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Topics - hli24

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Vocabulary / My thoughts on the importance of vocabulary learning
« on: April 13, 2007, 12:53:43 PM »
I totally agree that vocabulary learning is very important in language learning; however, I won?t say that it is the most important. One of my friends, who gave up English learning for almost 10 years, made up his mind to study English again. With strong motivation and firm minds, he really got started. However, to my surprise, what he was doing the whole day was simply reading a world list pamphlet over and over again. I asked ?what are you doing?? He responded ?I am learning English.?

This recalls my memory as an English learner and teacher back in China. Most of my friends and my students somehow equaled English learning to words memorization. It was not unusual to hear students say, ?Oh, to learn English is just to memorize words.? ?My biggest problem is that my vocabulary is too small.? I was frequently asked, ?How large is your vocabulary? Do you think my English will be good if I can memorize 10,000 words?? Also, there were many rumors that who and who had memorized what and what dictionary.

There were two major problems with this. First, many students mainly focused on the form, and literal meaning of the words, while neglecting functions and uses. Actually, many times they could identify the words but not able to use them. Therefore, they might achieve the width of word learning but not the depth. Second, vocabulary learning is too much emphasized so that the other parts of language learning was neglected, e.g. listening and speaking, writing,culture, etc. The unbalanced distribution of efforts leads to students? unbalanced language skills.

In China, a country that highly values memorization in learning, I dare not tell my students that vocabulary learning is the most important part of language learning, because that may further drive their thirst for words memorization. I wish to teach them the importance of being able to use words appropriately, and I hope that they could pick up more words subconsciously.

I used a critique by Nathan Jones while teaching critical writing. Now I?ve found the original article that Jones critiqued and also the author?s follow-up response. It would be interesting to let students read both the critique and the author?s response.

Plagiarism / A real plagiarism example in Champaign
« on: April 03, 2007, 01:44:11 PM »
Hi, this was originally found by Ann Spear in the local newspaper News-Gazette.
It is a good example to show how people treat plagiarism seriously in America, especially Urbana-Champaign. :)

General Writing Resources / Audience analysis worksheet
« on: April 03, 2007, 01:29:34 PM »
Hi, this is an audience analysis worksheet I used in ESL 501. It gives students a good guideline on how to analyze the audience before writing.

Quotations / Quotation mark
« on: March 20, 2007, 10:32:40 PM »
This handout is about the use of quotation mark combined with other punctuations. It has many good examples.
It is from OWL.

General Writing Resources / Writing process
« on: February 19, 2007, 11:07:44 AM »
This is a brief but detailed handout on writing process. It is very clear and easy to understand. I cut and paste everything from this website

Language Issues / Non-sexist language
« on: February 19, 2007, 11:02:56 AM »
This handout is from our old friend Purdue online writing lab. It gives very detailed explanations on how to avoid sexist language in writing.
Very helpful.

Language Issues / To avoid vague words and phrases
« on: February 19, 2007, 11:00:59 AM »
This is a handout from
It tells how to avoid problems caused by vague words and phrases, for example, basically, kind of. There are 40 of them in this handout, very practical and useful.

In the following, I am trying to explore how Harry Potter could be used in my college-level EFL classes back in China.
1) Translation
Students enrolled in the English department are usually expected to work as translators or language teachers after graduation, and thus they need to learn how to translate between Chinese and English. Harry Potter appears to be an excellent material for translation training, as it embodies plenty of figurative speech and humor. Hopefully students will be able to learn how to translate accurately but not lose the original flavor.
2) Four skills (listening/speaking/reading/writing)
Harry Potter is also a good material in the writing/reading class. I may let students read several chapters after class and then write a summary. They could even write a simplified version themselves if time permitted. Also, the movie of Harry Potter could be used in the listening/speaking class. I believe it will invoke hot discussion among students.

