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Category Archives: teaching

Two to look at

Students of ESL or EFL will find much to use on Real English. There is also an associated blog.

realenglish

The next is an Australian educational blog that came my way. It has much to offer teachers, especially but not only those dealing with very young students. I commend the ESL page, not merely because I get a mention but because it points to some excellent resources beyond ones I have so far noted. The literacy page is also very good.

rampantred

 

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Top 100 Language Blogs – Lexiophiles

I can’t say I was displeased when I received an email pointing to Top 100 Language Blogs – Lexiophiles because English/ESL has been listed there — at #75. I strongly recommend your browsing the list as some very interesting blogs may be found there.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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101 Ways to Cope with Teaching Stress | Smart Teaching

Here’s one for the teachers. It arrived via an email from one of the people involved with the US site on which it appears.

101 Ways to Cope with Teaching Stress | Smart Teaching

  • Stop smoking: That little buzz you get from a cigarette may calm you down temporarily, but the nicotine that’s blowing into your system will actually make you jumpy and over alert. In the long run, that’s not good news for your stress levels.
  • Minimize your caffeine: Teachers may thrive on coffee breaks, but consider cutting back to just a couple of cups a day. Even better would be to substitute at least one cup of coffee or soda for green tea. The tea can boost your immune system and contains less caffeine than coffee.
  • Eat breakfast: Eating a good breakfast not only boosts your metabolism, it also keeps you focused so that you’re more productive throughout the entire day.
  • Snack right: It’s easy to grab whatever snacks are in the vending machines or school cafeteria, but it’s also important to eat right while you’re at school. Physically, a diet of fatty, greasy foods will make you feel weighted down, bloated and tired, while your emotional state may be at risk too if you feel guilty about wrecking your diet.
  • Set realistic goals: As a teacher, it’s easy to get caught up in saving your at-risk students from failure or sponsoring every club each semester. Set realistic goals for yourself and you’ll be able to find a less stressful balance.
  • There’s your first five, and I’m afraid I passed only one. I won’t say which one. 😉 Too late for me now, but maybe some of you can profit from the advice.

    What’s more, a lot of it could be called “101 ways to cope with HSC stress” — so even students may care to look.

     

    Yes, there is a problem!

    I received an email the other day; naturally the first part I find very pleasing. 🙂

    I thought about creating an ESL blog for my students, but now conclude that this is not necessary as your site does it all. I passionately support all your ideas on this site and applaud your remarkable work. I am an ESL/English teacher in a … non-selective independent high school. Even though I graduated with HD from my uni ESL program five years ago, I have been using my scales and teaching ESL for only the last year and I am overwhelmed with the learning needs of my students. I am from a NESB [myself], but I do not speak the first language of the students.

    My school is currently going through a learning support review and I would like to seek your wisdom. The school has found that students entering from language colleges cannot cope with the demands of our curriculum. Some students have learning difficulties as well as a language barrier. What type of ESL delivery has worked best at SBHS?

    Well, I doubt how much wisdom I might have, but I am glad this site has met a need.

    To take the last part first: SBHS no longer has an ESL teacher, and I am retired aside from the odd job here or there, and some tuition work, but even when I was ESL teacher as SBHS we didn’t confront problems of the kind the writer mentions, as there were no overseas fee-paying students at the school and only very occasionally did someone come from an Intensive English school to us. Mostly they had already been a few years at least in an English-speaking educational setting. There were some students who had been speaking English for three years or less, however, who fell well within the five to eight years normally required to attain adequate levels of cognitive academic language proficiency.

    The writer is correct in saying that some “students entering from language colleges cannot cope with the demands of our curriculum”. I base this on my tuition work rather than on my work at SBHS. It does seem that there is a mismatch between the levels students from some private language colleges attain and the basic level needed even to function in a mainstream school environment, which I would say has to be at least Australian ESL Scales 4; 5 or 6 in some subjects, even in HSC English ESL, if a decent result is to be gained. I should add that many private colleges do an excellent job, and the NSW Intensive English schools for state school students are particularly good.

    Some schools have good ESL support structures; one that I know of actually runs its own ELICOS classes for newly arrived overseas students, affording limited or phased participation in mainstream classes until the right level is reached. Others have sufficient numbers of overseas students to allow targeted classes in mainstream curriculum designed for those students in many subjects, while others rely on traditional forms of ESL support such as regular presence of one or more ESL teachers in various curriculum areas, and cooperative planning of work units with the students’ language needs consciously addressed.

    There is an ESL strategy document available from the NSW Department of Education that gives many good pointers, but how effective a particular school can be depends on the human and other resources it can afford. You probably know it but here it is: English as a Second Language: Guidelines for Schools (PDF).

