Making Affiliate Connections

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By James Papple

BC TEAL collaborates with many organizations, creating a strong network for its members.  One organization that BC TEAL is affiliated with is TESOL International (TESOL; tesol.org).  BC TEAL has been an affiliate of TESOL for many years and is one of over 115 international and American affiliates.  As a result, BC TEAL stands out amongst the pack with its professional development offerings and spirit of collaboration.

Working with the ANPC

One of the ways that BC TEAL collaborates  with TESOL is through TESOL’s  Affiliate Network and Professional Council (ANPC) .  This council helps to ensure strong affiliate connections by advising on initiatives and activities that advance the associations’ strategic goals.  The ANPC also acts as a liaison for the affiliates and the board of TESOL International, helping both achieve their missions. 

The ANPC brings like-minded affiliates together that might not otherwise ever meet.  These affiliates can share a variety of information like conference details, communications and best practices with each other to ensure the best support for membership. The ANPC supports affiliates through affiliate leader webinars and events that promote best practices in governance, fiscal responsibility, membership outreach, and other useful topics.

The ANPC supports affiliates through affiliate leader webinars and events that promote best practices in governance, fiscal responsibility, membership outreach, and other useful topics.

Who We Are

Currently, there are 9 members on the ANPC along with 1 TESOL staff and 1 TESOL board member. Many of the ANPC are former chairs or presidents of an affiliate and the composition of the ANPC reflects the geographical diversity of TESOL International with one member from Canada, Columbia, Israel, and Nigeria, as well as 5 members from the United States.  In addition, each member liaises with approximately a dozen affiliates to help them find the support that they need.  Throughout the year, the ANPC members work on four different subcommittees including:  Newsletter, Affiliate Peer Advisory, Convention, and Events committees.  BC TEAL has been one of the biggest supporters to the ANPC since the council’s creation three years ago.  For example,  the past president of BC TEAL  presented at the last face-to-face TESOL convention and members of the current board continue to attend the ANPC webinars along with sharing resources with other affiliates across the globe.

Discover More About Us

This year the ANPC will have a presence at the TESOL annual convention, as well as a large online event in mid-April.  The event is intended for board members or future/potential board members from all affiliates. The ANPC also recruits from members who have recent past experience on a board. Joining the ANPC is a great way to continue to make connections with others in the field.  For those who might be interested in joining or learning more about the ANPC, please visit the webpage.  

In conclusion, thank you to BC TEAL for being such a big part of the Affiliate Network and for supporting the ANPC!

A question for you

Did you click on the links in my blog? You’ll be happy you did. Have you visited our webpage, watched our webinars, read our newsletters, or connected through our many Communities of Practice? There’s something for everyone. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Bio: James Papple is the current chair of the ANPC and a member of BCTEAL and TESOL International. He has been working in EAL for over 20 years and volunteering in the field.  He holds a masters in TESL from Brock University and he is currently the interim Associate Director for York University’s English Language Institute  

Extending Perspective: From Local to Global

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by Cari-Ann Roberts Gotta

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

Several years ago I decided it was time to do a master’s degree. I was a dedicated, passionate English teacher and intended to continue to develop my career in the field, but felt that I wanted to step outside the boundaries of teaching English to speakers of other language (TESOL) to explore teaching and learning in a broader context. After all, English classes are certainly not the only places we find English language learners, and speakers of various Englishes are found all over the world. I applied and was accepted to the University of British Columbia’s Master of Education, Adult Learning and Global Change (ALGC) program, and so began my journey to extending my perspective on adult education beyond the traditional parameters of English language teaching (ELT).

I refer to my learning experience as a journey because the changes in my perspective have not come from single illuminating moments, but have developed gradually over the course of my studies. When considering the options for graduate studies, the international nature of the ALGC program was a significant draw for me. I am somewhat well-travelled, and as a teacher of individuals from all over the world, I learn about different languages and cultures daily; therefore, I thought a program with a global focus was a good fit for me. In hindsight, I have not changed my thoughts on my suitability, but I now realize that my perspective and approach to teaching was much less international than I believed, as it was limited to the individualized and localized realms of linguistics and intercultural competence. Through my studies, my perspective has now extended from the individual to the collective and from the local to the global.

