Tag Archives: approaches

IN PURSUIT OF LEARNERS’ EMPOWERMENT: CAN WE TEACH GOOD WRITING HABITS?

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Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

As I’ve shared with you in previous blogs, one of my ongoing interests is finding ways to empower my students to become better writers of English. What is the formula?

  • Vocabulary skills are important (Checked √)
  • Grammar is important (Checked √)
  • Controlled practice is important (Checked √)

…Wait a minute… Modeling is super important…

Modeling Writing

According to Cumming (1995), language teachers need to not only provide text models of a good writer’s final product (what an assignment is supposed to look like at the end), but also model the cognitive process of writing. In other words, we as teachers should model writing-as-a-process that mimics the actions performed by effective writers (hint: we need to write a lot to be one too). Continue reading

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Kate’s Top 10 Secrets: How to Succeed in Canadian Culture

Image Source: bigstockphoto.com
Image Source: bigstockphoto.com

Over the next year, I would like to share what I consider to be some of the 10 most important unwritten social rules in Canada that newcomers and their families need to know to succeed in Canada. In this first post, I’ll give you the list of all 10 secrets, as well as the first secret.

How am I qualified to know these secrets?

Keep in mind that these are what *I* consider to be the most important secrets.  I am drawing on a lifetime of experience in Canada as a mother of 3 and as a worker in education, banking, computers, and employment counselling, but that doesn’t mean these social rules are cast in stone or true in every community across Canada.

Okay, so here is the list of the 10 most important secrets I’ve learned for succeeding socially, as well as in Canadian schools and workplaces:

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The Benefits of Bloom

image source: Google Images
image source: Google Images

We all know the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but is it really true? Art theorists and philosophers would answer “No, of course not!” and here I quote Dennis Dutton, famous art theorist who stated in his 2010 Ted Talk, “…it’s deep in our minds. It’s a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors.” In other words, the experience of beauty is not subjective, but quite objective. There are clear guidelines or criteria to what constitutes beauty for all of us, based on our genetic pre-disposition. Continue reading

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“Hey! Only English in my class!”

Group of teenagers over the background with the many words from the different languages (language school concept)
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

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

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Tips for the Daily Grind

Good morning, Monday - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of coffee
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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 grind  of  lesson 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

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A Discrete Approach to Teaching ESL – What Does it Mean?

A human figure stands behind a warning sign with one hand raised
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I have been thinking about my past experience teaching discrete ESL. It is one of those experiences that I wish I could forget – erase out of my head, but the more I try, the more I think about it. Well, I read that the best way to deal with bad memories is to either talk or write about them– so here it is:

You should not ask students to read aloud! You are only to focus on reading – when they read aloud they are speaking, which is not the focus of the lesson,” said the person in charge. Continue reading

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Centred and Balanced

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

What is student-centred learning?  There are many facets to this idea.  It can be lessons based on students’ needs.  It can mean choosing topics based on students’ interests.  But one of the concepts that is most commonly related to student-centred learning is learning through discovery.  When someone learns through discovery, they are given enough autonomy to interact with materials and consequently discover how things work (think figuring out grammar rules implicitly).  On the other side of the coin you have teacher directed learning where knowledge is transferred from teacher to student (think explaining how grammar rules work). Continue reading

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WorkPlace ESL

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Struggling to communicate, being misunderstood, or not being understood at all, is a very stressful and daunting feeling for anyone especially when it affects your lively-hood. The class I’m currently teaching is experiencing this very feeling. And although they attend ESL classes on a daily basis, their English comprehension levels are lacking.

This is where WorkPlace ESL comes into play. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this branch of ESL, it’s a program that was designed some time ago to help those who need specific language training in order to excel in the work force. Continue reading

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About Reflective Practice

Young woman on a train writing notes
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How many of us sit down at the end of the day and reflect on the lesson?  I mean really sit down and think about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the potential.  For many of us, I’m sure the intentions are there, but on a really bad day, we’re probably more inclined to pack up our things, get home, call it a day, and think “tomorrow will be better”.  In these moments, as much as with the great days, it’s important for us to reflect because reflecting doesn’t mean kicking us when we’re down, but rather it means finding ways to bring us back up and truly know that tomorrow will be better because today wasn’t terribly horrible.

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Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP): What Do Students Need?

Unanswered Questions - Brainstorming Concept
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This question is not new. The answers are ongoing (just do a quick library search on “EAP debate” and you’ll find great peer reviewed articles on the topic, including articles written by Krashen, Ferris and Hedgcock, Grabe and Kaplan, Krapels, Silva, Cummins, and Belcher and Hirbela – you name it). EAP continues to be a HOT topic, especially as more and more second language learners (L2) enter post-secondary education. Hence, the question needs to be re-asked to arrive at possible solutions and to meet the needs of a diverse group of students. Let’s face it, in addition to first year L2 learners, the 1.5 generation (those who arrive as children and learn English at an early age) also require guided instruction in ESL – and don’t forget L2 students who already hold degrees and need to bridge their skills. The list of variables does not end there! Variables include students coming with different English skills and levels, differences between academic and industry standards, the existing prescribed entry-level assessment benchmarks, and well…as you can see, I could keep going.

And don’t forget the debate:

  • Should EAP focus on teaching the five paragraph essay or should it be sector specific?
  • Should it focus on multi-literacies or extensive reading and writing?

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