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:
Feeling shy in social situations
Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?
To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.
This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:
Studying about the reasons for cultural differences
This post may sound like I am contradicting a previous post of March 13th, “Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills” Despite my support for segregated skills in general, an integrated skills course with higher-level students who are more homogeneous in ability can be effective and practical.
For an integrated skills 1 course to be effective and engaging to the students, the subject should be something which is inherently appealing to the majority of the students. After all, the students will be spending the course time reading, writing, and talking about the subject.
One subject which has been enthusiastically received by both students and instructors is culture, and more specifically, differences in cultures and the reason for these differences.
Some examples of these are:
-Why are people in western cultures more likely than people from eastern cultures to smile at a stranger standing at a bus stop than?
-In a study of 4-year-olds, why did the Asian children spontaneously share their candy with another child but the American children only reluctantly share when asked.
After the first day of the term a few years ago, I noticed a long line of students outside our Academic ESL (English for Academic Purposes—EAP) director’s office. It was my first day teaching in this program, so, needless to say, I was curious. It turns out these students all felt that they were not in the right level.
I soon discovered that this was a common occurrence on the first day of each term. During that first term for me, we made a change to the format of the courses. After that, students rarely complained about being in the wrong level. And students’ skills improved substantially. Here is what we did.