Race and employability in private language schools

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What racial identity do you need in order to be considered a competent English language teacher? This question may seem absurd because race seemingly has nothing to do with one’s ability in English language teaching (ELT). However, in a small study examining the experiences of 10 teachers of colour looking for work in various private language schools in Toronto, Canada (see Ramjattan, 2015), I found that these teachers came to understand from employers that being white meant that one was better qualified to teach English. Therefore, the opposite message was that people of colour lacked the competence to teach the language.

These employer sentiments do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they should be seen as ongoing manifestations of racist,  Continue Reading →

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Why I am hype about Translingualism

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Within three years of immigrating to Canada, I was fortunate to be hired in a GTA community college teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP). I enjoyed the camaraderie of my colleagues and students as I progressed in my new job, but I also began to experience uncomfortable incidents which propelled me on the journey towards Translingualism.

Having been born and bred in Singapore, the formal English variety I learned in school was Singapore English, which was essentially based on British English, and the informal variety I spoke at home was Singlish, a melange of English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay and Tamil. Therefore, I tend to pronounce words differently from Canadian English and rely heavily on the British lexicon.  Continue Reading →

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To correct or not correct? That is not the question

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For decades, writing and writing instruction have often been viewed from a learning-to-write perspective; within this perspective, writing should be taught when students’ second language (L2) development is sufficiently settled. Recent research, however, shows that writing has a major role in promoting L2 development; from this writing-to-learn perspective, writing is seen as a tool for language learning (Manchón, 2011) that allows L2 learners to integrate new knowledge, test hypotheses, and automatize knowledge (Williams, 2012). Also, within this perspective corrective feedback (CF) provided by teachers facilitates language learning (Bitchener & Ferris, 2012).

Corrective feedback is defined as any indication to the learners that their use of the target language is incorrect (Lightbown & Spada, 2013). In writing, CF is concerned with incorrect grammatical or lexical use of the target language,  Continue Reading →

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Writing effective CLB-aligned comprehension items

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“Understand that there is always one clearly best answer. My goal is not to trick students or require them to make difficult judgments about two options that are nearly equally correct. My goal is to design questions that students who understand will answer correctly and students who do not understand will answer incorrectly.”

John A. Johnson (in Clay, 2001)

In a report completed for the Canadian government, Makosky (2008) indicated that, at the time of writing, exit test results from LINC programs across the country were “deemed to be subjective/situational and not comparable to any common standard,” with the result that “exit rating and feedback to newcomers may be inconsistent and the results not as portable as newcomers,  Continue Reading →

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LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the language classroom: attitudes and considerations

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Acknowledgement that a struggle exists for members of any particular minority group is the easy part. How often do we see a shared news report about an injustice and think to ourselves, “That’s awful. Something should be done,” so we like the post on Facebook or maybe even share it with our friends and followers? I imagine that all of us may fall into this “slacktivism” category here and there. Going beyond this initial step can be difficult. It makes many uncomfortable. After all, action can disrupt of our way of doing things even if we know this way may not contribute to needed change for the better.  Continue Reading →

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English for (very) specific purposes: An ESL course for Spanish speaking agricultural workers in the Niagara Region

This is a poster from a poster presentation at TESL Ontario, 2017. We apologize for the HTML formatting. (ed.)

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Background

  • Last year, more than 18,000 workers came to work on Canadian farms as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP)
  • Of these workers, more than 3,000 are working on farms in the Niagara region
  • The majority of these workers come from either the Caribbean or Mexico
  • Although the SAWP is not without its problems, it provides Mexicans with a legal means to 
enter and work in Canada and the opportunity to earn significantly more than they could in 
their home country
  • Nevertheless, such opportunity comes at a price,
  •  Continue Reading →

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Coaching in TESOL

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Coaching is a practice that many people typically associate with sports. What does it have to do with Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)? And what might it look like when used to support professional development in TESOL?

The answer to these questions starts with one’s definition of coaching. As we understand it, coaching is a customized approach to personal and professional development. Like Flaherty (2010), we view it as a set of disciplines and practices aimed at helping others “develop new capabilities, new horizons, and new worlds of opportunity for themselves and those around them” (p. xi). Not only is this a useful definition of coaching, it’s also a helpful way of framing what we try to do as language teachers.  Continue Reading →

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An interview with Sheila Nicholas

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TESL Ontario honoured Sheila Nicholas with a Distinguished Contribution Award in November 2017. This award “is designed to recognize and honour the significant long-term achievements and contributions to the advancement of English Language educators, the English Language training sector and/or TESL Ontario.”

Nicholas, Program Manager of Adult ESL and LINC at St. George’s Centre for ESL in Guelph Ontario, has certainly contributed leadership and expertise to the ESL community. In addition to her role as Program Manager, she has chaired the Boards of Directors with both TESL Ontario and the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks and served in various other committees and boards.

I recently had the honour of chatting with Sheila in her office in Guelph.  Continue Reading →

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The language of success: An interview with Diane Ramanathan, 2017 Sparks of Excellence Award Recipient

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She packed her bag and followed her dreams across the globe, holding nothing but her aspirations and persistence to learn. She embraced life with a bold smile, open heart, and determined soul, learned psychology, and served in the military. Things weren’t easy but her memory, as she mentioned, “is very selective” and able to edit all the negative feelings out and keep those memories which will sustain her throughout her journey of education. She is the inspirational Diane Ramanathan who was recently awarded the 2017 Sparks of Excellence Award, given every year by TESL Ontario to members who have gone above and beyond in their role as language instructors in Ontario. Diane took some time from her busy schedule to do the following interview.  Continue Reading →

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Teaching English as a second language in Ontario: The early aboriginal experience in 19th century residential schools

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Today when we think of teaching English as a Second Language in Ontario, we think in terms of teaching immigrants new to the province. But there is a long history of teaching English as a Second Language to people who are old to the province: 11,000-years-plus old.

The schools that first taught English as a Second Language to Aboriginal people were established in the first half of the 19th century. Their students spoke one of nine Aboriginal languages, all of which still have speakers today,
although in some cases there are very few left. These languages belong to two different language families: Algonquian and Iroquoian (see Figure 1,  and ). The Algonquian languages are Ojibwe,  Continue Reading →

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Framing LGBT issues and learning outcomes: A Canadian perspective

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Whether it is ESL, EAP, LINC, or any other form of TESL, our job is a big one. We are language teachers, and with that comes culture. There is no way to separate the two. Our students need social and cultural survival skills in order to be successful. These sociocultural competencies vary as far and wide as English grammar does, and just like grammar, sometimes those rules need to be explicitly taught. Our students are not trying to be successful in a language, they are trying to be successful in a culture, in a career, in a country. Unfortunately, sociocultural competence is not as well laid out as linguistic competence. There are no Canadian Cultural Benchmarks to act as a guide.  Continue Reading →

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Let’s go to Tim Horton’s: A sample of a task

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The goal of this paper is to discuss the concept of a task as a pedagogical activity used in the second language (L2) classroom for the purpose of developing the communicative competence of L2 learners. The term task has been widely used in the field of applied linguistics (see e.g., Bygate, Skehan & Swain, 2001; Lightbown & Spada, 2010; Long, 2014; Nunan, 2004; Willis & Willis, 2007). The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBs), a document that represents a Canadian language standard for teaching and assessment of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Canada, lists task-based instruction as one of its guiding principles (Center for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB), 2012, p. IX). In addition, Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA), a new type of assessment recently introduced in federally and provincially funded ESL classes in Canada,  Continue Reading →

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