Making Room for Conversation

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Carving out more in-class time for student-centered conversation in the past year has had my students progress more quickly as they spent more time speaking, rather than just studying the language. Confidence and experience are essential for developing fluency, and in a safe environment, students’ overall progress can improve significantly. Since doing this in my class, I’ve seen an increase in the quality and quantity of my students’ interactions with each other, and I’ve also learned that they’re interacting at a higher level within their communities.

When adding conversation time in the classroom (which is great for those multi-level classes too), it’s important to have stimulating topics from which interesting questions can be created. I like to choose topics that boost student engagement and that are based on current news events, hot topics such as the latest technology gadget, or seasonal/cultural themes. You may need to tread carefully around Continue reading

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The Unsung Heroes of ESL/FSL

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I’ve always wondered how an adult who is learning a new language felt when surrounded by the unfamiliar. Although I’ve once experienced the difficulty and hardship of learning a new language and acclimating to a brand new environment as a child, it doesn’t compare to the emotions and experiences felt by an adult learner.

Having watched both my parents in the past try to interact with other fellow Canadians without the proper use of the English language was noteworthy.  Though at times they were clearly frustrated, they seemed to get by.  Today, my parents’ command of the English language is vast and they are both able to carry on conversations and express their wants and needs. Aside from their drive to want to learn and acclimate, they also had French to fall back on. But what about those who migrate from Continue reading

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Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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Hello fellow readers!

Our blog team would like to take this time to say THANK YOU for your support throughout the past few months.  We love getting comments and feedback from our readership, and hopefully you are finding interesting material you can use in your practice.

With the holiday season upon us, we will be taking a break from blogging until the New Year, posting at our regular Monday schedule on January 5th.   Maybe you’ve been so busy creating lesson plans, marking projects, and the countless other tasks we educators do on a daily basis and haven’t had much of a chance to read through all of our posts.  If you have downtime, revisit some of our great posts and see if any ideas can be incorporated in your teaching in the new year.

As always, if you have any suggestions, an interest in blogging, or comments, please go to our Contact Us page and send us an email.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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It’s Investment, My Dear Watson!

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No, this is not a blog about Sherlock Homes. It’s about investment, a termed coined by linguist Bonny Norton.[1]

Bonny Norton is one of my favourite linguists. She takes a critical, post-structuralism theory approach to explain how adults become engaged (or disengaged) with their own second language (L2) learning. For those of you who are new to this topic, post-structuralism looks at language from the perspective of language as capital, dominance/non-dominance, and possibilities.

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Get Your Head in the Clouds!

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It all started with Lynn Hainer. She’s a local councillor in St. Marys and a good friend. She’s also a bit of a techie. During her recent campaign, she asked friends to provide adjectives to describe her. I provided a few. The result was a word cloud full of positive attributes. I wondered if I could take this idea and use it in my ESL classroom. I decided to try it.

First, I asked my class to put adjectives on a white board that they could use to describe a person, both positive and negative. They came up with many. I added a few. We used them in sentences
to help define the meanings. For example, we discussed different ways to say that somebody was thin, such as slender and skinny, and that using slender was much more polite than using skinny.

Second, I gave them recipe cards. The students put their names on the top. The cards were Continue reading

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Is Learner-Centred Teaching the Best for ESL Adults?

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Of recent, it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more ESL students entering our classrooms are expecting a rapid transmission of information, structured presentations, concrete outcomes, a course syllabus, and direction from teachers. Such expectations are not new; they come with most formal classes.  Such expectations, common in traditional classroom settings, coming from Adult ESL learners, necessitate a rethinking of our present learner-centered or constructivist approach. It raises a question: Is there a place for direct instruction in today’s adult classes? Or, is there not a place for the traditional approach? By that, I don’t mean the uncreative and non-liberating approach to education so well described by Paulo Freire. I mean a Continue reading

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Come and Moodle with Me!

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Technology and using it in the classroom have become a major issue in the last few years. Teaching online and using more computers and computer-based resources in the classroom are becoming commonplace in almost every school. One word that you may have heard in passing (or may have already been using in class) is Moodle.

I have been working with Moodle for almost two years, and it has the potential to be a great resource for any ESL class.

What is Moodle?

Moodle is a Learning Management System (LMS) platform that many education providers use to host either a few courses, a whole program, or a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)! Continue reading

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Lost in Translation

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Have you ever seen the movie Lost in Translation?  The main character, played by Bill Murray, has some strange experiences while working in Japan.  The situation seems almost surreal to someone who has not experienced Japan.  However, if you’ve ever lived there, what happens to him is not all that extraordinary.  After having been exposed to a bit of Japanese culture, what happens to him seems closer to everyday life.  Culture has a big impact on our activities and our perceptions of what is happening.  How much impact, then, does culture have on something as integral as communication?

It is very difficult to teach Canadian communication norms.  Most people who have been raised in Canada aren’t even aware that the language structures they use may carry a different meaning when literally translated, simply because the meaning of the expression has been internalized.  Often we think our expressions are logical.  Continue reading

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Good Habits to Consider When Creating Accessible Documents

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Have you heard the phrase AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act)? The accessibility movement is a global phenomenon that has implications for all stakeholders in education.  In Ontario, colleges and boards expect (I hope this is not too much of a generalization) that materials produced for instructional purposes comply with accessibility standards based on the media being employed.  Media includes printed documents, electronic documents, web based offerings, and interactive and passive multimedia presentations. The United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have also passed accessibility legislation.

I have found that following good practices to create accessible digital documents results in an improved experience for all.  Some general guidelines to improve document readability are

  • consistent titles,
  • legible fonts,
  • easier to understand tables ,and
  • colour contrast considerations.

Last year, I attended accessibility certification workshops. Four days of training involved document accessibility design, mobile App design, video captioning, and web accessibility design and Continue reading

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My Annotated Web Resource List

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So you’ve been hired to teach ESL – congratulations on making it this far!  But the question now remains: How? What? And where? If you were to look online for ESL resources, you’ll be surprised and relieved (perhaps also overwhelmed?) at what you’ll see before you.

There are many resources available to you aside from your colleagues (an obvious choice, and an invaluable one at that).  Scouring the Internet can prove daunting and endless.  However, here are a few tried and tested sites that will take you to your class with confidence.

Some good finds:
www.eslgold.com/

ESL Gold is a very popular and widely used site for ESL teaching material.  The site is categorized nicely for you to easily select what area, skill, and level(s) you’d like to focus on, which is especially Continue reading

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