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Messages - beckymenendez

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Vocabulary / Fun Vocabulary Flashcards
« on: May 23, 2013, 10:15:19 AM »
Someone forwarded me this website, which has a lot of cool flashcards, ranging from basic/beginning (numbers/animals/objects) to more advanced words and abstract concepts (precipitous, effulgent).  I think they've got nice visual appeal and some of the flashcards are pretty clever/humorous/interesting!  There's a large set that are free to print out as well.

This reading/writing unit is designed for an upper elementary ESL class (~4th grade).  Students read three different Cinderella stories, record and organize important details, and ultimately write a compare/contrast paragraph.  It's a 7 lesson unit, with the first 3 fully developed, the 4th partially developed, and the last three outlined in terms of activities/goals.  The unit is attached here as a PDF file.

Here is a lesson plan on paraphrasing that I created for my ESL 115 class (an undergraduate academic writing class).  We were working on a group research paper together, so when the homework mentions GRP sources/articles, that is what it is referring to.  This lesson worked pretty well in my class!

Feedback--Peer Review / Re: Feedback-Error Correction
« on: April 23, 2013, 04:37:28 PM »
I'm so intrigued with this resource, thanks for introducing it to us, Ariel!  I'm curious to learn how I might be able to integrate this into my class most effectively.  It is a little bit overwhelming at first!  For your research, how were you planning to introduce the tool to students?


This looks really useful!  I think some of my ESL students may struggle with some of the grammar/mechanics questions, simply because they are ESL students themselves and may make the same mistakes as their peer is making without realizing it...but other questions in that section would really straightforward for them to answer.  I like the self-assessment addition as well!  I might modify this for a longer essay (looks like this was for your classic 5-paragraph essay?)


Feedback--Teacher / Rubric for a Writing Analysis Essay
« on: April 23, 2013, 04:22:00 PM »
This is an analytic rubric that Kristen Michelson and I worked on for a diagnostic analysis essay in an undergraduate ESL writing class.  At the beginning of the semester, students wrote a diagnostic essay in response to a prompt, without the aid of dictionaries or outside resources.  The first unit of the semester addressed various aspects of academic writing, including tone, audience, coherence, thesis statements, paragraph structure, and so forth.  Students analyzed these aspects of their diagnostic essay throughout the unit, and the final product was for students to write a complete essay analyzing the strengths/weaknesses of their original diagnostic essay, as well as plans for how they would improve the essay where there were weaknesses.

For scoring, I used a modified version of the scale Dr. Dickerson uses in his 488 course.  With 6 categories on this rubric, at 6 maximum points each, there are 36 total possible points for the essay.  I divided this total by 3 to get a scale of 0-12.


The grades ended up working out pretty accurately (at least, according to my impression of the quality of their work).  There's a little flexibility in assigning grades in each category.  For instance, if I highlighted a descriptor in the 6 box, and another descriptor in the 4 box, I might give somewhere between a 4.5 and a 5.5, depending on what the issues were.

Reading Activites (during reading) / Reading Strategies Lesson Plan
« on: March 12, 2013, 01:37:13 PM »
Reading Strategies
Created by Becky Menendez (Spring 2013)

Objectives: Students will be able to...
  • Differentiate between 3 reading strategies:  skimming, scanning, and SQ3R
  • Identify situations in which each particular strategy would be most useful
  • Apply each strategy while reading
This lesson is designed for graduate level ESL teachers to offer strategies on how they might teach reading strategies in their own classes.  As such, it has students practice reading strategies on textbooks from the ESL Reading & Writing course offered at the University of Illinois.  You may want to adapt the reading materials and exercises for your own students, targeting their reading level and the materials they are reading in your class.   

Teacher Instructions and Tasks:
[5 minutes] Reading Race!
Divide the class into two teams by counting students down in alternating numbers (1-2).  Tell students that we are going to have a reading competition using Chapter 7 of the Ferris & Hedgcock textbook (Teaching ESL Composition).  Have each team sit together on opposite sides of the class.  Give the Group 1 - Skimming & Scanning handout to Team 1 and the Group 2 - Myths handout to Team 2.  Tell students to read the directions quietly and look up when they’re finished.  They cannot open their books until I say “Go.”  Students can work in small groups if they like.  Wait until a few students in Group 1 say that they’re finished, then stop the class.  Ask someone in Group 2: “What technique do L1 and L2 composition experts Atwell, Ferris, and Weaver recommend for incorporating grammar instruction into an L2 writing class?  What is one reason they support this technique?”  Then ask someone in Group 1 to answer the questions.

