#CdnELTchat & #teslONchat Summary: Truth and Reconciliation in #ELT

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#CdnELTchat & #teslONchat summary for June 15 

By Bonnie Nicholas, Jennifer Chow, Vanessa Nino, and Augusta Avram

Like all Canadians, we were horrified by the confirmation of the graves of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops in May. Many of us did not learn about the tragic history of residential schools during our own school years. This part of Canadian history was not part of the curriculum.

Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in 2015 and its 94 Calls to Action, all of us working in ELT and particularly those of us who work in settlement programs know that we have the responsibility not just to educate ourselves but also to help the students that we are privileged to teach to learn about the history of treaties and residential schools. This is articulated clearly in Articles 93 and 94 of the Calls to Action. The confirmation of the graves in Kamloops and the almost certainty of more discoveries ahead has given urgency to this responsibility. 

On June 15th, #CdnELTchat and #teslONchat held a joint Twitter chat for English language teachers and admin. Our topic was Truth and Reconciliation in #ELT. This special joint chat was to find ways that we can move forward with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and work for reconciliation. Because we are all mourning the little ones who lost their lives in Kamloops and elsewhere, and because most of us in ELT are settlers on this land, we started our chat with a reflective thread. We’ve included a slightly revised version of this thread here.

Before we begin, let’s take a moment of silence to remember the 215 children in Kamloops, the 104 children in Brandon, and the many others who were taken to school and never came home. We are greatly saddened by this confirmation and we mourn their deaths. Many of us live on Treaty territories; others live on unceded lands; all of us live on traditional territories of the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people who lived here on Turtle Island in harmony with the land before the arrival of settlers. We also invite you to join us in taking a moment to reflect on the land, the place where you live, work, and play. If you have a personal land acknowledgement and if you are comfortable sharing it, we invite you to do so. 

As ELT professionals, we (the #CdnELTchat and #teslONchat teams) recognise our responsibility to work towards reconciliation in our personal and our professional lives. The Calls To Action are everyone’s responsibility. Those of us working in settlement language programs have an additional responsibility to teach newcomers to Canada information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools, as outlined in Call to Action 93 of the #TRC. Karen Joseph, CEO of @ReconciliationCanada has said,  “This is not a time for shame. It’s a time for action. Keep showing up. We have the responsibility. Everyone has a voice. Being an ally means that it’s Indigenous People’s fight, but this fight belongs to everyone who lives in Canada.” 

We accept this responsibility and we recognise the privilege of our position in #ELT. We are grateful for the land that we live, work, & play on. We know that we still have much to learn about what truth & reconciliation mean for us in our daily lives. We know that we need to do this work ourselves and that we cannot ask Indigenous educators to bear yet another burden. We need to be not just allies, but co-conspirators. 

During this chat, we asked participants to share & amplify Indigenous voices, through links to social media, the arts (including videos, books, & music), websites, and other resources. These have all been added to our Padlet, https://padlet.com/CdnELTchat/TruthandReconciliationinCdnELT.  

We know that we must be mindful of our privilege as we do this necessary work. We are grateful to have had guidance & wise counsel from Sharon Jarvis (@romans1v17). Any mistakes we make will be our own, but we know that inaction is not a choice. 

During the hour-long chat, we posed a series of questions for discussion and further reflection.

Q1: What does reconciliation mean to you as an educator? How do you see your role in the process of truth and reconciliation? 

Q2: How “comfortable” or “ready” do you feel to embed the Calls to Action into your teaching? What do you need in order to be more prepared to do this? 

Q3: Can you share & amplify Indigenous voices, through links to social media, the arts (including videos, books, & music), websites, and other resources?

Q4: Take a moment to think about the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Which one resonates with you?  

Q5: Many of the Calls to Action are for governments and the legal system but also for everyone in Canada. The final two Calls to Action were written specifically for newcomers to Canada, so these are the two that impact our approach to indigenisation and classroom teaching. Neither Discover Canada nor the citizenship oath have changed. It’s our responsibility to honour the spirit of the calls to action as best we can with the tools and resources that we have. How can we honour these in our teaching?  

Q6: Call to Action #57: “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations.” This will require skill based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism. What can we do within our organizations to advocate for mandated training in truth and reconciliation? 

And perhaps the most important question of all: We invite you to join us in reflecting on what actions we can and will take in our personal and professional lives to honour the Calls To Action of the TRC and work for truth and reconciliation.

We’ve collected the relevant tweets from the chat using Wakelet, Truth and Reconciliation in ELT. You can also search for the relevant tweets on Twitter using the hashtags #CdnELTchat and #teslONchat.

Jennifer Chow, @JenniferMChow, Augusta Avram, @ELTAugusta, and Bonnie Nicholas, @BonnieJNicholas on the #CdnELTchat team hosted the chat along with Vanessa Nino, @Vnino23, from #teslONchat. Thank-you to everyone who participated. We are especially grateful to the Indigenous educators and knowledge keepers that we have learned from and will continue to learn from. We encourage everyone working in #CdnELT to continue to listen & learn from Indigenous people. 

Thank you to all those who contributed resources to the Padlet, which we hope will continue to be a useful resource: June 15 #CdnELTchat & #teslONchat 

Even if you’ve missed the synchronous part of this #CdnELTchat and #teslONchat, it’s never too late to join the conversation. Please tweet your comments, replies, & resources at any time. This was the last #CdnELTchat before we take a break for the summer. We will revisit this important topic of truth & reconciliation again. 

