Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

StoryCorps has a big project coming up nationwide this Thanksgiving weekend. The Great Thanksgiving Listen is an "assignment in the act of listening" in which participants are encouraged to record interviews with loved ones using the StoryCorps app. Participants can then publish their interviews and make them searchable by keywords of their own choosing.

There is a useful resource list here for anybody who wishes to participate - encourage your students!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ice Skating Trip

Let's go ice skating on Friday! Students, faculty, and staff are all welcome. Please remember to share this with your students.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How LaGuardia Works: RSVP and Agenda

Next week Thursday is our annual professional development day, and the focus this year is on How LaGuardia Works. If you have not yet RSVPd, please do so. The agenda for the day is below.

8:30am – 9:00am
NY Designs – Room C760
9:00am – 10:00am
Resolving Challenging Situations
How can we balance the requirements and expectations of LaGuardia and our programs with the learning needs of the students in our classrooms? What do I do when faced with an emergency or challenging classroom situation? How can behavioral problems be resolved? What supports are available to me? These questions and more will be addressed in this informative and interactive presentation.

David Housel, LMSW, ACSW – Associate Director of CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP)
Dr. Regina Varin-Mignano, LCSW-R, PhD – Manager of The Wellness Center and LaGuardia ASSIST

NY Designs – Room C760
You will be able to attend two sessions. Please sign up during breakfast and the plenary.

10:15am – 11:00am

Session 2
11:15am – 12:00pm
How To Navigate The LaGuardia System
What kind of support does LaGuardia offer to faculty and staff?  This workshop will help you navigate key services as an employee of this enormous institution. Representatives from various college offices will explain benefits, CUNY Work/Life, and Public Safety. Bring your questions!

James Grantham (Public Safety), Claudette Gray (Human Resources), Karamvir Kaur (Human Resources)


Resolving Challenging Situations: A Dialogue
This workshop is a continuation of the morning plenary where panelists will share how they have resolved challenging situations in their various positions of coordinator, teacher, and frontline staff.  Participants will then be able to share their own challenging situations and get help from the moderator, panelist, and fellow participants around how to get the support they need to resolve these—or future—situations.

David Housel (CLIP)

Yvette Alphonsus (TELC), Magda Kieliszek (TELC), Marlene Machado (CLIP)

The Green Classroom
Recycled paper. Refillable markers. Are our choices as teachers helping to make LaGuardia greener? We’ll share how we try to save paper and energy. Our evolving classroom strategies develop our technological skills and get our students and colleagues interested in sustainability.

Cyndi Casey (CLIP), Linda Chin (CLIP), Rob Murray (CLIP), Rebecca Olerich (TELC), Bill Woodward (CLIP)

Room C333

NY Designs – Room C760

Monday, November 2, 2015

First-Generation Americans

Over at Refinery 29, there's an essay on the experiences of first-generation Americans. The writer and photographer visited three families in the suburbs of New York City - the Wongs, the Ciancios, and the Guptas - and spoke to the adult children and the immigrant parents about their lives in this country. Why not read it with your class and talk about the theme of assimilation?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Social Teacher: Class Discussion Strategies

I often share teaching ideas from our faculty on this blog under the tag Teacher Ideas, and lately I've been thinking about sharing all the cool teaching resources I see on the web and social media. So, here is the first post in a new series, The Social Teacher.

Cult of Pedagogy is the work of Jennifer Gonzalez, a self-described "teacher nerd." The site collects ideas for people who teach any subject at any level, and she includes both low-prep and high-prep strategies.

I found a recent post on strategies for classroom discussion very interesting. Gonzalez acknowledges a familiar phenomenon - the teacher asks a question like "What do you think of ____?" and a handful of the most extroverted students respond. But, of course, what about the quiet students, or the students who don't feel confident in their understanding of the material? Gonzalez shares a list of 15 classroom discussion strategies to make class time "more engaging, more organized, more equitable, and more academically challenging." I encourage you to read the whole list, but here are some of my favorites.

