Tag Archives: student-centred

Yes, you can! Making Virtual Tours

image source: John Allan

Last year in the post, Change the Routine Without Disrupting the Class – Take A Virtual Field Trip, I shared suggestions about taking students on virtual field trips. Since then I have been exploring different virtual spaces with students and my peers.  It has been fun and rewarding.  A few topics that we explored included:

  • Respiratory system (Human Anatomy – Respiratory System)
  • Electricity (What are Electromagnetic Waves?)
  • Urban geography (World Cities)
  • Climate change (Global Coral Bleaching Event)
  • Student presentation (International Space Station)
  • Future jobs (Career Exploration: Civil Engineer – Tom James)

Making a Virtual Tour for Your Class

After facilitating a few tour sessions, I started thinking about the possibilities of creating my own virtual tours.  This included creating tours that were customized for my students. Tours could include learning objects related to their location, subject matter requirements and vocational aspirations. I took on this challenge by poking around the web and trying a few possibilities. The most suitable tool I could find was the Google Tour Creator.  It allows anyone to produce suitable projects without much technical knowledge.  The tours produced can be viewed using the Google Expeditions app through a VR viewer or on any browser without a viewer.

I created a tour based on the theme – public parks.  You can try the Public Parks Vocabulary Tour to determine if it is a technology that might enhance your lessons.  There are five scenes in this tour.  These are City Park, Memorial Park, Beach Park, Winter Park and Playground.  I used this as a pairs activity to introduce a City Spaces unit.  They were responsible for learning the vocabulary and to identify and locate a park that they wanted to share with their classmates.  Most of the students chose parks from their childhood.

Students were given the option of labeling their park with the Google Tour Creator or simply locating and sharing the park’s Street View location (web address) with their peers.  For the ambitious students I created a “How To” sheet.  A few students attempted to create a virtual tour.  A future blog post will detail this experience.

Technology Required

A contemporary smart phone is recommended for its camera features. Other tools involved with creating Google Tours are freely available online:

Tour Creation Steps

To create your own virtual tour, first produce a virtual tour of Canada’s Parliament Hill by following the steps on the “How To” sheet.  After you have  confidence in this tool, start planning and creating your tour.

  1. Identify the course outcome(s) that is the foundation of this activity. (e.g.: getting around your neighborhood)
  2. Identify the topic of the activity. (e.g.: Neighborhood Places vocabulary)
  3. Define the name and scope of each scene. (e.g.: corner with view of a park and a few stores)
  4. Create a listing of vocabulary required in the activity. These will be the specific point of interest in each scene. (e.g.: grocery store, school)
  5. Locate scenes on Google Maps Street View and bookmark them. Ensure that there are enough points of interest in the panorama.
    1. If scenes are not available, go to the place and use your smart phone to capture a panorama image.
    2. Upload the panorama image to Google Maps Street View.
  6. Ensure that all images have appropriate copyright citations.
  7. Ensure cultural sensitivities are considered with each scene.
  8. Create the text copy for each scene and point of interest.
  9. If the text is copied from an online source, cite the source.
  10. Open the Google Tour Creator.
  11. Assemble all tour elements.
    1. Scenes
    2. Points of interest
    3. Pop up images
    4. Text
  12. Test the tour.
  13. Publish and share the tour.

Final Thoughts

If you want to see more samples go to https://poly.google.com.  The potential for language learning with this technology  is unlimited.  Possibly, additional functionality such as media clips and interactive assessment tools will be integrated to make these more engaging learning events.  At this time however, creating a virtual tours takes time and a fair amount of crafting.

It would be appreciated if you shared any tours that you create with the TESL community.  Kindly share links to your tours below.  Looking forward to seeing them.



Bringing holidays into the classroom: Ramadan

image source: bigstockphoto.com

I often think about newcomers to Canada, and specifically those coming from challenging circumstances who are building a new life in a new land. How are they settling into their new environment? Are they adjusting? Managing? Dealing? Healing?

Many of these newcomers are from the Middle East and are observing Ramadan, a holy month that’s observed by millions of Muslims around the world, where the central focus is fasting. Continue reading


An Active Classroom is a Student-Centred Classroom

image source: www.bigstockphoto.comI hope my title did not conjure images of technology-enhanced learning with visions of smartphones, iPads, and laptops dancing up through the air. On the contrary,
this blog is about students stirring, moving in circles, and engaging in conversation. I’m talking about face to face interaction, where students are talking and listening to each other while the teacher is watching.

In the ESL classroom: LINC, ESL or EAP – we teachers need to have many ideas up our sleeves to make sure students are not yawning but interacting with one another and having fun while learning. Last year in September, I shared two of these strategies. You can read them here: http://blog.teslontario.org/an-active-start-to-the-academic-year/ In this blog, I share another one that I have found students also enjoy: Continue reading



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


Student-Led Discussions

Meeting Of Support Group
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

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!

Continue reading


Trauma + Second Language Learning = Alternative Pedagogy

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Imagine you are in a doctor’s office being told that you have a serious, life threatening condition. Blood races through your veins, heartbeat pounds between your ears, breath is shallow, and you can feel your clothes sticking to your skin. Your body is in a heightened state of arousal. Do you recall the term “fight/flight/freeze” from science class? This is it — you are in what is called “survival mode”. By the time you get home, you realize how many questions needed to be asked but were forgotten while in the doctor’s office, and you barely remember what was said. This is an example of the psycho-physiology of trauma.

If you can relate to this scenario, (or one like it), then you can understand how difficult it is to function normally in this heightened state of arousal. It’s understandable that this state of anxiety can occur during a traumatic or highly stressful experience, but what you may not be aware of is that it can also persist for long periods after the traumatic event.

Why is this important now? With the refugee influx coming into Canada, you may encounter a surge of students in your classroom displaying symptoms related to post traumatic experiences like violence, displacement or loss, which will have an impact on how they learn. As a teacher, you may see a trend of problematic behaviours or students’ lack of progress in the traditional learning environment. Continue reading


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