Exploring a Local Community Through Writing: Examples of Writing Assignments

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

In my June blog, I described several writing projects that teachers can implement to help students become familiar with their local academic environment (campus, institution, or program). In this post, I will expand the list of writing tasks aimed at helping students socialize in their local communities by adding writing assignments that will give students a chance to become involved in their local social environment (i.e., city or town). Continue reading

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Exploring Campus Through Writing: Examples of Writing Assignments

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

In my April blog, I shared an activity that can help students explore their campus environment through a writing project. Today I’d like to describe other ideas teachers can implement in a writing course to help students socialize in their academic community.

(1) Students can interview an expert on any topic that interests them and write an interview report. For example, if they are concerned about the lack of academic support for international students on campus, they may interview a staff member of the writing center or someone from the office of academic success. Or if students would like to know more about scholarships, grants, and other types of financial assistance, they may want to talk to someone in the financial aid office. If they would like to be more informed about health insurance and public healthcare for international students, they can interview an insurance specialist from student health services. Options are limitless, and it all comes down to students’ choice of the topic.

(2) Students can attend (and/or participate in) an event on campus and report on their experience in a written form. Depending on their interests, preferences, and availability, they can choose from a range of events and activities organized by the university or their program. It can be an academic (e.g., lectures, workshops), social and cultural (i.e., fair, festival, concert or another performance, holiday celebrations), or recreational (e.g., athletic competition, game) event. Encourage students to look for flyers on campus, check their email for the announcements of upcoming events, and look up the university event calendar.

(3) Students can write an analysis of university programs that (choose one)

  • help students have a rich social life on campus
  • help students succeed academically and prepare for their future professional careers
  • help students stay physically healthy and experience a rich sports culture on campus
  • assist students with their special needs, problems, and concerns. In this writing project, students will practice their critical thinking and the skill of developing a strong argument.

(4) Students can write a critical response to an article in a local university newspaper, newsletter, or magazine.

(5) Students can analyze (in a written form) an article in a local university newspaper, newsletter, or magazine.

(6) Students can write a report on services and resources that the local university provides to support students of diverse backgrounds (choose one):

  • students from low-income backgrounds
  • students with family responsibilities
  • students representing different ethnic groups and races, religions, and genders

(7) In a local newspaper, newsletter, or magazine, find a recent story or an incident that happened on campus and ask students to respond to this event describing how they would act in a similar situation. In this assignment, students will practice their critical thinking and the skill of expressing their opinion.

(8) Students can also locate a problem or an issue that—from their perspective—exists on campus and write a paper proposing a solution (or several solutions) to this problem.

(9) Students can visit several classrooms on campus (in different buildings) and write a paper describing the best classroom they visited—i.e., comparing it with the other classrooms they saw and explaining why the classroom they selected can be considered the best physical environment for learning.

(10) Students can write a response to the following prompt:Imagine that you are an administrator at this university and you know that it’s challenging for international students to fit in on campus. How would you use campus resources to support these students?

(11) Students can interview a local student about student-professor relationships (e.g., things students should expect from their professors and vice versa, communicating with professors outside of the class through email and office hours) and write a short report on their findings.

(12) In a similar fashion, students interview a local student about study skills (e.g., skills for effective studying; resources students can use at the university; planning, schedules, and organizing work; and effective methods of preparing for exams) and write a short report on their findings.

As you can see, there are numerous opportunities for students to explore their academic environment—campus, program, or institution—through writing tasks and projects. If you have other ideas about how to help students better integrate into their academic community through writing assignments, please feel free to share.

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Teachers as Learning Partners: Implementing TESOL’s Principle 6

Linda New Levine
Linda New Levine

Editor’s Note:  TESOL International Association has defined a core set of principles for the exemplary teaching and learning of English as a new language. The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners are foundational, universal guidelines drawn from decades of research. They are for all educators who work with English learners, and should undergird any program of English language instruction.

In this post, Linda New Levine, a member of The 6 Principles writing team, discusses how teachers can implement Principle 6: Engage and Collaborate Within a Community of Practice. Visit www.the6principles.org to learn more about The 6 Principles. Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Jennifer Speier

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In the 44th ESP project leader profile, we learn more about one of the TESOL ESPIS leaders, the secretary and archivist, Jennifer Speier. When I spoke with Jennifer at the annual convention in Chicago in March 2018, I learned that she was multilingual and doing ESP work in Mexico, and I was especially pleased that she agreed to share her experience as an ESP project leader in this profile. Continue reading

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English Language Learners in University Classrooms: Practical Resources for Faculty

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

As language specialists, we may be asked by colleagues from other departments how to better help international students (for the purpose of this blog, I will equate this term with English language learners) in college classrooms. Lots of resources are available out there—both print and online—that aim to raise university professors’ awareness of how to help these students succeed academically. In this blog post, I’ll list a few resources that may be helpful to university instructors who are not trained to work with English language learners. While I included several books and academic journals for those who’d like to dig deeper, most of the resources below describe practical suggestions and recommendations for university faculty. Continue reading

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