David Kehe at home overlooking Bellingham Bay
I’ve taught ESL for over 35 years at colleges and universities in four countries including in Africa with the Peace Corps . I’ve co-authored nine textbooks, including the award-winning Conversation Strategies. I have an MAT from The School for International Training, in Brattleboro, Vermont. Currently, I’m a Coordinator and Academic ESL Instructor at Whatcom Community College, in Bellingham, Washington.
Below is a list of the posts in the order that they have been posted starting at the top with the most recent. You can click on the title to link to the post. I’ll be updating this list each time I enter another post.
Fun & Student-Centered Speaking/Listening Activity: Truth or Lie
Approaching Grammar with Generation 1.5 Students and Other Ear-Learners
Argumentation Essay: Tapping into Creativity
Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)
Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect)
Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)
Great Self-Study Conversation Technique: Not an Oxymoron
The owl and the hat
One of my students, Sebastian, told our Conversation class this experience: “I was on a hike in the Hundred Acre Woods (a forest near campus). It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining through the tree branches. Suddenly, I heard a wooshing sound near my head. Something attacked my head. And then my hat was gone. I looked up and notice an owl flying away with my hat.”
The Sebastian left the room, and Kenji came in and told this experience: “One day, I was walking in the Hundred Acre Woods. I had a small backpack with my lunch in it. I was wearing a jacket and a baseball hat. All of a sudden, I heard a sound near my head, and before I could look up, an owl took my hat and flew away with it.”
Which of these students, Sebastian or Kenji actually had this experience? Finding this out is the goal of this “Truth or Lie” game. The students love it.
In our college, there was a category of ESL students who stymied the instructors. They were fluent speakers but continually struggled with basic the grammar on writing tasks. Any ESL program that has immigrant students will probably have these types of students described as “ear-learners” or Generation 1.5.
Gen 1.5 students are sort of between first generation and second generation immigrant. They immigrated with their family when they were elementary or high school age.
A growing number of these students indicate a goal of obtaining a college degree. However, unfortunately, many of them struggle to make the transition from studying basic English skills in ESL courses to taking academic ESL and mainstream academic courses.
Among those who do apply to colleges, a considerable number do not meet the minimum standards for writing and are thus not accepted.
I, along with two colleagues, were able to get a grant a few years ago to study these students and to develop an approach to helping them learn grammar for writing by taking into consideration their special learning styles.
In this posting, I’ll describe these students and their learning styles. I’ll also explain the type of materials and include examples that we used with them. And finally, I’ll summarize the very positive results that we got from the study.
Opportunity for creativity
A student of mine once wrote an essay about requiring parenting courses for future parents. In her essay, she mentioned her husband and 2-year-old child, which made for powerful support. I was quite surprised because, up until then, I had no idea that she was married, much less a mother. While conferencing with her, I told her about my surprise; she smiled and said that it was not true; she had just made it up.
Wow! What a clever idea!
Discussion and Writing Skills
It may surprise some how closely discussions and writing assignments are intertwined in an academic integrated-skills course. The writing assignments are often related to the readings in the course, and the students are required to summarize and paraphrase from the passages. One of the best ways to helps students do this is if they’ve had a chance to talk about the ideas in the passages. In other words, they “orally paraphrased” the readings before they are asked to paraphrase from them in writing tasks.
To illustrate how reading, discussion and writing can be integrated to help students develop each skill, we’ll follow up to the reading passage about why Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners from Part 1. Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) I’ll include some specific activities:
Feeling shy in social situations
Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?
To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.
This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:
Studying about the reasons for cultural differences
This post may sound like I am contradicting a previous post of March 13th, “Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills” Despite my support for segregated skills in general, an integrated skills course with higher-level students who are more homogeneous in ability can be effective and practical.
For an integrated skills 1 course to be effective and engaging to the students, the subject should be something which is inherently appealing to the majority of the students. After all, the students will be spending the course time reading, writing, and talking about the subject.
One subject which has been enthusiastically received by both students and instructors is culture, and more specifically, differences in cultures and the reason for these differences.
Some examples of these are:
-Why are people in western cultures more likely than people from eastern cultures to smile at a stranger standing at a bus stop than?
-In a study of 4-year-olds, why did the Asian children spontaneously share their candy with another child but the American children only reluctantly share when asked.