(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*
“I like summer because it’s hot.” Pretty simplistic, right? The assignment was to write six sentences using subordinators as part of a review of them in my advanced class. That sentence was the type that I got from some of my students.
My first impulse was to attribute this to a lack of motivation, or to staying up until 2 a.m. playing video games, or to immaturity. I found out that I was wrong (or at least partial wrong).
A few of my “better” students would write more sophisticated sentences like, “Because of the recent refugee crisis in Europe, some Europeans are starting to question their immigration policies.” When I shared some of these advanced sentences with the “simple-style” students, they seemed quite surprised that they should have been trying to write like that. They thought that just using a subordinator in sentence was enough to fulfill the assignment. I realized that I hadn’t presented the challenge clearly enough. Here is my remedy which completely turned these students around.
After I have shared with my students my experience with subordinators (see Part 1 posting (Part 1) ), I like to do a review with them. At the advanced level, they all have a good understanding of subordinators, but I like to encourage them to expand their use of them in their essays.
I start with an awareness exercise. First, they read a brief description of sentences with advanced ideas and juxtapose those with low-level ideas:
Sentences with advanced ideas do not have mistakes and are about topics that you haven’t often written about. Also, some of them will have a conjunction or more than one subordinator.
Examples of advanced topic:
- current news • ideas from books • ideas from your academic courses
- ideas from movies • problems people have • unique people that you know
Sentences with low-level ideas are about topics that people commonly write about.
Examples of simple topics:
- your daily life • your classroom • your bedroom • your free time
The next step is to have them read a list of 10 sentences and identify which are advanced and which are low level.
1) Write A in the blank if the idea is advanced.
2) Write LL in the blank if the idea is low-level.
__ 1. Because many people were suffering in a number of foreign countries, the Red Cross was sending aid to them.
__ 2. Because I’m tired, I will go to sleep.
__ 3. If you feel sick, you should go to a doctor.
__ 4. I read an article that said that if we are kidnapped, we should not try to escape unless we know where we can run to.
To encourage them to use more than one subordinator in a sentence, they do the next exercise as for awareness.
Exercise 2. Look at the advanced sentences in Exercise 1 above again.
• What are the numbers of the sentences that had more than one subordinator? __ _
Finally, they write there own six ADVANCED sentences.
Exercise 3: Assignment
Write six sentences with subordinators. You should write six advance sentences that are advance topics and/or that have more than one subordinator.
The relatively user-friendly awareness Exercises 1 & 2 have been very effective in getting even the students with little initiative to write amazing sentences. They seem to surprise themselves about what they are capable of. And they are very fun for the teacher to read.
I’m attaching here the one-page handout that you can use with your students. Subordinator Advanced and Simple sentence exercise
In Part 3, I’ll include an inductive exercise that can be used to introduced subordination. (Subordination Part 3)
For more exercises like this for intermediate/high-intermediate-level students, see Writing Strategies Book 1, which is now available in digital and print version for students to rent or buy.
For more exercises like this for advanced-level students, see Writing Strategies Book 2, which is now available in digital and print version for students to rent or buy.
*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.