All posts by Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna @capontedehanna

Critical Thinking Skills as Easy as 1-2-3

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The numbers 1-2-3 stand for the formula I devised to teach students to develop and demonstrate Critical Thinking Skills. By following the 1-2-3 formula, I teach students to think about their choice of answers.  I came up with this strategy as part of my efforts to teach first year college students to answer reading comprehension questions. Historically, I have found that short-answer questions tend to ask students to answer in one or two sentences, which, I think, limit students’ ability to demonstrate critical thinking skills. One or two sentence responses do not really encourage students to explain how they arrive at the answer. The result is usually an answer that can either be easily found in the text or must mirror what the instructor expects the answer to be.  Continue reading

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The Curse of Knowledge or Groundhog Day? – Take Your Pick

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I blame the title on sitting in front of a computer day in and day out, setting up breakout rooms, and talking too many times into a dark screen divided into little squares, each one imprinted with names and hardly any faces; despite it all, there I was, on that particular day, hair fully brushed, looking good from the waist up, and full of burnt-out enthusiasm, ready for my lesson on “paraphrasing.”

Groundhog Day

On that morning, as I have been doing for a while (two years minus a few days), I turned on my computer before class time to make sure everything was in order and that my Google Jamboard was shareable and editable for my students to work in groups.

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Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction: Praxis in Motion

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Praxis, the process of enacting theory, has played a significant role in my teaching practice, especially whenever my adult learners have a difficult time grasping a concept or feel like they are not learning as fast as they should. I find that when students begin to ask “why” and “how” questions or err repeatedly, I can rely on theory to explain and demonstrate the issue at hand. This methodology (Seabury, 1991) has worked for me and my adult learners, whose problem-solving curiosity is driven by their andragogical needs (Knowles, 1971).

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Listening Comprehension with the Cloze Test

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Most language teachers are likely familiar with the Cloze Test – the omission of specific words in a written passage (every 5th or 9th word, for example) to assess students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge. I have also found them to be extremely useful to teach listening skills.  

When creating your own Cloze Tests, the first step is to find a passage that is at the students’ language level or no more than —as Krashen would advise— i+1 (just ONE above the students’ comprehensible input). The first two sentences and last sentence in the passage should also be kept intact as they give students important background information about the text.

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A Timely Time to Empower College and University Educators

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On November 5, 2020, during TESL Ontario’s 2020 Annual Conference, four professors representing the organization’s Colleges and Universities Committee made a call for interested members to apply to join the committee. Mobayen, McInnis, Meyer Sterzik and Papple —each from different postsecondary institutions— shared the current objectives of the committee as well as its future goals, all meant to build a community of practice (CoP) amongst members who teach in the academic sector. As noted in their presentation, 30% of TESL Ontario members teach in the academic sector; yet I wonder, why aren’t there more members in TESL’s Colleges and Universities Committee?

You might ask: Why is it important for the college/university committee to have representation?  For me, having representation could mean the addition of more PD content that informs and enriches the teaching of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and all other acronyms listed in this presentation, including “EBP” and “ESAP” (L. McInnis, personal communication [slide 21], November 27, 2020).

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Peer Feedback: Not the Sandwich, but Sunny-Side-Up, Please

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Peer feedback (otherwise known as peer assessment) can be useful to both the receiver and the giver of the feedback as long as the feedback is meaningful. For this to happen, peer feedback needs to be constructive; it should start with a positive observation before pointing to an area or areas for improvement; and it should include a suggestion on how to improve, which means that the focus needs to be procedural. This is not the case in the sandwich feedback approach.

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Remote(ly) Adjusting: Endless Possibilities

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March 17, 2020 marked the beginning of a new teaching paradigm for schools all over Ontario as the province began its quarantine efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, schools had to instantly switch to 100% online delivery, which in a way also marked an acknowledgement that teachers are indeed instructional designers (and rightfully so). After all, instruction is not about technology for technology’s sake, but rather as a means to empower others to learn, to act on their learning, and to become independent, global citizens. With the shift online, it has become evident that as teachers we must embrace technology to be able to operate in a virtual world and do what we do best: Impart knowledge and awaken the desire to know more.

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Getting in the Way of Progress

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This blog post is about the verb “to get,” and how sometimes this verb can get in the way of progress. Biber and Conrad (2001) list the verb “to get” as one of the twelve most commonly used verbs in spoken English, which explains why it would be an important verb to know. However, too much of a good thing can sometimes get in the way of progress. The verb “to get” and all its inflections can end up replacing every other possible verb, which in turn might prevent some learners from moving to the next stage of language proficiency. Continue reading

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Seeing Through My Students’ Eyes

The topic for this post has been on my mind for a while. It is more of a question arising out of my experience with multi-modal text, specifically students’ work when transducing words to image. Perhaps you can help me answer the question:

Whose images should students be required to produce when asked to analyze the author’s writing: The visualization of what they read or what the author intended?

I ask because I have found that controlling what students visualize while reading might be just as controversial as asking students to think in English. Continue reading

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Conscious Scaffolding: Making Teacher Talk Time Matter

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Do you limit teacher talk time in favour of active learning? Good!

Do you limit teacher talk time because your students seem disengaged or don’t understand? Bad…

Let’s face it, teacher talk time (TTT) is valuable. Although it should not be the focus of any lesson, it can certainly be an opportunity to mediate learning, not just facilitate it or curate it. Hence, done purposefully, TTT can help students take better notes, recall valuable information, and differentiate between main ideas and extraneous detail. How can this be?

Let me explain . . . Continue reading

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