The Revealing Shift to Online Tutoring

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By Kari Karlsbjerg

An Eye-Opening Experience

At Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) Learning Centre, answering student questions is our business, and ever since the abrupt move to online instruction last March, our students have had A LOT of questions. Overnight, our usual focus on providing English, job-hunting and study-skills assistance for our students dramatically expanded to include answering questions about the new logistics of accessing their classes, questions about their kids’ schools, plus listening to their fears about the daily rising COVID-19 numbers and worries about the future. The hundreds of hours of online one-on-one EAL tutoring sessions we have done with VCC’s students over the last eight months has truly been an eye-opening experience. We have discovered firsthand the isolation of so many of our immigrant students, the challenges of the deepening digital divide, and the substantial changes required to effectively tutor students in an online setting.

Some Background

For some background, VCC students can sign up for three 30-minute online tutoring appointments every week. We provide English, career and study skills tutoring to any VCC students taking English courses from LINC to Pathways to University Transfer and all the career programs, like Hospitality. To ensure that our students received a continuity of support, we moved all tutoring services online in mid-March. We shifted to using the WCOnline video tutoring platform, which allows us to have video chats with students while simultaneously looking at their questions and papers posted on the shared Whiteboard. 

Isolation

The blurring of boundaries that naturally resulted from the location shift from campus to private online meetings in our homes resulted in students sharing far more about their lives. As the months went by, a concerning issue came to the forefront – the deep loneliness of many of our immigrant students who had few local connections and felt cut off from their homeland. It was not uncommon for us to hear that speaking with us was the only conversation they had in a week besides their limited online classroom time. On the lighter side, online sessions in their homes also lets student show us other aspects of their lives and personalities by showing us their beloved pet or special piece of art or decoration in their home. 

The Digital Divide

Online tutoring also exposed the two vastly different digital worlds of our students: one group accessing our services through the latest expensive devices using speedy Wi-Fi connections and the other group struggling to access our session using ancient used computers and unreliable, dodgy internet connections. Unfortunately, the second group rarely signed up more than once for online tutoring sessions as it was just too frustrating and discouraging for them and almost impossible for us to give them any meaningful assistance. In addition, many low-level students simply lacked the basic English skills required to book an online tutoring session. As a result, the change from face to face sessions to online ones has meant that we have sadly lost much of our LINC four and lower level students. 

Adapting

Online appointments have resulted in a few changes to our regular tutoring practice. One of the most significant is in the way we start our sessions. In person, we could incorporate body language and indicate our welcome by smiling and pulling out a chair for the student while making small talk. However, online, it is harder to give a warm and personal welcome, and it feels so cold and robotic to directly move to asking how we can help them. Therefore, we make a point of looking directly in the camera and give them a smiling welcome using their name. We use the reader-response method of tutoring writing and insist that the students make their own edits during the discussion, but their slow typing speed can make the process frustratingly slow in the online setting. On the other hand, online video chat tutoring has been revolutionary for tutoring EAL students with their pronunciation and speaking skills. The private nature of the sessions completely removes any of their previous embarrassment of practicing sounds and doing minimal pair drills in a public library setting and there have been some stunning improvements as a result. 

The Final Word

All in all, online tutoring is working out and the English tutors have been fully booked since March. We are grateful that we can continue to be the backdrop of support for our students as they progress through their years at VCC. 

A Question

How has your institute dealt with transitioning online? Share your ideas in the comment section. Let’s work together!

Kari Karlsbjerg has been an English Tutor with the VCC Learning Centre for over 12 years. In addition, shenew best-selling bilingual guidebook, Everyday Vancouver (https://everydayvancouver.ca/) which contains practical cultural information about regular daily life that Korean newcomers need to feel at home here in Vancouver. Previously, she wrote similar books on everyday life and culture for Chinese newcomers that were published in both Canada and China in: “My New Life in Vancouver “and “Vancouver 365” which are also  bilingual (English and Mandarin).

#CdnELTchat summary for November 10, 2020 (Time-Saving Tips )

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#CdnELTchat summary for November 10, 2020
Jennifer Chow

How do we complete everything we need to do at work AND find time to practice self-care? It has always been a juggling act for educators to find enough time to do all their work, meet the demands of their personal lives and take care of their physical and mental health. It has been even more difficult to manage time during COVID-19, as the boundary between work and home becomes increasingly blurred. 

Thank-you to the educators who shared their time-saving tips and tricks during the November 10 #CdnELTchat. We hope you find strategies, resources and advice that will help you become more productive and efficient. 

