Category Archives: ESL Writing

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

Argumentation Essay: Tapping into Creativity

creativity in argumentation

Opportunity for creativity

A student of mine once wrote an essay about requiring parenting courses for future parents.  In her essay, she mentioned her husband and 2-year-old child, which made for powerful support.  I was quite surprised because, up until then, I had no idea that she was married, much less a mother.  While conferencing with her, I told her about my surprise; she smiled and said that it was not true; she had just made it up.

Wow!  What a clever idea!

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

discussion abc

Discussion and Writing Skills

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

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How to lead ESL Students to Discover their Grammar Mistakes on Writing Assignments

tutoring-writing

One-on-one conferencing

All over the world and on almost every campus, there is a need for well-qualified teachers/tutors who understand grammar terms and who can “lead” ESL students to discover and correct their own mistakes, and by so doing, become better at self-editing.  Unfortunately, many teachers/tutors merely tell students what their mistakes are and how to correct them.  This approach has been proven to be ineffective at making students aware of their mistakes and at helping them become independent. The purpose of this posting is to give a brief introduction to an innovative and at the same time straight-forward techniques which teachers/tutors can use when conferencing individually with students about their writing assignments.

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Introduction to Teaching Academic ESL Writing: A Proven Approach for Success (Part 1: Logical organization)

academic-writing

Academic writing

How to teach ESL writing

The ultimate goal of an academic ESL writing course is to help students develop the tools that they will be able to use in writing assignments in mainstream academic class like English composition, psychology, history, business etc.

The job of the ESL writing instructor is not, contrary to what some might think, to lead students to write deep or complex ideas.  That is what mainstream instructors will do.  Our job is to help them develop the tools or techniques that they can use to clearly organize and explain their ideas, no matter how simple or profound those ideas might be.

The success of this approach

At our college, we’ve based our academic ESL writing courses on teaching those tools.  To determine the effectiveness of our approach, we’ve track the success rate of students who have completed our academic ESL program.  Over the past 15 years, approximately 95% of those international students received an “A” or “B” in English 101.   In the years prior to using this approach, when the focus was on deep ideas and research papers rather than clarity of expression, only about 75% got an A or B.

What writing skills do students need?

The foundation of our writing courses is constructed on what skills mainstream instructors would like their in-coming (first-year) students to have. To find this out, I interviewed over 50 instructors at two universities and a community college.

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Introduction to Teaching Academic ESL Writing: A Proven Approach for Success (Part 2 Connecting ideas & Grammar)

Connecting ideas

In addition to having logical organization, the other two aspects of good academic writing are connecting ideas and having control of grammar.

A problem we sometimes see with ESL writing is that their paragraphs look like just a list of ideas.  In other words, their writing lacks coherence.

As writing instructors, we can teach them techniques for bridging sentences within a paragraph to show the reader how they are connected.  Two important techniques for doing this are:

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Fluency writing: reading, speaking in triads, and listening culminating in a writing task (including handout activity.)

triads

Integrating the four skills

This is the perfect activity for integrating four skills into one activity.  And it culminates in a writing task in which students focus on controlling their grammar and on their sentence style.  It’s also one in which students can practice those two aspects of writing without having to spend time thinking about what to write.

These fluency activities can be used throughout a term when instructors would like to have students work on their grammar in a writing context and/or when they would like to add some group work in their writing classes.  Also, it’s a good lead-in to teaching paraphrasing skills.

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Writing class: Dealing with plagiarism (Don’t take it personally)

A learning opportunity

A learning opportunity

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 class. Huffington 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.

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