Welcome to

Tom's ESL


(Updated June, 2000)

What's New?


Welcome to the test-bed for no-cost Network Assisted Language Learning (NALL). This is a teacher friendly site dedicated to linking you to resources for language learning on the Internet. Scroll down to see demos of my projects. It is also my Web-page assignment for a super course in Computer Assisted Language Learning with Prof. Roger Kenner. Take a look at our virtual classroom - it's the end of schooling, as we know it! This site is now 2 years old and as you will see, it is growing.

I started my career as an English Second Language instructor about three years ago while in graduate school. I was a stagiaire at the Séminaire de Sherbrooke in the winter of 1998. My goal is to teach full-time in a CEGEP before the year 2001. In May 1998, I observed a classroom for the first time. ESL teachers may find this first look into a CEGEP classroom interesting. My résumé can be viewed in English or French versions. If you would like, you may reach me by e-mail at axtell@megantic.net.


Who is Tom Axtell?

I grew up in New York and Florida and became a Canadian in 1974. I have lived on the shores of Lac Aylmer in the Townships nearly every summer of my life and until recently, all winter. Twenty years ago, I was a merchant sailor. I was married for over twenty years and our three lovely daughters live with their mother Christine. I am currently teaching English as a Second Language in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

During a fifteen year period we lived in some out of the way places including Nain, on the Northern coast of Labrador, Baker Lake, Nunavut (1000 km. due North of Winnipeg), and Sioux Lookout, Ontario. I worked on a variety education and communication projects for Aboriginal communities. Until recently I operated Axtell Communications & Training a consulting firm. With three daughters, the first just hitting CEGEP, I am looking forward to a prestigious, and secure teaching career! I know I may be too late for the pension plan, but the illusion of tenure is important to me. From what I have seen, it looks like ESL in Québec is one of the best kept secrets in education.


Demo # 1

The Adventure of George the Snow Flake is a a storybook for any ESL/EFL learner. It is probably appreciated most by children since it was collectively written and illustrated by small people at my house: Sarah (9) Annie (12), and Lena (15). It is also an example of low-cost multi-media that school teachers can produce with their class.


Demo #2

E-mail is probably the first and most effective use of the Internet that students will use. Just in case they don't use it for L2, you may need to try an e-mail exchange with students in another country. But it seems like a daunting task if you have never tried it. Here is an hands-on, step-by-step guide to the activity. You won't want to miss a single episode of the The Mail Went Out.


Demo #3

I reviewed a number of so-called interactive stories before trying to create one for a class project. My test site, Choices, provides advanced ESL students with 5-10 minutes of reading comprehension and critical thinking practice. Sorry, this site is temporarily out of order.


Demo # 4

This paper explores the potential to use Concordancer software in the CEGEP's. I produced a legal corpus and described how the class could produce glossaries for their field of study. I also explore the idea of distributing these on the Net. I suggested to John Taylor-Johnston that some one should put together an on-line concordancer so students could access this as a service. Before I could say "Bob's my Uncle" he did it. It's a a great concept that deserves furthur development immediately. Try it out at John's Café Software Projects.


Demo # 5

The Aboriginal Writing Network concept was developed for the Movement for Canadian Literacy. I developed the research base for the project as part of my course work. The pilot project could become a National literacy program for Aboriginal communities. The model has potential for any community where Community Internet Access centres exist.


Demo # 6

I was able to develop this ESL Web Site concept at the Lion Pub, the inspiration of many good ideas at Bishop's. I recognized that the project was way to too big so I convinced two of the brightest and funniest students in the TESL program to help brainstorm the Quebec ESL Humour Web Site. The project is described in a term paper that I had very little to do with after the second round of beers.

Demo # 7


I have since started the ESL Joke of the Week. Members of this small mailing list (70 friends and teachers) receive a carefully selected piece of humour suitable for use in the classroom. Here is what Sherry in Sioux Lookout, Ontario wrote:

My ESL students love the ESl joke of the week. I have been displaying the contents on a bulletin board. It has become a real "hit" with the more advanced students. Thanks for supplying the humour! My program manager makes a trip up to read the bulletin board. We have even started commenting on them with pencil.... so the board has many purposes. It is also a comment board... and it encourages reading as well.

The service is designed to appeal to teachers and students. If you would like to join this mailing list please send your request to axtell@megantic.net.


Demo # 7

Cloze or gap exercises can be tedious. Frankenfood is a JAVA-based cloze exercise I prepared using the very easy to use software Hot Potatoes . I propose students create their own cloze exercises as a vocabulary building assignment. By creating quizzes, students gain valuable workplace skills. Learning to program Hot Potatoes gives students a creative advantage.


Demo #8

In organizing the Unit I organized the NeXt Classroom, an ambitious concept in school-based learning. This site has some great ESL images. Lightbown and Spada's most definitive statement of grammar instruction provides the theoretical base for my Unit.

Accuracy, fluency and overall communicative skills are probably best developed through instruction that is primarily meaning-based but in which guidance is provided through timely form- focus activities and correction in context. (p. 443 Lightbown and Spada, 1990)


Demo #8
(February , 2000)

Al Janadriyah

Dear visitor,

Janadriyah is an outdoor living museum. Enter Here

Open for only two weeks in February the National Heritage Festival at Janadriyah is a treasure of Saudi culture similar to Williamsburg in the US and Louisburg in Nova Scotia.

You can see how flour was ground the old way, by camel labor. In the handicraft area artisans hammer metal into daggers, stitch leather sandals, and carve bowls, kings and doors. With the translation help of my students the artisans cheerfully explain where they learned their craft, usually at their father's knee, and demonstrate their tools and processes. The text in quotation marks was written by my students. Most of the tour is visual. This web site is a project that I produced with my students while in Saudi Arabia.

Navigation Tips: A visit in one door will lead you to a traditional souk (market), while the other will take you elswhere. Navigate the site by entering doors, windows, or just click anywhere to go forward. To leave Janadriyah close the browser. And just for fun, a few hot links are hidden in various places in the frame.


Demo #10
(April, 2000)

While teaching English in Saudi Arabia I made a side trip to Syria and Jordon. Three Days in Damasacus, part journal and travelogue, demonstrates how text and photography can be simply organized to make an effective and meaningful presentation. This page is within the production skills of high school and college students.



Academic Paper #1

On the way to becoming an ESL teacher I wrote ESL Online and Situated Learning. Online communities are considered for their suitability as environments of language acquisition. Take a romp through the literature, from Dewey to Warschauer, proving that there is always a learning theory to suit your practice! I welcome any comments on this draft paper.


Academic Paper #2

Whatever happened to Paulo Friere and all the radical teachers of the 70's? Critical Consciousness and Personalization is a journal I wrote during my practice teaching that does not relate directly to computer mediated communication, but does play with some powerful ideas about learning that may have some use to online ESL advocates. I am searching for meaning in the process of teaching and learning English and what better place to return, than our generation's most idealistic educator.

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