We’ve collected the tweets from our chat in Wakelet, but here are some of the highlights from our discussion: 

  • How to stay organized for teachers: keep a routine for teaching to ease anxiety, use a month-at-glance paper calendar, use an e-calendar to block off time for breaks and tasks, use Google Keep to keep track of to-do lists

  • How to stay organized for students: teach social emotional learning skills and self-regulation skills, provide consistent structure for students when sending announcements etc., encourage students to prioritize tasks at the of lessons, establish email and file naming for students

  • Beginning-of-term short-cuts: clean up documents that you need to reuse, record a welcome video, record instructional videos for LMS navigation before the term starts, set up e-calendar, check for broken links in LMS, plan assessments and assignments for the term so they are spaced out, create Google slide templates for breakout rooms, reuse announcements from the previous semester, create a Google Classroom to store links and files to resources 

  • How to mark smarter: do one question/page in batches to save time and to help intra-rater reliability, use digital rubrics that populate the grade book, use dual monitors to mark online assessments, customize feedback and create a drop-down list of them in a Word doc rubric  

  • Time-saving tips for teaching online: do a time audit of how much time you’re planning and prepping, establish boundaries to reduce stress and build resilience, use keyboard and desktop shortcuts to save time and avoid ergonomic hazards, split videos into segments in Google slides
  • Things you should let go: let go of things that students won’t notice, avoid checking emails after a certain time, skip any optional work activities that don’t bring you joy, consider how much time a commitment will take away from your family or personal time before you say yes, evaluate how much time you spend scrolling social media sites

We encourage everyone to continue the conversation using the hashtag #CdnELTchat. Here are the questions that we didn’t get a chance to discuss during the chat. 

#CdnELTchat

We hope #CdnELTchat can provide the space for #ELT educators across Canada and beyond to do that too. We’ll be doing some informal chats between our scheduled chats as a way to check in and support each other. 

#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. 

Use the hashtag #CdnELTchat anytime to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. 

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

 

Understanding the world of BC TEAL Publishing

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By Azzam Premji

Image sourced from https://www.picserver.org/highway-signs2/p/publish.html

Introduction

BC TEAL provides three ways for you to share your English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching ideas: an academic journal, a community newsletter and a blog. Interestingly, BC TEAL does not charge readers for viewing the published articles since it believes in sharing expertise. In addition, copyright of the articles published in BC TEAL’s publications remains with the author. Why not try publishing with BC TEAL? You will find below a diagram that summarizes the methods of publishing employed at BC TEAL.

Most difficult to publish1. Journal – supports EAL scholarship
a. Research based article
b. Opinion Essay
c. Book Review
2. Newsletter – supports the greater EAL community
Easiest to publish3. Blog – supports EAL teachers

BC TEAL Journal

According to Douglas (2019), the BC TEAL Journal fosters scholarship and was originally inspired by other TESOL affiliate journals such as the NYS TESOL Journal and the CATESOL Journal. The BC TEAL Journal contains three types of writing: a research-based article that has never been published; an opinion essay which connects theory to practice; and a book review of a recently published EAL book. Scott states that “submissions are double-anonymous peer reviewed”, and this means that two peers review the submission while the author remains anonymous to them. Submissions also go through a process of editing, resulting in accepted articles being published in eight to twelve months.

Here are some other details related to writing for the journal:

  1. Research-based article (about 8,000 words)

Academic format: 

  • Title, abstract, literature review, discussion, conclusion and references
  • Academic writing which includes APA citations

B. Opinion Essay (about 4,000 words)

Journalistic style:

  • Title, abstract, discussion, conclusion and references
  • Academic writing which includes APA citations

C. Book Review (about 1,000 words)

Academic format: 

  • Title, abstract, discussion, conclusion and references
  • Academic writing which includes APA citations

In addition, all BC TEAL Journal submissions generally follow the citation and reference format suggested by the American Psychology Association, 6th Edition, according to the “Author Guidelines”. Additionally, the journal has its own style which includes Canadian spelling. For more information about how to create APA citations and references, please check the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

If you are interested in having an article published in the BC TEAL Journal, you may also wish to view a recorded Webinar on the topic. The video provides you with an overview of some journal themes, and it describes the mentoring process of being published. To see all previous BC TEAL Journal articles, go to the BC TEAL website (bcteal.org) > News and Publications > BC TEAL Journal. For more information on submitting a journal article, click on “For Authors”. New submissions that fit the scope and focus of the journal are welcome.

TEAL News (about 800 words)

TEAL News is BC TEAL’s newsletter. The newsletter publishes shorter articles from around 500 to 1,000 words long. These articles can be on a variety of topics related to teaching English as an additional language, such as descriptions of classroom activities, short research reports, reflections on teaching and learning, and conference reports. Newsletter articles should be written in a reader-friendly style that appeals to a wide audience. Sources, if used, are cited and referenced using the APA format, like the journal. For more information on the newsletter, kindly send an email to editor@bcteal.org with your queries.

The BLOG (up to 500 words)

The final method of publishing is the BC TEAL Blog. It is the easiest way to engage in idea sharing with other EAL practitioners. You may wish to consider the following format:

  • Title, introduction, discussion, references (if any)
  • Hyperlinks
  • Question(s) that ask for readership engagement
  • Short bio of the author
  • Picture(s) that illustrate your topic ought to follow the Creative Commons License 

If you do use sources, please cite your writing and provide a reference using the APA format. Also, remember to cite your images. Providing tag words and a category for classification are appreciated and allow readers to find your article more easily. 

