(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*
Imagine that you are mainstream instructor (e.g. Psychology, English Comp, Economic), and as students enter the classroom, some stop to talk to you.
First, Josh approaches you and says, “That article you told us to read was so boring.”
Later, Ryan mentions to you, “I found some interesting information in that article you told us to read.”
Of course you want your students to give their honest opinion, but it’s only natural that you’ll probably have a better impression of Ryan than Josh. That positive impression could even have a favorable outcome for him when you are assigning grades.
This post is about a writing technique that our ESL students can use in their mainstream (academic) classes which can make a positive impression on their instructors.
Most instructors in any field think that their subject area is very interesting. For example, psychology, history, economics, English lit and engineering instructors often think that their subjects are the most interesting and important ones in the world. Needless to say, they love to hear their students say that they also think their classes are fascinating. Thus, our students can use this insight to stand out in the minds of their instructors. And it could affect their grade in a positive way.
In addition, it involves good critical thinking.
Here is how it works and a handout activity to practice it.
This activity will lead students to understand how they can apply “interesting” expressions in assignments, quizzes and papers that they write. These are the expressions that they will practice:
- Interestingly, …
- It is interesting that …
- I found it interesting that …
- What is interesting about this is (that) …
These are the steps. I’m including a handout link that you can use with your students or just refer to as a model. It’s Interesting Exercise Cultural Differences
Exercise 1: First Model. This will show them how to apply the “Interesting” expressions.
- Step 1: Students read a short passage (e.g. a paragraph).
- Step 2: They read a question about the passage and a sample “Quiz Question” about the passage.
- Step 3: They “work with” a model student’s answer to that question. There are some blanks in the answer. Above the cloze answer are some phrases, including one of the “Interesting Expressions.” They fill in the blanks using the phrases given above it.
Exercise 2: Second Model. Students are given a second short passage, question and sample student’s answer just like in Exercise 1.
Exercise 3: Applied
- Step 1: Students are assigned two passages or given several passages to choose from.
- Step 2: They are given a question about the passage.
- Step 3: They answer the question AND THEN explain what they found interesting about the passage using one of the “Interesting” expressions.
There is an added benefit to Step 3. It involves critical thinking. Students have to think of some way that at least one point in the passage is interesting.
The effectiveness of this positive feedback technique
I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of this technique. After reading my students’ answers in the assignments in the handout in which they pointed out something that they had found interesting, I couldn’t help but feel good about all my students, even the ones who had previously been laggards. Even though I knew it was a kind of “set up” in which they were required to say something positive, I still believed that they were sincerely interested. It actually made me want to engage more with them individually.
I sure wish I had known of this technique when I was a student.
The handout comes from Cultural Differences. The book includes more techniques for writing good answers on papers and quizzes and more passages about understanding cultures. See Cultural Differences
*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.