Author Archives: commonsenseesl

Powerful Tool for ESL Writers: Giving Examples in Essays.

Cover Examples shot

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

A researcher asked people in a retirement home what they regret.  He found that older people regret not the things that they did, but rather the things they didn’t do, for example, never learning to salsa dance, never traveling the world or never learning to play a musical instrument.

That paragraph, from Brain Briefs by Markman and Duke, I think illustrates the importance of examples. Imagine what we’d wonder about had they not included three examples.

I have found a great improvement in the clarity of my students’ writing and in my enjoyment of reading their papers after they’ve practiced using examples and then applied that tool. I’ve often noticed that they seem liberated by this tool. If they are struggling with how to explain something, they can almost always come up with an example to do it.

In this post, I’ll include:

  • Samples of places in a paper where an example would be helpful.
  • Samples of how students at different writing-skill levels successfully used examples to explain everything from simple ideas to abstract ones.
  • Effective and simple ways for teachers to indicate to students where to include them in their papers and to encourage their use.
  • Exercises to help students develop this tool that you can use with your students.
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5th Free Reading Unit.  Why It’s Hard to Ask People to Help You

Excerpt from article (Paragraphs 1 & 4)
1 Thinking about asking someone to help us is painful.   Researchers have found that when we feel physical pain, for example, if we hurt our leg, an area of our brain becomes active.  Surprisingly, that same area of the brain becomes active when we think about asking someone to help us.

4 According to Heidi Grant, a social psychologist and author of Reinforcements: How To Get People to Help You, there is no evidence that people will think less of us if we ask for help.  In fact, according to research, people will actually like us more if we do and like us more after they have helped us.

(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)

See Select Category > ESL Reading Units Free: Reading for Insights (Introduction) for an introduction to these reading units.

Article & Study Guide for  Why It’s Hard to Ask People to Help You? (and excerpts)

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Give your colleagues some brain pleasure. Ask them for help.

Cover Asking help Shot

One day, a colleague, Sarah, who was relatively new to the ESL teaching field, told me about two grammar questions that one of her students had presented to her. (*If you are curious, you can see the questions and my explanation at the end of this posting.) She said that after class, she had spent quite a bit of time searching for answers on the internet but to no avail. Finally, she decided to ask me.

It turned out to be a fun interaction and a kind of puzzle for me to solve. On my drive home after classes that day, I realized that I was feeling great, but I didn’t think that there was any specific reason for it. A while later, I happened to come across some research that perhaps explained my exuberant emotion. And it had nothing to do with it being a Friday.

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Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 6: Happiness Is Not the Same in the East and West

Discussion triads

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

  • Many of the Asian students were surprised at how much Westerners think about happiness.
  • They enjoyed comparing with their classmates what made them feel good, and they realized that they were often quite different.
  • Some students were surprised that some of their classmates actually were uncomfortable with the idea of feeling happy.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.
2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.
3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their own experiences about the topic.
4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 6: Happiness Is Not the Same in the East and West (and the handout).

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