Stories from Newcomers to Canada: A Life-Writing Project Started by EAL and Adult Educators in BC!

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By Zahida Rahemtulla and Amea Wilbur

Using Life-Writing with Newcomers in the Classroom

Life-writing and narrative pedagogies are sites EAL instructors can explore with newcomers to Canada in the classroom, allowing for students to examine their backgrounds and find commonalities and community through shared life experiences. For many newcomers who were former writers, the opportunity of embarking on a narrative project offers a chance to explore the English language through the medium of creative nonfiction. 

The Stories from Newcomers to Canada Project

Stories from Newcomers to Canada is one such BC-based creative non-fiction initiative. Started by Adult Educators and EAL instructors, the program helps newcomers author their own stories of migration in a forthcoming book, Geographies of the Heart: Life writing from Newcomers to Canada

The project began in February 2020. The group had two meetings before Covid-19 hit in March, and then moved online. As a result, most of the writing process has taken place remotely via zoom, and the community has met regularly over this platform throughout the year. 

The stories from this community of newcomers represent the multiplicity and complexity of experiences that are often ignored in narratives of immigration and forced migration to Canada. Understanding a range of experiences is especially important in a media landscape which continues to struggle against presenting one single narrative as “the” story of immigration.

The Podcast: Hosted by UBC Centre for Migration Studies

Six of the authors from the forthcoming book are featured on the Global Migration Podcast, which is hosted by the UBC Centre for Migration Studies and was recently released online:

https://migration.ubc.ca/global-migration-podcast/season-2/episode-1

You can get a sense of the project and authors by listening to these short ~30 minute episodes featuring different themes on the topic of settlement and migration. 

Take a Listen!

Episodes 1-6 are currently on the website, with more episodes on the way! 

Episode 1: Stories about Gathering Stories is about how the project was started by Raymonde Tickner, Amea Wilbur, Zahida Rahemtulla and Kerry Johnson. Episode 2: Stories about Mentorship focuses on the experiences of two Kurdish newcomer writers, Ava Homa and Shanga Karim and the experiences of minority writers, and  Episode 3: In Stories about Exile and Displacement we hear from Albino Nyuol and Muhialdin Nyera Bakini about their exile from South Sudan. Episode 4: Stories of Risk looks at the experience of exiled journalists Akberet Beyene and Diary Xalid Marif from Eritrea and Iraq. Episode 5: Stories of Disruption focuses on the post-settlement experience of Malena Mokhovikova, and Episode 6: Stories of Belonging and Exclusion takes a closer look at ongoing experiences of discrimination faced by racialized newcomers with Camille McMillan-Rambharat. 

All episodes are hosted by Mohammed Alsaleh, acclaimed international speaker and advocate. 

These episodes will be an interesting listen for anyone interested in bringing narrative pedagogies and life-writing into their classrooms, migration, and the fantastic stories from newcomers all around us.

More Information on Stories from Newcomers to Canada

If you are interested in the broader life-writing project, you can learn more at our website: https://sntc.squarespace.com/

Biographies

Zahida Rahemtulla is an emerging writer and graduate student in Postcolonial Literature and Translation.  She has worked in Vancouver’s immigrant and refugee non-profit sector for several years in the area of housing, employment, and literacy. From 2017-2020, served as coordinator of The Shoe Project—a storytelling program for newcomer women coached by established Canadian authors. 

Amea Wilburis an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). She developed a trauma-informed English as an Additional Language (EAL) program at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) that received national recognition. Amea speaks and writes on the topics of literacy and trauma, and co-authoredThe 6 Principles For Exemplary Teaching of English Learners.

Classroom Corner: Word Share Vocab Review

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by Edward Pye

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

Tag Words: vocabulary, speaking, writing, peer-review

Time: 60+ minutes

Age/Level: Intermediate+

Numbers: Any number

Requirements: Multimedia, Gmail, Students’ laptops

WORD SHARE is a technology-infused task-based activity that runs through a number of skills all while focusing on the set vocabulary.

Objectives:

  • Learn new vocabulary
  • Write accurate sentences using vocabulary
  • Teach other students and peer-review their work

Preparation:

  • Create a shared Google Document for all the students in the class including the vocab you want to teach and a table for students to write sentences.
  • Have students create Gmail accounts; they will need them to edit the document.
  • Have students bring their laptops to class.

Steps:

1. Assign the Vocab (15 minutes)—Bring up your Google Doc on the multimedia screen so that all the students can see the vocab. Assign 1 word to each student and tell them they must find the meaning of that word, the different forms and some common collocations. Give students 10 minutes to do this.

2. Share the Vocab (20 minutes)—Once students are confident they have all the information, have them stand up and go around the room. They must partner with another student and teach them their word and all the information that goes with it. Partners must take note of the info they learn. Give them about 3 minutes to explain their words and then have them rotate around to another partner. Repeat this another 4 or 5 times.

3. Write (15 minutes)—Once students have been taught about 5 words, stop the activity and have students go back to their computers. In the table on the shared google document, have students come up with and type in a sentence that includes all the words they have learned. Alternately, this can be done on the whiteboard.

4. Peer-Review (20 minutes)—Have students read another student’s sentence and write a revised sentence next to the original. This can be done several times, so that there are multiple revisions of each sentence. Once done, revise the sentences yourself with the class on the multimedia giving feedback as you go. Once this is all done, students will have an easily accessible, lasting document with examples of feedback and accurate use of the vocabulary.

5. Homework—Have students find images online to illustrate their vocab or sentences and have them paste them into the document.

