Category Archives: *CULTURE AS CONTENT

• Why We Teach the Modes in ESL Writing Courses and a Mix-Mode Essay

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

I was left speechless after reading Sayo’s essay. I didn’t know where to start because I couldn’t figure out exactly what she was trying to say.

When I asked her how a specific detail was connected to her topic, she said that she purposely didn’t explain that because she was showing respect to the readers who would figure it out without her explicitly saying it.

I also asked her about why she included an unrelated personal experience. She responded that she thought it would make her paper more interesting to read.

She concluded with a vague question that she hoped would give the reader something to ponder. It only left me pondering how the question was related to her essay.

I realized that Sayo’s essay demonstrated a cultural difference with regard to reader- versus writer-responsibility.  Apparently, English is a “writer-responsible” language; as such, it is the writer’s job to communicate ideas clearly to the reader.  On the other hand, in “reader-responsible” languages, (like Sayo’s) the burden is on the reader to understand what the writer is trying to say.  In reader-responsible cultures, it is presumed that the writer already shares with the reader certain knowledge that can, thus, be left unsaid. However, since readers in English are not accustomed to that role, frustration and communication breakdown can result.

What researchers have found about other cultural differences in writing papers.

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• Developing Paraphrasing Skills: Oral Paraphrasing Before Written.

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

YouTube I discuss this posting in this video: Developing ESL Paraphrasing Skills Naturally: Start with Oral Paraphrasing Exercise

A good paraphrase can demonstrate to the teacher that the student truly understood the source. And if it is clearly written in the student’s normal style and level of vocabulary, the teachers can feel reassured that the writer wasn’t plagiarizing.

Paraphrasing may be a new concept for many of our ESL student. However, we can help them understand how to do it in a way that will let them “experience” what a good paraphrase is through a very natural process.

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• Four-Part Series: Why, How And When to Teach ESL Integrated- and Discrete-Skills Courses. 

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

This posting expands on the discussion in the most visited posting on Common Sense Teaching ESL:  Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills

In that posting, I explained the many advantages there are for both students and teachers when Conversation, Reading, Writing and Listening are taught in separate classes.

However, it may not be possible to teach them separately due to the structure of the ESL program. And on top of that, there is a situation in which integrating the skills around one subject or topic in one course has several important advantages for students.

YouTube To explore this more, I put together a four-part YouTube video series.

In PART 1, I discuss the best way to teach students in a LOW- or INTERMEDIATE-LEVEL class in which all four skills need to be taught in one class due to the program’s design. Here is the link to the video: Teach All ESL Skills in a Class But NOT Integrating Around a Topic-PART 1 Integrated/Discrete Skills

In PARTS 2, 3 & 4, I focus on ADVANCED-LEVEL classes. At this level, especially in Academic ESL programs, an integrated-skills course that revolves around a topic or subject area can best mirror the types of mainstream (non-ESL) college classes which student will be taking.

About PARTS 2, 3 and 4. (Including a link to two academic, integrated-ESL skills units for advanced levels which you can download for free to use with your students.)

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

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(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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