My Presentation of the Genre Approach

I was honored to be part of the first ever TOBELTA Web Conference sponsored by TESL Toronto and BELTA. My presentation seemed to be well received and I would love to hear feedback. If you missed my live show, they’ve put up the recording of my presentation and you can also access the the slides alone. Finally I’ve done Past the Five Paragraph Essay Handoutthat provides a little more information about the benefits of the Genre Approach and why the five paragraph essay needs to die! It also has references for other books and sites out there.

I am quite serious about feedback because I am very excited about the genre approach to writing (or speech). I think it addresses many of the flaws in the five paragraph method that is traditionally taught along with these generic text types like compare-contrast, argument, process and problem-solution. And I do think this is a very exciting time for the genre approach because there is room for teacher contributions–materials, ways to implement it or integrate it with other methods, theory, research on its effectiveness. So as I say in my presentation, here’s this cool thing I found. Please do something cool with it!

Teaching Basic Computer Literacy Handout

Typing NinjaMy first webinar on teaching typing and basic word processing skills was a lot of fun! It seems like people enjoyed it. I think the take away was anything, even word processing, can be fun if you make it a race or a challenge. Also, every country has its own keyboard layout, not to mention alphabet, so there’s no shame in being a hunt-and-peck typer in another language!

If you want to check out the websites and model activities that I talked about, here’s my handout: What’s_a_Word_Processor_Teacher.

I also have some other resources I’ve discussed on teaching typing and text-formatting and word processing. These might be repetitive, but check them out:

  • A post on Microsoft’s fun game that has poor Clippy looking for new work and students exploring Office 2010 in a very independent and creative way: Ribbon Hero
  • More ways to teach Word Processing, with a lot of overlap from my handout.
  • A webquest which is better at teaching Google-fu (or Internet skills) but takes some basic typing as well.
  • And some ideas for interactive writing including using Twine, which is a wicked fun program!

And here are some resources that others have blogged about:

  • Via TESOL Blog, Dance Mat Typing which teaches typing with a rock-and-roll theme and when you make a mistake, the keys shout out “type on me”!


Feel free to check back in and let me know how you used or adapted these activities in your classroom or with your students.


What's a Word Processor, Teacher?

Come check out my awesome presentation orienting students to basic skills such as typing and text-formatting. Not all our students grew up as wired and even students who are great on computers in their own languages get bogged down by the American keyboard and shortcut keysYou can’t get students excited about blogging and making wikis if it still takes them ten minutes to find the letter A. If you’ve got 25 minutes, I’ll introduce some of the websites and activities I do with students.

These are all things I’ve done in computer labs and let students do independently, too: What’s a Word Processor, Teacher?

World Clock: Sun 12pm GMT, 1pm London, 2pm Paris, 9pm Tokyo, 8am New York


While technology has opened up new worlds of learning for ELLs, some students may be sitting down at a computer for the first time in your classroom. I’ve had students who typed essays in their email and who didn’t know that you could save documents on a computer! Before students can really take advantage of the world wide web, it’s nice for them to know how to open an attachment or bold some text. In this presentation, I will share some activities and games I use to let students learn basic computer skills such as saving and opening files, practice typing, and to teach text formatting. A lot of these skills are transferable to other programs, such as blogs and chat forums, as text formatting symbols are becoming more universal. The techniques I will present could also be adapted to teach HTML or other more complex computer skills.


I’ve taught English in Vanuatu, Kazakhstan, and Connecticut.My students have been Russian oil executives, Afghan high school students and Saudi princes. I currently write ESL materials and keep a blog at



Reflecting on my EVO Course

My EVO session on Crafting the ePerfect eBook is done and I even have the certificate to prove it!

It’s been really interesting. I’m not sure what I had expected. I was looking to get some advice on writing and writing online and maybe some more experience. I came in with a few vague ideas that I have had for online textbooks but haven’t been sure are feasible. In the end, I went in a direction that was different from the majority–rather than an eBook for students, I ended up starting an eBook for teachers (based on some research I’ve done on cooperative or collaborative group work).

The best part of the workshop was probably all the moral support and all the examples. I got a lot out of looking at other people’s books. I also picked up a lot of Ebook Resources including publishing formats and articles and programs.

Most importantly, it was a chance to reflect on what an ebook is and what it can do. I recently posted here that for the main advantage of an eBook is its portability. I can read on my iPhone everywhere which I really enjoy. However, the idea of an interactive eTextbook never fully grabbed me. In fact, the last place I worked when they did eBooks, they very similarly basically scanned everything on to the Internet and added the listening files. I suppose my feeling as a teacher was that working with paper and working with technology are basically the same thing except working with technology often takes longer.

My eyes have really been opened. I see there are a lot of fun interactive toys on the Internet that can be used for education AND can be incorporated into an eBook. Another of my objections was that I like books to be, well, books–finite, concrete, holdable. There should be a thing there that is a book. Books don’t have to be linear but they shouldn’t be infinite or uncontained. So it was interesting to see how people embedded widgets or even links into PDFs and other ebook formats. That way you have a page that is self-contained but links out.

That’s probably the area I learned the most about: formatting. And the area that I would like to discover more about is design. I’d really like to find pages with concrete advice about fonts to use, how to space and align things and so on.

So overall I got a lot out of it and I plug away at my eBook from time to time. Maybe you’ll see it offered on this very site!