Tag Archives: writing

Celebrating

100

Image courtesy of Becky Snyder

Two years. One hundred posts. Over 10,000 visits. I never thought this blog would ever make it this far. I normally don’t try to get caught up in numbers. It can be dangerous. But from time to time, it is can be healthy to look back over what has happened, giving you insight into where you are heading. In this case, I thought it might be good to spend some time sharing my thoughts about blogging, social media, and my growth as a teacher, learner, and person over this time. Continue reading Celebrating

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Meeting

Image made using a photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by Roseli Serra, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Preface

Introducing

This has to be one of the hardest posts I have ever written. It isn’t that I struggled with the subject matter or that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it was the execution of the idea that was so difficult. Let me backtrack a bit.

This post is a “summary” (it’s actually a bit long) of an #ELTChat completed way back in October on the subject of writing in the language classroom. During the chat, I had this “great” idea that I would volunteer to do the summary, but I wanted to do it in a story format. We had discussed during the chat that it is important that teachers model what we want our students to do and since I don’t often teach classes on story writing, I thought it would be good for me to do something as practice. I also thought it would be fun to rethink the twitter chat as if we were actually meeting together in person. That got me thinking about the personalities of each participant, the place, and even the atmosphere in which we engaged in our discussion. I envisioned us sitting together in an exotic location, sitting in a coffee shop, having a few laughs and even some short disagreements, but in the end, a really fun night out. To be honest, I haven’t met any of these people in person, so I took some artistic license with describing them and their characteristics.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how long this would take for me to do. Going over a transcript and trying to suss out the key points without leaving anyone out is a tricky task. The discussion goes in so many directions and it isn’t always easy to try to figure out who was talking or responding to what. In the end, I tried my best, but I may have left out some important points. All in all, I hope you enjoy it and learn from it as well. In the spirit of the discussion, feel free to add your feedback in the comment section below. Just don’t leave any red marks. I don’t like them.

One last thing, the style of writing with the quotes done they way they are comes from one of my favourite books, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I loved the way he did the dialogue in the story and I tried to copy it a bit, albeit somewhat poorly. I enjoyed how he made it feel like you weren’t always knowing exactly who was saying what, making the story a bit different each time you read it. I hope you can appreciate it in this context. Continue reading Meeting

Choosing

letters

Image courtesy of Steven Mileham

I hate shopping. If I was to describe my experience as a shopper, for clothes especially, it would best be summed up in one word: survival. I am not one to go from shop to shop to find the best deal. As a result, I’m not terribly picky. If the clothes generally fit and they don’t clash too badly, I’ll get them. Therefore, my closet is a terrible mishmash of things that don’t necessarily go together, but I try to make it work. This shirt is blue, these pants have blue in them, and this tie is greyish-blue so they must go together. I have gotten pretty good at finding combinations that ‘work’ and I just grab those ‘sets’ in the morning. No wasting time checking to see if something else might work better. It’s “good enough”.

I sometimes wonder if we are like that with words. We grab stock phrases and throw them together as collocation ‘sets’. They are “good enough” for what we need to accomplish. We rarely stop to think about what we are saying and how it may be interpreted. It often takes someone bold enough to speak up to help us better understand the consequences of our words. Continue reading Choosing

Acquiring

scrabble

Image courtesy of Premshree Pillai

I really enjoy being a language teacher, but I make a terrible language learner. When I was younger, I barely scraped by in my French lessons, but when we moved to another province in Canada when I was in grade nine, I found out how far behind I was in regards to the other students. One of the biggest things I noticed was how small my personal lexicon was compared to my classmates. Sure my grammar was bad, but since I didn’t have the words to put together meaningful sentences, no one really noticed.

Fast forward a number of years to when I had moved to Lithuania and was taking Lithuanian language lessons while working as an English language instructor. There was this initial rush of learning as my vocabulary grew while taking lessons and living my day-to-day life shopping, working, and socializing with others. My confidence grew as did my vocabulary, but it was somewhere around the six month mark that I started to notice a levelling off in my lexical growth. I decided I needed to take action, so I bought myself a set of CDs that promised to help me learn a pile of new words. I transferred the audio files to my iPod and listened intently as I walked to and from work each day. It was at that time that something hit me. The words I had learned in my first six months were sticking in my brain much better than the ones I learned while walking. At first I thought it was the fact I wasn’t seeing the words, so I wrote them out to look at as I walked. That didn’t really help. “Okay,” I thought, “what else could it be?” Then it hit me — context. That is what I was missing. Continue reading Acquiring

Pitching

elevator

Image courtesy of Sean Benham
On a side note: This is my 50th post on this blog. As most of you know, I don’t get too excited about things like this, but it is nice to look back over the six months I have been working on this blog and see what has transpired since then. No matter how many visitors, retweets, FB shares, and so on that I get, I am in awe that anyone would think I have anything even remotely interesting to share. Thank you for putting up with my rants and incoherent rambling. I appreciate you all. Really.

