Sunday, January 28, 2018

Live Worksheets, a Cool New Tool

Thank you, Christine, for telling us about I cannot believe how quick and easy it was for me to open an account and create my first worksheet, then try it as a student. Wow.

Victor Gayol is the creator and site administrator. Thank you, Victor! Why didn't anyone think of this method of automating worksheets before? You can upload any worksheet (please don't violate copyright laws) and then drag text entry boxes on top of the worksheet in order to allow your students to enter the answers online. You--the teacher--enter the correct answers when you create the text boxes, which allows the software to give students instant feedback, turning correct answers green and wrong ones red. Your students will even get their total score circled in red in the upper lefthand corner of the worksheet.

It's this easy.

I can't wait to use this new tool with my literacy learners soon. It will provide students with a chance to review a worksheet we did during the week, perhaps one they did not do well on the first time.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Claudie Graner on Using Humour in the Adult ESL Classroom

As part of better self-care in 2018, I spent time today sewing and invited my friend and fellow ESL instructor with over 17 years' experience teaching English (who also got her OCELT from CCLCS, we discovered after we met) if she would be my guest blogger this week. She agreed. Hers is a perspective usually missing from this blog: that of the teacher of upper levels. Take it away, Claudie!


I eat, sleep, drink, live and love with humour - never leave home without it. So, of course I teach with humour.

A. In my Adult ESL/LINC classroom I use my own shortcomings (I am short)  to laugh at myself, to set an example for the students, and to minimise the "distance" between teacher and student that they often come with. My goal is to create a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the class.  I get feedback like: "She's strict", "She pushes me/us",  but it is tempered with: "I like this class is friendly", "She's fun." I am a notorious ham - and I also like to draw on the board - often with unexpected results. The Olympic torch  "See?" "A carrot?" comes back. Laughter when I show them the real thing.

B. I use movies (including comedies) and sitcoms to introduce the students to popular movies so they will start to understand the references and build up cultural capital.  Sure, it is also for comic relief, but I am very aware that what is considered "funny" in one culture may not be "funny" at all in another.  In the classroom we can discuss why Mr. Bean is sidesplittingly funny to some but not to others, (and that includes to native born Canadians.) By the way, most students love the "Merry Christmas, Mr Bean" episode.

When I show a movie or a video it is always connected somehow to a theme or topic that we are discussing in class:
Family Roles and Responsibilities: Mrs. Doubtfire or "Baggage"  episode from Everyone Loves Raymond;
Culture clash: My Big Fat Greek Wedding or (again) Everyone Loves Raymond "Fish or Fowl";
Gender issues: Bend it like Beckham (shown again during the World Cup!!)

It just occurred to me that most of the movies I show over and over again are comedies.

Sometimes I can show a whole movie at one sitting, maybe on a Friday afternoon. However, I always make sure that the students know that they will be expected to follow the movie/episode and answer the questions that are on the worksheet. Sometimes I will show the movie over a few days: “What do you think happens next?"

I don't usually pre-teach a lot of vocabulary for movies, but I usually give them a list of the main characters.  Then as the story unfolds I stop at predetermined points, and the students "work" on the worksheets, or we discuss the scenes and the relationships together. I often give a synopsis so the students get an idea of what is happening. The worksheets check for understanding. I can teach in the moment if it is necessary.


While I preview the movie, I write down words and expressions and a short summary of the scenes.
Then I create the worksheets…..
Here's the moment when I give a shout out to where I "learned" to do this.

C . I use "funny" clips from Youtube.  Preparing lessons with movies is a lot of work, so I find I am using YouTube clips more frequently now — a lot of them with humour so as to engage the students, e.g. a compilation of award winning ads, and I used the "Canadian Fridge" ad before Canada Day. Again: preview, write down vocab, issues, create a worksheet.

I used Anita Renfroe's "The Mom song" (YouTube) for Mother's Day and had the class in stitches.
For this I used a simple fill in the blanks (cloze exercise) of the lyrics. Then we sang the song together with the clip.  Great satisfaction when some students told me they had shared the video with their

TEDTalks has a filter "funny”; that's how I found "The Magic Washing Machine"! (Which I have used for International Women's day and World Water Day)

D,  I teach "knock knock" jokes as part of a pronunciation lesson, however sometimes it is hard for students to see the humour in the double entendres.  Reading headlines and understanding headline  vocabulary is often difficult because of the punning. Sometimes the students get it, sometimes not. When they do - smiles and giggles. (Vocabulary in Use, Upper Intermediate, has a good unit on Headline English.)

E.  I collect and post comics and cartoons (e,.g. to illustrate Small Talk/"Ice Breaker".  Guy standing on the deck of a real icebreaker: "What's a nice girl like you doing on a boat like this?"
Also political cartoons when an election is taking place!

Soooo....Lots of ways to introduce humour into the classroom without losing control and decorum.
(Oh, okay, okay, so I lose a little control and decorum for a while - laughter is the best medicine.)

I think I have to end with this.  Some of the most hilarious moments in the class have come from the students making jokes and/or laughing at their own mistakes, or REALLY hamming it up in role plays.

It is always about laughing with each other and not at each other.  The laughter brightens my heart and lightens my day, and I hope it does for the students as well.

