Archive for Tag: Kristine Fielding

Monday, November 5, 2018

We Interrupt This Lesson…

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, Texas.

What do you do when you are teaching a grammar concept only to find that your students don’t understand a vital underlying idea? This happened to me a few weeks ago when I was teaching level 1 students where to place adverbs of frequency in a sentence.

As you recall, AoF go before an action verb and after a “be” verb. As I was demonstrating this with sentences on the board, students seemed confused. Though we had covered the two types of verbs in a previous lesson, and then followed that lesson with other lessons practicing verbs, students seemed unsure of themselves when it came to identifying types of verbs. In order to proceed with my lesson, a small detour was required.

However, this unexpected side trip could have easily morphed into an adventure across the grammar galaxy. Verbs are their own wormhole within a wormhole. You have the 12 tenses, which can become confusing in their patterns and usage and nuances, but when you add on gerunds and infinitives, it’s almost like you’ve stepped into another dimension. Verbs acting like nouns and adjectives?

I quickly decided that the idea students really needed to know was “be” verbs (only three in present tense, which is what we were focusing on) and the seemingly endless list of action verbs. Later, I could go back and address verbs in more depth as needed. But to steer us back in the right direction, I improvised.

I made a T-chart on the board and labeled each side as “Be Verbs” and “Action Verbs.” Then I listed the three simple present “be” verbs on the board and then asked students to tell me things they do every day, like “go to work,” and “drive home.” I wrote the verbs from their phrases on the board under “Action Verbs.” (Asking students to tell me about their routines was handy because our topic for the day was “Daily Routines.”)

Then I told students we were going to play a game.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Let’s Play a Game: Why Games Are Important to Our Students

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

“If I gave you one million dollars that you had to spend in one day, what would you buy?”

A question like this is typical in a simple game reviewing second conditional statements or subordinate clauses. One student reads the question, another student answers it using the grammar form that is being reviewed, then asks the next student a variation of the question. A class may even see how fast they can repeat this process for an added thrill. A simple game like this is found in nearly every ESL/EFL class.

Playing games is one surefire way to increase student engagement. Jane McGonigal quotes Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in her book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (2011). The quote reads “One way or another, if human evolution is to go on, we shall have to learn to enjoy life more thoroughly,” (p. 17). It stands to reason that students enjoy class more if we play games, as any experienced teacher knows this. The quote comes from Csíkszentmihályi’s 1975 book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: The Experience of Play in Work and Games.

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by Swiss author Johan Huizinga was originally published in German in 1944 then in English is 1949. He says, “[C]ulture arises in the form of play, that it is played from the very beginning…In the twin union of play and culture, play is primary” (p. 46). This is often demonstrated in our basic language classes where the lingua franca is still in its infant stages. Students can still play a game, even if they cannot formulate a simple sentence yet. From this game, the class culture is born.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Do You Do or Don’t You?

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

If you have taught English for any length of time, you have heard frustrated students bemoan the cornucopia of grammar exceptions to the rules. Their frustration is easy to understand. After all, when students first start studying English grammar, the patterns are simple. As students progress, the rules become tangled until they seem to be upside down and inside out. However, if we remind students to look at grammar as a function of communication, they will have an easier time as they advance in their studies.

One example of a confusing rule is the do-insertion before action verbs in statements. This occurs when we want to stress an action by inserting do (or its forms) before a verb. For example, if you said, “Maria doesn’t want to go to the movies with us,” but Maria hears you and insists this isn’t true by saying, “Yes, I do want to go with you,” the do-insertion emphasizes that she wants to go.

Many grammar books omit the do-insertion because it would be easy for students to assume do + base verb is used all the time. We often see this when students use did + base verb for every positive simple past tense verb, alleviating any need to learn the past participles (until students advance to using past participles as adjectives). The do-insertion may also be overused since do is the auxiliary verb for yes/no questions, which leads to do as the verb for the short answer, “Do you want to discuss grammar phenomena over coffee?” “Yes, I do.”

