Category Archives: Speaking

April is Poetry Month!

image source: susangaylord.com

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

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An Active Classroom is a Student-Centred Classroom

image source: www.bigstockphoto.comI hope my title did not conjure images of technology-enhanced learning with visions of smartphones, iPads, and laptops dancing up through the air. On the contrary,
this blog is about students stirring, moving in circles, and engaging in conversation. I’m talking about face to face interaction, where students are talking and listening to each other while the teacher is watching.

In the ESL classroom: LINC, ESL or EAP – we teachers need to have many ideas up our sleeves to make sure students are not yawning but interacting with one another and having fun while learning. Last year in September, I shared two of these strategies. You can read them here: http://blog.teslontario.org/an-active-start-to-the-academic-year/ In this blog, I share another one that I have found students also enjoy: Continue reading

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Student-Lead Discussions

Meeting Of Support Group
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

During my TESL practicum, I was privileged to work with a wonderful instructor in an EAP class. My practicum supervisor* was great at scaffolding and layering; as the course progressed, each language skill was incorporated into subsequent lesson activities until it all culminated in a final project. The class was in oral skills with the final project being a presentation. Along with using the targeted language from the semester, the presentations also included a focus on appropriate body language, strategies to engage the audience, and the use of technology.

While presentations are common in English language classes, they can be very stressful and time consuming. In order to add variety to the assessments during the course, another activity that was required of the students, and that could easily be adapted for any type of ESL classroom, was leading a discussion group. Not only did we use this in the EAP context, I used the same activity in an EFL class that I taught in Ecuador in which the students were preparing to take the First Cambridge Exam.  Here is how I did it!

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Looking at ESL from an International Perspective

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

I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ACPI-TESOL National Conference in Costa Rica earlier this month.  Although it was a relatively small conference (under 60 participants), the organizers were able to attract presenters from the U.S., Panama, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and UAE (and me from Canada).

I believe as teachers, we can always learn something new no matter how many years we have been teaching. This conference was no exception in that there were many take-aways from the presentations.  However, before I provide some of the conference highlights, I wanted to talk about my experience trying to navigate in a Spanish-speaking country as a non-speaker of Spanish.  (I did take some lessons a few years ago, but I didn’t even have enough language skills to function.)  I forgot how it feels to be unable to communicate – even a simple request!  The last time I experienced this kind of powerlessness and vulnerability (not to mention feeling dumb) was when I got lost in Hong Kong; I actually got lost 3 times in 3 different taxis in Costa Rica!  There is certainly nothing more meaningful for a language teacher than experiential learning and appreciating the daily challenges for many of our students!

Here are some of the conference highlights: Continue reading

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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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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
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

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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Say It With Confidence!

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

When we are submitting a cover letter to a perspective employer, we want to showcase our skills and to communicate the fact that we have confidence.  In work preparedness classes we promote the idea that confident vocabulary and sentence structure is essential to having our cover letter read.  But where is the line between confidence and over confidence, and how do we teach that to our students?

I once received a homework assignment that was a sample cover letter written by a student.  The format was good, the sentences well formed, and there were no spelling mistakes. However, a few lines made me wince:  I am brilliant.  I am the best person that your company could hire.”  This surely was confidence, bordering on hubris, that may in fact have the same effect as grammatical error on the reader of the letter.  If I were the hiring manager, I’m not sure I would have read much further. So, where do we draw the line? Continue reading

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Pragmatically Speaking

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

For the last 8 or 9 years I have been working in programs that deliver language instruction to adult newcomers who have language levels above CLB 7.  These people have high levels of education and have been professionally trained.  When I first started working with this demographic of students, I struggled with creating content that was relevant for my classes.  I found their language skills to be quite good, and I wondered what else I could offer them. 

Once I started to get to know them a little better, I came to understand that they were having difficulty obtaining employment.  This fact seemed counter intuitive to me because I know that Canada relies on immigration to sustain its workforce.  I had been taught that without immigration, Canada’s population would actually decline.  So, what exactly prevents them from getting a job? Continue reading

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