    One thing is for sure. Some schools may have, I believe, gone into the overseas student business, which is very profitable, without being fully aware of the social, logistical and educational issues involved.

    When I was at SBHS I tested all new students, gathered information about them, and assessed their needs from an ESL viewpoint. This material was shared with classroom teachers. Particular cases were discussed with teachers. Some students were interviewed and given some additional tuition in some cases. With some classes I visited in various subject areas, participating in some lessons. Sometimes teachers would refer certain issues to me. This blog in its original form was a way of reaching more students than I could personally.

     

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    More good educational/English Studies blogs

    Just had this email:

    I am a regular reader of your English/ESL–and more! blog and I have found your site to be an inspiration. I am a teacher of high school English at Katikati College in New Zealand and I have been blogging for about nine months…

    So I checked them out. I suggest you do the same.

    This one is for Year 13 students (New Zealand):

    katikati2

    This one is for other years, the majority of students at Katikati College.

    katikati1

    Students here will find many relevant articles and links.

     

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    English/ESL honoured

    I am really pleased about this. Go to Creating a Community of Writers Using Technology and you will find details of a March 7, 2008 Conference in Grand Rapids, MI.

    Activity 3 (30 min.): Show examples of blogs and evaluate how well they would add to the community of writers in the classroom; teachers can follow links while facilitators show the link on the screen.

    Thanks, people. Have a good conference!

     

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    Legitimate concerns about writing rubrics

    There is no doubt that some criterion-referenced assessment procedures and related documents such as the Australian ESL Scales can be extremely useful; one example of the latter in use comes from The New England (NSW) Girls School. A “cut-down” form I use myself is here, and it has proven very accurate.

    However, there are legitimate concerns about the use of writing rubrics. See for example The Trouble with Rubrics by Alfie Kohn (ENGLISH JOURNAL March 2006 — vol. 95, no. 4).

    Once upon a time I vaguely thought of assessment in dichotomous terms: The old approach, which consisted mostly of letter grades, was crude and uninformative, while the new approach, which included things like portfolios and rubrics, was detailed and authentic. Only much later did I look more carefully at the individual floats rolling by in the alternative assessment parade — and stop cheering…

    Consistent and uniform standards are admirable, and maybe even workable, when we’re talking about, say, the manufacture of DVD players. The process of trying to gauge children’s understanding of ideas is a very different matter, however. It necessarily entails the exercise of human judgment, which is an imprecise, subjective affair. Rubrics are, above all, a tool to promote standardization, to turn teachers into grading machines or at least allow them to pretend that what they’re doing is exact and objective. Frankly, I’m amazed by the number of educators whose opposition to standardized tests and standardized curricula mysteriously fails to extend to standardized in-class assessments.

    The appeal of rubrics is supposed to be their high interrater reliability, finally delivered to language arts. A list of criteria for what should be awarded the highest possible score when evaluating an essay is supposed to reflect near-unanimity on the part of the people who designed the rubric and is supposed to assist all those who use it to figure out (that is, to discover rather than to decide) which essays meet those criteria…

    I worry more about the success of rubrics than their failure. Just as it’s possible to raise standardized test scores as long as you’re willing to gut the curriculum and turn the school into a test-preparation factory, so it’s possible to get a bunch of people to agree on what rating to give an assignment as long as they’re willing to accept and apply someone else’s narrow criteria for what merits that rating. Once we check our judgment at the door, we can all learn to give a 4 to exactly the same things.

    This attempt to deny the subjectivity of human judgment is objectionable in its own right. But it’s also harmful in a very practical sense. In an important article published in 1999, Linda Mabry, now at Washington State University, pointed out that rubrics “are designed to function as scoring guidelines, but they also serve as arbiters of quality and agents of control” over what is taught and valued. Because “agreement among scorers is more easily achieved with regard to such matters as spelling and organization,” these are the characteristics that will likely find favor in a rubricized classroom. Mabry cites research showing that “compliance with the rubric tended to yield higher scores but produced ‘vacuous’ writing.”…

    Maja Wilson has written a book on the subject: Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment . The fact it won a NCTE James Britton Research Award attracts me, and the chapter I downloaded looks very promising indeed. The gist of her argument may be seen here:

    So if you really do want to think about what rubrics, for all their uses, might miss, and whether what they miss could after all be very important, I suggest you follow these ideas and keep thinking…

    See Maja Wilson (PDF) Chapter One

    RELATED

    Right-wing education critique is historically inaccurate and perpetuates myths on my personal site quarrels about some relevant issues. It was written around the same time as this post. Teachers may be interested. As the title indicates, it is a bit of a rant…

     

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