 

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.

 

#CdnELTchat summary for June 1, 2021 (Self-Directed Professional Development with Anna Bartosik)

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#CdnELTchat summary for June 1, 2021
Self-Directed Professional Development with Anna Bartosik

I’ve been using Twitter for self-directed professional development (SDPD) for about 8 years now. I started out just following educators and lurking on Twitter chats; that led to the discovery of blogs, journals and teaching resources. At first, I didn’t know if what I was doing on Twitter counted as PD, but over time, I realized that the learning I was doing on Twitter allowed me to be more responsive to the challenges I faced in my own teaching practice than organized PD did. 

#CdnELTchat was happy to have Anna Bartosik (@ambartosik) share her expertise on Self-Directed Professional Development (SDPD) on June 1. Anna is an English language teacher at George Brown College, instructional designer, and PhD Candidate at OISE. Her research is in self-directed professional development in digital networks. Learn more by reading her blog: https://annabartosik.wordpress.com/

Before we started our discussion, we had a moment of silence to mourn and remember the #215children in Kamloops. #CdnELTchat is also taking the time to reflect and plan a future chat with #teslONchat later this month to talk about what we need to do in order to move forward with the 94 Calls To Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and work for #Reconciliation.

Here are the questions that guided our chat: 

Q1: How do you define self-directed PD?

Q2: What do you do for PD? How would you describe your own PD? #CdnELTchat 

Q3: Why do you do self-directed PD? Is there something missing from organized PD that you get out of self-directed PD? 

Q4: What have you done for self-directed PD over the past year of #COVIDteaching? Are you planning to continue with self-directed PD, post-COVID?

Q5: What about some of the newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok? Do you have recommendations on who to follow or suggestions on how to use these (or other) platforms? 

Q6: What kind of barriers might educators face from administrators when they engage in self-directed PD? What strategies can we use to mitigate these barriers? 

You can read the collection of tweets from our chat using Wakelet. Thank-you to Anna Bartosik and the enthusiastic participants who generously shared their thoughts during and after the chat. 

Here are some highlights from the discussion:  

We hope #CdnELTchat can provide the space for #ELT educators across Canada and beyond to continue to reflect on what we’re learning, what we’re finding challenging and what solutions we’ve tried, especially during this time. Use the hashtag #CdnELTchat anytime to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. 

#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us involved in ELT. If you are interested in joining our team, or have any ideas for topics, please send @StanzaSL, @EALStories, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. Our Padlet is also always open for your questions and comments.

Jen Bio Pic

Jennifer is passionate about learning how technology can empower her students. After experiencing how technology enabled her to stay connected as an educator, a parent and an active citizen, she is motivated to find the same opportunities for her students. Twitter: @jennifermchow

 

Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues: A Report

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By Tanya Cowie

Watch the presentation recording from BC TEAL 2021 Image & Inspiration Conference at https://pheedloop.com/BCTEAL2021/virtual/?page=sessions&section=SESYISSN5ZWCWIGD5 (accessible for 2021 conferenece attendees)

The yearly BC TEAL conference is always inspiring, and this year I was especially excited about Jason Ji’s presentation on “Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues”. Jason packed a lot in his presentation as he went through the theories of why video and TV are so engaging for students, how to find clips on grammar issues/expressions and how to merge clips together.  

When Jason was young, an EAL learner himself, it was the bits and pieces of English in videos and movies that stuck with him. Then, when he did grad studies in Cognitive Psychology, he learned the theories behind this:

Interesting Theories

The Dual Coding theory (Clark and Paivio, 1991) says that when we process verbal and visual input together, we have two ways of internalizing the stimuli, and this helps us with recall. From a pedagogical perspective, if students are exposed to both visual and verbal, they will remember.

The Emotional Memory Theory or Flashbulb memory Theory (Kensinger, 2009; Lerner and Keltner, 2000) affirms that we remember better when we are emotionally activated. If something is funny or traumatic, we recall it better.

The Elaboration theory (Hamilton, 2004) states that adding plot elements makes it easier to remember. Stories in novels and movies are great for this.

How Jason uses video in class

Jason uses video in his class by showing clips to teach grammar tenses, modals, phrasal verbs, idioms, collocations and even the academic word list. He finds scenes in TV and movies that use a specific grammar point or expression, and then splices the scenes together, adding captions. Jason used “supposed to” as an example, spliced several scenes together, and this allowed students to see the specific uses in context. This can be housed on Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas.

Finding clips

These websites have great clips that make it easy to find specific teaching points.

  • GetYarn.io  (short clips and has a big data base)  
  • PlayPhrase.me (clips are longer, so more context)
  • Quodb.com (gives an expression in movies, and at what time it is used. Then, go to utube or Netflix to find it.
  • Pixabay.com (vector images you can use to overlay onvideos. For example, in Jason’s lesson, “on the house”, he had an image of a house on a video of him explaining the expression, then spliced it with other videos that used “on the house” in context.)

Video Editing

To splice videos together, go to:

Challenges & Concerns

Some of the clips are quite short, yet still activate prior knowledge and make it memorable. Pedagogically, the longer clips are better as show more context.