Interestingly, my previously narrow focus of ELT is exactly the criticism of the field by prominent writers studying the global spread of English such as Alastair Pennycook and Robert Phillipson. Pennycook (2001) critiqued applied linguistics, the basis of ELT, as “…limited to an overlocalized and undertheorized view…” (p.5). Likewise, Phillipson (1992) espoused the need to look at the wider historical, social, economic, and political contexts and implications of the field. When I first read these criticisms I struggled not to be defensive, but I questioned their claims on three bases. The first is on the pragmatic grounds. My thoughts were in line with those of well-known author David Crystal (2003). His view is that it is simply practical to learn English because it increases an individual’s opportunities for employment and a nation’s opportunities to participate in the global economy. I now understand that to be a gross simplification of the spread of English around the world that underestimates issues such as social, economic, and political inequalities and ignores issues of linguistic human rights. Secondly, I considered the possibility that the work of Pennycook and Phillipson was outdated. ELT as a profession had its inception in the 1950s (Phillipson, 1992), so I had to question if 20-year-old literature, in a profession that is only 60 years old, was still valid. In my experience, ELT is a rapidly developing field with many areas of growth and specialization, so I reasoned that much must have changed in the past two decades. Here I was both right and wrong. A lot has changed in terms of classroom pedagogy and intercultural competence; however, the scope of ELT, the very source of criticisms, has remained unchanged. Finally, I questioned whether or not their work, focused as it is on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes where English is not a primary national language, is applicable to the context of English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes where English is one of the primary national languages. It is this final question which I will explore at length here.

I consider ELT a helping profession as well as part of the wider field of adult education, so it was hard to accept that the products of English language teachers’ work may not contribute to the world in only a positive way. However, my new found and extended perspective on the field concedes that the Phillipson and Pennycook’s criticism of ELT, as narrow and lacking in critical analysis, are applicable to at least some degree to the EAL context where English is a primary national language. At the beginning of the ALGC program I had to identify my learning goals and what the evidence of my learning would be. As an EAL professional with a strong focus on classroom practice, most of my goals were directly linked to teaching, and I identified teaching materials and practices to be evidence of my learning. Herein lays a double-edged sword. Connecting learning to practice is a strength at the same time as my narrow focus on the classroom makes me guilty of Phillipson’s and Pennycook’s criticisms. This leaves English language teachers with the challenge of extending our perspective outside our daily practice and then incorporating that extended perspective back into our daily practice. The intent is not to shift our focus, but to widen it. As English language teachers move from the individual to the collective and from the local context to the global context of our work, the connections are less direct and the implications less obvious, but are nonetheless important to our practice as EAL professionals.

In my experience most EAL instructors approach their role from the humanist perspective, an orientation to learning that focuses on the individual learners and their well-being (Fenwick, 2001). For me, this meant that when asked to identify the micro, meso and macro contexts of my work, I identified the learners’ personal contexts, the institution I work for, and the field of EAL in Canada respectively. In contrast, my new extended perspective situates my institution with its programs and students at the micro-level, the field of TESOL in Canada at the meso-level and the field of ELT (both EAL and EFL) globally at the macro-level of my work context. What does this mean for practice? It means that my practice has more depth; it means that I connect the English as a global language to my Canadian classroom with more than just passing reference. One simple example is in recognition of the pluralism of English. In the past, I would highlight differences in Canadian, American, British, and Australian English in classroom discussions and lessons. Today, I reach beyond the core English speaking countries to explicitly recognize other Englishes such as the varieties spoken in African countries such as Nigeria and Asian countries such as the Philippines. This serves to validate both those languages and the students’ prior learning, and to foster an inclusive learning environment.

