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

Business friends discussing brainstorming and ideas at meeting inside beautiful modern building place
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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

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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

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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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Mission “I’m Possible” –  Even You Can Become a Secret Agent!

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Good Morning Mr./Mrs. Blog Reader.

Before you decide on which presentations to attend at the TESL Ontario Annual Conference, please read this:

There is an ongoing investigation concerning best practices, benefits and challenges related to virtual teamwork. A panel discussion exposing virtual teamwork will take place at the Sheraton Centre Hotel located at 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada at precisely 1:00 p.m., Friday,  November 13th, 2015. Participants will be given a writing instrument and asked to write questions on a piece of uncoated stock paper, with a vellum finish. They will then be instructed to slip the note into a Fedora, which may be a code name for something they are trying to “keep a lid on“. Discreetly do as they say.

Top agents from the TESL Ontario Blog Administration Team will be disclosing sensitive information. Who are they? What do they know? How do they do it, being geographically dispersed? What technology are they using to communicate? What makes this virtual team tick?   And most importantly, how can you use this information to design your own virtual team?    Continue reading

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How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter

Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)
Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)

Last week, just before my webinar on using Twitter for Professional Development and Developing your Personal Learning Network (PLN), I came across a tweet from @danielmccabe, quoting Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), in Teach Like a Pirate , that said:

The negative teachers aren’t on Twitter…the people you see there are trying to move forward and help others move forward. (Burgess, 2012)

Truer words…

I am fresh off a third webinar for TESL Ontario and am basking in the glow of my PLN. This webinar was the second in a series of three that TESL Ontario has supported me in presenting. I had the pleasure of telling some stories about the important connections I’ve made on Twitter with teachers who offer me support and necessary dialogue. My Twitter PLN is the best sounding board for developing and tweaking ideas I have.

One of the challenges for educators active on Twitter is to bring more lambs into the fold. My favourite quote is from @AcademicsSay:

“You’ll have to show me how to do this Twitter thing sometime.” – Every colleague ever.

Over the past twenty years, I have met and befriended many teachers, but don’t even need all of my fingers to count the ones active on Twitter. It’s a shame, really. So many teachers are missing out.

I had lunch with a former colleague this week who was surprised and shocked by what I’ve been able to do Continue reading

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Stop! Collaborate and Listen

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

How often do you talk to other teachers? What do you usually talk about? Do you openly share ideas? I think for many educators, teaching can often be a very solitary job, (especially when first starting out). Of course, we are usually surrounded by many students, colleagues, and staff at our schools on a daily basis. But when it comes to certain fundamental aspects of teaching, like planning and reflection, a lot of teachers around the world do these alone. I think it is extremely unfortunate if you are one of these teachers because I have witnessed first-hand how teachers can grow and develop at an accelerated rate when they collaborate with their peers. Continue reading

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