Category Archives: Writing

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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The Translingual Approach – Agree but…

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

I am trying to fully understand the translingual approach – specifically how it aligns with English for academic purposes (EAP) or the much needed skill of clear, concise written communication. The idea is great, but how do we go about it?

Horner, Lu, Royster, and Trimbur (2011) propose a translingual approach for dealing with student writing in academia.
Although I agree with most of the underpinnings behind the new approach, I am not so sure how they envision it. I agree with many of their ideas, but…

Agree

I agree that students’ right to use their language (English and otherwise) should be respected.  I also agree with the authors’ opposition to the monolingual “view that varieties of English other than those recognized as ‘standards’ are defective” (305). Varieties of English, they explain, include what monolinguals Continue reading

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Encouraging sustainable writing practices in the ESL/EAP classroom

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

Hey now, TESL Ontarians! Have you ever found yourself concerned that your students may leave your class/course without a solid foundation for long-term development of their writing? Perhaps they have managed to write an argumentative essay or reflective essay in your class, but you wonder what you could do to better help them achieve the feat again in the future?

During the span of my teaching career, I have felt this way at times. So, over the past several years I have been sure to include a focus on writing processes and practices that may help students achieve sustainable academic writing outcomes. In this post (as well as in a subsequent post in November), Continue reading

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IN PURSUIT OF LEARNERS’ EMPOWERMENT: CAN WE TEACH GOOD WRITING HABITS?

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

As I’ve shared with you in previous blogs, one of my ongoing interests is finding ways to empower my students to become better writers of English. What is the formula?

  • Vocabulary skills are important (Checked √)
  • Grammar is important (Checked √)
  • Controlled practice is important (Checked √)

…Wait a minute… Modeling is super important…

Modeling Writing

According to Cumming (1995), language teachers need to not only provide text models of a good writer’s final product (what an assignment is supposed to look like at the end), but also model the cognitive process of writing. In other words, we as teachers should model writing-as-a-process that mimics the actions performed by effective writers (hint: we need to write a lot to be one too). Continue reading

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First-Second-Third…In Conclusion

Delicious healthy sandwich on the white background
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What is academic writing? Are we all on the same page? Is it a five paragraph essay? I don’t think so. Let me explain.

I always read with great enthusiasm my students’ essay writing diagnostics. This helps me to understand their way of thinking and their prior working understanding of academic writing. For some, the question posted is somewhat forgotten as they go about making their essay fit into a five paragraph structure. I perceive trains of thoughts interrupted as these students try to inject the three point parallel structure at the end of the so called introduction paragraph, while moving on to adding transitions throughout the remaining paragraphs as they seek to achieve the perfect five paragraph layout. The structure looks good…Hmm…Let me go inside and look.

Continue reading

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Cool Tools – Collaborating with Padlet

http://padlet.com
https://padlet.com

Are you looking for a useful tool to facilitate collaborative work for your students? For the past year, I have been exploring the use of Padlet, a free online application that serves as a ‘multi-media friendly, free-form, real-time wiki’ (according to Padlet.com). This easy to use tool allows you to easily provide content for your students online and customize it in many creative ways.

In a nutshell, Padlet works like a digital bulletin board or canvas. Once you have created your free account at https//:padlet.com, you can create individual ‘walls’ or padlets on which you can place content. An unlimited number of users can contribute to a padlet at the same time, making collaborative work very easy. By double-clicking anywhere on the screen, you can insert text, video, documents, images, or other padlets.  Your padlet with all of its content can then be shared with your students via email, link, or on social media. Continue reading

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Focusing on Writing Strategies: Attention, Please!

The bug is fixed in red pen in a notebook
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I have been teaching writing at the college level for over six years to both first and second language learners. Unless I am teaching EAP, where my students are second language learners, my classes have been mixed: native language students at various language levels and experiences as well as non-native language learners, including 1.5 generation (people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens) with different levels of language proficiency. Note that no matter who the students are, my job is to help my students achieve the learning outcomes of the course (e.g. to be able to write an academic essay), which means I must pay attention and therefore take into consideration each student’s individual needs. How do I reconcile all these differences in a writing course? Well, among many teaching strategies, I focus on selective attention.

Selective Attention

According to Richard Schmidt (2010) our ability to focus is dependent on our awareness of the existence of stimuli. It is difficult (even impossible) to pay attention to every bit of information around us, so we need to be consciously aware it exists to be able to notice it. Hence, not knowing what to focus our attention on can leave us paying attention to unimportant information, unaware of what it is we should be focusing on! 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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Live Poets Society

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

It had been a total failure. I had tried to introduce poetry to my class and have them write some, but they were reluctant and bored. However, something inside told me to give it another shot a few months later. I had been introduced to the concept at a TESL London workshop. The presenter was a convincing person and very nice, so

I had to try again.

I looked at ways I could do things differently. Since I teach levels 6 to 8, there were several resources I could draw on.

First, I asked them what they thought poetry was. You know what? I didn’t get much of a response. Things didn’t look too good – again.

So I went to phase two with a clip from Dead Poets’ Society.

I asked the question again,

“What is poetry?”

Continue reading

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What is EAP?

bigstock-Writing-Steps-Pyramid-Edit-Wri-59394623I have been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for a little over five years now. Compared to my previous jobs teaching general ESL and Business English, I find it incredibly satisfying; I think this is partly due to the course having a clear objective: preparing students for college and university.

But an important question that arose early on in the course, was

What does it mean to prepare students for college and university?

Are we talking about having their English at an equivalent level to their peers? Or is it more about mentally preparing them with academic skills needed for success? Continue reading

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