Cognitive load theory and teaching English as a second language to adult learners

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Most second language teaching recommendations place a considerable emphasis on “naturalistic” procedures such as immersion within a second language environment. Immersion means exposing learners to the second language in many of their daily activities, including other educational activities ostensibly unrelated to learning the second language. While immersion may assist in learning a second language, anyone who has lived in an immigrant society cannot fail to have noticed the many adults who learn almost nothing of the second language despite years or even decades of immersion. Furthermore, within an academic environment, even if immersion assists in learning the second language, it is likely to be associated with a considerable decline in learning the associated academic subjects. Simple immersion is unlikely to be effective.  Continue Reading →

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Other, Teaching
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The art of conversation: Why it’s harder than you might think

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Most people like to chat. It’s pleasant to talk to your family over breakfast, and at work, you might go to the coffee room or water cooler mainly because you hope to bump into someone and have a little chat. These observations are consistent with scientific findings: As far as we know, conversation exists in all cultures (Levinson & Torreira, 2015). It is the most common form of using language and it is, of course, where children acquire their language.

What are conversations? A defining feature is that they consist of turns. As Levinson et al. put it, speakers adhere to a “one-at-a-time” principle: Speaker A says something and then B, then A again, or perhaps C,  Continue Reading →

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Learning the “tough” constructions

Becker-ToughConstructions

Tough constructions are a special case of constructions where we find unusual relationships between the form of a sentence and its meaning. These include examples like John is tough to please. Although this might seem quite unremarkable to you, it’s actually been extensively discussed by linguists and others. To understand why, we may need to take a few steps back.

When children begin speaking in multi-word sentences in their native language, they typically start out by producing semantically simple messages: their words are nouns, verbs and adjectives, and the meanings of phrases are built up in a straightforward way by combining the meanings of adjacent words. For example, toddlers say things like Mommy go (mommy is the agent of going),  Continue Reading →

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Grammar
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Indigenization in the ESL classroom

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Whenever I talk about Indigenization, I recognize that it’s often customary, in an Indigenous paradigm, to ‘situate’ myself in the work (Wilson, 2009)—I might talk about where I’m from, or my family, but I’ll give you the Coles Notes version. I’m originally from Newfoundland, traditional territory of the extinct Beothuk people. I grew up in Nova Scotia on the edge of a Mi’kmaq community; the Mi’kmaq are considered the founding people of Nova Scotia and are one of the signatory nations to the Peace and Friendship Treaties of that area. I’m living in Treaty 6 territory, which is a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples; the Indigenous peoples of the Cree, Nakota Sioux, Dene, Blackfoot, Tsuu-t’ina, Iroquois, Ojibway,  Continue Reading →

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The private refugee sponsorship experience in Kingston: A panel group discussion

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Since late 2015, the Kingston area has welcomed more than 100 privately sponsored refugees (PSRs), mostly from Syria and Eritrea. TESL Kingston has been involved in this community effort as a link between local ESL/LINC programs and a provider of professional development. In February 2016, TESL Kingston hosted a workshop on refugee mental health and its impact on education and settlement. As a follow-up in May 2017, the affiliate chapter presented a panel of local sponsors reflecting on the successes, surprises and challenges after a year of private refugee sponsorship.1

The three-member panel featured a representative of the Frontenac Refugee Support Group, a community sponsorship group which partnered with the First Baptist Church, and representatives from two groups under Anglican Diocese of Ontario Refugee Support (DOORS): The Sanctuary Project,  Continue Reading →

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An interview with Wajiha Naqvi and Brett Reynolds: What we can learn from a blind ESL student

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Learning English as a Second Language comes with its usual predicaments and involves a lot of effort, systematic study, mentoring, and use of technology. It just adds another layer of complexity when a learner has vision impairment or any other learning difficulty or limitations. In Canada, it is not unusual that people with visual impairment are learning English in schools specially equipped for them where they are provided with a set of arrangements catering their needs. In most of the cases, the learners use braille and get help from specially trained instructors. But learning English in a mainstream program like English for Academic Purposes is not that common in public colleges where there is little or no special infrastructure for a blind student.  Continue Reading →

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The teaching of suprasegmentals within a task-based or communicative ESL class

