Monday, June 27, 2016

Indefinitely Suspended

I have been  conflicted about whether to keep this blog online and get back to posting on it, or just leaving it up but dormant.

It's been over  a year since I have written anything and prioritizing the important things in my life will preclude me from blogging for the foreseeable future.

I won't delete ESL Tutor Denise,  but for now, consider this blog non-active.  I'll use it in future to share information I deem important to other tutors and those who work in the general field of literacy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

It's All About the Scenario

This past week, I met with a small group of people with whom I am creating some technology lessons for  It's a daunting task, to boil down the technology we use every day, into relatable, sequential, useful mini lessons for the uninitiated learners who desperately need to use it. As we brain stormed on how to create these classes, we invented stories to propel the learners to use the facets of technology they learn, in a realistic setting.   We had fun with our characters Ana and Anish.  They are going to have two separate stories that eventually merge. 

I had been thinking about how we were going to write this curriculum for some time before our meeting.  Each time I mentally visited the topic, I changed my mind about what I thought before.  I'm an organized and logical person and I have decades of experience teaching.  Still, I was in a stall.   Ana and Anish's  scenarios were key for me and for the group with whom I am working.  Now, we're inspired.  Our inspiration should translate into a great course and in turn, tremendous success for all the tutors we train to teach their learners. 

If you are working on any ESL or literacy projects, try the scenario approach. You may find it the perfect glue, to hold all the bits and bobs in place, and keep your lessons in your students' minds.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Literacy for Life 2014

I was honored to have been a presenter at yesterday's Literacy for Life conference at Monmouth Community College, in West Windsor, NJ.  It was quite a ride in quasi-hurricane conditions, at the crack of dawn, but worth every ounce of inconvenience presented by the long ride and uncooperative atmospherics.   The venue was just right for our event - enough room, but not so spread out that it was difficult to navigate.  The catering was great and participants were treated to great beverages, fruit and snacks throughout the day.  No one left hungry.

My workshop was during the first time slot, concurrent with several other workshops. iTeach ESL was well attended and I had a lively group that was engaged. They had enough questions to signal me that they were really listening and I retained their attention until the end of my talk.   Since it was a tech talk, the "notes" handout I offered attendees, was just a cover sheet with a QR code to a page on this blog where I have provided URLs and some other pertinent notes.  

After my 9:15 AM workshop, I attended the Naturalization Information Session.given by a Community Relations Officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, a branch of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  She was a delightful presenter and extremely informative.  She gave us an overview of the process those seeking citizenship encounter.  We were recipients of plenty of resources for our students or our own edification. None of the English learners I tutor are yet citizens.

Lunch was after the second session.  The caterer did a great job with mixed baby green  salad, fresh fruit, Italian bread and butter, stuffed shells, chicken marsala, spinach, and risotto.  Dessert didn't disappoint. There was pumpkin cheesecake, I think a chocolate cheesecake, a traditional chocolate cake, fresh fruit, cream puffs, chocolate chip cookies and coffees and teas.  Yum.

The after-lunch General Session was informative and inspiring.  Dr. Erik Jacobson was the guest speaker and gave a presentation,  Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments.  I first me Dr. Jacobson in August, when we attended a meeting at Literacy NJ.  He's a brilliant and passionate advocate for Adult Education, as well as an Associate Professor in the Early Childhood,  Elemetary and Literacy Education Department at Montclair State University.  

After Dr. Jacobson, this year's awards were presented:
  • The 2014 Award for Volunteer Excellence went to Josh Lucchesi, Literacy Volunteers Association Capre-Atlantic
  • The 2014 Award for Tutor Excellence went to Daniel Keohlhoffer, Literacy Volunteers of Monmouth County
  • The Alice M. Leppert Award for Outstanding Affiliate Achievement went to Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County
  • The 2014 Award for Student Excellence went to the delightful  Carine Deye, Literacy NJ Union County Programs 
Following a short break, my third session workshop was Dr. Jacobson's Promises of Adult Education and Realities of the Workforce. He's a dynamic educator. I hope his university students appreciate his expertise and devotion to education. It was a great workshop.

I left the conference much richer in knowledge.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reader's Choice Fourth Edition

If you're reading this blog and you are an ESL tutor, Reader's Choice, by Sandra Silberstein, Barbara K. Dobson and Mark A. Clarke, published by The University of Michigan Press, may not be a new book to you, but this is the first week I have perused it.  The fourth edition has a publication date of 2005, so it's not a new book - just new to me. The copy I borrowed from my local municipal library, is in excellent condition. I don't know if the condition is owing to it being a new book to our library, or if it has been infrequently used.  I hope it's not the latter. 

My ESL Learners vary in level.  I could see this book being helpful for all of them in the future.  Clearly, it is aimed at elevating the reading skills of already advanced English Learners.  Its scope is wide, in that the variety of material and lessons presented requires the Learner to grow their vocabulary,  read and understand fiction as well as science, do work on the internet and decipher mixed graphic and text information.   It contains frequently used idioms, that native English speakers may not even think are idioms because they are so common and ordinary. The comprehension exercises are excellent and the nonprose reading is an essential skill in the day to day lives of most Learners.  There are plenty of critical reading passages and discussion prompts. The tome weighs in at over 400 pages.  This is a book that can be used in a class setting as well as  one-on-one tutoring sessions.  

