Come Again: You Said What?

The words Explicit Content written in heavy red font within thick red box
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Imagine if someone said something overtly sexual or crude to you. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Now imagine that the speaker is your ESL student. Of course, your response has to be different.

Sometimes because of pronunciation or improper word usage, ESL students inadvertently say or write the most shocking things. A while back, one of my students wrote this in a peer review (a student response to a student assignment, in this case an essay): “Your hooker is not very appealing and is unlikely to attract the reader.” Of course, he meant hook. What a difference two letters can make. This situation was easier to deal with because the student had not uttered this sentence aloud to the class. I took him aside and explained the meaning of the word, resulting in him blushing quite a bit.

Sometimes students mispronounce words such as sit, beach, can’t etc. I deal with this issue Continue reading

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Supply Teaching – A Positive Experience

Some of my students working in a computer lab

I was recently assigned the role of a full-time supply instructor in an English as a Foreign Language department of approximately 70 instructors. “Take this on as a new challenge” was my first thought, and I haven’t looked back.  Our EFL department has two divisions. These are the academic and the technical preparatory programs. I had not yet taught in the technical program and was interested in these students with different needs. I had always been curious about the technical program and was anxious to jump right in and teach.

We have just completed midterms and I have had a generous sampling of most of the courses that our department offers. I have benefited from this experience in more ways than I had anticipated. I have continued to learn about my peers, technology integration, institutional facilities, and most of all the students. Here is a brief overview of the things I learned:

Technology integration

Our college supports education technical technology through an environment of well stocked and supported digital learning options. It is interesting to see the varying degrees to which technology is being used by the staff and students. Student behaviour often reflects their instructor’s education technology routines. When I direct the students to use some technology, their efficiency indicates whether or not they use technology on a regular basis.  I have been very impressed by those teachers who have integrated technology seamlessly into their instructional practice.  Continue reading

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Field Tripping ESL Learners in the Community

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image source: bigstockphoto.com

What happens when you take ESL learners outside the classroom?  There’s a peak in interest in the class and in the lessons, a growth in connection among the class members, and an increased sense of belonging to the wider community.

Over the past number of years, I have taken adult learners in small, mixed-level ESL classes on field trips in the community.  We have visited the public library, a farmers’ market, a curling rink, the local fire station, a nature park, our city hall (including sitting in on part of a city council meeting), an outdoor nativity play, and a maple sugar bush.

On every one of these outings, we found that our hosts were Continue reading

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Old Classic takes Students on New Adventures

Image source: amazon.ca
Image source: amazon.ca

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

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Bridging the Great Divide

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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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Is Competency Based Assessment Useful for Older Language Learners?

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Image source: bigstockphoto.com

For some time now, I have been having some reservations about the effectiveness and value of the competency based form of assessment that my paymasters have asked that I use in my class of older English as a second language (ESL) learners.

For starters, I don’t think that I am that competent to give what is generally called an objective “competency standard.”  A number of items in a portfolio, including can-do lists, which by themselves seem to put too much pressure on older learners, still leave me questioning myself: What is my standard of competence? And am I assessing my students against my standard of competence?  And not what I think they can do?  Is the notion of competency superseding everything else in class?  The questions keep popping up. And the more they do, the less competent I feel.  Continue reading

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Who are you? Really?

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Teaching grammar is a challenge. Making grammar fun is the real challenge, especially when deep questions about existence emerge during a lesson.

One of the things I do as an ESL instructor is to try to find a fun application for a grammatical point I am teaching.  Recently, I came up with a great idea for teaching punctuation.  After I finish teaching a class on punctuation, I ask the students to imagine that they are a punctuation mark and pick which one best defines them.  I prompt them to say: “If I were a punctuation mark, I would be…” This exercise is not only fun (there are a lot of giggles when I introduce this), but helps reinforce the students’ knowledge of the role of punctuation and use of the conditional.  Students say things like: “I would be a period because I like things to be clear and definite” or “I would be a question mark because I have a hard time just accepting things. I want to know why.”  Although I could usually predict what punctuation mark a student would select, there were times when I was completely flummoxed.  Usually, it was Continue reading

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Why I Blog for TESL Ontario

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

I often get asked how I stay connected with the TESL community since I’m not always teaching. Blogging as a volunteer guest blogger for TESL Ontario is an avenue I chose to do just that. So, I thought I’d share what I love about blogging for TESL Ontario with you. Be warned, this may entice you to apply!

When I applied to become a TESL blogger, I was excited. When I got the call to be interviewed, I was nervous (but the good kind of nervous).  And when I found out that I was selected to be one of the bloggers, I did a happy dance, (luckily all of you didn’t have to witness it…I digress). Continue reading

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Application of Repetitive Reviewing Techniques

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

My learners struggle to retain vocabulary. The problem arises when I review the key words a week later, and my learners are unable to recall meanings. Hence, I decided to test the value of using a series of reviewing techniques in language teaching in order to endorse the assumption that the more stir created, the more likelihood that favourable learning results occur amongst lower level learners.

In exploring and determining the validity of this taxonomy, I used one of my Friday sessions on a current week’s themed vocabulary: college and classroom. As a result of this, I hoped to generate value by helping my learners increase their retention rate. My other key aim was to promote accountability in learning, and make students aware of the benefits of revision techniques by empowering my learners during the process. Thus, I divided the session into 4 separate segments.

Review Key Vocabulary

The first segment was reviewing the key vocabulary individually for 5 mins. in preparation for the activity. I used Continue reading

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