A great song lyric from Rod Stewart’s Forever Young
Listening to Irfan’s voicemail message, my mind darted back to a November morning in 2007 when he and his older brother Arman walked into my class.
They stopped, stared, and smiled. They said hello and sat down. They pointed to their names and addresses on the paper they carried. They had barely made it to level 1. As a novice teacher in the first year, I was more nervous than they were in the multi- level classroom. At 22, Arman was shouldering the responsibility of caring for his widowed mother and younger brother. At 18, Irfan had moved to Canada with no knowledge of English. They had worked in a factory for a few months before they’d been laid off. He wasn’t even aware he was entitled to Unemployment Insurance (EI now). Continue reading →
Like many of you, I have taught pronunciation from some books. You know, the ones that have the schematic diagrams of where the tongue is supposed to go. I’ve even seen some teachers have mirrors in their classroom so the students can see the acrobatics going on in their mouth. Does this method work? I suppose so, but I find it really boring. I know it isn’t fun for the students because it certainly isn’t fun to teach. One day, I decided to try something different. I don’t think this would work for lower level students, although I would like to try.
I really am a fan of Seinfeld. What I like about the characters is that they are over the top when they deliver their lines, even more than most comedies. I thought I would experiment with a scene from this TV show to see how it would work with my students. Continue reading →
My multiple initiatives to kick-start an extensive reading program using the MReader resource at 4 different institutions flopped for a variety of reasons. My disbelief in these failed attempts led to another kick at the can.
Dozens of outreach attempts through email, voice messages, coffee break chats, and scheduled meetings resulted in the opportunity to run a formal presentation to appropriate stakeholders. At last, the concept of using MReader as a motivational measuring stick while promoting an extensive reading culture was accepted.
At the college where I teach, the extensive reading program, monitored by the MReader, has now completed its first pilot and will encompass additional students and instructors in the fall. Why was I so persistent in promoting this package? Continue reading →
October 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 →
The topic of syllable stress in English is a difficult concept to teach, learn, or understand. Often it is an error that is not addressed at all. Why do teachers minimize it and learners avoid it? Why are researchers baffled by it? The rules to English syllable stress are unfathomable. Oh, there are rules, but when these rules are put together, there would be enough to write a one-thousand page book in very small font. Obviously a matter this complex is very difficult for everybody to comprehend and creates quite a cognitive load when we try to process stress rules that have been learned explicitly.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics have discovered that stress usually only affects the comprehension of a word if the quality of the vowel is also affected. What does this mean? I for one have witnessed numerous times in English and French classes how misplaced stress causes a second-language speaker to be misunderstood. Continue reading →
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
I don’t know, but
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 →
Learning a language is tough. Period. And if English is your first language, count yourself lucky. Because truth be told, English has to be one of the more difficult languages to retain, especially if you had to learn as an adult. I know a thing or two about that (minus the adult part). When my family made the move to Canada, I couldn’t speak a word of English. In fact, I struggled to learn even at the young age of 8. Based on my interview, the school felt I didn’t need an ESL teacher and decided to throw me in the lion’s den, unaided and helpless (or at least that’s how I felt at the time).
My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Eadie, challenged me mentally in more ways than I can describe. She never took it easy on me since I understood nothing of the language. Instead, she thankfully treated me like the rest, and if I didn’t understand, well I’d better read up! I welcomed the challenge, although I was quite frustrated at times. But with the help of both my homeroom teacher and my English teacher, Mrs. Harley, who had me write in a journal every day at the beginning of class, I learned that making mistakes was the only way I was going to learn. I needed to fail a few times before I was able to see the light. Such an invaluable lesson I’d learned: you’re going to fall before you can stand, and that’s OK!Continue reading →
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 →