Bringing video into class is not only fun for students but gives them context, pronunciation and best of all, an effective way to recall new expressions. Jason did warn this whole process can be time-consuming and addictive! But fun for both students and instructors!  

To read more about memory and learning, read this article about Jason Ji’s work, Get smart better.

How do you help your students remember concepts? Do you use video in your class? Leave a comment below to shar your experience!

References

Clark, J. M., & Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory and education. Educational Psychology Review, 3(3), 149-170.

Hamilton, R. (2014). The effect of elaboration on the acquisition of conceptual problem-solving skills from prose. The Journal of Experimental Education, 59, 5-17.

Ji, J. (2021, April 16). Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues [Recorded presentation]. BC TEAL Portal Access | Image & Inspiration. https://pheedloop.com/BCTEAL2021/virtual/?page=sessions&section=SESYISSN5ZWCWIGD5

Kensinger, E. A. (2009). Remembering the Details: Effects of Emotion. Emot Rev, 1(2), 99-1113.

Lerner, J., & Keltner, D. (2000). Beyond valence: Toward a model of emotion-specific influences on judgment and choice. Cognition and Emotion14(4), 473-493.

Author’s Bio: Tanya Cowie

Tanya has been teaching EAL for over 25 years and is currently teaching in the Pathways program at VCC. She is a lifelong learner and has interests in Intercultural Communication, Anti-racism, Film and EAL Pedagogy. Tanya has a certificate in Intercultural Studies from UBC, is an IDI Qualified administrator and a SIETAR BC board member.

#CdnELTchat Summary: Decentring Whiteness in ELT with JPB Gerald

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#CdnELTchat summary for May 11, 2021 with Guest moderator JPB Gerald

By Tanya Cowie, Jennifer Chow and Bonnie Nicholas

On May 11, the #CdnELTchat team along with #teslONchat welcomed JPB Gerald (@JPBGerald) as our special guest moderator for a live chat on the topic of Decentring Whiteness in #ELT. JPB Gerald is a doctoral candidate in Instructional Leadership. His scholarship focuses on language teaching, racism, and whiteness. Learn more at jpbgerald.com or by listening to the podcast, UnstandardizedE. We can also recommend his article in the BC Teal Journal, Worth the Risk: Decentring Whiteness in English Language Teaching, as well as his most recent co-authored piece (with @ScottStillar and @Vijay_Ramjattan) in Language Magazine, After Whiteness

Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow) and Tanya Cowie (@tanyacowiecowie) co-moderated the chat on this challenging and important topic. 

We’ve collected the relevant tweets in a new #CdnELTchat Collection, Decentring Whiteness. You can also follow the conversation (although in reverse chronological order) on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #CdnELTchat. Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas either synchronously or asynchronously post-chat as we explored what decentring whiteness might mean for all of us working in ELT. These are the questions that guided our discussion, along with some of the responses that were shared. 

Q1: What should we do when colleagues push back against confronting issues of #racism in language teaching?

  • Gerald suggests we start by asking questions about their resistance; build and strategize with colleagues; be willing to take risks in solidarity with others.
  • Ideas from participants: keep going; exemplify; keep learning and educating ourselves; keep the conversations open; talk to ally leaders;talk about why this is important; be aware of the space we occupy; make anti-racist work impossible to ignore.

Q2: What needs to be done in teacher education to prevent future educators from reinforcing #whiteness in #ELT? 

  • Gerald suggests looking for new voices and scholars in ELT, and challenging the assumptions that there is one standardized English. 
  • Ideas from participants: White teacher-educators need to acknowledge whiteness and what it means in ELT; hire more diverse teacher-educators; get rid of training materials that reinforce the white-dominant and white-default narrative; normalize examination of power structures in teacher education; revise the curriculum to include critical anti-racist approaches; go beyond the minimum requirements for certification; de-colonize the curriculum from within; educate ourselves by diversifying what we read and who we follow on social media; question everything; intercultural and anti-racism training.

Q3: What is the role of #ELT professional associations in decentering whiteness in this industry? 

  • Gerald says to start by diversifying conferences and publications (including social media); use “white” and “racism” where needed; bring in PD from racialized members.
  • Ideas from participants: have more racialized folks on boards (and examine why Black folds are not already there), have racialized folks speaking at every conference; ensure that our associations represent all sectors; recognize self-directed PD (including informal PD like #CdnELTchat).

Q4: Should (white) #ELT teachers try to convince their students that native-speaker Englishes are not a good goal to aim for? If yes, how can we facilitate that without marginalizing students’ perspectives?  

  • Gerald suggests framing their language as perfectly valid, deemphasizing required testing practices, and (long-term) eliminating the native speaker construct.
  • Ideas from participants: teach students that communication is the goal; show that we value who they are; include a variety of authentic voices in our classroom materials; eliminate discussion of native-speakerism from our classrooms; share statistics that show language diversity among Canadians.

Q5: How can racialized educators who work with mainly white colleagues and supervisors advocate for change in their organization and ELT? 

  • Gerald suggests finding people around the world who will support you, and then find white people who will actively support you by taking risks. 
  • Ideas from participants: Have a support group that can listen and heal together; white colleagues need to not take up the space for racialized colleagues; not expect those same racialized colleagues to do all the heavy lifting; organizational commitment to anti-racism work is essential.

