All posts by Jennifer Hutchison

How much technology is too much?

Source: Quinn Dombrowski, creativecommons.org

I have taught exclusively online for two and half years. During this time, the number of digital tools in my arsenal has skyrocketed. I have been consumed by technology. I used to feel sorry for “computer nerds” who squirrelled away in their basements, rarely coming up for air. And now I am one of them.

Continue reading
Categories:
POST COMMENT 6

Fighting Disinformation

The surge in propaganda and disinformation is challenging for everyone, but none more so than our students. Many of them are young adults who are new to the language and culture. Not only that, but they are maturing and developing new identities. I can only imagine then how perplexing it must be for them when they look at their screens.

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 2

Back to School

Source: bigstockphoto.com

Well, it’s happening. My colleagues and I will be back at the college campus next session, and I can’t wait! Like anything else, you do not realize the full value of something until it is taken away. The outside air hitting your face as you rush to the streetcar, the smiles and good mornings in the staff room, the student banter as they settle behind their desks. I even miss the frantic line-ups in the photocopy room because they offer what is now liquid gold;

Despite the rush of excitement, there is also trepidation. Like my students, I have found security behind the screen. How confident will I feel standing at the front of the classroom in real life? Will I remember how to use the Smart Board? Will my building keys work? Where are they, anyway? Will I remember my colleagues’ names? Will they remember mine? And finally, what will my teaching look like? Will I have strictly face-to-face classes, hybrid, HyFlex? And that last one? How will that work? There are just so many unknowns. Continue reading

Categories:
POST COMMENT Comments Off on Back to School

A Year in the Life

Source: bigstockphoto.com

It’s been a little over a year since ESL campuses shut their doors. I can’t decide whether it has gone by slowly or quickly. In my personal life, the pandemic has lurched along, one depressing headline after another; endless days without family and friends. However, as a teacher I have been flying through the days by the seat of my pants!

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 2

Haiku: a humble but mighty tool in ESL

photo: Sahil Pandita on Unsplash

Reduce, reduce, reduce. Make every word count. I repeat these instructions every day in my EAP classroom. Session after session, I hand out exercises to reduce wordiness and replace empty, abstract words with those that are strong and specific.  

And yet, the students have a hard time going “beyond the exercise” to apply these skills to their writing. They continue to fill their pages with in the event that, “as a result of,” and “in our society today” as well as abstracts such as “the meal was good,” “the lake was beautiful,” and “the people looked happy.”  

I needed to find an authentic writing form that would encourage rich, yet spare, prose. And then it struck me—the haiku. The Japanese poem is inherently concise and relies on specific, sensory words. A win-win! 

So, I initiated a “holiday haiku” activity. First, I explained the basic form: one line with five syllables, the next with seven, and the third with five. Secondly, I divided the class into small groups to brainstorm specific, image-worthy words that evoked their celebrations back home. This second stage worked beautifully. Not only did the words flow, but also the students enjoyed sharing their cultural traditions.  

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 4

Building cultural awareness inside and out

Photo by Giulia May on Unsplash

I have been lucky enough to work with students from a myriad of cultures over the years. Had anyone asked me if I promote intercultural skills in my students, my response would be swift. Yes, of course!

After all, I have initiated plenty of culturally themed discussions, readings, presentations, digital narratives, and other activities. But after reading more about Intercultural Competence (IC) and, more specifically, Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), I realize that I am not going far enough.

What is ICC?

Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) derives from Intercultural Competence (IC). Both refer to the ability to interrelate with people from different cultures. According to Byram (as cited in Bickley, Rossiter, and Abbott, 2014), being interculturally competent means you can communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures in your own language. ICC, however, focuses on the “additional knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities” to do so in a second or foreign language (p. 138). For EAP, obviously, this distinction is important. 

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 4

Calling our students by their names

image source: Unsplash.com
image source: Unsplash.com

~A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But would it, really?

My name, Jennifer, comes from the Welsh Gwenhwyfar. It means “white wave” or “fair lady.” Although I don’t see myself as a “lady,” I do like the rhythmic majesty of “wave.” The tumbling, repetitive motion of it. But if it weren’t for the research I did, I wouldn’t have a clue what my name means. My parents certainly didn’t put much thought into it; they just liked it. Indeed, according to Ye Chongguang, “Chinese names are often chosen for their meaning, but English names are chosen for their sounds” (Lee, 2001).

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 4

Rethinking How We Teach Pronunciation

Expressive cartoon mouth articulation, talking lips animations. Lip sync animation phonemes for say expression affront, speaking and animated characters talk accents vector set
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

When I teach pronunciation, a feeling of unease claws at my chest. I scan the expectant faces from Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, China, Korea, Columbia and Cameroon. How do I respond to the needs of such an internationally diverse group?

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 6

Where I am from

Copyright: Jennifer MacKenzie-Hutchison. All rights reserved.

Last week, I read over my students’ poems and was reminded how much I love my job. As teachers, we need to savour these pleasures and summon them during the more tedious moments. My students, mostly from Asia, are in a year-long EAP foundation program at Ryerson University. I asked them to write a poem based on “Where I Am From,” by George Ella Lyon.

The scholastic objective was to get my students to explore their identities, but my personal objective was to learn more about their families, their ambitions, their countries…their lives. In class, we went through the author’s life, stanza by stanza. We examined the details, the imagery, and the metaphors. Then my students went home and wrote their own versions.

Continue reading
POST COMMENT 8