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This real-life story is a translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

For our English Help Center, we have developed a series of fun activities to support the work of tutors during their meetings with their tutees. We wish to share our activity kit and introduce you to our approach.

Through the Canada-Quebec Agreement on Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction, we obtained a grant from the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur to develop this digital toolkit.

Fall 2022 Update

In this Real-Life Story published in April 2022, we present the toolkit used to tutor students enrolled in the 1st English as a Second Language course. After the text was published, in the summer of 2022, we completed a kit for the 2nd course. The 2 kits are now combined in the Cool-Aid Center Tutoring Tool Kit.

Presentation given during the 2022 Distance Learning week

In February 2022, we presented our tool kit during the Semaine de la FAD 2022 [2022 Distance Learning week] hosted by FADIO [in French]. You can watch the recording.

Recording of our presentation during the 2022 Distance Learning week [in French]

The needs of the help center tutors

At the ESL Help Center of the Cégep de Rimouski (the “Cool-Aid Center”), more advanced students (the tutors) are paired with students having some difficulties (the tutees). The tutors are volunteers. Although they receive basic training in helping relationships, until recently, they lacked guidance and confidence in their own ability to help their tutees.

We wanted to better support our tutors, so that they in turn can better support their tutees.

In short, we wanted to:

  • ensure a more rigorous and standardized supervision of tutors
  • reassure tutors about their ability to help their peers
  • improve the helping skills of tutors

Looking for a flexible solution

We wanted the solution we developed to be accessible and flexible.

Indeed, each tutee has specific needs (some have a disability, some are recent immigrants, some have children, etc.). Each tutor, in collaboration with the tutee, can choose what is best for the tutee.

In addition, the pandemic highlighted the need for flexibility. We wanted to develop resources that were useful both remotely and in person.

Finally, we wanted to develop materials that would be sustainable. The help center is not always run by the same people. We wanted materials to be easy to use for anyone, without requiring a steep learning curve.

In search of a rigorous-yet-fun solution!

We wanted to ensure that the framework of activities offered to tutors was rigorous. However, tutors are not teachers, and the help center is not a classroom. We didn’t want to just put together a bank of “traditional” grammar exercises; we wanted to change the paradigm.

We wanted to offer fun and friendly activities to tutors and tutees. The idea is to promote the joy of learning. Our motto for the Cool-Aid Center is “The grammar is implicit, but the fun is real.” We focus on conversation, interaction and play.

Our digital toolkit

Our toolkit contains activities related to the subject matter of the 1st mandatory college English course.

We built our toolkit in Google Slides, an easy-to-use tool. We also integrated activities created with:

  • Flippity.net (free)
  • Wordwall (our department has access to the paid version, but the free version allows to create 18 activities)
  • Edpuzzle (we used the free version)

When you open the toolkit, you have access to a series of digital books. One of them presents our model (Model, Apply, Perfect).

 

Illustration of a classroom. The board reads "Welcome to your English Help Center!". A book titled M.A.P. (Model, Apply, Perfect) sits on an easel. 16 books are placed on wall shelves. A book entitled English Games (100-101 Review) lies on a table.

Screenshot of the first page of the toolkit, with the different digital books it contains.

The other 16 books are all divided into sections in the same way:

  • Instructions for the tutor (“Tutor’s Road Map”)
  • a summary of important grammar rules (“Getting Around”)
  • a speaking and pronunciation activity (“Departure”)
  • practice activities (“Itineraries”)
  • an integration activity (“Destination”)

 

 Illustration of the cover of a book. It reads "Destination 7. Ditch That Meal Plan. Future. Jennifer Caylor & Lyly Lessard - 2021." The page has an illustration of a male character and a female character. The man holds a bag of money at arm's length. Bank bills are floating in the air. The woman is holding a huge debit or credit card. A giant computer screen sits between the 2 characters. The display shows a form, of which the text is not legible. It has 2 answer fields and a red button. The 2nd field contains 4 stars. On the side of the book, there are 6 tabs. A label on the cover page reads "Click on the tab to access content." The tabs have 6 different colours. The purple tab at the top reads "Tutor's Road Map." The blue tab below reads "Getting Around." Below that, the green tab reads "Departure". Below that, the yellow tab reads "Itinerary 1." The orange tab below reads "Itinerary 2." At the bottom, the red tab reads "Destination."

