Friday, December 07, 2007
Anyway, now comes the big job for me . . . I have to mark everyone's final writing exams, calculate the course grades and then submit them to the registrar's office. I think I'll be drinking a lot of coffee this weekend. Usually the way I tackle the final exams is first I just mark them for grammar - making note of all the grammar, punctuation and word use problems. Then I read the exams again for content and organization. That way, I read each exam twice before I come up with a final mark. I hope people chose a lot of different topics. That makes it more interesting for me while I'm marking. The worst thing in the world is marking 25 essays all on the same topic. For example, if everyone writes about solar energy, I might just go crazy!
Well, I hope all my students stay in touch with me through the blogs. It's been a great semester. Good luck everyone!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Holy cow, have I been in pain that last few days. I wonder if anyone noticed at the Glenbow Museum how much pain I was in. It was totally killing me, both physically and mentally because I had been looking so forward to going to the museum, but then I couldn't enjoy it as much I would have liked to because I was concentrating so much on not showing any pain. You see, I have an abscessed tooth. Oh the agony. About 3 years ago, one of my teeth cracked, but I never got anything done about it because I didn't have any dental insurance. When I finally got dental insurance at the University of Calgary, I went to the dentist and they cleaned out all the rotten stuff and capped my broken tooth. However, I guess they didn't notice that the damage was much deeper than it seemed because I guess for the last year, my tooth has been slowing rotting from the inside out. Finally, last week my lower left jaw was killing me, and my face was getting swollen. I was worried that I had the mumps, so I decided to wait a few days and see what happened. By Wednesday, I was in agony, and it seemed like a toothache gone crazy, so I decided to see a dentist. The dentist took an x-ray of my tooth, and told me I had an abscessed tooth. Now, I'm on antibiotics because my entire lower left jaw was infected, and I have to go for a root canal operation on Wednesday afternoon. So, I'm taking huge amounts of ibuprofen, and tylenol with codeine trying to kill the pain while I wait for the infection to go away. Actually, the pain seems worse now than it did on Friday, and all the pills are making me nauseous. Anyway, if you are wondering why I'm kind of weird in class . . . blame it on the abscessed tooth!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Another exciting thing we have been able to do this semester is see the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. The best part about this is that no one fell asleep during the movie! Teachers are often hesitant to show videos during class time . . . especially longer movies. Usually I follow the “20 Minute Rule” which is that teachers should never do more than 20 minutes of anything because they students will start to drift off and become bored . . . or worse . . . unruly! However, I only had two days to show “An Inconvenient Truth”, so I had to divide the movie up into two one hour segments. That’s almost triple my 20 minute rule for each day. The great thing was though that Al Gore was such a compelling speaker, and the students were so interested in the topic, that no one drifted off. Now the fun part begins on Monday when we decide if we believe Al Gore or not . . .
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Changes in due dates:
Essay #4: Thursday November 8, 2007
Essay #5: Friday November 23, 2007
Essay #6: Cancelled
Annotated Bibliography #2: Friday November 9, 2007
Annotated Bibliography #3: Cancelled
Book Report #3: Monday November 26, 2007
Remember – no classes Monday or Tuesday November 12 – 13, 2007
Combined Listening & Speaking Classes
All classes will meet together for the first hour after the grammar and writing class
2:30 – 3:30 Thursday November 15, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 16, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 23, 2007
I hope that all makes sense. It was hard for me to decide on doing this, but I think it is for the best. It seems like a lot of my students are suffering from "homework" shock, and may be it's time to ease back a bit on the official homework. My only worry is that the students will stop studying all together or that all studying will sink down to the lowest common denominator. One of the reasons we instituted the assignments as we did was so that the students would be using as much academic English as possible outside of the class. The goal was to push their learning to the next level. In the past, I used to give lots of suggestions for studying, but I found that if there wasn't a mark attached to an assignment, often the assignment wasn't done. However, the minute a mark was attached to an assignment, most of the class would at least make an effort at doing it. Thus, it becomes a fine balance between grading homework and encouraging students to do things on their own. Ideally, I would have a system where no grades were given, rather I would tell people if their work was poor, developing, satisfactory or outstanding. One of the drawbacks of grading things such as the essays is that if one person gets 85% on an essay, and another person gets 88% on an essay - does that mean that the person with the higher score is 2% better at English than the person with the lower score? I don't think so. I think we are trying to cut things too finely when we are using percentages. Rather, we should have broad bands.