[10 minutes] Discussion
Ask students from Team 1:
  • How difficult was it for you to find this information in the chapter?  What would have helped you?
Have students return to their original seats, taking their handouts with them.  Students from different groups should compare the instructions on the two different handouts.  Ask students:
  • What are some of the big differences between these two sets of directions that made it easier for Group 2 to answer the question so quickly?
    Knowing which information they were supposed to look for, having clues/strategies on where to find this information.
Explain that Team 1 received instructions based on the ‘myths’ of good academic reading, whereas Team 2 were instructed to apply reading strategies to help them meet a specific reading goal.  Show students the Myth-Reality Chart on the overhead and review it together. 

[10 minutes] Reading Strategy Research
Start passing out the three reading strategy questionnaires (Skimming, Scanning, SQ3R).  Each student should only receive ONE of the three questionnaires.  They should then form groups with 2 or 3 other students who got the same questionnaire.  Using the information from the Skimming & Scanning Handout and the SQ3R Handout, students should discuss and fill out their reading strategy questionnaire.

[10 minutes] Information Exchange
Reform groups so that there is an “expert” from each reading strategy in every group.  Experts should share the information on their reading strategy questionnaire to the other members of their group.  “Experts” can use the textbook to demonstrate how to apply their specific reading strategy. 

[10-15 minutes]  Reading Scenarios
Remind students of how Team 2 in the Reading Race actually used more than one strategy for finding the information they needed.  Explain that sometimes it works best to use more than one reading strategy for a reading task.  Hand out one Scenario Handout to every group.  Each group should start on a different scenario, but they can move on to the other scenarios if time allows.  Groups should discuss in groups of 2-3 which strategy or strategies would work best in that scenario, in what order, and why.  Elicit answers from the class and discuss.

Ask students to apply the reading strategies they’ve learned to one reading task, either for this class or for one of their other classes.  The task could be to complete a reading guide, to study for a test, to find evidence to support an argument, to answer a discussion board question, or simply to fulfill a general reading assignment for a class.  Students should choose which strategy or strategies they want to use and write a short reflection answering these questions:
  • Briefly describe the purpose for your reading.
  • Which strategy or strategies did you decide to use?  Why did you decide to use these?
  • (For more than one strategy) In what order did you use these strategies, and why?
  • Did the strategy or strategies you chose work well for your task?  Why or why not?
  • If not, what would you try differently next time?

Supplementary materials:

  • Reading Strategies Powerpoint
  • Teaching ESL Composition (Chapter 7)
  • Skimming/Scanning Handout
  • SQ3R Handout
  • Skimming Questionnaire
  • Scanning Questionnaire
  • SQ3R Questionnaire
  • Scenario Handout


Students fill out a KWL Chart.  This activity starts with students brainstorming everything they know about a topic.  Students could complete this part in small groups, then share with the whole class some of what they wrote down.  Next, students come up with questions about what they want to know.  The final part of the KWL chart is where students record what they learn after the activity.  This could tie in with Lynee's concept mapping.  Because concept mapping may be less lingusitically demanding for students than writing out information in this chart, this could be a phase two supplement to Lynee's intial concept mapping brainstorming.  This would keep it a strictly pre-reading activity, students could fill out what they've learned after a pre-research activity like Lynee's concept mapping, where they use the internet to find information about the key words in the title.  However, this pre-reading exercise.  However, this activity could also extend into the during-reading phase if students, for the 'L' section, also add the information from the article while reading.  Below is what a KWL worksheet might look like for this article:
K-W-L Chart
K – What We Know
Looking at the title and at the picture in the article, what are some things you think this article might talk about?  In small groups, brainstorm and write down everything you already know about these topics in the “K” section of the KWL chart.  For example, what do you know about NASA?  What do you know about space?  About Saturn?

 W – What We Want to Learn
After compiling all the things we know about these topics, do you notice any gaps?  Were there any disagreements between the two groups?  Looking at the title again, what kind of questions do you have about this article?  What do you want to learn more about?  Write down some WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW questions in the “W” section of the KWL chart.

