7 Quotes from My Writing Class this Semester

Finals just finished, grades are in, and break begins at the end of the week. It’s time to look back at the semester and reminisce.

I always enjoy teaching writing, and I had another semester full of fond memories with my most recent class. Interestingly, my writing classes usually have plenty of lively discussion. It’s a subject that a lot of students really care about, but it’s also a medium that allows them to express their ideas more completely. In a second language, it’s often more difficult to keep up with the pace of a conversation, but writing provides more time to gather and construct your ideas (of course, this is true for many native speakers too, myself included).

So without further ado, here are some memorable things my students have said or written this semester and why they’re significant.

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3 ESL Valentine’s Day Activities (Compare/Contrast Focus)

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a part of American culture. If you’re teaching ESL in America, your students will want to learn about it.

At the moment, I’m teaching compare/contrast essays in my writing class, so the following activities combine information about Valentine’s Day with language for compare/contrast. However, you can adapt most of these ideas for different units and subject areas.

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3 Uses for Socrative in ESL Classes

Other teachers have been encouraging me to use Socrative for awhile now, but until recently I just didn’t care to try it out. I’m not against using tech in the classroom; it can make things a lot easier. I just didn’t want to have to learn yet another educational technology.

And Socrative is intimidating. Students use their own smartphones to navigate the program, so that’s a lot of small screens to pay attention to. There are teacher accounts and student accounts. There are a few different ways to do things, but that means more decisions you have to make. In short, it has the appearance of that kind of tech that isn’t worth the time to learn. That was my first impression of it.

But I was wrong. Socrative is easy, useful, and even fun.

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The 8 a.m. Class

5:30. The chiming bell alarm on your phone goes off.

You hit snooze and reach over your head to turn on the reading lamp. A bluish-white glow fills the pitch black room. You roll over and sleep for eight more minutes.

At 5:38 the bells start again and you hit snooze one more time and turn on your back. Your mind is almost awake now and already it’s wondering if Junwei will remember to print his essay and turn it in at 10 o’clock today. There are a few more moments of quiet and at 5:46 the alarm goes off again.

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ESL Presentation: A Business, Charity, or Organization

Please check out my older post on presentations for an overview of how I usually teach them.

This post will describe a presentation that I did with my class during the same unit that I described in my last post. We studied different types of businesses and organizations throughout the unit. For their final project, they had to give a presentation about an organization that they were interested in.

The premise was that they were spokespeople for their chosen company or charity and the rest of the class were wealthy investors/donators who had $100,000 to donate or invest. The student who raised the largest amount of money for their organization would be the winner.

Here’s how I did it.

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Listening Activity: Instagram Podcast (How I Built This)

For other listening ideas, check out my older blog posts on my favorite listening resources and how I teach listening in class.

This post includes a listening activity for upper intermediate or advanced ESL students.

This topic should be relevant, interesting, and approachable for most adult students. Even if the students in your class aren’t preparing to be “businessmen/women” or CEOs, they’ll gain some vocabulary and listening strategies that will help them in whatever field they’re planning on entering.

I created this activity for my class this past semester. We used the Pathways 3 textbook (which I recommend) and I taught these activities in Unit 5: Making a Living, Making a Difference.

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Analyzing Arrival: The Linguistics Behind the Film

This week’s post is something new for this blog: a movie review. Movies involving language learning are rare, so I had to write about Arrival. It’s best to read this post after seeing the movie; it’s a “car ride home from the theater” type of rant and might not make sense if you haven’t seen it yet.

Arrival has an unlikely hero. Amy Adams plays Louise, a professor who hears that aliens have touched down on earth during a lecture on Portuguese. She’s soon recruited by the government to figure out what these visitors want. Since she’s a skilled translator and speaks several very different languages (Farsi, Chinese, Sanskrit, and it’s implied that she’s fluent in several others), Forest Whitaker’s character believes she’s the person who will be able to learn the aliens’ language and communicate with them.

Louise is a cool character. She’s an insanely talented polyglot who learns an alien language, sees the future, and saves the world. It’s not every day that a linguist gets to do that in a Hollywood movie.

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Teaching Hedging for ESL Writing (Worksheet included)

Here’s my worksheet if you want the good stuff right away: Practicing Hedging.
Read on for more good stuff about hedging.

Students who have gone through an English-speaking education system usually pick up on how to write in a “proper” or “academic” way. They gradually learn the sentence, paragraph, and essay structure from their teachers and classes. Their vocabulary improves through contextualized exposure in reading. Gradually, these students learn what “sounds right” when writing.

But learners of English often need to be explicitly taught what “sounds right,” “sounds wrong,” and why.

One writing skill that is often used in academic writing is hedging. Many native English speakers do it fairly naturally in speaking and writing, but for newer learners of English, especially those who are thrown into the deep end of academic writing without much previous exposure to English, this skill needs special attention in ESL classes.

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Teaching Trump: Two Listenings

The election is finally over. Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. He’s a person who many of my ESL students were very interested in talking about and learning about, so I’ve given a few assignments about him.

In this post, you’ll find two videos I’ve used in my classes and the worksheet and quiz that goes with them.

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