Hot Seat
"One student assumes the role of a book character, significant figure in history, or concept (such as a tornado, an animal, or the Titanic). Sitting in front of the rest of the class, the student responds to classmates’ questions while staying in character in that role."
Philosophical Chairs
"A statement that has two possible responses—agree or disagree—is read out loud. Depending on whether they agree or disagree with this statement, students move to one side of the room or the other. From that spot, students take turns defending their positions."
Snowball Discussion, aka Pyramid Discussion
"Students begin in pairs, responding to a discussion question only with a single partner. After each person has had a chance to share their ideas, the pair joins another pair, creating a group of four. Pairs share their ideas with the pair they just joined. Next, groups of four join together to form groups of eight, and so on, until the whole class is joined up in one large discussion."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Where We're From: Fall 2015

This fall, we are almost 1,000 students from 75 countries!Where are YOU from?
Posted by The English Language Center (TELC) on Monday, October 26, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Free Admission to PS1

Stephen Hosmer asked me to share this great news from our Long Island City neighbor PS1. According to the Times, museum visitors can prove their residency with a driver's license, identification card, or utility bill.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Save The Date: How LaGuardia Works

This year's professional development day will focus on How LaGuardia Works. There will be sessions on policies, procedures, and services at the college that pertain to all of us - students, faculty, and staff. More details to come soon! RSVP here.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Museum Resources For Educators

Teachers often plan a field trip to one of the city's many museums. This fall, why not consider using resources developed by a particular museum before visiting it with your class? Here's a sampling of some of the resources available at museums around town.

American Museum of Natural History
This museum's site has a vast section for educators, including field trip guides, lesson plans, and professional development offerings. The Structures & Cultures section in their curriculum collection offers some interesting and accessible materials for us non-scientists, including a unit called When Cultures Travel, which asks students to examine the migration histories of their own families and the cultural mixes of their current neighborhoods.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Activity Roundup: Key & Peele, A Brooklyn Grocer, And The Whitney

Welcome back! Here are some lesson ideas to start off the fall quarter.

Key and Peele recently finished their popular show, and even high profile people have shown deep admiration for their talents. Humor is always valuable in the classroom, so I looked for a skit of theirs that might be appropriate for classroom use. This skit plays on the idea of a teacher incorrectly pronouncing students' names, which is something our students can certainly relate to. I created an activity that uses the video as a prompt for conversation, so it is well-suited for listening and speaking classes. With some support, I think this video could even be used at the lowest levels. Please be advised that there is strong language in this skit.

Character Study is a weekly column in the New York Times "about the people who make New York City distinctive." The articles are short but chock full of the Times' distinctive sophisticated prose. I chose an article about a grocer in Brooklyn and created an activity in two parts to support it. First, students will examine a word cloud of the vocabulary in the article, sorting the word cloud into meaning-based categories, and using the cloud to make predictions about the content of the article. Then, students are asked to read the article and to pull out details that support three main ideas. This activity is well-suited for reading or writing classes at the intermediate level and higher.

For the last lesson idea, I'm directing you to the online resources at the new and improved Whitney Museum of American Art. The museum's new building includes an education center, and their online resources for teachers are comprehensive. They have organized their teaching resources by the themes of artists as observers, storytellers, experimenters, and critics; you can search for activities by artist, theme, grade, and activity type. I found a writing-based lesson using an Edward Hopper painting and a William Eggleston photograph as input. Students are encouraged to act as observers of the subjects of the artwork, eventually writing narratives about one of the subjects. Writing teachers in Levels 1 through 4 might enjoy this as a first narrative writing lesson.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Some Information on Intro to Business

Many students are showing interest in the Intro To Business elective that we will be piloting in the fall. As always, we encourage you to send them to the office to get detailed information - in this case from Liz or me.

That said, here are some basic facts for you. You may wish to share this with interested students.
  • Elective in the Morning Intensive Program in Fall 2015
  • Open to Level 7 and higher
  • $95 additional fee
  • Required textbook ($164)
  • Fridays are longer to make the time equivalent with the college's version of the course
    • Wednesdays (11:00am - 12:45pm)
    • Fridays (11:00am - 1:45pm)
  • Students earn 3 credits if they pass the course and matriculate at LaGuardia Community College (BTM101)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Stock Photos & New Yorkers

Woman Texting at Top of Subway Stairs While Others Try to Exit: Richard Yeh / WNYC

WNYC created some funny stock photos of New Yorkers doing New York-y things - the image above is just one example. Other highlights include Woman Looking for MetroCard and Blocking Turnstile While People Wait to Enter, Diverse Group of People on Stoop Drinking Out of Paper Bags, and Man Trying to Figure Out What Just Dripped On Him. There is also a two-minute audio clip (embedded below) which could provide a listening piece in a lesson. Here are some ideas for classroom activities.
  • Flip through the photos as a class and ask students to read the titles for each one. Pull out unfamiliar vocabulary to generate a list of new words and phrases.
  • Have students select a favorite picture and role-play the scenario.
  • Choose a photo and have the students write about what makes the situation so "New York."
  • Have students choose photos that fit certain criteria - Funniest, Most Annoying, Most Typical - and explain why they chose this photo.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Intro To Business!

