5 Ways to Make the Most of Written Feedback

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Do you remember getting papers back from your English or composition teachers that were covered in red ink? Did you take the time to decode each individual marking, consider every error, and diligently redraft your paper until it was flawless? Really? You did? Because I remember scanning for my grade, then fixing the mistakes marked by symbols as disinterestedly as if they were math problems—but only when revisions were required. The most frustrating part was that I made mistakes when I knew the correct rule, but somehow I just tapped the wrong key or picked the wrong word.

Many years later, I tried writing a narrative in Chinese characters. My teacher understood what I wanted to say, which gave me a sense of accomplishment, but once again I got a piece of paper returned with many red marks. Even though my teacher took the time to go over each correction with me, I felt so overwhelmed that I was hesitant to try writing anything in Chinese characters again. Continue reading

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Tech-Break: Move It

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

It has been quite a while since the last tech-break, so I think we are due for another one. In case you have forgotten them, tech-breaks are posts about fun and engaging tech-less activities for the language learning classroom. Some of the previous ones have covered running dictations, battleship, and slash reading.

Today’s tech-break, Move It, is for all levels and comes courtesy of my colleague, Rebecca Palmer, who was kind enough to write a post about independent online reading practice as a guest writer not too long ago. Becky introduced me to Move It just the other day while we were preparing a conference presentation, and I cannot wait to try it with my students.

The purpose of Move It is to check true/false or multiple-choice questions in a way that encourages a higher level of engagement and involvement than more traditional methods. In fact, Move It, as the name suggests, actually requires students to physically move around the classroom, which reminded me of TPR. Continue reading

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A Call for Rigor in Adult Ed

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

Last Saturday I took part in a welcome new addition to the conference circuit: Meeting Challenges, Exploring Solutions in the Adult ESL Classroom, presented by The New School and the Literacy Assistance Center. Set amid East Village foliage, catered with New York bagels like only New York can make New York bagels, intermingled with music by the Mannes School, and packed full of relevant sessions, it was a Saturday well spent.

The plenary was delivered by Betsy Parrish, author of Teaching Adult ESL, and at the heart of her address was a call for rigor in adult ESL. Taken on its own, such an appeal seems uncontroversial and even commonsense. But at a time when so many are so vocally railing against the new standards we find ourselves grappling with, for Parrish to make this case becomes something of a statement. But hers is a statement grounded in reason and research. Continue reading

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Teaching Young ELs to Blog: 4 FAQs

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

Blogging provides elementary-age ELs the opportunity to practice writing across the curriculum. Even beginning ELs can produce text to publish a blog.  Many teachers blog with students as young as first grade. Here are four questions that I am frequently asked about teaching young ELs to write.

1) What are the benefits of blogging with my English learners? Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: David Kertzner

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this TESOL Blog post, you will read the ESP project leader profile of David Kertzner. David’s company, ProActive English, offers on-site business English and communication training. Outside of his company, David has been active in the TESOL ESP Interest Section, where he has held leadership positions as the ESPIS chair, English in occupational settings representative, and editor of ESP News. (On a personal note, when David was chair, I was chair-elect, so David has also had the leadership role of mentoring me.) As I have written in a previous TESOL Blog post about David, I expect to learn something when he speaks. Accordingly, I was pleased to be able to read his profile below in which he defines leadership and shares a story about providing workplace language training to participants from multiple language groups. Continue reading

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Tap Into Funds of Knowledge

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl

A question popped up in one of my classes last week about cultural accommodation: “Dr. L, how much should we acknowledge or accommodate our students’ cultures in our classroom or school? How do ELLs learn to function in the new culture if they’re constantly living in the old one?”

This must be on the minds of many teachers, because I came across two different studies via Education Week: one about how prior school experience is one of the largest predictors of the success that refugees will (or will not) encounter in a school setting, and the other about how important it is that teachers adapt to the culture of their newcomer students. Fellow TESOL blogger Nathan Hall also provided some ideas for helping ELL students acculturate to a new context, as well. While not every ELL is a refugee or a newcomer, both of these studies and Nathan’s blog support the answer that I gave in class, which supported the necessity of including culture in the language classroom for both students and teachers. For TESOL teacher educators, though, I think there is one more step that teachers should take, and that is to go so far as to integrate students’ culture and background knowledge into your instruction to be more effective. Continue reading

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3 WebQuests to Engage Your ELLs With Content!

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok

Tired of fighting against the current? Students love their phones and want to engage in online activity, so why not put those cellphones to good use? WebQuests have proven to be highly effective to:

  • Engage students with content
  • Improve reading comprehension
  • Improve reading skills, such as skimming and scanning
  • Develop information-literacy skills
  • Develop computer-literacy skills
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Develop ability to work in teams

Continue reading

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Google Docs for Collaborative Writing Activities

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Last week, I was preparing a lesson plan for my composition class on how to write a research report. I found a nice description on how to organize and write a research report in one of the textbooks on technical communication that I have been using for my class. I thought I would simply introduce these guidelines to my students and have them analyze a sample research report based on these guidelines.

I found an absolutely incredible example of a research report online, which was clearly written and well organized and which followed the APA conventions (the citation style that I am using for documenting sources in my class). However, although this report was great, its organization and content did not exactly match the guidelines I found in the textbook. Because I really wanted to use that report as a good example, I decided to write a set of guidelines myself and present the report as an illustration. And then I thought: How about we write the guidelines together, as a class? Continue reading

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The Reasons for the Seasons: Making Holiday Activities for ELLS

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

When I was a student, I planned my months around the holidays. The abbreviated weeks were much needed breaks from the classroom routine and milestones towards summer vacations. I’d like to say I used that extra time to do some homework, but honestly the only thing I caught up on was sleep.

As a teacher, I still plan my months around holidays. Now, though, I use these to think about how to design lessons to make the classroom routine less boring. Many ELLs are either unfamiliar with American holidays or accustomed to seeing them practiced in different ways, which makes each one a potential teachable occasion. Continue reading

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Graffiti Grammar: A Four Skills Activity

Alexandra Lowe
Alexandra Lowe

I recently read that “sitting is the new smoking,” or, in other words, that a sedentary lifestyle is a serious and under-appreciated health hazard. With this in mind, I have recently made a conscious effort to incorporate activities that regularly give my adult ELLs the opportunity to stand and move around the classroom.

I call one of these activities “graffiti grammar,” and I used it recently to help students practice the use of gerunds after certain verbs to express an opinion or to comment on certain actions. But the model is flexible, and could be adapted to practice any grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation concept. Continue reading

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