Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Second Language Listening with Blogs and Odiogo

Hello all ~ here's a resource about listening and blogs. We could use free text to voice software to make this blog a listening resource.

However, I see two problems:
1) I don't want you to stop reading.
2) We may need to "go public" to use the feature.
What do you think?

PS While looking for a "writing and listening" graphic to accompany this post, I found this site you might find useful: Time4English, a free site for learning English online, 6 levels and over 360 lessons in listening, reading, writing and grammar. Take a look and evaluate it: should we add it to our list of online learning resources?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

TOEFL Poetics

Ryan Daley on Buffalo Poetics writes about Tests of English as a Foreign Language...

Back in May, and back when I was teaching a TOEFL test instruction class, I would spend so much time preparing and teaching per week that my writing was suffering. Then I came up with an idea. 

On the TOEFL test there is a 30-minute essay segment. Test takers have 30 minutes to write a 300 word essay in answer to an assigned question. These questions are usually somewhat mundane, i.e., one custom from your country you would share, etc. My goal was to write at least 75 essays and to repurpose them. While doing this, I also like I was sticking it to the powers observing us (Cameras were placed in each room, for "quality control").

To cut it short: I have roughly 60 TOEFL (poetic) essays up  at my blog, http://charitablegiving.blogspot.com. Check 'em out! And thanks for reading!

Sample essay

Q. If you could change one aspect of the public school/schools you attended, what would you change, how would you change it, and why? Use reasons and examples to support your response. 

A. Education is a tricky subject. As with figuring out anything, many variables involved in the deep process. Students emerge from schools at the end of the day and it's easy to forget that they belong to a community housed within several fortifications, cafes and playgrounds. I would change a few things about my school's construction and the administrative hierarchy. 

Schools are built much like prisons. We are interested in keeping children and their noises, their dramas as well as their affinities, inside and locked away. A brighter school with less restraints would improve matters for children. They would not feel the cold gray sky behind the gratings on the windows, would not lunch in the same linoleum room like those dentists use to calmly wash out patients' mouths, would not sing on a stage so lofty that the smallest squeak cannot be heard. We silence the children, and we assume they behave better this way. However, when children are unleashed they destroy property. This is because they hold their emotions so pent up. Generous little beings are not captivated by the dull school surroundings. Gym balls will bounce with resounding joy if only we update the facilities which school our children. 

School administrations refuge in lonely temperance behind desks which expose children early to alienation of processes. How many times will they see desk housing a person? Fresh new faces entice all guests to share the most important information with the desk's occupant, and in the quickest manner. Imagine what fresh faces enliven the office environs, while increasing productivity. To this end, all school admins and educators who are entrenched should be alternated every 5 years. A bargaining period is born of this, during which time admins would prove their worth. However, teachers are accustomed to unstable living situations already. Administrators and office dregs should share in this renewal.

The Poetics List is moderated & does not accept all posts. Guidelines: http://epc.buffalo.edu/poetics/welcome.html

Friday, November 19, 2010

Model of learning in a PLE

Plenk2010 is over but not the sharing. It's only just begun. Not just for teachers, learners are welcome too, so maybe next time some of you will join me.

Do you understand the distinction between PLN (network) and PLE (environment)? This model from Rita Kop's post at Observations about learning, knowledge and technology on modeling PLE based learning shows how complex and dynamic the process is. In other words, not to worry if you are still confused. I am and so are most of the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) participants.  

To quote Jerry Lee Lewis, "Great balls of fire" and "whole lotta shakin' goin' on"

The other PLENK news is that one of the facilitators started a focus group to research lurker learning, lurking as a learning strategy. If it's now an object of research, I guess I will need to be more patient with and tolerant of Blogging English's lurker. However, that doesn't mean I'll stop asking you to respond, post, comment ~ participate! Maybe the research focus group will come up with encouraging or at least useful results for us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PLN Competencies

