Sometimes I get the feeling that some of my ESL students (including advanced ones) believe that there are a limited number of “who” and “which” out there, and they are afraid of using them all up before they die.
The problem happens when students are trying to write more advanced styles with a dependent and independent clause in a sentence.
Mistake: The people are walking their dogs should keep them on a leash.
Correction: The people WHO are walking their dogs should keep them on a leash.
Mistake: I try to give money to charities help homeless people.
Correction: I try to give money to charities WHICH help homeless people. *
I’ve also notice that this mistake often happens when students start a sentence with “there”.
Mistake: There was an accident happened near my house.
Correction: There was an accident WHICH happened near my house. *
* We could substitute the word THAT for WHICH in these sentences.
Solution: Helping students with this. (Handout included.)
A former ESL student of mine, Teddy, came to my office for a chat. I asked him how his classes were going, and he showed me the mid-term exam grade from his intermediate-level speaking class that his teacher had just given him. I asked him how he felt about it. He said that he was feeling discouraged because he really tries to be active in conversation, not only telling his ideas and opinions but also responding to and including other. So he felt that he deserved a much better score than a 72%, which was a failing grade.
Then I asked him, from looking at this grade form, what he thinks he’ll need to do to improve his grade.
He felt confident that he could ask more questions and try to respond to others more with rejoinders.
But about the pronunciation and grammar grades, he said that he wasn’t sure.
He imagined that he might have some problems with “L” and “R” sounds. And he thought that the grammar score was low because he always makes mistakes with prepositions. So he planned to think more carefully about those when talking.
The problem and the fix
This posting is directed specifically to teachers in these categories:
- You have experience teaching ESL Writing, but you have been assigned to teach a new level.
- You have just been hired to teach in an ESL program and are assigned a Writing class.
- You have been teaching an ESL Writing class for a few terms, but this term you have some students who have “unusual” writing characteristics.
Imagine that it’s the third week of the term. You just picked up your students’ first writing sample (e.g. a paragraph or essay) and are starting to mark/evaluate them. (See Most Effective Technique for Marking Grammar on Essays to Develop Self-Editing Skills)
You start with Adey’s essay and soon some questions come to your mind:
Next, you read Naomi’s essay and wonder about this:
- She uses complex sentences, but sometimes her grammar breaks down, especially word forms. Would these kinds of mistakes disqualify her from passing to the next level? How “perfect” must a students’ grammar be to pass?
Another student, Dante had this characteristic:
- His ideas seemed quite simplistic; he doesn’t develop them with enough details. What is the expectation for students passing to the next level concerning idea development?
Help is on the way!
(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your colleagues.)
At first, all the teachers wanted to administer the oral test for placing students into one of the four levels of conversation classes. But that enthusiasm waned once they discovered what this commercially-made placement test would entail.
Two major problems with many speaking placement tests (commercial and in-house)
1) The testing process in labor intensive. The scoring rubrics are onerous, ineffective and require time-consuming training.
2) Rather than just focusing on the skills being developed in speaking/conversation classes, the interviewers have to evaluate several peripheral aspects of speaking at the same time.
A Speaking Placement-Testing Process That Addresses Those Problems.