 L – What We Learned
As you read the article, think about the questions you ask.  Are you finding any answers to the questions you ask?  Are you finding information that contradicts what you thought you knew about the topics?  Write these down in the “L” section of the KWL chart.


As we’re starting to examine and brainstorm possible full-length units, I thought I’d share a unit that I was introduced to in a ESL/bilingual assessment class.  For those of you interested in social justice themes, I think you’ll find it pretty amazing!  The unit is designed for a middle school class, and it deals with the themes of misrepresentation and self-representation among three different minority groups.  One thing I loved about this unit is how it incorporated so many different types of materials and activities which connected with and built off one another.  There are a number of reading activities, note-taking and writing assignments, but also video documentaries, images, and photography project as well.

Here is a link to a summary of the project:

And you can watch a video of the various stages being taught here.  It’s at the bottom of the page, and it starts off by introducing the authors of the books that are examined in the class.  If you want to skip forward to the teaching part, it starts around 7:15. 

Even if you don’t like the unit as a whole, or couldn’t find it applicable to your own teaching setting, there are some great strategies you could borrow and adapt:

  • Double-entry journals (and variations thereof):  Students write down a quote from the reading on one side of the journal, and on the other side they write their ‘connection’ to the quote...why they chose it, why they felt it was important or worth noting. 
  • Two Rounds:  students are a set of images.  They list adjectives they feel describe the image, and they think of verbs that could be associated with the characters in the images.  They are then given a second set of images, and go through the process again with this second set.  Afterwards, they compare their two lists as a class and note the contrast between them.  This was used as an exercise to examine stereotypes.
  • Photography Project:  this was done as one of the culminating projects of the unit.  Earlier on in the unit, students critique elements of the photograph (lighting, angles, etc.) and try to determine the message the photographer was trying to convey through his or her use of these elements.  Students then take their own pictures in the classroom, and critique the same elements in their photos.  Next, they take photos of their community after brainstorming the typical, everyday things they see or experience in their communities as well as broader themes they might wish to capture.  Students with common themes are paired, then select a final photo to write an essay about.

General Writing Resources / Re: Make a cube!
« on: February 19, 2013, 11:13:15 AM »
This is cool, thanks for sharing this!

I really like your ideas for modifying how the activity is implemented among groups... it got me wondering a little bit... do you think an activity like this could work with the pre-research phase we're doing in ESL115, for the problem-solution Group Research Paper?  Or perhaps for critiquing three different solutions from an organization?  We might have to tweak the questions on the 6 cubes, but to have them do pre-research focusing on six different aspects of an issue might prompt deeper exploration on the topic.  Plus, to be able to physically write information on a cube might be a fun hands-on twist for them....


Harry Potter Lessons! / Re: Which Context?
« on: February 14, 2013, 08:29:46 PM »
Hi Widya!

I wouldn't think that there had to be a hard and fast rule that you MUST use a Westernized  fairy tale or story, and this may be even more true in an EFL setting (as opposed to an ESL setting).  I think it might still be an interesting exercise for students to explore a story from a culture other than their own.  Something you might be able to do is to draw from a story from your own students' culture and compare the two stories side by side to explore commonalities and differences. 


Harry Potter Lessons! / Open-minded portraits
« on: February 09, 2013, 09:29:33 PM »
One of the other posts about mind-mapping reminded me of a open-minded portrait lesson I had done for another book, Meiko and the Fifth Treasure, that might work really well with Harry Potter in an ESL lesson.  It would be geared more towards elementary learners.  An open-minded portrait is a 'snapshot' of a character at a particular point of time, which students draw.  I would have students make one open-minded portrait of Harry after reading one of the earlier chapters of the book, then another open-minded portrait for the final chapter of the book (this could be done with multiple chapters, actually, perhaps even for each book in the series?).

When I did this, I actually made a head-shaped paper cut out for my students.  They used descriptions of the main character to draw a face on the front part of it.  We completed the open-minded portrait on the backside.  I've attached an example of what they did for the main character of Meiko and the Fifth Treasure.

For the first lesson, break students into collaborative groups and have them make a list of words or phrases that describe what Harry is thinking, feeling, or doing in the selected chapters. Provide a few examples to start them off. Elicit a few examples from the different groups and write them on an overhead or projected screen.  Brainstorm ways these words or phrases could be illustrated, and draw one or two matching illustrations.  Explain to students that they will use pictures and words like these to make their open-minded portraits.  You could ask them to draw and label at least 10 items on their portraits.

