English in the Workplace (EWP): Free How To Guide for Employers

June 22, 2011

I just found a tremendous free resource that I just had to share with you. Common Ground: A How-To Guide for Employers is designed for employers to help them set up and deliver their own English in the Workplace (EWP) programs.

Written by Douglas Parsons and Paul Holmes and published by the Centre for Excellence in Intercultural Education (Norquest College) in 2010, this guide details a step-by-step process. It goes over everything from conducting a needs assessment, choosing learning settings,  finding a facilitator, setting goals, developing independent learners and evaluating the program.

There even sections on how to customize an English program for a specific workplace.

Click here to download this 72-page guide is available from the National Adult Literacy Database (NALD). As with all the resources on NALD, this guide is free and you simply download it directly from their site.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Success Strategy for Students: How to Cite Class Notes

June 20, 2011

During the course I taught in Effective Learning at the university, the students had to do group presentations. One group, chose to present on time management. As part of their presentation, they drew a diagram on the board that I recognized immediately. At the end of their presentation, I asked where the diagram came from. The students looked at me blankly.

“Where did you get that diagram?” I repeated.

One of the students answered, “One of my profs talked about it in class and drew it on the board.”

“Did the prof tell you where it came from?” I probed.

“I can’t remember.”

“Well, I can tell you where it came from. It’s from Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

As it turned out, none of the students had read the book. But for anyone who is familiar with Covey’s work, the diagram is easily recognizable. Covey talks about diving tasks by their importance and their urgency and then using those criteria to determine which tasks need to be done and in which order.

In case you’re curious, this is the diagram they drew on time management:

We had talked previously in class about plagiarism, but it never occurred to them that informal sources of information could be plagiarized. We had a discussion about always, always, always citing sources, even if they are informal sources, such as class notes. There are various schools of thought on whether students should cite class notes. This is a perfect example of why they should. In this case, the student couldn’t remember if the prof cited the original diagram. If she’d cited her class notes, she would at least have been showing the intent to give credit where it is due.

Here’s a quick, 3-page resource handout that I made for my students on how to cite class notes properly. It contains a brief explanation of how to cite class notes, and some examples, too.

Feel free to share it with your own students:

View this document on Scribd


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Calgary ladies – Join me for lunch today at the Coast Plaza Hotel

June 14, 2011

Last month a colleague invited me to join her as a guest at the monthly ladies luncheon of the Calgary group of the Progressive Group of Independent Business Women. I accepted and enjoyed the experience thoroughly. As someone who makes her living doing contract work in education and non-profit, I don’t always consider myself a business woman… more of a freelance educational contractor. This year, I’ve been asked (asked!) to share what I know about educational technologies with small business people. After the lunch last month, the organizer, Julie Chandler, asked me if I’d be their speaker this month and tell them about webinars. I was honoured and of course, I accepted.

I’ve been doing webinars since 2005, but have really started to incorporate them into my work in early 2010. Since then, it seems I’m giving webinars and e-learning classes on all kinds of topics, for all kinds of educational and literacy organizations. I love it, because it gives me a chance to combine two of my passions – technology and education.

I have a soft spot for helping women of all kinds learn and grow. I have found that many people are keen to learn the nuts and bolts about webinars and how they can use them to advance their organization, whether it’s a non-profit or a small business. (In my experience, many small businesses operate like non-profits because their owners are so passionate about what they’re doing that money comes second.)

So if you’re among those people who wants to learn more about webinars in simple, easy-to-understand terms, join us today at the Coast Plaza Hotel for lunch. It’ll be fun!


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

7 Ways to Maintain or Improve Your Foreign Language Skills Every Day During the Summer

June 13, 2011

Build your learning skillsSchool’s almost out! How are you going to retain all the language skills you’ve learned over the school year? Or better yet, build on them?

Formal language programs (the kind delivered in classrooms around the world) are often highly structured and follow a prescribed curriculum. We know that language learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom! The summer is a fantastic way to build on that by incorporating informal learning and exposure to authentic language.

Here are some ideas to help you maintain — and even build — your abilities in all four skill areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in the languages you love to learn. There are seven suggestions for weekly activities. If you do rotate through them, committing to doing one every day, by the time you’re at the end of the list, you can start the list over the next week.

1. Learn a song a week

Think about a song you really love in the language you’re learning. Look it up. Find the lyrics on the Internet and print them out. Listen to the song and sing along with the words. Then, challenge yourself to try and remember the words without looking at the lyrics sheet. Play the song every day at least once. Listen to it while you’re driving, waiting for the bus, making breakfast or out for a run. Listen to it over and over again until you can sing it all the way through without looking at the lyrics.  The next week, choose a new song and repeat the process. By the end of the summer, you’ll have a decent repertoire of songs in your target language! (Skill area: listening)

2. Watch a movie a week in the target language

Watching movies is a great way to get exposure to authentic language. Turn on the sub-titles if you need to. If you’re up for a challenge, leave the sub-titles off and just enjoy the film. Set yourself a goal such as: Watching movies by the same director or watching a different genre of movie every week. Watch an action movie one week and a comedy the next, for example. Keep notes about the movies you watch and any new words or phrases you’ve picked up. (Skill area: listening)

