Author Archives: commonsenseesl

• Easy Editing-Awareness Technique for ESL Students

Cover edit ICE shot

This can drive a teacher crazy. You remind students to proof-read their paper before turning them in. However, after class, as you read them, you continually see basic grammar mistakes that you are sure they should have been able to have caught.

It’s quite common for ESL students to have a distorted view of their writing skills. They think that they can adequately edit their papers as they are writing, and thus, feel little need to re-read them before turning them in.  Little do they realize that a plethora of simple grammar and spelling mistakes on a paper can give the reader/teacher a lower opinion of the students’ skills.

I have found that the following little requirement has greatly transformed students into much more diligent self-editors.

Continue reading

• Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules

Cover read for discussion SHOT

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

 Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) They seemed interested in comparing the social rules in their countries and what happens to people who break them.

2) They had stimulating discussions how safe their hometowns were.

3) They were surprised by how tight or loose their classmates’ hometown and family rules were.

4) They enjoyed comparing how much or how little contact they had with people who were different from them (e.g. different race, religion, sexual orientation) and how open their neighbors would be to having them live next to them.

Here is the basis for this discussion: According to research, countries can be categorized as relatively tight or loose. Tight cultures, with stricter rules, tend to be safer more orderly, whereas, loose cultures tend to be more creative and more accepting of people who are different. After reading about the characteristics of different cultures, students compare their experiences and share their opinions about life in tight and loose cultures.

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 experience and opinions about the topic before discussing them in groups.
4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different content/personal experience questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules and the handout.

Continue reading

• Terrible Advice to Novice Teachers From a Teacher-Trainer

Cover terrible advice shot

One day a teaching intern asked me for some advice about a listening-skills class that she was struggling with. Her internship was for three-month, and she had been assigned to our ESL program. The lesson in the textbook for the class didn’t seem to address a skill that the students needed, but she had an idea for an exercise. However, she didn’t know if she should spend an hour or two or more developing a more relevant activity. Then she added this: “The professor in my TESL Methods class told us that we shouldn’t spend time writing exercises during our internship unless we know that we’ll be able to use them in the future.”

It made me want to cry.

The most obvious reason why this advice is so wrong is that none of us in the field of Teaching ESL can know when an exercise will come in handy in the future. But, besides that, there are more paramount reasons for teachers to write exercises.

Continue reading

• Quick and User-Friendly Technique to Teach Summarize Skills of a Reading Passage

Cover EZ summarizing

The teacher was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He was assigned a Reading course in which summarizing was one of the goals. Where to start? A colleague suggested a rather arduous process of having students identifying and clarifying the topic of the passage. This would be followed by techniques for finding the most important point the author was making for each paragraph. Then they would practice how to identify supporting points.  They would practice recognizing key word and practice paraphrasing those. And on and on.

All those steps above are totally unnecessary.

The easy summarizing-skill technique

Here is the basis for this technique: We always have a reason for summarizing specific information from an article. (In real life, and even mainstream academic courses, are we ever asked to just summarize everything in an article?)

Examples of the technique

Continue reading