Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beginner Clothing Resources (With Art)


I was going through some of my hard-copy resources, trying to see what I still have to digitize, and I came across some pictures that might be useful.

These were some clothing cards I drew up quickly before a class to use for a variety of activities.  Feel free to use them and modify them as you would like

There is a set of all the pieces of clothing on one page for easy printing:

And the better download version is here.  I swear the background isn't gray like that....

If you would like each of the clothing in individual cards that you can either print out on large pieces of paper, or mess with yourself, you can download a zip file of all of them here.

Some activities to do with these cards:

Clothes Matching (4 of a kind variety):

1. Print out enough cards that there is a set of four for each student in the class.  Each student should be able to have four sneakers OR four dresses OR four high heels, etc.

2. Shuffle all the cards randomly, or mix them up to ensure that no student has four of the same type of clothing.  Distribute four cards to each student.

3.  You can imagine a situation for the students such as a clothing store to help practice dialogue.  Students must walk around speaking with their classmates to collect a matching set of clothes.  If student A asks student B for pants, student B must give them a pants card if they have one.  If they don't have one, then student A must ask someone else.

Dialogue might be something like:

A: "Excuse me.  Can you help me?"

B: "Yes, what are you looking for?"

A: "I want/would like/am looking for some pants.  Do you have any pants?"

B: "Oh yes!  Here you are." / "Oh, I'm sorry.  I don't have any pants."

4. The game is finished when enough students have completed a matching set of 4 by asking their classmates.

Clothes Matching (Outfit variety):

1. This game works particularly well after the previous game, as the students have all the same piece of clothing now.  You may need additional cards to add to the game.

2. Students now try to assemble a complete outfit (ex: hat, shirt, pants, socks, sneakers).  You may want to define an outfit for them by the number of pieces they will need, otherwise you will have some students deciding they need two pieces for an outfit and others going for the complete deal.  Again they should be using language like in the dialogue above, or whatever else is the target of the practice.  

Note: Because this is such a visual game, students will attempt to communicate with the pictures instead of spoken language.  It's up to you to keep an eye on them and encourage good communication.

3. Again, the game ends when enough students have collected the required pieces.

Make an outfit:

1. Now that the students have collected their outfit, this is a good time to personalize it and sprinkle in a few fun words for the more advanced students.  They will need the clothing cards, pencils or markers for coloring, tape/glue, and a piece of paper for putting the cards on.

2. Students will color in their outfits in a unique style that represents their personal style.  For example: I have a t-shirt and shorts in my outfit.  I would color the t-shirt black with a band logo and the shorts would be polka-dot jeans, since this is an example of an outfit I commonly wear.

3. Students will present their outfit to the class, describing it.  This is the opportunity to introduce words like "stripes", "lace", "long-sleeved", etc. 

Note:  I have done this with adult learners, and there is always the struggle of doing something fun and active versus doing something that seems childish.  Be careful of the balance here.  Matching games and coloring can seem very childish, but there is valuable practice in it too.  Make sure to really focus on the language they should be using, and the new vocabulary that they have the opportunity to learn about if they seem to be getting grumpy about it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Moving to Canada

Hello there!

A little change from the recent posts of teaching resources, but I've been meaning to get this one out for a long while now so that maybe in the coming months someone will get use out of it.

Recently I've moved to Ontario (Canada) to join my partner who has started a Master's Program here.  When the excitement of getting into school wore off, we quickly realized that we don't know the first thing about moving ourselves across this seemingly unimportant border between the US and Canada, and how to legally have me be with him and work, while we are not married.

So first part - going with him to Canada.  As a US citizen, I'm sure I would be allowed to hang around in Canada for a couple of months, and no one would get bothered.  However, once you start hanging around for longer than that, they might get upset.  So you need a visa if you want to do this right.

We could of course get married, and that would automatically make me eligible for a spouse visa, but we opted instead for a Common Law Union situation.  The official information can be found here.  The form number is IMM 5409.

Important Note! - The form seems to refer to instructions that should tell you more about if you qualify and what papers to submit, but in all my long searching, I never found them.  If you can, congrats!

