• LINCS Topic 5: What are your recommendations for teaching writing to higher-level learners who have academic goals?

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

This posting is a more detailed response to my interview question on Day 5 .LINCS Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching Writing Skills. .

Below in blue, you’ll find the details that I’ve added to the Day 5 LINCS’ posting.

My top recommendation is to develop a clear understanding of the type of writing students will do in English Comp and academic class after they leave our classes.

With this as our starting point, we can apply our knowledge of language learning to help them develop the skills they will need.

In a survey of 360 college faculty members (of mainstream courses), it was found that, when asked to prioritize the most important components of an effective piece of writing produced by their ESOL students, the respondents chose, as their top three priorities (1) organizing content to express major and supporting ideas, (2) using relevant examples, and (3) demonstrating command of standard written English (Hinkel, 2004). 

I have found similar results from my face-to-face interviews of more than 40 mainstream college instructors in 8 different subject areas who assign papers in their first-year courses. Ten of these were English Comp instructors.

Here are some recommendations based on research.

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• LINCS Topic 3: What can you recommend for offering effective feedback on writing? How can teachers manage the amount of time it takes to give feedback?

Cover 3 Feedback shot

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

This posting is a more detailed response to my interview question on Day 3 .LINCS Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching Writing Skills. .

Below in blue, you’ll find the details that I’ve added to the Day 3 LINCS’ posting.

Giving feedback to students on their writing is such a rewarding aspect of our job.

However, it’s important to do it in a way that is meaningful to students yet user-friendly for the teacher. Here is how we can do it.

Giving meaningful feedback in in a manner that is time and energy efficient

In general, we’d like to give three types of feedback on a piece of writing:
1) Indicate what they did well.
2) Lead them to discover their grammar mistakes.
3) Point out where they could improve their content.

1) Indicate what they did well.

Imagine that you are a student and just received your paper with this positive feedback from the instructor at the end of the essay:

This was a good essay.  Your ideas were interesting.  You used advanced sentence styles, and some of your examples helped me understand your main points.

Will these comments actually help you, as a student, apply how you wrote to future writing tasks?  Which specific ideas were interesting?  Which specific sentences was the teacher referring to as advanced and which examples were helpful?

A time-consuming alternative that some teachers turn to is to write the comments in the margin next to noteworthy places in the essay.  The drawback to this, especially when commenting on paper, is that it is time consuming, there is little space to write them, and the handwriting needs to be clear.  Also, one wonders whether students will actually read the comments.

Before describing an easy, efficient and effective method for giving focused positive feedback, it’s important to understand the reason why we want to give positive feedback.  What we are trying to do is to encourage them to continue to use writing techniques which have made their writing assignments coherent, cohesive and interesting.

This means we’d like to point out, for example, where they have effectively used…

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• Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching ESOL Writing Skills

LINCS invite blog shot

During the week of March 6-10, I was interviewed online (in written form) about teaching writing skills in the LINCS’ “English Acquisition” Discussion Group.

LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System) is a division of the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to discussion groups, it contains many resources for teachers.

Each day of the week, the interview was focus on a different aspect about teaching writing to ESOL students, including how to motivate students and how to provide meaningful feedback.

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• In-Class Essays: More Important Than Ever

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

As I was reading Elio’s two-page essay, I was amazed at how good it was. In fact, it seemed too good, way better than anything he had ever written.  Although I was sure someone else had written it or had given him extensive help with it, or it had been downloaded from the internet, I couldn’t prove it. When I mentioned to him that it was so different from his previous papers, he just smiled and said that he had worked very hard on it over the past two weeks.

It would be a travesty to pass a student like Elio based on his out-of-class essays (OCEs). From reading most of his assignments, I was confident that he did not yet have the skills to be successful in academic classes, especially English Comp. Also, our higher-level ESL courses would lose all credibility in the eyes of the campus if unprepared ELL students were being allowed to take their courses.

According to research, because of the ease with which all students (not only ELLs) are able to download essays and plagiarize, more and more academic instructors are basing a large percent of their students’ grades on their performance on in-class papers written under a time limit. Thus, instructors have recommended that we include in-class essays (ICEs) in our ESL courses.

Reasonable expectations for in-class essays.

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