Category Archives: culture

From an ESL Learner to a Teacher

Conceptual hand writing showing Be With Those Who Help Your Being. Business photo text Surround yourself of motivating showing Color Graduation Hat with Tassel 3D Academic cap on Books.
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I came to Canada as an immigrant from Bosnia – a war-torn country – which, to this day, is difficult to return to when I want to visit family. Not only do I remember things no child should, but physical remnants remain at every corner of the country itself. My family was one of those that escaped with a random truck driver in hopes of getting out and not being denied entry into Croatia, which was safe.

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The Role of the L1 in the EFL Classroom Part III: Where to Begin? Ideas for Incorporating Cross-linguistic Strategies


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Bringing the L1 into the EFL classroom does not need to be an overhaul of current practice in the classroom, nor does it need to be applied to each and every classroom activity. It is something that can be applied strategically and with intent at the teacher’s discretion. The point is not to create a new method, but to understand that cross-linguistic awareness is one of many useful teaching/learning techniques that are available to us as language teachers.

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What about those Unexpected Fights?

A few years ago, I asked my students to do oral presentations about the geography of their native countries as a speaking test for LINC level 6-7. It seemed like a good idea, one that was more focused on English rather than research. The students prepared their PowerPoint presentations and when the presentation day finally arrived, the first up was Aisha from Pakistan.

She showed us several slides of Pakistan, pausing on the last one that clearly outlined the territory of the country. As Aisha explained the boundaries and its position relative to other countries, another student, Aryo, who was in the back row, jumped to his feet and pointed at the bottom border and said, “That’s wrong, that’s in Afghanistan!” I was still looking at the slide when he rushed up to the slide and traced the boundary he was referring to with his finger. “This is in Afghanistan, not Pakistan!” He kept repeating ever more loudly and stabbing his finger on the slide. I didn’t know it then, but there was a disputed border between the two countries where both were claiming the same land.

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Learning and Resilience

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This year at the TESL ON conference, Asmaa Cober, Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre, will be one of our Keynote Speakers. The following blog post was written by Asmaa. Here she gives you a synopsis of her keynote address:

Learning never happens in a vacuum — people bring all of their experiences with them to the classroom. Newcomers (and refugees in particular) have a life history — experiences that greatly affect their ability to learn. We will explore some of the types of experiences that refugees bring with them to the classroom. Continue reading

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What’s So Funny? Looking at Different Cultural Approaches to Humour

Young man laughing out loud, crying from laughter in two positions - holding stomach and hand on forehead, cartoon vector illustration isolated on white background. Young man laughing to tears
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My husband and I laugh together a lot. I cannot imagine being with someone who does not share a sense of humour.  However, I know many couples who do not have the same sense of humour. One of my mother-in-law’s first dates with her future husband involved seeing a Laurel and Hardy movie during which he laughed loudly. She thought he was an idiot but went on to marry him.  Obviously, we don’t always laugh at the same things. This becomes quite apparent when you teach a second language class. Continue reading

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Lessons of the Outlier

Young students with books and notes. Smart young guy and girl doing their homework in University campus. Learning and education for young people.
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“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” M. Proust

Travel is not new to me. Travel as a newly minted ESL teacher is.

I am in the middle of a month-long TESL internship in Poland, arranged through Algonquin College, as an optional extension to the TESL Program. Though culturally quite similar to Canada, I am plunked in a community where I do not speak or read the language. Continue reading

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Seeing Through My Students’ Eyes

The topic for this post has been on my mind for a while. It is more of a question arising out of my experience with multi-modal text, specifically students’ work when transducing words to image. Perhaps you can help me answer the question:

Whose images should students be required to produce when asked to analyze the author’s writing: The visualization of what they read or what the author intended?

I ask because I have found that controlling what students visualize while reading might be just as controversial as asking students to think in English. Continue reading

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I (Don’t) Understand!

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Have you ever explained a task to your students, checked to make sure they understood, and then let them go to work – only to realize as they stared blankly at their work, that they actually didn’t understand?  In my first years of teaching, I was so puzzled by students telling me they understood when they clearly didn’t.  Even when I would ask directly, “Do you understand?” the answer I was given was often “Yes, teacher” before it became clear that the opposite was true.  This was frustrating!  It seemed so obvious Continue reading

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Let us be thankful

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Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

This blog isn’t really about being thankful… unless you are thankful for a few ideas that you can use this week to teach about Thanksgiving. Are you tired of the same old worksheets that you use year after year? Are you looking for something different?  Here I want to offer some (hopefully) fresh ideas that you can consider using in your classroom. Also, please share any ideas that you love to use in the comment section below.  So, let’s freshen up our Thanksgiving activity repertoire. Continue reading

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