Include information from your country or culture.
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. as we do!”
(This posting includes this handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Giving information about your country.
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:
Sometimes even the most obedient child will misbehave and will need to be disciplined. 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 of the above paragraph did include information from his country, but he missed an opportunity to dig deeper in this cultural custom and describe something more specific. After being challenged to include an example or some details, the writer continued 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.