About Reflective Practice

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How many of us sit down at the end of the day and reflect on the lesson?  I mean really sit down and think about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the potential.  For many of us, I’m sure the intentions are there, but on a really bad day, we’re probably more inclined to pack up our things, get home, call it a day, and think “tomorrow will be better”.  In these moments, as much as with the great days, it’s important for us to reflect because reflecting doesn’t mean kicking us when we’re down, but rather it means finding ways to bring us back up and truly know that tomorrow will be better because today wasn’t terribly horrible.

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Mouth-selfies Make Pronunciation Real

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Most EFL teachers savour a ‘teachable moment’ where, by plan or serendipity, some magic happens. Let me tell you a story about one of mine.

During the 7 years I taught in the Middle East, all teachers lamented the prevalence of mobile phones in the classroom. Sometimes, even, multiple phones during exams had to be removed from students under the protests of “We’re just sharing teacher….honest…..just sharing.”

Phones were a problem.  And as so often happens, problems are the source of an inspiration.  One day I got all 24 of my 17-19 year old male students around in a circle of desks and got them to explain to me, in English of course, all the features of their many varieties of mobiles or cells. All the new terms and features were written Continue reading

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Live Poets Society

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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?”

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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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To Err is Progress

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Fear of making a mistake or asking a stupid question is a legitimate problem. Sir Ken Robinson in his TED talk: “How schools kill creativity” talks about how the education system makes people fear being wrong. This fear of being wrong can squash our creativity. If we always keep ourselves in check, so that we don’t make mistakes, we will never take chances. He states we need to be prepared to be wrong.

I often say to my students “There is no such thing as a stupid question!”  I’ve said this many times.  However, when I put myself in the position of student, I sometimes feel like my question might be stupid.

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Images with Impact: Accessing Images (Part 3)

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Images can be a great visual tool especially in ESL, but the process in making them technologically effective can be overwhelming. This post is the third and final post of a 3-part series of Images with Impact by John Allan.

 

Placement of Images

Word Processors are the most common authoring tool used by teachers to create learning objects or LOs. Generally, worksheets are the most common kind of LO. The Microsoft Word word processor offers two practical ways of positioning images in a LO.  The first is using tables.  Tables are a standard feature in word processors.  The image occupies a single cell in a document.  The table is then positioned within the documents as the instructor deems appropriate.

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Today Wasn’t Great

bigstock-Business-Woman-Customer-Servic-84197477Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class.  It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.

And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense.  So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman.  If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.

I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading

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Is Two Better Than One?

bigstock-Image-of-two-young-pretty-busi-49672886I was looking for something inspirational to write about when I came across this very interesting and thought-provoking article online by Judie Haynes, and felt the need to share it with everyone: http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/cooperative_teaching_two_teach_83908.php. The article discusses co-teaching and begs the question: Is two better than one when applied to ESL classrooms?

Judie breaks it down quite nicely and explains that collaborative teaching can be of great benefit to the learners in the sense that they get better and more individualized attention from the teacher because there would be two teachers in the room.

On the other hand, she believes that an ESL teacher would have some challenges to face, as co-teaching may complicate lesson planning, make it more difficult to effectively deal with learners, or worst of all, one of the teachers being looked at or referred to as a helper instead of the instructor. Judie is of the opinion that the benefits of collaborative teaching outweigh any potential negatives that accompany the practice. She mentions how sharing a classroom would equate to Continue reading

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Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP): What Do Students Need?

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This question is not new. The answers are ongoing (just do a quick library search on “EAP debate” and you’ll find great peer reviewed articles on the topic, including articles written by Krashen, Ferris and Hedgcock, Grabe and Kaplan, Krapels, Silva, Cummins, and Belcher and Hirbela – you name it). EAP continues to be a HOT topic, especially as more and more second language learners (L2) enter post-secondary education. Hence, the question needs to be re-asked to arrive at possible solutions and to meet the needs of a diverse group of students. Let’s face it, in addition to first year L2 learners, the 1.5 generation (those who arrive as children and learn English at an early age) also require guided instruction in ESL – and don’t forget L2 students who already hold degrees and need to bridge their skills. The list of variables does not end there! Variables include students coming with different English skills and levels, differences between academic and industry standards, the existing prescribed entry-level assessment benchmarks, and well…as you can see, I could keep going.

And don’t forget the debate:

  • Should EAP focus on teaching the five paragraph essay or should it be sector specific?
  • Should it focus on multi-literacies or extensive reading and writing?

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Read Your Way Across Canada

bigstock-Book-Covered-With-Canadian-Fla-20361425Have you ever met any students who don’t want to improve their speaking skills?  I haven’t.  It’s more of a challenge to get them to read and write. I did something that got them into reading.

A few years ago, I was trying to encourage my students to read. Fortunately, there was a public library nearby. Once a week we would go there, and I would help them find books. Still, I wanted to give them more motivation to read, so I decided to get them to read across Canada.

I believe this activity will work regardless of your level. All you have to do is adapt the activities to the abilities, and that includes the books that they read.

I did this with my level 1 students. For those who were particularly weak, I had them take out books by Mo Willems. They are fun and easy to read.  Here is an example of one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq77-6zsCSg

Canada is about 7,250 km from coast to coast. I had about 10 students. For every book they read, they earned 100 km, Continue reading

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