How to Make Your LGBTQ+ Students Feel More Included

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Did you know? Up to 30% of the world’s population belong to the LGBTQ+ community? This means that close to 1/3 of your students in class may as well. It is important to make all of our learners feel like they belong so here are a few tips on how to do this for your LGBTQ+ students. The most important point to remember is to allow for a natural type of inclusion and not portray any kind of ‘otherness’. Too often in an attempt to include LGBTQ+ in our lessons and surroundings, we tend to ‘fragment’ topics and activities. For example, some teachers focus on topics and representation only during the month of June – pride month. This, however, does not foster a sense of inclusion in everyday classrooms but rather serves to highlight an ‘otherness’, fragmenting the curriculum as a result. For real inclusion and a sense of belonging to occur, students in this community need to be represented on the walls of the classroom, in textbooks and materials used in class, and in real life activities.

Your Classroom

Take a good look around your classroom. What posters are on the wall? What pictures are on display? Is there any way you can make the visuals more inclusive without creating a sense of ‘otherness’?

Your Textbook

Research has shown that very few ELT textbooks include representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This can be remedied by a teacher supplementing with material on topics that relate both to the theme of the unit in the book and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in the Reading and Writing Q: Skills for Success series there is a unit on colour. A teacher can easily bring in the symbol of the rainbow and what the colours mean to the community. Another unit in the same series focused on festivals in London. Here, the teacher can easily bring in the Pride Festival in London. By carefully examining your materials, you are able to naturally introduce topics related to the LGBTQ+ community without veering from your curriculum.

Your Activities

Classroom activities can also be adapted to better suit the needs of your learners. Activities in lower beginner classes on family, for example, can include pictures of many different kinds of families – the nuclear family, single-mom or dad family, two-dad family, two-mom family, extended family and so on. When students are asked to describe their perfect husband or wife, more neutral words such as ‘life partner’ can be used. The natural inclusion of the pronoun ‘they’ in lessons may also be helpful. When examples are given of people in different professions, try to include some from the LGBTQ+ community. For example, a unit on sports where students describe their favourite sport/athlete can be introduced with an example from the community, such as tennis star Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, or basketball star Jason Collins. This brings in representation of the LGBTQ+ community in a naturally inclusive way without creating a feeling of ‘otherness’ in the class.

Author’s Bio

Hilda, like many in ELT, has worked in a variety of contexts. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Teaching Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She is working in EAP, the TESOL Certificate Program, and the MEd. She previously owned and ran her own private language school. She also has years of overseas experience. Hilda holds a PhD from Rhodes University and has contributed to the BCTEAL Journal as well as numerous other journals. Hilda’s experience in so many areas of EAL make her an excellent addition to the board as the Private Sector Representative (2021-2023).

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10 Ways to Use Music in the ESL Classroom

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Music is a wonderful way to engage learners in the classroom. It breaks up the monotony of worksheets that are often used to practice vocabulary and grammar points. Here are 10 ways to spice up your language lessons with music.

1. What’s the Word?

Function: Listening for details

Level: High Beginner +

Materials: worksheet with song lyrics that contain mistakes in vocabulary items

Instructions:

Create a worksheet from lyrics of a song by replacing words with certain vocabulary items the class is working on. Students correct the mistakes as they listen to the song. For example, if you are working on university subjects, you can use the song Don’t Know Much and replace the subjects in the song with subjects being taught in class (‘Don’t know much about history’ becomes ‘Don’t know much about chemistry’). Students listen and correct the mistakes.

2. Re-order the Lyrics

Function: To listen for details

Level: High Beginner +

Materials: song lyrics cut up into strips

Instructions:

Students work in pairs. They listen to a song and put the strips with the lyrics back in order. Long songs that are not too slow and have very little repetition are perfect for this kind of exercise. The level of difficulty of the song should match the level of your class.

For example:

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot (High Intermediate +)

3. Memories

Function: To describe memories

Level: Low intermediate +

Materials: a song that brings back memories for you

Instructions:

Start lesson by playing a song that is special to you as it reminds you of something or someone. To keep the students interested, you can make a gap fill with the lyrics. Then tell the students why this song is so special. Describe the memory. Then divide the students into pairs. Ask each person to choose a song (can be from their own culture/language) and write about the memory it brings back for them. Students present the song and the memory to their partners. Volunteers come up and sing part of their songs and describe their memories to class.

4. Word Search and Songs

Function: To learn new vocabulary

Level: High beginner +

Materials: lyrics with missing vocabulary words (same part of speech)

Instructions:

Start lesson by playing a song. Ask the students to write down as many nouns as they can from the song. Then put the students into pairs and give them a word search you created with all the nouns in the song. Ask students to use their lists and find as many of the words as possible. When time is up, the group that found the most nouns from the song wins. Make sure to go over meaning of words and show students how to remember any new words with various learning strategies.

5. Musical Analogies

Function: To review vocabulary

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: worksheet with lyrics and gap exercise, analogy worksheet with answers from the song

Instructions:

Begin by handing out the lyric worksheet and having students complete the blanks by listening to the song. Take up the answers on the board. Then hand out the analogy worksheet and ask students to work in pairs. The answers to the analogies can be one of the gap words or any other word in the song.