If you have not used nor seen the Fourth Edition of Reader's Choice,  and you have advanced ESL Learners, this may be a resource that becomes indispensable to you. If your library has the newest iteration, Fifth Edition of Readers's Choice, you should take a look.  I'm going to see if any of the libraries in my area have it in their collections. 

Thank you, University of Michigan Press for such  comprehensive books!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Perfect Phrases for ESL Conversation Skills - book review

I teach 2 of my 3 English Learners at my local public library and I make as much use of their ESL collection, and that of the affiliated libraries as I can. Occasionally, a book I come across is so useful, I add it to my personal library because I don't want to risk needing it and having it out of the library with another tutor or learner.

Perfect Phrases for ESL Conversation Skills is one of those books. I have borrowed several books of idioms, that have been helpful, to a degree. The whole area of idioms and phrases is imperative to English Learners, because Americans speak in idioms incessantly.  One of my learners has an excellent vocabulary and can write well, but he can be confused when listening to Americans speak, because we don't speak in the formal way he was taught English in his native country.

This book, Perfect Phrases for ESL Conversation Skills by Diane Engelhardt, is not brand new, but I hadn't seen it in my library before.  It was published last year.  She has brilliantly blended idioms and commonly used phrases and classified them in such chapters as:

  • Small Talk
  • Past Experiences
  • Likes, Dislikes and Interests
  • Objects and Processes
  • Problems and Advice
  • Decisions and Goals
The above topics comprise Part 1 of the book.  Part 2 consists of:
  • Opinions
  • Group Discussions
  • Serious Subjects
And Part 3 is entitled
  • Afterthoughts
The best aspect of this book is its contemporaneousness.  Several other idiomatic resources I have consulted are a bit outdated.  Language is not static, it evolves and we need to keep our students understanding how American English speakers actually talk. Perfect Phrases for ESL Conversation Skills by Diane Engelhardt has captured current speech in the kinds of phrases we use and has classified them in a user friendly way.  

As I indicated above, this book is going to become part of my personal library.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I Am Observing

(It's been quite a while since I last blogged.  I have had and am still having a less than optimum recovery from a fractured wrist, but I'm doing my best to resume my usual activities.  Thanks for your forbearance over the long pause.)

I am observing, with all of my adult English learners, that -ing verbs are commonly used, but often without their auxiliaries.  Frequently, a student says, "I going to the store."  Of course I know what they are saying, I'm just a little unsure of when their trip will or did take place. I know that for the most basic skill level, that statement communicates enough.  However, all of my learners, already had varying levels of skill in English and desire to speak more properly.

I have been creating some tense sheets to help them.  There are several ways to say something in the present, but sometimes the present tense is more like a description of what one does routinely or for a living, and not what one is doing at that instant.  For example:

I play golf.    Well, that can be the answer to, What do you do to relax?  or What do you do for a living?

I am (or I'm) playing golf.  That can be the answer to, Hi, Dad!  Just wanted to call to see what's going on,  or What are you doing next Saturday morning?

The same goes for the other auxiliaries like is, are, was, were.

I have found it helpful to compare:

I play golf
I am playing golf


I played golf
I was playing golf

and so on.

Once the understanding of the progressive nature of the auxiliary word and the -ing verb are understood with simple repetition and description of the progressive aspect of the word combination, my students improved in their comprehension (because we frequently speak in this progressive action manner) and in their conversational usage.

If you or your English Learners are stumbling with this, and want to improve their accuracy, perhaps using these kinds of examples will be helpful.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Playing Hardball

Not really, but you had an interest in and imagined some things about what you might read, didn't you? That's because you know what playing hardball means, besides baseball.

Last week, while working with one of my students, who has very good vocabulary within a limited scope (primarily his vocation) but not so much when it comes to real life conversations, I used a book in the Slangman series: Slangman Guide to Street Speak 3, by Slangman David Burke. I chose this particular book because there are 2 chapters on slang derived from sports, and my student, who is male, is completely unfamiliar with sports as well as the slang we use that are sports allusions.

I went with my gut for my lesson plan.  I knew the topic was necessary and would be useful, but I wasn't sure if my very serious student would realize that although we would be dealing with slang, that slang is a part of most conversations, whether the boardroom or the coffee shop.  My student studied a lot of British English in school in his native country. Very British English.

You can't imagine my delight, after convincing him that the slang is part of everyday life (not gutter talk), when he lit up with enthusiasm for hearing, reading and then understanding what occurrence in what sport inspired  each expression we learned.  The cherry on top (we will have to use food slang in the future!) was when he said to his wife, who is also a student of mine, "This is why I can't understand what anybody is saying when they speak English!"  He was eager to learn and understand how to use the terms we covered.  

Although the learning of slang expressions came out of left field, he liked it right off the bat. I'm sure  he's going to tackle this new aspect of English and be much more comfortable with the English speakers around which he finds himself. (I think my gut knocked it out of the park.)

Check out the Slangman series.