Classroom Corner: Mixed Headlines

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by Edward Pye

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

Tag Words:     Integrated Skills, Media, News, Current Events, Story-telling, Narratives

Time:              80 minutes

Age/Level:      Modifiable for different ages and levels, but better at higher levels and ages.

Numbers:        Three or more groups of two or four students

Skills:              Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Creative thinking

Mixed Headlines is an integrated task in which students weave different stories together. It works well when related to a topic like media and current events, but it can be customized to a variety of topics as well as a range of levels and ages.

Objectives:

  • Finding news/stories from various sources
  • Explaining the main “WH” details and narrative of a story
  • Writing a creative storyline
  • Narrating a storyline

Preparation:

  • In the previous class, give students the homework of finding a story. The type of story will depend on what topic you are studying. If it is general current events, then have them find an interesting current events story. If you are studying technology, then have them find a technology story. If you have younger or lower level students, have them find an interesting short story that they can understand and explain. The key is that the story must have a narrative. Instruct students to only choose short stories in which they can identify the main details (answer the six WH questions) and follow the narrative. Let them know that they will have to explain the story in the following class which should make them choose better stories.
  • Alternatively, this step can be done at the beginning of the class. I have students find stories at home because they usually have better resources and this step can take a while.
  • You will need several stations for this activity. Students will be in small groups and each will need a station, so you may need to rearrange the desks/tables.

Steps:

  1. Groups (2 minutes): Put students into small groups and give each group a station. This activity works best with at least four groups. They will be split up later in the task, so there needs to be at least two students in each group. The ideal number for this task is four groups of four.
  • Warm up Questions (5 minutes): Write the following questions on the board: “Has your friend ever given you the wrong information? What happened?” “Do news companies ever give incorrect information? Why?” Have the students discuss. Go over the answers together briefly.
  • Explain your story (20 minutes): Have students take out their news stories and have them explain them to their group members. Tell them to go over the main details of each story:
  • What is it about?
  • When and where does it take place?
  • Who is it about?
  • How does the story unfold? What happens?
  • Why does it happen? What were the events that caused this story?
  • Make a new story (20 minutes): Once everyone has explained their story, have them combine the details of each story together to create a completely new story. They should write the story down on a piece of paper making sure that it has all the main details.
  • Divide Speakers & Listeners (3 minutes): Once the stories are finished, take the pieces of paper from each team, split each team in half and have the two halves play rock, paper, scissors. The winning half gets to choose between speaking and listening. If they choose speaking, they will stay at their station and explain their new story. If they choose listening, they will rotate around to the next station and listen to the next group’s story.
  • Rotate (1 minute): Once the speakers and listeners have been determined, rotate the listeners to the next group where they listen. Speakers stay where they are and wait for incoming listeners. Make sure to rotate the groups in an orderly circle so that students eventually rotate back to their own station.
  • Story-telling (5 minutes): Have the speakers explain their story while the listeners listen. Tell the listeners to listen carefully because they will be explaining that story next. Listeners can ask questions for clarification if they need.
  • Alternate Rotation (1 minute): Once all the speakers have finished explaining their stories, rotate the teams again, but this time, the students who did not move last time (the speakers) will move. So, speakers move to the next station where they will reunite with their original team. However, now the roles are reversed. The incoming speakers will become listeners and the remaining listeners will become speakers.
  • Story Re-telling (5 minutes): Have the new speakers give the details of the story that they have just heard (the story always stays at the station even though the students rotate through). Again, tell the new listeners to pay close attention because they will be explaining this story in a short time.
  1. Repeat (Varying time): Repeat the alternating rotation process. The listeners stay at the station and become speakers, while the speakers move on and become listeners and then alternate the next rotation. Do this until every team has been to every other station.
  1. Check the stories (10 minutes): Stop the rotation when the teams are at the station just before their own. Bring the class back together and have the teams explain the story of the station that they are at. Have the team from the corresponding station listen and check if they have all the right details. Because this is a high-pressure information sharing activity, the details of each story will change as they get passed through different teams which will be met with great hilarity by everyone.
  1. Follow Up: Once this is all done, explain the importance of listening carefully and getting the correct details. You may even want to go over some listening strategies or discuss why it is important for media outlets to report correct details.

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

Edward Pye is a New Zealander with an English literature degree from Otago University. Before moving to British Columbia, he taught in South Korea for eight years. Since then, he has worked as an Educational Programmer and EAP instructor on UBC’s Okanagan campus and as an EAL instructor at Okanagan College.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E.  (2017, Winter). Mixed headlines. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Winter-2017.pdf

BC TEAL, WORKING FOR YOU

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By Jenn Peachey

Like you, the people who dedicated their time to BC TEAL struggled through the uncertainty and anxiety of everything 2020 threw at us. It was a hard year all around! At times, it was a struggle for board and committee members to stay engaged, but we did. We felt our positions were more important than ever because BC TEAL is about keeping us connected: to our friends and colleagues, to our professional development, to our students, and to our jobs or studies. For this reason, and because you may have missed it, we wanted you to know that we are, and will continue to be, working hard for you, the BC TEAL MEMBERS.

