Monthly Archives: April 2018

Don’t Wastes Students’ Energy Teaching Certain Types of Vocabulary Words in Reading Class

Three Tiers

“Radiance,” “strike a deal,” “gorgeous” “ecosystem.” In my 40 years of teaching academic ESL, I’ve probably seen these word in a reading passage at most only once or twice.  And I’ve never seen a student use them in a writing task.  And yet, these words were  included in several vocabulary exercises in a textbook, and students were asked to write sentences with them.  Because the words were in a reading passage, the author of the textbook, for some reason, decided that these were important words for students to study and try to internalize.

I think most of us would agree that spending time on a words so rarely used as “radiance” or “strike a deal” is probably not the best use of students’ precious time and mental energy if our true goal is to help them develop their reading skills.  At the same time, many of us who have studied a foreign language would agree that reading comprehension is enhanced by knowledge of a lot of vocabulary words.

At this point, two questions come to mind: (1) How do learners increase their vocabulary, and (2) which vocabulary words would perhaps be beneficial to study through exercises?

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Writing Class Person Description Activity: Fun, Lively and Productive



Describe classmate image

This is a paragraph that a student secretly wrote to describe one of her classmates.  All the students are circulating around the periphery of the room, reading description hanging on the wall with no names on and trying to determine who is being described in the paragraphs.  Each student seems very focused on reading the descriptions, searching for the classmate who is the object of the description but also looking out of the corner of their eyes to see what kind of reaction others are having to the description that they secretly wrote just an hour earlier.  There is energy in the room, a lot of interacting and a lot of laughing.

Describe your classmate activity

In brief, the steps for this activity are:

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Effective Approach to a Student Cheating (from Outside Research)


Imagine this situation: During a quiz, you notice a student glancing at another student’s paper.  You feel that you need to take some action.

Surprisingly, there was a social psychology study conducted in a hospital setting that can help us know an effective way to approach this student.

For many of us, our first inclination is to confront the student tell him that if he continues to cheat, he will fail the quiz.  However, in his book The Originals, Adam Grant shows that explaining how someone’s behavior will negatively affect him or her is less effective than describing how their action will affect other people.

In the “hospital” study, to encourage doctors and nurses to wash their hands more often the researchers posted one of two signs near the soap dispensers in patients’ rooms.   One said, “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases.”  The other said, “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.” (Emphasis added.)  Over the next two weeks, a member of the hospital unit covertly counted the number of times the staff members washed their hands and a researcher measure the amount of soap used.

Interestingly, the first sign (“…prevents you…”) had no effect.  The second sign (“…prevents patients…”) had a significant impact on hand washing; it resulted in a 10% increase in hand-washing and 45% more soap usage.

How we can apply this study to ESL students who cheat on a test

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