Spring Reflections

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The cherry blossoms are out! It’s spring and finally warm enough to ride my bike to work.  I do my best thinking on that bike. With a new semester starting, I find myself reflecting on the semester gone by.  Peddling on cold, rainy days tends to cause me to remember my failures, but on warm, sunny mornings, I recall my successes.  For 16 years I have been teaching university prep writing, grammar, reading, speaking, and listening to students from around the world. 

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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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#CdnELTchat: join the chat on Tuesday!

If you’re a Twitter user, join the next #CdnELTchat usually every second Tuesday. Below is a recap of the November 27th chat from the #CdnELTchat moderators.


I have been learning how to speak Mandarin for the better part of twenty years, but I still can’t produce the fourth tone correctly. I automatically say the first tone instead of the fourth tone in conversation. I am aware that I do this, yet I can’t seem to correct this bad habit. Is this a fossilized error? Is there anything I can do to overcome this error? On November 27th, a group of educators discussed these questions and more on #CdnELTchat.

Thank-you so much to the enthusiastic participants who contributed their ideas and shared resources during this chat. Continue reading

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#CdnELTchat: join the chat on Tuesday!

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If you’re a Twitter user, join the next #CdnELTchat on Tuesday, November 27th. Below is a recap of the November 4th chat from the #CdnELTchat moderators.


What does it mean for learners to be autonomous and accountable? How do you teach students to take responsibility of their own learning? What roles does metacognition play in learner autonomy? These are some of the questions that a group of educators tackled on November 6th.  Bonnie Jean Nicholas (@EALStories) and Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow) moderated a #CdnELTchat to explore this topic.

Thank-you so much to the enthusiastic participants Continue reading

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Join the next conversation on #CdnELTchat

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If you’re a Twitter user, read on to learn how you can join the next #CdnELTchat.   Below is a recap of the October 23rd chat from the #CdnELTchat moderators.

Being able to use learning strategies and study skills can empower students to become independent learners. What learning strategies and study skills do English language learners need to support their language learning journey? Bonnie Jean Nicholas (@EALStories) and Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow) moderated a #CdnELTchat to explore this topic.   Continue reading

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Come On Baby, Light My Fire…

I tend to write my conference reflections as soon as possible after the conference for obvious reasons. (Obvious = getting old and forgetting stuff quickly)  I promised myself that this conference I would self-indulge, go only to the workshops that light my fire. Since the time I had to actually attend workshops was minimal (I was doing other things for the conference), I wanted to make that time count.

I attended no PBLA workshops. 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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Smart Phones in the Pronunciation Class? Yes!

Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image
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Sometimes students come up with great ideas for learning!  When I taught a couple of pronunciation classes at our local community college a few years ago, I was struck by the students’ use of their phones in class – not so much as a distraction or a deterrent to learning, but as an aid to help them produce accurate speech.  The primary advantages I observed are that the phone can provide individual feedback at the touch of a button and that it is available for practice outside the classroom as well. Continue reading

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On Leaving

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The position was meant to be something new to try out, to add some freshness into my PD experience. Fast forward three years, and the job of Twitter Manager for TESL Ontario is much more than that and still interests me. Why am I leaving?

It has been a challenging couple of years, and the reason I need to leave Continue reading

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Teaching in Mexico

Old black leather suitcase with books on the floor. Retro stile. Vintage accessories for business. Checkered suitcase. Summer vacation
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After a seven-year hiatus, I am teaching ESL again. I am in Los Cabos, Mexico and this morning’s class will be at a non-profit college aimed at giving underprivileged kids an opportunity for higher learning.

My sister K., who lives here half the year, instigated this.

I’ve been looking forward to it. I even managed to fit in a few of my old ESL books from my teaching days into my suitcase.  Continue reading

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