I don’t usually teach the do-insertion to basic or low intermediate students so as not to confuse them and to prevent bad grammar habits. When I teach this concept to high intermediate or advanced students, I give the example of being reproached for not doing a required task at work or school since either of these situations are relatable. I use the example of my being required to turn in grades by a certain date. If my program director told me, “You did not turn in your grades on time,” but I know I did, I would say, “I did turn them,” to emphasize that I completed the task.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Old-School Class Presentations

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

Maybe I’m not as old-school as I thought.

Back in the day, I was a staunch supporter of the Class Presentation, believing it was a sign of a Good Teacher to require one from all students. A Good Teacher helps her students iron out a presentation, demonstrates how a rubric works, and then dutifully sits through hours of student speeches, making a tally mark here or there on her grading sheet.

For good or bad, times have changed. Lately, I have been reflecting on the value of class presentations and wondering if they are worth the time to prepare, give, and listen to.

Recently, I had a few students request that our class never again give class presentations. This was after two and a half class sessions devoted to class presentations. These particular students spoke well and eagerly participated in every class, so I didn’t think their request was based on any lack of confidence or desire to speak in front of their peers. Instead, they said, they came to class to learn English from a fluent speaker.

My students pointed out they listen to each other during our speaking activities and discussions, but they would prefer not to spend additional time just listening to other students’ imperfect English since that wouldn’t be helpful to learning good habits.

I realize their argument flies in the face of political correctness. I remember one of my graduate TESOL courses discussed the validation of the infinite varieties of English, not just American English or British English; this is especially true since English is becoming the lingua franca worldwide.

I explained to my students they needed to learn to negotiate the language in everyday interactions because they will likely meet and interact with others for whom English is not their first (or second…) language.  My students agreed, but they had paid to hear a fluent speaker. Besides, they negotiated language during our speaking activities anyway, they said.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Differences between “No” and “Not”

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

The other day, in the middle of a lesson on the past perfect tense, I asked if there were any questions. A Spanish-speaking student raised her hand and asked what the difference between “no” and “not” is. First, I thought this would only take a moment to answer, then I realized that since I am a native English speaker, I had never given this much thought. So I wrote the following two sentences on the board and hoped we could figure it out together:

“I have no dogs.”

“I don’t have any dogs.”

As a class, we talked about what the two sentences had in common and what was different. It finally came down to what word or words followed “no” or “not.”

“No” is often used before a noun or adjective + noun to signify a zero amount. (Of course, “no” can also be used as a negative answer to a yes/no question, but this wasn’t the student’s question.)

“Not” is used with the verb, placement depends on which verb is used in the sentence.

By taking a moment to demonstrate how I would figure out the answer, I showed my students that they already knew enough to do a little analysis to find their own answers.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tools for Talking about Natural Disasters

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

When 2017 began 10 months ago, I doubt many people predicted this year would be plagued by so many natural disasters. Daily news broadcasts report tragedies and upheaval that many of us thought unimaginable. Because of these calamities, people around the globe have found ways to help those affected, whether the victims are local or international.

We know that vocabulary acquisition is more successful if the words are meaningful to students. Even if our students were not personally affected by any natural disaster this year, it is easy for students to sympathize with others. Students may also have had past experiences that may relate to this year’s turmoils.

Below is a list of 65 terms that give students the building blocks to express themselves. I gleaned these terms from various news reports over the last few months.

communicable diseases
flash flood
government agencies
heroic efforts
needed supplies
posttraumatic stress syndrome
potable water
rescue efforts
Richter scale
search and rescue
severe damage
short-term aid
tropical storm
wind speed

As you discuss terms with students, it may be helpful to use graphic organizers to compare and contrast vocabulary words for different catastrophic events. For example, “wind speed” may not but used with earthquakes like it is with hurricanes, but “aftermath” could be used for both. The word “victim” can be used for anyone negatively affected by any situation, regardless if the event is natural or man-made. Word maps may also help students connect already-known words to new ones.

