Category Archives: Culture as Content

Simple Technique ESL Students can use to Impress Their Academic Instructors


impressed instructor

(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.

Continue reading

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)

discussion abc

Discussion and Writing Skills

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

It may surprise some how closely discussions and writing assignments are intertwined in an academic integrated-skills course.  The writing assignments are often related to the readings in the course, and the students are required to summarize and paraphrase from the passages.  One of the best ways to helps students do this is if they’ve had a chance to talk about the ideas in the passages.  In other words, they “orally paraphrased” the readings before they are asked to paraphrase from them in writing tasks.

To illustrate how reading, discussion and writing can be integrated to help students develop each skill, we’ll follow up to the reading passage about why Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners from Part 1. Shyness in Cultural Differences Kehe

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) I’ll include some specific activities:

Continue reading

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect)

party shy

Feeling shy in social situations

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

Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?

To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.

This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:

Continue reading

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)


Studying about the reasons for cultural differences

This post may sound like I am contradicting a previous post of March 13th, “Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills”   Despite my support for segregated skills in general, an integrated skills course with higher-level students who are more homogeneous in ability can be effective and practical.

For an integrated skills 1 course to be effective and engaging to the students, the subject should be something which is inherently appealing to the majority of the students.  After all, the students will be spending the course time reading, writing, and talking about the subject.

One subject which has been enthusiastically received by both students and instructors is culture, and more specifically, differences in cultures and the reason for these differences.

Some examples of these are:

-Why are people in western cultures more likely than people from eastern cultures to smile at a stranger standing at a bus stop than?

-In a study of 4-year-olds, why did the Asian children spontaneously share their candy with another child but the American children only reluctantly share when asked.

Continue reading

ESL Culture: You worked hard for your students, but on their course evaluations, they said that you didn’t. How come?

Working hard but seemingly unappreciated

Working hard but seemingly unappreciated

A colleague of mine was dumbfounded after getting back students’ evaluations of her class at the end of the term.  One of the items on the evaluation form (which came from the college administration) was:

  • My instructor returned checked homework to me ____________.
  1. a) always quickly  b) sometimes quickly    c) not quickly

All of her students circled (a) “always quickly” except two Japanese students who circled (c) “not quickly.”  This confused not only her, but also the rest of us who knew that she was especially diligent about checking assignments and returning them the very next class.

Why was there this disconnect between these students’ perception and reality?

Continue reading