My partner and I had been living together for a while, and had leases to prove 2 and a half years of cohabitation.  I remember reading somewhere that you only have to prove one year, but I can't find that again.  Looking around again, I found this (perhaps unofficial) site, which mentions a few useful details.

We filled out the form, included copies of our past leases, and had it notarized, which can be done at the bank (and for free perhaps at your bank, just check ahead).  We were approved, no problem!

Second part - permission to work.  With my partner's student visa application, and our common law union application, we also filled out an Open Work Permit (or Visa) for myself.  My field is Adult education, which does not seem to have any restrictions on being allowed to work, but you many have to check that there are not limitations in your field.  Because I did not have an employer lined up, I went with the Open work permit.  You must include a letter of purpose to say why you are coming to work in Canada.  Mine read as follows:

"The intent of this letter is to explain my purpose for traveling to Canada and applying for an open work visa.  I will be accompanying my common-law spouse (name and DOB here) who is entering Canada for full time graduate studies and employment at (name of university here).  His enrollment at the university will begin (date here) and is anticipated to be completed in (length of time he will be in Canada here)."

There had been some mention of a physical exam related to the visa application, but it consistently said "if required" and I hadn't been told it was required (I figured it was a country my country thing).  I found out later it is required for working with children.  What I currently possess is a "Restricted Work Permit" which can be changed at any time provided I get a physical.  But the only thing it restricts me from is working around children, which I'm ok with at the moment.

Important note! - For US citizens, apparently you are not looking for a visa, but a permit, as there is a special work and study relationship between the two countries.  Doesn't change anything in the application process, but I kept referring to it as a visa, and the border guard corrected me.  So you know!

Third Part - Actually moving from the US to Canada.  We have moved a lot in the past few years.  We are getting pretty good at the Uhaul/Penske/Budget racket and shoving couches through spaces no couch should fit through.  However, this one was...different.

Some companies don't allow their trucks over the border.  This may seem obvious, but it is important.  The only one we could find near us was U-Haul.  It worked like a breeze!  So I recommend them for border crossing moves.

You will want to check out this page for the official information on border crossing moves.

In the case of US citizens (since that's all I have experience with), when you received the good news that your permit papers have been successfully processed, you will actually only be getting a letter of approval that you show to a border guard to get your official permit.  So make sure you have that letter since that's how you get the real document.

Make sure your Passports are up to date, and will be valid through the length of your permit/visa.  Mine was going to expire in 2014, but my permit was through 2015, so I had to rush renew my passport (for a chunk of change).  If you plan ahead, unlike me, you can save at least $60.  That being said, if you are like me and don't plan ahead well, the expedited service got my passport to me within the time they said it would take, and everything worked out great.  Visit this site for complete information, and do not use any company that is not the US Gov for expedited service.  They will charge you more for an unnecessary service.

The list is the most confusing part of this whole thing for me.  We made a list of all our possessions, in duplicate.  As we packed things in boxes, we wrote them in a big Excel file, and estimated just how much that box of textbooks from five years ago is worth now.  As the days went on of packing up boxes, we started getting less precise.  "A box of tea cups, glasses, a toaster, cutting boards, Christmas ornaments, and three towels?  Call it kitchen supplies and say it's worth 30 bucks, I dunno!"  Near the very end, when we were about to coldly abandon anything left that hadn't made it on to the truck, I'm pretty sure we just 'forgot' to include some items.  It wasn't even intentional; we were exhausted of listing items and their value.

The real kicker?  They never even looked at out list.  Not once.  I almost cried.

That being said, they might, and then you might get in trouble if you don't list things properly, so do the damned thing anyway, and cry like me when they ignore your hard work.

Important note! - Alcohol and potted plants.  There are limitations on how much wine/beer/liquor you are allowed to take into the country as a new resident.  Limits can be found here.  Again, they didn't check, even after we made relatives drink our excess alcohol with us the night before the crossing.  Oh well, a party!

