Category Archives: *ESL Writing

These postings include writing activities, teaching techniques and strategies for evaluating writing skills.

• Effective, Stress-Free Approach to Dealing with Plagiarism.

Cover plagiarized Revisit shot

This posting is an updated version of a post from November 2016: Writing Class: Dealing with Plagiarism (Don’t Take It Personally) 

In October 2016, Tiffany Martínez, a Latina student at Suffolk University in Boston, was accused of plagiarism by her sociology professor in front of the entire classHuffington Post plagiarism story   What caused him to be suspicious?  The word “hence.”  On her paper, he circled the place where she had written the word “hence” and wrote in the margin, “This is not your word.”

In my many years as an ESL instructor, I’ve witnessed instructors over-reacting in suspected plagiarism situations.  It seems as if those instructors were taking it personally, feeling like they were being disrespected.  Too often instructors seem to see it as a “gotcha” opportunity.

Plagiarism Learning Opportunities

Unless there is proof, the instructor shouldn’t accuse the student.  It would be more damaging to falsely accuse a students of plagiarizing who had worked hard than to “let” a students who actually plagiarized slip by.  If the student actually plagiarized, and the instructor has proof, it can be viewed as a learning opportunity.

Here are some options depending on the situation.

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The Power of Listening Input for Language Learners

Cover pt lover revised

(True story.) It’s the September of 1985, the year that Stevie Wonder released an international hit song. I’m on campus in Japan and happen to run into a couple of my students from spring term, Yuki and Hana.

“How was your summer?” I ask.

“Wonderful! I went to Europe with my family,” Yuki says.

“That’s great! How about you Hana?”

“Interesting. I had a part-time lover,” Hana answers.

Both Yuki and I look astonished and laughingly ask simultaneously, “You had a what?!!”

“I had a part-time lover. … Oh, no, I mean I had a part-time job!” Hana replies with some embarrassment when she realizes what she had said.

She then explains how she had often heard Stevie Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover” during the summer.

Hana’s automatic response to my question demonstrated the power of listening input. Since then, I’ve found ways to tap into it’s potential in helping student internalize grammar concepts and new vocabulary, and even how to write paragraphs and essays.

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• ESL Students Can Increase Positive Emotions in Readers/Teachers with This Writing Technique

smiling teacher

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

After reading Curry’s essays, I often came away feeling especially good. This kind of surprised me because she wasn’t among the top writers in my class. Her grammar tended to breakdown at times, and her sentence style could be a bit simple. And yet, there was something special about her papers.

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• Don’t Give Points. Give Green Instead. Save Time from Counting and Recording Points.

Cover grade book shot

While working at my computer, I heard my officemate, Nadya, sigh. She had a stack of homework papers that she was in the midst of marking, counting points and recording. She told me that she was starting to feel burned out from all the paper work and wondered if I felt the same.

She showed me how she was evaluating her students’ homework. They had written 10 items, and next to each one, she had written points. For example, a 2/2 meant that the student did that item correctly, a ½ meant it wasn’t completely correct, and 0/2 meant it was completely incorrect.

That morning she was in the process of (1) totaling the points, (2) writing a score at the top, and (3) recording the scores in her grade book.  She said that she didn’t have time to write anything more specifically about the reason for the points on the students’ papers.

I then showed her a set of papers that I had recently marked. I don’t write points next to each item, but instead, I marked each with green or blue. Then I explained that by doing that, I’m able to specifically reinforce what they did correctly or point out what was incorrect. At the same time, I don’t need to write and record points, which saves me a tremendous amount of time.

Here are samples of our different approaches to marking assignments:

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