Traditionally, when evaluating students’ writing levels, the “evaluators” silently read the essays in their offices, oftentimes fill out a rubric and come up with a score. Most of us would agree that such a process is onerous and often results in students being misplaced.
The method that I’ll describe here has important benefits for teachers and the ESL program as a whole. I’ve used this in several ESL programs for two situations: (1) determining which students should be promoted to the next level at the end of a term, and (2) placement of new students. It’s especially helpful for determining the proper Writing-class level of borderline students, in other words, ones whose writing levels are not obvious.
To demonstrate how the method works, let’s look at those two situations.
This can drive a teacher crazy. You remind students to proof-read their paper before turning them in. However, after class, as you read them, you continually see basic grammar mistakes that you are sure they should have been able to have caught.
It’s quite common for ESL students to have a distorted view of their writing skills. They think that they can adequately edit their papers as they are writing, and thus, feel little need to re-read them before turning them in. Little do they realize that a plethora of simple grammar and spelling mistakes on a paper can give the reader/teacher a lower opinion of the students’ skills.
I have found that the following little requirement has greatly transformed students into much more diligent self-editors.
The teacher was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He was assigned a Reading course in which summarizing was one of the goals. Where to start? A colleague suggested a rather arduous process of having students identifying and clarifying the topic of the passage. This would be followed by techniques for finding the most important point the author was making for each paragraph. Then they would practice how to identify supporting points. They would practice recognizing key word and practice paraphrasing those. And on and on.
All those steps above are totally unnecessary.
The easy summarizing-skill technique
Here is the basis for this technique: We always have a reason for summarizing specific information from an article. (In real life, and even mainstream academic courses, are we ever asked to just summarize everything in an article?)
Examples of the technique
*(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
Teachers, if you prefer to be the center of attention during a lesson, THIS UNIT IS NOT FOR YOU. But if you to play the role of a coach, setting up the lesson, briefly explaining the exercises and stepping aside to let students engage in assignments allowing you more time to work individually with each student, THIS UNIT IS FOR YOU.
In this YouTube video Engaging, Student-Centered ESL Writing Unit Using Inductive Approach , I describe the unit exercises…
- which use an inductive approach,
- the rationale for each one,
- how they engage students,
- how they lead students to write a four to five paragraph essay with a variety of details.
After you watch the video, you’ll be all set to download the unit for free and use it with your students.