group project based on Internet research. Using the term research is a stretch in this context. I think of it more as a guided internet search. Continue reading →
Another school year is just around the corner. Teachers (me included) are bound to be planning for that first week where we set the mood of how learning will happen in and out of our classrooms. Last year, I wrote about ‘get-to-know activities’, but these are just some of the many introductory activities we could introduce. For example, it makes sense to plan for student-centred lessons right from the first day of classes by introducing active learning activities, which give students the opportunity to learn while doing –and which many students are not accustomed to. This can help our students transition smoothly to learning by discovery and collaboration. Smart, right? Below are two of my favourite active learning activities. (I hope you will share yours too!). Continue reading →
I have spent the past few years working in learning object and course development. In August, I am returning to the classroom to teach EFL. Putting on my teacher hat, I remember that it is important to have an emergency kit of prepared learning events in a variety of media. Worksheets, bookmarked web activities, flash cards, board games, videos, audio clips and technology such as a digital camera will contribute to future icebreakers, Friday afternoon fillers, motivation boosting sessions or the odd substitution call. Continue reading →
Most EFL teachers savour a ‘teachable moment’ where, by plan or serendipity, some magic happens. Let me tell you a story about one of mine.
During the 7 years I taught in the Middle East, all teachers lamented the prevalence of mobile phones in the classroom. Sometimes, even, multiple phones during exams had to be removed from students under the protests of “We’re just sharing teacher….honest…..just sharing.”
Phones were a problem. And as so often happens, problems are the source of an inspiration. One day I got all 24 of my 17-19 year old male students around in a circle of desks and got them to explain to me, in English of course, all the features of their many varieties of mobiles or cells. All the new terms and features were written Continue reading →
It had been a total failure. I had tried to introduce poetry to my class and have them write some, but they were reluctant and bored. However, something inside told me to give it another shot a few months later. I had been introduced to the concept at a TESL London workshop. The presenter was a convincing person and very nice, so
I had to try again.
I looked at ways I could do things differently. Since I teach levels 6 to 8, there were several resources I could draw on.
First, I asked them what they thought poetry was. You know what? I didn’t get much of a response. Things didn’t look too good – again.
Have you ever met any students who don’t want to improve their speaking skills? I haven’t. It’s more of a challenge to get them to read and write. I did something that got them into reading.
A few years ago, I was trying to encourage my students to read. Fortunately, there was a public library nearby. Once a week we would go there, and I would help them find books. Still, I wanted to give them more motivation to read, so I decided to get them to read across Canada.
I believe this activity will work regardless of your level. All you have to do is adapt the activities to the abilities, and that includes the books that they read.
I did this with my level 1 students. For those who were particularly weak, I had them take out books by Mo Willems. They are fun and easy to read. Here is an example of one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq77-6zsCSg
Canada is about 7,250 km from coast to coast. I had about 10 students. For every book they read, they earned 100 km, Continue reading →
In May 2014, while volunteering at the TESL Toronto spring conference, I was lucky enough to see a presentation by Chris Harwood and Tracy Manning about their experiences implementing a Facebook-based Book Club in their EAP program.
Inspired by their talk, I decided to try this out with my students. It took some weeks of planning, and some trial and error with different books, but in the end it’s become a successful and popular part of my course!
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 →