Category Archives: *For Those New to Teaching ESL

• The Writing Workshop: Countless Benefits for ESL Students and Teachers

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This posting includes sample lessons of a Writing Workshop that give students a lot of autonomy.*

This posting is an update of my February 1, 2019 post:  Most Important Motivator of Students: How You Can Do It

Since posting this back in 2019, I’ve heard from teachers who decided to try out a Writing Workshop with their ESL Writing classes even though they were skeptical at first. Their hesitation seemed to be doubtful that their students would actually be productive without more direct teacher control. However, they reported that their initial skepticism was quickly dispelled after seeing the same great benefits that I had described in the post below. Almost all of them stated that they couldn’t imagine teaching a Writing class in any other way in the future.

Here is that posting.

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• Memorizing: Not the Optimal Approach to Learning ESL

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

This posting is an update of a post from September 2019: Mistake: He surprised to see it snowing. (Adjectives that look like verbs)

Back in my high school days, learning my first foreign language, French, I remember often hearing the teacher say, “You’ll just need to memorize this.”

Fortunately, the art of teaching foreign languages, including ESL, has come a long way from those “just memorizing” days. We understand the importance of comprehensible input and the effectiveness of engaging with new concepts and vocabulary in multiple contexts.

To illustrate this, I’d like to refer to a posting from 2019, in which I discussed a common mistake that ESL students make with adjectives that look like verbs. Instead of telling students that they need to memorize these words, we lead them to internalizing these though a series of four exercises. By the end of these, students tend to remember because the words“sound” right rather than wracking their brains searching for what they had been told.

When students see an –ed at the end of a word, they tend to automatically assume it’s a verb, and this assumption can lead them to grammar mistakes.

(* mistakes—These sentences are missing a verb.)
*Kai embarrassed during his speech.
* Rumi interested in horses.

To help students in the most efficient manner, I will sometimes paint with a broad brush.  So I simply tell my students that these words are adjectives: surprised, embarrassed, confused, interested and shocked. They need a verb with them.

(correct): Kai was (v) embarrassed (adj) during his speech.

Avoiding unnecessarily complicated information

It’s true that those words can be can be used as verbs, for example:
– It embarrassed (v)  Kai that he forgot some of his speech.

But in all my years of teaching writing, I rarely see students use them that way. They almost always use them as adjectives, so I don’t waste their time/mental energy talking to them about using these as verbs. Instead, I just generalize and tell them that they are adjectives.

Four-step exercises to teach these to students (Handout included.)

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• Recommended Treasure Chest for Writing Your Own ESL Materials

Treasure Cover shot

I wanted to encourage my Writing students to include information from their own country to support their ideas in their essays. If done well, this kind of information can be very enthralling for anyone who reads their papers. (See • The Huge Advantage International Student Writers Have Over Their American Classmates )

The problem was that, when they tried to do this, the information was often too general, which made it sound kind of trite. So, I decided to write an exercise in which they would see how effective detailed information could be.

For the exercise, I wanted to juxtapose weak short paragraphs with few details to strong ones with more , and then have students identify each type. The challenge for me was to come up with stimulating content for these short paragraphs.

Fortunately, I had a treasure chest filled with interesting content that I could draw from. And as I’ll demonstrate below, this treasure chest has been my go-to place when writing materials for all the other skills too.

Here is what is in my treasure chest.

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• How We Can Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Our ESL Students. Specific Examples. (Part 2)

REV Cover Intrinsic Pt 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, it is possible for our ESL students to be intrinsically motivated to learn English.  And there are ways that we can help them develop this. I discussed the first two recommendations based on research: 1) Give Students Autonomy and 2) Explain the Purpose of the Assignment.. Here, in Part 2, I explain the other three recommendations along with specific examples.

 According to research, how we can promote intrinsic motivation.

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