Anyway, this is what is going through my mind at the moment. One thing that has driven all of these thoughts is the fact that I have such a large class this semester. Now I know why my French Professors in my undergraduate studies only assigned one essay per semester!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
However, one day all my students will be engineers, scientists, doctors, and teachers. I guess that's more important than picking out cute animals at the zoo . . .
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Anyway, the conference was actually kind of fun because it was great catching up with teachers from all around the province. The only problem was that the timing of the conference wasn’t so great. It fell this year right in the middle of mid-terms for the EAP program at the University of Calgary. This meant that I had to abandon my students on Friday so that I could be at the conference. I hope they did okay. I’ll be seeing their exams on Monday . . . fingers crossed.
Actually, I’m really glad that it’s mid-term time. This is a great time for us all to take a moment and reflect on how the courses have been going so far, and there is still time to make a change in direction if necessary. I think I’m going to focus on getting some feedback from the students after mid-terms about what we can do to maximize their language learning in the last six weeks of the program. In fact, if any students have any great ideas, don’t be shy to comment on this blog!
As for the teachers who came to my workshop last Saturday, thanks very much for coming. It was a pleasure sharing my experience and blogs with you! Please keep in touch!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The part that was the most interesting for me was the discussion about the validity of ESL programs, and how to establish that validity. By validity, I mean, are we really doing what we are saying we are doing. In my case, that means, is the EAP program at the University of Calgary really preparing students for undergraduate studies and raising students English to a level high enough so that their relative problems with English won't be the cause of failure in University. Does success in the EAP program mean that students are likely to be successful at University?
I guess if we want to know that, first of all we need to know that what we are teaching and what we are testing are the same things, and that they are all relevant to the academic English language proficiency needed for undergraduate studies. Are the appropriate language, concepts and strategies being covered in the EAP program? The curriculum would need to be checked against the final exams.
Next, it would be good to check what we are doing with another accepted method of assessing language ability. That would mean carrying out a study in which students who graduate from the EAP program take another accepted test and we compare those marks to our marks. That could mean seeing if students who pass the EAP program also pass a TOEFL test, or the like.
After that, it would be nice to know what is happening to our students once they get to university. We could do that by checking on their GPA's one year, three years, and upon graduation and comparing those scores to their exit scores from the EAP program.
If we did all that, I think we could be fairly confident is saying that yes, the EAP program is preparing students well for university (that is if all the results are positive).
Anyway, those are the kind of things we were talking about in Kelowna. Fun stuff!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Anyway, now everyone is blogging!
Hmmmmm . . . I wonder if anyone wants to come to my office hours today. You see, somebody threw a rock through my back window at my house. Can you believe it? I didn't even wake up when it happened. It happened last Saturday night, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, there was glass all over my back room. I couldn't believe it. It is a pretty big window too - about 4 feet by 4 feet so it is going to cost me around $500 to get it fixed. I'm so annoyed because it is not like I am a rich person living in a rich person's house. Not that I'm advocating throwing rocks through the windows of rich people, but at least they could afford to get their windows fixed. Ah well, I guess I'll have to eat less Swiss Chalet take out chicken this week. I even called the police, but there was nothing they could do to help me because they said it is basically impossible to catch the people who through the rock through my window. They did ask if I had any enemies . . . I wonder which student might be mad at me!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Tuesdays 2:30 - 3:30
Thursdays 3:30 - 4:30
I promise I won't be changing them any more!
