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

#CdnELTchat Summary for December 8 (Intersectionality in ELT)

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#CdnELTchat summary for December 8, 2020
By Bonnie Nicholas

#CdnELTchat chose intersectionality in ELT as our final topic for this tumultuous year, a fitting topic since the pandemic and the resulting shift to remote learning has highlighted many of the inequities that have always been present in ELT. Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow) was joined by guest moderator Tanya Cowie (@tanyacowiecowie) for this Twitter chat on December 8. Tanya has been teaching EAL for over 25 years, currently at Vancouver Community College. She is especially interested in intercultural communication, anti-racism, and EAL pedagogy. Tanya holds a certificate in Intercultural Studies from UBC and is a qualified administrator for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). 

With Tanya’s guidance, participants shared their understanding of intersectionality. The term “intersectionality” itself was coined in 1989 by American critical legal race scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Tanya explained intersectionality as a way to help “show identities that hold power and those who are marginalized in society. It shows the combinations and complexity of identity.” Tanya also shared this identity wheel, sketch-noted by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth, sylviaduckworth.com), adapted from the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Wheel of Power

Throughout the chat, we dug a little deeper into what intersectionality means for us working in ELT and for the learners that we are privileged to serve. Jennifer Chow commented that “we need to put in the work to identify privilege and be aware of how we frame what and how we teach our students.” We’ve collected the tweets from this chat using Wakelet; you can also search for them on Twitter using the hashtag #CdnELTchat. As well, Jennifer has collected and curated the many resources that were shared during the chat and afterwards: Resources for Intersectionality in ELT

During the chat, we discussed these questions.

Q1: What is #intersectionality?
Q2: Why is #intersectionality  important in #ELT?
Q3: How should #intersectionality inform classroom materials and curriculum?
Q4: Why is it important to examine #intersectionality in our classrooms? How does it affect your interactions with your students?
Q5: How does #intersectionality affect teacher identity?
Q6: What can you do to work on understanding your power and privilege? Why is it difficult for some people to see their privilege? 

The consensus was that there is ongoing work that we all need to do in understanding intersectionality and the power structures inherent in our profession. But understanding is not enough. We (and especially those of us near the centre of the identity wheel) also have a responsibility to work for change and to do everything we can to reduce the marginalisation of others that our power and privilege gives us. Challenging the power structures in our profession is part of our work. It’s telling that this topic brought out our first Twitter troll, in five years of #CdnELTchat. As ELT professionals, we have an added responsibility to learn about critical race theory and to challenge systemic racism wherever and whenever we encounter it. 

There were also questions that we didn’t have time to discuss during the hour-long chat. Anyone can contribute to the conversation asynchronously by tweeting and using the hashtag #CdnELTchat. 

  • How can intersectionality help us become anti-racist educators?
  • Do you think intersectionality is important to consider when communicating with teacher colleagues?
  • What is the difference between positionality and intersectionality?

#CdnELTchat is a pan-Canadian chat, usually held about every second Tuesday. We are always looking for guest moderators willing to share their passions on a topic in ELT. Check out our past #CdnELTchat topics, and contact one of our team members if you are interested in co-moderating a future chat: Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas), or Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL). We’ll be there to support you!

Thanks to all our participants in this chat and over the past five years. #CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us. The #CdnELTchat team wishes everyone a safe and healthy holiday break. We look forward to reconnecting in the new year.

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

 

#CdnELTchat summary for 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

 

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

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

 

A Conversation with Dr. Bonny Norton

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by Natalia Balyasnikova

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

BC TEAL sat down with Dr. Bonny Norton, one of BC TEAL’s 50 at 50, to discuss current issues in language teaching and learning. Dr. Norton is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at UBC, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her extensive publications and research focus on identity and language learning, critical literacy, and international development. More information about Dr. Norton’s research can be found at http://faculty.educ.ubc.ca/norton.

Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today. The first question we have is what brought you and inspired you to do the work in the field of language education?

