Uncovering Meaning

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Early in my ESL teaching career when I had a new class, I found myself asking: “Why don’t my students do what I tell them to do?” They rarely followed up on the advice I gave them, didn’t come back from lunch on time, or even take a break when I said it was break time. I pondered this for some time. It wasn’t until after being in my class for a bit of time, that I noticed them beginning to follow my instructions. But initially they didn’t, so I thought this lag in understanding was due to them misinterpreting my particular pronunciation.

Then, I had an ‘aha!’ moment.  Continue reading

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Breaking News English: Integrate Current Events into your Classes

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I have spent the past few years working in learning object and course development. In August, I am returning to the classroom to teach EFL. Putting on my teacher hat, I remember that it is important to have an emergency kit of prepared learning events in a variety of media. Worksheets, bookmarked web activities, flash cards, board games, videos, audio clips and technology such as a digital camera will contribute to future icebreakers, Friday afternoon fillers, motivation boosting sessions or the odd substitution call. Continue reading

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End of Year Reflections – for Students and Teachers!

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As another school year is almost at a close, it is time for end-of-year reflections – for both students and teachers alike.

At the beginning of each school year, my students set goals for their language learning. They begin by assessing where they see their strengths and weaknesses, then selecting one or two specific areas to focus on, e.g., “Figuring out new vocabulary I read”, or “Organizing my writing more clearly”. They then make a plan of action – what specific strategies they will use to help them reach their goals, as well as what support they would like from me as their teacher and from their families at home. Mid-year we do a ‘where we are now’ check-in, which involves Continue reading

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Oddly English

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I was rummaging through my books when I stumbled upon two favourites I’d purchased when I attended one of TESL’s AGMs in London,Ontario. The main speaker that day was Katherine Barber, who captivated us with her wit and in-depth knowledge of the English language.

Barber was the editor-in-chief of the dictionary department at Oxford University Press in Toronto — I know, pretty cool stuff! She is one of Canada’s best authorities on the English language, so when she says that English is “crazy”, I believe it!

We all know that English is a borrowed language, in that the majority of its words come from different languages. But, have you ever wondered where certain words you use actually come from, or what their root word means? It’s always been a curiosity of mine as to how a language is assembled into what we know and use today. Continue reading

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One Milestone at a Time

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This week we reached our 50th post from our Guest Bloggers and Occasional Bloggers on the TESL Ontario blog! We wanted to write a post to allow readers and bloggers to take a moment and take it all in.  Our first post was on October 6 of last year, and it started with the lines

“We are so excited and proud of this initiative which all started because of YOU, TESL Ontario members.”

We are still excited and proud of this blog, and our passion continues because of YOU, our TESL Ontario members.

THANK YOU to our bloggers, our commenters, and even our silent readers.  Over these past posts, we have engaged in meaningful conversations and opened opportunities for reflection of our own practices, and we are invested in keeping that going with your involvement.

Here’s to another 50 posts – and many more!

 

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A Discrete Approach to Teaching ESL – What Does it Mean?

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I have been thinking about my past experience teaching discrete ESL. It is one of those experiences that I wish I could forget – erase out of my head, but the more I try, the more I think about it. Well, I read that the best way to deal with bad memories is to either talk or write about them– so here it is:

You should not ask students to read aloud! You are only to focus on reading – when they read aloud they are speaking, which is not the focus of the lesson,” said the person in charge. Continue reading

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A Time for Reflection

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Another year has ended in my journey as an ESL teacher. As I look back, I realize the roller coaster ride it was.

When I started in September, I had two students in a higher, multi-level LINC class. On the first day, only one showed up. On the second, the other student was there, but the one from the first day wasn’t there. Let’s just say that on both days we spent a lot of time getting to know each other.

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Listen to Me!

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One of the five classes in my EAP course is a 50-minute a day listening class. It’s always been the most difficult for me to teach, partly because it’s directly after lunch, when students are  not the most awake!

Over the years I’ve tried various teaching resources, searching for the most effective texts and material to help students. These are the  best ones I’ve come across for teaching listening  skills in EAP:

English for Academic Study: Listening

I love Garnet Education’s EAS series, and use the Vocabulary and Reading & Writing books as a major part of my curriculum. When my course first began, our listening curriculum was based entirely on the EAS: Listening book. Continue reading

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Alleviating Article Anxiety

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While it is probably true that simple language structures are the easiest thing to teach and  learn, we should look very carefully at what we consider to be simple.

Take for example English articles. There are only two of them: definite and indefinite —   maybe three, if we count the allophonic variant of the indefinite article  ‘an’.  Unlike other languages,  in English we don’t have to take into account gender or case when deciding which one to use.   So, why are these items so difficult for English language learners?  The answer to this question relates to the rules that govern articles, which are very complex, thus making their application somewhat difficult.

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Finding Balance in the Student Teacher Classroom

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I have been working on my TESL certification for the past few years through part-time online learning. For my practicum, I recently had the opportunity to observe and teach in a level four EAP class. Writing this blog post has posed an opportunity for me to reflect on the practicum experience and comment on the foremost challenge I faced when moving from TESL student to TESL teacher: balancing the theory learned in the TESL classroom and the realities of the classroom to provide students with the best possible learning environment.

The Perfect Lesson Plan vs. The Clock

Since I have taught in the college classroom before, I was already aware of the challenges of time. Instructors are responsible for following a rigid course outline and syllabus, regardless of the specific needs of the class. However, I felt that this was an even greater challenge in the ESL classroom.

ESL students need ample opportunity for practice in order to master language use, and this practice requires Continue reading

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