Category Archives: Professional Development

Beyond tradition: Using systemic functional linguistics in ESL teaching and teacher preparation

Abstract

This paper1 examines some uses of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) in teacher preparation and offers some ideas and activities for ESL classrooms. The paper begins with a rationale for the use of SFL in teacher training and language teaching, followed by a description of Hallidayan systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and its application to pedagogy, as represented by the work of Rose, Martin, Butt, Lock, and others. It examines certain aspects of grammar from an SFL perspective and provides an example of a project that was completed by teacher learners, including related activities for the classroom.

As an ESL teacher and teacher trainer, I have always been certain of the inadequacy of the traditional understanding of English grammar as a set of rules to be memorized and subsequently applied.  Continue Reading →

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TESOL program administrators: How do I get the skills to become One?

The need for formalized training for ELT program administrators is a recurring topic in the field of TESOL. Navigating the transition from faculty to administrative authority is rarely covered in TESOL programs, yet many TESOL graduates find themselves offered administrative and/or management positions based on their advanced degrees and classroom experience. Additionally, those who do not have a background in TESOL and would like to complete a postgraduate degree to legitimize their teaching experience, professionalize themselves, and gain management skills to move beyond the classroom find few options in TESOL programs with a management focus.

This article1 discusses the skill set educational program administrators and managers typically have and then compares those to the distinct skill set TESOL program administrators and managers may need.  Continue Reading →

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“Please look at me!”

Cross-cultural competence in the ESL classroom

Our understanding of theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and more speci cally teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has traditionally been grounded in linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and more recently in pragmatics and speech acts. I would like to argue that in order to do the most effective teaching of ESL, especially in light of the many recent newcomers to Canada, we must also have a stronger sense of the theories and best implementation of cross-cultural communication1.

How often have we been in a classroom, intent on being as helpful and constructive as we can, only to nd that some students are resistant or silent or respond in totally unexpected ways? Even when we fully intend to respect the diverse cultures of our students,  Continue Reading →

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Insights from cognitive psychology for the ESL classroom

Reflecting on the question of what recent findings or ideas ESL teaching might take from other fields, I suggest that recent insights on learning from the eld of cognitive psychology are worth exploring. Cognitive psychology is the study of the neural processes that underpin mental operations such as memory, attention, and creative problem-solving, among others. It is a broad, multi-disciplinary area of study, and its empirical findings have been drawn upon by a range of other fields. ESL teachers would do well to take notice of some of these findings.

My remarks here draw exclusively upon Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel’s (2014) fascinating book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the vast body of research in cognitive psychology.  Continue Reading →

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Literacy lessons

Core Concepts from Multiliteracies for Language Teachers in Contemporary Times

Three nine-year-old boys are sitting on a porch in urban Canada. They are engaged in a multiplayer session of Terraria, a video game that purports to combine the creativity and freedom of a sandbox environment with the strategic requirements of an action game. Each child is holding his own device—an iPod Touch, an iPad, an android tablet. Their eyes are xed on their own screens, sometimes scanning over to the others’, ngers busily pushing and swiping as they build biomes. During the game, one of the boys opens an Internet browser, types in a term from the game, and the children collectively research how to nd an element they want. Through the search results they read blog posts from other players and add their own information to the mix.  Continue Reading →

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The interdisciplinary nature of language teaching

The English language classroom is one of only a handful of settings in which language is used and learned simply for the sake of using and learning it. Beyond the classroom, English is used for a myriad of transactional reasons—getting things done—and relational reasons—using language to build relationships. Just as one’s L2 is used beyond the classroom in innumerable disciplines and for in nite purposes, so too can multifarious elds contribute to our approaches to teaching the language. Here I will touch on three that have in uenced my teaching in ways that have been useful to my students in their real lives, beyond the classroom.

The rst is phonetics (i.e., how the human body makes the sounds of a particular language). How can English learners’ awareness of phonological processes enable them to accurately articulate the sounds of English which do not exist in their native languages?  Continue Reading →

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Let’s remember

Years ago, while I still lived in Vancouver, I came across the Italian translation of Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” online and sent it to my father.

He called as soon as the mail arrived. “Thank you for the nice poesia you sending, so beautiful.”

For a moment, I considered letting him think I wrote the poem. I wondered how bad it would be for my karma to be so low as to claim authorship. This mistaken identity situation happened once before by accident, when my parents wrongly assumed I had written our graduating drama class production—a little known play called Oedipus Rex. I was a member of the chorus, dressed in a black, hooded cloak with my face painted to look skeletal. I crawled around the auditorium stage in this harbinger of doom costume with eleven other teenage girls,  Continue Reading →

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Exploring Rhyme and Reason in Vocabulary and Phraseology

No-one will dispute that language learning is to a large extent a matter of mastering myriads of words and phrases and that it therefore relies heavily on memory. Many pedagogy- minded applied linguists concur that a word or phrase is more likely to be remembered if the learner consciously “engages” with it in one way or another (Schmitt, 2008). This, then, raises the question of what kinds of cognitive engagement with lexical items are relatively fruitful, and how teachers (or materials writers) can prompt students to give these a try. This article considers a handful of proposals for stimulating engagement with words and phrases that are in broad agreement with a school of thought known as Cognitive Linguistics.

Cognitive Linguistics (CL) emerged in the 1980s as an alternative to the then dominant Chomskyan-style descriptions of language,  Continue Reading →

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Steps to English Proficiency

A review of the framework and its writing continua
Abstract

Given the current increased presence of English Language Learners (ELLs) in our Ontario elementary and secondary classrooms, teachers are faced with a challenging task of assessing each student’s language ability, placing students in suitable programs, and tracking progress. The Steps To English Proficiency is a tool developed by the Ministry of Education, team of educators, and experts in assessment and content that will support classroom teachers to make appropriate decisions and continue to track their students’ performance in order to make the most suitable choices for their students. This article will specifically review the writing portion of the framework and hopes to provide insight to teachers who may be interested to adopt this framework by highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of this framework.  Continue Reading →

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Language on the Orient Express: A Guide to Mandarin for English Teachers

Foreigners living in 1920s Shanghai apparently counselled new arrivals that “those who learn Chinese go mad” (Kane, 2006, p. 17). Certainly there has been a long tradition of outsiders looking on the Chinese language as a confusing mass of chicken-scratch writing and syncopated bursts of rhyming syllables. In turn, Chinese people themselves were often portrayed by Westerners as aloof, inscrutable and incomprehensible to outsiders. The reasons for surmounting such racist representations are pressing for both English- speaking students of Chinese and teachers of English to Chinese, particularly in light of the crucial role China will play on the global stage in the twenty-first century. With this in mind, this article provides a general overview of Mandarin Chinese geared towards teachers and students who have had limited exposure to the language.  Continue Reading →

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