Upon reflection, I think it is the constructivist pedagogy of ELT that led me to identify the learners as the micro level of my work context and to initially resist Phillipson’s (1992) critique of ELT as lacking in context. As EAL instructors, we are trained to take a constructivist approach to lessons; we focus on the learners’ individual contexts to plan lessons that are relevant to the learners’ lives and we draw on their background knowledge and prior learning to activate their schema (Doolittle, 1999). With this narrow focus on context, I believed the students’ personal contexts and histories to be the global aspect of my learning. However, I learned through my studies that the global aspect of teaching EAL is much broader than the international citizenship of the students. It encompasses ELT around the world and the role of English language teaching in globalization. Globalization has both beneficial and detrimental consequences (Chanda, 2002), and unfortunately, ELT plays a significant role in one of the negative effects, the decline of global languages.

Although the field of ELT’s contribution to the decline of global languages is primarily a result of EFL and educational language planning policies which stress the importance of English for participation in the global economy, the focus on English for newcomers to Canada is also a factor. Families are the primary cultural carriers in society, but new immigrants are perhaps so busy with day-to-day tasks, working, and learning English that they may neglect to make a conscious effort to teach their children their mother tongue. This is particularly true once the children begin school and quickly become fluent in English. While learning English may be an important part of creating human capital, Skutnabb-Kangas (1999) stressed the need for fluency in a mother-tongue as well in order to be able to speak to family members and to form one’s identity. She referred to this as a cultural right on the individual level. Similarly, when speakers are from a minority language group, it is considered the collective right, and a linguistic human right, of the group to foster the development of their language (Phillipson et al, 1995). As EAL teachers, if we extend our perspective further than our local contexts, we can instruct in a way that recognizes linguistic human rights. The key to this is to situate English as another language rather than as a replacement for the languages of the students’ home countries. This means foregoing English-only policies in classrooms and when possible incorporating students’ first languages in lessons. It may also be possible through activities such as discussions and journal writing to bring the topic of language transmission to the next generation to the classroom.

It is in these ways and with these implications that my perspective has grown from individual to collective and local to global. Despite its congruency with criticism of ELT, at the time when I began to consider the options for post graduate studies, my inclination to explore the broader field of adult education was not at all connected to a critical reflection of the field of English language teaching. I see it now as the desire to go beyond my knowledge of teaching methodology and instructional strategies to contextualize my work and learning globally. I think it is likely that the implications of my studies and my newly extended perspective will continue to surface in my daily practice in the years to come and I hope that by sharing my journey outside the confines of ELT I have planted a seed for extending the perspective of your practice and of our field.

References

Chanda, N. (2002). Coming together: Globalization means reconnecting the human community. Yale Global Online. Yale Centre for the Study of Globalization. Retrieved from: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/essay.jsp

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.). UK: Cambridge University Press.

Doolittle, P. (1999). Constructivism and online education. Proceedings from the 1999 Online conference on teaching online in higher education. 1, 13. Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

Fenwick, T. (2001). Experiential learning: A theoretical critique from five perspectives. Information series no. 385. ERIC Clearing House on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education. Columbus: OH.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Introduction In Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. UK: Oxford University Press.

Philliipson, R., Rannut, M., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1995). Introduction in Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson (Eds.), Linguistic human rights: Overcoming Linguistic discrimination. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1999). Linguistic diversity, human rights and the “free” market. In Miklos Kontra et al (Ed.), Language: A right and a resource. Budapest: Central European University Press.

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

Cari-Ann Roberts Gotta is a BC native who has returned after a long stint in Alberta where she worked at Bow Valley College. She is currently the School Chair for International at Selkirk College and the BC TEAL regional representative for the Kootenays.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Roberts Gotta, C. (2017, Winter). Extending Perspective: From Local to Global. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Winter-2017.pdf

Self-Care: An Ethical Imperative for English as an Additional Language Teachers

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by Diana Jeffries

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

Starting a new life in a new country while coping with the adversity of migration is for most new immigrants and refugees an overwhelming and challenging experience. New immigrants and refugees are compelled to come to Canada for a variety of reasons. Even though Canada is a multicultural society, newcomers still need to learn English or French so that they can participate in Canadian society as a whole.