The highlights from 2020*

Here’s what BC TEAL did, achieved, created or shared in 2020:

  • Created and shared a collaborative One-Year plan for a goal-driven approach 
  • Started implementing our very important Respectful Interaction Guidelines
  • The Vancouver Island Regional Conference (in person!) 
  • Meet-Ups in January and February 
  • Implemented a COVID19 membership strategy (free for unemployed due to covid19, until March 1, 2021). Find more details here.
  • Offered great PD for the age of covid: What’s Working with Remote Language Training in BC; The Emerging Pandemic Intercultural Work Environment
  • The Employment Skills Webinar 
  • Our first on-line AGM
  • Coffee Times and Happy Hours 
  • The Back to School Boot Camp 
  • The LINC Reboot
  • The Inspiring Speaker Series: Laura Baecher (see the video here), Ness Murby (see the video here), Ismaël Traoré (see the video here)
  • Shared a number of job postings, invitations to participate in research
  • Partnered with AMSSA, SIETAR, and others to bring remote learning to our members
  • Brought in new benefits: Black Bond Books, Learn Your English
  • Implemented surveys to get to know you better
  • Encouraged more members to take on leadership roles by joining committees
  • Developed onboarding for new leaders (committees, regional reps)
  • Created and filled the Regional Rep position of Lower Mainland
  • EAL Week, October 2020, with some regional events
  • Created Terms of Reference for the various committees
  • Upped our game on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: featured membership benefits blitz, event announcements, free resources, and more TCF promotions
  • Reinvigorated the BC TEAL Blog 
  • Created Best Practices for video sharing
  • Awarded and disbursed thousands of dollars in funding for instructor PD, language projects and materials development, and refugee education through the TCF
  • Created a Benefits of Membership promotional video for events and TESL programs
  • Supported the admin staff with a work-from-home office, and closed the commercial office
  • Started work on streamlining the understructures of the office to make services more efficient
  • Said good-bye to our Administrative Manager Jaimie as she moved on to another adventure, and hello to Tanya Tervit, her replacement
  • Said a sad good-bye to Alison Whitmore, a dedicated member of BC TEAL.
  • Saw the development of another free resource: Indigenous Peoples and Canada
  • Had a Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 Newsletter
  • Saw the publication of the Vol. 5 No 1 (2020) BC TEAL Journal

Moving forward

Some of the 2020 initiatives happened behind the scenes, so you may not have noticed them. Others we offered for specific sectors of our membership. Regardless, if you participated in, or contributed to any of these achievements, we want to thank you, and hope that you will continue to join in. Some of the projects will continue into 2021, and we will also continue to create new opportunities for you. That’s where YOU come in. 

BC TEAL needs to know what you would like to see happen in 2021. We can only work toward something if we know it is needed. What do YOU want?  And would you be interested in working toward a specific goal as part of a committee? Do you have skills and ideas just waiting for a place to share them? BC TEAL is only as good as the people who dedicate their extra time and energy to make it work. Imagine what BC TEAL can achieve in 2021 if we all work together for our mutual benefits, for our community!

Write to admin@bcteal.org to share your ideas and suggestions for 2021.

*All these initiatives were made possible by the hard work of the BC TEAL staff and Board, as well as the regional reps and committee leaders.

Bio: Jenn retired from her position as Head Instructor, EAP Pathway Advisor, and Global Competence Certificate Facilitator at Global Village Victoria in 2019. After a year of travel and adventure, she is back on Vancouver Island and happily involved with BC TEAL again.

An Ear-Opening Experience

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By Alysha Baratta
(Culture Cafe participants)

We Are HuH (Humans Understanding Humans) is a platform run by Options Community Services that offers activities and resources to connect people together, break down stereotypes, and create & strengthen multi-cultural communities. We design activities and resources that we hope groups all across Canada will utilize. One of our activities is called Culture Cafe which is an online community gathering for people of all ages and English language abilities. On the surface, it’s a weekly Zoom meeting that involves a presentation and then cross-cultural 1-on-1 breakout room conversations. Some humans come to practice English conversation, while others come to socialize with people from different cultures. At its heart, it’s a place where growth happens. What kind of growth? All sorts, in all different directions, for everyone involved.

