Category Archives: Writing

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
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.ca

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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Get-to-Know Activities in the Language Classroom

flickr_imageOctober is here and most of us teachers have completed our get-to-know activities. However, if our classes happen to be a continuous intake LINC or ESL setting, it may mean having to repeat these activities more than once. In addition, in some classrooms, we might even have students who have remained with us. In other classroom settings, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – for example – students might be advancing seven weeks at a time. However, no matter what classroom setting we are in, it is important that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. One way to do this is by spending time with get-to-know activities. These activities do not need to be the same every time. We might not necessarily want to plan for the usual “Hi, my name is ____________,and I am from _____________, and my first language is ___________________,” drill, drill, drill, and stop there. For example, the well-known table name cards activity could be modified according to students’ language level: Continue reading

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Plagued with Plagiarism

bigstock-Original-Or-Copy-55857098
image source: www.bigstock.com

Recently, a colleague stopped me mid-rant and asked:

“How many hours a week do you spend looking for plagiarism?” The question made me realize that

  1. I don’t know, but
  2. it’s a lot.

In the EAP course I teach, students are required to write 2 essays each month. The essays need to be at least 750 words and include proper referencing, etc. Even though we spend a lot of time in class discussing plagiarism, the penalties both in our school and in a proper university, and the likelihood they will be caught, over the 3 months that students are in the course, many will copy / plagiarise in their first month for 2 main reasons: cultural plagiarism or simple plagiarism.

Cultural Plagiarism: As our Arabic counsellor told me a few years ago, when she was completing her university studies in Kuwait, she was penalized for not simply copying, word for word, from the sources. The requirements for university were just that. Continue reading

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Welcome to the TESL Ontario Blog!

bigstock-Welcome-mat_4020611
image source: www.bigstock.com

We are so excited and proud of this initiative which all started because of YOU, TESL Ontario members.  This blog is being run by volunteers who are passionate about sharing knowledge and building a wider community.

This blog site is completely new to TESL Ontario, so take some time and have a look through all the tabs and make yourself comfortable here.  We’re sure you’ll find something that interests you.

Each Monday morning, we will post a new entry on our blog, so be sure to keep this site on your favourites tab!  We encourage you to comment on the posts and open up or contribute to the Continue reading

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