We as teachers support many students as they continue to find their path and weave into Canada’s social fabric. However, we don’t only teach language but we also help our students to make community connections that supports social cohesion. We celebrate our students’ perseverance and resilience every day they show up in our classes to learn and engage with their new community. We become part of our students’ strength and support them with resources that build their capacity to learn in our multicultural classrooms. We play an important role in helping students acquire the much needed English or French language skills for work and social inclusion.

Although we as teachers have an opportunity and obligation to support our students as they are learning English, I have found in my own teaching practice for the past 14 years that there is often little attention given by teachers and their employers on how English as an additional language (EAL) teachers cope with stress. Teachers struggle with relationships with administrators, time pressures, excessive workloads, societal expectations, and feelings of isolation in the classroom (Hakanen, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2005). In addition, there are added demands made on teachers, such as the expectation that teachers will continue with education and training, and at the same time there is a lack of new and diverse teaching and professional development opportunities from within EAL education programs. These stressors can lead to disillusionment and depression.

There needs to be further studies on the stressors that are experienced by the unique and complex teaching assignments done by EAL teachers. Education programs often highlight their ability to meet the needs of students but rarely factor in the needs of teachers. Therefore, until the private, non-profit, and public sectors of education all take action to better support the needs of EAL professionals, it is up to teachers to find ways of self-care. If teachers can’t find ways to recognize and manage their stress, they will continue to be susceptible to compassion fatigue and burnout. The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs from burn out, but can coexist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to “cumulative” level of trauma.

Many teachers are unaware of what compassion fatigue looks like. While it is commonly linked with other stressors, there are hallmark signs of compassion fatigue such as: avoidance, detachment, addiction, sadness and grief, changes in beliefs and expectations, and assumptions. There can be somatic or emotional complaints too and all of these symptoms can signal to a teachers the need to step back and examine their workplace health.

Burnout is considered to be an element of compassion fatigue and it has been defined as the psychological strain of working with difficult populations (McCann & Pearlmann, 1990). Burnout is also seen in the deterioration and depletion of care caused by excessive work related demands (Brady, Guy, Poelstra, & Brokaw, 1999).

Burnout and compassion fatigue can be experienced by any teacher, but for those teachers working with refugees that have experienced traumatic events, teachers can also suffer from vicarious trauma as a result of being exposed to the stories of trauma told by refugee students. Vicarious trauma is related to working with vulnerable populations that have suffered from pain and trauma, and that trauma is then vicariously experienced by the teacher. Vicarious trauma is often a concern for social workers and other health care providers, but arguably teachers can often experience it just as acutely. Those professionals more susceptible to vicarious trauma are those who are overworked, ignore healthy boundaries, have too high an expectation of their role as a teacher, are new to the profession or the particular classroom setting, and work with large numbers of people who have suffered from trauma.

Some of the impacts of compassion fatigue, burnout, or vicarious trauma on teachers include change in identity, world view, or even spiritual beliefs. While teachers are at risk of succumbing to these stressors, there are many things teachers can do to help manage it. There are protective factors that can help overcome these real obstacles to health and work as an EAL professional. The protective factors include: having a good social support, strong ethical principles of practice, continuing education, competence in teaching practice, and the ability to deliberately step back to minimize the impact on one’s health and wellbeing. If left unmanaged, symptoms of burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma can have a destructive effect on professional and personal lives. These destructive effects can also including losing the ability to have a positive helping relationship with students.

Self-care, therefore, is an ethical imperative. Teachers have an obligation to students as well as to themselves, their colleagues, and their loved ones—not to be damaged by their work. One way of doing that is through understanding the ABC’s of self-care: Awareness, Balance, and Connection (Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996).

Awareness refers to being attuned to one’s own needs, limits, and emotions. It includes self-reflection, debriefing, journaling, meditation, and other mindfulness-type activities. It is developing awareness of how your work as a teacher will affect your worldview and psychological well-being. It is the awareness of your own needs.

