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

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#CdnELTchat & #teslONchat summary for June 15 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the questions that guided our chat: 

Q1: How do you define self-directed PD?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some highlights from the discussion:  

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

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

Jen Bio Pic

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

 

#CdnELTchat Summary: Decentring Whiteness in ELT with JPB Gerald

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

By Tanya Cowie, Jennifer Chow and Bonnie Nicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#CdnELTchat Summary: Building Community in Online Classes

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#CdnELTchat summary for April 27, 2021
By Bonnie Nicholas

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

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

Q1: What does community-building mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Enriching Language Learning With Authentic Local Interactions

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by Yukie Ueda

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

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

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by Maya Pilin

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

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

The Study

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

The Findings

Unique Aspects of Tutoring Students Using EAL

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

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

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

Student Expectations

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

Identified Competencies

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

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

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

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

Identified Challenges

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

Discussion and Implications

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

#CdnELTchat summary for March 30, 2021 (Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in #ELT)

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#CdnELTchat summary for March 30, 2021
Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in #ELT
Jennifer Chow

#CdnELTchat brings together #ELT enthusiasts to discuss topics of interest twice a month on Tuesday evenings at 6 PT / 9 ET. On March 30, we had a chat about “Teaching and Learning Vocabulary.” 

Vocabulary development is one of the most important components of language learning. Knowledge of vocabulary enables us to understand and communicate with others. What are some effective approaches and strategies that help learners with vocabulary acquisition? 

To guide the discussion, we posed questions that #CdnELTchat community members contributed on our Padlet, https://padlet.com/BonnieJean/CdnELTchat:

Q1: How do you address vocabulary development in your classes? What vocabulary teaching strategies do you use? #CdnELTchat 

Q2: What is the role of lists in teaching and learning vocabulary? How do you decide which words from the unit or activity you are teaching to include? Is there a tool you use? #CdnELTchat

Q3: What strategies can students use to turn passive vocabulary into active vocabulary? Do you have any favourite activities you use with your students? #CdnELTchat 

Q4: How can we support independent vocabulary learning strategies?  #CdnELTchat 

We’ve collected the tweets from our March 30th chat in Wakelet, but here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

  • Use a vocabulary notebook, index cards or Quizlet to encourage autonomy
  • Get students to notice and use collocations, lexical chunks, and patterns 
  • Provide repetition and rich input in context to increase vocabulary retention
  • Use word lists, like the General Service List (GSL) and the Academic Word List (AWL), as a tool to help students prioritize and focus on words and expressions that have high currency
  • Provide opportunities to personalize vocabulary to increase retention by creating an emotional connection

Thank-you to our participants for sharing so many useful resources and tools that support vocabulary development. These have been collected in a Google Doc, Resources for Vocabulary Development in ELT

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

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

Jen Bio Pic

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

 

Pushing Boundaries: From Chile to Canada

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By Claudia Marroquin Pinto

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

As teachers, we try to push boundaries every day in our classrooms by taking a step out of our comfort zones, questioning the way we have been working for years, or travelling out of our home countries to look for answers and ways to improve our practice. It seems like a kind of “revolutionary concept” these days when there is a framework to follow and a protocol for almost everything teachers have to do. Sometimes, when the system pushes back, it is necessary to find a way to push forward.

I have been working as a teacher in Chile for 15 years, and I came to Canada last year to take a closer look at its educational system in regards to teaching English as an additional language (EAL) to students in primary and middle schools. I came up with this idea four years ago after I read in the newspaper about the growing number of immigrants that had entered Chile from non-Spanish speaking countries. I immediately thought of the children who would be enrolled in our classrooms with no idea of what their teachers and their classmates were talking about. I wondered about those parents trying to understand our educational system and struggling to support their children with all that it means to move from one country to another and adapt to new customs without knowing the language of the new land. Many questions came to my mind but only one answer was absolutely true at that point: we were not prepared to teach those children.

The following year, I received in my class a student from the United States of America who spoke little Spanish. When I interviewed his parents, they told me that he had failed the previous year in another school. They told me that the teachers were not supportive, did not like him to take notes in English, and did not take into account the differences in cultural aspects so sometimes the teachers thought their son was being rude just because in their culture they were used to being more straight-forward when speaking than Chilean culture. Even though he struggled with reading in Spanish, teachers used the same instruments to teach and assess him in Science, History, and Spanish Language Arts. He was not allowed extra time to answer tests or read books in his mother tongue. In other words, the school did not make any provisions to help him; he was asked to adapt to the school rules, and his struggles were considered a lack of commitment, interest, and skills.

