During my TESL practicum, I was privileged to work with a wonderful instructor in an EAP class. My practicum supervisor* was great at scaffolding and layering; as the course progressed, each language skill was incorporated into subsequent lesson activities until it all culminated in a final project. The class was in oral skills with the final project being a presentation. Along with using the targeted language from the semester, the presentations also included a focus on appropriate body language, strategies to engage the audience, and the use of technology.
While presentations are common in English language classes, they can be very stressful and time consuming. In order to add variety to the assessments during the course, another activity that was required of the students, and that could easily be adapted for any type of ESL classroom, was leading a discussion group. Not only did we use this in the EAP context, I used the same activity in an EFL class that I taught in Ecuador in which the students were preparing to take the First Cambridge Exam. Here is how I did it!
Every day I watch my kids play all day long. And they never seem to grow tired of it either. So surely there’s something to their favourite past time other than having fun. When you think about it, for children, the act of playing is a way of learning. Except, it’s not just about using brain power but also about using all of their senses alongside their schema to help them solve whatever mystery or problem comes their way. I view it as a holistic approach to learning. So how is it that we lose that as we enter into adulthood?
The business of education is riddled with complexity and counter-productive demands. Teachers are often content-centered, students diploma-oriented and administrators bow down to the almighty dollar when making pedagogical decisions. In other words, students just want a job, and teachers want to profess the wonders of their discipline, while administrators want to show a profit. It is no surprise that the real goal of education is obfuscated by these demands, and the expectations that our students have are often misplaced.
Picture this. It’s the first day of an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) class. A particular student approaches you at the end of class and in broken English asks, “Teacher, will my English be like yours at the end of this course?” You want to say yes, but you know it is impossible. By telling the student the truth, you risk demoralizing her to the point that she drops the course. Why? Because she wants a job and she wants it now. Her motivation is employment. Yours is to improve her English. How do we square that circle? Simple. Chocolate. 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 →
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 →