As a person and as a language instructor, I hear the words ‘small talk’ and I shudder. However, I have learned – after teaching online for nearly three years now – not to underestimate the opportunities and utility of focusing specifically on Small Talk in class. Focusing on Small Talk has always been successful. When surveyed, learners consistently report that they want more Small Talk rather than less.
I started teaching virtually with a fairly small class (CLB 7) who really responded to Small Talk. For one thing, I found the class needed to deal with mental health issues – near the beginning of COVID – and needed to feel as social as possible in a virtual environment. That’s when I started to develop Small Talk as an integral activity. Most recently, I had a much larger class that also responded very well to the Small Talk activities. This activity is not a one-off lesson but rather focuses on best practices, routine, feedback, and refinement.
I often hear students say they like any chance to have a casual conversation in English. Literacy learners, however, are much more likely to avoid a conversation because they’re not confident enough to use the language yet. As ESL teachers, we prepare well-thought-out lessons that focus on grammar, composition, pronunciation, and structured activities, but we rarely foster a free flow of dialogue that encourages the students to just “use the language.”
As language teachers, many of us agree that technology is useful for assisting our instruction. Videos, animations, virtual tours, audio clips, interactive games, self-correcting quizzes and digital online resources are some of the possibilities offered through technology. Until recently, technology based learning events have been delivered on institutional workstations, laptops or tablets. The personal device revolution is migrating learning events/objects to mobile device applications or apps.
For security reasons, institutions have been organized to control digital resources. This includes networks, hardware, software, online subscriptions and website access. The advent of Bring Your Own Technology or B.Y.O.T. tests this control. Continue reading →
One highlight of my ESL teaching career was when I taught in the Black Forest of Germany at an English Summer Camp. I taught Local German teenagers who wanted to practise conversational English.Our mandate was to introduce them to North American English since they were being taught British English in the German school system. I was the only Canadian on our team; the others were all from the United States.
I hope my title did not conjure images of technology-enhanced learning with visions of smartphones, iPads, and laptops dancing up through the air. On the contrary,
this blog is about students stirring, moving in circles, and engaging in conversation. I’m talking about face to face interaction, where students are talking and listening to each other while the teacher is watching.
In the ESL classroom: LINC, ESL or EAP – we teachers need to have many ideas up our sleeves to make sure students are not yawning but interacting with one another and having fun while learning. Last year in September, I shared two of these strategies. You can read them here: http://blog.teslontario.org/an-active-start-to-the-academic-year/ In this blog, I share another one that I have found students also enjoy: Continue reading →
During my TESL practicum, I was privileged to work with a wonderful instructor in an EAP class. My practicum supervisor* was great at scaffolding and layering; as the course progressed, each language skill was incorporated into subsequent lesson activities until it all culminated in a final project. The class was in oral skills with the final project being a presentation. Along with using the targeted language from the semester, the presentations also included a focus on appropriate body language, strategies to engage the audience, and the use of technology.
While presentations are common in English language classes, they can be very stressful and time consuming. In order to add variety to the assessments during the course, another activity that was required of the students, and that could easily be adapted for any type of ESL classroom, was leading a discussion group. Not only did we use this in the EAP context, I used the same activity in an EFL class that I taught in Ecuador in which the students were preparing to take the First Cambridge Exam. Here is how I did it!
I have been teaching in an EAP program for the last six years. The goal of our program is to prepare international students for the experience of studying in a post-secondary program alongside their domestic peers. Understandably, competence in their use of English is paramount. However, I am constantly struck by the fact that domestic students and international students, regardless of their ability to speak English well, remain largely separate on campus, both in and out of classes.
My students often comment that they don’t know how to make friends with Canadian students, and they are worried about the quality of their English and how they will be received. In an effort to bridge this ‘great divide’, I recently had the opportunity for my students to participate in a communicative activity that, for a change, did not involve their own classmates. Working alongside a wonderful colleague and professor in another discipline*, I was able to offer my class of twenty students a chance to meet and converse with the very Canadians they had been worried about meeting (and intimidated by) for a long time. Continue reading →
Want something for lower-level ESL students that is fun and informative?
When I taught benchmark one classes, I did something that increased their vocabulary by about 100 words in a month or so. It was also fun. It’s not a very original idea. In fact, I borrowed it from my days as an occasional teacher when I had to teach kindergarten.
In many kindergarten classes, they have show and tell. A child brings in an object in a bag, and the rest of the students have to guess what it is by asking questions. I decided to do this with my ESL class.
We sat down and thought of all of the properties that might be associated with an object, things like shape, size, colour, age, and material. I got poster paper for each attribute, and then had them make one for each. They supplied me with the words, and I Continue reading →
We are so excited and proud of this initiative which all started because of YOU, TESL Ontario members. This blog is being run by volunteers who are passionate about sharing knowledge and building a wider community.
This blog site is completely new to TESL Ontario, so take some time and have a look through all the tabs and make yourself comfortable here. We’re sure you’ll find something that interests you.
Each Monday morning, we will post a new entry on our blog, so be sure to keep this site on your favourites tab! We encourage you to comment on the posts and open up or contribute to the Continue reading →