Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)

discussion abc

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:

1) Discussion activities that will involve “oral paraphrasing.”

Small-group discussions: In this attachment, you will find two types of discussion questions.

(1) Students talk about the research and concepts in the passage.

(2) Students relate to the content by telling about their experiences and opinions about it.  These type of questions start by saying, “This is a discussion question.  All of us should answer.”

You’ll notice that instead of just listing the questions for all the students to see, they are divided into three parts: Student A, Student B and Student C.   We have found that even the quieter students feel like they are involved in the discussion if they are given a role (reading their questions).  It also is a way to require students to focus on each other.  And it keeps students from dominating the discussion.  Anyone who has used this format as opposed to a more traditional one in which all students see all the questions will have noticed the “noise” level in the room increases dramatically as students are all actively engaged in the discussion.  After finishing these discussions, students tend to understand the passage well because they have had a chance to explain to each other and to hear how others would explain in their own words.  (I’ve included discussion questions for the complete unit and highlighted the ones that pertain just to the passage about shyness.)  Discuss A B C If you would like to see the complete unit, please feel free to contact me by selecting “Contact.”

2) Reflection paper that involves paraphrasing.

A common type of writing assignment in academic courses is a reflection paper.  In this type of assignment, students show that they understood a reading passage by summarizing and/or paraphrasing parts and responding to it.  They can do this by connecting the ideas in the passage either to their own experiences and observations, or to information that they have recently learned.  Another type of reflection responses is to explain how the ideas in a passage might be applied to other situations.   Or they might you agree or disagree with the ideas in a passage.

In this sample activity, students will explain what they thought was important or significant about the “shyness” passage.  (I’ve highlighted that task that relates just to shyness but included the other tasks too.)  Writing Reflection Important or Significant

In the attached activity . . .

  • You’ll find an introduction to this type of assignment
  • This is followed by an exercise in which they work with a model which demonstrates how to summarize and reflect.
  • The culminating exercise in which they apply this technique to the passage about shyness and party skills is last.

David Kehe



One thought on “Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)

  1. Pingback: About me and a list of posts to date | Common Sense Teaching ESL

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