It made me sad to think about him failing Grade 5 just because our school system did not allow teachers to make adaptations that took his linguistic and cultural differences into consideration, and I promised his parents to do my best to provide him with a different experience in this new school. Without having any training in multicultural education, I followed my gut to implement a support plan. It was hard at the beginning since other teachers saw these actions as “privileges” that the rest of students did not have. I did not have the theoretical knowledge to debate them, but in the end I convince them that we needed to support him. The plan included small things such as labelling the classroom with English and Spanish words, stating clear rules for behaviour with teachers and classmates, explaining the differences between the two cultures; allowing him to use his cell phone in class to look up for words and translate texts, and providing extra time on tests. He was also sitting close to the teachers and to the board, and was assigned a buddy who supported him in Science and History. Even though these actions worked, I had the feeling that there must have been infinitely more things I could have done if the school had allowed me. At that point, I felt frustrated with the school system, and I was absolutely sure that we were not prepared to teach these children. It was urgent to change our views of newcomers and our teaching strategies if we really wanted to help these students thrive in the Chilean school system. We were not prepared to teach “non-Chilean students,” and in order to change that we needed to look outside our borders, travel abroad if possible, and bring new ideas to modify and improve our practices.

I investigated the possibilities and found out that Canada was known as a multicultural country that had managed to take an ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse population into consideration as a natural process of globalization. Canadian educators had worked for many years to incorporate multicultural education and English language learning as part of the curriculum and provincial governments had provided schools with official guidelines, instructional plans, and language standards for English language learners. Canada appeared to be a country that had already experienced an increase in students from linguistically diverse backgrounds, and as far as I could learn, had succeeded in supporting them in schools. I managed to convince my husband and came with our daughter to experience first-hand what it meant to be a newcomer and to peek into their schools to witness the teaching strategies teachers use with these students.

What I have learned about teaching English language learners is a topic for a whole new article. I can only say that it has been worth the trip, and it has been a great experience so far. Now I have the theoretical knowledge I lacked a few years ago, and I can share this knowledge with other teachers when I go back to my country. I would like to make educators in Chile realize that part of being a teacher includes questioning our practices and reflecting on them; that part of being a teacher is to be curious and to look for new ways to improve; that part of being a teacher is to search for better ways to support our students, in spite of what school protocols say; and that part of being a teacher is to not stop pushing boundaries.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Marroquin Pinto, C. (2019, Winter). Pushing Boundaries: From Chile to Canada. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/TEAL-News-Winter-2019-v3.pdf

#CdnELTchat Summary: Reflecting on One Year of Pandemic Teaching & Learning

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#CdnELTchat summary for March 16, 2021
By Bonnie Nicholas

A little over a year ago, on March 11, 2020, our lives were upended when the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Most schools and learning institutions in Canada closed to in-person learning soon afterwards, and many of us found ourselves teaching online classes for the first time. As we left our workplaces, I suspect few of us thought that we would still be in the midst of the pandemic a year later.

#CdnELTchat has continued throughout the pandemic, though not just as usual. During the first weeks of the pandemic, we held chats on emergency remote teaching, as well as weekly check-ins for people to drop by and stay connected. As living in the pandemic and teaching online became our new normal, we returned to chatting on a variety of topics. Now, as we enter the second year of pandemic teaching, we took some time to reflect on what this past year has meant to us and and think about the direction of ELT in the future. 

We used Wakelet to collect and archive the evening’s chats, Reflecting on one year of pandemic teaching and learning. You can also find the tweets by searching for the hashtag #CdnELTchat on Twitter. As always, we collected questions in advance of the chat on our Padlet and Jennifer Chow tweeted them regularly throughout the hour of our chat. Jennifer Chow posted questions and those participating in the live chat tweeted their replies. 

Q1: Do you recall when the WHO first declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic?  Do you remember what your initial reaction was when you first heard that you would be pivoting to online teaching? 

Q2: What is one experience that has impacted you the most during this past year? Q3: How has this year changed your teacher identity and/or teaching practice? How has the pandemic changed the student experience?

Q4: What have you been doing to maintain your learners’ and your own wellness? 

Q5: How do you feel about returning to the classroom in September? What are you worried about? What are you looking forward to? How do your students feel about possibly returning to the classroom in September? 

We remembered how fast we all had to shift to a new way of teaching. Some people are finding that they enjoy online teaching, while others are waiting for a return to a F2F or blended option. All of us have felt some physical and mental strain from the long hours being “on” and on our devices. We discussed the compassion we feel for our students who were forced into a new way of learning, fraught with uncertainty. Most of us felt the stresses of that uncertainty and fear in our own lives as the pandemic continued unabated, while at the same time we felt gratitude to the support offered by our employers and workplaces. Being offered empathy has meant that we are better able to meet our students with that same compassion. While the online environment has opened up spaces for students (especially those who have young children and no childcare), the shift to online has also highlighted issues of equity and access. These are important issues that cannot be forgotten. Working from home has also blurred the boundaries between the workplace and our home lives. Self-care will also be an ongoing issue.

