Author Archives: commonsenseesl

Enjoyable and Effective Awareness Activity for Changing ESL Students Classroom Behavior

Cover skits Shot

Most ESL students don’t do goofy things just to irritate the teacher. Usually, they are unaware of how they are coming across or not aware that they are acting differently from the other students or even what is expected of them.  These are some of the habits students tend to bring to our classes:

  • Chronically arriving to class late
  • Text messaging during class
  • Not paying attention
  • Chatting with classmate
  • Not participating in a group
  • Calling out answer before others get a chance
  • Sitting in the back of the room day-dreaming
  • No eye contact to teacher or classmates in a group
  • Speaking own language in a group
  • And more

To circumvent these habits and help students develop an awareness of expectations, in the two most recent ESL programs that I’ve taught in, we included some skits during our orientation of new students or during a workshop for students after the term had started. Not only did the students seem to enjoy them, but also we noticed far fewer students come to our classes with these behaviors.

Here is how we did it.

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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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