For example: Grass: green         Ocean: _blue_

6. If I Could Change the World

Function: To describe hypothetical changes

Level: High Intermediate +

Materials: Eric Clapton’s Change the World

Instructions:

Start lesson by asking students about people who have made a difference in the world. What have they done? Then ask students to listen to a song about a man who would like to change the world. They are to listen for things he would change and write them down. Take up the answers after the song is finished. Then ask each student to write down 5 things they would change about the world. Then put the students into groups. Together, they must come to an agreement on 5 changes they would make. Students present changes to class.

7. Music and Art

Function: Expressing and Supporting Opinions

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: various pictures of works of art, different musical pieces (jazz, new age, classical)

Instructions:

Put up various pictures of art around the room so it resembles an art gallery. Give each painting or picture a number. Give students time to move around the classroom and have a good look at all the pictures. Then break the class into pairs. Play different excerpts of music and ask students to match the music to the artwork. Students need to come up with reasons supporting their opinions. Their opinions are presented to class.

8. Make an Album Cover

Function: To express opinions

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: excerpts from an album no one has ever heard of, magazines, paper, scissors, glue sticks, markers

Instructions:

Students listen to a variety of excerpts from songs off an album. They make note of feelings, images, and ideas they get from the songs. Then they are divided into groups and told they are the artist’s creative team. They must come up with an album cover for the songs they just heard. They discuss their ideas and choose images from the magazines to create an album cover. These covers are presented to the class and then displayed around the room.

9. Questions and Answers

Function: To give reasons

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: songs that have Wh-Q questions in them, answers to the questions on index cards (one word, one card)

Instructions:

Start the lesson by reviewing Wh-words and question formation. Then play a couple of songs that have Wh-Q in them. Students write down all the Wh-Q they hear in the songs. Then divide the class into groups of three. Each group gets a set of index cards which have the answers to the questions (mixed up). It is a race to match the answers with the questions. Answers are presented to class.

For example: Why must we wait until tonight?

…because    we   have to   work   all   day.

10. Musical Cryptograms

Function: To review vocabulary

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: worksheet with lyrics and gap exercise, cryptogram worksheet using words in the song 

Instructions:

Begin by handing out the lyric worksheet and having students complete the blanks by listening to the song. Take up answers as class. Then hand out the cryptogram you created using some of the vocabulary or phrases in the song. Students must decipher the number-letter code in small groups or pairs. Some letters and codes are given. Groups race to finish first.

For example: 

Author’s Bio

Hilda, like many in ELT, has worked in a variety of contexts. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Teaching Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She is working in EAP, the TESOL Certificate Program, and the MEd. She previously owned and ran her own private language school. She also has years of overseas experience. Hilda holds a PhD from Rhodes University and has contributed to the BCTEAL Journal as well as numerous other journals. Hilda’s experience in so many areas of EAL make her an excellent addition to the board as the Private Sector Representative (2021-2023).

Start the New Year with Learnings from 2021

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Happy New Year! We asked our board and committee members to share with our readers their learnings from 2021 which they will carry forward to 2022 .

Self Care

Self care definitely stood out among all the themes occurring in what we learned: “…there is nothing wrong with making time to take care of yourself” (Jennifer Cummins), and “It’s important to take care of myself, first. It’s like the oxygen mask in the airplane: Put your own on first” (Cindi Jones) and “to encourage others to take care of themselves, too!” (Taslim Damji). 

We also learned to give ourselves permission to take a step back. For Mercedes Bueno, it’s about disconnecting from work periodically: “…the mind needs to disconnect from work regularly in order to be more productive weekly. Working online doesn’t have to equal being available 24/7.”  For someone who experienced uncertainty and significant changes, they may find Karen Aughtry’s wisdom resonates with their learning: “I have learned (am learning) to float with the ebb and flow of life. …This year I’ve been experiencing all types of conditions on ‘the sea’. I’m learning to choose what suits my capabilities (I don’t mind learning new things, though) when there are many tugs of options on my line, and I’m learning to chill when there aren’t any. I will keep doing this in the unknown of 2022!”

Through the challenging times in 2021, as devoted and caring educators we realized the importance of self care, so that we can be a strong support for our students, coworkers, family and friends. We learned to slow down, ground ourselves, take breaks, care for our own needs, prioritize our own wellbeing, and let go of the things we are unable to control.

Supporting Others

While we learned to take care of ourselves, we also learned and kept improving the ways we try to take care of others and their unique needs. “…Each person deals with adversity in a different way, and the challenge is to provide the kind of support that is unique to each individual. To demonstrate true care involves giving the ‘cared for’ what they need, not what I think they need” (Karen Densky). Shirene also shared that “…socializing in small groups or one-on-one allowed me to spend more engaged time with the ones I love”.

As we are busy preparing for learning opportunities and supporting our members, Azzam learned not to “put off things for tomorrow as there are always fires to be put out then” – It is also a snapshot to show you how hard our board, committees and volunteers are working to bring you more professional development opportunities! 

Through the Challenges of 2021

In 2021, we experienced challenging wildfires and flooding amongst the continuing pandemic; however, we did not stop learning. As Fedha Muema summarized: “…In 2021 I finally began to understand what it truly meant to be a lifelong learner. … [Learning is] not just someone who takes college credits for fun well into their twilight years; it’s not just the student in the classroom or the Dojo or the dance studio. It’s also all the little things you accumulate in the most unexpected places. … In 2021 I learned that education is a conscious choice to be open to discovering something new, and to never stop reaching for more. “

What is one thing you learned in 2021 that you will bring with you to 2022?

#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