In my very first TESL Ontario blog post, I shared an activity to help teachers remember their students’ names.1 It also happens that the activity helps students learn each other’s names and, as a result, helps to build community. By addressing each other by name, students are more likely to build bonds and feel valued. Building community is a process, however, and although this activity is a good start, teachers can incorporate other activities throughout the term or academic year to make the process memorable.
The following activity is one I use to help strengthen students’ sense of community by letting them share something about themselves that highlights a positive attribute. This activity also gives the teacher the opportunity to do the same.
I have been hearing the word “prompt” a lot more lately. “Prompt engineering” to be exact. This recent IT term is all the buzz, and it is paired with terms like artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLM). This blog post, however, is about another type of prompt: the one that language and communications teachers at the college level have been engineering since time immemorial and students write in response. And there lies the problem! The prompts are being recycled and passed on from the classroom to students’ sharing sites such as Studocu and Course Hero, and then making their way back to the classroom. It is not the type of recycling teachers want to see. Going viral is not always a good thing; it kills originality for everyone, so I have started to retreat my prompts and generate new ones. This time with a different twist.
If we can learn anything from ChatGPT and all other AI tools, it is that their product is the result of people who immersed themselves in the process of collecting information before arriving at the final product. The secret to success is what took place behind the scenes —the work it took to arrive at the final product.
Learning never stops; this now includes both humans and Artificial Intelligence. As I type this blog post, I find myself either tabbing to accept the suggested word or ignoring the suggestion. Being prompted to type what auto-text thinks I should be writing can be annoying and, if I am not careful, I end up writing a word that I did not mean to write or, worse yet, pressing ‘send’ on a message or email with one or two unintended words. Although I appreciate its usefulness on some occasions, it irks me when I am given the wrong suggestion, as in the case of Grammarly’s use of double commas on a salutation (since when did adding a comma after ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ and before someone’s name become the grammar norm?)
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 →
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.