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• The Huge Advantage International Student Writers Have Over Their American Classmates (Revised)

An American student writes in his essay, “Every morning, I eat corn flakes for breakfast.”

His English Comp instructor thinks, “Boring.  Many Americans eat corn flakes.”

 An ESL student from China writes on her essay, “Every morning, I eat corn flakes for breakfast.”  Her English Comp instructor thinks, “Wow! That’s interesting! They eat corn flakes for breakfast in China too!”

Please note: I just discovered that there had been some formating problems with this post, so I’ve revised it.

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

YouTube This posting is discussed on my YouTube video  Huge Advantage International Student Writers Have Over Their American Classmates—A Writing Technique

It can be liberating to ESL students to realize that almost anything that they can include in their essays/papers about their culture and country will probably be interesting to their American instructors.  This is a great advantage that they have over their American classmates.

However, just encouraging them to include this kind of information in their essays often results in paragraphs like this one from an essay about raising children:

In addition to teaching skills, parents sometimes need to discipline a child who misbehaves. Some people will spank their children in order to get their attention and redirect them.  However, in my country, parents very rarely do this.

The writer did include information from his country, but he missed an opportunity to exploit this information and make it more remarkable.  After being asked for more details, the writer revised the end of the paragraph:

… However, in my country, parents very rarely do this.  Instead, if a child refuses to listen to his mother or throws a tantrum, his mother will tell him to stand outside the house. The worse thing that can happen to someone in my culture is to be excluded from the group, so this type of punishment can be very effective.

An Inductive Approach to Teaching this Technique

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• Taking On Phrasal Verbs

Cover phrasal verbs screen shot

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

YouTube This posting is discussed on my YouTube video Big Mistake ESL Teachers Make With Phrasal Verbs:

Ernesto was looking unusually pale when he walked into my class. I asked him if he was feeling all right, and he said that his stomach was hurting. Then I asked him:

“Do you feel like you are going to throw up?”

He just kind of looked at me, not knowing what to say. I realized that he didn’t understand the phrasal verb, “throw up,” and I was sure that he wouldn’t understand “vomit,” so my only recourse was to pantomime someone throwing up.  Then he got it.

According to The Grammar Book by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, outside Germanic languages (English, German, Dutch and the Scandiavian languages), few languages have phrasal verbs. “Thus most ESL/EFL students will find such verbs strange and difficult. Yet they are such an important part of colloquial English that no one can … understand conversational English easily without a knowledge” of them.

About once a term at my college, we invited a guest speaker to give a talk to all the international students, from beginning-skill levels to advance. For example, a policeman talked about how to stay safe on and off campus; a counselor discussed common misunderstandings students have with plagiarism; a student leader provided information about campus clubs and activities.  Even though the speakers were making an effort to make their talks comprehensible to non-native speakers, they couldn’t help but continually peppered their speech with phrasal verbs. Some examples:

Policeman: If you drink and drive, you could end up at the police station.

Counselor: One reason students copy from a classmate is because they’ve taken on too many courses.

Student leader: We hope you’ll help us put forward some ideas for improving our clubs.

Imagine substituting these phrasal verbs with phrase blah-blah.  This is kind of what many of the students heard:

     “… you could blah-blah at the police station”
     “…they’ve blah-blah too many courses.”
     “…help us blah-blah some ideas.”

No wonder so many of students had blank looks on their faces.

Working on phrasal verbs. Where to start, knowing that there are over 10,000 of them.

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• 7th Free ESL Reading Unit. Experiencing Discrimination

Cover Discrimination Excrp Shot 2

(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)

See Select Category > ESL Reading Units Free: Reading for Insights (Introduction) for an introduction to these reading units.  Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction)

Article,  Study Guide and Answer Key for  Experiencing Discrimination (and more excerpts)

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• Pain-Free ESL Speaking Placement-Testing Process: Reliable, Time-Efficient and User-Friendly

Cover ppt shot

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your colleagues.)

At first, all the teachers wanted to administer the oral test for placing students into one of the four levels of conversation classes. But that enthusiasm waned once they discovered what this commercially-made placement test would entail.

Two major problems with many speaking placement tests (commercial and in-house)

1)  The testing process in labor intensive. The scoring rubrics are onerous, ineffective and require time-consuming training.

2)  Rather than just focusing on the skills being developed in speaking/conversation classes, the interviewers have to evaluate several peripheral aspects of speaking at the same time.

A Speaking Placement-Testing Process That Addresses Those Problems.

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• Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 8: Impulse Control: Don’t Look at Social Media while Studying

Discussion template

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

 Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) They could relate to the two research studies about impulse control in the article.

2) They were interested to compare how they would have performed as subjects of the studies compared to their classmates.

3) They enjoyed sharing their experiences with controlling impulses and delaying gratifications in their everyday lives.

4) They were surprised by the effects the lack of impulse control can have on our lives and how it is affecting their classmates’ lives.

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Here is the basis for this discussion: Researchers believe that a person’s ability to delay gratification can carry many advantages, including better scores in school, fewer behavior problems, and reduced chance to be overweight and being more successful in jobs.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.
2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.
3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their experience and opinions about the topic before discussing them in groups.
4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different content/personal experience questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

Bonus writing activity. Included in the handout is a final writing activity to give students practice with paraphrasing and writing a reflection.

About Discussion Activity Activity 8: Impulse Control: Don’t Look at Social Media while Studying

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