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10 Classroom Accommodations for ESL Students

21 Mar

English Language Learners (ELL’s) need support adjusting to an English classroom.  As teachers, it’s our responsibility (and passion)Image to differentiate instruction and provide appropriate accommodations so these ESL students can experience success and feel good about themselves and their learning.

Your first priority is to make sure the student feels a sense of belonging to the classroom community you’ve created, and is not afraid.  Learning will happen if the student feels welcomed, and then if lessons are differentiated to allow them to participate according to their abilities.

Here is a quick checklist of ways to accommodate an ELL in the classroom:

  • Represent their culture in the classroom
  • Give them time just to get familiar and comfortable with the class, school, and new peers.
  • Print clearly and simply – avoid cursive writing and  small text.
  • Support words and instructions – use images and visuals such as graphic organizers, pictures, and flow charts.
  • Monitor your own talking – speak clearly, avoid slang and idiomatic expressions.
  • Cue the student – create specific cues and rhythms for the classroom so they know what to expect during transitions.
  • Check for comprehension – use gestures, smiles, props, and one-word answers.  Avoid “do you understand?”
  • Give extra time for tasks and assignments
  • Diversify assessment strategies – write, say, and do.
  • Word Walls with key vocabulary they need across all subjects

Teaching ESL students is an enriching experience and really helps us develop as teachers.  Embrace the opportunity and challenge and enjoy the trip~!

Experiential Learning for the ESL Classroom – Philosophy and Activities

20 Apr

I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.

Confucious

There has been a lot popping out at me on reflective teaching practices these days, like a hint that’s perhaps telling me to learn more about this topic and to make more time for professional reflection, and among other thoughts, it’s brought to mind the important role that reflection plays in experiential learning.

Experiential learning is not only for learning within L1 classrooms, it can be applied in the ESL Classroom because it builds on the principles that when students are cooperatively engaged in a motivating project, task or experience, and then reflective or mindful of the results and how to further apply them, they are actively participating in the learning (and self-teaching) process.

More than field trips to museums, ponds and post-offices – this is a method of learning with practices that can successfully be applied in the ESL classroom.

A Touch of Experiential Philosophy

Experience-based, task-based and project-based learning becomes experiential when elements of reflection, support and transfer are present after the learning experience (Knutsen, 2003).

In the early 1980’s, educational psychologists Mezirow, Friere and others “stressed that the heart of all learning lies in the way we process experience, in particular, our critical reflection of experience.”   They thought of learning as a cycle that begins with an experience, continues with reflection and ends with action (Rogers, 1996).  And while thereseem to be some discrepancies in the phases of teaching (or facilitating – a word I prefer) experiential learning, I think the heart of the philosophy is satisfied with the four: Exposure, participation, internalization and dissemination.

Experiential learning begins with EXPOSURE, experiencing something, either first hand or through simulation, that is of interest to the learner and is perhaps something the desire knowing about or become interested in during the process.  The educator has introduced the topic, task or project, selling students on it and highlighting expectations.

Through PARTICIPATION, the learner cooperatively participates in an experience using ESL which typically involves group work, and therefore – communication, peer-guidance, taking on roles, responsibilities and following time-lines.

Next comes the critical process termed INTERNALIZATION, where  the educator facilitates reflection on the experience and encourages students to draw attention to how they participated in the process, and their feelings about it.   The importance of this part of experiential learning process can’t be undervalued and it can take careful consideration and experience for an ESL educator to get students thinking and talking here.  Reflection is how the student will come to learn about themselves – how they participated, what roles they assumed, what they found difficult or easy about the task/project, the challenges of group work (especially in some cultures where individual success tends to be the primary focus..ahem..South Korea).

Finally, a process termed DISSEMINATION occurs where what has been learned in the classroom is brought into the real-world.  It’s hoped that the learner successfully transfers the newly acquired knowledge or assumptions from the experience into future actions and opportunities for learning.

Experiential Learning Activities for the ESL Classroom

Sounds good.  A realistic experience, motivation, reflection…key words that resonate  and a process that makes sense to my senses, exciting me as an educator.  Great, so what types of activities would exemplify experiential learning?

Keeping in mind that the ESL educator needs to provide the situation and structure for the experience, but also facilitation for students’ reflection on the process and even on the cultural difficulties of teamwork (thinking Korean students here^^;), the lesson plan needs to reflect this.  The educator can adapt lessons to suite beginner to advanced ESL learners.

