Teaching critical thinking through reading in the information age
Attending PD conferences of your local chapter of TESL Ontario is a great way to meet other teachers, network, and learn new ideas and techniques to add to your teaching toolbox. On May 13th, I attended the Waterloo-Wellington Spring AGM and PD event. The theme was “Thinking Critically” and the guest speaker for the plenary session, Tyson Seburn, spoke on the topic of teaching critical reading in an age of (mis)information and fake news. Tyson Seburn is Lead Instructor of Critical Reading and Writing in the International Foundation Program at New College, University of Toronto, and he recently published a book entitled, Academic Reading Circles.
In this blog, I want to share some of the strategies that Tyson raised in his address Continue reading →
We all want our teaching to be interesting and effective. I regularly reflect on my teaching practice, and try to consider each of the following aspects of lesson planning*, particularly for grammar and pronunciation lessons. Let me share some tips that help me improve my lessons, and perhaps you will find an idea you could use.
Presenting the point
First, remind yourself of the scope of the lesson; know the needs and abilities of your students, and the time frame and focus of your class session. Aim not to overwhelm your class with too much information, but also not to under-interest your students with too little challenge. Continue reading →
I am trying to fully understand the translingual approach – specifically how it aligns with English for academic purposes (EAP) or the much needed skill of clear, concise written communication. The idea is great, but how do we go about it?
Horner, Lu, Royster, and Trimbur (2011) propose a translingual approach for dealing with student writing in academia.
Although I agree with most of the underpinnings behind the new approach, I am not so sure how they envision it. I agree with many of their ideas, but…
I agree that students’ right to use their language (English and otherwise) should be respected. I also agree with the authors’ opposition to the monolingual “view that varieties of English other than those recognized as ‘standards’ are defective” (305). Varieties of English, they explain, include what monolinguals Continue reading →
As I’ve shared with you in previous blogs, one of my ongoing interests is finding ways to empower my students to become better writers of English. What is the formula?
Vocabulary skills are important (Checked √)
Grammar is important (Checked √)
Controlled practice is important (Checked √)
…Wait a minute… Modeling is super important…
According to Cumming (1995), language teachers need to not only provide text models of a good writer’s final product (what an assignment is supposed to look like at the end), but also model the cognitive process of writing. In other words, we as teachers should model writing-as-a-process that mimics the actions performed by effective writers (hint: we need to write a lot to be one too). Continue reading →
I have been teaching writing at the college level for over six years to both first and second language learners. Unless I am teaching EAP, where my students are second language learners, my classes have been mixed: native language students at various language levels and experiences as well as non-native language learners, including 1.5 generation (people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens) with different levels of language proficiency. Note that no matter who the students are, my job is to help my students achieve the learning outcomes of the course (e.g. to be able to write an academic essay), which means I must pay attention and therefore take into consideration each student’s individual needs. How do I reconcile all these differences in a writing course? Well, among many teaching strategies, I focus on selective attention.
According to Richard Schmidt (2010) our ability to focus is dependent on our awareness of the existence of stimuli. It is difficult (even impossible) to pay attention to every bit of information around us, so we need to be consciously aware it exists to be able to notice it. Hence, not knowing what to focus our attention on can leave us paying attention to unimportant information, unaware of what it is we should be focusing on! Continue reading →
As teachers we prepare lesson plans for many reasons. We do it because it helps us keep track of our lesson delivery and also because it is required of us. The latter one, however, can make us lose sight of its true purpose, which is to help our students achieve the learning outcomes of the lesson. Through my many years of teaching, I have learned that lesson planning is most useful when I put myself in my students’ shoes.
Effective Lesson Planning
Let’s face it. For a lesson plan to be effective, it needs to focus on what students need to demonstrate at the end on the lesson. Lesson planning is about meeting learning outcomes for our students; the objective of the lesson is not for us to deliver content or for administration to see that we spent hours on prep-time (Yes, we do!), but for us to think of ways for our students to demonstrate learning. Continue reading →
The following are diary entries from a fictional ESL student.
I started my new English class today. I was excited to meet my teacher and classmates. I like my teacher a lot. Harry was very friendly and he made us laugh right from the start. I already feel very comfortable with him and the rest of my peers. I really think I’m going to enjoy this class and I hope I can really improve my English.Continue reading →
Presentations are ubiquitous in modern life, so it makes sense to include them as a component in ESL classes.In North American culture we have certain expectations about how presentations will be given.The format is low-context, meaning the presenters are making sure that they can be understood by the audience.The students in our classes not only require the appropriate language skills, they also need to understand how to format a presentation so that the audience can understand its structure.The following house analogy is one way to teach about how the format of a presentation gives it structure.This structure makes the content more coherent to the audience.
The introduction welcomes the audience to your presentation.It tells them who you are, why you are giving the presentation and, maybe most importantly, it shows themwhat to expect.It’s the first impression that the audience has of what will be delivered.Much like the front lawn or the walk way to your house, the first impression of the introduction adds value. Continue reading →
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 →