Liz and I will be coming to daytime writing classes (Level 6 and higher) on Monday, August 17 to talk about a very exciting development for the fall. We will be offering a credit-banking Intro To Business elective in the morning program! We will share more details on Monday - please encourage your students to come talk to us about it if they have questions.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Where We're From: Summer 2015

This summer, our nearly 700 students come from 65 different countries!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TED-Ed On English

Here's a short list of some TED-Ed videos about the English language and literature that may be useful in class.

From The Writer's Workshop playlist, this one on apostrophes is particularly good. There are others on semicolons, Oxford commas, regular commas, and so on. We think this is great material for writing and grammar classes.

This video explores how the plural -s came into the English language. Many of the videos in the Playing With Language playlist explore English from a historical linguistics perspective, which may help students in more advanced levels make sense of the many irregularities in the language.

Teachers in reading classes may enjoy using videos from the Reading Between The Lines playlist. This video on tragedy helps students understand the components of the form and why its legacy endures - and the Walter White imagery drives the point home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Teacher Ideas: Travel Stories

It's summer so you and your students may have more wanderlust than usual. Encourage students to talk about their travels in class! Thank you to Kevin for another submission to the Teacher Ideas series (submissions welcome!)

Travel Stories, by Kevin Lathrop

I encourage students in level four Saturday to see learning English as an adventure. Not that they need such encouragement. To a one, Saturday students are fully aware of the challenges and embrace them wholeheartedly. Otherwise, they wouldn't be in class bright and early on a Saturday when they could be home taking a break from hard schedules. In level four Saturday students read and listen to and watch stories of people who have traveled to New York and other parts of the country from around the world. There is talk of differences encountered, surprises both good and bad, adventure. On the last day of the semester, students brought stories of their own travels.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Activity Roundup: 2 Kinds Of People, OldNYC, and It's All Greek To Me

Here are a few ideas to get you started in the summer term!

2 Kinds Of People is a blog created by an illustrator from Portugal. Every few days he (or she!) publishes a new illustration that divides people into two camps. Do you watch your favorite programs on a TV or a computer? Are you more analog or digital? The whole blog is lighthearted yet thought-provoking and full of fun conversation starters. Some ideas for teaching:

  • Assign different illustrations to different groups of students. Ask the students to work with their groups to write a description of the illustration, including what the key difference in the illustration is. 
  • Then, each group of students can select a person to describe the illustration out loud to the class. 
  • After each description, take a class poll. How many people eat their pizza crust first? How many people eat their pizza pointy part first?

OldNYC is a project that maps old photographs from the New York Public Library's Milstein Collection onto the layout of the city. Some ideas for teaching:
  • Ask students to think about their home, their workplace, or any other location they frequent. Have them find a historical photo near this location - then, have them take a photo with their phone of the same location as it looks today. Assign a compare and contrast essay describing the two photos.
  • Select the pin on the Brooklyn Bridge, and flip through the many photos in chronological order. Have the students tell the story of the construction of the bridge based on what they see in the photographs. (There's a lot of internet research that could be done to support this topic.)

Lastly, I created an activity to go along with a short clip from All Things Considered. This activity is appropriate for students in intermediate and high levels in any skill area, given that there is a focus on current events, vocabulary generation, vocabulary research, a common idiom, and listening comprehension.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Teacher Ideas: The King's Speech

The King's Speech deals with a topic that may be of particular interest to our students - the fear that can accompany public speaking - and Kevin has created a set of materials to explore this movie both topically and historically. Kevin says:
Sometimes I prepare for classes by laying out a set of materials around a theme and decide on the spot which to work with immediately and which to shelve until later. The following are for the film The King's Speech. Teachers of intermediate levels and above can consider how and in what order to use them.
I've compiled his materials into a single document which you can access here. There is a written introduction with a link to the movie trailer, an article with accompanying audio, discussion questions, a World War II timeline research activity, a listening activity about speaking English, and the full text and audio of King George VI's speech to his country at the start of World War II.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Find: Blank On Blank

As the spring term winds down, you may be looking for something new and inspiring to use in class. I came across a series called Blank On Blank the other day. It is a collaborative project between Quoted Studios and PBS Digital Studios in which lost interviews with iconic people are preserved and animated. The subjects include people like Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, Johnny Cash, Liberace, and Meryl Streep - icons all around.

