Joseph Ng - ESL Teacher and Author of Dictation Triptychs

canada writer Dec 25, 2016

Joseph Ng has used his skills and expertise as an ESL teacher to develop a resource called Dictation Triptychs. He is looking for partners.  Find out what Joseph had to do outside his comfort zone as a teacherpreneur.  

Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

I teach in both a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classroom in North York, Ontario, Canada and a LINC distance-learning program. LINC is a federally-funded language program for immigrants and refugees.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching ESL for about 10 years, spanning EAP in a college and university in Asia and several LINC centres in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Can you describe a typical teaching day?

It’s a flipped classroom of sorts as my LINC classroom meets in an Internet-ready lab in 3 time segments from 9 to 2:30.

We start off with a skill-building CALL lesson that takes us to a morning break. During this first segment, learners are guided from the teacher’s blog to engage with different activities in the four skills relating to the LINC curriculum theme of the week, be it Canadian culture or employment or health & safety.

After the break and before lunch, they have a time of peer presentations. Topics are unconstrained, but presenters must field questions from the class. These have included Ramadan, the delicious drink of tokhme sharbate, how to use chopsticks, and one’s first day in Canada.

Lunch is followed by a highly interactive activity based on a real-world task, often using a Dictation Triptych, culminating in the posting on the learner’s blog of a PBLA (Portfolio-Based Language Assessment) artefact.

What do you do in your spare time to relax?  

Sleeping is fairly relaxing, especially with BBC Radio 4 or a Toronto Public Library audiobook droning on in the background. Hymn singing isn’t too bad either. But during this season, enjoying the great Canadian frozen outdoors feet bound in shaped skis is admittedly a singular blessing.

You took on the tremendous task of writing a book called Dictation Triptychs. How did you come up with the idea?

What happens when you marry the fullest engagement of skills with the funnest classroom activity? You have a dictation activity making everybody listen, speak, read, and write in turn with other people all the time. You learn real-world English idioms and tweak pronunciation of words and suprasegmentals. And then you produce PBLA-ready artefacts that go straight into your portfolio.

As the name suggests, Dictation Triptychs are three parallel conversations appropriately composed and gapped to Canadian Language Benchmark descriptors to help learners improve through four-skill dictation jigsaw activities. That’s a mouthful, admittedly, but what this means to the learner, teacher, and administrator is significant.

The learner gets largely peer-scaffolded to the next level. The teacher achieves near-zero T-talk and only intervenes only when absolutely needed by a group or at class take-up. And the administrator gets to report deployment of one of Canada’s latest pedagogical techniques in the class in terms of faculty training, classroom implementation, and PBLA success.

Can you talk a bit about the content?

“Oh, my phone number is (647) 490-1956” could come out several ways. One could equally likely hear “Call me at (647) four nine oh, nineteen fifty-six” or “Could you gimme a buzz at (647) four nine zero, one nine five six?” The aim in this exercise is exposure and some mastery of real-world discourse, including the pragmatics of speech, cultural practices, pronunciation of words and numbers, punctuation marks, and the rest of the plethora of features in written and spoken English. Everything in three ways, all on one sheet--whether it’s a job interview, a visit to the doctor, a phone conversation with a child’s teacher, you name it.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The actual fun part, unfortunately, was too short--the composition of the three functionally parallel dialogues on each Dictation Triptych. What took a lot longer was formatting and numbering the columns, creating the strategic lacunae, tagging the index, getting the ISBN and such. On a good run I created three books in a week, but the latest one took a whole week.

Where can teachers and students purchase your book? 

E-books as well as training slots can be purchased through

Do you have any plans for a second book?

Does anyone want to take this to the next level? We already have e-books beyond the CLBs, covering occupation-specific areas in healthcare and in business. We’re looking for partners to go to the colleges, TESL programs, corporates, and overseas markets with training, customized Dictation Triptychs, and licensing.

How do you market or promote your book?

Not having a huge war chest to begin with, we had to decide on going digital rather than shelling out 10 bucks for a wretchedly bound photocopied book. So up went the first e-books for delivery via email, first through orders at Blogger and later at our Square shopfront. A Facebook page was created to connect friends through social media

Besides having an Internet presence, my colleagues and I present the Dictation Triptychs at various TESL Conferences in the region. Preloaded onto attractive USB sticks--including those shaped as Oreo cookies, LED lightbulbs, and pastel-coloured bracelets--for delegate purchase, those e-books sold fast. We were also able to accept credit card payments conveniently using a Square device.

Our next phase may include demos at school board ESL departments, LINC schools, and possibly selected overseas locations given the extreme versatility of the Dictation Triptych tool and technique. Ideas and advice welcome!

What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?

I don’t think I’m the only teacher who’s grounded and kept real through students who could easily vote with their feet, especially in a free settlement program like LINC. Another skill is that of resource leanness, where e-books and the online platform have to be adopted over print and shop space to at least break even, even if the former is somewhat less glamorous than the latter.

What is one thing that you had to do as a teacherpreneur that was outside your comfort zone?

Truth be told, I'm extremely embarrassed about self-promotion in a conference session. On my "inaugural" at Hamilton-Wentworth conference in April this year, I couldn't get myself to pull out the USB sticks even when asked. Finally, when everybody had left, someone came back and requested the e-books, and that's when I made my first sale--a bunch of USBs to her 4 centres!  Thankfully, at TESL Ontario, I had my "sisters" Hala and Suma to do the selling while I fumbled around with the Square device. I got really nervous with people waiting in line.

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering writing a book or resource/website?

I would say to go for it in the case of a blog or an app--there’s little to lose more than a few clicks and keystrokes for a wealth of learning about life! To all my LINC colleagues out there, those weeklong down times could and perhaps should be turned into learning and business opportunities. Maybe it’s my mean Asian work ethic, but I believe downtimes and leisure hours will find you, so there’s really no need to schedule them.

Is there anything that you would like to add?  

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the journey, Patrice. What great questions borne of one who’s been through and been there!

It was my pleasure Joseph.  I hope to meet you in person soon.


Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:

1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at

2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit: How to earn additional income at 

3. Sign up for my 4 week online course with - Teacher to Teacherpreneur

4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur

5. Join my LinkedIn group for teacherpreneurs. Connect with other teacherpreneurs

6. Set up a private coaching call with me

Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media!


Who am I?

My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada.  I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, instructional coaching for new teachers and coaching teacherpreneurs. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.  


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