Last Friday I gave all of the students the day off because I had to go to the memorial service (funeral) for my grandmother. Gosh, I think I would have rather have taught. It was a really hard day. I was pretty okay until I got to the church and I had to sign the card that went with the flowers I bought for my Nana's (that's what I called my Grandmother) service. I started to write "Dear Nana . . . " and then I just lost it and started crying. It was also hard when my Dad delivered the eulogy. He talked to each person at the funeral individually during his eulogy, and pretty much got all of us crying a lot. My aunt especially was weeping the whole time. She tried to read a poem by William Wordsworth, but she couldn't go on and my Mum had to get up and help her to read the poem. They had asked me to read a Psalm during the service, but I declined. I just felt that I couldn't. It all felt a little bit weird for me anyway, because my Grandmother had requested an Anglican (a form of protestant christianity from English) service for her funeral, and there was a lot of talking about Jesus, etc. It was also weird because this was the first funeral I had ever been to. Isn't it amazing that I made it to the age of 37 without having ever gone to a funeral. When I was a kid, my parents didn't let me go to my grandfather's or uncle's funerals because they felt I was too young. Anyway, the last part of the service consisted of a piper playing "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. The bagpipes always send a shiver through me. I guess they are touching something deep and ancestral in my soul as if thousands of years of history suddenly are welling up inside of me. However, for me, the hardest part of the funeral for me was after the church. After the church, we went to the cemetary, and suddenly my Dad gave me my Nana's ashes to hold. It freaked me out a little to be standing there with a small box containing the ashes of my grandmother. By this time, the weather had turned cold and cloudy and it was lightly raining. It was exactly like a funeral in the movies, with people dressed in black, huddled around a hole in the ground in the rain. I also had to put the ashes into the hole in the ground, and I had to get down on my knees to put it in. I got dirt all over the knees of my black suit, but I didn't care, I just wanted to put the box into the grave. Then the minister threw some dirt on the box and said a prayer. Finally, we put roses on the gravestone while a piper played a lament on the bagpipes. Once again, it was eerie hearing the bagpipes playing in the cold wind while we all stood there around the grave.
Anyway, after the funeral we went back to the church and there was a tea with little sandwhiches with the crusts cut off. It was all very English (My Nana was from English, as are my parents). I ended up sitting beside my high school physics teacher from grades 10 and 11, trying to make polite conversation, when all I really wanted to do was go home. It was strange being surrounded by so many people that I hadn't seen for so many years. After the tea, we all went back to my parents house where my Dad opened up a bottle of expensive Scotch. You see, my Nana used to like to have a Scotch now and then, we we were drinking it in memory of her. In fact, I remember being a little kid and mixing my Nana a Scotch and water. Anyway, it was 16 year old Scotch and supposedly very expensive, but I couldn't finish mine. It tasted like burnt wood and it made my lips numb. I guess it was wasted on me.
After that, we went out for dinner, just the family. There were 10 of us, and we went out for Chinese food. My Nana always liked Chinese food, so we went to a local restaurant in Olds. After that, I went home. It was a very strange day.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Anyway, I just wanted to let people know that I won't be posting as regularly as usual in this blog. If I start up a new blog, I'll let you all know.
Have a great spring and summer!
Monday, April 16, 2007
I think part of the fun of going to university are midterms and finals. They really help you bond with your classmates, and it gives you a real sense of being a student. I remember hanging out with my friends, madly trying to study. I even remember we would look for places to study all night on campus, and then at about 5 am we would go to Denny's for "Moons Over My Hammy" and fourteen cups of coffee so that we would be ready for our 8:00 am exams. Although it may have seemed like hell at the time, whenever I bump into friends from university we always look back sort of nostalgically to the days when we were students. Now, when I talk to my friends it seems like life for a lot of them is only about mortgages and stressful jobs that are crushing their souls (myself excepted . . . my soul hasn't been crushed, yet!)
Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say to my students is ENJOY exam week. Study with your friends and eat pizza every night while drinking a six pack of pepsi cola. When you look back at all of this, it will be with fondness :-)
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I wonder if any of my students have ever taken a moment to think about where these exams actually come from. What I do in LEAP 4 is I take a survey of all of the reading we have done in the text book. I look at how long they are and how difficult they are. In order to do that, I use the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch-Kincaid_Readability_Test). That gives me a rough idea of what grade level a test is at. Once I have had a look at the type of readings the students have been doing, I then survey the tasks that they have been doing with those readings. After that, I match those readings and tasks to the Canadian Language Benchmarks (www.language.ca, I'm looking at CLB 8 and 9) and the course objectives for LEAP 4. Now I know what I am looking for and what I need to be testing. Next comes the hard part. I have to find a text. Now I do an exhaustive search looking for readings that are of the appropriate length, difficulty and topic. I also try to look for something Canadian. Once I find some articles, I share them with my fellow teachers to get their imput. After we decide which article to go with, I then begin to develop the test. In order to do that, first I re-write some of the sections / sentences of the article in order to make them more accessible. I then look at the vocabulary and choose academic words that the students should be able to guess from context. Then I pick and choose tasks from the textbooks and apply them to the reading in the text. As you can see, there should be no surprises on the final exam. The tasks all mirror tasks the students will have done in class (or at least, should have done - but they are in the textbook, so it is the responsibility of the student to study the textbook and be familiar with all of the tasks). Now I create the exam. Once that is done, I pass on an answer key and a good copy to the other teachers for their input. They come up with their feedback, and I adjust the final exam as necessary. This entire process takes about 6 - 10 hours. Crazy stuff, eh? And it's not over yet, once the students have finished the exam, I then have to check it over again and see if it worked, but that is a story for another blog . . . . . .
Study hard :-)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
You see, when I was a kid studying French, English was FORBIDDEN in the classroom. In fact, if we spoke English, our teacher would have a fit and we risked being sent into the hallway or even the Principal's office. This way of teaching didn't stop as I got older either. When I was 17 years old my parent's sent me away for the summer to Trois Rivieres - a city halfway between Quebec City and Montreal. I guess you could call it the Red Deer of Quebec. Anyway, while I was there I went to CEGEP to study French - it is like a college. Can you picture me? I little 17 year old guy all by himself for the first time? It kind of reminds me of some of my students who are studying here in the LEAP program right now. Anyway, not only was English forbidden in the classroom, it was forbidden EVERYWHERE! That's right, I could drink beer (illegally), smoke cigarettes and ignore doing my homework, but if I ever spoke English anywhere in the city at all and I was caught, there were huge consequences. And I mean huge! You see, the CEGEP had not only teachers, but also monitors who hung out with us after class. On top of that, many of the local people in the city knew that Anglophones came to study French every summer and they kept an eye on us to. If we were caught speaking English at any time, we would get a warning. You only got three chances. If you were caught on the third time . . . you were put on a plane back home! I'm serious. I personally know people where were kicked out of French programs for speaking English too often. Even me, your teacher got caught speaking English one time. I remember I was in a pool with some friends and we were swimming. As some of my students probably know, I love talking, and suddenly I just started shouting to some friends in English to come and jump into the pool. Right behind me was a monitor! Holy cow, did I get in trouble. It was really serious. They had me totally freaked out that I was going to be sent back home. From then on, it was French only for me.
So you can see that from a young age I have been indoctrinated that the best way to learn a langauge is through the immersion method. It is almost like a Canadian way of doing things. I guess that it has affected me a lot,but you know what is amazing . . . . I speak French :-)
Anyway, I have the honour of doing three things while I am in Seattle. I'll be doing a poster presentation on the Thursday of the Conference, a hands-on showcase of my students' blogs on the Friday, and finally a workshop teaching teachers how to use blogs with their students on the Saturday. It's going to be fun :-)
What I would like my students to do is please complete this survey (please click when you are ready):
I'd like to share your opinions with my colleagues in Seattle.
