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Complexity Theory and translanguaging as pedagogy for ESL learner empowerment

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Abstract
Recent theories in second language education have highlighted the learner as a social being, who has agency and takes an active role in the language learning process. One recent theory of the social turn in second language education that is of relevance to ESL teaching is Complexity Theory (CT). In this article, we briefly explain how CT and the concept of affordance relate to the role of the teacher and the learners in the ESL classroom. We then discuss what teaching ESL through a CT lens inlvoves and argue that translanguaging as pedagogy can empower ESL learners and transform the ESL classroom into a more equitable and inclusive space.

Introduction
Second language education (SLE) has witnessed a significant shift in the past decades,  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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Highlighting highlighters: A simple but effective ESL literacy teaching technique

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Abstract
This Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) funded adult ESL Literacy Project of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board is in the midst of piloting a new delivery model of adult ESL Literacy instruction based on the 2016 ESL for Adult Literacy Learners (ESL for ALL) document. The Literacy Researcher guided four team members through intensive ESL Literacy training in the first year of the project. Now, these instructors are running specialized classes that target specific learning strategies ESL Literacy learners need in order to be successful participants in their classes, with PBLA and in their daily lives.

Our TESL Ontario Conference poster presented the learning strategy of highlighting specific information required to answer WH-questions.  Continue Reading →

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Lexical list for EAP/ESP programs: Multiword sequences in computer science textbooks

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Abstract
Lexical Bundles (LBs) —defined by Wood (2015) as “combinations of three or more words which are identified in a corpus of natural language” (p. 45) —play a key role in the comprehension and construction of academic language (Biber & Barbieri, 2007). Despite their importance, LBs are weakly presented in second language (L2) materials (Wood & Appel, 2014). Studies show that L2 learners may misuse LBs in their production (Pérez-Llantada, 2014). With the aim of informing L2 pedagogy in the university context, this corpus study uses WordSmith Tools 6.0 (Scott, 2007) to identify 59 items that represent the most frequently occurring LBs in eight Computer Science introductory textbooks. Utilizing the functional taxonomy, suggested in Biber et al. (2004),  Continue Reading →

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Deconstructing the Cultural Dig: Examining Ryerson’s Real Institute Speaking Project

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It is the final days of school, and students are getting ready for their final project. Dressed in business attire and with professionally designed posters in-hand, they march into the largest Ryerson building on Yonge St. and are about to complete their final assignment of the school year. They are nervous, yet they are ready to face their future peers, professors, and other community members.

Ryerson’s Real Institute (RRI) EAP program has recently completed its 6th year and like many programs, there are certain challenges that were faced. The program is an academic preparation program for English language learners, which runs for 8 months. The goal is to prepare students linguistically for their post-secondary studies. Like many programs,  Continue Reading →

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Editor’s Note

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This is my last issue as editor of TESL Ontario’s Contact magazine. My heartfelt thanks go out to all our readers. You are literally the raison d’être of the magazine. And of course, all the writers who have contributed their ideas and research are its life force. It has been my pleasure to connect these two groups, to put you, if I may, in contact.

In 2012, I took over the editorship from Tania Pattison, who served as editor for a year after the untimely death of Clayton Graves in 2010. Clayton was editor for seven years before that. I am grateful to them and to the other editors who went before for their vision and stewardship.  Continue Reading →

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Hacking the ESL student workbook

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In our Technical Trades Program (TCP), we were challenged with designing and creating student books and interactive Learning Objects (LOs) for our foundation students. The foundation program trains English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students in trade-specific terminology and provides hands-on workshops. It is essentially a bridging program designed to prepare trainees for their programs, which consist of Process Operations, Mechanical Technician Program, Electrical Technician Program, and Instrumentation, all including a common Safety component. The majority of our students are male Qatari nationals whose first language is Arabic.

The Challenge

The first challenge was to find materials that motivated our students and that were at our students’ language level, which was CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) A1 Breakthrough or beginner.  Continue Reading →

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Knowledge mobilization in TESL: Teachers as interpreters of research results

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There is a longstanding criticism that academic research is not sufficiently utilized in language teaching. This so-called gap between research and practice is well documented. For example, Borg’s (2009) study with English language teachers from 13 countries identified a low level of research utilization. Many teachers participating in Borg’s study reported that a lack of time, inaccessibility of published research, and a lack of practical relevance of research results were among the key reasons why they did not turn to academic research for professional learning and development. Borg concluded that research utilization by teachers was a rarity in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT). Since the time of Borg’s study, we have seen many initiatives to make research more accessible to teachers.  Continue Reading →

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Lexical borrowing among Francophones in the Greater Toronto Area

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The French language in Canada has historical roots extending back to the 1600’s. Today, many Canadians are French speakers. In fact, nearly 12% of Canadians speak only French, and nearly 18% of Canadians speak both English and French (Statistics Canada, 2017). In Ontario, where the current study was conducted, 622,415 Francophones comprise 4.7% of the population (Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, 2016). The current project examining the language practices of adult Francophones takes place in this minority language context.

This project examined lexical borrowing and code switching among ten adult Francophones in the Toronto, Ontario region. In-depth individual interviews were conducted during which the participants were asked to tell a story or describe an activity of personal interest.  Continue Reading →

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Migration, trauma and mental illness: Implications for language learning

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The number of international migrants (people living outside their country of birth) reached 258 million in 2017. That is more than 3% of the earth’s population (United Nations General Assembly International Migration and Development, 2018). Who are these 258 million? How and why have they left their homelands behind? Did they depart for faraway places voluntarily or under duress? North(ern) America has been host to 22% of those international migrants, meaning that as many as 56 million people have had to learn—or are still learning—English when settling into their new lives in Canada or the U.S.

At this point, it would be good to remind ourselves that many of the migrants who have arrived on North American shores,  Continue Reading →

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