Category Archives: Teaching

Idioms: The icing on the cake for advanced learners

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**For footnotes, please view the PDF.

Abstract
This paper focuses on the problems that learners and teachers both face with idiom usage. The original submission was in part of the author’s Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Learning Skills Assignment for which it received a Merit, but it has been modified to serve a general teacher audience. This essay examines examples from several advanced level coursebooks and draws on the author’s personal experience of teaching multi-lingual classes in Canada and England, as well as exam-preparation courses in Italy to assess the value of teaching learners’ idioms. By identifying the problems that learners have with idiomatic language and analyzing different methods to help circumvent them,  Continue Reading →

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Developing critical thinking skills in the ESL classroom

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Abstract
This paper presents a discussion of the importance of developing the critical thinking skills of ESL students. Critical thinking skills are sometimes overlooked in the ESL classroom which is problematic given that ESL students need to be equipped with the skills and thinking strategies necessary to perform in academic and professional arenas. ESL teachers can foster critical thinking in supportive environments in their daily practice by including activities that require students to challenge the self and activities that require collaboration and creativity. Several classroom activities that encourage critical thinking are presented and discussed.

Defining ‘critical thinking’
Critical thinking is an important area of interest in education and stems back to the Greek philosophers, including Socrates,  Continue Reading →

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The complexity of recognizing the ABCs for English language learners: More than twenty-six sounds

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Abstract
The purpose of this article is to support English language learners in the early literacy stages of English through raising awareness of more than one sound that may exist (or not) on certain English characters (letters). Having a character acquire more than one sound could add a layer of difficulty in learning how to read in English. Additionally, this could also be seen when two letters are placed together. Learning and memorizing the phonetics of each character would evidently allow for one to learn how to read. However, as a teacher, being able to recognize these characters, and then teaching vocabulary intentionally (by highlighting these characters, and the construction of new sounds), would benefit the learner, and may even speed up the language acquisition process.  Continue Reading →

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Disrupting the English-only status quo: Using home language as a vital resource in the classroom

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Abstract
An extensive and growing body of research affirms the value of using students’ home language (L1) in both second language (L2) and content learning in the classroom. In spite of this, instructional policy and practice continue to operate as though English-only approaches are axiomatic and essentially common sense. This article appeals for action at the classroom and program levels to close the gap between research and practice in relation to the use of home language in learning. This shift aligns with a move toward rejecting deficit narratives that focus on what students are lacking rather than what they bring to the classroom. If we recognize that our students possess rich cultural and experiential funds of knowledge, we must also begin to value the language(s) in which that knowledge is encoded.  Continue Reading →

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Informed Use of Learner L1: Plurilingualism as a Macrostrategy for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

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Abstract
The use of learner L1 in TESOL contexts has emerged as an effective, if controversial, teaching strategy. This strategy is validated by the notion of plurilingualism. Plurilingual practices serve a variety of classroom aims and offer a range of pedagogical and intercultural benefits. However, there are several challenges impeding the adoption and application of plurilingual pedagogy. In response to these challenges, I draw on a postmethod framework and my own teaching experiences to offer several ideas for plurilingual classroom activities, developed with Spanish and Portuguese-speaking students. A plurilingual perspective can help ESOL teachers to recognize, respect, and make use of their learners’ diverse linguistic and cultural resources.

Introduction
Views of monolingualism, native-speakerism, and subtractive language acquisition still dominate TESOL learning and teaching contexts.  Continue Reading →

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Action Research as a Praxis for Transformative Teaching Practice in ELT Classrooms

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Abstract

This paper is to illuminate how action research can be used as a praxis to shape teaching as a constant transformative practice in English language teaching (ELT). I will offer a synthesis on what action research is, how professionals have used it in practice, and why action research is a vigorous and enlightening tool for ELT practitioners and teacher educators for their transformative knowledge (re)building process despite some criticisms.  Then, I will briefly exemplify two action research projects that I have conducted with different colleagues in different settings.

“The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.  Education is thus constantly remade in the praxis.   Continue Reading →

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Developing Intercultural Competence: Surveying EFL Learners’ Knowledge, Strategies, and Attitudes

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Abstract

Understanding others has long been a goal of language teaching yet remaining in the background of educational practices (Liddicoat, 2012). One of the existing challenges in the language-teaching domain is the integration of culture and language. The incentive to conduct this study is the existing gap of teaching culture in language classrooms. The researchers investigated learners’ opinions on the presentation of English-speaking countries’ (ESC) cultures and explored the cultural knowledge scope of Iranian EFL learners. Besides, the strategies used by the learners to acquire intercultural communicative competence were explored. A questionnaire was distributed among 250 language learners, yet twenty-six male and female EFL learners, intermediate and upper-intermediate level, were interviewed to probe their knowledge, strategies, and attitudes.  Continue Reading →

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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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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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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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Perception, production, and perception–production: Research findings and implications for language pedagogy

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When we are born our perceptual systems are capable of discriminating sounds that occur in English, Spanish, Hindi, or any other language. During the first year, our perception begins to zero in on the particular set of sounds that are contrastive in our native language(s) (L1s) (Kuhl et al., 2006). For example, a child whose parents are L1 English speakers will pick up on the fact that /b/ and /p/ are contrastive in English (e.g., “bet” vs. “pet”) and that the major difference is in the burst of air that occurs when the stop is released (i.e., there is a stronger burst of air, or more aspiration, on /p/ than /b/). A child whose parents are L1 Hindi speakers will pick up on this contrast,  Continue Reading →

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Why teaching Second Language listening is difficult and how to use bottom-up listening strategies to teach listening more effectively

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Listening is the skill that most of our students feel the least confident about and the least control over in terms of what they can do to improve. It is also the skill that is the most widely used, both in academic and non-academic contexts. For these reasons, we owe it to our students to show them how to become successful English language listeners.

Second-language listening is difficult for several reasons, most of which stem from the differences between oral and written channels (Brown, 2011). These include perception problems, issues of memory and attention, and strategy choice.

Perception problems arise because speech is fast and transient; utterances are spoken quickly, and they disappear. We don’t pause to separate speech into distinct words;  Continue Reading →

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