Category Archives: Teaching

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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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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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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Teaching Canadian history for English language learners

Historica Canada is the largest independent charitable organization in Canada dedicated to promoting history, citizenship and identity. We examine the Canadian experience, past and present. We are dedicated to helping educators, by providing free, bilingual educational resources that are pedagogically relevant and curriculum based.

Historica Canada’s education resources are inspired by the historical thinking concepts developed by Peter Seixas and the Historical Thinking Project. These concepts aim to improve critical thinking in history education. The six concepts include Historical Significance, Primary Source Evidence, Taking Historical Perspectives, Change and Continuity, and Cause and Consequence.

Educational Resources: Methodology and Accessibility

All Historica Canada educational resources are available through a free and searchable Education Portal. Not only a resource bank of more than 300 learning tools,  Continue Reading →

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Teaching, Uncategorised
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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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Teaching, methodology, and English as an international language: Lessons for one MATESOL program

Our small university in northern New England has a 60-year tradition of preparing students to teach English in the USA and around the world. For several decades, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has been our stated approach, while we acknowledge that the term itself is rather loosely defined and is perhaps best seen as a methodological umbrella that reflects several key cognitive, affective, and linguistic principles such as student-centered instruction, relevant and comprehensible input, balancing accuracy with fluency, and integration of productive and receptive skills. The CLT approach has allowed for flexibility of teacher styles and adjustments to the perceived needs of our students, both native (NS) and non-native (NNS) English speakers. However, in recent years we have realized that those needs are shifting in a direction that claims English as an International Language,  Continue Reading →

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Teaching
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The oral group essay

Before I became an English teacher, I was a freelance journalist and a publicist. I wrote almost every day, almost always for publication. I remember working in a newsroom full of reporters, most of them muttering to themselves at their computers as they composed their stories. They would write a sentence, read it aloud, and alter it—or not.

In the classroom, I’d advise my students to read their writing aloud to themselves as they drafted, edited and proofread because that was what I’d learned by observing the professional writers around me. My students, however, were resistant. They thought it was downright crazy to talk out loud to themselves; they believed they could edit perfectly adequately by doing so silently, in their heads; or else they wrote assignments the night before the due date without ever editing their work.  Continue Reading →

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Teaching, Writing
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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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