Think – do my students have a need/desire to learn this?  Are they interested in this?  How can I pull their personal skills and experience into the project/task?  How can I get their feelings invested into this?  How can we reflect on it without my pushing them uncomfortably?  And of course, as you may have guessed, do we have the time and tools to invest in a project/task such as this?

This list is not extensive – just something to get us thinking.  Please add some of your own ideas by commenting to this blog post!  ^^

  • Making  a poster
  • Making a PowerPoint presentation
  • Conducting an interview
  • “Re-Branding” a commonly used product
  • Dramatizations
  • Role-plays
  • Journaling
  • Making a video
  • Situational English – bringing the world to the classroom (restaurant, airport, etc.)
  • Making a music video
  • Creating a gameshow
  • Making a mock job or travel fair where each group represents a different profession or country
  • Making a trip itinerary
  • Creating a survival English booklet
  • Debates
  • Re-writing and illustrating fairy tales
  • Making or joining a book club
  • Creating a class website
  • Making a social etiquette book to help travelers or business people new to their country
  • Writing a research paper
  • “Teach a class”  – where they design and implement an English lesson, teaching it to the class.
  • Create a treasure hunt using clues (or even QR codes?)
  • Organizing a Fundraiser
  • Making a comic book
  • Doing a magic show
  • Puppet show

Examples of Experiential Learning in Action:

  • An adult ESL learner and business professional, participates in a classroom simulation – he’s bringing an important new client to a restaurant for small talk and a casual meeting.  The students have key topics they’ll need to discuss, but mostly the conversation is unprompted.  The teacher has set up a mock restaurant scene in the classroom to help them feel they’re really in the scene.  They’ll video-record the simulation, watch it, and reflect upon the process with the facilitation of the teacher.  They’ll hand in one page of reflective writing to the teacher next class.
  • A class of university students has been divided into small groups that have each been given a profession to explore and research – lawyer, doctor, anthropologist..  The class is going to give a mock job fair, with each group creating a small dramatic presentation on why others should choose their professional career upon graduation.  As part of their preparation, each group is encouraged to interview someone who is really in the profession they’ve been given (the professor has already prepared the contacts with industry professionals ahead of time, who in fact, also speak English^^).  Individually, each student is responsible for  journaling about the process as they go along.  The mock job fair day has all the groups presenting.  Afterwards, the professor does a great job of facilitating the reflection process and getting the students to discuss their experiences.  Many students realized that working in groups was more difficult than they expected, and some were surprised to find themselves in a leadership role.    A female student who was first aggrieved to learn their group had chosen CEO when in fact she wanted Artist, came to realize she learned a lot about being a CEO and was now more keenly interested in business.  They’ll journal about their personal reflections and hand in their journals to the professor.

—–

Kelly, C. (1997). David Kolb, the theory of experiential education and ESL.  Japan: The Internet TESL Journal, v.3, no. 9.  Found online at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Kelly-Experiential/

Knutsen, S.  (2003).  Experiential learning in second-language classrooms.  Canada: TESL  Canada Journal, v. 20, no. 2.

Rogers, A.  (1996).  Teaching adults (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Pre

Learning English while doing Taekwondo?

14 Feb

My Korean husband and I started the English Kids Gym & TaeKwonDo here in Hwagok-Dong, Seoul, last October and we’re happy to admit to being really busy!  What a motivation.  Most parents who comes to us say, “What a fantastic idea!  I’ve never heard of learning English while doing play exercise, yoga and taekwondo.  How did you come up with this idea?”  Truth is, we are such a new concept in Language Learning here in Korea that most parents have difficulty understanding exactly what it is that we’re about.  (The business bureau didn’t even know how to classify us!)

And while it feels great to pave new paths in the often overly-strict, pressure-overloaded English language education system in South Korea, we are also proud to impart healthy, active lifestyles.

We feel our approach is essential to the future of English language learners in Korea, many who feel English is a subject and not a benefit with real-life applicability.

Our Teaching Approach and Methods

Our teaching approach is a blend of the Communicative Approach, Direct Method, and Audio-Lingual Method.

Our techniques to impart speaking and listening language learning include the use of situational English conversation exchanges, visual aids, pantomime, play, repetition of language patterns, modelling proper language habits, reinforcing correct responses, and using context to help induce meaning.   Our primary focus is on speaking and listening.  Some writing is encouraged for home study, but there is no homework or pressure from us to complete the work.

