Reaching Out With English A Great Success!

Once again, Cooperative ESL Ministries was blessed with a great group of students for our annual fall training event, Reaching out with English. A very special thank you to all of our participants, facilitators, volunteers and hosts for making this another successful year! We had a total of nineteen students this year, fourteen of whom completed the program. Congratulations!

To those who had unexpected events come up during training, we look forward to seeing you complete the missing class at ROWE 2014.

The testimonials received from our participants were also very positive, with an overall rating of 5 out of 5! 

Participant Testimonials:

"Invaluable—so glad I was able to attend it—thank you for making it possible!"

"Very well done overall."

"Having not been familiar with ESL until this year, the information I have received and practice sessions has helped me to be more knowledgeable, comfortable and confident in teaching."

"I'm exhausted, but deeply grateful!"

"I think you guys are awesome for doing this!"

"The resource binder was comprehensive and well organized with a wealth of info."

ROWE 2014

If you are interested in learning to teach English to newcomers in a community or church setting, please consider joining us in the fall for Reaching out with English 2014. Plans are already underway! Please check our website for details, we will release them as they come available.

New Look, New Website!

We have just finished revamping our website and it's cleaner, clearer and more responsive than ever! Programs, events and resources are all easier to find. Our ESL Programs are now split into quadrants, with interactive maps showing where each of the churches are. You can also click on the address of the church to see it in Google Maps and on Google Street View. All contacts are hyperlinked as well for connection ease—whether at home, in your car, or on a tablet. Want to start an ESL Program? Information on starting a program is also available on our site.

Our bulletin board has also been revamped to make it easier to find what you are looking for, whether it's community events, training for newcomers, employment, volunteer opportunities or professional development, you'll find it all on our new bulletin boards. 

See all the changes that we've made, visit our new website today! If our website is helpful to you, please 'like' us on facebook—no need to search for us, just click on the 'like' button on our home page!

Three Strategies for Multilevel Activities

By Roswita Dressler

I lead the icebreakers at the beginning of most of our church’s ESL class sessions. On any given week, there can be 2 – 10 people standing in front of me awaiting my explanation of the ice breaker. Even though we offer two classes (Conversation/Beginner; Intermediate/Advanced), we combine the two classes for the first part of the session so that participants can get to know each other; interact with all of the volunteers and enjoy some class time with family members, who are sometimes split up into different classes later due to different ability levels.

The challenge is: how do I choose an activity everyone can participate in to the best of their ability? This challenge belongs to all of us, because there is no such thing as a class where all students are the same in their level of English. Even where that might appear to be the case, some students are stronger at reading and writing whereas others may be stronger at listening and speaking. As well, some students, having been in Canada longer, may have a greater knowledge of how to function in Canadian culture than newcomers who have been here only a short time. 

Here are three strategies that you could use when choosing activities, along with some examples of how that might look.

  • Create a cooperative learning atmosphere: Make it clear to the students in your words and actions that they may consult with others for help. Our attitude is that their first language is a resource, so if they need to ask another person in their first language for help, we acknowledge that as one of many strategies that they have at their disposal. For example: one participant brought her elderly parents who were so new to Canada they only knew a few words of English. She would translate the instructions and they would participate by asking her to provide them with a response and they would practice saying it. They were always full participants in our ice breakers, along with two more generations of their family and then they moved on to receive more individual attention from one of our volunteers.
  • Involve as many senses as you can: Let the words you use be supported by gestures, pictures, keywords on a white board, body language, taste and touch (where appropriate). Where the meaning is not clear from the instructions, it may come through in the actions. For example, we play an ice breaker where we pass around a towel folded each time into a new shape and accompanied by a sentence such as “I am giving you a xx”. This is great fun and really creative. The group brainstorms 5-7 object names on the white board ahead of time so that if anyone is stuck, they can look at the board. Since the sentence is so open ended, participants are free to use whatever vocabulary is at their disposal.
  • Involve natural repetition: Choose or design your activity so that it makes sense to repeat oneself. In one activity, we create an inner and outer circle of people, with each person in the inner circle facing a person on the outside. We ask participants to introduce themselves to one another and provide a formula “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” “Fine”. Then you use a signal to move the outer circle over one person and the whole dialogue repeats. The inclusion of all of our volunteers means that the students interact with participants of all levels of English proficiency. The result of the novelty of having another person step in front of the participant creates a situation for natural repetition of the same dialogue.

These are three strategies for multilevel activities. Our students spend their time outside of class in a society in which they will encounter many people of varying abilities and will also need to make themselves understood in a variety of situations. We can assist them by acknowledging this reality and providing them with communication practice through the multilevel activities we choose.

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