Early in my ESL teaching career when I had a new class, I found myself asking: “Why don’t my students do what I tell them to do?” They rarely followed up on the advice I gave them, didn’t come back from lunch on time, or even take a break when I said it was break time. I pondered this for some time. It wasn’t until after being in my class for a bit of time, that I noticed them beginning to follow my instructions. But initially they didn’t, so I thought this lag in understanding was due to them misinterpreting my particular pronunciation.
I was rummaging through my books when I stumbled upon two favourites I’d purchased when I attended one of TESL’s AGMs in London,Ontario. The main speaker that day was Katherine Barber, who captivated us with her wit and in-depth knowledge of the English language.
Barber was the editor-in-chief of the dictionary department at Oxford University Press in Toronto — I know, pretty cool stuff! She is one of Canada’s best authorities on the English language, so when she says that English is “crazy”, I believe it!
We all know that English is a borrowed language, in that the majority of its words come from different languages. But, have you ever wondered where certain words you use actually come from, or what their root word means? It’s always been a curiosity of mine as to how a language is assembled into what we know and use today. 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.
Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class. It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.
And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense. So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman. If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.
I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading →
Have you ever met any students who don’t want to improve their speaking skills? I haven’t. It’s more of a challenge to get them to read and write. I did something that got them into reading.
A few years ago, I was trying to encourage my students to read. Fortunately, there was a public library nearby. Once a week we would go there, and I would help them find books. Still, I wanted to give them more motivation to read, so I decided to get them to read across Canada.
I believe this activity will work regardless of your level. All you have to do is adapt the activities to the abilities, and that includes the books that they read.
I did this with my level 1 students. For those who were particularly weak, I had them take out books by Mo Willems. They are fun and easy to read. Here is an example of one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq77-6zsCSg
Canada is about 7,250 km from coast to coast. I had about 10 students. For every book they read, they earned 100 km, Continue reading →
No, this is not a blog about Sherlock Homes. It’s about investment, a termed coined by linguist Bonny Norton.
Bonny Norton is one of my favourite linguists. She takes a critical, post-structuralism theory approach to explain how adults become engaged (or disengaged) with their own second language (L2) learning. For those of you who are new to this topic, post-structuralism looks at language from the perspective of language as capital, dominance/non-dominance, and possibilities.
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 →