Q6: Teaching ‘academic language’ is central to ELT, but some scholars have argued that the idea of academic language is racist. What are your thoughts about the role of academic language in ELT? 

  • Gerald suggests that yes, its role is to “pathologize the racialized and their language practices”.
  • Ideas from participants: ask whose language? and whose rules?; question the staticicity of academic language; redefine what academic language means today; introduce critical applied linguistics and critical EAP approaches in the curriculum.  

This was a challenging topic, and one that we need to reflect on and then revisit, more than once. #CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to connections, learning, and a more reflective practice for all of us involved in #ELT. Questions are collected in advance of each chat on Padlet, and then 5 or 6 are chosen for the hour-long chat. Our Padlet, Questions and Topics for #CdnELTchat, is always open for comments. If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #CdnELTchat, please send @StanzaSL, @BonnieJNicholas, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. Please connect with the team if you are are interested in guest moderating a future #CdnELTchat. 

And in these challenging times, remember to practice self-care. Feel free to reach out and check in anytime with your colleagues in #CdnELTchat.

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.

 

Webinar on Webinars: a report

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By Azzam Premji

Beth Konomoto, a language instructor at Camosun College, provided a timely Webinar on how to run Webinars for all video conferencing platforms, such as BigBlueButton. This BC TEAL Webinar took place before the pandemic hit Canada, and many ESL programs went virtual. Apart from being a self-confessed music and computer geek, Konomoto also furnishes some useful nuggets of information on how to run a successful Webinar: namely team-work, overcoming technical obstacles and engaging the participants.

Team-work

In a face-to-face conference, the presenter is generally aided by a time-keeper and a technical support personnel. In a Webinar, the presenter works closely with a moderator and an ombudsperson. Konomoto elaborates that the moderator lets the participants into the Webinar, provides them with housekeeping rules, trouble-shoots some of their technical problems, introduces the presenter, keeps track of the presentation time and closes the Webinar. The ombudsperson monitors the participants’ text discussion while the presenter talks, and has the power to remove a disrespectful participant after being warned privately. Konomoto emphasizes that it is imperative that the presenter practices her talk with the moderator and ombudsperson before a Webinar session.

Overcoming technical problems

Although a face-to-face presentation has a few technical obstacles, Konomoto believes webinars can have a multitude of common technical glitches so expect them. Reassuringly, she says that participants could resolve most of their tech problems by leaving the platform and re-entering it soon afterwards. For those who wish to resolve their own tech problems, she recommends one copy and paste the error messages in Google to search for an answer. Furthermore, one can also seek support from the video conferencing platform being used. Clearly, there are technical challenges to holding a Webinar.

Engaging the participants

Many in-person presenters believe they ought to make contact with their audience and vice-versa. In Webinars, engaging with the participants is more challenging. As practical advice, Konomoto recommends the presenter and the participants’ video be kept on for a visual connection. She said, “I like seeing how people are reacting.” In addition, she adds that the audience members’ audio should be muted to prevent noise feedback. I can imagine someone listening to music on their speakers while taking part in a Webinar resulting in a disruptive echo for everyone.

Other ways of connecting with the participants is to engage them in real-time as well as afterwards. In a Webinar, this means using polls, answering some of the text queries in the Chat and having participants unmute themselves to ask verbal questions in a Q& A session. After the Webinar is over, the discussion can continue on social media, such as the ELT Chat on Twitter. According to Konomoto, audience engagement is paramount for a successful Webinar.

In conclusion, Konomoto has provided us with some wonderful ideas for making a memorable Webinar. Now that many of us have led video-conferences this past year, we may have some additional suggestions to share.

Question:

What are some Webinar tips you can share with others? (share your comments below)

Reference

Konomoto, B., & Hadwin, L. (2019, October 26). BC TEAL Webinar: Webinar on Webinars [Video file]. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUIXrLXxct0

Author’s bio

Azzam Premji is an EAL instructor who has taught in Japan, Sweden, Poland, Canada, England and the United Arab Emirates. Currently residing in the unceded Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) and Tsleil-Waututh Nations territory, he passionately volunteers for the North Shore Multicultural Society and BC TEAL.

#CdnELTchat Summary: Building Community in Online Classes

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#CdnELTchat summary for April 27, 2021
By Bonnie Nicholas

As we continue with online  teaching and learning, I think all of us have discovered the importance of building community in the online spaces that we spend so much time in. I suspect that we have all also discovered that it’s more challenging to build a community in an online environment than in a face-to-face class. #CdnELTchat hosted a Twitter chat to talk about this ongoing challenge.

During the one-hour conversation, we discussed the following questions. We hope that the questions and tweets will provide material for reflection, even for those who didn’t participate in the live chat or the asynchronous post-chat tweets. Our hope is always that #CdnELTchat will lead to more reflective practice for all of us. This is why we collect the tweets and share the summaries afterwards.

Q1: What does community-building mean?

Q2: What should we be mindful of when we design community-building activities for synchronous classes?

Q3: What considerations are important when we design community-building activities for asynchronous classes? 

Q4: What F2F community-building activities have you adapted for an online environment? Have they worked well in the online space?

Q5: How is building community online different (or the same) from the physical classroom? 

And a question for further reflection, that we didn’t have time to discuss: What advice might you give to your pre-pandemic self about building community? 