Thank you in advance to everyone who does this survey!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
This is a picture of my mother and I :-)
It was recently my mum's birthday, and we went to the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary for their Sunday Brunch. I think this must most definately be the best Sunday Brunch in all of Calgary, if not Alberta (well, actually the Banff Springs Hotel would be a close second). This brunch is absolutely fantastic. It has a mix of breakfast items and lunch items. For example, you can have a gourmet omlet made for you while you watch, or you can get Belgian waffles made fresh in front of your eyes. There are also other amazing things like eggs benedict and eggs pacifica. Eggs pacifica is one of my favourite breakfast dishes. It is an english muffin with smoked salmon on top. Placed on the smoked salmon you have a gently poached egg, and it is all topped off with a sauce that is out of this world. Yum. Actually, I kind of go smoked salmon crazy when I go to the Palliser for Brunch. I take huge amounts of smoked salmon. I just can't get enough! They also have lunch items like roast beef, and things like that, but I usually stick to the breakfast items. Finally, there is a large variety of cakes and desserts. It is all amazing. Unfortunately, it is a little bit pricey. For one person, brunch is $40 and there there is tax and tip, so if 4 people go, you can end up spending around $200. However, it was my mum's birthday, so it was worth it :-) If anyone ever has their parents visiting town and they want to splurg, I recommend the bruch at the Palliser Hotel.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Anyway, this is the online link to the article http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/11102, but if you pick up a current issue of the Gauntlet, you can read the article there too. I wonder what my LEAP 4 students would think of this article. I really hope that now, because of the program, they are able to do things in March that they could not do in January. I guess that is the real measure of a program. If a student can say "now I can do this, but I couldn't do it before" that would be a way of demonstrating that they have learned something. Anyhow, I won't let this article get me down, but sometimes I do feel that I am faced with an almost impossible task compared with a normal professor at the university. It almost seems like if students fail in the LEAP program it's the teacher's fault for not teaching, but if they fail in normal university it's the learners fault for not learning. Complex stuff . . .
Friday, March 02, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
I have decided that I blog waaay too much about food, so I thought I would blog about some of my favourite things to do in Calgary. I have to say that in the winter, it really easy to become a couch potato in this city. Sometimes when it is cold outside, all I want to do is sit at home with a blanket and a hot cup of TV and watch television. However, there are some things that I like to do in this city, and one of them is skating at Bowness Park. Bowness Park is a huge park on the Bow river in the NW. It is my favourite park in the whole city, and I go there all the time both in the summer and in the winter. In the winter, the pond at Bowness Park is frozen, and you can go skating on it. There is also a frozen creek and a frozen canal, so you can skate all over the place. The best part of course is that it is free! Sunday was only my second time going skating this winter, so it took me a few minutes to get used to it again, but soon I was zooming all over the place. The weather was so great on Sunday too. There were tons of people. There were even mothers skating and pushing their children in baby carriages on the pond. I think the cutest thing is the little kids with their snowsuits and helmets.
Anyway, I highly recommend that everyone try skating at Bowness Park. They even have skates there that you can rent (I think they are $5, but they may cost more money now), so there is no excuse for not going. Also, students can rent skates from the outdoor recreation centre here on campus.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Hmmm, what should I blog about. I have been so busy lately! In fact, I have been so busy that I don't have time to cook lunch or supper any more, so I have been eating all of my meals here at the university. If I can get the special in the Education Cafeteria, that's not so bad because they have a daily lunch special that is only $4.99. Usually it is pretty good. The only problem is that they are sometimes late getting the lunch ready, and I don't have time to eat it, or it isn't ready when I have my lunch (I have to eat my lunch at 11 or 11:30 because of class). When the special isn't ready, instead I have to spend almost $8 for my lunch. Yikes!
Supper isn't so bad though because usually I have time to go to Mac Hall, and there are lots of choices there. Lately, my favourite place to eat is "Opa!". That is a Greek place, and it has amazing food. I really love the lamb slouvaki. My other favourite places are the place with the Vietnamese subs and the Vietnamese Noodle place. I've also seen a lot of my students working there, so it's fun to see them out of class.
Now, the only problem is that I'm worried all this university food isn't healthy for me. I wonder where my students like to eat on campus. Maybe they know some better and healthier places . . . . .
Friday, January 19, 2007
Anyway, I am sure that they blogs are going to be a big success this semester and that everyone is going to benefit. I can wait to get feedback from the students later in the semester.
Happy Blogging Everyone!!!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Here I am back on campus after a nice long break. I have officially been on holiday since December 22. That was 12 days of pure relaxation! Mostly I just hung around the house reading books and watching TV. I did go skating once on Bowness Pond, but the ice was really rough so I stopped after just 20 minutes. I guess the most exciting thing I did over the holidays was visit my parents in Olds, Alberta. My parents have an antique shop in Olds, and I got to see all the stuff they are selling. Some of it is pretty cool. I also got to play with my parents two dogs and their cat. All in all, it was a great visit.
Anyway, I'm back, and I'm raring to go. I can't wait to start teaching again. See you soon!