3. Read one news article a week once a week in the target language

News is a fantastic way to get exposure to authentic language – and learn what’s going on in the world. There are a few different ways to read the news. You can buy a foreign language newspaper and choose one article a week to work on. Or once a week, you can go on line and find a news article on a topic you’re interested in and read it through. Read for content and meaning, trying to get the gist of what it is saying. Then read it again to get the deeper meaning and the details. If you prefer a more structured approach, dissect the article to find the “5 Ws” (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) in the article and write them down on a separate sheet of paper. Find one or two new vocabulary words an add them to your list. (Skill areas: reading and possibly writing, if you choose to incorporate it).

4. Volunteer an hour or two a week for a language exchange with a native speaker

Language learners really benefit from working with native speakers. Check out programs at your local library or immigrant services organization to see if they have language exchange programs. These programs match people of two different languages so they can enjoy informal conversation and learn from each other. You spend an hour with that person speaking your native language in order to help them learn it. They, in turn, spend an hour with you teaching you their native language. It’s a great way to meet new friends and build your conversation skills. Having a regularly scheduled weekly appointment helps to ensure that you’ll commit to each other and to learning. (Skill area: speaking)

5. Once a week, use a self-directed activity book or online exercises

To help you practice your skills in a more structured way, get yourself a self-directed activity book or find an Internet site that has free online activities. (One of my favorites is Spanish Now.) Be sure to look for a resource that includes answers so you can check your own work. Once a week, sit down with your work book or at the computer, complete one unit in the activity book. Check your answers. If you made errors, challenge yourself to figure out what they were and how to build on those areas. It’s OK to review concepts you already know and it’s even better if you try to build on your current skills by delving into new areas such as more complex verb conjugations or sentence structures. (Skill areas: Reading and writing)

6. Build your own vocabulary list

Many of the activities listed above give you the chance to pick out new words, write them down and learn them. You can write them in a notebook, create your own flash cards or do whatever works best for you. It is important to write them down, say them aloud and try to incorporate them into your speech. If you’re stuck for ideas, look around your house. Do you know all of the words for household items? Food? Clothing? You can build your own theme lists, if the idea appeals to you. Take the time to learn words that may not appear in your course textbooks. Chances are, those words will come in handy some day! (Skill areas: Reading and writing)

7. Once a week, check out a new restaurant, store or cultural event that specializes in your target culture or language

Choose one day a week, say, Thursday, where you make a point to try a restaurant you’ve never been to where they serve authentic food from someplace where your target language is spoken. Try to speak to the staff in the target language. Ask questions about the menu. Alternately, find the shops around your city that import food an other goods from the countries where your target language is spoken. Find out where they are located and go there. Explore the store and find one or two new products to try. Talk to the staff and tell them you are curious and want to learn. Chances are, they’ll be pleased to help. Finally, make a point to find out about cultural events such as festivals, concerts, dance performances or plays in your target language. Go. Have fun. Soak it all in. Experience authentic sounds, smells and tastes and make these part of your language experience. Find out what’s going on in your local community and become a part of it. This may be easier to do in urban areas than in smaller towns, but it may be worth a trip into town, too. (Skill areas: Reading, writing, speaking and listening.)

We know that the more time we invest in learning, the more successful we’ll be over the long run. This summer, make your language learning experience your own. Have fun with it!

Related posts

How Long Does it Take to Learn a New Language?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: What Are the Differences?

The many faces of non-formal learning

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

The effectiveness of enthusiastic fundraising

June 11, 2011

Pink RibbonA few weeks ago, a dear friend asked me if we’d like to attend a fundraising event being put on by her brother. He’s a super guy and is the manager of a local pharmacy. All the staff at his store decided to join in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers. To raise money for the event, they held a fundraising dinner at a local pub. We bought tickets to the event and my friend, who has just started a business producing her own all natural beauty products donated items to their silent auction. I followed suit, and donated a coaching session on social media marketing for small business.

The event was brilliant! Over 80 people attended, over 30 silent auction items were donated (including one each from my friend and I) and there were over 25 door prizes. The energy in the room was incredible.

What struck me was that people were there mostly to have a good time and to socialize. Every single person there seemed to have someone else that they were cheering for. Good work is important, but it take good people, with good intentions to do that work.

It takes many hours to put together a fundraising event, especially when the people doing it aren’t fundraisers. But they were organized, energized, dedicated and sincerely committed to their work. Their passion was both effervescent and contagious. They use their personal leadership skills and collaborative teamwork to reach their goal. Personally, I much prefer fundraisers like that, where people are driven by their desire to come to together and fill a room with sincere enthusiasm, rather than those events where you stand around awkwardly with a glass of no-name chardonnay in one hand while you try to avoid noticing the cubes of cheese that are silently sweating on the plate in your other hand.

You don’t have to put on a big gala to raise money. A small group of people who are wildly enthusiastic, mobilized and organized can work wonders in garnering support of all kinds for their work.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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