Claudie and I leave you with this note: January 24 is Global Belly Laughing Day. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

One Door Closes

My friend and mentor, Dr. John Sivell, who prefers to be addressed simply as John, has decided it's time for him to shift his attention and energies to new projects and endeavours. It's a sad time for him, for his students, and for all of us who looked forward to hearing from him at conferences. 

With his enormous intellect and huge heart, he has given so much to our profession, to teachers in training, to former students, and to me. This last one was something I could only have dreamed of without ever expecting it to happen. I was not even one of his students at Brock, yet he suggested that we co-present at the annual TESL Ontario conference. I was nervous and doubtful, freaking out over every detail while he calmly finished his lunch just minutes before we were to go on.

All of John's emails bear a signature quote at the bottom: The highest good is like water... - Tao Te Ching: 8. I never asked him about it because I instantly understood. I saw that he lived that way. When asked to travel four hours to co-present with me for my affiliate chapter of TESL Ontario, though we could only offer an honorarium that barely covered lodging and gas, he gladly came. He and his wife, Daeng, supped with me and my partner. When I stopped in at his home on my way to Niagara, Daeng prepared a wonderful Thai meal.

John taught me much, and I know I'll never have another friend quite like him.

While John is looking forward to devoting more time to travel and fiction writing, new doors are also opening for me. ATESL has reached out to me in response to a member's request to have us (now just me) repeat the Fast Equals Slow webinar. Right about the same time as that invitation came in, I also got an invitation to be the plenary presenter at the spring conference of another affiliate chapter of TESL Ontario. Of course I have accepted both and am already immersed in thoughts about how I want to change the scope and content of what was once 'our' presentation. Now it's my baby, and my brain is flooded with ideas.

On a completely different note, tonight I finished a 19-page activity pack to complement the Bow Valley College ESL Literacy Reader Mary Gets Sick. It took an entire week of evenings and much of my weekend to create. I think parts of it could be used with CLB 1 and 2 as well as with CLB 2L. I hope that anyone downloading it from my website (LITERACY - HEALTH) will leave me a comment.

Be well. Let me know what you're up to.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

What's Up at Joy of ESL?

There is a lot going on right now for me as a language instructor, perpetual student, blogger, webmaster, and creator / illustrator of learning materials! Since everything I'm doing right now leaves no time for a separate blog post, I thought I would simply write about what I'm up to. Would you like a peek under the hood?

The thing that gives me most pleasure is illustrating. When I first started making activity packs to complement literacy readers, I did not know how to easily create illustrations. My earliest attempts were simple black line drawings done in the free Paint application that came pre-loaded on my computer. I drew a scarf, hat, and boots using my finger on my laptop's trackpad.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I am using Google Drawing to create images such as this medical form and health card. I can't say enough good things about the online "Classy Graphics" course I took in Google Classroom with Tony Vincent. Without that class, I would not know how to use Google Drawing at all. Anyway, the image of a blank piece of paper on a clipboard was free for the taking on I send them a donation after every 20 or 30 images that I use.  I also found the caduceus on Pixabay and simply shrank it down to fit in the upper left corner of the piece of paper. The rest of the form was created using text boxes in Google Drawing.

The image of a health card was created almost entirely in Google Drawing. I imported only Maria's face, which I drew using a Wacom Intuos Draw graphic tablet and Artrage software in trace mode over a photo from the reader.

The walk-in clinic image started with a photo of an actual clinic in downtown Windsor that I believe my students are familiar with. I traced the sidewalk and greenery, made the canvas transparent, exported that as a PNG file, and imported it into Google Drawing in order to create the building, doors, and signs using shapes and text boxes.

For some images, I don't open Google Drawing at all, but just use the graphic tablet, such as was the case with this depiction of the nurse who calls Maria in from the waiting room. When I was originally given permission to create activity packs for the Bow Valley College readers, I was told I could not use their images. Yet one cannot follow best practices for the creation of materials and worksheets for literacy learners without images! So hopefully the number of images I replicate with modification falls within the scope of what in Canada we call 'fair dealing'.

So! Literacy teachers can look forward to my publishing this new activity pack before too long. It is my hope that you will notice the quality of my materials improving over time.

My own literacy learners are reaching the end of their five-month term with me. Many will be moving on to a mainstream CLB 1 or 1/2 class at the end of this month. I'm so proud that they can now tackle this level of reader and are asking for more challenging material all the time.

Second on my plate right now, aside from teaching itself, is keeping up with the research and latest developments in our ongoing effort to get the powers that be to listen to us, believe us, and respect us when we attempt to inform them of things that are wrong with (or are going wrong with the roll-out of) Portfolio Based Language Assessment experiment. Many problems are inherent, other problems are the result of certain employers' interpretation of the 'non-negotiables.' Either way, we still have a dire need for open, honest, mutually respectful and fruitful communication between front-line workers and the big fish at the top of the food chain. Since I was losing track of all the links, I decided to dedicate a page of my website to the curation of these resources, links to research, and so on. It is HERE. If you have suggestions for better wording or other links, you can comment below, email me, or message me on Twitter.

Thirdly and lastly, I am SO JAZZED that Tony Vincent, the one who taught me how to use Google Drawing, is offering a new course called Classy Videos in February. It's not too late to sign up. It's six weeks, but you do NOT have to be at your computer at a given time on a given day. You always have a week to watch the video and do the (optional) assignment.

All of this has me excited about the new year. How about you? Are you excited?