Getting Back Up with ESL Paperwork: Effective Solution

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There seems to be certain times during a term when we can feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork coming in. During those times, it makes sense to establish some priorities concerning how we approach “marking” the various assignments.

It’s sometimes tempting to rationalize not giving any feedback on or returning some homework assignments by thinking that there are intrinsic benefits for students to just do the exercises. We say to ourselves that it’s not absolutely vital that they get them back quickly (or even, in some cases, ever). Thus, we might consider doing a “triage” with assignments. Essays might get top priority for our time and attention with “lesser” assignments just filed away or held off until sometime in the future when we are all caught up.

Surprisingly, this feeling of being overwhelmed can actually open up a motivation to respond to homework assignments in a way that is more effective than how we would “normally” do it when we have plenty of time.

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• Effective Two-Way Tasks at Higher as Well as Lower and Intermediate Levels

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

This posting is an updated version of a post from Feb. 2, 2017: Conversation class: Necessary ingredients for successful pair work (from research)

Early in my career, I became a big fan of two-way tasks in my lower- and intermediate-level Conversation classes.

After several terms of teaching those levels, I was assigned to teach an Advanced Discussion class for the first time. In keeping with the spirit of student-centered teaching, I (as the teacher) wanted to avoid being the one to lead the discussions, so I put students in groups with a list of questions to discuss. However, I soon realized that some students were sitting passively and others tended to monolog.

Then I had an epiphany. By applying the two-way task principle to discussions, I could assure that every student would be equally active.

Basically, each student in a group is given different information. For discussions, every group has a Student A, B and C (and sometimes D and E) and the discussion questions are divided among them. Just as in a two-way task activity, this requires every group member to be involved in asking the questions, in active listening and responding.

For sample activities of how a variation of the two-way-task format can be applied to discussion, see *ESL Discussions: Free Small-Group Discussion Units

We can also use this format to help Advanced-level student develop discussion skills such as:

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• 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 4: What are some ways that we can include interactive activities in ESOL Writing class?  

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

This posting is a more detailed response to my interview question on Day 4 LINCS Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching Writing Skills. .

Below in blue, you’ll find the details that I’ve added to the Day 4 LINCS’ posting.

I have some interactive activities that I include during each writing unit.

They do give variety to a writing class, but more importantly, they are effective in helping students develop their writing and editing skills.

1) Writer-in-control peer editing. Type 1: Writers prepare questions.

In traditional peer-editing activities, the students read a classmate’s essay and give feedback by filling out a teacher-provided questionnaire, rubric or checklist. (For example, “Is the topic sentence clear?” “Are the verb tenses correct?”)

For this non-traditional approach below, the writers have control over the type of feedback they want. Here are the steps:

Step 1: (A model) Sample essay and peer editing questions. In order to demonstrate to students how they will peer-edit with a classmate and the type of questions that they can ask, they work with a model essay with peer editing questions that the “writer” has asked.
(See link to a model exercise below.) After working with a sample, they then apply this technique to their own essays, starting with the Preparation Step.

Step 2: Preparing for Peer Editor. After students have written their essays, they identify specific parts of it in which they’d like a peer’s advice.  These could be about the grammar in some sentences, clarification of an example, a need to add details etc. On a separate piece of paper, they write questions about these parts that they will ask a peer-editor. For example, “Look where I wrote #1. Is my example clear?” “Look where I have #4. Is there a problem with this sentence?” “Look at #8. How can I improve my conclusion?”

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