Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?

image source:

Want something for lower-level ESL students that is fun and informative?

When I taught benchmark one classes, I did something that increased their vocabulary by about 100 words in a month or so. It was also fun. It’s not a very original idea. In fact, I borrowed it from my days as an occasional teacher when I had to teach kindergarten.

In many kindergarten classes, they have show and tell. A child brings in an object in a bag, and the rest of the students have to guess what it is by asking questions. I decided to do this with my ESL class.

We sat down and thought of all of the properties that might be associated with an object, things like shape, size, colour, age, and material.  I got poster paper for each attribute, and then had them make one for each. They supplied me with the words, and I Continue reading


Signposts Show the Way to Good Communication

image source:

Fluency is a critical element of communication and is often a basis for how language levels are judged.  Signposting is a technique which makes speech more fluent.  Words or phrases that link speech together to make it coherent, and give the listener an indication of where our verbal communication is headed, are considered signposts.

Does receiving an indication of the direction that a conversation will take make a difference to the listener?  Absolutely!  When we have a good idea about what we will hear, we can process the meaning faster.  Hearing something contrary to what we are expecting causes our brain waves to spike.  The spike causes a diversion of energy which can contribute to longer processing time.  Considering how fast a brain processes language, a matter of milliseconds can slow down comprehension.  The delay in comprehending could cause a listener to completely misunderstand what was said. Continue reading


Images with Impact: Editing Images (Part 1)

white hand on images patchwork
image source:

Images can be a great visual tool especially in ESL, but the process in making them technologically effective can be overwhelming. Images with Impact will be a 3-part series of posts by John Allan in order to give you  researched information and the opportunity to reflect at each step.

 Instructors and Images

Many instructors are expected to create their own presentations, worksheets, or online learning materials called learning objects (LOs) to enhance their classroom offerings. This situation is tricky since most LOs in the modern classroom include multimedia objects. For now, let’s focus on images. Image handling is a very common problem for instructors. This problem is especially onerous for instructors who may not have access to image editors, image repositories, or media design support. Continue reading


Making Room for Conversation

conversation picture
image source:

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


The Unsung Heroes of ESL/FSL

image source:

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


Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

image source:

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!


It’s Investment, My Dear Watson!

image source:

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.

Continue reading


Get Your Head in the Clouds!

image source:

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


Is Learner-Centred Teaching the Best for ESL Adults?

image source:

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


Come and Moodle with Me!

Online Education
image source:

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