Sentence stems provide shape for students’ thoughts. Below I have included 8 sentence stems or stem groups that may be springboards for class discussion or journal entries.

I experienced a/an ____ (natural disaster). First, ___. Then ____. Finally, ____ (student describes her experience).

Before the ___, I was ____.
During the ____, I ____.
After the ____, I ____.

When I heard about the ____ (natural disaster), I felt _____ (emotion).

I saw pictures of the ____ (natural disaster) on the news. I saw ____ (specific details).

In ___ (year), there was a ____ (natural disaster) in _____ (place). This caused ____(results).

I wonder if…

I can prepare for a/an ___ (natural disaster) by…

I can help the people in ___ (place) by…

As I mentioned before, natural disasters may bring out the worst in Mother Nature, but they bring out the best in people. Below are two NPR reports of how people performed small acts of service that had huge impacts. Listening to these with your students may provide a chance to discuss human resilience and offer a hopeful note to an otherwise dismal topic.

Nick Fountain tells of Mexican teenagers delivering supplies on their bicycles after the earthquakes:

Kelly McEvers, host of NPR’s Around the Nation, reports how amateur ham radio operators were able to help Puerto Ricans who could not reach relatives in the United States:

In an ideal world, we would never need to cover these topics in our classrooms. However, we live on a planet rife with dramatic events, natural or otherwise. We can help our students increase their abilities to communicate their ideas and experiences if we give them the tools.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Preparing for a New School Year: Lessons Learned

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

Ah, August. These are the final hurried weeks before a new school year for some of us, and for a few of us, these are the nervous, nail-biting, nauseating and sleepless weeks before our first official teaching positions.

I remember my first-day-of-school anxiety before my “maiden voyage” as a middle school English teacher over fifteen years ago. I spent much of my time trying to anticipate every possible situation and devising plans to overcome any obstacle. I hoped that if I thought of every scenario, then perhaps I would have a smooth first year. But alas, we cannot predict the unpredictable. Each class and every student are unique, an infinite number of variables that are constantly changing. Every day brings new interruptions, necessitating sudden modifications to lesson plans, adapting to unforeseen situations. I learned that flexibility was not only a skill but a necessary tool for survival.

Since my first day, I have taught in public and private schools, from elementary through college. Though many of the lessons I have learned over the years may pertain to particular situations, a few rules of thumb apply to nearly every instructor. Perhaps I can help other teachers avoid a few of the pitfalls I have encountered by sharing a little advice.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Science of Using Art in Language Classrooms

KFieldingKristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

What’s the difference between art and science?

I suppose a person’s answer will be based on her perspective. For example, when I was a Chem 101 student, I fell in love with the elegant beauty of the periodic table. Such a simple design, yet it represents an enormous amount of information. As a starry-eyed student, I felt art and science were the same. On the other hand, a politician looking to cut a state’s education budget would have a much different view of art and science.

As language instructors, we have another perspective, especially when it comes to teaching. We often mix art and science to maximize time and student success.

One of the most popular uses of art in a language class is showing students pictures to activate background knowledge. We know if students associate new knowledge with old, they will understand new concepts better and remember them longer. But I would like to talk about another way we can use pictures in language classes: We can use simple images as symbols for new ideas.

A few weeks ago, my low level adult ESOL students were learning the different forms of the simple present “be.” From experience, I knew some students would forget the three forms and would have difficulty recalling them when writing short sentences, so I decided to use a simple image to help them remember. I drew a triangle on the board and asked the students to tell me the three simple present “be” verbs. When students gave me the answers, I wrote each word on a corner of the triangle. Later, when I was helping students with their sentences, I only had to draw a small triangle to help students remember that “be” has three forms.

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