PLN Competencies

Filed under: Coaching,MOOC — Steve LeBlanc @ 1:28 am 
Kids studying
You don’t have a strong PLN (Personal Learning Network) the moment you show up at the right group, even if it is the perfect fit for your particular interest. Admittedly, finding a group of folks who share your passions can offer support, guidance and quick tips for simple challenges. For example, finding the right quilting group for a lone quilter can be a dream come true.
But what if your passions are not so neatly contained? What if your interests are broad and interdisciplinary? Specifically, what if you just can’t find a group that shares your varied interests? You could join different groups for your different interests or even create a new one. That works fine for discrete fields, that is, until you start to ask cross-cultural questions no one else in that group is interested in.
A strong PLN is not just a group of people, any more than a strong college education is the particular college you went to. A friend of mine had this to say of his Harvard degree: “The classes I took were not what made my education so valuable. It was more about the friendships I made and the radically different world view I acquired while there. Things I used to think impossible became matter-of-fact, almost mundane.”
Be sure to read the whole article. This is just the teaser and tip of the iceberg. I think it clarifies "network" as opposed to "environment," although making too much of the distinction gets in the way of understanding and using. The short version: network is part of your learning environment but not its totality. Shorter version: both are resources (of any kind) that you learn with and/or from.
The corollary is that you can learn by following passively (lurking) but you will always learn more when you participate actively.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ExtensiveReading: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol must be one of the most universally recognised titles in English literature. I have prepared a website with graded extracts, activities and links to currently availabe readers and the original (etext)

You can find it here:


The extracts use special software that allows comfortable online reading. This should be a significant plus for some reluctant readers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Study Tips for Online Learning

Top 4 Study Tips for Distance Learners and Students Taking Online Courses

by Carson Kelly, a freelance writer and advocate of online learning. 

Online degree programs and distance learning offer a wealth of advantages – they provide a convenient way to obtain a quality education while maintaining a full-time job, they position you for job advancement and they enable you to complete your courses anytime and anywhere. However, since you won't be meeting for scheduled classes on campus each day or week, you need to have good study habits to stay on track and avoid falling behind. By following four simple study tips, you can be on your way to the successful completion of your online classes.

1. Create an Optimal Study Environment
Some students are easily distracted and need complete silence, while others find the stimulation of a lively environment conducive to creative thinking. Identify what setting works best for you when you're viewing lectures, working on assignments and taking tests for your online classes. Regardless of where you choose to study, it's important to have a comfortable workspace and proper lighting. Since you'll be spending a lot of time in front of a computer, you may find it helpful to get up from time to time to take a break and stretch your legs.

If you're working at home, be sure to let your roommates, friends or family know that you have a regularly scheduled study time. Ask them to avoid unnecessary interruptions, and tell them you won't be taking phone calls. It's important to set boundaries if you expect to succeed with distance learning and stay on top of your coursework. If there are too many disruptions at home, consider going to your local library or coffee shop. Make sure you find a quiet, out-of-the-way spot, and resist the temptation to chat with other patrons.

2. Plan Your Time Wisely
Time management can be one of the most difficult aspects of taking online courses. Some days, you may be too tired after work to focus on your studies; other days, you may be tempted to go out with friends or feel compelled to take care of housework. If you're not careful, you can quickly fall behind in your online classes.

At the beginning of the week, review the lectures, assignments and exams you'll need to complete, and set aside a specific block of time each day to accomplish the work. Just as you take a shower and brush your teeth each day, you need to make studying for your online courses a daily habit. You likely chose web-based classes because you have a busy schedule, and it's easy to get distracted with other obligations. Learning to effectively manage your time is a major factor in the successful completion of your online education.

3. Connect With Other Students in Your Online Courses
No one works well in a vacuum, and that's especially true for learning online. Just because you're not attending classes in a group setting doesn't mean you have to work alone. The best online degree programs will offer multiple ways to communicate with your classmates, such as message boards, online chat rooms and email. These online forums offer a great way to share ideas, get answers to your questions and make new friendships with students who share similar interests.

In addition to one-on-one conversations, take advantage of virtual study groups for each of your classes online. Participating in group discussions can enhance your team-building skills and provide new perspectives on the class subject matter.

