Class act impacts international students

Posted: May 2, 2012

Hannah Sims and her TESOL classmates love it when their work impacts international students, even if they are attending other Canadian universities.

 The effects of a TESOL class project at Briercrest College and Seminary are being felt all the way in Lethbridge.

The project is a book of stories, comprehension tests and recordings that help international students at the Univeristy of Lethbridge become familiar with key words that will help them succeed academically. Robbyn Hoffe, English for Academic Purposes instructor at the U of L began the pilot project last year.

 David Catterick, Briercrest’s assistant professor of applied linguistics TESOL chose the class project from several proposals submitted by partnering institutions.

 Third year TESOL student Hannah Sims, coordinator for the class project, explains the value of the work.

“(Hoffe) is working on a way for her students to learn (key vocabulary) words in a creative, fun way,” she said. “The learners are actually using this and it’s not just like, ‘Here, learn these 400 words on flashcards.’ It’s a creative way of engaging and motivating.”

TESOL students began working with text from 10 stories that a U of L education student composed the year before.

 “So we were working with these stories – editing them slightly, making audio recordings, making vocabulary and comprehension tests . . . as well as writing five new stories to target about 100 more words,” Sims said.

Sims wrote one of the stories entitled ‘The Lonely Chair’ using key words from the academic word list that Hoffe assigned her.

“These words are very suited to (Hoffe’s) students,” she explained. “She suggested one of us write a story about an art gallery maybe and she suggested these 20 words that would kind of fit in that theme.”

As coordinator, Sims compiled everyone’s work into the final project once it was turned in.

“When everyone submitted their (materials) at the end I took it and made it uniform,” she said. “I made sure all the headers and footers were the same and looked like it could fit in a book together.”

The end result was a 50-page resource book along with audio recordings. In total the class spent over 100 hours on the project.

Hoffe was thrilled with the finished product.

“You cannot imagine my gratitude,” she wrote in an email to Catterick. “It is just so exciting for me and my students to see such a development with this idea. I feel truly blessed by your collaborative efforts, skilled abilities, and time consuming efforts. I want you to know that you are affecting our students right now in such a good way and it was a project that will help them in semesters to come.”

Sims says knowing the project is being used by actual students excites her.

“You learn a lot of theory in class, so doing something like this for real learners is really rewarding,” she said. “It was also rewarding just when it was all done to see what we have – pages of material – and they’re useable! I think it makes us look beyond our own busyness and look to the needs of others.”

Sims is excited to continue in helping others after she graduates.

“I definitely want to teach overseas,” she exclaimed. “I’ll be open to teaching in Canada but my aim is to teach overseas in Holland or maybe in a low resource setting – Africa, India – wherever God wants. It’s open.”