I was born in South Africa, which is a multilingual country, but I was aware at a young age that some languages were considered more powerful than others. Because of this, I became interested in learning how language can be used to promote democracy, rather than perpetuate inequality.

I started my profession as a high school teacher, and then proceeded to more advanced degrees in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics. I was very interested in language as a social practice, and the ways in which identities get constructed through different language practices.

I’ve been very privileged to be an academic, because I have been able to pursue the questions I am passionate about. The connection between theory and practice is very important to me, and the link between them is often research. How does practice inform theory and how does theory inform practice?

And speaking more locally, how did you start your journey with BC TEAL?

Wherever I go, I like to connect locally, because this is where I live and these are the people I see on a day-to-day basis. It also provides another research site for my work. When I did my PhD degree in Toronto and lived in the Toronto area, I did research in that context. It was very interesting and rewarding. When I came to BC, I thought: “What are the local issues I need to address and in what ways is British Columbia different from Ontario?” I immediately got involved in the BC TEAL organization, because this is where ideas are debated, where work gets done, where research findings are shared. I’ve been an active member of BC TEAL ever since I arrived in British Columbia, which was over twenty years ago.

This year you were named among BC TEAL’s 50 at 50. What does it mean for you to have this distinction?

I am greatly honoured to be recognized that way. I was at the ceremony when we were all recognized, and it was wonderful to be part of a group of colleagues that I respect so much. It was a privilege to see that my work has had some impact locally, as one of my goals is to work both globally and locally.

You have been in the profession for many years. How have you seen the field change over this time?

It has certainly grown enormously. Applied linguistics as a field is 30-40 years old, and I was in the second generation, learning from those who had established the field. The field of applied linguistics and language learning has multiple dimensions, which can be seen partly though the increasing diversity of academic journals, and the growth of impact of these journals.

Because English is a very important part of our world, it raises many questions for educators: What does it mean for practice, for policy, for local languages?

The theme of this issue is Reaching Out with Technology. How do you see the connect ion between technology and language learning?

As technology became more powerful, one of my first tasks as a professor was to develop my own website, which has many resources. Having my work on a website makes access much easier for many students, particularly in poorly resourced communities. Thus technology can be very powerful in democratizing information flows. In 2006 I also helped set up the Africa Research Network on Applied Linguistics and Literacy, to ensure that people in more remote parts of the word are part of our global professional conversation.

Through technology we can make language more accessible, and we can use digital systems so that people can learn languages by reading, by listening, and through other multimodal means. At the same time—if you look at the work of Ron Darvin—we have to ask who is not part of this conversation? We need to be cautious about embracing technology unthinkingly. We need to understand what innovations works best, what some of the downsides are, and how we can use technology for democratic purposes.

Speaking of that, what are some of the challenges and opportunities in using technology for language learning or with language learners?

Well, this is where research comes in. You go into classrooms and schools, you go into families and community centres, and you see how people are using technology. You need resources in many parts of Africa that many people take for granted in wealthy regions of the world. However, even in poorly resourced parts of the world, the cellphone is ubiquitous. As a result, many of our projects are geared towards the use of the cellphone, such as our Storybooks Canada project. That’s the beauty of technology: we can promote multilingualism and mother tongue maintenance by having open access stories in English, French, and home languages. We are only limited by our imagination.

How do you think the practice of language teaching is going to change with the increase of technology?

One exciting feature of technology is that computers are very patient; you can repeat the same exercise until you are confident of your understanding. For example, with Storybooks Canada, if children don’t understand the story the first time, they can listen to it again, reflect on the illustrations, and discuss it with friends. This process is very learner-centred, and can help children pace themselves. Teachers have limited time, so they can refer students to websites and materials for self-directed learning.

At the same time, the human connection is always important and language is central to this connection. Even though we have technology, we still want to have human interaction as well. People want to be able to feel comfortable in the classroom, to go to a store and use the language. While the human element will always be there, technology is entering those conversations in multiple and diverse ways. In fact, people are saying that knowing how to use technology is now a human right. We help our learners by teaching them language through technology. As the world changes, we must keep up with that changing world.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing to remember, while working with language learners?