Screenshot of the cover of one of the digital books in the toolkit (for learning the use of future tense verbs). You can see the different tabs that separate the sections of the book.

Sample activity from the toolkit – A board game

To play the game we titled “What a Trip!” the tutor and tutee must choose a piece to play with and take turns rolling the virtual die to advance. (The game can also be played with more than two).

Upon arriving at a square, the player clicks the 🛈 icon to read the description of an incident that occurred during their trip. They must then pass this information to the other player by retelling it in the past tense, in a complete sentence.

On some squares, the player must draw a “Challenge” card. If they succeed in the challenge associated with the card, they can play again. If they fail, they must skip the next round.

The “What a Trip!” game

Sample activity from the toolkit – Wheel of Fortune

The tutor and tutee take turns spinning the study habits wheel and asking each other questions about the topic determined by the wheel. This is a pretext for discussion: they can talk about the advantages and disadvantages of their habits, etc.

The study habits wheel

Sample activity from the toolkit – Questions embedded in videos

Questions targeting possessive pronouns are embedded in a video from a manga. The tutor must read the questions to the tutee, who must answer orally using as many pronouns as possible.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Poker Night

At the Help Center, students do more than just the activities in the toolkit. Depending on their needs, they may prepare oral presentations or work on their homework. The 64 activities in the toolkit are therefore more than enough to fill a session. Moreover, the tutor who wishes to do so can push further by deepening the conversations initiated within each activity.

A success!

Our toolkit meets our needs perfectly.

It is user-friendly and easy to use. It is very straightforward to train teachers and tutors to make it their own.

The toolkit can be used on any electronic device (computer, tablet, phone), in person or remotely. All content is in one place. The toolkit is easy to share electronically (just share the link!) and content can be downloaded as a PDF or printed.

With these activities, tutors feel supported. We conducted a survey among them:

  • 75% of tutors spend more than half of their meeting time doing activities from the toolkit
  • 100% of the tutors have developed their autonomy and improved the quality of the help they offer to their tutees
  • 100% of tutors have fun!

We are very satisfied: our activities are adapted to the pace of the tutees. They encourage interaction in a fun and friendly way.

A 2nd toolkit on the way!

We have received a new grant to produce explanatory videos for tutors and, more importantly, to develop a 2nd kit for the 2nd mandatory English course. We will of course share these resources with the college network!

Fall 2022 Update

The 2nd toolkit is not ready! The 2 kits are combined in the Cool-Aid Center Tutoring Tool Kit.

About the authors

Jennifer Caylor

Jennifer Caylor has been teaching English as a second language (ESL) at the Cégep de Rimouski since 1994. She teaches all levels of English in general education as well as an English literature course in the Languages profile of the Arts, Letters and Communication program. She holds a master’s degree in English literature and, along with her colleague Lyly Lessard, received Cégep de Rimouski’s 2021 Merit Award in the Innovation category. For several years, she has been adapting her teaching to the principles of the Active Learning Classroom (ALC). Along with Lyly Lessard, she is in charge of the English Help Center and is interested in gamification applied to ESL support measures.

Lyly Lessard

Lyly Lessard has been teaching for over 20 years. After teaching at the Cégep de Matane, she has been working at the Cégep de Rimouski since 2014. She teaches English as a second language (ESL) and also teaches in Arts, Letters and Communication – Languages profile. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Philosophy and Religious Studies, in addition to a certificate in Technical and College Teaching, a microprogram diploma in ESL Teaching and a master’s degree in College Teaching (Technopedagogy). The master’s essay topic concernsthe use of web 2.0 tools linked with the motivation of level 1 college-level ESL students. Her current interests are technopedagogy, neurolinguistics, and gamification. She is in charge of the English Help Center at the Cégep de Rimouski (Cool-Aid Center) with Jennifer Caylor.

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