To get more ideas of what to blog about, check out the ones produced by TESOL International Association or TESL Ontario, which are mainly innovative teaching tips. If you have an idea for a blog post, contact admin@bcteal.org, and you will be put in touch with the Social Media Committee Chair.

Conclusion

You may want to start off your publishing experience by posting a blog. You can then gradually contribute to the Newsletter and Journal. Whatever publication you decide to write in, there is always an audience waiting to read about new ideas and research. 

Please reply to this blog

Did you find this post useful? Let us know in the comment section; we would love to hear from you.

References

Bio of the author

Azzam is a Canadian EAL teacher who has 10+ years of experience teaching in Japan, Sweden, Poland, Canada, England and the United Arab Emirates. He holds a masters of education degree in Education Technology and TESOL.

Practical Gamification in The Online Classroom

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By Cindy Leibel

There is a common perception that gamification involves a time-intensive process of changing your entire class into an elaborate game-like product, sweeping the students along in wonderment. To the average instructor already swimming with new responsibilities, this could feel like a lofty target. I don’t disagree! However, if you are facing issues engaging your students through computer screens, gamification is a great strategy for helping enhance your teaching. The purpose of this article is to bring gamification down to a more accessible level, attainable with minimal effort. In fact, many of us are already implementing it without knowing. My goal is to help us simply become more intentional in its use and perhaps provide some new tricks to bring into our repertoires.

Defining Gamification

At its core, gamification is about applying game-like features to enhance existing activities (Centre for Teaching Excellence, n.d.). Applied carefully, it can lead to improved motivation, better attitude and in-class engagement, and consequently, increased cognitive achievement (Rahmani, 2020). There are many game-like features that you can use: see this gamification taxonomy for an example of some features.

Figure 1 https://slejournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40561-019-0106-1/figures/2
(Toda et. al, 2019)

The Gamification Process

As an instructor, I use gamification whenever I feel that students are starting to become disengaged from routine activities. From a practical perspective, I recommend incorporating one or two low-effort elements into your activities at a time. Try applying them to regular activities such as filling out worksheets or practicing dialogue.  Take an activity where students are practicing giving advice to each other, with some of my favorite elements listed below:

  • strategic choice: students must choose one piece of advice from their partner to disagree with
  • overwriting social rules: students must give really bad advice
  • challenge: students cannot use the word “should”
  • achievements: if students can perform a 1-minute dialogue in front of the class, they unlock a bonus advanced exercise on additional phrases to use
  • chance: without looking, students must pick one of the scenarios from an online flashcard deck or roll a die to decide if the advice will be good or bad

In online forums, rather than photos, avatars can be used (https://avatarmaker.com/ or https://getavataaars.com/), which can be helpful if students are self-conscious about their appearance.

Challenges

However, gamification is not without its challenges. Some key goals that I strive for when gamifying my activities are practicality (avoiding sweeping plans that create more work than they’re worth) and relevance (keeping a deliberate connection to objectives rather than focusing too much on delivery). There are some elements of gamification that I recommend against due to their increased labour and resource-intensive nature. These include:

  • narratives
  • rewards
  • points systems
  • leader boards
  • themes

Getting Started

To gamify your classroom, I recommend starting by completing an inventory of the elements you already use; you likely have some up your sleeve already. Next, experiment with new game mechanics gradually, keeping their use selective. Finally, abundant use of self-assessment would be beneficial after incorporating an element: students having fun does not mean that it was successful in achieving the learning objectives, while a quiet classroom does not mean that they aren’t engaged.

References

Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). Gamification and game-based learning. University of Waterloo. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/educational-technologies/all/gamification-and-game-based-learning 

Rahmani, E. F. The Benefits of Gamification in the English Learning Context. Indonesian Journal of English Education, 7(1), 32-47. doi:10.15408/ijee.v7i1.17054 

Toda, A.M., Klock, A.C.T., Oliveira, W., Palomino, P. T., Rodrigues, L., Shi, L. Bittencourt, I., Gasparini, I., Isotani, S., & Cristea, A.I. (2019). Analysing gamification elements in educational environments using an existing Gamification taxonomy. Smart Learning Environments, 6(16). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40561-019-0106-1 

Biography

Cindy Leibel has been teaching English as an Additional Language since 2008, with a Bachelor of Education from SFU and a Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from UBC. Her interests include gamification and classroom technology, vocabulary instruction, and academic speaking. 

TCF Award Winner—Nan Poliakoff Memorial Award: My Experience with Multisensory Structured Language Education

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by Cristina Peralejo

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

IN 2017, BC TEAL awarded me the Nan Poliakoff Memorial Award to pursue my interest in supporting students with special learning differences in adult ELL classrooms. In this article, I would like to share what knowledge I have gained from this experience and how this might inform my teaching practice in the future.

