This is a very interesting film, showing a Nepalese family’s arrival in Winnipeg as refugees. It gives you a good idea about the many things that newcomers need to learn right away.
Many people start to study Engish when they are making a big change in their lives. Maybe a partner is taking more education, a parent has remarried and moved, home feels too dangerous, or your marital status has changed. This is a great article about 6 people from Calgary who had to make job changes. Your identity changes a lot, along with your employment status and where you live. Read for some good ideas about how to “reinvent” your life.
Garbage is everywhereIf you want to study English at a higher level, especially if you want to take a language proficiency test, you are almost sure to find information about trash. Other words with similar meaning are: garbage, waste, rubbish, refuse, or discarded material. Everyone throws away materials that they don’t use. What happens to it after that? Different jurisdictions take different approaches to the problem of waste, including landfills, recycling, composting, or burning garbage. Here are some interesting videos about the subject.<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/2662525″>Sustainable Dave Explains Worm Composting</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user919573″>Sustainable Dave</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I’m very interested in how the brain takes in new information, and how to improve the learning process. I always encourage students to learn more about their brains, to better understand how to learn well. There are a few things that I do regularly, based on what I’ve learned about the brain so for.
- Ask students to talk about “what’s new”. This builds social skills, but it also allows them to practice using vocabulary they already know, and to expand on that vocabulary with new words, expressions and idioms that relate to their everyday experiences. I hope that this regular activity will also encourage them to “English” any of their everyday activities, since they know they’ll have to share something with the class.
- Work on exercises individually, review with a partner, then correct the exercise with the whole class. Good students will also do the connected workbook exercises after each class. This provides several repetition and reinforcement opportunities since we rarely learn something new, the first time we’re exposed to that information. It also allows connections to be strengthened between existing and new knowledge.
- Individual, narrative writing that connects to each new subject area, as well as grammar. Again, this allows students to reinforce new knowledge, connect it to existing knowledge, and expand their “English” thinking about the current subject. As students write, I collect their writing, edit it, and send back the writing that all of the students have done, so that they have a grammatically correct “template” for expressing themselves on the subject. Also, this provides reading material that is interesting, and not too challenging for students to read independently.
- Regular “fieldtrips” to go use the target language in a real, yet safe and enjoyable environment. This means visiting restaurants or grocery stores when learning about food, a nearby gym while learning about staying in shape.
I hope that these various methods are helping students to incorporate their language learning as quickly as possible! Please share any other tips and tricks that have helped you to learn or to teach a new language.
Click the link below to see what scientists are saying about the brain.
Summer weekends are usually a time for me to get outside the city to be active. However, I needed to be in town this weekend, and I found some very interesting activities. In the morning, I enjoyed a 5K race, organized by MEC , followed by brunch at The Sugar Bowl where they have the most delicious cinnamon buns and an excellent beer selection (not before noon, thanks!). Because my friend and I had some “time to kill” before our afternoon activity, we decided to visit the Royal Alberta Museum. When we arrived at the parking lot, we were surprised to see an unfamiliar sign: Government House was open for tours (only on Sundays, 11-4). Normally, Government House has only been open to the public on New Year’s Day (January 1) for the Lieutenant Governor’s levee, an annual reception. I’ve always been interested in attending but never have. The building is over 100 years old and was used as a residence by the province’s 6 first lieutenant governors (the province’s representatives of the Queen). It was vacant and used for other purposes between 1938 and 1975 when it was restored to be used for private government meetings, as well as to host foreign dignitaries. I was very interested in seeing what the inside of the building looked like, but I was very pleased and surprised to see how much art the building contained. By the way, tours are FREE!
There were several works of art by a couple of my very favourite artists, Alex Janvier, of Cold Lake First Nation, and William Kurelek, born in Alberta, of Ukrainian heritage. Both artists have very distinctive work, which I recognize immediately. I don’t think that our tour guide expected to be spending so long taking us around the building, but my friend and I, and 2 other people who joined us, spent a great deal of time looking at many of the different works of art in the building.
As well as the amazing artwork, the architecture and design of Government House is quite interesting. The lower 2 levels have been restored to their turn-of the century design and style, with some of the original furniture having been recovered. The top floor is very different, but equally interesting since it’s very representative of the style in the 1970s when it was restored. The meeting room is huge and comfortably appointed so that the government in power (NDP now) can have private meetings every Wednesday.
We stopped to check out the giftshop and cafe in the museum. Almost everything in the giftshop is 15% off right now, and the cafe also has good prices and selection.
After this visit, we continued on to our original destination, Calder Library in the Northwest section of Edmonton. June 21 is National Aboriginal Day and the Edmonton Public Library is celebrating with special events all month. I saw that another of my favourite artists, Aaron Paquette was giving an art class (FREE) at a time when I could attend. This was a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Aaron’s artwork is on display in the Grandin/Government Centre LRT Station.
Aaron showed us a lot of tips and tricks, and I really like the walnut ink and Grey’s Paper that he showed us how to use. We got very interesting effects from using both, and neither of these art materials is very costly. The paper is especially low-cost, and I preferred it to the heavy watercolour paper that we used for later work. He is a very nice, and enthusiastic man, with a very good personality for teaching. His twin, 15-year-old sons also joined the class and did excellent paintings.
