• Starting and Ending a Conversation (Includes a Group Mixer Activity)

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(This posting includes a POWERPOINT presentation and HANDOUTS which you are welcome to use with your students.)

“I wish I had more chances to practice my English outside of class.”

“How can I meet some native-English speakers?”

“I went to a party last weekend. There were about 20 people there, but nobody seemed to want to talk to me. I just kind of stood in the corner looking at my cell phone. Why didn’t anyone talk to me?”

“I sat next to someone, and I wanted to talk to him, but I was afraid that I would be bothering him, or he wouldn’t say anything. What do you think?”

I’ve been asked these types of questions frequently by my students.  Naturally, some of them were low-level students with little confidence in their skills, but surprisingly, often more fluent ones also asked me for advice.

For students from some cultures, starting a conversation with someone they don’t know might be a new concept to them. (See Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect) )

Exercises for starting-a-conversation skills Continue reading

• Easy Editing-Awareness Technique for ESL Students

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This can drive a teacher crazy. You remind students to proof-read their paper before turning them in. However, after class, as you read them, you continually see basic grammar mistakes that you are sure they should have been able to have caught.

It’s quite common for ESL students to have a distorted view of their writing skills. They think that they can adequately edit their papers as they are writing, and thus, feel little need to re-read them before turning them in.  Little do they realize that a plethora of simple grammar and spelling mistakes on a paper can give the reader/teacher a lower opinion of the students’ skills.

I have found that the following little requirement has greatly transformed students into much more diligent self-editors.

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• Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules

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(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 seemed interested in comparing the social rules in their countries and what happens to people who break them.

2) They had stimulating discussions how safe their hometowns were.

3) They were surprised by how tight or loose their classmates’ hometown and family rules were.

4) They enjoyed comparing how much or how little contact they had with people who were different from them (e.g. different race, religion, sexual orientation) and how open their neighbors would be to having them live next to them.

Here is the basis for this discussion: According to research, countries can be categorized as relatively tight or loose. Tight cultures, with stricter rules, tend to be safer more orderly, whereas, loose cultures tend to be more creative and more accepting of people who are different. After reading about the characteristics of different cultures, students compare their experiences and share their opinions about life in tight and loose cultures.

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.

About Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules and the handout.

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• Terrible Advice to Novice Teachers From a Teacher-Trainer

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One day a teaching intern asked me for some advice about a listening-skills class that she was struggling with. Her internship was for three-month, and she had been assigned to our ESL program. The lesson in the textbook for the class didn’t seem to address a skill that the students needed, but she had an idea for an exercise. However, she didn’t know if she should spend an hour or two or more developing a more relevant activity. Then she added this: “The professor in my TESL Methods class told us that we shouldn’t spend time writing exercises during our internship unless we know that we’ll be able to use them in the future.”

It made me want to cry.

The most obvious reason why this advice is so wrong is that none of us in the field of Teaching ESL can know when an exercise will come in handy in the future. But, besides that, there are more paramount reasons for teachers to write exercises.

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