Balance refers to the strategies for enhancing life balance between work, play, and rest. Balance includes: time spent with non-work friends and family, creative outlets, and basic physical care such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep. It means taking time for leisure pursuits such as listening to music, reading for pleasure, or spending time in nature. It also means knowing one’s own limits, keeping boundaries, and recognizing that no teacher is alone in facing the stress of the workplace. Balance means maintaining realistic expectations of oneself at work and seeking out activities that foster a sense of control and optimism.

Connection refers to a connection with oneself, to others, and to something larger. These connection strategies include: developing a social network beyond the workplace, political activism that is attuned to your values, community involvement, and paying attention to spiritual needs.

The ABC’s of self-care are much easier to set up when there is a self-care plan in place. The plan may include:

  • Setting up goals such as taking a meditation workshop to build awareness of feelings at work.
  • Creating balance goals by building in reminders to take breaks and get out into nature every week.
  • Making connections a priority by spending more time in with friends and family away from work, or join a social group such as a choir or sports team.

For you as a teacher, developing a self-care plan is not only about minimizing the strain of working in a highly demanding profession, it is also about enhancing the positive aspects of your work. Most of us teachers can testify to the joy of participating in the development of another person’s education and growth and most teachers will meet the needs of students and the school administration, but in order to continue to maintain a high quality of education for others, self-care must become a priority for all. Self-care needs to be supported by employers. The continuous expectations and demands made by employers can be overwhelming for teachers, but if employers promote and encourage teachers to have a self-care plan then the work can still be done with care and compassion. EAL schools need strategies to design and promote supportive work sites, and employers must take responsibility for establishing a supportive and respectful environment where there is an understanding of the effects of working with vulnerable populations such as EAL students.

Making a self-care plan using the ABC’s (Assessment, Balance, and Connection) will alleviate the stressors caused by compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious trauma. In my classroom, I spend the first five minutes doing some deep breathing exercises and light stretches. This is not only for my students to pause and calm their nervous systems, but also for my own benefit. I also do my best to make time for my life outside of work, and I find the ritual of meditation helps me to stay conscious and present at work. My empathy and compassion for others makes my teaching practice effective and fulfilling, but I can only maintain my care for others if I have a self-care plan for myself. We must take good care of ourselves by monitoring how we react in stressful situations in our profession and know that it is the obligation we have to ourselves and our students to promote self-care so that we can maintain health and happiness in the EAL profession for years to come.

References

Boyle, G., Borg, M., Falzon, J., & Baglioni, A. (1995 March 01). A structural Model of the

Dimensions of Teacher Stress. Retrieved November 20, 2016 from PubMed:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7727267

Brady, J., Guy, J., Poelstra, P., & Brokaw, B. (1999) Vicarious traumatizatio, spirituality, and the

treatment of sexual abuse survivors. Professional Psychology, 30 386-393.

Hakanen, J.J., Bakker,AB, & Schaufeli, WB. (2005, Nov. 05). Burnout and Work engagement among teachers. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016, from Journal of School Psychology http://curriculumstudies.pbworks.com/f/Burnout.pdf

McCann, L. & Pearlman, L (1990) Vicarious traumatization: a framework for understanding the

psychological effects of working with victims: Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3 (1) 131-149

Saaskvitne, KW & Pearlman KW (1996) Transforming the Pain. New York: Norton&Company

The American Institute of Stress. (2016, Nov. 20). Compassion Fatigue Definitions. Retrieved

from The American Institute of Stress: http//www.stress.org/military/for-practitionersleaders/compassion-fatigue

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

Diana Jeffries has been involved in the EAL sector for the past 15 years. She worked for ISS of BC in the LINC program and was an instructor for other settlement programs where she specialized in working with refugees and multi-barrier learners. She presently works at Pacific Immigrant Resource Society in the women’s refugee program and she is the Literacy and Language Support Supervisor for DiverCity. Diana has had a successful art career and has implemented art based learning into her classroom teaching practice. She has been a strong advocate for the rights of refugees in Canada and volunteer on the BCTEAL board as the Chair of Research and Inquiry.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Jeffries, D.  (2017, Winter). Self-Care: An ethical imperative for English as an additional language teachers. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Winter-2017.pdf

