Using Art to Incorporate Culture into the ESL Classroom

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There is a lot of research that supports the idea of teaching culture in the foreign language classroom. One reason why it is a good idea to incorporate culture into language learning is that it provides students with intrinsic motivation to study the language by creating a positive learning environment through the integration of language and culture (Engh, 2013). Another reason is that socio-cultural competence enhances linguistic competence and makes it easier for learners to understand the language and become better communicators (Arevalo, 2010). They are better able to understand the subtle differences in intercultural norms between socio-cultural groups and make connections to their own culture, which in turn helps avoid stereotypes and build stronger relationships with other cultures (Byram,  Continue Reading →

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Found in Translation: Plurilingualism as Pedagogy for Teaching Post-Secondary Vocabulary

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L2 Vocabulary Teaching in a Multilingual Canada

Words are not isolated units of a language: they are components of a larger interconnected system that allow second language (L2) learners to access other components in that system (Nation, 2013). For example, knowing a word is systematically linked to knowing its spelling and pronunciation. Indeed, vocabulary proficiency has even been shown to predict post-secondary English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ reading ability, as well as their capacity to read on their own (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). As such, the development of L2 learners’ vocabulary knowledge intuitively equates to the overall development of their L2 competencies.

While there are many different techniques that can be applied in the L2 classroom to raise students’ vocabulary competencies,  Continue Reading →

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Towards a Pedagogy for Reconciliation–Indigenization: What it is and Why it Belongs in the ESL Classroom

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“Challenge is an integral part of transformative experience”; I came across this line in “Unsettling Faculty Minds: A Faculty Learning Community on Indigenization” (Yeo et al., 2019, p. 38). It resonated with me because this has been true in my life.  Challenge usually precedes and instigates change, whether that change is internal or external.   However, despite the momentum produced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the recent acknowledgment of the treatment of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as genocide, there still remains resistance among educators to answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action.

It is important to recognize that universities, including my own, the University of Toronto, have acknowledged the role they played in the erasure of Indigenous culture and the justification of cultural genocide.   Continue Reading →

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Curriculum, Other, Research
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Deconstructing the Cultural Dig: Examining Ryerson’s Real Institute Speaking Project

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It is the final days of school, and students are getting ready for their final project. Dressed in business attire and with professionally designed posters in-hand, they march into the largest Ryerson building on Yonge St. and are about to complete their final assignment of the school year. They are nervous, yet they are ready to face their future peers, professors, and other community members.

Ryerson’s Real Institute (RRI) EAP program has recently completed its 6th year and like many programs, there are certain challenges that were faced. The program is an academic preparation program for English language learners, which runs for 8 months. The goal is to prepare students linguistically for their post-secondary studies. Like many programs,  Continue Reading →

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The Challenges and Strengths of Culturally Diverse Classrooms: A Consideration of Intercultural Curricula

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Introduction

The internationalization and multicultural character of Canada are affecting both the content and delivery of educational and language programs. As students learn, live, and work to become global citizens, the need for programs and curricula that reflect culture and diversity will only continue to grow. An intercultural curriculum, defined as a planned program of study with intentional inclusion of culturally-diverse content and a culturally-safe learning environment that fosters cognitive and affective learning (Mestenhauser, 1983; Shenk, Moore & Davis, 2004), is suggested as a response to this need. The reasons for this are that such a curriculum engages students’ thinking, prompts reflection, and promotes dialogue about various cultural perspectives. Such curricula also facilitate students’ development of understanding and respect for their own cultures as well as others’ cultures.  Continue Reading →

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Shuai vs. Sean: What’s in an English name for students?

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“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie

It is well-known in the TESOL community that many students take on an English name different from one’s birth name, and it is more common in some groups of students than others. In fact, among some Asian students, the practice of taking on an English name is almost de facto and one that is practiced not only in English-speaking countries, but in many schools in Asia as well (Chien, 2012; McPherron, 2009). As such, a Haeda might also be known as Heidi, Mohammed becomes Moe, and Sun-mi goes by Alice. The instructor will use the chosen English name for the student and,  Continue Reading →

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Identity, Other
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Editor’s Note

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This is my last issue as editor of TESL Ontario’s Contact magazine. My heartfelt thanks go out to all our readers. You are literally the raison d’être of the magazine. And of course, all the writers who have contributed their ideas and research are its life force. It has been my pleasure to connect these two groups, to put you, if I may, in contact.