The above are some general thoughts of how to use Harry Potter in my EFL classes. However, in order to successfully use it, many factors need to be considered.
1) Students should at least have medium-high English proficiency. The vocabulary used in Harry Potter doesn?t seem to be difficult; however, due to the frequent use of figurative speech and some hidden humor, it could be challenging to read. Therefore, those with lower English proficiency may feel frustrated about the novel. Teachers should offer adequate support to students, and group learning could be encouraged.
2) How to relate Harry Potter to the existing curriculum and exams is also a big concern. Many English classes in China have very rigid curriculum, sometimes even a national one. Also, the majority of students are interested in those materials that directly help them get a good score in the national English test. Teachers may feel obligated to link the use of literature with the exam preparation. For example, writing summary, translation, paraphrasing could be used for language skill training. Finally, sometimes it is inappropriate not to use the assigned national textbook in the class time, and Harry Potter could be used as after-class reading material.
3) A flexible attitude should also be adopted in using Harry Potter. It is possible that some books so exciting in westerners? eyes are not so appealing to the Chinese students. The lack of culture and background knowledge may make students hard to enjoy the fiction. Before extensively adopting it in the class, it would be safe to survey students? preferences and needs.

Unity & Coherence / Old-new pattern
« on: February 07, 2007, 10:26:46 AM »
This handout is about old-new pattern in writing. I first asked students in ESL 501 to revise Paragraph A in groups. Some felt it was good; some felt it was weird; only a few figured out that it violated the old-new pattern. Later I compared paragraph A and paragraph B using the OHP projector and finally gave students this handout.
This handout is from Emmy Misser, Writing Centre Co-ordinator, Ext. 3339,

Unity & Coherence / A good summary of coherence
« on: February 05, 2007, 01:50:20 PM »
This is a great summary of how writers can achieve coherence. I used the examples here in my writing class ESL 501. I asked students to revise the sentences and generate some rules of how to achieve coherence. It worked well. Later I gave the whole handout to my students, and they liked it.
This material is from University of West Florida Writing Lab.


Learning L2 Reading & Writing / Good and bad experience
« on: January 26, 2007, 01:53:18 PM »
Good experience
I will always remember my English writing teacher in graduate school back in China. He was a journalist in America and also a very experienced writing teacher. He surely knew how to motivate us to write. For example, he would painstakingly type our assignments and edit a collection of good essays of the students. It was like kind of publication, and every student was working hard for that reward. Also, he wrote every assignment himself and shared it with us. His writing always well integrated the techniques he had emphasized in the class, and students were looking forward to reading his essay.
Now I thought his teaching method was process-oriented. We spent a lot of time discussing each other?s writing and wrote several drafts for each assignment. It was in this class that I finally learned formal writing in English and got confidence in writing. I am heavily influenced by him either as a writer or as a writing teacher. I have heard that he is now working at a writing center in Iowa. I wish I could meet him and tell him that I am an ESL writing teacher too.

Bad experience
The bad experience I had was also a writing class during my undergraduate years in China. This was just the opposite of my good experience mentioned above. I was the kind of people easily influenced by the teacher, and unfortunately the teacher this time was a brand new graduate majoring in Physics. Though her husband was an expert language teacher from the British Council, she herself did not get any training in language teaching. She seldom gave us writing assignments nor gave feedback. I did not do much practice and certainly did not get anything from the class. I am not sure where she is now, but I give all my best wishes to her. Growing as a young teacher, I know how hard it is to teach without any training or support from others.

Persuasive Paper / Lesson plan on debate (2)
« on: January 11, 2006, 11:21:00 AM »
This is to continue the previous one.

Persuasive Paper / A lesson plan on debate
« on: January 11, 2006, 11:14:16 AM »
I arranged a debate on " Should human beings keep death penalty? "
The following are the lesson plan and materials I used.

Language Issues / When passive voice is used.
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:58:57 AM »
This is about when passive voice is used. It is adapted from Diana's materials.

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Critique writing
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:56:46 AM »
This is about the steps of writing critique.

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Sample Book Review
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:54:52 AM »
This is a Book Review on Software Engineering.

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Mathematics paper
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:41:16 AM »
This are some materials from the mathematics department of Georgetown University.
If you have students of mathematics, this would be very helpful.

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Sample of APA Research Paper
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:34:15 AM »
This is a sample APA paper from Diana

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Data commentary
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:29:56 AM »
This is about how to write data commentary.
It summarizes Unit Four: data commentary of Swales and Feak's book and also adds more to it.

Language Issues / How to be concise
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:25:12 AM »
The following is a PPT file that I developted based on materials from Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Research Paper / Souce-Based Writing / Genre Analysis
« on: January 11, 2006, 10:15:25 AM »
Here are two Genre Analysis Worksheets that I adapted from the previous materials. Also there is an article on Genre Analysis.

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