Another year has ended in my journey as an ESL teacher. As I look back, I realize the roller coaster ride it was.
When I started in September, I had two students in a higher, multi-level LINC class. On the first day, only one showed up. On the second, the other student was there, but the one from the first day wasn’t there. Let’s just say that on both days we spent a lot of time getting to know each other.
One of the five classes in my EAP course is a 50-minute a day listening class. It’s always been the most difficult for me to teach, partly because it’s directly after lunch, when students are not the most awake!
Over the years I’ve tried various teaching resources, searching for the most effective texts and material to help students. These are the best ones I’ve come across for teaching listening skills in EAP:
English for Academic Study: Listening
I love Garnet Education’s EAS series, and use the Vocabulary and Reading & Writing books as a major part of my curriculum. When my course first began, our listening curriculum was based entirely on the EAS: Listening book. Continue reading →
While it is probably true that simple language structures are the easiest thing to teach and learn, we should look very carefully at what we consider to be simple.
Take for example English articles. There are only two of them: definite and indefinite — maybe three, if we count the allophonic variant of the indefinite article ‘an’. Unlike other languages, in English we don’t have to take into account gender or case when deciding which one to use. So, why are these items so difficult for English language learners? The answer to this question relates to the rules that govern articles, which are very complex, thus making their application somewhat difficult.
I have been working on my TESL certification for the past few years through part-time online learning. For my practicum, I recently had the opportunity to observe and teach in a level four EAP class. Writing this blog post has posed an opportunity for me to reflect on the practicum experience and comment on the foremost challenge I faced when moving from TESL student to TESL teacher: balancing the theory learned in the TESL classroom and the realities of the classroom to provide students with the best possible learning environment.
The Perfect Lesson Plan vs. The Clock
Since I have taught in the college classroom before, I was already aware of the challenges of time. Instructors are responsible for following a rigid course outline and syllabus, regardless of the specific needs of the class. However, I felt that this was an even greater challenge in the ESL classroom.
ESL students need ample opportunity for practice in order to master language use, and this practice requires Continue reading →
I am currently developing blended learning courses with English as a Foreign Language teachers at a technical college. One of the challenges that we face is incorporating rich media such as videos and animations. Rich media can result in vibrant demonstrations, simulations and presentations.
Issues with Embedding Media into a Digitally Hosted Course
Creating or locating the media itself is obvious and could fill five blog posts. Beyond acquiring the media are concerns that these learning objects adhere to the institution’s fair use and copyright guidelines. As well, the learning object and its intended learning event must map to one or more of the course’s learning objectives. Issues of placement on a digital platform such as layout, colour scheme, skins, support features, and accompanying activities are a few of the elements that we negotiate when adding media to a course page.
Once the video is embedded on a digital page, I suggest adding interactive and self-assessment activities to transform the activity from a passive event into an active one. Continue reading →
I went to my last class this past Friday expecting my entire class to be present. Well, of the 13 who normally attend, only 5 showed up! I didn’t know how to feel about this. But no matter, I carried on with the lesson. To stay positive, I thought it was great that I could focus more on each individual. We had a lot of fun despite the lack of attendance that day.
The feeling in the room was certainly bittersweet. On one hand, I was happy to have my Fridays back to spend with my little girl, but on the other hand, it was kind of hard for me to leave these special individuals, whom I’ve come to respect and appreciate so much throughout the course of the past seven weeks.
What’s IPDP you may ask…It stands for Individualized Professional Development Plan. It’s the type of professional growth you sketch out for yourself – for your own growth. It does not include the type of PD your workplace or professional organization requires of you – the type you have to complete because …well…you have to. IPDP is like a box of chocolates. Continue reading →
You can count apples, but you can’t count water, so you say how many apples and how much water. You can count people, but you can’t count sand, so you say fewer people and less sand.
I’d go over and over the lists of nouns that were count and non-count. I could often see the confusion in their eyes. Yet, a simple question from a student changed the way I teach this concept and got rid of most of the puzzled looks.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” —John Dewey
I love this quote. It’s so simple but, at its core, it embodies the vastness of what it means to be “educated”. In its essence, education is so much more than desks or books or technology.
As the Winter/Spring term of my EAP classes at CultureWorks dashes to the finish line, I reflect on the ‘tidbits’ of wisdom that my students have imparted unto me. I “teach” mostly young adults mostly, from many parts of the globe. To be honest, teaching to an international audience is only part of what I do. The bulk of my days are spent amassing an “education”.
My vocation is unique in that it inspires an environment of ‘give and take’, conducive to the search for truth. Although there are countless aspects of my career that are fulfilling, I am most grateful that it allows me to be a lifelong learner, where the students are the teachers.
I’d like to share a couple of “truths” fashioned by two of my students recently.
Truth #1: Experiencing life requires a good sense of humour.
We’re human. We make mistakes. Foreign students like Lu will naturally commit a faux pas of the “cultural” kind. A simple task such as grocery shopping can prove to be incredibly confusing. For example, grocery carts in this city come in a few different sizes–small, large, and motorized. Generally speaking, loading a small or large grocery cart with newly purchased edible goodies out to the parking lot will attract little, if any, attention; however, climbing Continue reading →
Their hearts are in the right place – they want reading practice – but most of them have zero interest in the news and end up getting very little from their daily ritual of reading Metro on the subway.
If students are looking for extra work, it’s important that it’s something fun and interesting for them. My students are upper-intermediate/advanced. For the most part, their English is very good – most of the errors they make are small, basic errors like prepositions and collocations -so they just need practice rather than pouring over grammar rules.
What I tell them instead of reading the newspaper, is
“It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as it’s in English!”