Category Archives: encouragement

Bringing holidays into the classroom: Ramadan

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I often think about newcomers to Canada, and specifically those coming from challenging circumstances who are building a new life in a new land. How are they settling into their new environment? Are they adjusting? Managing? Dealing? Healing?

Many of these newcomers are from the Middle East and are observing Ramadan, a holy month that’s observed by millions of Muslims around the world, where the central focus is fasting. Continue reading

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ESL Myths Debunked

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I was browsing the web the other day (what else is new!) and I stumbled upon a great article by Rusul Alrubail.  She answers what she calls the myths of ESL learners.

The 5 myths she addresses are:

  • Students can’t use their L1 in class
  • Students need to be corrected when they’re speaking English
  • All learners are immigrants
  • A student must assimilate with the North American culture if they want to learn properly
  • All learners share similar backgrounds, status, and culture.

Continue reading

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National Volunteer Week: Let’s Make a Difference Together

image of people putting hands together with the word volunteer in text box
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I tried to scour the Internet for motivational/inspirational quotations to start this post. I wanted to really capture the essence of my intention and put it into words using a famous quotation or an iconic figure that would resonate with you. I read quotation after quotation, visited page after page, and no string of words truly said what I wanted to convey today.  Why is today so special? Why am I trying to find just the right combination of words? Continue reading

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English is the worst!

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We’ve all been there and heard it – “Why are these two words spelled the same but sound different?” or “Why do I need a comma there? You might have answered, “Because you don’t want to eat your mom; it’s “I want to eat, mom.””

I came across this humorous article Continue reading

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Lessons learned in an ESL Literacy Class

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During the fall term, I was privileged to teach a group of 10 ESL Literacy students. Although in the past I had volunteer-tutored a literacy student and had taught various computer literacy classes, teaching a whole class of beginner ESL students with literacy needs was a whole new challenge. I have to say it was thoroughly rewarding Continue reading

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Mid-term blues – Keep Going!

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image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

I find myself asking this question often, but in all seriousness, where has the time gone?
I can’t believe November is a week away!  It’s fair to say that some of us don’t have that drive we once had at the start of the school year to get up first thing in the morning, eager to start the workday. And honestly, no one can be blamed for feeling run down already. Our profession can take a lot out of us. There’s no
denying that. And with the influx of newcomers – due to what’s been happening in the world – it hasn’t lightened the load any. So teacher burnout is a real possibility.

So much demand is placed upon teachers, and the needs of the students can really affect your will and drive to stay motivated. Especially around this time of year, it’s easy to Continue reading

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Back to school: First day jitters for students and teachers

Learn it's cool! Joyful teacher showing thumbs up. Photo adult teacher near blackboard education concept
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While many of you may already be going into your 2nd or 3rd week of classes, we  wanted to share some ideas to get over those first day jitters that so many new instructors and students may be feeling.  For more ideas on get-to-know activities, please click on the link to read Cecilia’s blog posted previously: Get-to-know activities in the language classroom 


I don’t know about you, but I find the first days of class can be a little scary, yet exciting at the same time. Students probably wonder what the teacher will be like and how they will fit in with the other students. Thoughts such as, “Will everybody be at my level of English?” or “I hope I’m not at the bottom of the class!”  are likely common.

But what about us – the instructors? Continue reading

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Kate’s Top 10 Secrets: How to Succeed in Canadian Culture

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Image Source: bigstockphoto.com

Over the next year, I would like to share what I consider to be some of the 10 most important unwritten social rules in Canada that newcomers and their families need to know to succeed in Canada. In this first post, I’ll give you the list of all 10 secrets, as well as the first secret.

How am I qualified to know these secrets?

Keep in mind that these are what *I* consider to be the most important secrets.  I am drawing on a lifetime of experience in Canada as a mother of 3 and as a worker in education, banking, computers, and employment counselling, but that doesn’t mean these social rules are cast in stone or true in every community across Canada.

Okay, so here is the list of the 10 most important secrets I’ve learned for succeeding socially, as well as in Canadian schools and workplaces:

Continue reading

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Can’t handle the truth?

image source:www.bigstockphoto.com
image source:www.bigstockphoto.com

Something that I have struggled with for the last ten years as an ESL teacher has been whether or not to properly inform my students about the implications of studying a new language. There seems to be a prevalent preconception among many ESL students that learning to speak English is easier than say, learning the subjects in a college level math course.

To many, abstract subjects like theoretical mathematics or computer programming are obviously more difficult than linguistic subjects. There may be some truth to this concept. However, these courses are often very specific in scope, last anywhere from thirty-two to ninety hours, and require students to simply “remember” and maybe “apply” what they learn. Even though it is a common practice to segment English language programs by level of ability, say levels 1 to 5, or like the CLB, 12 levels in total, these courses are often far from adequate in providing enough time to properly “learn” the content of these levels. Continue reading

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Bridging the Great Divide

Business friends discussing brainstorming and ideas at meeting inside beautiful modern building place
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I have been teaching in an EAP program for the last six years. The goal of our program is to prepare international students for the experience of studying in a post-secondary program alongside their domestic peers. Understandably, competence in their use of English is paramount. However, I am constantly struck by the fact that domestic students and international students, regardless of their ability to speak English well, remain largely separate on campus, both in and out of classes.

My students often comment that they don’t know how to make friends with Canadian students, and they are worried about the quality of their English and how they will be received. In an effort to bridge this ‘great divide’, I recently had the opportunity for my students to participate in a communicative activity that, for a change, did not involve their own classmates. Working alongside a wonderful colleague and professor in another discipline*, I was able to offer my class of twenty students a chance to meet and converse with the very Canadians they had been worried about meeting (and intimidated by) for a long time. Continue reading

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