English Kids Gym and TaekwondoEach 50 minute class focuses on imparting real life, practical English expressions, vocabulary and phrases, that students come to understand through repetition and context, while at the same time doing physical fitness, play, sports, yoga, and taekwondo.  Grammar learning is inducive, meaning it’s something they’re learning without even realizing it, like a pattern they can later modify in new contexts because they’ve come to understand the grammar inductively.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we like to think we’re helping Korean children and students to learn English  in a fun and natural way, as a native speaker may acquire English as their first language.

Goals for our Students

  • To find English education enjoyable and to feel comfortable and confident using English in everyday settings – in the classroom, community and at home.  We feel this will help them in future English learning pursuits.
  • To learn and grow in a non-threatening, pressure-free environment.
  • To be introduced to native Canadian pronunciation, tone, colloquial expressions, vocabulary and slang.
  • To use English to communicate with teachers, community members and peers in a natural way.
  • To become more familiar with Canadian culture through.
  • To promote physical fitness, wellness, and nutritional health in a safe, encouraging environment.

Advice for Learning How to Give Advice

5 Dec

Knowing how to politely give advice is not only an excellent tool for making small talk, but helps ESL students establish friendships with native English speakers, engaging with them in a meaningful, friendly way.

I could probably conjecture that most Koreans are eager to make friends with an English-speaking foreigner so they can practice their English, share cultures, have an interesting time, and from my experience, perhaps because they genuinely want to show you “their Korea.”  And from my experience meeting new Korean friends, there is always a lot of advice sharing.  I hadn’t realized how often we native English speakers offer our thoughts and suggestions to others, especially to co-workers or friends.

I always make sure to include a good lesson or three on how ESL students can give advice.

A few of the difficulties I’ve noticed when teaching “Giving Advice”:

  • Advice is cultural and may not always be polite or practical when transferred to the listener’s culture.  Real life example:  Me – My stomach hurts today. Friend:  You should try making a big dung. 
  • It’s better to give advice that is closer to neutral rather than politically, emotionally or otherwise “fired up.”   In other words, suggesting solutions that are too strange can feel awkward and create distance between the speaker and listener. Real life example: Person 1 – I am tired of riding the bus.  Person 2 – Well, riding the bus saves the environment, so you should be happy about doing it.  
  • Being polite is not easy in a second language, even with the best intentions.  Native English speakers can often take offense easily (and here I’m speaking as a polite, “I’m sorry” loving Canadian).  Real life example:  Me – I’m feeling sick.  Co-workers – You ought to come to work anyways like other Koreans do.
Some resources for getting starting in planning your lesson on giving advice or for learning how to give advice:
Boggles ESL – Giving Advice printable and problem cards for Adult ESL learners.
MyEnglishPages – Asking for and giving advice.
ESLhq – Giving advice board game.
AuthorStream – Here’s a Powerpoint presentation that can be used in the classroom.
Try my Giving Advice Flashcards (pdf) – which can be downloaded and used in your ESL Classroom freely!  (FYI – the “star” symbol represents VERB with my students and I). Enjoy^^

How many of the Top 100 Fiction Novels have you read?

24 Sep

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post – 25 Challenging Vocabulary Words from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – I’ve undertaken a Literacy Project with a couple of my advanced ESL students who were interested in joining me in reading books from the Modern Library’s 100 Best Books List.

This extra-curricular reading project was inspired when, after browsing the list and realizing I had only read a mere 17 on the list of 100, I felt quite embarrassed with myself!  Since then I’ve read two more to up my count to 19 – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which was fantastic, poetic, quick and wonderful that I read it in two short days (keeping in mind that I’m a working mom to a toddler, I felt this was a great feat! ^^).

I wonder how many of the books from this list you’ve read?  What’s your count?  How literary are today’s English teachers?  If you don’t mind sharing your answer, please leave a comment.  This could be interesting!  Again, the link is here.

While on the topic, I thought I’d throw in a couple of helpful links I’ve found for teachers on…

PROMOTING LITERACY in the ESL CLASSROOM

Adult ESL Literacy Survival Guide for Instructors – By Janet Massaro for ELSAnet

Literacy Connections – Promoting Literacy and a Love for Reading

BC Ministry of Education – Resources for Teachers: Improving Literacy

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