(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
After your students do this exercise, reading their essays will be much more stimulating for you.
I felt a bit deflated while reading an essay by Jojo, one of my higher-level students. His title was “It’s Best to Marry Someone from a Foreign Country.” From reading his previous essays, I knew he had the potential to be a very good writer with interesting ideas, but on that essay, he just supported his opinion with content that I would expect from students at lower levels. For example, here is his list of simple support for marrying someone from a foreign country:
- We can learn a foreign language more easily.
- We can enjoy eating different kinds of food.
- We can go easily to a foreign country for vacations.
Although I don’t believe that we, as ESL instructors, should expect our students to keep us stimulated with deep ideas, (see my posting “Wow” is not Necessarily the Goal in Students’ Essays) we should encourage those students who have the potential to push themselves to write beyond the mundane. This is especially true for our students who are planning to take English Comp and other academic classes with native speakers.