We talked about the importance of building trust, knowing our students, humanising our classes, and creating safe spaces for everyone. Here are some suggested readings and resources from the chat: 

This is the seventh year for #CdnELTchat. During that time, we’ve hosted almost 100 chats on a wide range of topics in ELT, as well as a number of informal check-ins since the start of the pandemic. We are always open to having guest moderators join a chat and share your passion for a particular topic in ELT. Fill in this Google Form, post on our Padlet, or contact us through Twitter: Jen Chow (@Jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), or Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas). 

Use the hashtag #CdnELTchat anytime to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. The best thing about using social media like Twitter for self-directed PD is that you can choose to actively participate or just lurk. Both are equally valid choices.

#CdnELTchats chats are held about every second week, usually on a Tuesday evening. Please let us know if you have an idea for a topic, a suggestion for a guest moderator, or if you’re interested in moderating a chat on a topic in ELT that you’re passionate about. Reach out to a member of the #CdnELTchat team: Jennifer Chow (@Jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), or Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas). We hope that growing your #PLN and connecting through social media will lead to more reflective practice for all of us. 

Please join us for our next chat on May 11 with special guest moderator, @JPBGerald, to discuss Decentring Whiteness in #ELT. For links to his podcast, @UnstandardizedE and more of his scholarship on Whiteness, Racism & Language teaching, got to https://jpbgerald.com/. Please add your questions to our padlet.  

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.

 

Stories from Newcomers to Canada: A Life-Writing Project Started by EAL and Adult Educators in BC!

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By Zahida Rahemtulla and Amea Wilbur

Using Life-Writing with Newcomers in the Classroom

Life-writing and narrative pedagogies are sites EAL instructors can explore with newcomers to Canada in the classroom, allowing for students to examine their backgrounds and find commonalities and community through shared life experiences. For many newcomers who were former writers, the opportunity of embarking on a narrative project offers a chance to explore the English language through the medium of creative nonfiction. 

The Stories from Newcomers to Canada Project

Stories from Newcomers to Canada is one such BC-based creative non-fiction initiative. Started by Adult Educators and EAL instructors, the program helps newcomers author their own stories of migration in a forthcoming book, Geographies of the Heart: Life writing from Newcomers to Canada

The project began in February 2020. The group had two meetings before Covid-19 hit in March, and then moved online. As a result, most of the writing process has taken place remotely via zoom, and the community has met regularly over this platform throughout the year. 

The stories from this community of newcomers represent the multiplicity and complexity of experiences that are often ignored in narratives of immigration and forced migration to Canada. Understanding a range of experiences is especially important in a media landscape which continues to struggle against presenting one single narrative as “the” story of immigration.

The Podcast: Hosted by UBC Centre for Migration Studies

Six of the authors from the forthcoming book are featured on the Global Migration Podcast, which is hosted by the UBC Centre for Migration Studies and was recently released online:

https://migration.ubc.ca/global-migration-podcast/season-2/episode-1

You can get a sense of the project and authors by listening to these short ~30 minute episodes featuring different themes on the topic of settlement and migration. 

Take a Listen!

Episodes 1-6 are currently on the website, with more episodes on the way! 

Episode 1: Stories about Gathering Stories is about how the project was started by Raymonde Tickner, Amea Wilbur, Zahida Rahemtulla and Kerry Johnson. Episode 2: Stories about Mentorship focuses on the experiences of two Kurdish newcomer writers, Ava Homa and Shanga Karim and the experiences of minority writers, and  Episode 3: In Stories about Exile and Displacement we hear from Albino Nyuol and Muhialdin Nyera Bakini about their exile from South Sudan. Episode 4: Stories of Risk looks at the experience of exiled journalists Akberet Beyene and Diary Xalid Marif from Eritrea and Iraq. Episode 5: Stories of Disruption focuses on the post-settlement experience of Malena Mokhovikova, and Episode 6: Stories of Belonging and Exclusion takes a closer look at ongoing experiences of discrimination faced by racialized newcomers with Camille McMillan-Rambharat. 

All episodes are hosted by Mohammed Alsaleh, acclaimed international speaker and advocate. 

These episodes will be an interesting listen for anyone interested in bringing narrative pedagogies and life-writing into their classrooms, migration, and the fantastic stories from newcomers all around us.

More Information on Stories from Newcomers to Canada

If you are interested in the broader life-writing project, you can learn more at our website: https://sntc.squarespace.com/

Biographies

Zahida Rahemtulla is an emerging writer and graduate student in Postcolonial Literature and Translation.  She has worked in Vancouver’s immigrant and refugee non-profit sector for several years in the area of housing, employment, and literacy. From 2017-2020, served as coordinator of The Shoe Project—a storytelling program for newcomer women coached by established Canadian authors. 

Amea Wilburis an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). She developed a trauma-informed English as an Additional Language (EAL) program at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) that received national recognition. Amea speaks and writes on the topics of literacy and trauma, and co-authoredThe 6 Principles For Exemplary Teaching of English Learners.

Enriching Language Learning With Authentic Local Interactions

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by Yukie Ueda

[This article was first printed in the Winter 2019 issue of TEAL News.]

