Tag Archives: handouts

Most Stimulating and Engaging but Often Over-Looked Essay Mode

Definition Essay Korean

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

A frequent type comment by teachers, “I always look forward to reading these essays.  They often give me new insights into my students and their cultures.”

A frequent type comment by students, “When I heard that we would write a complete essay about one word, I thought it would be impossible.  But after I chose a good word, I really enjoyed writing this.”

Another frequent type comment by students, “This was the most challenging essay for me, but in the end, it was the most rewarding.”

Many ESL Writing books and instructors overlook this essay mode because they don’t realize its secret potential.  It’s the Definition Essay.  The potential lies in the type of words that the students write about.

Traditional Definition essays can be very unstimulating for the students to write and for the teachers to read.  There are two major reasons for this:

(1) The category of topics from which to choose provides little opportunity for ESL students to feel truly invested in it.
(2) The students are given few specific or poorly designed techniques which they can use.

The Dynamic Definition Essay: Category of Topics and Specific Techniques

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Free Reading Unit.  Science of Shopping

Excerpt

1 Sixty-five percent of men who take jeans into a fitting room of a store will buy them, but only 25% of women will do that.

2 Four percent of people shopping for computers on a Saturday morning will buy one, compared to 21% who will buy one after 5 p.m.

3 Eight percent of shoppers in a store that sells houseware use shopping baskets.  Also, 75% of the people who use a basket will, in fact, buy something, as opposed to 34% of the shoppers who don’t use a basket.

4 Information about customers’ shopping patterns like those that are described above can help store owners make decisions that improve the sales in their stores.

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

See  Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction)for an introduction to these reading units.

Article & Study Guide for  Science of Shopping (and excerpts)

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Personalized Vocabulary Exercise

  • What is the incentive that makes you study hard in school?
  • Who do you think had the greatest impact on what you like to do: your mother, father, a relative, a friend, or a teacher?
  • In this class, is there someone who has a distinct characteristic, for example, a way of talking, a hairstyle, a tattoo, a type of clothing, or a habit? Explain.
  • Think about your life. Tell about a time when your life seemed unstable.
  • Let’s say that you are a parent. What rule do you think that you would impose on your teenage children?
  • Name a person whom you know that has an expertise in something? __________ What does that person have an expertise in?

Which of these two sentences below would be more fun for you to answer?

1) What is one significant event that happened in the world this past year?

2) What is one significant event that happened to you this past year?

Which of those two sentences would be more fun for you to hear your friend answer?

Which of those two sentences would be more likely to help you internalize the word “significant”?

It seems that the second one tends to be much more stimulating for students to answer.  And, on top of that, it seems be the type of question which will help students retain the meaning of the word.

A few years ago, I started to add an additional vocabulary exercise titled “Applied Vocabulary” to the more traditional ones that I was assigning my students.  In this, each new vocabulary word is embedded in a personal question about the students’ lives and experiences.  For example:

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Innovative Approach to Writing: Introduce a new Unit with a Listening Activity

Best Friend Surprised Image

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

It can seem like our students have about a 20-second attention span.  So we try to squeeze in introductions to new Writing units during that period of time before they start thinking about text messages, their lunch, tonight’s date, last night’s date …

There is an effective and stimulating method for getting students to immediately interact with a new Writing unit through a listening activity.  We want them to feel engaged as they focus on the format and techniques that they will use when they eventually write an essay in this mode.  This approach does it in a user-friendly, enjoyable way.  Also, a side benefit is that students internalize some new sentence styles and new vocabulary.

First example of this approach

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Grammar point: “Before going to sleep, I always check under my bed for monsters.”  What is “going”?

Questions

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

One of the most common grammar questions I’ve been asked by students or tutors whom I’ve trained or new teachers whom I’ve mentored concerns sentences like:

“While eating our dinner, we enjoyed the sunset.” [Subordinator (While) + Verb-ing (eating).]

Question: Grammatically speaking, what is “eating”?

It’s called a reduced form.  The writer is reducing an adverb clause to a phrase.
Original sentence: While we were eating our dinner, we enjoyed the sunset.
      Reduced form: While eating our dinner, we enjoyed the sunset.

We can use these with subordinators like before, after, while and since.

This phrase can come at the beginning of a sentence as in the example above and in the title of this post or in the middle of a sentence:
     She bumped into a chair while she was looking at her smartphone.
      She bumped into a chair while looking at her smartphone.

Two points that students need to know

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Customized Speaking/Listening “Game” (Actually, more than just a game.)

Three classmates are playing the game.

Vy: Here are the names of four classmates.  Which one is special? Julie,  Mai,  Saura, Thi.
Katya: Could you repeat that again?
Vy: Sure. Julie,  Mai,  Saura, Thi.

Alessa: I know.  Julie is special.
Vy: OK.  Why?
Alessa: Because she is not Asian, but the other three are.
Vy:  That’s right!  But there is another one.
Katya:  Let me see.  Oh, I got it.  Thi is special.  She is the only one who knows how to drive.
(Everyone laughs.)
Vy: You got it.
Danica: I know another one.  Saura is special.

Katya: Really?  How come?
Danica: She is the only one who finished her homework for today.

(Eruption of laughter.)
Vy: Now it’s your turn, Alessa.

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

While the students were in engaged in this activity in triads, I was standing on the perimeter.  I could overhear the list that Vy read, but couldn’t think of anything special about the four names except the obvious one that Julie was the only non-Asian.  A minute later, I heard the sudden explosion of laughter and talking from them.  I realized that they had shared an inside joke.

The basis of this game (Odd Man Out) might sound familiar to many of you.  But by exploiting it more, it turns into a great interactive activity that is not only fun but also a chance to internalize many useful expressions and produce a lot of conversation.  And students are intent on listening to each other.

In its simplest format, student read a list of four words to their partners.  The partners have to choose which word is strange or odd or special and explain why.  For example:
cat, lion, dog, fish

Most of us would probably identify “fish” as being odd because it is the only one that lives in water.  However, another choice could be “lion,” since the others are common pets.

Making this a good learning tool and customizing it

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Free Reading Unit.  Reading for Insight: The Candy Test: Controlling Impulses

Excerpt from the article

1 A little, 4-year-old boy is alone in a room sitting at a table staring at a piece of candy.  He has to make a decision.  If he can wait until his teacher returns in a few minutes, she will give him two pieces of candy.  But if he can’t wait and decides to eat the piece that is in front of him, he won’t get a second piece when she returns.  Amazingly, what he decides to do (eat the one piece now or wait and get a second one in a few minutes) can help us predict the type of grades he will get in high school, whether or not he will graduate from college, what his health will be like when he is an adult, and whether or not he’ll get a divorce in the future.

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

See Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction)  for an introduction to these reading units.

Study Guide, Reflection & Vocabulary  for The Candy Test: Controlling Impulses (and excerpts)

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