My Interest in Dyslexia

In terms of classroom practice, my interest in dyslexia and special learning differences began in Manchester, England in 2015 when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the IATEFL conference where a series of workshops on special learning differences in the ESL classroom caught my attention. The first questions the presenter asked us were completely unexpected: “How’s the temperature in the room? How’s the lighting?” She then went on to explain how people with special learning differences may have difficulty focusing in the classroom due to being unable to block out certain sensory stimuli. I immediately recalled my partner, who is dyslexic, explaining how fluorescent lighting in classrooms gave him migraines.

These experiences have naturally made me wonder about those few students I encountered in the classroom who also seemed to perceive the world of literacy through different eyes. They caused me to question if I was perhaps doing a disservice to my students because I had adopted a one-size fits all approach to my teaching of reading and writing. Moreover, some aspects of the ELT practice added to the complexity: How much of their challenges could be attributed to their English skills? And how much to a special learning difference? And most of all, I wondered how I could provide a better education for all the students in my classroom—dyslexic and non-dyslexic alike.

I decided that I wanted to gain more knowledge of this. I knew that I wanted a systematic, proven approach to addressing special learning difficulties in the classroom. For this reason, after receiving the Nan Poliakoff Memorial Award in 2017, I chose to pursue Orton-Gillingham (OG) training in Multi Structured Language Education (MSLE). I would like to take this opportunity to share what knowledge I have gained from this experience and how this might inform my teaching practice in the future.

What is Multi-Sensory Language Education?

The Foundations of MLSE is a 30-hour accredited course that enables educators to gain basic theories of the OG approach and serves as a prerequisite for future OG practitioner training. MSLE is one approach on how to help readers of all ages with language processing issues. It is an approach which relies on all senses—visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic—to present and reinforce the target content. Some of the concepts that are taught are very similar to those taught in the language classroom: phonology, morphology, syllabification, syntax and semantics. Still, others are different: penmanship, orthography and phonological awareness.

One of the most fundamental principles underlying OG training is that of direct individual instruction—educators do not assume that students will learn concepts inferentially; there is a strong emphasis on the systematic teaching of phonics and linguistics. As an EAL professional, this resonated with me. After all, isn’t this the very essence of our jobs? From the very beginning of the course, however, I found myself at a loss. As someone who prides themselves in illuminating unknown concepts to my learners, I realized that when it came to teaching phonics and linguistics, I was still very much in the dark. On our first night, I felt nervous as we were given a test on concepts I had glossed over in a linguistics class once upon a time. There we were, a room full of instructors, scratching our heads over words like digraphs, trigraphs, bound morphemes, graphemes, and breves.

And things did not get much better for me when we hit the section devoted to orthography. Often in my practice, I’ve found myself sitting with a student and weakly making excuses: “Well, English has a lot of exceptions and the rules are very complicated.” In this course, we spent a good couple of hours relearning the basic rules of doubling letters, dropping letters, and changing letters based on grapheme position or sound. Our trainer proved to us over and over again that only 13-15% of the English language is irregular and thus there is only a short list of words that students must commit to memory as orthographic rules do not apply to them.

What did I take away from this experience?

Despite struggling with these unfamiliar linguistic concepts, I appreciated the fact that OG is a pedagogical method suitable not just for dyslexic students, but for all EAL students. I like the idea that by adjusting my approach for teaching I could benefit everyone in my classes by addressing inconsistencies in knowledge of reading and phonics that all EAL students have—providing a baseline for the whole class to build on. For example, I currently teach a reading class where many of my students can recognize words they read, but are very shy to pronounce the words out loud without first listening to their electronic dictionary recite the word for them. What would it be like if I could teach them how to approach the pronunciation of a word like “gender”, so that they could feel confident in trying to pronounce it without the use of electronic aids?

As well, I became intrigued by some concepts that I could see being immediately implemented the EAL classroom. For example, I liked the way that the OG approach emphasizes teaching sounds rather than letters: differentiating the sounds of the English language by separating phonemes /t/, consonant blends /tr/, consonant digraphs /tch/ and vowel diagraphs /ou/. This has already had a very positive effect on my classroom as my students are able to directly grasp the connection between sound and spelling. In the spirit of “direct individual instruction”, this approach just makes sense to me.

Lastly, I was happy to walk away with some informal tools that could help me to identify students who are struggling in my classroom. One of them deals with phonological awareness while the other addresses reading fluency. Although these can in no way be used to provide an official diagnosis of dyslexia, they can be useful measures to help me gauge which area a student is struggling in to provide additional support. For instance, in terms of reading fluency, I gain peace of mind knowing that I have a tool which I can use to identify students to officially recommend for further psycho-educational testing—an expensive but worthwhile option if they wish to continue further education in a university setting. Additionally, after using the phonological awareness assessment with several of my students, a pattern emerged of common difficulties for my adult EAL learners, regardless of whether or not they identified as being dyslexic: syllable segmentation, final sound detection, medial sound detection and phoneme segmentation. This is yet another piece of evidence that highlights how the OG principles would be useful not just for students with learning difficulties, but for all students.

