I attended my first PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting at my son’s school last week. The Chair had asked if I’d be interested in joining them to help execute a healthy food initiative for the students. I happily obliged because I’m a tad obsessed with food— the wholesome and tasty kind that’s kid approved. Anyway, I digress.
What struck me at this meeting was a new project directed at helping refugees, (particularly those who have fled from war torn countries), acclimate to their new community. The school is planning on raising a significant amount of funds to help them out, whether it be through financial or psychological support.
This got me thinking about the work we do as ESL instructors. During my ESL teacher training, a big part of the program focused on recognizing the students’ cultural backgrounds so that we could understand our students’ perspectives better and adjust our lessons accordingly.Continue reading →
I have recently been trying to include more technology-based activities in class in order to ‘modernize’ the feel of the class and appeal to my tech-savvy EAP students.
One activity that has worked well recently is Kahoot! – a free application which allows teachers to create multiple choice quiz questions that students can answer using any mobile device. This application can be adapted for individual or collaborative work, and is equally useful for reviewing content, introducing new concepts, generating discussion or simply energizing the class with a quick ‘warmer’. Anyone who has previously used ‘clickers’ in class for any reason will appreciate the versatility of the program, which requires only internet access, a shared screen and a mobile device (all of my students used their phones). No player accounts are required, so in-class time is used efficiently. Continue reading →
How often do you talk to other teachers? What do you usually talk about? Do you openly share ideas? I think for many educators, teaching can often be a very solitary job, (especially when first starting out). Of course, we are usually surrounded by many students, colleagues, and staff at our schools on a daily basis. But when it comes to certain fundamental aspects of teaching, like planning and reflection, a lot of teachers around the world do these alone. I think it is extremely unfortunate if you are one of these teachers because I have witnessed first-hand how teachers can grow and develop at an accelerated rate when they collaborate with their peers. Continue reading →
It happens across the board. It is a pervasive notion that seems to have been adopted with little to no research. It is somehow implicit in most English-learning environments, explicit in many course outlines and used as an evaluative tool in measuring the efficacy of language instructors. I have actually been refused employment because of my “renegade” attitude towards this ill-researched tenet of TESL. However, it stands in complete opposition to evidence-based educational research in second-language acquisition; not to mention a panoply of related motivational issues.
We’ve all heard it, said it and even followed it. “Only speak English in my class!” I used to insist. “Hey, you guys in the back, no Spanish!” was another one. “Stop translating everything! Focus on English!” I used to believe, only to my students’ dismay of course.
By doing this, we inadvertently omit how the brain works from our teaching and learning strategies. Continue reading →
ESL Week makes me think about a particular student. Her first day is still crystal clear in my memory. Nervous, shy and just plain scared, she chose to say, “No English” mostly with gestures. I must have been blind as I did not see the butterfly about to emerge from that cocoon in a few months’ time. About six months later, one day, I made an announcement in class about the ESL week contest. Collectively, the class groaned, “No!”
In my experience, a yes becomes so much better when it begins as a no. 🙂
We then started playing with the contest idea. A scaffolded version of the ESL week guidelines became a reading comprehension task. We brainstormed ideas through a speaking lesson on the topic. She came up with a few different movie (video) concepts. The voice inside my head nervously said, “How are you going to help her? Do you know ANYTHING about editing?” But I did not interrupt her vision. We moved on to writing the story board for her idea. In the days that followed, she Continue reading →
With the ever-increasing availability of technology in education, and ever-shrinking institutional budgets, there seems to be a lot of movement towards online learning.Blended learning combines face–to-face and online activities, and is much better suited to language learning than online learning alone. The opportunity to use language in real-time situations is important for developing good communication skills. Well-developed blended courses provide an experience for the student where the face-to-face and online parts work together to support the learning in an integrated way.
From an institutional point of view, online and blended courses have the ability to provide more revenue with less overhead owing to the cost savings realized by potentially allowing for delivery of the course to a greater number of students, while at the same time freeing up physical space.Pedagogically, students are not only able to learn how to use a language, but also how to use technology.A blended set-up looks like it is beneficial from many points of view.But how do students and teachers feel about blended language learning?Continue reading →
I am currently developing learning opportunities for blended learning courses with English as a Foreign Language students. Over the summer, I have had a few months to add some motivating learning objects to these courses. One of my courses calls for a group project based on Internet research. Using the term research is a stretch in this context. I think of it more as a guided internet search. Continue reading →
Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday I was planning what I wanted to do this summer with my family, and here I am already preparing for classes.I can’t believe how fast the school year got here!Everyone will soon be going back to the daily grindoflesson prepping, dry mouth from excessive talking, and marking, so I hope you’ve all enjoyed your time off.
I’m going to be honest — I was struggling to come up with a topic, especially on such a beautiful day like today. But then I thought about going back to work and how to best transition from no school habits like: sleeping in, (well, I haven’t had the pleasure of doing that since becoming a mom), and going wherever the wind takes me, to a quick shift into the routine of waking up early, standing for hours teaching, and the usual work-related things.Continue reading →
Another school year is just around the corner. Teachers (me included) are bound to be planning for that first week where we set the mood of how learning will happen in and out of our classrooms. Last year, I wrote about ‘get-to-know activities’, but these are just some of the many introductory activities we could introduce. For example, it makes sense to plan for student-centred lessons right from the first day of classes by introducing active learning activities, which give students the opportunity to learn while doing –and which many students are not accustomed to. This can help our students transition smoothly to learning by discovery and collaboration. Smart, right? Below are two of my favourite active learning activities. (I hope you will share yours too!). Continue reading →
I recently decided to take an educational workshop on Mental Health in Schools offered by our school board. While it was not directly related to Adult ESL, I felt it would enhance my learning and better equip me to understand adults with similar problems.
There was quite a mix of participants: TAs, and both elementary and high school teachers. At the second session, a young woman asked if the seat was taken at the table where I was sitting by myself, and I invited her to join me. She looked familiar, and I inquired as to whether we had taken a workshop together before, or if she had attended one of the P.D. Days at TESL Ottawa. I was naturally assuming she was a teacher. She then said she knew who I was by Continue reading →