Category Archives: Teaching

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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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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