Today I did elevator pitches with my students and I thought they did a really great job. I decided to do those instead of a traditional presentation for a number of reasons, but mostly because I feel it is more realistic than a lecture style speech. For those who are not aware of what an elevator pitch is, here is the basic situation.

Imagine you have walked into an elevator and standing there is the CEO / President / Manager of the company you would like to work for or with which you would like to do business. As the doors close, you have one minute to pitch yourself or your idea before the doors open again and you lose your opportunity of a lifetime. Continue reading Pitching

Tutoring

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Image courtesy of Rob Cabellero

I am a terrible photographer. Really. For many years, I worked in the photographic industry as a sales person and trainer, but what I knew in my head about how a great image comes together never developed when it came time to push the shutter button. It still frustrates me. Sure, there are times I get a decent picture, but as the wise Doug Peterson once told me,

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It goes the same for writing. Continue reading Tutoring

Guiding

tours

Image courtesy of Marcin Wichary

Yesterday, I was reading over a discussion happening on the #AusELT Facebook page about students’ perception regarding games / activities in the language classroom. I don’t think I am alone when I say that I have had similar discussions with students about teaching methodology in my classroom. I haven’t had it happen in a while, but that doesn’t mean that students haven’t been thinking it. I would agree with some others here in saying that I probably don’t do that many activities or games in my class anymore, but my approach to teaching is still quite different from what many of my students are accustomed to.

Language teaching is one of those things that most people have an opinion on how it should be done. Even those who have never stepped into a language classroom already have a mental picture, rightly or wrongly, about what that looks like. There is no way that we can please all of the students all of the time. Someone in the classroom is going to think that things should be more serious or fun or something in between.

Upon further reflections regarding this discussion on Facebook, my mind started to wander in a somewhat different direction (anyone who knows me understands that this is completely normal). One of the comments from Mike Smith was in regards to how to best use the time you have with the students in the classroom. He suggested that there is work that is best done by the student on their own leaving more time in the classroom for more interactive practice. I think Mike is onto something here. To flesh out his point a bit more, I decided to break down the various components of language learning into two camps: teacher guided or led and individual work. There really is two parts to the teacher guided or led, that is one-to-one tutoring and group or classwork, but for the sake of this post, I will clump them together into one inseparable group. Continue reading Guiding

Giving

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Image courtesy of Tim Green

One of the tasks I was assigned while working for a shipping company in Lithuania was to read over and edit various documents that had been translated (I use that term loosely here) into English. While some of the documents had been done by a trained specialist and were quite good, there were others that were handed to me that were ‘translated’ by someone named Google. You can imagine the difficulties I faced trying to decipher what was trying to be communicated and I would often have to ask for the Lithuanian version as a comparison. Even though my Lithuanian was weak, I could often piece together what was  written and then edit that into something that understandable in English.

I noticed something interesting after doing a few of these documents. While I wouldn’t say that I was make great strides in my acquisition of the Lithuanian language, I was able to piece together some common phrases that I could use in my everyday life. It was this process of deciphering and interpreting the language that I was able to make connections in the language for myself. It also helped me find places where I could help my students in their language learning process.

I came across an interesting journal article the other day on the role of the ‘giver’ in peer-editing. Continue reading Giving

Writing

Image

Photo courtesy of kristja

In her article What research on second language writing tells us and what it doesn’t, Eli Hinkel (2011) synthesizes the current research on L1 versus L2 writing differences and discusses the next step for research in this area. Teaching writing to students from various backgrounds and cultures can be a difficult task for English language teachers. As an English for Academic Purposes(EAP) instructor, this challenge is heightened by pressure to get students prepared for the different education streams they are pursuing.

While the list from Hinkel isn’t that long, a total of 22 items, I have decided to focus on 5 major areas that most of those points would fall into: audience factors; text organization; language usage; text components; and content.