Are you teaching this summer? Sometimes it can be tricky trying to get students engaged in the classroom – or even staff in the office – when the sun is shining and the breezy trees are calling. It’s that “happy place” feeling I try to tap into whenever I teach or whenever I want to motivate my team. For me, the best way to do this is through reading…and I mean really reading, the kind of reading that takes you to a place of wonder, reflection, reaction. Continue reading
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
I was talking with a colleague, Lisa, during lunch break the other day. At our school, the students have a 1-hour class with a pronunciation instructor once per week. Lisa was suggesting the merits of having a similar intensive lesson every week on reading. After our discussion, I began to consider the importance of reading versus the other skills. I am beginning to wonder if reading is the key skill to developing English proficiency.
Don’t get me wrong – Teaching pronunciation is one of my favourite classes to teach. I guess I like the focus of language use and playing with the sounds, the stress, intonation and inflection. Many students have expressed that it is important for them, as well.
Anyway, back to reading. Continue reading
Years ago the ESL program at Brock University welcomed a cohort of remarkable students on scholarships to pursue graduate studies in Canada. All of them were optimistic and highly motivated, but one – let’s call her Marianna – stood out for her exceptional diligence. She was a geneticist, and perhaps that academic focus promoted her extremely methodical approach to studying English; in any case, she wonderfully exemplified the self-aware style that often characterizes successful adult learners. One of my experiences when teaching her was especially memorable.
But first, the background: Guided by theoretical findings that were emerging at the time, we required every ESL student to read one entire easy-reader per week. We offered a large bank of fiction and non-fiction texts, and students could freely select whatever title and difficulty-level they wished. Continue reading
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
Happy Monday TESL ON members! Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? I don’t know about you, but I love poetry! Although most of us may not use it very much to teach English to our students, many are aware that it can be a good way to teach the rhythm of English. However, I think there are so many more ways that we could use this rich form of the English language. Continue reading
While clearing out my cupboards, I came upon an old boxed set of classic books that I had bought for my children when they were younger. Rather than putting them into the donation bin, I thought they might come in handy in my level 3 LINC class. As it turned out, I found them to be quite a useful tool in the classroom.
I focused in on one particular student (I will refer to him as John) who I felt was just about ready to be promoted to level 4, with the minor exception of a weakness in his reading skills. He was an excellent, hard-working student, but he was lacking confidence in his own abilities.
I suggested that he take home one of these books and read a little each evening. The books are small, about 4 inches by 5 inches, and about an inch thick, with brightly coloured illustrations on the covers – not very intimidating looking. They are adapted Continue reading
ESL Week makes me think about a particular student. Her first day is still crystal clear in my memory. Nervous, shy and just plain scared, she chose to say, “No English” mostly with gestures. I must have been blind as I did not see the butterfly about to emerge from that cocoon in a few months’ time. About six months later, one day, I made an announcement in class about the ESL week contest. Collectively, the class groaned, “No!”
In my experience, a yes becomes so much better when it begins as a no. 🙂
We then started playing with the contest idea. A scaffolded version of the ESL week guidelines became a reading comprehension task. We brainstormed ideas through a speaking lesson on the topic. She came up with a few different movie (video) concepts. The voice inside my head nervously said, “How are you going to help her? Do you know ANYTHING about editing?” But I did not interrupt her vision. We moved on to writing the story board for her idea. In the days that followed, she Continue reading
A common piece of advice I give my students is
“don’t read the newspaper.”
Their hearts are in the right place – they want reading practice – but most of them have zero interest in the news and end up getting very little from their daily ritual of reading Metro on the subway.
If students are looking for extra work, it’s important that it’s something fun and interesting for them. My students are upper-intermediate/advanced. For the most part, their English is very good – most of the errors they make are small, basic errors like prepositions and collocations -so they just need practice rather than pouring over grammar rules.
What I tell them instead of reading the newspaper, is
“It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as it’s in English!”
I have been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for a little over five years now. Compared to my previous jobs teaching general ESL and Business English, I find it incredibly satisfying; I think this is partly due to the course having a clear objective: preparing students for college and university.
But an important question that arose early on in the course, was
What does it mean to prepare students for college and university?
Are we talking about having their English at an equivalent level to their peers? Or is it more about mentally preparing them with academic skills needed for success? Continue reading