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Topics - xinxiang

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Discourse structure analysis can help students to develop efficient reading skills and learn use writing structure models. One of the ways to motivate students to engage in such analysis is to provide engaging graphic organizer templates.

Motivation / Add relevancy to teaching materials
« on: May 07, 2017, 04:36:45 PM »
For many EFL leaners in China, one of the demotivating factors is that learning materials are out of date or not relevant to their daily lives and interests. Yes. it can be argued that the focus in language classrooms is language rather than content. But learning language is hard enough, having to understand irrelevant content will make the process even more difficult.

To improve this situation, instructors can supplement text book materials by adding what students might be interested in. Or instructors can ask students to list the topics of their interests and then choose teaching materials accordingly.

Prereading Activities / pre-reading-audio
« on: May 07, 2017, 04:32:14 PM »
It will be helpful to use Academic Word List-Highlight Tool to sift out high-frequency words in the reading material.

There are two ways to make use of this method: one is pre-record the high-frequency words, so that students can familiarize themselves with both the meanings and the pronunciations of the words; another way is to give the list to the students, and ask them to create audio recordings of the word list.

The rationale behind this approach is to help students to convert the vocabulary learnt through reading to active vocabulary that they can use in speaking and listening.

Postreading Activities / Podcast making to tie reading to speaking
« on: April 27, 2017, 01:47:32 PM »
At 2017 TESOL conference, I attended a talk where the speaker shared his experience of assigning students to create podcasts and publishing students podcast online. Topics of podcasts can range from a personal story, to a book students recently read, and to introduction to fa local museum or airport. The speaker's student were really receptive to these tasks and produced some appealing and powerful audio stories.

So I'm wondering, after reading activities, students can summarize or respond to reading materials by creating a podcast instead of writing a paragraph or passage. Therefore, this be be a way for students to develop speaking fluency in a reading class.

Extensive Reading / Book Club for Extensive Reading
« on: March 04, 2017, 11:37:50 PM »
Iím sharing what Iíve learnt about ESL teaching from facilitating a book club whose members are ESL learners on UIUC campus (mainly family members of international students and visiting scholars).
Having a book club can maintain the constancy of reading. Many ESL learners have been told the benefits of reading novels, and thus attempted multiple times to learn English through reading. But often times, learners give up after a few days or a few weeks due to various reasons. But joining a book club can help learners keep their reading plans going. With the help of a book club, ESL learners start to make friends there, which will make the reading more meaningful because they know they are going to share with their friends what they have read.  As a result, reading plans becomes personal commitments to friends, making it easier for ESL learners to keep reading.
It is assumed that easier texts are better in boosting learnerís confidence and motivation. But occasional picks of challenging and interesting texts can make an even bigger difference.  For example, we once picked Jane Austenís Emma to read in our book club. After reading the first five chapters, the members decided that they hated that book because the language is too hard for their language levels, and the protagonist in the book was so unlikable. But any way, they decided to read another five chapters to see if they wanted to switch to an easier book. Surprisingly, after reading another five chapters, despite the archaic language of the novel, the members decided to finish this book because they think the story in the book was so fascinating. Because the members liked this book so much, discussions during book club meetings got better too. After two months, we finally finished this book, and everyone was saying ďIíve conquered a book this difficult, so there will be no books that I canít handle in the futureĒ. Itís such a boost of confidence and pleasant experience of reading.

Book club can also help ESL learners improve their speaking skills. Through summarizing and sharing at book club meetings (once a week), book club members are practicing expressing complex ideas.

International book club is way much more than just learning English. After we finish talking about books every week, our topics will go to each others' country and culture. We realize we really don't know each others' country at all and there are so much stereotypes about each culture. More importantly, we realize the importance of keep talking and sharing.


Target students: Sophomores at a university in China.

Reading Texts:Articles about China and cover stories from
The Economist and Time Magazine, which are weekly magazines (about 6 articles each week).
The reasons for choosing this two magazines: The choice of The Economist and Time Magazine can add relevance to the reading materials because, these two magazines are sources for exam articles for the graduate school entrance exams in China.

This may reduce student resistance of extensive reading. Also, the cover stories are probably on the news in China as well, giving students some schemata. Besides, I am really a huge fan of these two magazines.

Instructional Activities:
a. Presentations: Every week, two students will do presentations on one of the articles we are reading for that week. Students can present new ideas theyíve learnt from the article, and vocabulary, sentence structures and discourse structures that they want to use in their own writing.

b. Instructions-Integration with intensive reading: This activity can help students understand certain complex or difficult sentences or paragraph structures.

c. Summary or response writing: This can be used to develop students' writing skills and critical thinking.

d. Poster exhibition at the end of semester: Each student will make a poster about his or her favorite article covered in the semester, and participate in the poster exhibition. We will invite students from other sections to visit the exhibition, giving students opportunities to practice communicative skills.

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