All summer in Edmonton, there are many interesting events, and a lot of them are free! Many students know that I’m crazy about canoeing, and it looks interesting to them. They wanted to know where they can find out more about this activity. An excellent opportunity is at Edmonton’s “River Day”, when many clubs and businesses that use the river meet together to show Edmontonians how they can enjoy the river. One of the activities is lessons for boats, including kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. The classes are low-cost, so they’re very popular. Go sign up soon after the event begins at 10 am. There will be 4 canoeing classes and 2 kayak classes, and possibly 2 standup-paddleboard classes. Instructors will make sure you have the correct equipment, and they’ll give you the main idea for these activities. You can also enjoy a free pancake breakfast, and you can try fishing and other activities.
Another time and place when you can learn about paddling is at MEC Paddlefest, which will be held on Sunday, June 28, at Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park this year.
Edmonton Paddlefest, Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park is another great place to try out paddling sports. Many vendors and clubs provide instruction and the chance to try out their equipment for free. You can also register to take quite a few different classes for free.
If you want to try out paddling, and you can’t attend these special events, you can also rent equipment from MEC or Totem Outfitters to try at any river or lake, or you can rent at Astotin Lake from Haskin Canoe, for $25/hour. I recommend that you search YouTube first for a video about how to canoe. It’s not so difficult, but if you have no idea how to steer the boat, it’s really frustrating!
If you want to get more involved in paddling, and have regular practice, you can also join a paddling club. There are several in Edmonton, but I’m a member of one of the more active clubs:
Ceyana has weekly practice evenings at Rundle Park Paddling Centre (Tuesdays), instruction for many kinds of paddling, trips, and practice sessions in the big (voyageur) canoes. Members enjoy a wide range of paddling, from whitewater river paddling, to practice on a pond. For me, my favourite activity is going on canoe trips, spending at least one night away from home. A canoe club is a great place to meet other paddlers, to learn new ideas, and to share gear and knowledge.
My students often roll their eyes when I tell them (again!) how important it is for them to go have adventures when they have free time. It can be very stressful living in a new place, using a new language, and being away from friends and family. It often seems that going out and doing new things will only add to that stress. However, science and my own experience show repeatedly that adventure enriches your life, and makes everything in it more possible and more enjoyable. It’s true that it can be expensive to do new things, but if you commit yourself to trying something, you will usually find a way to make it possible. Perhaps you can’t travel the world, but you can join a travel group and enjoy the photos and adventures of other travellers, or you can join Couchsurfing and meet or host travellers from around the world. Before the New Year begins, make 3 promises to yourself for 2015, to do something that will bring you great joy.
The good news is that learning another language is always good for your brain! Go to a coffee shop, store or restaurant where you can hear another language. Change your browser settings on your computer to another language. Listen to radio ads in a new language: it’s like vitamins for your brain!!
Once a week, I usually spend time with my favourite 2-year-old. Because he’s only 2, he really prefers to be running around almost all of the time. I find that he’s really, really happy to go almost everywhere, as long as he can run around a little bit. Luckily, there are many parks all over the city where he can do that safely. As well, there are days when different attractions are open for free. That’s perfect for us, because I don’t really want to spend a lot of money to chase a 2-year-old around. Once we get in, he’s often really interested, but it’s funny what he decides is the most interesting! At the art gallery, he loved the stairs and the elevator. At the Muttart Conservatory, he was crazy about the pebble floor. When we couldn’t get into the pool at Commonwealth and at MacEwan, he checked out the vending machines, the lockers, the large, open spaces, and the automatic doors. 2-year-olds see the world a little bit differently than adults!
My little buddy loves to splash in puddles. One pair of rubber boots cost about $10, and he uses them whenever there is water on the ground!
All along the river valley, there are staircases, usually with about 200 stairs. Apparently that’s not too many for a 2-year-old to climb, although sometimes they like a lift! There are so many areas with trails, trees, hills, and bridges, and the little guy is always excited about exploring.
Sometimes we go indoors to enjoy the attractions, and the little guy loves to explore.
Do you have children, all the time, or some of the time? What are some of your favourite free, or inexpensive activities with them?
This post highlights a lot of the ideas that I think are really important for learning, such as embracing mistakes, instead of fearing failure, making a long-term commitment, and including play.
Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.
The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent.
In my experience, when students are having fun, they feel like they are in a supportive environment, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes, then their learning happens very quickly (and pleasantly!).
For teachers and for students, it’s really important to know as much as possible about the brain and how it works, so that we can get the most out of learning time. For me, some really important experiences that enhance learning are ones that incorporate movement, art, music, discussion, and storytelling. Read the article to learn more about why these are important.
I’ve talked before about how important and useful it can be to build helpful habits. Once a good behaviour is a habit, it’s not necessary to think about it, it’s a regular part of your routine. By making small adjustments, you can really change your outcome. I developed a good habit at the beginning of the year, and then I neglected it, but it’s been pretty easy to return. Every morning, it takes my coffee 4 minutes to brew. During that time, I do an 80-second plank (abdominal exercise) and an 80-second squat (lower body exercise). I know that I’ll be able to sit down with a good cup of coffee and spend time on the internet when I’m finished, but this small habit helps a lot for my strength and conditioning. This works towards a really big goal of mine, which is being able to do many different physical activities, all year round. Think about your goals, and small habits which will help you to achieve those goals.