Biographical Information

From the Fall 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, Fall). Word Share Vocab Review. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

Classroom Corner: Constrained Writing

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by Edward Pye

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

Tag Words:  Lateral thinking, Writing

Time:  30 + minutes (depending on how many rounds you do)

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

Numbers:  Can be done individually, with a partner or in small groups

Skills:  Creative thinking, Writing

Constrained Writing is a fun writing warmer taken from poetry writing that makes students think beyond the structures of a normal sentence.

Objectives:

  • Think quickly and creatively
  • Write sentences that follow various rules yet maintain grammatical and lexical sense

Preparation:

  • Print out the rules of the activity for your own use.
  • Put students into small teams; have them take out a piece of paper and a pen and chose a team name.
  • Put team names on the board with a space below each team name.

Steps:

  1. Explain the activity (3 minutes): Write the name of the activity on the board and ask students if anyone knows what “constrained” means. It’s a fairly uncommon word, so you might have to explain it. I like to use the noun form “constraints” and do a mock arrest on a student.
  2. Model the activity (3 minutes): I usually model this activity by using the first rule which is “You cannot use any Es in your sentence.” The goal of this activity is to write the longest possible, grammatically correct, sensible sentence, so you can give an example of a sentence with no Es on the board.
  3. First Round (3 minutes): The “no E” rule is a good one to start with, so give the students 3 minutes and with their team, have them write the longest possible sentence they can without Es. Be strict on time.
  4. Check the Sentences (5-7 minutes): When time is up, pens go down and have the teams read their sentences out loud while the teacher writes them on the board under their team name. (Alternately, with a multi-media set up and google docs, this can all be done automatically). Once the sentences are up, give the class 2 minutes to review the sentences and try to find any grammar mistakes. Go through each team’s sentence and check it for grammar, if it makes sense, and if it follows the rules. The team with the longest, correct sentence gets 1 point and the team with the most points at the end is the winner.
  5. Following Rounds (20 minutes +): There are many different rules you could institute for following rounds, but here are my personal favorites. You may need to model some of these to make the rules clear:
  • Lipogram: A common letter (such as E) is banned.
  • Reverse-Lipogram: Each word in a sentence must include a specific letter.
  • Alliteration: Every word in the sentence must begin with the same letter.
  • Anagrams: Teams choose 1 word and must make a sentence out of the letters.
  • Chaterism: Each word must have more letters than the last word Ex. “I am sad today.”
  • Single Syllables: Each word must only have 1 syllable

Biographical Information

From the Summer 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.

cc

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2017, Summer). Constrained Writing. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/TEAL-News-Summer-2017.pdf

“ESL Students and Academic Dishonesty” – a BC TEAL Webinars session

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As Canadian education becomes more and more popular with international students, their struggles with fitting in to Canadian academic culture become ever more important. In this webinar, Dave Henderson presents his research into causes and cures for academic misconduct by international students. Through analyzing a variety of peer-reviewed publications, Dave identified possible causes and formulated solutions that can be implemented in both public and private schools. Join him for a presentation and Q&A that will offer suggestions on how to reduce instances of academic misconduct.

An ESL teacher since 2005, Dave recently graduated from Royal Roads University with a M.A. in Intercultural and International Communication. In addition to his major project, about academic misconduct among ESL students, he received the Public Ethnography prize for his podcast on authenticity in swing dancing. Professionally, his interests include academic preparation, business language, reading, writing, and vocabulary. His students have gone on to work and study in a wide variety of locations and subjects. Outside of the classroom, he enjoys jazz music and swing dancing, reading, and cycling.

You can find the slides to this session on Dave’s website.

Accuracy and Fluency – #LINCchat April 7th

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LINCchat

By Jennifer Chow

What is more important – accuracy or fluency? Although this question seems to be as tough to answer as the nature vs. nurture debate, Friday’s special daytime #LINCchat discussion explored this topic.

Our moderators, Nathan Hall (@bcteal) and Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), led a small and intimate group of regular #LINCchat participants in a robust discussion that touched on topics such as the importance of fluency and accuracy in speaking and writing, finding balance between the two, successful activities that develop these skills, error correction and more.

#LINCchat participants started off with a question about the importance of fluency and accuracy. While most agreed it was difficult to choose one over the other, Catherine (@CatherineEbert2) and Shawna (@ShawnaWiKo) tweeted about how having students focus on fluency first allows for errors, which could be followed up with a lesson on accuracy. This led to a general consensus that giving more time to fluency could lead to more informed teaching of accuracy. As Nathan noted, knowing when to emphasize one over the other is a balancing act.

Finding that balance is tricky because while Catherine’s suggestion about letting students know it is okay to slow down and focus on accuracy is important, Shawna and Augusta’s tweet that overcorrection can impede fluency is also valid. Perhaps Nathan’s comment about raising students’ awareness of what to focus on and why it is important to focus on that, whether it is accuracy or fluency says it best. Helping students focus on what they need requires corrective feedback. Great ideas for error-correction included self-correcting (@CatherineEbert2), correcting only errors impeding communication, making note of others to address later (@nathanghall), peer-correction, and giving students “expert” responsibilities for certain language features (@AugustaAvram).

As always, #LINCchat is not only about dynamic discussion. Another benefit from this chat is the resources shared by all.

Fluency Activities and Resources

Activities and Resources for Accuracy Development

If this summary only whet your appetite, follow the complete discussion here.

New to #LINCchat? If you have never participated in a chat before, go to www.lincchat.ca for more information. #LINCchat occurs every other Tuesday, with the occasional Friday. Our next #LINCchat will be on April 18th. Feel free to use the hashtag between chats to share thoughts and links with others. Hope to “see” you on April 18th!


Jen Bio PicJennifer has been teaching in the LINC Program for more than 10 years. She loves using Twitter to stay connected as a mother, an educator and an active citizen. 
 
Twitter: @jennifermchow