Category Archives: Teaching

Raising and assessing second language vocabulary fluency

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The centrality of vocabulary knowledge cannot be overstated; it underlies the acquisition success of not only reading and listening skills, but also writing, speaking, and grammar learning (Alderson, 2005; Segalowitz, 2005). Linguists have proposed various definitions of vocabulary knowledge. Qian’s (2002) definition has generally been a cited gold standard. According to Qian, vocabulary knowledge consists of four facets:

  1. vocabulary size or breadth knowledge that refers to recognition of words,
  2. depth knowledge of all features of a word including its semantic, syntactic, phonemic, graphemic, morphemic, collocational and phraseological traits,
  3. lexical network of words that are stored, connected and represented in the lexicon, and
  4. fluency or speed of retrieval of word forms and their meanings.
  5.  Continue Reading →


Implementing Task-Based Language Teaching in Belgium: Lessons for Canada?



Implementing Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) has been central to numerous policy initiatives around the world in the last few decades. The Belgian experience of TBLT implementation has been the focus of intensive empirical research, which makes it of particular interest to policy-makers and practitioners in other countries. Implementation of Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) in adult language learning programs in Canada assumes TBLT to be the dominant teaching approach, even though empirical research on TBLT manifestation in the context is limited. Considering the paucity of accounts on TBLT presence in adult language classrooms in Canada, and the increased demand for TBLT spearheaded by PBLA, this summary of Belgian studies can aid in identifying both promising and challenging aspects of TBLT implementation at various levels: individual teachers and learners,  Continue Reading →

Assessment, Teaching

Using reciprocal teaching to support strategy instruction and language use among second language learners


Recently, a group of researchers (Ardasheva, Wang, Adesope & Valentine, 2017) conducted an analysis to determine whether, and under what conditions, strategy instruction was effective in supporting the learning of second language learners. The purpose of strategy instruction is to equip learners with the means to engage in the self-regulation of their own learning. When learners are self-regulated, they have control over their learning and are directing their cognitive activity and motivation toward their own learning goals. Self-regulated learners: (a) actively engage in learning tasks, (b) set goals for learning, (c) monitor their activity, thoughts, and feelings, and (d) make the adjustments necessary to achieve their goals (Loyens, Magda, & Rikers, 2008).

Ardasheva and colleagues determined that, in fact,  Continue Reading →


Cognitive load theory and teaching English as a second language to adult learners


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 →

Other, Teaching

The art of conversation: Why it’s harder than you might think


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 →


Indigenization in the ESL classroom


Whenever I talk about Indigenization, I recognize that it’s often customary, in an Indigenous paradigm, to ‘situate’ myself in the work (Wilson, 2009)—I might talk about where I’m from, or my family, but I’ll give you the Coles Notes version. I’m originally from Newfoundland, traditional territory of the extinct Beothuk people. I grew up in Nova Scotia on the edge of a Mi’kmaq community; the Mi’kmaq are considered the founding people of Nova Scotia and are one of the signatory nations to the Peace and Friendship Treaties of that area. I’m living in Treaty 6 territory, which is a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples; the Indigenous peoples of the Cree, Nakota Sioux, Dene, Blackfoot, Tsuu-t’ina, Iroquois, Ojibway,  Continue Reading →


An interview with Wajiha Naqvi and Brett Reynolds: What we can learn from a blind ESL student


Learning English as a Second Language comes with its usual predicaments and involves a lot of effort, systematic study, mentoring, and use of technology. It just adds another layer of complexity when a learner has vision impairment or any other learning difficulty or limitations. In Canada, it is not unusual that people with visual impairment are learning English in schools specially equipped for them where they are provided with a set of arrangements catering their needs. In most of the cases, the learners use braille and get help from specially trained instructors. But learning English in a mainstream program like English for Academic Purposes is not that common in public colleges where there is little or no special infrastructure for a blind student.  Continue Reading →


The teaching of suprasegmentals within a task-based or communicative ESL class


As reported in a survey of Canadian ESL teachers’ pronunciation practices, many ESL students appear to have problems with suprasegmental pronunciation, which is commonly interpreted to include word stress, rhythm and intonation (Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011). Word stress refers to the length, loudness and pitch of syllables within a word, relative to one another (e.g., Ca∙na∙da). Rhythm refers to which syllables in an utterance are more prominent (e.g., I’m co∙ming on Sun∙day.). Intonation refers to the pitch patterns in utterances. For instance, I’m coming on Sunday would normally have a rise-fall pitch on Sunday while are you coming on Sunday could have a rising pitch on on Sunday. Such problems can lead to communication difficulties (Hahn, 2004). Fortunately,  Continue Reading →

Pronunciation, Teaching

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 →

Teaching, Training

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 →

Teaching, Uncategorised