For teachers

Don’t use this red pen! Use Labodanglais

I sent CEGEP ESL teachers across Quebec red pens inscribed with the words “Don’t use this pen.” Why? I want teachers to try Labodanglais.com. It’s a Moodle-based website with companion courses for the Actively Engaged Series. Labo is packed with engaging content and interactive features, and it can score students’ writing assignments automatically in just

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Understanding CEGEP ESL Proficiency Levels in Quebec

College English Second Language teachers in Quebec teach almost every level of English. Why? Because people in Canada have a range of levels of proficiency. Some people grow up speaking English with their parents and go on to study at an English university. We call them educated anglophones. For other people, English is a completely

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Gain Confidence during Oral Exams with this Pronunciation Checker

Many students are worried about their pronunciation accuracy and go into their oral exams woefully unprepared. The little preparation they do leaves them feeling very worried about their current ability or overconfident. In either case, the student does not perform at his or her best. If teachers could provide students with individual coaching before a

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How to monetize your ESL lessons fast

If you are a teacher who has developed original materials for your students, did you know that 1) you own your copyright and 2) you can start monetizing your materials tomorrow? In this blog post I will explain how Labodanglais.com can help you supplement your income. Have you read my other posts about jumping into

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Free Chatbot Creator

If you are like me, when things get repetitive you start to think, “This is tedious. I need a robot to do this for me.” Am I right? This semester, my students have been sending me about 50 emails a week and hundreds of text messages. I don’t keep office hours. I just answer student

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15 Steps To Master The Art of Storytelling

Everybody is a storyteller. And to be one requires almost nothing. You can start your storytelling journey right here.  If you’re a human being who wants to make the best of their work, this guide is for you. Hope you enjoy it and take some good ideas for yourself. The Groundwork Will it be easy?

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How to Write and Revise an Argument Essay

Get your argument essay score in 2 seconds Simply click on this link to the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar check website. Compose your argument essay and click “Score Essay,” select “Argument essay,” and click “Check. Use the score and feedback to help you revise and maximize your score when you submit your essay to your

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Talk Fast or Die

Instructions: In groups of 3 or 4, take turns reading the prompts. Read the clue below and talk for one minute without hesitating or repeating yourself. Your partners with warn you if you hesitate or repeat yourself by saying, “Talk!” If you continue to repeat yourself or hesitate, your partners will say, “Die!” and you

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Automated Essay Scoring Explained

Get your essay score here An argument essay has 5 paragraphs: an introduction, two supporting arguments, a counterargument, and a conclusion, plus a works cited section. An opinion essay has 3 or more paragraphs: an introduction, one or more paragraphs with supporting arguments, and a conclusion, but no works cited section IELTS essays involve letter

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How to create a career-summary chatbot

A great writing project for ESL students to try in 2020 is to create a speech recognition enabled chabot about a career that interests them. See this example of an interactive career-related chatbot. Students will love it! Students can create their chatbot online and then export it to a blog or a Learning Management System

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Fast Assignment Moodle Plugin

The Virtual Writing Tutor has a Moodle plugin to help students get feedback and formative evaluations of their writing assignments fast. And give teachers a break! This video explains the installation process and what the plugin does. We have imagined a range of use cases, ranging from IELTS task 1 and task 2 writing tests

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Next Semester? Moodle!

How I started with Moodle In 2010, I was working at a college far from home in Montreal. I would ride the subway for an hour early in the morning to the bus terminal and take the bus for another hour before arriving at the college where I worked. Although I was deeply committed to

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How can I automatically evaluate opinion essays?

Do you teach opinion essays? Many teachers do. It is a common practice in English Second Language teaching to ask college level students to write a 4-5 paragraph opinion essay on a range of topics. An opinion essay goes by many names. Often, it is called the hamburger essay, the 1-3-1 essay, the persuasive essay,

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Interview with Canadian Poet Peter Van Toorn

Peter Van Toorn is the author of three books of poetry, Leeway Grass, (1970); In Guildenstern County, 1973; and Mountain Tea, 1985. As editor, he has published various collections over the years: Cross/cut: Contemporary English Quebec Poetry (with Ken Norris), 1982; The Insecurity of Art: Essays on Poetics (with Ken Norris), 1982; Lakeshore Poets, 1982;

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6 Essay rating tools on the Virtual Writing Tutor

Many teachers would like to give better, more detailed feedback to students on their writing assignments but realize that there are not enough hours in the day to do so. With the arrival of artificial intelligence, faster feedback on essay writing tasks is now possible. The Virtual Writing Tutor offers six types of automated writing

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How do students react to automated film-analysis essay evaluation?

Recently, I reported on the perils and promise of a project I have been working on with Dr. Frank Bonkowski. We created an automated film-analysis essay evaluation system to provide the correction and formative scoring of essays to his advanced English Second Language learners at CEGEP de St-Laurent, in Montreal, Canada. The idea was to

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How can I evaluate an argument essay in 2 seconds?

Many college teachers assign either opinion essays or argument essays to their English Second Language students. These highly structured writing assignments give students practice organizing their ideas and defending a point of view. The goal is to prepare students to go on and write research reports or graduate theses at university. However, when it comes

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How can I evaluate achievement in a Business English course?

Businesses use a variety of effective advertising strategies. They can take the form of audiovisual media like videos and radio ads and print media like posters, brochures, business cards, and flyers. Flyers can be single-sheet promotional tools that list products, descriptions, and prices. Flyers are simple yet compelling ways of helping businesses to announce sales

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Can I evaluate a film-analysis essay automatically?

This article discusses automatically scoring film analysis essays. Here are links to other automated evaluations on the Virtual Writing Tutor.  Pen pal exchange project  IELTS practice tests Argument essay evaluation system Lately, I have been developing automatic essay evaluations for IELTS and now for college-level academic writing. I sent an email to colleagues in my

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Off2Class Explained by Chris Rush

I love meeting talented and passionate ESL teachers. In a recent episode of Little Rascals, Frank and I got to interview Chris Rush from Off2Class.com. Chris explains how he got started, what Off2Class can do for teacherpreneurs, and how Off2Class might be used to support English Second Language Help Centers at colleges and universities. Watch

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How can I give detailed feedback with the Win-10 Multi-Clipboard?

For corrective feedback on writing to be effective, it must be consistent, frequent, immediate, and explicit. That’s difficult for a teacher to achieve with 120+ writing assignments piling up and lessons to plan. Difficult, but not impossible. How can I give detailed feedback? Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of having to use terse correction

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How can teachers promote achievement using persuasion secrets?

We all want our students to succeed, but sometimes we encounter resistance. If we could persuade students to cooperate with us sooner without having to resort to rewards and threats, we might be able to get better results, right? Here are some sneaky persuasion secrets that marketers and advertisers use to influence behaviour. Teachers can

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Grammar Checker Testimonials

This semester, I asked students what they thought of the Virtual Writing Tutor Grammar Checker as a learning tool for their English course at Ahuntsic College in Montreal. You can learn more about the VWT here. A number of them replied using our internal messaging system (MIO) in either French or English. I have blurred

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Self-Publish or Perish

Ouch! No college teacher is going to die because they don’t self-publish. What an overstatement! Luckily, the pressure in academia to publish research does not extend to college ESL teachers like me, so why use such a provocative title? Because self-publishing keeps you engaged in the best parts of teaching. Also, teachers who are not

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