This summer, I had a chance to participate in a university course to learn about additional language acquisition. Throughout the course, the question of what makes language learning effective repeatedly arose, making me stop and look back on my own experiences. Reflecting on my history of learning English and Danish as a student, and also my history supporting international students as a student counselor in Japan, what came up in my mind as a key component in language learning was the involvement in local communities through interactions and cultural experiences. These interactions and experiences seem to speak not only for me but the majority of students who I’ve met. Many students often find their learning further enriched when they have more interactions with local people through various activities. This interaction also promotes intercultural understanding, which is typically one of the reasons people learn a language. So here, I would like to introduce my story of learning languages through local experiences as well as the various activities which have helped international students I’ve worked with in the past.

I started studying English at the age of 13 at a junior high school just like other Japanese kids. The English class was delivered in a traditional lecture style, focusing mostly on grammar and reading comprehension. I enjoyed the class, and without any other chance to study English outside the classroom, I thought this was the way people learned a new language. This view was completely broken when I went to Denmark as an exchange student during high school and participated in English classes in the local school. Once, I was given 10 pages of an article discussing the topic of genetic engineering. I had never read that long of an article before, so it took me a whole night just to look up new vocabulary and manage to grasp the gist. During class, I was proud of myself having read the whole article, waiting for my teacher to ask me about the grammar used in the article. Finally, I was picked, but then the teacher asked me to present my opinion about genetic engineering. I froze. Not only because of my English limit, but also because I had never thought about giving my opinion. For a long time, understanding the grammar and story had been the final purpose in the English classes I had attended. While I struggled in producing a word, my classmates started an active discussion. It was a shocking experience, but at the same time, a transformative moment for me, giving me a real drive to learn the language and communicate my ideas with others over the barriers.

During my time in Denmark, I was given many opportunities to get to know the community and its people. There were locally organized events every two months, meeting local people and other exchange students from different countries, sharing food, playing games, and watching movies. Most exchange students, including myself, knew only a few words in Danish when we arrived, so when we saw each other at these events, we always checked out who had improved their Danish the best. There was an idea among exchange students that all of us would improve our Danish dramatically over the Christmas holiday. This belief was because each student spent most of their time with their host family and friends, preparing for Christmas together and joining in parties. In fact, I had no time to stay in my room alone, and I was always out either in the kitchen or living room, learning how to cook roast duck and Christmas sweets, preparing mulled wine, and making handcrafted Christmas decorations, which I had never experienced in my home country. These experiences were the cornerstone of my time in Denmark. I felt my Danish was improving day by day. Moreover, as I started to have more common things to do and talk about, I finally felt I was speaking the same language as my family and friends, becoming a part of them.

After graduating from university, I started working as a coordinator at a worldwide non-profit organization which promoted international exchange programs for high school students. Some distinctive characteristics of the organization were that the programs were designed to promote intercultural understanding among youth, and local volunteer-staff played extremely active roles in organizing cultural learning activities. For example, they organized cooking clubs to show students how to cook sushi, and in exchange, learned about the students’ home food. The students also celebrated traditional seasonal events such as Japanese New Year, rice-cake making, and calligraphy together with local kids. Some students visited a ramen noodle museum or joined a ninja tour to learn about local industries, and others experienced a Japanese tea ceremony with traditional confectionery that they had made. Similarly, when I was working in a team at another job at a university that organized study programs for students from the United States, various field trips and activities were merged with Japanese language classes, offering students opportunities to learn about Japanese culture, history, and traditions. The students visited a Noh theatre (Japan’s oldest form of theatre), played traditional musical instruments, and also visited temples to experience Zen culture by participating in meditation and other cultural activities.

Throughout my work in the education sector, I have received a lot of feedback from both Japanese students studying abroad and international students visiting Japan, saying that those experiences helped them understand the places they visited and local people in breadth and depth. Especially, participating in those activities together with local people enabled them to gain different perspectives on the place, often changing the stereotypical ideas they had before. Students also gained a stronger sense of belongingness to the community as they had more authentic interactions with locals, which further promoted their integrative motivations to acquire the language. Observing those students, language development seemed to be inseparable from sharing common experiences and knowledge and for gaining deeper cultural understandings. The reason for additional language learning must differ from one person to another and everybody has different preferences about how they learn. However, I cannot overemphasize the values and pleasure that authentic interactions and cultural understanding can bring to learning an additional language.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Ueda, Y. (2019, Winter). Enriching language learning with authentic local interactions. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/TEAL-News-Winter-2019-v3.pdf

THE NEW NORMAL – LEARNING TO TEACH ONLINE

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By Sarah Barr

In the spring of 2020, as Covid took hold, I watched my class get smaller and smaller. By the middle of March there were only about 3 people who came to my lessons. They all sat apart trying to follow this new “social distancing”. I remember standing in front of the classroom and saying, “Well, looks like we are some of the bravest people still willing to come to class.” Then one student quite astutely said, “Or we are the stupidest.” That was the last day I taught inside a classroom.

Figuring Out Zoom

As we all hunkered down in our houses, my work offered online learning. I enlisted some friends and family to be my practice online class. All was going well until we entered the breakout rooms. My 11 year old son thought he had to “break out” of this room so spent his entire time trying to escape. A few days later with my real beginner ESL class, things were going well until I created the breakout rooms. I joined virtual room #1 and no one was there. Until I figured out how to automatically send my beginner ESL students to the breakout rooms, I kept turning up in virtual rooms all by myself.