-Farhan from Syria, Culture Cafe participant

“I know a little bit about so many people and countries now. Connecting with people of different cultures removes the hatred and bad feelings against each other. It’s not people’s fault what politics does and because of politics people have misunderstandings about each other.”

Grow your ears

Dr. Vijay Ramjattan researches accentism and the workplace barriers that racialized people face in Canada. While they’ve been told their accent is the barrier, it’s actually everyday racism. Perpetuating the idea that a  ‘neutral accent’ exists is thinly veiled coding that centers whiteness as the goal. Dr. Ramjattan discusses his work in this podcast, (around the 38 minute mark, but listen to the whole thing!) He makes the point that ‘accent reduction’ classes aren’t the answer to this problem. Rather, the responsibility lies on the listener to improve their listening skills. I’ve been privileged as a white teacher to never experience microaggressions questioning my expertise in English, and I’ve also gotten the chance to hone my listening ear over many years. Culture Cafe can offer this opportunity for growth. While this group can’t single-handedly undo the institutional racism that’s baked into everything we do, it can help confront the assumption that talking like a white person is the right way.

Grow your wealth

If you happen to live near a long-numbered house in Surrey, did you know your neighbour walked over 4,000 kilometers across China in the 1950s to collect soldiers’ stories? Of course you don’t – you’ve never had a chance to talk directly with her, but you’d be richer if you had. By now you’ve probably picked up that I’m not talking about monetary wealth. I’m talking about the richness of glimpsing into someone else’s life. Culture Cafe offers bilingual conversation prompts to elicit stories and other personal memories. Often I click “leave meeting” feeling humbled by these snippets of histories, and honored that someone has chosen to share them with me.

Pandemic or not, we aren’t the best at knocking on our neighbour’s doors and getting to know them. Although we’re excited to make real the post-Covid potluck plans, Culture Cafe will always have an online component. It’s a model of low-barrier community gathering to consider even after things “get back to normal”.

Grow your approach to language

I know from my own life that language learning is more effective when tied to personal experiences. When I close my eyes and think of Spanish, I feel a warmth from within. Everything is shades of burnt orange and crispy plantain yellow. I think of my Chilean host mom’s red tinted hair and bright matching lipstick. The Czech language tastes like slightly melted and refrozen snow. It’s refreshingly coarse, just like my friend Honza’s dry zingers. The language-learning app Duolingo has increased my Arabic literacy tenfold, but the lifeless, mechanical voice does little to solidify new words and meanings in my mind. But when my Syrian foodie friend tries my biscotti and, with raised eyebrows, says  a “tayib!” (delicious!) of approval – it’s stored in my visceral vocabulary forever.

So, who’s burning English into your students’ brains? Where are they finding memories and sentiments to attach to their expanding vocabularies? One Culture Cafe chatter told us that throughout 5 years in Canada, the only person they had ever spoken English with was their teacher.  It showed. Not because their speech was unintelligible – it wasn’t. They had serious doubts and low confidence. While not underestimating the importance of an engaging teacher, that’s not how this human’s journey should be. 

The human connections that Culture Cafe chatters experience make language memorable, and the friendly, listening ears breed confidence in English learners. We all know that language is more than stringing words together, but we so rarely have a place to put ourselves out there and use our words meaningfully.

Grow your practice

As you can see, I think the Culture Cafe we host at Options is pretty rad. But beyond our single gathering, we think the model and tools can be transformative for people looking to start new kinds of conversations with people they’ve never talked to before. Ready to open the ears of everyone you know? If you’d like to catalyze the storytelling, exchange, and learning in your community, check out www.wearehuh.com or e-mail hello@wearehuh.com to learn how.

Alysha Baratta is a learner, educator, facilitator, geographer, puppy mom, and stress-baker. She currently works from home on the unceded traditional territories of the Katzie, sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Stz’uminus and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples for Options Community Services. This project is funded by IRCC’s Service Delivery Improvement fund.

“Pandemagogy”

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By Linda Peteherych

One LINC Literacy Instructor’s Experience with Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)

While many LINC teachers have been incorporating an online component into their courses over the past few years, I have felt that it would not be a good idea for my LINC 1 literacy learners.  After having been forced to teach literacy solely via the computer for 4 months, I can say that my suspicion about face-to-face teaching being far superior for literacy students was correct.  However, I have also learned that low literacy students not only can learn to use e-mail and online learning but that they should, and I will continue to incorporate computer literacy into my curriculum.

Ups and Downs

Having to do emergency remote teaching so suddenly, without the skills, and with students who did not have the skills, was what made it so difficult.  At times it felt impossible.  There were ups and downs, but some good did result from my experience with emergency remote teaching.

The Ups:

  • My students and I learned new tech skills.
  • Most of my students became more independent and made noticeable progress in all four skills.
  • We completed 7 assessments.
  • I learned that my students and their support networks could take on more responsibility.