In conclusion, learning the OG approach has made me question many well-established teaching practices and ideas that I had taken for granted. While this has been difficult at times, it has also been invigorating and exciting as I feel that I am empowering my students both with and without special learning differences through knowledge of these rules. While we may assume that they will acquire them naturally, it is not always the case; and in order to support all students in our classroom, it is important for us as teachers to gain more knowledge of concepts that we may have forgotten.

Biographical Information (From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter)

Cristina Peralejo completed her BA in Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, and her MEd in TESL at UBC. For 9 years she has been a member of the ELI team where she has enjoyed a variety of new challenges in instruction, materials development and administration.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Peralejo, C.  (2017, Fall). My Experience with Multisensory Structured Language Education. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

TCF Project Funding Award 2017 Recipient: TALK—Beginner Literacy Tutoring Program

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by Tara Stewart

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

TALK is a two-part beginner literacy initiative. It provides basic literacy tutor training workshops and also supports the tutors and students at the community based ESL program. TALK is carried out by Tara Stewart, Maureen Stephens, and our dedicated tutors. Talk is sponsored by The Parkinson Recreation Centre, Okanagan Regional Library, ORCA and the TEAL Charitable Foundation.

Basic Literacy ESL Initiative

The initiative to start the TALK (Tutors of Adult ESL Literacy Kelowna) Special Language Project began in September 2016 in response to the increased need for the most basic literacy skills amongst many our new Syrian refugees. As a teacher working within our community ESL program, and also in a summer refugee language program in Kelowna, I saw many of our new refugees seeking alternative language services for a variety of reason. It was evident that we needed to come up with a different kind of service that would meet the unique needs of our new and most vulnerable community members.

Identifying The Needs

What was notable in our community was that most men/husbands were able to take advantage of our fabulous LINC services during the day, as they were the priority to learn first so they could seek employment. However, this left many of the young women/mothers home with their children and not able to access language services.

Many of the young women needed to spend more time developing basic literacy skills to function day to day and before they could feel confident moving into any classroom setting. Lack of childcare was often the reason they could not access a classroom. Many had tried home based learning but the distractions of the household were impeding the learning process. It was obvious we needed to combine out of home one to one learning with child minding to our young women as they were quickly feeling isolated and left behind in language learning when compared to their husbands and children.

Getting Started

With amazing community support here in Kelowna, I knew we had the interest and the resources to get this project operating quickly. The workshop series was supported by several local community agencies such as Okanagan Regional Library, ORCA (Okanagan Refugee Coalition for Advocacy), LINC, Project Literacy and Kelowna Community Resources. Okanagan Regional Library provided the training space was provided by and the donation of the TEAL Charitable Foundation covered operating costs. The TEAL Charitable Foundation’s Project Funding award was invaluable and instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

The key to getting the project up and running was having Maureen Stephens, past Adult Basic Ed. and literacy coordinator at Okanagan College, come on board to help develop the TALK Tutor Training program. With Maureen’s long-time experience in the literacy field and her willingness to volunteer her time and expertise, she was instrumental in putting together a thorough 20-hour literacy tutor training workshop series for our volunteer tutors.

Tutor Training Participants

TALK Special Language Project was launched in March 2017. Seventeen tutors received invaluable training in the most effective and efficient strategies using authentic materials and resources to best reach non-literate ESL students. Many of the volunteer tutors, who attended our workshops, were already part of refugee sponsor groups, or involved in the field of ESL education. The training was a wonderful way of bringing many language providers together to share and to learn how to initiate more effective methods to reach our non-literate students and give them the confidence to excel in a classroom environment.

Community Centre Support

In addition to supporting the launch of TALK, the Project Funding award from the TCF provided us with much needed basic teaching resources for the new community centre beginner literacy ESL tutoring program. This program began at the Parkinson Recreation Centre in April of 2017. With the Recreation Centre providing access to their child minding service, the Beginner Literacy Program now pairs one of our tutors with a refugee mom for English lessons one or two mornings a week. The young women in the program receive 1.5-3 hours a week of private one to one literacy tutoring while their children are safely looked after at the community centre.

Building more than language skills

Initially, the tutoring program was intended to break through some barriers so the young women could learn some basic language skills, but what we are actually seeing is that there are other benefits well beyond that. Many of the young women are certainly becoming more confident with their language skills and are curious to explore what is available to them and their families within their new community. They are trying new activities and finding new interests that they didn’t know existed. For example, one of our TALK tutor students has faced a life-long fear and is now learning to swim at the community centre, and others have explored music lessons and sports programs for their family.

Continued Success

TALK has been a great success and will continue to flourish thanks to our dedicated volunteers and of course the determination of our young moms. We hope to continue this program as long as there continues to be a need. This fall, the TALK special project will continue to support the tutors with the Tutor Toolbox Workshops, where lessons and tips and experiences are shared amongst the tutors. The funding provided to TALK through the TEAL Charitable Foundation has served not only in helping to implement language learning, but also to open doors to better community involvement for its newest members.

