Tag Archives: engaging students

The Most Effective Classroom Organization for Reading Skills Development

Reading book

Here is what seems to be some well-kept secrets about reading classes.  The teacher doesn’t have to be the center of attention.  The teacher doesn’t have to “act” like a teacher, standing up front talking.

And most of all, students will not be bored or waste time if they are reading individually during class.

What students need from the reading teacher is someone who can help each individual student develop their reading comprehension skills.  A student doesn’t need to listen to a teacher explain to the class parts of a passage he/she already understands but that a classmate doesn’t.

Students can get the maximum benefits from a reading class and from a reading teacher through a reading workshop.  This workshop approach has proven effective at all levels and with students from over 40 countries.

One of the greatest advantages is that each student’s individual needs are addressed by the teacher during the class.  Another advantage is that students are working on reading by actually reading.  Also, they don’t have to wait for classmates to finish reading a passage or feel pressure to read faster to keep up with them.

Here is how a Reading Workshop can be effectively organized.

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Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2)

Akiyo Noguchi and Anna Stöhr during the semifinals at the IFSC Boulder Worldcup Vienna 2010

Listen and summarize

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

Most of us have had experience like this with an ESL student: Someone is talking for a half a minute or more, and the student is just looking at the person.  When the person stops, the student just nods his/her head.  The speaker isn’t sure if the student really understood. 

There is a technique which students, both the listener and speaker, can uses in conversations to avoid that type of situation.

The technique expands on the one introduced in Part 1. Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1) Instead of asking a clarification after each paragraph, in this one, the listener summarizes in one sentence what s/he thinks was said.

By doing this, the speaker is able to feel confident that s/he is being understood correctly and the listener can confirm his/her understanding.

Just as with the technique introduced in Part 1, after students have used the two attached handout-activities, they usually find the technique to be a “tool” that they can use not only in group discussions but also when interacting with teachers and others outside the classroom.

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Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (2nd  Technique: Volunteering to Answer)

Volunteer answer

(This posting includes an attached teacher’s script which you are welcome to use.)

As mentioned in the previous posting “1st Technique: Responding to others,” Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)  whole-class discussions can be an alien concept to some students.   This is the second technique.

International students in Western-style classes often feel ignored during whole-class discussions if the instructor doesn’t directly call on them.  In some of the classes, instructors expect students to freely offer their comments or ask question.  Also, some hesitate to call on International students because they think those students might feel uncomfortable speaking to the whole class.

This technique, Volunteering an Answer, is very effective in helping even passive students involved in whole-class discussion, and in the process, impressing their instructors.

To help you students become comfortable with this technique, you can use the attached script, which I’ll explain about below.  (Notice: for this technique, there is no handout for the student, just a teacher’s script.) Script Whole class Technique 2 Volunteering to answer

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Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)

Discussion responding

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

During a whole-class discussion, one of the students, Santos, made a comment.

Then Mai said, “I’d like to ask Santos a question …”

Then Lan gave her opinion, and Camilo replied, “Lan said something very interesting …

These students were employing a discussion technique “Responding to Others,” which had taken just 10 minutes for them to pick up.

The concept of whole-class discussions can be an alien one to students from non-Western countries. Students are told that participation in class discussions is expected in Western academic settings and that if they are active participants, it can affect their grade in a positive way. Nevertheless, these students don’t know what “active participation” means, other than to state one’s opinion.  For instructors preparing students for mainstream, academic coursework, the techniques introduced in these next postings could help students develop five specific techniques that they can apply to be active.  

                                  Five Techniques
Responding to another student’s comment
Volunteering an answer
Redirecting a question when you don’t know what to say
Reporting what someone else has said
Summarizing what other group members have said

An additional benefit to those students who employ these is that their classmates will feel good about them and future instructors will be impressed.  For research about this, see  Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

The first technique and handout is explained below:

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Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions


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

This could be one of the most useful researched-backed techniques that your students can learn.  If they want to make a positive impression on others during a conversation, they should ask a lot of questions, especially a lot of follow-up questions.

Karen Huang and her research team at the Harvard Business School analyzed more than 300 online and face-to-face conversations between people getting to know each other.  In one study, participants engaged in a 15-minute conversation with a randomly assigned person.  Some of the participants were told to ask many questions (at least nine) and others were told to ask few questions (less than four).  After the conversations ended, the participants told the researchers how much they liked their conversation partner.  The results showed that the people who asked more follow-up questions were considered more likeable.

A second study and activity for students continues below.

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Most Effective Technique for Marking Grammar on Essays to Develop Self-Editing Skills

editing with codes

Learning to be a self-editor

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

Some student’s reactions to this technique that teachers use to mark their assignments:

“I like this technique because it helps me apply what I learn to future writing.”
“This technique makes correcting essays like a puzzle.  It’s actually fun.”
“I’m not stressed when I see red marks.  I know that it’s going to be an interesting challenge.”

Because this technique gives students a chance to discover their grammar errors, we have found students have greatly improved their self-editing skills.  And self-editing skills will be of great value to them as move beyond ESL courses.

Here is a description of the technique along with a handout exercise that will introduce students to it.

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Give the Writer not the Editor Control during Peer Editing in Writing Class

Writer peer editor

Writer has control during peer editing

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

After a peer-editing session, a student said, “My peer editor was kind of rude.  He was too critical and told me to change my grammar in places that were not wrong.  He also told me to change my thesis statement.  But I think I already had a good one.”

Another students said, “My peer editor read my essay and filled out the checklist.  She said she found nothing that needed to be improved.  I was surprised because I think some parts were weak.”

There is a peer-editing process which can alleviate the problem of the over-critical editor and under-involved one.  In this process, the peer-editor is NOT expected to find places to improve; instead the writer solicits specific advice.  In other words, the writer has control.

The peer editing activity below involves critical thinking on the part of the writer.  Unlike the common peer-editing format of the instructor providing questions /checklists for the peer to complete while reading their partner’s essay, in the approach described below, the writers themselves decide what advice/help they would like from their peers.

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