Tag Archives: engaging students

• Quick and User-Friendly Technique to Teach Summarize Skills of a Reading Passage

Cover EZ summarizing

The teacher was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He was assigned a Reading course in which summarizing was one of the goals. Where to start? A colleague suggested a rather arduous process of having students identifying and clarifying the topic of the passage. This would be followed by techniques for finding the most important point the author was making for each paragraph. Then they would practice how to identify supporting points.  They would practice recognizing key word and practice paraphrasing those. And on and on.

All those steps above are totally unnecessary.

The easy summarizing-skill technique

Here is the basis for this technique: We always have a reason for summarizing specific information from an article. (In real life, and even mainstream academic courses, are we ever asked to just summarize everything in an article?)

Examples of the technique

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• If You Want To Really Motivate Your ESL Students, This Will Do It.

Cover Motivation Purpose Shot

One problem for ESL teachers is that we can become complacent and start to take shortcuts. One day, part way through my career, I realized that this was happening to me.

I was teaching a TESL methods course to American university students who wanted to teach ESL. During one class, a student asked me what to do if some students aren’t doing the assignments or not doing them seriously. I told them that the most important motivator is to always introduce an assignment with an explanation of its purpose is and how this assignment will help them in the short-  or long-term future.  WAIT! I suddenly realized that I had become lax in doing that in my own ESL classes.

For a dozen years, I had had the good fortune of teaching at colleges in Asia. For the most part, the students there were diligent about doing whatever I assigned without question. I soon fell in the habit of just tell them what the assignment was when I introduced it.

For example, in a Writing class, I might say, “We are going to do some practice with dramatic introductions. Look at pages 17-19. There are eight introductions. Two of them are dramatic. After you read each, you will identify which are dramatic.”

Or for a grammar exercise, I might say, “We are going to practice the most common places to use commas in sentence. Look at page 194. Let’s do the first exercise together.”

Or for a conversation activity, I would say, “Today, you will work with a partner and give directions to each other to find places on a map.”

Explaining the big picture purpose of an exercise: how it will help them in future.

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• Engaging Student-Centered Classification Writing Unit Using Inductive Approach

WAI Cover shot

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

Teachers, if you prefer to be the center of attention during a lesson, THIS UNIT IS NOT FOR YOU. But if you to play the role of a coach, setting up the lesson, briefly explaining the exercises and stepping aside to let students engage in assignments allowing you more time to work individually with each student, THIS UNIT IS FOR YOU.

YouTube In this YouTube video Engaging, Student-Centered ESL Writing Unit Using Inductive Approach , I describe the unit exercises

  • which use an inductive approach,
  • the rationale for each one,
  • how they engage students,
  • how they lead students to write a four to five paragraph essay with a variety of details.

After you watch the video, you’ll be all set to download the unit for free and use it with your students.

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• Helping Our Students Who Feel Invisible

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In the documentary, Becoming, about Michele Obama, Michele is asked about feeling invisible. Her description made me think more about how many of our ESL/International students probably feel invisible in classes, on campus and in society, and how we can help them.

My personal experiences with feeling invisible are quite trivial compared to what some of our students experience, but a recent episodes gave me a bit of a taste of how it feels.

I was talking to a colleague (we’ll say his name was Ben) outside the library when a young woman whom I didn’t know walked up to us with a smile on her face. The two of them obviously knew each other and started talking animatedly, without Ben introducing us. After a couple of minutes, they walked off together across campus.

That experience had little effect on me other than feeling a tad off balance or slightly irritated momentarily. But for International and minority students, being treated as invisible can be quite disheartening.

One young man described it this way, “The problem is that to many people, I am simply invisible. Nobody says ‘hello’ to me. Nobody nods to me. Nobody recognizes me as a person with something to say. Nobody listens to me. People make assumptions about me on the basis of my color and where I come from…But I am a person and have something to say — both as an individual and on the basis of my distinctive experience.”

In our classrooms, we can see the students who are probably feeling invisible. They are the ones who are not greeted by others who look past them and start talking to more familiar friends. Or the ones overlooked when their classmates are told to find a partner for an activity. Or the ones who sit silently seemingly unnoticed in group discussions.

How to help our ESL students feel visible.

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