Biographical Information (From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter)

Tara Stewart is the founder of the TALK Tutor Team which provided literacy based workshops for tutors and continues with community tutoring to low level literacy based learners. Tara became a certified ESL teacher in 2014. She has a background in tutoring in adult basic literacy for 25 years.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Stewart, T.  (2017, Fall). TALK—Beginner Literacy Tutoring Program. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

Building your professional experience (even during a pandemic!): All you need is a BC TEAL membership

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By: Vera Ziwei Wu

Teachers are no strangers to contracts, jumping between jobs, and giving more than what is asked of us to support learners in various settings. As we get so caught up in our daily work, slowly, we become more isolated in our jobs, which challenges our mental health and limits our imaginations. This happens more often now with COVID isolating us from others. 

On the other hand, trying to attend a virtual conference or webinar is becoming increasingly difficult. In addition to not having enough time, we are so overwhelmed with the amount of work we invest in virtual communication, learning and teaching, as well as safe in-person teaching whenever possible, that we rarely want to stay at a computer when we don’t have to. How do we stay connected through small ways to ease our professional isolation while continuously developing ourselves in the profession? I have a few ideas for you.

Engage with your colleagues

You don’t have to do the work all alone! Instead, provide the opportunities for your colleagues to help you by starting a conversation and brainstorming new ideas together to address shared concerns or issues. I have met so many amazing teachers, administrators and people who work in leadership roles supporting teachers through BC TEAL events, and they have been, and still are, my inspirations to stay engaged and support others.

Building a circle of support around you and sharing resources, ideas, and opportunities within the group is a great way to share the workload, stay connected and have fun. Don’t have enough supportive colleagues around you? You can join BC TEAL (for FREE till Mar 1, 2021 if you’re currently unemployed) and get connected!

Present your resources to others (it can be informal and fun!)

If you are a BC TEAL member, you might have already been attending some of the amazing free webinars. The webinars can be almost anything relevant to TESOL, from resources to advocacy, from learner wellbeing to teacher support. Presenters have told us they were terribly scared at the beginning but felt incredibly good after working with us and making the session happen for their colleagues. It’s also zero-cost professional development that you can include on your CV!

BC TEAL can be easily reached at admin@bcteal.org. If you have an idea and are not sure if it will be a good fit, please do connect with us, as we may be able to help with further developing the session and support you with the technical part of the webinar – what better place to start? 

Join a committee 

Why do you feel so good after a productive meeting? It’s the constructive work, as well as the connection and the community for a cause you care about. You may or may not have been very engaged in a committee before, and the idea of joining one might be intimidating. If this is how you feel, try and start with a BC TEAL committee. 

If I have successfully persuaded you, here is the good news: Many of our committees are currently looking for new leaders! Check out our Facebook page and Instagram for posts with more details on the committees, and leave a comment if you have any questions. If you’re not sure which committee is the best fit for you, try this survey and we’ll help you find the right one!

Contribute to the BC TEAL Blog and TEAL News

Writing for the BC TEAL Blog and TEAL News is another place where you can share your resources, experiences and stories with others. This recent newsletter might give you an idea of the diverse topics and styles of writing we may include. No research is required, and all we need is you with ideas on classroom activities, anecdotes and stories about your experiences, or reports about talks, seminars, or conferences that you’ve attended, reflections on English language learning or anything else your fellow colleagues should know about! Got an idea? Email the editor, Scott Douglas, with your ideas at editor@bcteal.org now!

Teaching during a pandemic can be very challenging, so let BC TEAL make professional development easier for you. All you need is a BC TEAL membership that provides you access to resources, connections and opportunities. Join or renew now at https://www.bcteal.org/register-now/

Online Tools for the Language Classroom

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by Liza Navarro

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

Assessing and integrating digital technologies has been an ongoing challenge for educators around the world. Although recently curricula have begun requiring instructors to incorporate technology in the classroom, instructors face many challenges in meeting these requirements including time constraints, lack of knowledge and lack of resources. As a PhD student and language educator, I have been interested in the ways language instructors approach technology and integrate it into their classroom. My interest has led me to several research opportunities involving technology with educators and teacher candidates. For example, this past summer, I had an opportunity to work with groups of language teachers, who were interested in enhancing their practice with technology. Indeed, there are many exciting technological resources available for teachers today. In our workshop we specifically focused on free tools readily available online and easily accessible.

Among the various online tools available, Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot! were favored the most by language teachers participating in my workshops. Each resource offered a different aspect and opportunity for instructors to tie technology, language and culture into the classroom. In this article, I would like to share some of these tools with the readers of TEAL News.

Virtual Reality with Google Recently, virtual reality (VR) has become a trending phenomenon in North America, and Google—being a major trendsetter —has honed VR possibilities within the classroom. With Google Street View and Google Expeditions language instructors can take their students on virtual field trips to different places around the world for free.

