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