During my TESL practicum, I was privileged to work with a wonderful instructor in an EAP class. My practicum supervisor* was great at scaffolding and layering; as the course progressed, each language skill was incorporated into subsequent lesson activities until it all culminated in a final project. The class was in oral skills with the final project being a presentation. Along with using the targeted language from the semester, the presentations also included a focus on appropriate body language, strategies to engage the audience, and the use of technology.
While presentations are common in English language classes, they can be very stressful and time consuming. In order to add variety to the assessments during the course, another activity that was required of the students, and that could easily be adapted for any type of ESL classroom, was leading a discussion group. Not only did we use this in the EAP context, I used the same activity in an EFL class that I taught in Ecuador in which the students were preparing to take the First Cambridge Exam. Here is how I did it!
Do you ever feel like you’re faking it? If you do, you’re not alone. The Impostor Syndrome or Imposter Phenomenon (IP) is found in people who have skills and abilities but who do not feel that they are successful. Many of the sufferers of IP have achieved high rates of success through earning advanced degrees, gaining professional recognition in their field, or obtaining senior management positions. But despite their accomplishments, those affected by IP believe they do not have the ability to perform in their roles; instead they attribute achievement to luck, or some external factor. People from many different types of professions report feeling like an impostor.
Due to the public nature of our jobs, teachers tend to experience high rates of IP. Part of the problem with having IP is the anxiety caused by fear of exposure. Often we feel like we should know all of the answers to all of the questions asked by students, and if we don’t then we are at risk of being exposed. Continue reading →
Every day I watch my kids play all day long. And they never seem to grow tired of it either. So surely there’s something to their favourite past time other than having fun. When you think about it, for children, the act of playing is a way of learning. Except, it’s not just about using brain power but also about using all of their senses alongside their schema to help them solve whatever mystery or problem comes their way. I view it as a holistic approach to learning. So how is it that we lose that as we enter into adulthood?
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 →
The business of education is riddled with complexity and counter-productive demands. Teachers are often content-centered, students diploma-oriented and administrators bow down to the almighty dollar when making pedagogical decisions. In other words, students just want a job, and teachers want to profess the wonders of their discipline, while administrators want to show a profit. It is no surprise that the real goal of education is obfuscated by these demands, and the expectations that our students have are often misplaced.
Picture this. It’s the first day of an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) class. A particular student approaches you at the end of class and in broken English asks, “Teacher, will my English be like yours at the end of this course?” You want to say yes, but you know it is impossible. By telling the student the truth, you risk demoralizing her to the point that she drops the course. Why? Because she wants a job and she wants it now. Her motivation is employment. Yours is to improve her English. How do we square that circle? Simple. Chocolate. Continue reading →