Category Archives: Tips

Presentations that feel like home

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

Presentations are ubiquitous in modern life, so it makes sense to include them as a component in ESL classes.  In North American culture we have certain expectations about how presentations will be given.  The format is low-context, meaning the presenters are making sure that they can be understood by the audience.  The students in our classes not only require the appropriate language skills, they also need to understand how to format a presentation so that the audience can understand its structure.  The following house analogy is one way to teach about how the format of a presentation gives it structure.  This structure makes the content more coherent to the audience.

Welcome

The introduction welcomes the audience to your presentation.  It tells them who you are, why you are giving the presentation and, maybe most importantly, it shows them what to expect.  It’s the first impression that the audience has of what will be delivered.  Much like the front lawn or the walk way to your house, the first impression of the introduction adds value.  Continue reading

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Organizing your Personal / Professional Learning Network (PLN)

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Symbaloo starting page courtesy of www.symbaloo.com

As presented in my last post, Personal Learning Network Sources, a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can include numerous  resources           that assist communication, resource sharing and professional growth.  I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of PLNs is organizing the content for efficient retrieval.  As PLN resources are added or removed it becomes clear that arranging them is necessary to enable efficient access.   A single starting page, or PLN home page, is a solution that I have found provides effective access to my PLN.

A starting page is the first page of your PLN based on the chosen tool.   One example is using your Twitter account page, Twitter being the tool,  as Anna Bartosik details in her post, How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter.  I use the tool Symbaloo as my starting page for my PLN. The Symbaloo organizer uses tabs, thumbnail icons and text to provide quick access to my PLN resources.

Below, I offer some PLN starting page options.  Each of these possibilities embody their own strengths and weaknesses.   As a language instructor, you may want to choose one of these options based on your experience with digital organizers, your personal technology skills and the quantity of resources in your PLN. Continue reading

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The Multilevel Merger – Can It Work For You?

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

Hello again, dear colleagues!

I was at a friend’s house the other day discussing the usual things moms talk about, when my friend expressed her frustration about her daughter’s multilevel classroom. I asked how her daughter is handling the setup, to which she replied: “She doesn’t think much of it because she’s in the upper grade of the split class. I don’t feel like she’s being challenged enough.” I wondered then how our ESL adult learners — especially the advanced students, might feel about their multilevel classes, should they happen to be in one.

Every class you teach as an adult ESL instructor can be considered multilevel to a certain extent. However, a true multilevel class takes place when there’s a substantial difference in learning levels in the same classroom, (e.g. levels 2-7). I’m sure some welcome the challenge; maybe even thrive on it like: “Who are you because we need to talk?!” While many others dread the thought of being in this situation, dealing with a multitude of learning levels. 

So here are a few tips that I hope you’ll find beneficial: Continue reading

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How do I write faster?

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

A typical conversation that I have with students near the beginning of a semester goes like this:

Me: How are things going? What would you like to do today?

Student: Ugh I have so many assignments you know, and I have to study a lot and write so many papers. It took me a long time to write this essay… like 6, 7 days. That’s too much. Please teach me how to write faster.

Me: Writing essays takes me a long time, too.

Student: No. It can’t take you this long… you are a professional and English is your first language. I want to write essays in maybe 4 hours total.

For many students, this request is a very logical one. How do they juggle the multitude of assignments in a 14 or 15 week semester? Writing faster is more efficient and beneficial to them than not writing at all. After all these years, I still don’t have a clear answer because I can’t even write a 10 page paper in 4 hours. Once we get through the initial conversation, here are some strategies I do provide: 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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Trauma + Second Language Learning = Alternative Pedagogy

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

Imagine you are in a doctor’s office being told that you have a serious, life threatening condition. Blood races through your veins, heartbeat pounds between your ears, breath is shallow, and you can feel your clothes sticking to your skin. Your body is in a heightened state of arousal. Do you recall the term “fight/flight/freeze” from science class? This is it — you are in what is called “survival mode”. By the time you get home, you realize how many questions needed to be asked but were forgotten while in the doctor’s office, and you barely remember what was said. This is an example of the psycho-physiology of trauma.

If you can relate to this scenario, (or one like it), then you can understand how difficult it is to function normally in this heightened state of arousal. It’s understandable that this state of anxiety can occur during a traumatic or highly stressful experience, but what you may not be aware of is that it can also persist for long periods after the traumatic event.

Why is this important now? With the refugee influx coming into Canada, you may encounter a surge of students in your classroom displaying symptoms related to post traumatic experiences like violence, displacement or loss, which will have an impact on how they learn. As a teacher, you may see a trend of problematic behaviours or students’ lack of progress in the traditional learning environment. Continue reading

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If you supply teach – Enjoy it!

Woman rushing to work
Image source: bigstockphotos.com

Supply teaching has its benefits for sure. I know. I did my share. Although the job is unpredictable, the experience is valuable. What is a day like? The phone rings and you answer. It’s 6:00 a.m. so you know that other than a family emergency, the person on the other side of the line is…Yes! You got it. It’s the school secretary asking if you are available.

What you do after this point will depend on your supplying experience – but my advice is to stay cool as a cucumber. If you are available, say yes.

First Things First

Ask if there is a lesson plan. Don’t count on it every time. If there is no plan, don’t sweat it. You have several choices: 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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Tips for the Daily Grind

Good morning, Monday - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of coffee
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday I was planning what I wanted to do this summer with my family, and here I am already preparing for classes.  I can’t believe how fast the school year got here!  Everyone will soon be going back to the daily grind  of  lesson prepping, dry mouth from excessive talking, and marking, so I hope you’ve all enjoyed your time off.

I’m going to be honest — I was struggling to come up with a topic, especially on such a beautiful day like today. But then I thought about going back to work and how to best transition from no school habits like: sleeping in, (well, I haven’t had the pleasure of doing that since becoming a mom), and going wherever the wind takes me, to a quick shift into the routine of waking up early, standing for hours teaching, and the usual work-related things. Continue reading

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