Potted plants seem generally ok to bring as well, but there is always the chance that a border guard will not allow it, so be aware of the risk.  There is a website with the Canadian Customs Agency that you can search to find out the current permissions with certain plants and foods if you are concerned, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

In conclusion -
This is just a little of the advice I have to give about the process of moving from the States to Canada for Grad school (and bringing a partner with you).  I'd be happy to answer any questions that I can if someone visiting would like some more insight.  I can't guarantee that everyone will have the same success as we did, since it depends on the people reviewing your documents, but since we found a lack of internet guidance on the matter, we wanted to share our experiences with anyone who is going through the same thing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A few pronunciation games

Honesty Time: I don't have much formal education in teaching Pronunciation, as in a background in linguistics.  I took a semester-long course in Japanese linguistics in college, that's it.  Anything I know was the result of two quick sessions in the CELTA and being shoved into the position of a Pronunciation teacher for 5 weeks.  I definitely did not do the best job for those students, but I made up a few resources that helped break the monotony of fighting against what your brain can hear and your mouth can produce.

Here is one thing I have learned though: pretty much every students wants to take a "pronunciation class" because they are aware that they make the wrong sounds and it makes them feel bad.  They think that a class focused only on making the right sounds will fix the problem and then they will speak perfect English.  The reality of it to me is that a solely Pronunciation-focused class can be very dry and frustrating.  When I taught that pronunciation class, breaking up the frustration with a little fun got spirits up and everyone was ready to keep working.

So I made up these games, based off of a similar game idea the teachers in Japanese schools used often.

I made three worksheets here, but they are REALLY easy to whip up five minutes before class with pen and paper (if you have access to a copier).  You might be familiar with minimal pairs already, but in case you need some help, this site is useful.

You will need one copy for each group of two or three students.  There are two ways to play, one with you as the "caller" and one with a student in each group as a "caller".

Teacher as Caller:

1. Each group of two (or three) students receives one piece of the paper with various words on it.  They should both have a pen or pencil, preferably with different colored ink or something.

2. After making the students familiar with the different sounds of the words on the page, the teacher begins by calling out the words, one at a time.  After the students hear a word, they race to circle the correct word.  The student who circles the correct word (as called out by the teacher) gets the "point".

3. Then the teacher will call out the next word, and the students race again for the correct word on their paper.  The student who has circled the most correct words and gains the most "points" and wins the round.

Student as Caller:

1. In groups of three, two students have different colored pens or pencils, and one student in the group will call out the words one by one.  Like above, the other two students will race to circle the correct word.

2. The student with the most correct words circled wins.

Note: This version is harder for all the students since the "caller" may not make the correct sounds, but if there is an error, the students are very likely to address it and the "caller" is made very aware that they are being misunderstood.  Everyone in the group ends up repeating the difficult word multiple times and usually practicing the target pronunciation.

If you are interested, here are the worksheets to try out on your own.  (They are not the prettiest things...Working on formatting.)

A basic minimal pair worksheet like below, download here.

 The /e/ and /ɪ/ minimal pair worksheet like below can be found here.

The consonant minimal pair /f/, /b/, and /v/ worksheet like below can be found here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Conversation cards (Present Simple)

One activity I like to do with beginner and intermediate classes to really focus on conversation is to give them "conversation cards".  When we have finished a lesson (for example: present simple) and before we have a test or quiz, we spend maybe 30 minutes on the conversation cards.

There are two ways I like to use these cards.  Either the students have permanent partners or groups and simply swap cards when they are finished with another group, or they rotate their partners as well.  To rotate partners, I like to have the student who just answered a question take that card and now ask it to a new partner.  That way, they are familiar with the vocabulary and context of the question and can explain it to the new partner.

The questions are intended to have grammar the students should be familiar with, and generally vocabulary they have seen before, but it keeps them excited to throw in a few strange questions (ex: "Do you like to look at the moon at night?") and new vocabulary (ex: "Do you like to ride a roller coaster?"). 

They are intended to be a challenge, but a controlled challenge, and generally the students finish the activity feeling more confident about being able to respond to a variety of topics.

Here is the two page present simple conversation cards. 

Here is a blank template of the cards so you can write in your own questions.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teaching Adverbs of Frequency

One of the lessons I had a lot of opportunities to teach starting out at my school was the adverbs of frequency.  I got the beginner lessons pretty frequently, and it was beginning to feel like I would forever be talking about what someone always or never did.