We didn’t get to our final question, but this needs to be addressed, both at a local and a global level. It also invited a larger discussion, what will be the future of #ELT? 

Q6: What guidelines should be in place as we start thinking about returning to the classroom in September? 

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

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.

 

Pushing Boundaries: Notes from the Field

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by Cindi Jones

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

As English as an additional language (EAL) teachers, we ask our students to try things they are not comfortable with to push their boundaries. Which begs the question, are we modelling risk taking in our own lives? What have we done to push our boundaries? And how can we help our colleagues as they are learning and growing? To answer these questions, I reached out to the community of EAL professionals. I spoke to people from a variety of backgrounds and different perspectives. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to talk to me and a special thank you to:

What does it mean to push boundaries?

Let’s start with a definition of what we mean by pushing boundaries. It includes doing something that we are not comfortable with and reconsidering our expectations of ourselves and of others or doing something “out of our comfort zone.” Whatever language is used to describe the boundary, it has to do with fear. We recognize this type of fear in the student who is mysteriously absent for every presentation, or who refuses to answer questions in front of the class. But, do we recognize it in ourselves when it comes to doing something creative? Or when we are faced with a task that requires doing math or using a new program? Or any of the other challenges that we avoid or dread?

As Andrea pointed out, “Fear is a boundary that has to be negotiated on a daily and personal basis”. It is that fear that makes us uncomfortable and overcoming the fear that can lead to growth. Our students face this every time they produce work, fail, and grow. The consensus among those I spoke to was that whether the boundary is physical, professional, social, pedagogical, or psychological, pushing boundaries is necessary for growth, innovation, development, and can be a demonstration of leadership.

How have you pushed boundaries?

The EAL professionals I spoke to are constantly pushing their limits and always trying to grow. Some of these changes are self-directed as in the case of Cari-Ann who moved from EAL to Adult Basic Education (ABE) by demonstrating how her skills from EAL teaching were transferable to ABE, and how her experience in EAL was of significant value to ABE students, many of whom are also EAL.

Also demonstrating a self-directed change, Andrea recently earned her MEd, while continuing to work, and has been pushing boundaries by exploring her potential as an academic and a teacher. She did this by following in the footsteps of her mentors and welcoming creative criticism from those more experienced. She found that the journey was not as scary as imagined with the guidance of mentors who had gone before.

Those who had been successful in their own journeys.

For Paul pushing boundaries this year has been moving from teaching full-time to part-time so he can develop a series of EAL videos. These videos have a growing audience and a dedicated group of volunteer assistants and actors. In addition to pushing him to learn new skills, Paul sees this as a leadership opportunity: “If teachers can imagine themselves into being a filmmaker … students can similarly imagine themselves into being an actor.”

For others the impetus for growth is top down when a program is reorganized or shut down. Joy found herself in this situation when, after 15 years at the same school, it closed its doors unexpectedly. She found herself pounding the pavement for subbing opportunities and cultivating a variety of sources for work. She now works in multiple great environments and has developed increased resiliency.

I also spoke to instructors and leaders in Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) programs who have seen top down change implemented through shuffling of roles and reorganizing. This has led to uncertainty and sometimes necessitated stepping into new and unfamiliar work environments. Roles that require a different skill set and working with people from other sectors of the work force.

What was the most important factor in you being able to push those boundaries?

In order to push boundaries many people cited the necessity of support from family, mentors, and colleagues. As with Andrea’s journey, mentors show the way and prove it is possible to reach the goal.

Also, as one might expect from teachers, the importance of learning was stressed. Training from the organization when one is moved into a new position helped with the skills needed for that position and with learning about the new workplace culture.

We take courses, online and in classrooms, watch webinars, listen to pod casts, and we read. We read a lot! We value education and use it to equip ourselves for the changes necessary when venturing into new territory. And, we are not shy about sharing our newfound knowledge with our peers.

The most difficult aspect of change is the psychological barriers. Boundaries are mental constructs. They exist in our minds and our perceptions. They require courage to overcome. For this the support of likeminded colleagues, friends, and family can be invaluable for their ability to keep you on track and help you find your way through and over barriers.

Your allies can also help you identify the frame you are using to categorize a situation and help you find a new way to look at it. We know this when we are talking to students who won’t speak in class. We help them reframe mistakes. When students try and make mistakes, we help them see this as the path to learning rather than failure.

Sometimes having an ally look at a situation which we are framing as a huge problem, will give us the objectivity to reframe the situation as an opportunity, an opportunity to learn new skills and grow, and the ability to see our growth rather than beat ourselves up for not being perfect.

My big take away from these conversations is that we as an EAL community have the skills and the expertise to help colleagues who ask for our assistance to push beyond any boundary they might be up against. And, if we ask for help, we are in a community that will offer their support.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Jones, C. (2019, Winter). Pushing boundaries: Notes from the field. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/TEAL-News-Winter-2019-v3.pdf