Thinking about Grammar

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Does grammar make you nervous?  Do you wonder if you know enough to be able to help your students with their grammar?  Let’s take pronouns, for example.   Can you explain when to use  who or whomYou and I  or  You and me?  You can Google these issues fairly easily and find helpful explanations, or you can find good ESL grammar exercises and worksheets online, or you can use a good textbook. 

The bigger question is what grammar should we teach? 

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Where I am from

Copyright: Jennifer MacKenzie-Hutchison. All rights reserved.

Last week, I read over my students’ poems and was reminded how much I love my job. As teachers, we need to savour these pleasures and summon them during the more tedious moments. My students, mostly from Asia, are in a year-long EAP foundation program at Ryerson University. I asked them to write a poem based on “Where I Am From,” by George Ella Lyon.

The scholastic objective was to get my students to explore their identities, but my personal objective was to learn more about their families, their ambitions, their countries…their lives. In class, we went through the author’s life, stanza by stanza. We examined the details, the imagery, and the metaphors. Then my students went home and wrote their own versions.

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PBLA: Can I See the Curriculum Please?

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I get asked this question a few times every year. My answer is always the same, “We don’t have one”. It’s true, we don’t have one. We have the Curriculum Guidelines, a badly named book that provides class activities of varying quality for different CLB levels. We also have CLB criteria for assessments, and, of course, PBLA, another assessment tool, but nothing to tell us how to achieve these outcomes such as what grammar to teach or what pronunciation to focus on at specific levels. That would be really helpful, especially if you are a new teacher or switching levels.

Even more annoying is that the Center for Canadian Language Benchmarks says, “Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) is a teaching and assessment model designed to enhance nationwide consistency and standards of quality in English as a Second Language…” How can a series of tests that we are all creating individually standardize the material being taught? It is the role of a curriculum to provide a systematic structure. It would mean that Susan in BC is introducing gerunds in Level 3 and so is Mahdi in Ontario. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

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Critical Reflection in Action-based Approaches

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The role of critical reflection is very important in action-based approaches to problem solving. Reflecting allows us, as researchers and educators, to think about what can be done after an observation of a particular method and how action can be taken to fix or alter the process of the method to make it more effective. “Being able to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it also enables you to be clear about its significance for your field, which is important when it comes to saying why your research should be believed and taken seriously by others, especially peers” (McNiff, 2011, p. 10).

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Storybird

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Do you ever teach CLB 5 narrative paragraph writing? Do your students usually write something with pencil on paper that they later discard? Have you ever thought of using Storybird to engage and enhance writing skills or create a class anthology of stories?

Publish it

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Positive Reinforcement in the College Classroom

Why is it important for our higher education learners to receive positive reinforcement? Do adult learners have this need? In what ways can instructors provide their adult learners with positive reinforcement?

Sharp (2011) lays it down beautifully, explaining that as we grow up we receive incentives, prices, stickers, and encouragement for the most mundane actions such as making our beds. However, as we grow and become more self-motivated, the amount of positive reinforcement declines exponentially by the time we pursue higher education.

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#CdnELTchat: Join the chat on Tuesday

If you’re on Twitter, join the next #CdnELTchat on Tuesday, April 16th –
Advocacy in #ELT.  Below is a recap of the March 25th chat from the #CdnELTchat moderators.


Dealing with Sensitive Topics in ELT

On March 26th, ELT practitioners from across Canada and beyond connected on Twitter for #CdnELTchat to talk about Dealing with Sensitive Topics in ELT. Bonnie Nicholas (@EALstories) kept the conversation moving by posting questions, while  Augusta Avram (@LINCinstructor) helped out by replying and retweeting, and Svetlana Lupasco (@stanzasl) and Jennifer (@jennifermchow) provided background support.

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Why I became a teacher now, not then

I recently got certified as an adult ESL teacher, more than a decade after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English. Although teaching had been an option in the past, I decided to pursue other avenues—and I’m glad I did.

image source: Svjetlana Vrbanic

Over the years, I had many great experiences, learned many things, and acquired skills that make me a better teacher today. There truly are many different roads to teaching and I would like to share mine.

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