In 2012, I took over the editorship from Tania Pattison, who served as editor for a year after the untimely death of Clayton Graves in 2010. Clayton was editor for seven years before that. I am grateful to them and to the other editors who went before for their vision and stewardship.  Continue Reading →

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Hacking the ESL student workbook

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In our Technical Trades Program (TCP), we were challenged with designing and creating student books and interactive Learning Objects (LOs) for our foundation students. The foundation program trains English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students in trade-specific terminology and provides hands-on workshops. It is essentially a bridging program designed to prepare trainees for their programs, which consist of Process Operations, Mechanical Technician Program, Electrical Technician Program, and Instrumentation, all including a common Safety component. The majority of our students are male Qatari nationals whose first language is Arabic.

The Challenge

The first challenge was to find materials that motivated our students and that were at our students’ language level, which was CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) A1 Breakthrough or beginner.  Continue Reading →

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Knowledge mobilization in TESL: Teachers as interpreters of research results

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There is a longstanding criticism that academic research is not sufficiently utilized in language teaching. This so-called gap between research and practice is well documented. For example, Borg’s (2009) study with English language teachers from 13 countries identified a low level of research utilization. Many teachers participating in Borg’s study reported that a lack of time, inaccessibility of published research, and a lack of practical relevance of research results were among the key reasons why they did not turn to academic research for professional learning and development. Borg concluded that research utilization by teachers was a rarity in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT). Since the time of Borg’s study, we have seen many initiatives to make research more accessible to teachers.  Continue Reading →

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Engaging students in speaking assessment to increase their participation in speaking activities

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Teachers sometimes find it challenging to engage students in speaking activities. Some students shy away from the task because they do not have the confidence for public speaking especially in the second language, or they simply find the tasks inauthentic and thus find little value in participating. However, researchers claim that there is more to students’ poor participation in class speaking activities than the above. Juzwik, Borsheim-Black, Caughlan, and Heintz (2014) maintain that while student-led and student-centered talk should be the ultimate goal of any educational assignment, teacher talk tends to dominate. Teacher talk is necessary and often required as an organization tool, but when it dominates, it robs students of the opportunity to participate and to improve their speaking skills.  Continue Reading →

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Lexical borrowing among Francophones in the Greater Toronto Area

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The French language in Canada has historical roots extending back to the 1600’s. Today, many Canadians are French speakers. In fact, nearly 12% of Canadians speak only French, and nearly 18% of Canadians speak both English and French (Statistics Canada, 2017). In Ontario, where the current study was conducted, 622,415 Francophones comprise 4.7% of the population (Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, 2016). The current project examining the language practices of adult Francophones takes place in this minority language context.

This project examined lexical borrowing and code switching among ten adult Francophones in the Toronto, Ontario region. In-depth individual interviews were conducted during which the participants were asked to tell a story or describe an activity of personal interest.  Continue Reading →

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Compulsory professional development policy for ESL instructors: A literature review and personal insight

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Even though there has been a growing interest in teacher professional development (TPD) on the part of educational researchers and practitioners in the last decade, research on English as Second Language (ESL) teachers’ perceptions of mandatory professional development at private language centers (visa schools) remains fragmented and scarce. In the Canadian context, particularly in Ontario, initiatives for a sustainable, practical, and professional teacher development, whose target is to curtail teacher attrition and strengthen teachers’ professional profiles, remain random and without a proper practical application. The Ontario Ministry of Education sets standards and creates policies that concern public schools; the district school boards stipulate sets of policies to be implemented in their schools, too. Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) is a government-funded program that employs teachers with a TESL Ontario certification,  Continue Reading →

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