Google Street View allows users such as instructors and students to input a location and then select from any 360 image they wish to explore. For example, if a language instructor wished to take her students to the Louvre, she could do so with the click of a button. In addition, instructors and students can take their own 360 images of specific locations they wish to discuss and share with the class. This visual exchange of places can open the door to discussions on language, community and much more in the language classroom.

Google Expeditions on the other hand provides instructors with more control allowing them to select specific destinations such as a famous museum, an ancient library or historical ruins. The possibilities are endless. Some teachers might even take their students on an expedition to far away planets in space or to explore the wonderous world of the Atlantic Ocean. Google Expeditions works the following way: once the instructor sets the location, students can tag along and follow their instructor on a virtually guided tour as a group. Instructors also have the option of adding questions or prompts in their language of choice within the tour that students can answer or follow respectively. For example, a language instructor can conduct an entire tour in the target language by devising clues and questions in the language of their choice. Students are thus engaged in a virtual experience within their language of study.

VR apps such as Google Street View and Google Expeditions can thus provide language instructors and their students the opportunity to immerse themselves in another country and culture at a low cost while remaining in the classroom. While these apps are free and can be downloaded by anyone to their mobile devices, there is one catch. In order to use Google Street View and Google Expeditions, teachers and/or students must have VR goggles. These goggles can be purchased online or they can be handmade with the purchase of 3D lenses.

Assessment with Kahoot!

While VR applications can provide language students with the opportunity to venture to different parts of the world exposing them to different cultural elements of the target language, other tools can be used to enhance learning practices in the classroom such as assessment. Among them, Kahoot! allows instructors to track their students’ progress by providing them with free, fun and interactive online games in real time. Kahoot! was created in 2013 in an effort to enhance game based learning and gained ground in the classroom and beyond. When using Kahoot! instructors can begin by inputting multiple-choice questions in the language of their choice. They can then decide how much time students will be given for each response. Once the questions and time have been selected, instructors can share a link with their students to access the game. Instructors can also create Kahoot! activities to be completed at home, thus finding ways to engage students outside the classroom. Another exciting feature of Kahoot! is that it allows participants from around the world to play with one another. For example, language instructors located in different parts of the world could collaborate to create a Kahoot! activity for their students to interact with one another. Kahoot! is extremely user friendly and engaging, and in my experience, it works best in classrooms of adolescents and university students who have access to smart phones, tablets or laptops.

Final Thoughts

During my time with various language instructors, they thoroughly enjoyed learning about Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot!. In addition, they all agreed that they were excellent examples of free online resources that can truly engage their students in the classroom. With the increased presence of technology, it is important that instructors are provided with opportunities to learn about the resources available and how they can integrate them into their teaching practice. From my own experience, the moments students and language teachers remember the most are those that struck them, those that engaged them and those that provided them with a one of a kind experience. Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot! do just that by tapping into the possibilities of technology and its important and practical role in the classroom.

Biographical Information (From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter)

Liza Navarro is a PhD student in Language and Literacy Education at UBC Columbia. Liza’s interests include developing language teacher resources, intercultural competence, and French language learning. She also collaborates on a range of research projects with teacher candidates and French immersion schools.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Navarro, L.  (2017, Fall). Online Tools for the Language Classroom. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

Storybooks Canada: A Digital Resource for Multilingual Education

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by Espen Stranger-Johannessen and Bonny Norton

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

According to the 2016 Census, more than 7 million Canadians speak a language other than English or French as a mother tongue. To help children learn English (or French) as well as maintain the home language, a UBC team in the Department of Language and Literacy Education has developed Storybooks Canada (www.storybookscanada.ca). This website has been designed specifically for teachers and parents, making 40 stories from the African Storybook (www.africanstorybook.org) freely available in the major immigrant and refugee languages of Canada, as well as English and French. What is unique about Storybooks Canada is that it not only offers children’s stories in many languages, but interlinks these stories so that the user can easily switch between English and one of the 13 other available languages. In this way, a class can read a story in English, and individual students can check the translation of the story in their first language, page by page.

Furthermore, since many ESL students, particularly children, do not fully master the written form of their mother tongue, Storybooks Canada provides recordings of most languages (others are coming). This feature allows users to comprehend the meaning of the story, page by page, even if they can’t read the text in their own language. Users can therefore read or listen to a story in English, and then refer to the text or audio recording in a familiar language to understand individual words or the meaning of a given passage. This is particularly helpful for students with limited understanding of English, since teachers often struggle to explain words and expressions and are seldom able to draw on the students’ home languages as a resource. By bringing students’ own languages into the classroom, Storybooks Canada also helps teachers value and acknowledge the languages that students speak at home.

Background

The stories come from the African Storybook initiative (www.africanstorybook.org), which was created by the South African organization Saide to address the shortage of literacy materials in African languages. Since their stories are released under Creative Commons licences, the Storybooks Canada team started translating the stories into other languages, using the tools developed by team member Liam Doherty in the Global African Storybook (www.global-asp.github.io). We invited volunteers to translate stories into Mandarin, Persian, Norwegian, and other languages, and also recorded some of these stories. We soon realized the potential of these translated stories, and with funding from UBC’s Language Sciences Initiative (www.languagesciences.ubc.ca) and a UBC Research Cluster Grant, we could pay honoraria for additional translations and recordings, which are still ongoing. Darshan Soni, a computer engineer and team member, has primary responsibility for website development.

