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Listening to Stories While You Read Them: Supporting ELL’s

17 Mar

Supporting English Language Learners through their comprehension and engagement in a text is vital if they are to come to a love of reading in English.betty white

In preparing for a presentation on Supporting the ELL’s in our Ontario Classrooms, I was looking for current Canadian resources teachers can easily incorporate into their language arts curriculum for ESL students.  One such resource I wanted to share right away was StorylineOnline.   Storyline Online is a fabulous website that has popular English children’s picture books being read aloud by celebrities!  How interesting.  Not only can children experience a range of pronunciations by listening to books read aloud, they can increase their engagement in a text either in the class on the computer or at home.

I recommend choosing a text with a student and doing a “picture walk” with them through the book.  Discussing the pictures helps students to make predictions, and it activates the schema they already have for the topic making learning more meaningful.  You may want to ask them to share any experiences they have with the topic either orally or in writing.  Go over any challenging or new vocabulary, idioms, slang, and cultural references in the book.  Next, read it along with the student and let them have some time alone to read through it at their own pace if they’re able to do this.  You can then pull up this resource Storyline Online and have them listen to the book alongside reading it.  They may wish to do this a few times.  Finally, choose a consolidation activity you feel will best match their learning goals and needs.  This could be drawing pictures and describing their favourite part.  Identifying parts of the story such as the main characters, plot, setting, etc.  And one of my favourites is to have them change one of these parts and re-tell the story aloud.

Definitely check out this free online resource and let me know your thoughts! 🙂

One of my favourites?  Harry the Dirty Dog ready by Betty White

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Developing ESL Vocabulary with Clusters

30 Jan

There are many strategies to consider when wanting to teach or learn vocabulary.

Hands-on vocabulary learning seems to be the most effective that I’ve found, as having students use multiple senses when learning a new word seems to increase retention.  Although, with this method the word gain is slow and it’s not always practical in the common classroom setting.  Instead, I often try teaching vocabulary that is related to eachother, together – clusters!

Clustering, or using semantic clusters, basically means learning words around one theme  or idea.  These themes or ideas can be quite large such as “the world” (learn: countries, ocean, continent, to discover …) or can be more focused such as “coffee” (steam, espresso, to roast …).

A few ideas on how to teach using clusters:

  • use theme-based ESL lessons instead of grammar-based.  Grammar can be “snuck” into the lessons along with vocabulary that is related on a particular theme.
  • use brainstorming charts where one word branches to another with visible cluster-like appearance.
  • challenge students to find appropriate synonyms (words that have the same meaning).
  • play Scattergories or Scrabble with a theme.
  • If teaching reading, try to use a variety of resources – news articles, journals, dialogues, stories, podcasts – but with the same theme.  This will increase the kinds of vocabulary that students are exposed to (expressive vs. written, for example).
Take advantage of some online resources! ^^

Cluster/Cloud Graphic Organizers and more Vocabulary graphic organizers – free printables

Teaching and Developing Vocabulary article by Houghton-Mifflin Reading.

Dictionary.com Word of the Day to help you increase your own vocabulary.

 

What to expect on the TOEFL iBT Speaking test – sample questions, too!

22 Jul

The infamous speaking section of the TOEFL iBT (the internet based TOEFL test), has many ESL hopefuls nervous.  That’s fair because the pace of the questions and the content can be difficult for even some native English speakers.  Of the overall TOEFL iBT test, about 25% is speaking, accounting for approximately 20 minutes of test-taking time.   It focuses on academic English and to get a great score you need to answer questions in a clear, concise way demonstrating an understanding of the material.

 

Breakdown of the 6 Speaking Questions/Tasks:

To ace the speaking part of the TOEFL iBT you need to know what to expect.  There are 6 speaking questions which you answer by speaking into a headset.  Let me break them down for you:

The first 2 questions are called Independent Tasks and are on topics familiar to the test-taker.   You have 15 seconds to prepare an answer and 45 seconds to speak.

A sample Independent Task question is: “Some universities require first year students to live in dormitories on campus.  Other’s allow students to live off campus.  Which policy to you think is better for first year students and why? Include details and examples in your answer.”

