I set the timer and focus on my new goal: to grade a paper in twenty minutes. Everything starts smoothly; checkmark after checkmark, praise after praise. A quick glance at the rest of the paper reveals more of the same error-free, polished style. Hmm. I pull up the student’s writing diagnostic, previous assignments, and emails. All are riddled with errors and awkward phrasing. The plagiarism report, though, comes up clean.Continue reading
Category Archives: Writing
Active Learning Strategies for Post-Pandemic Zoom Breakout Rooms
Many educators are now familiar with the black screens and mute students on Zoom and its breakout rooms. While having student cameras turned on can certainly have its own merits, the black screens do not necessarily mean that the students cannot or will not contribute. I have found the following three activities helpful in engaging students regardless of having their cameras on or off.Continue reading
(Re)Focusing on the Process in Online Environments
If we can learn anything from ChatGPT and all other AI tools, it is that their product is the result of people who immersed themselves in the process of collecting information before arriving at the final product. The secret to success is what took place behind the scenes —the work it took to arrive at the final product.Continue reading
Activity: Journal Writing
When I started teaching online, it was clear to me almost immediately that I wanted to encourage my learners to write and that I wanted to see their writing on a regular basis. I had a CLB 7 Academic class, and I began rather naively and ambitiously. The assignment was straightforward:
You will have three journal topics a week. You will be given 15 minutes a day, three times a week, to write in your journal. You will be given a journal topic or you can write about whatever you want.Continue reading
AI in the Classroom: Love It or Hate It – It’s Here
Learning never stops; this now includes both humans and Artificial Intelligence. As I type this blog post, I find myself either tabbing to accept the suggested word or ignoring the suggestion. Being prompted to type what auto-text thinks I should be writing can be annoying and, if I am not careful, I end up writing a word that I did not mean to write or, worse yet, pressing ‘send’ on a message or email with one or two unintended words. Although I appreciate its usefulness on some occasions, it irks me when I am given the wrong suggestion, as in the case of Grammarly’s use of double commas on a salutation (since when did adding a comma after ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ and before someone’s name become the grammar norm?)Continue reading
An Epic Battle of the Imagination
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
(Carroll, L. 1865. Alice in Wonderland)
I wrote this piece about three years ago, reflecting on an old lesson and the role imagination plays in our ESL curricula. I believe this activity could be modified for an online classroom. If you give it a go, please let me know how it works out!Continue reading
Summary of the #English Language Skills discussion with Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna, OCELT
Post by: Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna and Vanessa Nino
On April 30, 2021 people in the TESL Ontario community discussed teaching the English language skills on Twitter. The guest moderator of the evening was Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna (@capontedehanna). Cecilia is a full-time professor at Centennial College, where she teaches English communications courses to local and international students. With over 15 years of teaching experience, Cecilia has taught children as young as 3 years old to adults in their golden years.Continue reading
Haiku: a humble but mighty tool in ESL
Reduce, reduce, reduce. Make every word count. I repeat these instructions every day in my EAP classroom. Session after session, I hand out exercises to reduce wordiness and replace empty, abstract words with those that are strong and specific.
And yet, the students have a hard time going “beyond the exercise” to apply these skills to their writing. They continue to fill their pages with “in the event that,” “as a result of,” and “in our society today” as well as abstracts such as “the meal was good,” “the lake was beautiful,” and “the people looked happy.”
I needed to find an authentic writing form that would encourage rich, yet spare, prose. And then it struck me—the haiku. The Japanese poem is inherently concise and relies on specific, sensory words. A win-win!
So, I initiated a “holiday haiku” activity. First, I explained the basic form: one line with five syllables, the next with seven, and the third with five. Secondly, I divided the class into small groups to brainstorm specific, image-worthy words that evoked their celebrations back home. This second stage worked beautifully. Not only did the words flow, but also the students enjoyed sharing their cultural traditions.Continue reading
Peer Feedback: Not the Sandwich, but Sunny-Side-Up, Please
Peer feedback (otherwise known as peer assessment) can be useful to both the receiver and the giver of the feedback as long as the feedback is meaningful. For this to happen, peer feedback needs to be constructive; it should start with a positive observation before pointing to an area or areas for improvement; and it should include a suggestion on how to improve, which means that the focus needs to be procedural. This is not the case in the sandwich feedback approach.Continue reading
How to Approach Creative Writing!
Writing is an art, and art is supposed to be creative. But how come there’s a course called “Creative Writing?” How is this different from any conventional “Writing Course?” To be even more specific, should we have a course called – Creative Writing – in ESL, or can a conventional “Writing Course” do the job?
As an ESL teacher, I think that in the world of language pedagogy every piece of writing should be creative and therefore whether the course is called “Writing” or “Creative Writing,” creativity is an inherent part.
In this article, I’d like to share with you what happens when I teach a Writing course, which to me is no different than a Creative Writing course.Continue reading