For the follow-up lesson at the end of the book, ask students to create a second open-minded portrait reflecting the important things Harry was doing, thinking, or feeling during the final chapter (or you could do this for several chapters in between to really illustrate the growth & development of a character throughout the story).  After students have created this second portrait, have them answer the following questions in a groups:

  • Are there any things in the new portrait that were not in the old one?
  • Are there any things in the old portrait that were not in the new one?
Using roll paper, I would have student groups fill out a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the two open-minded portraits.  I could hang these in the classroom, and as a writing assignment (perhaps preceded by some whole class discussion), ask them to reflect on which events and decisions helped Harry change from the person he was in one chapter to the person he was in the final chapter.


Using Literature / Re: Uncle Tom's Cabin
« on: February 09, 2013, 08:10:14 PM »
Lynee, I LOVED this lesson!  It was very engaging, and very well sequenced.  I was thinking that this might work really well in a mainstream classroom, too (middle school, high school?), integrated into a Social Studies / Language Arts type of unit.

Harry Potter Lessons! / Re: Ready-to-Go Materials!
« on: February 05, 2013, 12:39:24 PM »
These look great!  I really liked one of the activities that had the student match expressions to their meanings (colloquialisms)...I had thought that a lesson targetting this aspect of a chapter would be really useful to ESL students, and now here it is!

This a great idea!  I could also see doing this type of activity as a final project after reading more of the series (though I supposed that could get impossibly long), since more clues/events are revealed about the past later on.

Harry Potter Lessons! / Non-explicit strategies for describing characters
« on: January 31, 2013, 01:48:41 PM »
In Chapter 1 of Harry Potter, the author introduces us to several important characters and gives us a lot of information about who they are and what they are like.  Some of this information is given explicitly.  For instance, she makes it very clear that Petunia Dursley is the sister of Harry’s mother.  She says explicitly that Petunia has a thick neck.  However, she also gives a lot of information indirectly.  One idea for a lesson might be to have students search the text for information about the character, and talk about the strategies the author used to convey this information.  Optionally, the teacher could walk through this exercise with the class for one character, so they have an idea what to look for.

Then the teacher could break students into groups and assign each group a character.  The students could write everything they know about the physical characteristics, personality, and values of this character by examining the text.

You could give them the strategies to watch out for:

-explicit description or information
 -through the ways this character interact with other characters
 -through observations/comments about this character made by other characters
 -through adjectives attached to this character’s actions
 -through the way this character thinks or feels about other people or events
 -through the types of things that make this character happy, irritated, uncomfortable
You could also try this by giving them a scale with opposite characteristics on each scale.  Students should mark an X on the scale and jot down the evidence from the chapter for their decision.

Patient  <----------------------------------> Impatient
Cautious <---------------------------------> Reckless

The teacher could review their answers as a class and identify the strategies the author used, especially beyond explicit description, that gave the reader information about the character.\
Possible project:
Give the students a skeleton of a story (character names, places, basic version of events).  Have groups brainstorm what they want their characters to look like, and what kind of personalities they should have.  Then have students choose 3 or 4 of the strategies they had discussed in the first activity to ‘flesh out’ their characters and give the reader a picture of who they are and what they’re like, how they think. 
This could be a unit long project, adding layers of revisions when additional topics are covered.  For instance, the next lesson could be on the descriptive language, and students could revise their first drafts by adding descriptive adjectives and verbs, etc.   

Interesting observations!  I can't answer as an international student, but even as a domestic American student, I can say that I found the amount of reading I've had to do (in the MATESL graduate program, in particular) to be a bit of an adjustment as well.  In high school, and even to a degree in my undergraduate, I feel as if I was more accustomed to the close readings you describe.  I had never had any formal instruction in reading strategies such as skimming or scanning, and it wasn't until after I taught a lesson on them that I even started using them.  With the amount that there is to read, strategies like these are almost essential.
I thought it curious that you didn't like guided questions (I think that's what you meant) before reading for classes, that you found them restrictive.  For myself, I've found they made reading easier for me...with so much information, it focused my attention on what I needed to get out of the text for the purposes of the class, basically helping me skim/scan.  I'm interested in hearing other international students' responses to this topic as well.  We teach about cross-cultural writing styles in the ESL service courses here, but not so much about cross-cultural reading practices.  It might be worth addressing!

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