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As reported in a survey of Canadian ESL teachers’ pronunciation practices, many ESL students appear to have problems with suprasegmental pronunciation, which is commonly interpreted to include word stress, rhythm and intonation (Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011). Word stress refers to the length, loudness and pitch of syllables within a word, relative to one another (e.g., Ca∙na∙da). Rhythm refers to which syllables in an utterance are more prominent (e.g., I’m co∙ming on Sun∙day.). Intonation refers to the pitch patterns in utterances. For instance, I’m coming on Sunday would normally have a rise-fall pitch on Sunday while are you coming on Sunday could have a rising pitch on on Sunday. Such problems can lead to communication difficulties (Hahn, 2004). Fortunately,  Continue Reading →

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Pronunciation, Teaching
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I just called to say I hear you

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Recently, my father’s telephone stopped working. Picture an old timey, push-button lifeless landline and one old timey, annoyed senior. Since my dad has no interest in techno-gadgets, the most cutting edge equipment he ever owned was somewhere on the Human Advancement Timeline between electric can opener and a lawnmower.

This necessitated a trip to Home Hardware where I asked the store clerk several head-scratchy questions about the replacement I was planning to purchase: “Will this work if I just plug it into the wall phone jack thingy?” and “Is there something special I have to do?”

“Noooo.” The young woman spoke slowly. “It’s just a regular phone.”

I nodded like I knew what she was saying.  Continue Reading →

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Lingua Franca column
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Learner in the Centre

Learner-centred teaching (LCT) achieved best practice status in our field many years ago. Most of us have a sense of what LCT entails. We may characterize it as developing curriculum with the learners in mind; differentiating instruction to address learners’ varied proficiency levels, goals and interests; or simply providing more learner-talk than teacher-talk time. This article1 looks a little more deeply at LCT and some of the concepts underpinning its success in the 21st century English language classroom.

Marilyn Weimer (2012) defines LCT as follows:

Learner-centered teaching engages learners in the hard, messy work of learning.

It includes explicit skill instruction. It encourages learners to reflect on what, why and how they are learning. LCT also motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.  Continue Reading →

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Teaching, Training
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Split storytelling: One technique for enhancing the “joyful” factor in the classroom

In The Courage to Teach, Palmer (2007) writes, “I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the joy… But at other moments, the classroom is so lifeless or painful or confused—and I am so powerless to do anything about it—that my claim to be a teacher seems a transparent sham.” (p. 1–2). Naturally, we teachers prefer to have more of the former kinds of experiences, as do our students. Towards that end it is worth asking: how can we create more joyful learning experiences for our students and ourselves? Among several other factors, the specific techniques that we use, coupled with an appreciation for how our students are perceiving them, can have a large impact.  Continue Reading →

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Listening, Reading
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Lessons from Western’s symposium on teaching and learning vocabulary in another language

A one-day symposium on Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in Another Language was held at the University of Western Ontario on Friday 21st October 2016. Leading scholars and key researchers in the field of vocabulary studies discussed a wide range of second language (L2) vocabulary-related topics including (1) vocabulary learning through reading, (2) captioning and word learning, (3) corpus-based studies, and (4) phrasing aspects of language. In this report, we will summarize some key points from the symposium in order to provide teachers with up-to-date vocabulary research that can inform their teaching and make their teaching practice more effective and productive in L2 classrooms. In what follows, we will briefly review background knowledge relevant to the presentations and discuss pedagogical implications based on the presented studies.  Continue Reading →

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Manipulating online video resources to enhance learning

Instructors are no longer limited to pressing play on a VCR to show a video. With the advent of online streaming video, students can watch media independently of their peers on individual devices or workstations. This autonomous viewing experience involves navigation and audio controls. Online video technology has rapidly evolved to allow teachers and students more engaging features during a video viewing experience. These features are discussed in relation to enhancing the online video learning experience through various feature-rich websites.1

Online Video and Learning

Online video can enhance learning when the technology is cooperating. At its best, online video offers ubiquitous access to learning content through dedicated media hosts. Video sharing sites such as YouTube, institutional servers, and third party genre specific sources such as ESL video provide dependable streaming of millions of videos with a click of a button.  Continue Reading →

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