We selected the 40 stories out of several hundred from the African Storybook, and sought to create a collection of stories of different lengths that balance the African origin of the stories with internationally relevant themes. There are traditional animal fables as well as contemporary stories about city life. Some stories cover serious topics like responsibility and gender equality. Others are just written to make you laugh. Our hope is that the universal values reflected in the stories will resonate with children across Canada.

The selection of languages is representative of the most widely spoken languages in Canada according to Statistics Canada. We have also included the main African languages spoken in Canada, in part because the stories are of African origin, and in part because Canadians who speak African languages have fewer resources available to them than speakers of many other languages.

While Storybooks Canada focuses on immigrant and refugee languages, it is important to acknowledge and support the many Indigenous languages of Canada as well. There are several websites that offer Indigenous stories. Little Cree Books (www.littlecreebooks.com) contains books in Cree, while the South Slave Divisional Education Council (www.ssdec.nt.ca/ablang/ablanguage/aboriginallanguages.html) has stories and other resources in Chipewyan, Cree, and Slavey. Math Catcher (www.mathcatcher.irmacs.sfu.ca) has mathematics stories in in English and several Indigenous languages. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca) has several stories in English, some with audio recordings.

Experience so far and the way forward

The Storybooks Canada website recently went live, and we are eagerly looking forward to reports from teachers and others on the use of these stories in Canadian classrooms and homes. Preliminary responses have been very positive. The mobile and tablet friendly website is popular with young children, who can swipe and click on the buttons themselves.

Identifying connections between the stories and the new BC Curriculum is central to the next stage of the project, and we will seek additional funding to promote collaboration with teachers, parents, and policymakers interested in using the Storybooks Canada website. Revisions and updates to the website will be made in response to findings from our research. Storybooks Canada provides much needed resources for migrants and new refugees, including those from Syria. More broadly, it encourages gradual change in the direction of global communication (e.g., from North-South to South-North), while supporting both English/French literacy and mother tongue maintenance in Canadian communities. We are excited to provide teachers and parents with a resource that promotes English language learning while at the same time supporting heritage language maintenance. We hope Storybooks Canada will be of interest to BC TEAL’s members, and that you will share your thoughts and experiences with us.

Biographical Information (From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter)

Espen Stranger-Johannessen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, UBC, under the supervision of Prof. Bonny Norton. He is the project manager for Storybooks Canada. His research interests include teacher identity, open educational resources, and the African Storybook.

Bonny Norton, FRSC, is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, UBC. She is the research lead for Storybooks Canada and advisor for the African Storybook. Her research focuses on identity and language learning, critical literacy, and international development.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Stranger-Johannessen, E., & Norton, B.  (2017, Fall). Storybooks Canada: A Digital Resource for Multilingual Education. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

#CdnELTchat summary for September 29, 2020 (Supporting the Continuation of Learning and Teaching during COVID-19)

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#CdnELTchat summary for September 29, 2020
Jennifer Chow

For many of us, we are in our second term of remote learning. What are the successes and unique challenges #ELT instructors have had? How can we create and maintain a sense of community with our colleagues and students during this time? What kind of support do we need in order to foster a sense of well-being?

Thank-you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in #CdnELTchat’s discussion on Supporting the Continuation of Learning and Teaching during COVID-19. 

We’ve collected the tweets from our chat in Wakelet, but here are some of the highlights from our discussion: 

  • It’s important for teachers and instructors to think about our mental health and sustainability, especially since the future is still uncertain. Creating online content while teaching is exhausting for many teachers, so we don’t need to perfect. Good enough is good enough.
  • Equity is still a big problem as some students don’t have access to the necessary technology and/or digital skills to engage in online learning. 
  • Focus on building relationships to establish trust between teachers and learners. Start with essential digital skills and add to them slowly over the term. 
  • Use ready-made online materials that are available on @TutelaCanada. Many teachers have embraced using @H5PTechnology
  • Respect student privacy by not forcing them to turn their cameras on. Use polls and breakout rooms to foster interaction. Provide prompt feedback, virtual office hours, and use Q & A forums to increase engagement.
  • Provide weekly drop-in times for colleagues to connect and socialize. Organize online reading or research groups for professional development. 

We encourage everyone to continue the conversation using the hashtag #CdnELTchat. Here are the questions that we used to guide our chat. 

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

During the chat, @KraseNetzel shared with us how @DawnTorvik started a WhatsApp teachers’ group and regularly inspires colleagues to share victories and problems. We hope #CdnELTchat can provide the space for #ELT educators across Canada and beyond to do that too. We’ll be doing some informal chats between our scheduled chats as a way to check in and support each other. 

#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. 

Use the hashtag #CdnELTchat anytime to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. 

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