Tag Archives: approaches

The Importance of Selecting Appropriate Reading Materials – How to Help Learners Find the “Right” One

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Learners often come to me with questions about their English reading materials. They wonder if the books they’ve chosen are good for practicing English or why certain expressions differ from what they hear daily. For instance, one of my students asked why “you shall” was used in a text. This highlighted a common issue: many learners struggle to distinguish between reading for pleasure and reading to learn English as a second language. This leads to a vital question: How does one choose a book that benefits English learning? However, selecting the right materials involves more than just finding any English text—it requires careful consideration of the learner’s proficiency level and the regional variation of English they are exposed to. 

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Student Engagement Strategies That Work

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As the day wears on, it’s not uncommon to see learners becoming unfocused, disengaged with classroom tasks, restless, noisy or silent. The most demotivating aspect of disinterested students is their unwillingness to learn. A Gallup student poll (2014) reports that nearly 50% of the learners were “either not engaged (28 percent) or actively disengaged (19 percent) in school” (Collier, 2015). 

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Smartphones can be a “Smart” Helper in the Classroom

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At first glance, smartphones may seem like the ultimate language roadblock for ESL learners. The alluring prospect of effortlessly translating any text with a simple tap can lead to a habit of overreliance, hindering genuine language absorption. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. When approached with a strategic mindset, smartphones can indeed become “smart” tools in the ESL learning arsenal, especially for those who find themselves grappling with the complexities of English at a foundational level. 

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Reflections on my practice in the PBLA Prescribed System

A circle with words related to the text - learning, students, PBLA, assessments, etc.In the LINC/ESL class,  instructors “cross barriers of understanding, aptitudes, behaviours, desires, and knowledge” (Rappel, 2013) in hopes of helping newcomers successfully adapt to life in a multicultural community. In this context, I think that Knowle’s five assumptions of andragogy are as useful as ever: clear learning intents and expectation, teacher-student collaboration, student-student collaboration, timely feedback, and engagement in self-reflection.

I believe these practices can be helpful in creating a learning environment in which students take ownership of learning through mutual respect and co-operation. While these principles are also supported by PBLA guidelines, the application of it brings some challenges as well. Continue reading

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Learner’s Autonomy! Is it for all learners? 

Mark Van Doren quote: The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.
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As an ESL teacher with over a decade of progressive teaching experience, no notion in English language pedagogy was as mindblowing to me as the idea of learner autonomy. The way that learning and learners are seen as autonomous has always resonated highly with me; I always thought if anyone masters independent learning, they can learn almost anything with joy and efficiency. Recently, however, I’ve been thinking differently about this. Not because I am now a skeptic of this approach, but because I have been wondering if all learners want to be independent learners! Based on my recent encounters and experience at work, I now think maybe there are some learners who learn best without being independent. In this blog post, I’d like to share my own experience with this type of learner.   Continue reading

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The Case for Supplemental Instruction (SI) in EAP Programs

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The EAP programs in Ontario vary considerably in many regards (e.g., curriculum), but what connects them is a shared interest in student retention and seeing EAP learners progress to becoming students enrolled in diploma, certificate, and degree programs. 

One method that has been shown to increase student performance and retention is Supplemental Instruction (SI). Though SI has been used for decades in a variety of post-secondary programs, it is very rarely used in EAP contexts. So, in this post, I will present the case for implementing SI in Ontario EAP programs.

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Listening in Language Learning Part II: Extensive Listening 

This two-part blog focuses on tips for improving your students’ listening skills with both intensive and extensive listening methods. If you haven’t yet, go read Part I: Intensive Listening, then come back to read Part II. In this second part I will focus on extensive listening by offering tips for extensive listening practice, some resources for teachers to utilize, and some overall listening goals for teachers to bear in mind.  

Extensive Listening 

Just like extensive reading, this activity involves listening to self-selected listening material slightly below the student’s proficiency level and in large quantities. The focus is on overall understanding because the task is more relaxed and self-directed, with learners listening to longer audio or video selections without necessarily trying to understand every word. The goal of extensive listening is to develop overall listening comprehension skills, get used to the sounds and rhythm of speech, and become more familiar with the language in a natural way. 
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Suffering from Recycling Prompts? “SQT Prompt” to the Rescue

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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.

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Active Learning Strategies for Post-Pandemic Zoom Breakout Rooms

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Many educators are now familiar with the black screens and mute students on Zoom and its breakout rooms. While having student cameras turned on can certainly have its own merits, the black screens do not necessarily mean that the students cannot or will not contribute. I have found the following three activities helpful in engaging students regardless of having their cameras on or off. 

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Active Learning With Mentimeter

“Active learning engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert” (Freeman et al., 2014).  

One tool that has made active learning more possible in my classes is Mentimeter. 

 Whether we teach a class in person or we teach an online synchronous course, Mentimeter can accommodate engaging large groups of audiences. If we teach a class implementing Bloom’s Taxonomy approach, Mentimeter can be a great tool in developing a successful and engaging lesson.  Continue reading

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