Teaching Syrian Refugees in a Small Community

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by Lian Clark

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

It all started several months ago. I was taking the TESL program at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. The program was about to come to an end, and I was feeling the pressure to look for a teaching position. When a job posting to teach Syrian refugees came through BC TEAL’s website, I was really interested. With a background of helping immigrants to settle and integrate into the local community, I got the job. The position involved developing and delivering an eight-week English as an additional language (EAL) course to a group of newly arrived Syrian refugees in a small town in the British Columbia interior. The primary aim of the course was to increase their English skills so that they could integrate into their new community.

The location of this EAL course may be a small town, but it is definitely not a small community. Shortly after the arrival of the first four Syrian families, local people realized that language was the key for them to settle in their new lives in Canada. Since there was no government support at the time, the community raised enough funds to hire a teacher through donations and fundraising. In addition to financial support, there were always two volunteers from the community attending classes, and groups of volunteers to look after the children while their parents were in the classroom.

Learning English was a matter of survival for those newly arrived refugees. They needed language skills to carry out daily tasks, to communicate with people in the local communities, to understand Canadian culture, to look for employment opportunities, and to train for a job. Learning about etiquette is always important. After conducting a thorough need analysis, I designed a course syllabus and planned for the first and subsequent lessons.

For my very first class, I planned to let my students know my expectations of them. Considering this group of students didn’t know much English, and all of them spoke Arabic as their first language, I decided to bring in an Arabic-speaking interpreter to make sure all the students understood my introduction to the program. With the help of the interpreter, I welcomed the students, introduced myself, and distributed a notebook and a binder to each student. I explained that there were no textbooks for the class, and the students would learn practical English that could be used in their own daily lives. I indicated that the class would often work in pairs or small groups to give students more opportunities to talk in English; however, if students were not ready to talk or say something in English, they could just listen for a while and participate silently by nodding their heads or pointing. Last but not least, I expected each student to speak in English during classes. They were only allowed to speak in Arabic at the beginning or at the end of each class, during the breaks. They could also speak in Arabic when they had questions or needed more information on something. Thanks to the interpreter, my expectations were clear to the students in the first class, and I did benefit from setting a respectful tone toward each individual and their culture; hence, the students would learn to respect, understand, and collaborate with each other. 

The program started with a group of eight students, who were actually four couples. The first day, they chose to sit beside their spouses. Naturally, whenever there was a question, there was a discussion between spouses in Arabic. I assigned them to sit with different students during the second class. Soon, the students began to make friends and got comfortable with each other. Obviously, Arabic was still frequently heard in the classroom. When students got used to the relaxed atmosphere in the classroom, something totally unexpected happened.

The second week of the program, a class discussion went out of control; there was a debate in Arabic between two male students. The wife of one of the male students also joined the discussion with an upsetting tone of voice. In a minute, the discussion heated up and turned into an argument. As the high volume of the voices extremely agitated both parties, I failed to intervene. When the husband asked to be excused, I gladly let him leave the classroom before his wife burst in tears. The class finished with me introducing key vocabulary such as “conflict” and “argument” to describe what had just happened; however, I knew I had to come up with a way to turn things around. The next day, both families came to class, but I could easily see that they were avoiding each other. That day happened to be the birthday of one of the students, so we had a little celebration. Before sharing the cake, I deliberately made some interaction between the two wives to break the ice a little. After having some treats, I started the conversation by addressing the conflict and confessing how helpless I felt as a teacher. I opened a discussion for solutions in situations like that and asked the students to work in groups. I particularly asked them to write down their ideas of classroom norms and rules on a poster. That activity went great with all students participating and giving opinions. My students were puzzled when I said that I was actually glad that there was an argument in the classroom. I explained how this conflict not only fostered new ideas, alternatives, and solutions, but most importantly it led to growth and change by building more synergy and cohesion among us. After the class, one of the classroom assistants shared the heartwarming moment she just witnessed outside the classroom: two Syrian men double-kissed each other on the cheek, and hugged. Peace arrived.