 The Downs:

  • At the onset, a lot of time was wasted obtaining correct student e-mail addresses.
  • I spent far too many stressful hours learning new technology that would enable me to send some useful content to students each day.  The time spent preparing, replying to e-mails, and record keeping was too great relative to the amount of effective teaching time.
  • As many literacy instructors experienced, teaching writing via ERT was very difficult.  Effective reading and writing instruction for literacy learners involves moment to moment careful observation, skilled eliciting and prompting, and allowing learners time to figure things out by themselves using the skills you have taught and modeled.  I could not do this with groups of students during video conferences.  
  • Also, teaching printing was out of the question because I like to watch my new printers carefully to ensure they form letters correctly instead of fossilizing bad habits.  This may not sound important, but correct left to right directionality during writing does help with beginning reading.
  • Worst of all, a few students had to abandon online learning because nobody in their households had the skills to help them. 

Face to Face Again

My students and I were very happy to begin a blended learning format this past September.  Instead of two classes of 10 students, I now have four groups of 5 students: 3 LINC 1Literacy groups and a Foundations group.  Each group of 5 is in the classroom two days a week and learning via e-mail on the other two days of our 4-day school week.  Masks, visors, sanitizer, cleaning products, and a daily COVID 19 survey have kept us safe so far.

Strategies for Remote & Blended Teaching

Literacy students need to be taught to use a balance of: reading for meaning; using an awareness of correct English sentence structure – or what ‘sounds right’ ; and noticing the details of the print itself.  In order to teach these skills, the following strategies work well for both emergency remote teaching and blended learning:

#1.  Use Images, Audio and Videos

All literacy lesson content needs to be taught with images.  During ERT and blended teaching, images as well as videos and website links are necessary for ensuring students understand the meaning of the target language and can master it in listening and speaking before reading and writing.  I made a number of videos using either my camera or PowerPoint.  For those who would like to make PPT videos, see this helpful YouTube demonstration.  Short PPT videos can be attached to e-mails, and regular videos can be uploaded to a private YouTube channel and sent to students via a link.  I also found some useful listening and reading practice activities at Learning Chocolate.  Videos can be so wonderfully helpful for practicing new language that I will continue making videos and e-mailing them to students for homework after this pandemic is over.

If you use vocabulary practice websites and videos to skill-build new vocabulary, make sure to spend most of your teaching time helping students use the new language in complete sentences so that learners develop an awareness of correct English structure.  When students begin to learn what ‘sounds right’, they can use that to predict words while reading.

#2.  Add Visuals to E-mails

I help students understand the meaning of my e-mails with icons, symbols, and photos.

I use full sentences that my students have become familiar with, in order to build structural awareness.

I also use double spaces between all words in my e-mails and handouts to help students notice the details of print.

#3.  Video Conferencing

 The students met me on Zoom twice a week during emergency remote teaching for instruction, student questions, practice, and eventually assessments.  I did not give out paper packages.

#4.  Homework

I gave homework assignments each school day.  Along with studying videos and links, my students were usually required to write on paper, photograph their papers, and e-mail the photos to me.  There were some keen students who did the homework immediately, others had to wait for family members to help them, and some only submitted about half of the assignments.

#5.  Links for extra practice and learning

I often sent links to easy digital readers, such as some of the easiest books from  Unite For Literacy .  I hope to be using the Reading A-Z website soon. For a general knowledge and family literacy activity, I often sent Mystery Doug video links and instructed my students to watch the videos with their children. 

To Sum Up

The COVID 19 pandemic and the resulting online teaching and learning forced my students and I to learn some valuable skills.  I will continue to communicate with my students via e-mail, to send them links, and to make videos that help them practice our target language.  However, online teaching should not become the new normal for literacy learners.  There are a growing number of wonderful educational websites, but teaching basic reading and writing is far more effective with face-to-face instruction.  For this reason, I look forward to the day when we are addressing the root causes of these viral pandemics.  Whether it is COVID 19, the H1N1 Swine Flu, SARS, or Ebola, vaccines will not protect us from new versions of these viruses.  However, real hope can be found in improved worldwide literacy and science education.  Whether we teach face-to-face, in a blended situation, or – as a last resort – fully online, literacy instruction is an invaluable and rewarding job that is becoming more necessary in our interconnected world.

Linda Peteherych is Burnaby School District’s Literacy Lead and a LINC 1 Instructor. Over the past 27 years teaching LINC, Linda has become a skilled adult ESL literacy instructor. She recently audited a 2-year in-service course for elementary school teachers in a reading and writing intervention program for grade 1 learners. Linda applies this to her LINC literacy instruction with great success.

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).

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/