I encourage you to look at these interviews and consider using them in class. They run about 5 minutes long each, and the speech is authentic and natural. If you make materials to accompany any of them, please share!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Remind Your Students!

Remind your students to register early for summer to save $25! This offer is good for all programs and courses at The English Language Center, and is open to both new and returning students.

Monday, May 18, 2015

TELC World Cup 2015: Next Meeting

We will be coming into classes in the next few days to announce this meeting. Time to generate buzz!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Teacher Ideas: Four Choices

Thank you to Kevin for another installment in the Teacher Ideas series - submissions always welcome! This time he reminds us of the importance of student choice in communication.

Four Stories, by Kevin Lathrop

Students use English to say what they like and don’t like, to make choices, that is, to exercise powers of expression, act freely. Students in Saturday Level 4 brought to class stories they rather than someone else had chosen. Groups in turn selected the ones they thought the best. The reasons for the choices matter.

Janet provided the first story. It is from less than ten years ago, when she took her son to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. She went with a friend who has a son close in age to hers. They discovered that at the end of every ride there is a store at which you can buy souvenirs. Realizing this, Janet told her son, “Okay, after each ride, you can buy something for not more than ten dollars.” 

“If there were ten or twenty rides, it would be a lot,” Janet explained. “At the time, my son was crazy about dinosaurs, possibly very expensive.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

May The Fourth Be With You

Attila Volgyi/Xinhua /Landov
Since Star Wars is a global phenomenon, why don't you show this picture and ask your class these questions.
  1. What is today's date?
  2. How does it relate to this picture?
At the very least, this is a great /s/ vs. /th/ lesson! NPR has a great roundup of some of today's #MayThe4thBeWithYou activity from around the web. You could also poll the class and ask them how many of them have seen Star Wars - the original trilogy or the prequels - and see how global this phenomenon really is. And, just for fun, watch this:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Globe Trotters

Photo by JR in The New York Times

The life here is very beautiful. I eat the tacos in Sunset Park. They have halal tacos there, and they are very delicious. I like to go to Times Square. I like all the carts, the tall buses. Everything is nice, and it's very crowded. I feel safe in crowds. I like the lights, like I fell into heaven.
Check out this lovely and inspiring photo essay by the French artist JR in the Times today. There are 16 portraits of immigrants in our city, and each person shares his or her perspective on life here. I'm sure you'll find interesting ways to use this material in class!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Everyone's Upstairs Neighbors

This short video is entertaining, and could be used in a few different low-prep ways in class. Some ideas:
  • Give students a list of common prepositions. Ask them to write sentences describing what the neighbors are doing using some prepositions from the list.
  • Have the students write an imaginary letter to these upstairs neighbors using modal verbs to make polite requests and suggestions.
  • Ask the students to share stories about strange experiences with their neighbors. Vote on which story is the strangest!
Thanks to Rebecca V. for suggesting this video to us!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Activity Roundup: Bill Cunningham on Spring, 3 Words for NYC, and a Brooklyn Food Tour with Anthony Bourdain

Welcome to the spring term! Here are some activities you can use in class.

This installment of Bill Cunningham On The Street looks at some signs of spring. I designed an activity that encourages students to generate vocabulary related to spring, then asks them to focus on specific vocabulary used in the column. They will then read the column, watch the video clip, and complete comprehension questions. Some of the verbs the activity examines are in the Academic Word List, so this activity is useful for students in intermediate and high levels.

3 words for NYC from Cokau Lab on Vimeo.

This is a short video using very simple (yet authentic) language, and I designed a companion activity that can be used with students in very low levels. First, the students take notes on what they hear in the video; then, they have the opportunity to compose and share their own "3 words for NYC."

