This month, I am learning the ABC’s of ESL. I started my summer job today, teaching a group of high school students who just arrived in Toronto yesterday from Tianjin, China. I’ll be teaching intensive English classes – that’s 8:45-5:15, five days a week for the next few weeks. That’s a lot of hours to fill up.
I taught some ESL as a student teacher, but this is the first time I’m responsible for planning an entire month of classes and activities. I’ve been brainstorming ideas, searching online, and asking friends and colleagues for help. The objective is simple: get them to speak as much English as possible, teach them a thing or two about Canada, and keep them active.
The school is housed in a huge building in Scarborough that until recently was a chocolate factory. It’s currently undergoing a total renovation, and by September will be a state of the art facility. Now, however, it’s bordering on chaotic, as construction workers push wheelbarrows of debris through the dusty half-tiled hallways and stacks of lockers form makeshift classroom walls. I asked for a binder today and was led to “the cage” where the office supplies are being stored in piles of boxes and crates. Yet somehow everything seems to be running smoothly and nobody appears to mind the physical setting. The students, jet lagged and dazed in their neon yellow skinny jeans and crystal appliqued nails, didn’t seem phased at all. They obediently tiptoed around the gaping trenches dug out for future plumbing, shuffled their feet waiting for the coffee truck in the parking lot among the sweaty men and their loud machines. I guess they’re in such a state of culture shock that we could pass just about anything off as totally normal in Canada.
I utilized the chaos to my advantage today, sending the kids on an English alphabet scavenger hunt. They had to look around the school and the yard and find one word for each letter of the alphabet. I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to go outside, move around the building a bit, but they all stayed in one foyer, hesitant to stray from the group. I tried to make it a contest but they all wanted to work together and help each other out. It was a good introductory activity – it got them thinking about everyday English vocabulary. We complied all the words on the board and paused to define or talk about a few of them afterward.
It was a start. The kids are sweet and I think I’m going to have lots of fun with them. I need to look at the lack of structure as an opportunity rather than as a threat – the hours, I’m sure, will fly by.
Ideas and suggestions are welcome…