At some level it depends on what age you are working with; you can have one type of conversation with a child and another with an adult. Sometimes adults feel infantilized in our language classrooms. We must always remember that while a language learner’s English might be limited, they have a wealth of knowledge in their mother tongues. We need to value our learners as people who have complex identities, histories, and talents that go beyond the identity of the language learner.

In many ways, children have different needs. I try to encourage teachers to consider the talents of children beyond language proficiency, and to help other children recognize the multiple talents that language learners have. Children need to see that their peers are not just language learners; they are also musicians, artists, swimmers, and soccer players, with extensive knowledge of their mother tongue. This will help language learners connect with others, build relationships, and improve their language learning.

We would like to conclude with your advice to those just starting their teaching journeys. What would to say to them?

Good language teachers are also good teachers. Language learners need to learn language as a linguistic system—the formal structures of the language—but they also need to understand language as a social practice – how to connect with the wider community. How can teachers expand possibilities for learners to engage more broadly, while learning the language? Teachers can help students develop a wide range of identities inside and outside the classroom. I often talk about language learners being ethnographers of their communities who can bring their observations and questions back to the classroom. If students see themselves as ethnographers and not just language learners, they have more powerful identity positions in the wider community. In a way, teachers are cultural brokers between their students and the social world, and are ideally placed to help students make connections between the classroom, the home, and the community.

At the same time, there are many unexpected events in the classroom, and teachers must navigate the unexpected. Flexibility helps teachers find the best fit between pedagogy, curriculum, and the needs of individual students. I’ve been a teacher for 30 years and I am always learning, trying out new ideas, and continually reassessing my practice. This is what makes teaching such an exciting and rewarding profession. If I have a bad day, I can start again tomorrow!

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Natalia Balyasnikova is a PhD Candidate in TESL and a sessional instructor at the University of British Columbia. (Editor’s Note:  Dr. Balyasnikova has now completed her PhD program, and she is an assistant professor at York University.)

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Balyasnikova, N. (2017, Fall). A Conversation with Dr. Bonny Norton. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

#CdnELTchat Summary for September 15, 2020 (Welcome Back)

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#CdnELTchat summary for September 15, 2020

By Bonnie Nicholas

The #CdnELTchat community returned from our summer hiatus with a Welcome back! informal chat. 

These are the questions that guided our conversation during the hour-long chat:

Q1: What did you do in the summer to recharge?

Q2: What have you learned from the COVID pivot in March/April? How has that changed your approach to this school term/year? 

Q3: What challenges do you anticipate facing this year? What strategies can you use to manage these challenges?

Q4: What is something that you are looking forward to trying out this term/year? What is something that you want to stop doing this year?

Q5: How are you planning to develop your classroom community this school year?What professional learning are you planning to participate in this year?

We’ve collected the tweets in a collection on Wakelet (You’ll be able to read all the tweets from the evening’s conversation, even if you don’t have a Twitter account). 

Our conversation revolved around the challenges of finding work-life balance in the current situation. We talked of the challenge and importance of separating work from home life when work is at home, and of the increased workload because of the switch to online. Experienced online teachers confirmed that prepping for online teaching takes more time than for classroom teaching. We talked about how the shift to online has highlighted inequities in ELT. We also touched on the importance of teacher and social presence in online environments, and the very real phenomenon of Zoom fatigue. In these uncertain times, staying connected with our colleagues is more important than ever.     

There is a scheduled #CdnELTchat usually about every two weeks, with a posted topic and often a guest moderator with a special interest or expertise in the topic. Please let us know if you’re willing to be a guest moderator for a one-hour chat on a topic that you are especially interested in.

You can also reach out to the #CdnELTchat team: Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Jennifer Chow (@JennifermChow), Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), or Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas). 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. 

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