The charts below are a cleaned up version of the worksheet I often used with beginner students.  The first worksheet uses "Do you play...." (Yes/No) questions.  The second worksheet uses "How often..." questions.

After we had done an intro lesson to the construction of sentences with adverbs of frequency (always, usually, often, sometime, rarely, never) this worksheet was a good conversation activity and final practice.  Students were encouraged to interact with the entire class, not only their neighbors.  It usually involves walking around, so it is also useful for breaking up a long lesson.  It took about 20 minutes to actually do the activity, not counting time explaining.

To play: One student asks a question (ex: Do you play soccer on the weekend?) and another student responds with their answer (ex: Yes, I always play soccer on the weekend).  The student who asks the question then makes a check or an ex or some kind of mark on the "Always" box under "play___ ?".

I initially intended this activity to be a type of Bingo, where students had to complete an entire row to "win", but most students were simply happy to engage in the conversations and have all the information in front of them to work from.

It works well for a mix of speaking ability, since the lower level students can simply write a phrase into the chart headings (ex: play tennis ?) and repeat the question to all their classmates, while more advanced students were able to construct more and more complicated questions as time went on.

This worksheet directs the questions at "you" but of course, it can be adapted for other subjects. (ex: "Does your sister play volleyball?" / "Yes, she sometimes does." )

Download the first worksheet here.   Download the second worksheet here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

StoryCorp worksheet about Ronald McNair

Here's one more resource for tonight:

NPR (National Public Radio) is a treasure trove of ESL teaching tools for the upper levels with the extensive free audio/visual materials they host on their site.  They have news articles ranging from serious political topics for the argumentative students, to business news for the money-minded, to culture pieces that everyone can learn from.

I particularly enjoy using their StoryCorp audio clips, since they are authentic American stories that are usually short (about 3 or 4 minutes) and all come with transcripts (if you look closely at the website).  The people being interviewed use extremely authentic language, and it's a great tool for breaking down real American English.

They usually have a...sad...focus to them however, as a drawback.  I certainly had to veto quite a few I was listening to since they were making me tear up.

Only this past year did I discover Animated StoryCorp which has very useful videos accompanying some of the stories.

I watched the animated story about Ronald McNair, an African American astronaut who was on the Challenger Shuttle, with a private student recently and we both found it to be a GREAT discussion piece.  I recommend watching it with higher-level students if you are discussing racism or race relations, plans for future occupations, or space travel, as it has elements of all three.

I prepared a list of useful vocabulary, content questions and discussion questions as well, if they are beneficial to anyone.

Here is the pdf download link.

Hopefully a start of some useful teaching resources

As I've gotten more involved in teaching ESL to adults, I've created a boxful of games, worksheets, and assorted pictures and papers that others might find helpful for either using directly in class or getting some good ideas for more personalized ideas.  Since I have benefited greatly from the generosity of other teachers posting their materials, I'm offering these resources for anyone to use in the classroom, and to adapt as they would like.  If you have any questions about using them, or suggestions for how to make them better, feel free to post a comment.

I'm in between jobs at the moment due to moving to Canada from Chicago, so hopefully the next month will see a lot of these resources getting on the internet, but we'll see how I do.

The first one is a simple board game template to practice "be going to" and time expressions for the future such as "tomorrow", "next week", "in two days".

The students work in small groups, ideally no more than four as the pace starts to slow down the more students you add to a group.  This game works particularly well at getting all levels involved as it encourages the higher level students to help out weaker students, and there is a lot of repetition for the weaker students to pick up on example answers.  The more advanced students will take the game as an opportunity to have a conversation as well, especially with some helpful encouragement.

In the past I have used coins as the "dice", moving two spaces for head and three spaces for tails, since I didn't have access to dice.  However, using coins in this way definitely makes for A LOT of repetition, be that good or bad.

There is also the problem that different groups of students will finish at different times, but they are generally happy to play more than once.

Download the pdf of the board game

Especially since this is the first resource I am sharing, please report any issues your are having with the download process or errors I might have made in creating the game.