Incorporating the teaching of grit

I am blessed with the opportunity to teach students who are driven to want to achieve. As newly arrived immigrants and refugees given a new chance to make a new world for themselves, motivating them to work hard is rarely a problem. But now that I’m teaching a slightly higher level of students, those who have been in the system for about a year, I have had the opportunity to see how some of my earlier students are faring after a year. 

A few are losing their way, especially when they are older (about 18) and see how frustratingly slow their progress is. All they want to do is get into mainstream as soon as possible, before they are too old to fit in. This is how I see the relevance of this issue of teaching grit. Watch this video Duckworth at Ted Talks featuring Angela Lee Duckworth on Ted Talks as she talks about grit. Then look at how this concept is incorporated by a teacher in the classroom in this video  Teaching grit posted on 

This term my english unit focuses on biographies. As always, I have built the programme with the constant awareness that students must see their learning as relevant to themselves.  I have deliberately chosen characters who can be relevant to my students own experiences. I will begin my unit, looking at Amelia Earhart, and tying it to my students desire to do something more with their lives and with a look at the role of women and the dreams that women should be allowed to pursue. Within the video, there is a reference to the need to being useful in our aspirations for our future. That is a take that I will be incorporating into my programme too. 

Scroll down the page of this post on Teaching grit for a curriculum pdf and some other useful resources. 


Do preschoolers learn English the same way new ESL adolescent learners do?

Well, the answer is no. But the difficulty is in identifying the overlap of skills, approaches and needs. Shahanan posted a powerpoint detailing some concepts that should be incorporated into a preschoolers program – Two things I have already incorporated into my programme for the new term ( 4 days from now) is the incorporation of skill development in phonological awareness and the development of deeper vocabulary. 

Video Example of Identifying ELL students

Click on the link below to view an interesting video that looks at how newly arrived students are screened for the esl programme. 

In my school’s context, students coming in are screened during similar interviews and given a written test to ascertain their levels. This interview focuses more on the screening based on the questioning of parents. 

The area of concern we have is the written tests. We still haven’t found the right tests ( those simple enough to administer at the initial stage) that can indicate where to place students. This video points out that students are placed in the teachers classroom for a 10 day period during which time the ESL teacher assesses the student. 

This is the reality of what happens in our situation too. Unfortunately, invariably, we have students have been placed in the wrong class. Personally, I don’t think it is good for newly arrived immigrants to go through this insecure period of not really being able to fit in. I’m looking at how we can make the assessments more reliable so that the students can be placed relatively accurately in the right class. This is important given that within the intensive learning programme students go through a 10 week programme. 10 days of trying to ascertain the ESL learners position and placing them correctly is too long.

Building Bridges - ESL

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Enabling deeper thinking

This post in Education Week about deeper thinking titled “Would You Know Deeper Learning If You Saw It?”got me reflecting on a lesson I conducted in class today. This week, my students have watched a video version of “The ant and grasshopper” as well as a text version. They successfully identified features that were seen in both texts yesterday. Today, it was good to listen to and facilitate the small group discussions as students strove to identify features that were only identified in the separate versions. During the animated discussion, students were using their newly acquired vocabulary to argue and justify details and plot lines. Many were extremely precise in their observations and justifications. really proud of their achievement today.

Teaching a new level yet again.

There is never a dull moment in teaching is there? I’ve begun teaching a new level of students this year. They are about 2 levels up from my previous level and approximately at a grade 4 standard.

The main difference I see at this level is that the students generally have more confidence in speaking. They can communicate in most social situations and can articulate their basic needs. In writing, most are able to express their thoughts in a few simple sentences with some quite capable of writing a short paragraph ( with basic inaccuracies still evident). A few of the students are still reading at grade 2 level but most have no problem working with grade 3 and 4 level texts when their learning experiences have been highly scaffolded. And best of all… They can listen and comprehend lessons quite well.

Here’s to a new 10 week cycle!

Grammar for the early esl classroom

I certainly do not advocate teaching grammar out of context. However, the esl learner must be made aware of the grammar that “native” speakers have naturally assimilated. This knowledge can bridge the gap between those who have the instinctive awareness of how their language functions, and those for whom the complexities of the language overshadow their ability to make meaning.

I have been teaching the basic level group this term. They had about 3 months or more of lessons in English before coming into my class for the 10 week programme. In such a short timeframe, it is impossible to address all their needs but I have found that there are some grammatical structures that must be addressed to enable quality writing, reading and speaking at this level to occur.

The following grammatical structures need to be addressed.
– nouns ( common, proper nouns )
– nouns ( people, place, things)
– nouns ( countable, uncountable)
-verbs (regular and irregular)
– subject verb agreement( when teaching the present tense)
– tenses (present, continuous, past)
-verbs – the structure of the infinitive ( at a very basic level in such an intensive course)
– pronouns ( possessive – addressed first because it ties in nicely to the use of nouns)
-pronouns ( subject and object)
– articles
– prepositions and prepositional phrases of place and time

Organising the classroom

It’s the start of the new year and the first challenge I have come to is the range of students I have in the class. Some of them have come into this Intensive English class at 13 years old, after 2 to 3 years in the primary school. Others are new arrivals with between 1 to 3 months experience learning in Australia.

The standard of English is so different. The majority have already developed good decoding skills; Only 2 will require intensive work on their basic sounds. Many have a strong basic math background. So some of the basic work that I used to have to cover intensively do not need such attention now.

My first focus is on how to differentiate in the classroom. This week I will be organising the students into ability groups so that they can develop their learning at their own pace. Step 1 will be the planning of the tables. Step 2 will be the organisation of learning activities and preparation of materials. Here’s to a busy week ahead.