When reflecting on this teaching experience, one of the unexpected challenges was flexibility. During the interview, the hiring committee and I agreed that “being flexible” is an important component of this job; however, we totally underestimated the extent of that flexibility. The challenges I experienced were having toddlers in the classroom with their parents, interruptions by childminders for unexpected incidents, constantly preparing backup plans to meet the students’ various learning needs, etc. Adjusting plans was the most frequent challenge. For instance, I planned to show a video on popular culture. After a few minutes of viewing, I realized my students had difficulty in following the language and cultural information. I had to adjust my plan to include a study of the key vocabulary, an explanation of some cultural norms involved, and a discussion on the differences between popular culture in Canada and Syria. stretching flexibility, the impact of a spontaneous question or discussion on my students’ learning always delightfully surprised me. When I followed their needs and the flow of the class atmosphere, I was not only experiencing naturally emerging wonderful teaching moments, but also establishing my unique teaching style. Most importantly, I was establishing rapport with my students by showing my care for their learning and my effort in catering to their needs.

Thanks to the generosity of the community, the initial eight-week program was extended one more month, then another three months. It has been five months now, and the program is still running. Due to the one-year sponsorship agreement, which is coming to an end, some of my students are expected to find employment to support themselves. Even though they have made significant progress in the past five months, the language barrier would still be the biggest challenge for them to find suitable jobs. I expressed my concerns to a new friend I met through the BC TEAL Reginal Conference, and his wise insight into life has brought me some comfort:  “Desire for the best is never too ambitious; doing what is necessary to get there is important for achieving satisfaction” (Michael Wicks).

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

Lian Clark is a new member of BC TEAL. She is teaching community EAL programs in the BC Interior. She has taught EAL at private schools in China. Having a background as a settlement and integration counsellor supporting immigrants in BC communities, she is interested in language learning and cultural transition as well as teaching students of refugee and trauma backgrounds.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Clark, L.  (2017, Winter). Teaching Syrian refugees in a small community. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Winter-2017.pdf

AIDS and Health Education Award: Community English Classes for Women

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by Amea Wilbur

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

Rima arrived in Canada in February 2016. She came with her husband and four children, her youngest child is 4 months old. Her husband just started language classes. Rima really wants to learn English so she can help her children, make friends, and participate in Canadian society. She is lonely and wishes she had family close by to help her. Her son Sayid has a disability and she knows she will have to attend many doctors appointments with him. She sometimes feels like she is back in Syria listening to the bombs go off. She has many dreams for her family and particularly her children. She would really like to attend Language Instruction for Newcomer (LINC) to Canada classes but can’t because her children are too young.

Between November 4th, 2015 and June 27th, 2016, 28,755 refugees arrived in Canada, many of them like Rima. They fled war, persecution, torture, and faced multiple losses before arriving on our shores. This story is based on the many stories I heard working with refugee women. There are thousands of mothers like Rima, who have come to Canada to make a better life for their children.

For someone like Rima, settling here can seem insurmountable. Rima does not know the language to be able to speak to her children’s teachers, clinic staff, or dentist. She does not have family or friends here to support her. She does not understand the education system and worries about what her children will learn here. She knows how valuable it is to learn English. She wants to attend government funded language programs called Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). She can’t attend until her youngest child reaches 18 months. She is worried because she also knows if she misses more than two LINC classes a month, she may be asked to leave. Rima also struggles with flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, and memory. Rima continues to have a lot of hope too. She believes her children will have different opportunities than she had in Syria after the war.

In 2016, Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) was fortunate enough to be awarded the BC TEAL AIDS and Health Award for curriculum development to support refugee women like Rima who have experienced trauma and are struggling to find their way here. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how the award was used and the ways we are trying to respond to the needs of women like Rima.