Confined to a Zoom Box

Next on my list of things to solve was how to teach while stuck in a Zoom box. Since people could only see my head and not much more, my usual technique of walking around a room trying to act out explanations was out the window. My miming and hand gestures were now confined to a small box only showing the top third of my body. Once a student asked what “crossed legs” meant? I demonstrated by crossing my fingers, pretending they were legs. This is the new normal – teaching in a square box.

Crossed-legged.

Screenshots Galore

Miscommunications happen to the best of us but throw in beginner ESL students with sometimes limited computer skills and it’s certainly no picnic trying to get everyone to follow instructions. I found the best way to combat this problem was to take screenshots or photos to demonstrate what needed to be done. For example, I showed everyone that you need to click on the white dots/View in the upper right corner to select Gallery View, if you want to see everyone’s faces. In the old days I could have pointed at my smartboard and showed everyone what to do. Now I’m stuck on the other side of the computer screen unable to help like I used to. 

Screenshots

So my usual bag of goodies with hands on materials: flash cards, games and anything involving dice is a distant memory. However, although online learning has been forced upon us, it’s not all bad. I no longer have to battle with my nemesis: the photocopier which always seemed to run out of paper whenever it was my turn to use it.

Question:

How has your teaching changed since teaching online?

Bio: Sarah Barr immigrated to Canada in 2015 from Christchurch, New Zealand. She started teaching ESL over 20 years ago and has worked in England, New Zealand and Canada. Currently Sarah works at the North Shore Multicultural Society and volunteers at North Shore Emergency Management giving presentations on how to be prepared for emergencies.

Exploring Tutors’ Work with English as an Additional Language Students in a Writing Centre

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by Maya Pilin

[This article was first printed in the Winter 2019 issue of TEAL News.]

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (2018), Canada is considered one of the top five countries for higher education by international students. The latest statistics note that there is a total of 494,525 international students holding a valid study permit in Canada as of 2017. British Columbia ranks second in the country, after Ontario, as a destination, with 24% of Canada’s study permits (Canadian Bureau for International Education, 2018). In fact, enrollment in B.C.’s post-secondary system has almost tripled over the past ten years (Heslop, 2018). As international students predominantly originate from countries where English is not the primary language, English as an Additional Language (EAL) services have become integral to British Columbia’s universities. For example, writing centres are a resource to which EAL students can turn for assistance with writing assignments. However, tutoring sessions with EAL students may differ from other tutoring sessions in a variety of ways, including the teaching style (Thonus, 2004), communication styles (Moser, 1993), and students’ concerns (Winder, Kathpalia, & Koo, 2014). Despite these differences, few studies have examined the unique aspects of tutoring sessions with EAL students from the tutors’ perspective. The goal of the current study was to determine students’ expectations and tutors’ identified competencies and challenges in working with EAL students.

The Study

The current qualitative study included a sample of 12 undergraduate and graduate writing tutors at a research-intensive public university in Western Canada. The tutors worked at a writing centre whose goal was to help both EAL and non-EAL students improve their writing skills by clarifying arguments, grammar, and teaching proofreading strategies. Tutors completed an online questionnaire designed by the research team. After questionnaires were completed, tutors’ answers were coded by two researchers, working alone first and then in collaboration. Data was examined for units of meaning as well as emerging themes.

The Findings

Unique Aspects of Tutoring Students Using EAL

Differences between tutoring students using EAL and other students vising the writing centre arose in terms of the session focus, communication styles, and teaching pace. The most common was the focus of the tutoring session. The majority of advisors noted that the session focus with EAL students would predominantly be on grammar as opposed to other topics. Aptly summarizing the differences, one advisor wrote:

With English speakers, I critique the structure of their papers and the evidence they provide. Often I don’t have time to get this far with EAL students; we get stuck on the small stuff.

Advisors also noted that often the communication style would differ in appointments with students using EAL. One advisor stated “I may slow down when talking and try not to use many idioms or slang words…” Furthermore, the pace of the appointment itself would also slow down to accommodate the students, with one advisor writing “I do find myself working slower and more carefully with EAL students. I want to make sure we are working/learning together.”

Student Expectations

Participants felt that students expected them to be editors, take a leading role, and provide expertise during a tutoring session. The predominant theme that emerged above all others in the participants’ responses was related to editing. One advisor wrote: “[EAL students] often seem to have expectations that I’ll correct their paper for grammatical mistakes myself and then give them back a corrected version.” Many of the participants’ responses that focused on students’ expectations of advisors editing their work specified that the editing pertained specifically to grammatical errors. For example, one participant stated that students using EAL expect “micro-edits” in their appointment. Furthermore, several responses that hinged upon editing also hinted that students using EAL expected to be passive participants in the tutoring sessions, as opposed to active ones, with one advisor writing “[EAL students] expect me to ‘fix’ their paper for them, in the grammar sense.”

Identified Competencies

Tutors generally felt competent explaining grammar, focusing on macro-level writing issues, and interacting with students, with prior experience playing a role in boosting tutors’ confidence working with students. The most salient theme was related to helping with grammar. Advisors felt comfortable assisting EAL students with various aspects of grammar, such as article use, tenses, sentence structure, and parts of speech. For instance, one participant wrote “I feel confident with teaching ‘how’ to use different parts of speech. For example, I have taught different students the use of definite and indefinite articles (a, an, the), when and where to use them.”