The last 4 questions are called Integrated Tasks and involve using more than one skill – reading, writing and speaking for example.  In some cases you can read the question first, then listen to it, prepare your answer and then speak.  Other times you’ll listen first, prepare and then answer.  After listening and reading the test-taker is given a short time to prepare a response, about 30seconds, and then must proceed with answering as requested.  Usually the response time is 60 seconds.

A sample Integrated Task question is “For thousands of years humans have been able to domesticate, or tame, many large mammals that live in the wild together in herds.  Once tamed, these mammals are used for agricultural work and transportation.  Yet some herd mammals are not easily domesticated.  A good indicator of a mammal’s suitability for domestication is how protective the animal is of it’s territory.  Non-territorial mammals are more easily domesticated than territorial mammals because they can live close together with animals from other herds.  A second indicator is that animals have a hierarchical social structure, in which herd members follow a leader, are easy to domesticate , since a human can function as a ‘leader.’ ”  <THEN YOU WOULD LISTEN TO A SHORT 1-2 minute LECTURE BEFORE GETTING A QUESTION…> “The professor describes the behavior of horses and antelopes in herds.  Explain how their behaviour is related to their suitability for domestication.”

 

Now, if you’re thinking that seems difficult – you’re not alone.  The TOEFL test can be one of the most important tests of your life, your score determining whether or not you can be accepted into the overseas school  or company of your choice.  Never fear!  Jennifer Teacher is here!  If you’re ready to start preparing seriously for your test, contact me.

Create a daily writing plan to improve your English

16 Jul

For English learners, writing can really be a great way to study when you’re not in class or with a tutor.  Committing to write every day helps your vocabulary, spelling, grammar and even your conversation abilities (because often people write something as they would try to say it!).

I suggest my students keep a notebook and spend about 30 minutes each day writing.  It doesn’t matter what you write about, it can be anything, it’s the act of writing and committing to the process.  Writing by hand is better than by computer, as it supposedly activates more memory retention.

Daily Writing Log Plan:  Spend 15 minutes writing about anything.  (below are some ideas to motivate your pen^^).  Don’t take a break and keep your pen moving for the whole time.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or making mistakes – simply write.  At the end of your writing time, spend another 15 minutes correcting some of your spelling mistakes, adding in vocabulary words that you need to look up in a dictionary,  and fixing grammar.  Don’t worry about correcting it all, just do what you can in 15 minutes.

Writing topics to get you started:

  • Describe the weather
  • Talk about how to cook your favourite food
  • Tell about your last vacation
  • Describe your dream wedding/vacation/date
  • Talk about your family’s history
  • Describe a school subject
  • Tell about your study plans for the next year
  • Outline the plot and characters of a book you just read
  • Describe your surroundings – especially good in a coffee shop!
  • And in case that’s not enough, here’s 1000 ideas for writing.

The Daily Writing Log is a tool that my students have found helpful.  If you’d like to join in one of my classes or have private tutoring lessons here in Mok-dong, Seoul, please contact me for more information.

What to Look for in a TOEFL Study Guide Book

5 Jul

There are many reputable (and some less reputable) study guide books available in multiple languages, aimed at helping students better prepare for their TOEFL test.   With so many books to choose from, you want to find the one or two that will really help you achieve TOEFL success.

When you’re choosing a study guide book one of the first things you’ll want to do is be sure to consider the type of TOEFL test you need to prepare for.  Not many places still offer the written test, so you’re more likely to write a computer-based test (CBT) or an internet-based test (iBT).   Also, look for a current edition.

ETS (Educational Testing Service) is the company that manages and creates the TOEFL tests, and so naturally their study guides are really popular.

Look for guide books that have CD’s to help with listening comprehension and audio exercises.  Sample tests should also be included, preferrably with answer keys.   I find the student planners included in some books help my students reach their study objectives in an organized manner.

The essay-writing section of the book should be clear and with many examples and opportunities to write your own.  Practice drills of all aspects of the TOEFL test are key to success.

If the study guide your considering doesn’t meet the above recommendations, keep looking!  And remember, this is a challenging test and there is no “magic book” that will magically prepare you for your TOEFL  test.  You’ll need to study hard, work with an ESL Teacher or Tutor who specializes in TOEFL test prep and find opportunities to practice the language.

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