What happens when you take ESL learners outside the classroom? There’s a peak in interest in the class and in the lessons, a growth in connection among the class members, and an increased sense of belonging to the wider community.
Over the past number of years, I have taken adult learners in small, mixed-level ESL classes on field trips in the community. We have visited the public library, a farmers’ market, a curling rink, the local fire station, a nature park, our city hall (including sitting in on part of a city council meeting), an outdoor nativity play, and a maple sugar bush.
I was at a friend’s house the other day discussing the usual things moms talk about, when my friend expressed her frustration about her daughter’s multilevel classroom. I asked how her daughter is handling the setup, to which she replied: “She doesn’t think much of it because she’s in the upper grade of the split class. I don’t feel like she’s being challenged enough.” I wondered then how our ESL adult learners — especially the advanced students, might feel about their multilevel classes, should they happen to be in one.
Every class you teach as an adult ESL instructor can be considered multilevel to a certain extent. However, a true multilevel class takes place when there’s a substantial difference in learning levels in the same classroom, (e.g. levels 2-7). I’m sure some welcome the challenge; maybe even thrive on it like: “Who are you because we need to talk?!” While many others dread the thought of being in this situation, dealing with a multitude of learning levels.
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 →
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 have spent the past few years working in learning object and course development. In August, I am returning to the classroom to teach EFL. Putting on my teacher hat, I remember that it is important to have an emergency kit of prepared learning events in a variety of media. Worksheets, bookmarked web activities, flash cards, board games, videos, audio clips and technology such as a digital camera will contribute to future icebreakers, Friday afternoon fillers, motivation boosting sessions or the odd substitution call. 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!”
Quizlet allows instructors to create or borrow flashcards, tests, and study games that can improve learning engagement and allow students to access materials at school, at home, or anywhere on their mobile devices. Quizlet learning opportunities are easily embedded into web pages, learning management system (LMS) courses, or social media offerings such as Facebook. Continue reading →
It had been a total failure. I had tried to introduce poetry to my class and have them write some, but they were reluctant and bored. However, something inside told me to give it another shot a few months later. I had been introduced to the concept at a TESL London workshop. The presenter was a convincing person and very nice, so
I had to try again.
I looked at ways I could do things differently. Since I teach levels 6 to 8, there were several resources I could draw on.
First, I asked them what they thought poetry was. You know what? I didn’t get much of a response. Things didn’t look too good – again.
In May 2014, while volunteering at the TESL Toronto spring conference, I was lucky enough to see a presentation by Chris Harwood and Tracy Manning about their experiences implementing a Facebook-based Book Club in their EAP program.
Inspired by their talk, I decided to try this out with my students. It took some weeks of planning, and some trial and error with different books, but in the end it’s become a successful and popular part of my course!
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 →