This last activity asks students to think critically about the diversity of cuisine in New York City using three Brooklyn restaurants as examples. There are some listening comprehension questions that help the students to understand the short clip. Then, there are four discussion questions - or possibly writing prompts - that get students to think more critically about the history and culture of food. This activity is appropriate for students in intermediate to high levels in any skill area.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nafisa's Reflections

Nafisa Ali, former TELC student
Thanks to Nursen and Wayne for their fantastic work on the TELC Student Literary Magazine - and big thanks also go to the students who contributed and to the teachers who encouraged them. A very sweet and lovely thing happened after we made the call for submissions. Nafisa Ali, a TELC alum, saw the call on Facebook, and got in touch. She wondered if we would accept a piece from her reflecting on her time at TELC. You'll find it on the first page of the magazine, and also below. Thank you, Nafisa.

A Former TELC Student's Reflections
by Nafisa Ali

On a mid-summer day with a shaky heart, I entered the TELC office to get information about the ESL courses. While walking towards room 354, I met a lady with a lovely smile.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Today's News!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Grammar Exercise

Monday, March 9, 2015

End Of Term PM Schedule

Because of the snow days on January 26 and January 27, we have added class dates to the end of the PM program on March 25 and March 26. We will be distributing print copies of this schedule in classes this week.

Friday, February 27, 2015

TELC Weighs In On #TheDress

A photo posted by The English Language Center (@telclaguardia) on

Some students, teachers, and staff spent Friday morning talking about the phenomenon of #TheDress. Some teachers shared this article and video at Time that explored the virality of the phenomenon, and we looked at the science behind our conflicting perceptions in this Wired article.

The results of our poll are above! As you can see from the Instagram comments, people have very strong feelings about this blue and black dress.

Friday, February 13, 2015

TELC Literary Magazine: Call For Submissions

Writing teachers, please be sure to mention this in class! For more information, see the flier that was put in your mailbox earlier this week. Nursen and Wayne are the faculty contacts.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Teacher Ideas: Johnny T

Are you familiar with Glove and Boots? It's a web series on YouTube...starring puppets. Johnny T is one of the more entertaining characters in the Glove and Boots repertoire, and Neil has created lessons to accompany two of the most popular Johnny T videos. The language and humor are on the colorful side, so be forewarned. Thanks, Neil!

The activities to support Johnny T's NYC Tourist Tips include previewing discussion questions, vocabulary matching, and comprehension questions. This video addresses the controversial topic of "best pizza", so here's your chance to evangelize for your favorite.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Playing Cards, Learning Grammar

When is the last time you played cards in class? Over at Deceptively Educational (a great blog featuring after school activities for young learners), I came across two very creative card games for drilling some challenging features of English grammar: Irregular Plurals and Irregular Past Tense Verbs. The plurals game works a lot like Go Fish, and the past tense game is a speed/slap game. The creator shared printable templates for making your own decks - if you're feeling crafty, give it a try!

(Photo by Daniel Paras, shared under a Creative Commons license)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

TELC Book Club

The new TELC Book Club will be open to students in Levels 7 through 10. Teachers at the higher levels, please encourage your students to come to the planning meeting! We will be talking about what to read, where to meet, and more. Rebecca O. is leading the club, so send questions her way.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photo Essays In The Classroom

Many teachers like to use photos in class as conversation starters or writing prompts. Here are two recent photo essays on the Lens photography blog at The New York Times. If you like these, follow Lens!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Activity Roundup: Shakespeare and Black-ish, Selfie Sticks, and Selma

Welcome to the winter term! Here are some short activities you can use in class.

This short clip from the show Black-ish contains a very short passage from Romeo and Juliet, and can spark conversations about Shakespeare in modern culture, his phrases we still use today, and even the idea of star-crossed lovers from world literature and mythology. I designed an activity that focuses on the vocabulary in the clip; I think students in the intermediate and advanced levels could understand both the clip and the activity.

Image by Elise Hu at NPR

All Tech Considered at NPR ran a brief opinion article on the trend of selfie sticks, and I created a reading comprehension and discussion activity to go with it. I love the new and related term narcissi-stick, so I made sure to include a question about this word.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls in the month of January, as does the wide release of the film Selma. In this activity, students are asked to take notes on the trailer and think about how the trailer reflects current events in the city and the country. They are also asked to scan and skim the introduction to the Wikipedia entry on the Selma to Montgomery marches; this will serve as a good fact base for those students interested in seeing the film.