4. Establish a Dialog With Your Distance Learning Instructor
Just as it's important to create connections with your fellow classmates, you should establish ongoing communication your online instructors. Your professors are more than just lecturers; they are an important resource in helping you to get the most out of your online education. You can start the dialog by asking questions. Whether you'd like clarification on a simple issue or help understanding a complex topic, your instructors want to know how they can help you and what you think of their online coursework. Your fellow classmates are likely to have the same questions as you, so you can also help others by taking the initiative to ask questions.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ESL Videos | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...

ESL Videos | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...: "MES English has some nice teaching videos for Beginning English Language Learners. I wouldn’t quite add them to The Best Online Video Sites For Learning English, but they’re still worth bookmarking."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

About World Languages

Language Difficulty for English Speakers

How long will it take to become proficient in a foreign language?
People often ask: "How long will it take me to become proficient in language X?" This question is impossible to answer because a lot depends on a person's language learning ability, motivation, learning environment, intensity of instruction, and prior experience in learning foreign languages. Last, but not least, it depends on the level of proficiency the person wishes to attain.

Different language skills
There is no such thing as across-the-board proficiency in a particular language. Proficiency is usually measured in terms of four skills:

  • speaking
  • reading
  • listening
  • writing

Learners usually have different levels of proficiency in the four skills. Consequently, the four skills cannot be assessed by one test. Each one requires an independent evaluation.

Levels of proficiency
Two widely used guidelines identify stages of proficiency, as opposed to achievement. Both guidelines represent a hierarchy of global characterizations of integrated performance in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Each description is a representative sample of a particular range of ability, and each level subsumes all previous levels, moving from simple to complex.

It is important to understand that these guidelines are not intended to measure what an individual has achieved through specific classroom instruction but rather to allow assessment of what an individual can and cannot do, regardless of where, when, or how the language has been acquired.

ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages) has guidelines for speaking (1999) and preliminary guidelines for writing. The ILR (US Government Interagency Language Roundtable) has guidelines for speaking, reading, listening, writing and translation.

The two sets of guidelines for speaking only are given side-by-side below. Note that the ACTFL scale goes up only to the Superior level, while the ILR scale includes Advanced Professional Proficiency and Functionally Native Proficiency. ...moremore

World Languages is a commercial site but also a one-stop information website "dedicated to the world’s most important and populous languages... and language-related IT,"

OK so it's not about learning English, per se, but information about languages in general and learning languages does relate.

In particular, the chart for assessing different language skills and levels of proficiency seems adaptable to skills and levels in others languages.

Also a source about individual world languages, language families, fascinating language factoids (which always made language learning more interesting for me)

Posted via email from Meanderings

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Listen to NPR Podcasts

Improve your listening comprehension: practice listening to English by NPR podcast: NPR Podcast Directory

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vocabulary in English

"With the Internet learning vocabulary in English is easier than ever! This lesson plan focuses on helping improve vocabulary in English using two fantastic, and free, internet tools to learn important words that go together (collocations). The lesson can also be used by English learners on their own as it explains the process step-by-step.

For more information on the wide range of vocabulary in English resources on the site, use this guide on how to improve vocabulary as your starting point."

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blog Posts

If any of you have a blog for your PLE and practicing writing in English - and have been blogging, please let me know.

The blog post excerpted below is about student blogging. It applies to advanced writers blogging as part of a college course that requires more writing and much longer posts. Still, the basic guidelines would apply reasonably well if you were being graded, which you are not. Still, evaluating your own work and progress is part of self-paced study. How would you rephrase or interpret these guidelines?

Prof Hacker writes,
"In my efforts to quickly and fairly evaluate blog posts, I developed a simple 5-point scale, which rates each post according to the level of critical thinking and engagement displayed in the post. The rubric is quick and easy and in roughly 1–2 minutes I know what to rate any given blog post:
4Exceptional. The blog post is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The post demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.
3Satisfactory. The blog post is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The post reflects moderate engagement with the topic.
2Underdeveloped. The blog post is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The post reflects passing engagement with the topic.
1Limited. The blog post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.
0No Credit. The blog post is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences."

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