To correct or not correct? That is not the question

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For decades, writing and writing instruction have often been viewed from a learning-to-write perspective; within this perspective, writing should be taught when students’ second language (L2) development is sufficiently settled. Recent research, however, shows that writing has a major role in promoting L2 development; from this writing-to-learn perspective, writing is seen as a tool for language learning (Manchón, 2011) that allows L2 learners to integrate new knowledge, test hypotheses, and automatize knowledge (Williams, 2012). Also, within this perspective corrective feedback (CF) provided by teachers facilitates language learning (Bitchener & Ferris, 2012).

Corrective feedback is defined as any indication to the learners that their use of the target language is incorrect (Lightbown & Spada, 2013). In writing, CF is concerned with incorrect grammatical or lexical use of the target language,  Continue Reading →

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Writing effective CLB-aligned comprehension items

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“Understand that there is always one clearly best answer. My goal is not to trick students or require them to make difficult judgments about two options that are nearly equally correct. My goal is to design questions that students who understand will answer correctly and students who do not understand will answer incorrectly.”

John A. Johnson (in Clay, 2001)

In a report completed for the Canadian government, Makosky (2008) indicated that, at the time of writing, exit test results from LINC programs across the country were “deemed to be subjective/situational and not comparable to any common standard,” with the result that “exit rating and feedback to newcomers may be inconsistent and the results not as portable as newcomers,  Continue Reading →

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LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the language classroom: attitudes and considerations

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Acknowledgement that a struggle exists for members of any particular minority group is the easy part. How often do we see a shared news report about an injustice and think to ourselves, “That’s awful. Something should be done,” so we like the post on Facebook or maybe even share it with our friends and followers? I imagine that all of us may fall into this “slacktivism” category here and there. Going beyond this initial step can be difficult. It makes many uncomfortable. After all, action can disrupt of our way of doing things even if we know this way may not contribute to needed change for the better.  Continue Reading →

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English for (very) specific purposes: An ESL course for Spanish speaking agricultural workers in the Niagara Region

This is a poster from a poster presentation at TESL Ontario, 2017. We apologize for the HTML formatting. (ed.)

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Background

  • Last year, more than 18,000 workers came to work on Canadian farms as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP)
  • Of these workers, more than 3,000 are working on farms in the Niagara region
  • The majority of these workers come from either the Caribbean or Mexico
  • Although the SAWP is not without its problems, it provides Mexicans with a legal means to 
enter and work in Canada and the opportunity to earn significantly more than they could in 
their home country
  • Nevertheless, such opportunity comes at a price,
  •  Continue Reading →

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Coaching in TESOL

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Coaching is a practice that many people typically associate with sports. What does it have to do with Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)? And what might it look like when used to support professional development in TESOL?

The answer to these questions starts with one’s definition of coaching. As we understand it, coaching is a customized approach to personal and professional development. Like Flaherty (2010), we view it as a set of disciplines and practices aimed at helping others “develop new capabilities, new horizons, and new worlds of opportunity for themselves and those around them” (p. xi). Not only is this a useful definition of coaching, it’s also a helpful way of framing what we try to do as language teachers.  Continue Reading →

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An interview with Sheila Nicholas

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TESL Ontario honoured Sheila Nicholas with a Distinguished Contribution Award in November 2017. This award “is designed to recognize and honour the significant long-term achievements and contributions to the advancement of English Language educators, the English Language training sector and/or TESL Ontario.”

Nicholas, Program Manager of Adult ESL and LINC at St. George’s Centre for ESL in Guelph Ontario, has certainly contributed leadership and expertise to the ESL community. In addition to her role as Program Manager, she has chaired the Boards of Directors with both TESL Ontario and the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks and served in various other committees and boards.

I recently had the honour of chatting with Sheila in her office in Guelph.  Continue Reading →

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The language of success: An interview with Diane Ramanathan, 2017 Sparks of Excellence Award Recipient

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She packed her bag and followed her dreams across the globe, holding nothing but her aspirations and persistence to learn. She embraced life with a bold smile, open heart, and determined soul, learned psychology, and served in the military. Things weren’t easy but her memory, as she mentioned, “is very selective” and able to edit all the negative feelings out and keep those memories which will sustain her throughout her journey of education. She is the inspirational Diane Ramanathan who was recently awarded the 2017 Sparks of Excellence Award, given every year by TESL Ontario to members who have gone above and beyond in their role as language instructors in Ontario. Diane took some time from her busy schedule to do the following interview.  Continue Reading →

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Teaching English as a second language in Ontario: The early aboriginal experience in 19th century residential schools

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Today when we think of teaching English as a Second Language in Ontario, we think in terms of teaching immigrants new to the province. But there is a long history of teaching English as a Second Language to people who are old to the province: 11,000-years-plus old.

The schools that first taught English as a Second Language to Aboriginal people were established in the first half of the 19th century. Their students spoke one of nine Aboriginal languages, all of which still have speakers today,
although in some cases there are very few left. These languages belong to two different language families: Algonquian and Iroquoian (see Figure 1,  and ). The Algonquian languages are Ojibwe,  Continue Reading →

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Framing LGBT issues and learning outcomes: A Canadian perspective

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Whether it is ESL, EAP, LINC, or any other form of TESL, our job is a big one. We are language teachers, and with that comes culture. There is no way to separate the two. Our students need social and cultural survival skills in order to be successful. These sociocultural competencies vary as far and wide as English grammar does, and just like grammar, sometimes those rules need to be explicitly taught. Our students are not trying to be successful in a language, they are trying to be successful in a culture, in a career, in a country. Unfortunately, sociocultural competence is not as well laid out as linguistic competence. There are no Canadian Cultural Benchmarks to act as a guide.  Continue Reading →

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What is fluency and how do we develop it?

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“I want to speak English fluently.”

“I have to write reports in English.”

“I want to read English magazines, books and websites.”

“I’d like to understand movies in English.”

Whether expressed directly or indirectly, the need for fluency inherently exists within all of these commonly expressed goals and motivations for learning English. And, as teachers, we know that learners often have a number of obstacles to overcome to achieve them, whether they are learning in ESL contexts, such as Canada, or EFL contexts like Japan. Firstly, goals that students initially make may be unrealistic and are typically too vague, too big or long-term; and many students lack confidence in their English abilities,  Continue Reading →

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What can L2 teachers do to assist L2 learners to develop listening fluency

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In my experience at many Asian conferences, some people in the audience laugh particularly loudly when they hear a native speaker of English saying something that might be funny. Strangely, they don’t laugh so loudly if a non-native speaker of English says the same thing. There may be multiple reasons but this one is for sure. They want to let other people know that they can understand what the native speaker is saying, and they are proud of themselves for being able to listen fluently.

Listening, unlike speaking, is usually an individual process. That is the reason why teachers give students a speaking or writing comprehension check after listening to a passage. Otherwise it is difficult to know to what extent their students comprehend.  Continue Reading →

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Pragmatics in the classroom: Don’t take it literally

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Among the first phrases that English-speaking students of Japanese learn are the equivalents of “hello” (こんにちは konnichi-wa) and “how are you?” (お元気ですか o-genki desu-ka). With these two phrases under their belts, students may fearlessly run around Japan greeting everyone they meet with “hello, how are you?” in the same way they would greet people back home. However, if they do, they would be making a mistake. Although Japanese speakers will certainly understand what is meant by konnichi-wa, o-genki desu ka, the second phrase is not generally asked of people one meets every day—unless they really don’t look well. O-genki-desu-ka is also not used to greet strangers like cab drivers or the baristas at Starbucks.  Continue Reading →

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