In late 2015, PIRS saw a need to find a way to support newly arrived refugee women and their young children. My own doctoral research identified some of the barriers that students who have experienced trauma faced in accessing government funded English as an additional language (EAL) classes, in particular LINC classes. Some of the barriers include lack of childcare space, attendance expectations, lack of understanding about the impact of trauma on learning, assessment practices, and not feeling ready for a LINC class. 

We at PIRS felt we might be able to fill a gap and respond to the needs to of refugee women. We have 41 years of experience working with refugee and immigrant women. PIRS was not looking to replace the LINC classes but to provide language support for women who are not quite ready to enter LINC classes. In April 2015, we piloted an EAL class for refugee women, specifically women who have experienced trauma, at Edmonds Community School. We had 20 women and 21 children attend the program.

Our program and curriculum were different than the LINC program. We wanted to be more flexible and responsive to the needs of the participants. Women, in the pilot class, brought their babies, and we were able to provide childcare for the older children. Many of the women had experienced violence and trauma, and some have never been in an educational setting before. Being comfortable and feeling safe is was the primary goal of the instructor.

We used the following guiding themes in developing the curriculum:

Control: Trauma can rob people of their sense of control and power over their lives. One of the first steps in supporting people with trauma is to provide a sense of safety and to equip them with the language to identify their feelings and experiences. Our curriculum covered language around feelings. We also developed lesson plans that addressed mental wellness and personal well-being.

Connection: Trauma can destroy the bonds between an individual, their family, and their community. Therefore, one means of supporting students who have experienced trauma is facilitating connection with others. Our curriculum and classes offered opportunities for women to get to know each other and develop friendships in the classroom. As well, they learned about the education system, parenting in the Canadian context, how to best support their children, and social services.

Meaning: Trauma can dismantle one’s sense of value in the world. Students need to gain a new sense of self and hope—so they can look toward the future. Our curriculum did this by having the women think about their own interests, passion, and hopes.

BC TEAL has shown leadership by supporting the needs of refugees. I am honoured and proud that BC TEAL funded our curriculum and program. This funding has helped to ensure that women like Rima are given the much needed support and opportunity to engage in our communities. PIRS is hopeful that the continued support for refugee women, such as Rima, can continue. In this time when we are witness to divisive and social strain, it is essential that we continue to create innovative, and inclusive programs and curriculum. Our students can offer as much to Canadian society as it can offer them.

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

Dr. Amea Wilbur completed her Doctorate at UBC looking at how to make government funded language for adults more inclusive for students who have experienced trauma. She has facilitated numerous workshops on how to support students who have experienced trauma in the EAL classroom. She, along with Diana Jeffries, created “ Beyond Trauma: Language Learning Strategies for New Canadians Living with Trauma” through LISTN. Dr. Wilbur currently works for Pacific Immigrant Resources Society as the Program Manager.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Wilber, A.  (2017, Winter). Community English classes for women. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Winter-2017.pdf

Classroom Corner: Mixed Headlines

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by Edward Pye

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

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

Time:              80 minutes

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

Numbers:        Three or more groups of two or four students

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

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

Objectives:

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

Preparation:

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

Steps:

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

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

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by Cristina Peralejo

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

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

My Interest in Dyslexia

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

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

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

What is Multi-Sensory Language Education?

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

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

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

What did I take away from this experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

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

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by Tara Stewart

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

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

Basic Literacy ESL Initiative

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

Identifying The Needs

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

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

Getting Started

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

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

Tutor Training Participants

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

Community Centre Support

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

Building more than language skills

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

Continued Success

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

Online Tools for the Language Classroom

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by Liza Navarro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment with Kahoot!

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

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

Storybooks Canada: A Digital Resource for Multilingual Education

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by Espen Stranger-Johannessen and Bonny Norton

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

Experience so far and the way forward

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

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

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

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

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

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Original reference information:

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