Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Potluck!

At the end of the calendar year or the end of the school year, we often enjoy celebrating with a potluck with our classes. This is a great time for building the sense of community within our centre as we all get to share our favourite dishes with each other.

Not only is a potluck a great time to try some delicious new recipes, it's also a great time for practising English!

1. Present a short description of your dish including the main ingredients or why it is a special dish for you. This includes a lot of vocabulary, presentation format, and allows you to share your own experiences!
2. Make small-talk with a friend about the food on the table or about your favourite dish. This year, before the potluck, we talked about sources of local news - radio, TV, websites. I encouraged them to try to find one news item a week and to take the time to understand it. That way learners will have something to talk about with old and new friends.

1. Read and follow a recipe or two as a class! The class can create a dish or a series of dishes to share with the larger group. This builds on reading and understanding the genre and format. It also builds on the concept that reading has meaning.

Also, look here for a teacher's guide to Potluck published by The link to the book is here:

1. Write out the recipe for your dish. Recipes could be added to a class or site cook book. Students could also take photos to include in the cookbook. This can build on sequencing skills, using the imperative verb tense, format, and genre. It can also build on the concept that print is permanent and consistent each time you look at it.
2. Make a food label for the table so that people know what it is. This can be very important for individuals with food allergies or restrictions. This builds on the concept of the importance of labelling and reading labels for restrictions or allergies.
3. Write invitation cards (or an email) for the potluck celebration. These can be for students, teachers, or administration. This also builds on understanding genre, format, and numeracy skills.

But most importantly...

Enjoy eating the food!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Apple Season

Apple season is one of my favourite seasons. There are so many learning activities that we can do with our learners with the theme of apples in mind.

1. Go to an apple farm to pick apples. This could involve trip planning by the learners, reading a farm map, and practising numeracy skills by weighing apples and calculating the prices.

2. Apple taste test. Bring in a few apples of several different varieties, and conduct a taste test with all the learners. Each learner can sample a slice or two of different varieties of apples paying attention to apple qualities such as the sweetness, tartness, and crispness. The class could then vote on their favourite by doing a survey and completing a tally chart. Learners could make graphs that display the class' preference for the "best" apple.

3. Make apple sauce with the class. Learners can peel, core, and chop the apples. Learners can take turns stirring the apples until the apples break down into the sauce. This could be another taste test and surveying opportunity by making different apple sauce recipes. You could add a pinch of cinnamon or a spoonful of sugar. My vote would certainly go to plain, unseasoned, and unsweetened apple sauce made from MacIntosh apples.

4. And of course, apple season would not be complete without drinking apple cider. See Beautiful Things - Apple Cider and Pumpkin Pie for an activity on describing apple cider with the five senses.

Friday, 10 October 2014

ESL Week

ESL Week is a time to acknowledge dedicated ESL professionals and the hard work of ESL learners within our communities. There are endless ways to celebrate the work, energy, and dedication of all the stakeholders involved in adult ESL education.

Some ideas are:
- enter ESL Week contests (usually entries are submitted in early summer)
- host a writing contest at your school
- host an open house at your school and include cultural displays, international cooking, and activities
- host a potluck with your students
- invite and support students to do group presentations about experiences learning English
- share international recipes and publish a small cookbook (or publish on a class blog)
- invite coordinators to present teachers with a small token of appreciation (e.g., a card with a small treat)
- have students write thank you cards to coordinators and other staff

Check out TESL Ontario's web page:
See the winning entries for this year's creativity contest. Get inspired to celebrate!

What are you doing to celebrate ESL Week with your classes? Post your ideas here!

TESL Ontario - I'm Presenting!

It is that time of year again - ESL Week! TESL Ontario is hosting its annual conference from October 16-18, and I am presenting with two excellent teachers and good friends

My workshop is called Multilevel Group Activities for Holidays and Special Occasions
The description is as follows:This interactive workshop will provide participants with creative activities to teach and celebrate Canadian holidays while incorporating language outcomes. Presenters will share their experiences of combining classes from Literacy to CLB 4 to mark special days and holidays. Participants will take part in adaptable sample activities that are low budget, low prep and can be used across the levels.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Beautiful Things - Apple Cider and Pumpkin Pie

Apple season! My favourite time of year!

Seasonal foods may be new to some of the learners in your classes. 
Build in cultural experiences by bringing in culinary favourites for this time of year.
Be sure to ask about allergies, and be aware of dietary restrictions around lard as it is often in pie crusts.

Build from what the learners know, and expand vocabulary.

Use the five senses to describe pumpkin pie and apple cider.

Literacy Considerations
1. Change activities often. Do this kind of activity 20 minutes before break time to break up the day.
2. Begin with speaking. Have students orally describe and discuss words with a partner or a small group.
3. View learning as a social activity. Have learners enjoy the food and drink with a partner or small group.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Outdoor Things to Do in the Summer

When schools are out in the summer, individuals and families often seek fun things to do. Outdoor activities may differ in different parts of the world. What do boys and girls usually do in the summer? What do adults do? One idea is to make a big class list and check off who has done what, and who will do what.

This Hamilton Conservation Authority Facebook link has a list of some ideas: .

If you are teaching during the summer, you could try out some of these activities in school or on a field trip. You could tally up who has done the most things.

I have done 33 things on this list. How about you?

Themes: Canadian Culture, Leisure, Health and Safety
Grammar: Imperatives, cardinal and ordinal numbers, go / try + gerund

Reminder: Start with oral language first. This kind of language development could also be really fun if incorporating TPR (Total Physical Response).

Have fun!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

"Eat your Weedies!"

Edible weeds in your neighbourhood? Why not learn about them!

With a teacher experienced in identifying edible weeds, several activities are possible across the levels.

A good resource book like this one can be helpful.  You could use it for your own information or adapt it for higher level learners.

You could
1. Talk about learners' own experiences foraging for and growing food. Do TPR to connect actions and vocabulary. See this link for some ideas for Phase I learners on using TPR and song for learning new vocabulary:

2. Talk about foraging in Canada - do people do it? Where? Why? What times of year?

3. Collect some edible leaves and flowers and have your students take photos of them, or trace / draw them.

4. Compare shapes, sizes and colours of leaves and flowers.

5. Take your class on a walk around the block to pick your own salad. Follow or make a map while you are at it!

6. Sample all the edibles and describe the taste, texture, and smell.

7. Have a local guest speaker come to class and talk about edible weeds.

8. Read a flyer (adapted as necessary) about a course on this topic:

9. Find and follow some recipes using edible weeds. Write your own recipe.

10. Read and discuss issues around excessive foraging / harvesting (adapted as necessary):

 Garlic Mustard 

Wood Sorrel (has yellow flowers) - Check out the warnings before you eat this.

Be careful, though! If you cover this topic with your learners, be sure you are providing all the correct and relevant information. Some edible plants may have look alike plants that are poisonous.