In addition to grammar, a large subset of advisors also felt comfortable teaching macro-level skills to students using EAL. For example, participants felt comfortable with teaching genre awareness, content, organization, and various aspects of the writing process. One advisor commented “Often, I find that tutoring earlier, during the planning process, results in a far more successful paper, regardless of grammar mistakes and surface levels problems.” Notably, some advisors who mentioned their comfort levels in regard to either teaching grammar or macro-level skills noted that their ability and comfort in the process of teaching in general played an important role in their comfort level.

Experience seemed to play a role in boosting participants comfort levels. For the advisors who felt comfortable and confident in tutoring sessions, prior experience played a large role in their comfort level. One tutor claimed, “I’m very confident, because I’ve been in their shoes, and I can show them some of the strategies that worked for me.” Often, advisors who were empathetic towards students using EAL due to personal second-language experience also felt confident in their tutoring skills, with another tutor writing

I’m very confident that I can tutor EAL students (given some training) because I speak multiple languages with noticeable differences, and I also understand how patterns and structures work for different languages, which means I can empathize with the EAL students and help them learn English from their perspective…

Identified Challenges

While some participants did report feeling confident explaining grammar to students, for the most part, the participants overwhelmingly felt that explaining grammatical concepts was the most challenging aspect that they encountered in tutoring sessions. It was also put forward that a lack of experience using an additional language might contribute to this challenge. Specifically, many advisors discussed struggling with explaining concepts that they understand intuitively as first-language English speakers. One advisor said “sometimes it’s hard for me to be very specific about why what someone has written is wrong. Reading it aloud, I can certainly tell when it sounds off and explain how to fix the issue. Actually explaining why though, can be very difficult.” Several advisors noted that they “don’t know” grammatical rules or would forget some of the rules. Moreover, one advisor mentioned finding it difficult to use the proper terminology to discuss grammatical concepts, stating that they find it challenging “explaining [grammar issues] using professional English technical language—e.g. oh, this is meant to be a ‘past participle.’” A possible explanation for the discomfort and lack of confidence in explaining grammar might be related to a lack of experience. One participant noted “sometimes I don’t feel that I’m clear enough with my explanations. Maybe I’ve never been in the opposite position, so it’s hard for me to know when I’m being convoluted.” Thus, both personal and prior professional experience played an important role in increasing advisors’ confidence levels.

Discussion and Implications

All in all, tutoring sessions with EAL students differed in a variety of ways; students came in with specific expectations, particularly regarding grammar, and tutors experienced unique challenges. While tutors noted some difficulties in working with EAL students, including communication and managing expectations, several key factors emerged as potential predictors of tutor comfort, including tutors’ own experience with languages other than English and tutors’ ability to pace the appointments well.

However, potentially the most interesting finding of the study is that tutors reported feeling both comfortable with teaching grammar and experiencing challenges in teaching this aspect of English. This discrepancy may be related to “grammar” being a relatively vague term for a field that includes many concepts, including punctuation, sentence structure, and parts of speech. In fact, what seemed to emerge from tutors’ answers was the idea that while tutors felt comfortable identifying errors in students’ work, they were challenged by the pedagogical aspects of the appointment. Specifically, tutors struggled to explain the reasons behind grammatical errors to students. The discrepancy between tutors’ comfort and discomfort with various aspects of grammar may prove to be a fruitful arena for further research.

Importantly, the findings of the current study provide the basis for the development of evidence-based tutor training programs. As tutors have now identified their challenges in teaching EAL students, evidence-based training should capitalize on this information to develop tutors’ competency in these areas of weakness. For example, training programs may focus on teaching tutors the vocabulary to discuss grammatical concepts with EAL students. Moreover, training programs should discuss the expectations with which EAL students may enter a tutoring session and how to properly manage these expectations. Finally, it may prove useful to have tutors with personal EAL or other additional language experience discuss students’ potential strengths and challenges from their point of view.

Conclusion

In conclusion, tutors experience unique challenges in working with EAL students. Future studies should examine these challenges in more detail, particularly tutors’ struggles associated with grammar, Furthermore, writing centre directors should consider incorporating training components that may help tutors struggling with some of these challenges into their tutor training sessions.

References

Canadian Bureau for International Education. (2018). International students in Canada. Retrieved from https://cbie.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/International-Students-in-Canada-ENG.pdf

Heslop, J. (2018). International students in BC’s education systems. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/post-secondary-education/data-research/stp/stp-international-research-results.pdf

Moser, J. (1993). Crossed currents: ESL students and their peer tutors. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 9(2), 37-43. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/42801897

Thonus, T. (1999). How to communicate politely and be a tutor, too: NS-NNS interaction and writing center practice. Text-Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 19(2), 253-280. https://www.doi.org/10.1515/text.1.1999.19.2.253

Winder, R., Kathpalia, S. S., & Koo, S. L. (2016). Writing centre tutoring sessions: Addressing students’ concerns. Educational Studies, 42(4), 323-339. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2016.1193476

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pilin, M. (2019, Winter). Exploring tutors’ work with EAL students in a writing centre. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/TEAL-News-Winter-2019-v3.pdf