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Messages - Kierski

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The website BookBrowse has free information on a lot of books of all genres.

For almost every book there are the following:
- a summary
- an excerpt (usually the first chapter)
- reading / discussion questions (the website calls this a "Reading guide".

This is a decent website to quickly find excerpts of novels for your students to read. They can browse the website and read excerpts to pick a book to read for extensive reading practice.

Works Cited/References / Looking closely at details in formatting
« on: May 07, 2015, 01:21:54 AM »

With academic writing, there's no way around references / bibliography and in-text citations. When I taught a writing class, I gave my students resources so they could look up how to probably write a reference for various kinds of sources (e.g., book, article in an edited book, article in a journal, etc.) But I found that my students continued to make lots of mistakes with the formatting of the reference page and in-text citations.

I expected that they would be able to look at something like below (from Purdue OWL) and be able to apply the formatting rules to their own sources.

Article or Chapter in an Edited Book

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year of publication). Title of chapter. In A. A. Editor & B. B. Editor (Eds.), Title
of book(pages of chapter). Location: Publisher.

O'Neil, J. M., & Egan, J. (1992). Men's and women's gender role journeys: A metaphor for healing, transition, and
transformation. In B. R. Wainrib (Ed.), Gender issues across the life cycle (pp. 107-123). New York, NY: Springer.

But I was wrong! I think that the students lacked attention to detail and so they got all the little details (comma or period? capitalize or not?) wrong. Small differences in punctuation marks makes a big difference in formatting, and some of them look similar. Details like not capitalizing all the words in a title of a book but capitalizing all the words in a title of a journal (at least for APA style) can be missed easily.

Instead of only giving students the rules for formatting, you can do the following:

- Start with a "Spot the differences" activity. Students work with a partner to find as many differences as they can between two very similar pictures. (See links below.)
- Then, students work individually to find as many differences as they can between two references pages. (The sources listed on the pages will be identical, but there will be subtle differences in formatting such as inserting two spaces, not including a space, capitalization, punctuation marks, etc. One page should be properly formatted and the other one should not.)
- Students compare with a partner what they found.
- Then introduce formatting rules and exemplars such as the above from Purdue OWL.

How to find "Spot the Difference" images:

You can do a Google image search for "Spot the difference". Some good ones I found are linked below. These are all higher resolution. There's a mixture of color and black and white (in case you need to print these out on a b/w printer.)


Black and white:
living room
manga style

General Reading Links / English Lessons based on breaking news
« on: May 07, 2015, 01:00:54 AM »
The "Breaking News English" website has a whole bunch of free lessons based on news articles. The guy who runs the site seems to post new lessons based on breaking news around twice a week. 

The articles are adapted for various reading levels!

And there are all kinds of exercises that go with the article such as the following:
warm-up: schema activation, talking about disasters
pre-reading activities: vocabulary (matching synonyms), true/false prediction, completing phrases
during reading activities: comprehension questions, listening and filling in the gap
post-reading activities: unanswered questions, vocabulary building, discussion questions

There are also some writing/orthography focused exercises such as inserting vowels into blanks (all the vowels are taken out of the text), inserting punctuation and capitalization, and inserting spaces between words.

You can see sample exercises here on an article on the earthquake in Nepal here:

The English Teaching Forum is a FREE journal published published by the U.S. Department of State for teachers of English as a foreign or second language. It features articles on TESL/TEFL in general and on teaching techniques as well as lesson ideas / plans.

You can search the journal for articles based on criteria such as the following:

- skill (reading, writing, listening, etc.)
- audience (adult learners, young learners, beginning, intermediate, etc.)
- type of content (video, audio, song, etc.)
- pedagogical category (CALL, motivation, etc.)
- theme (holidays, American culture, etc.)

Just make sure that "Forum Journal" is checked under the "Resource Category" heading.

=bundle%3Aresource&f[1]=im_field_resource_skills%3A14&f[2]=im_field_resource_categories%3A4&f[3]=im_field_resource_audience%3A12]This is a sample search for writing materials for Advanced learners.

Go to this page to do a search: [url=[0]=bundle%3Aresource&f[1]=im_field_resource_categories%3A4][0]=bundle%3Aresource&f[1]=im_field_resource_categories%3A4

Go to this page to download past issues:

Motivation / Re: Motivating English Learners
« on: May 04, 2015, 11:14:09 PM »
Definitely agree with all of you. I think something simple like having students fill out a survey with a mixture of multiple-choice or ranking questions to gauge topic interest and open-ended questions for students to answer can help teachers get to know their students better and plan lessons, projects, materials, etc. accordingly. Another way to gather student information is having them submit a biographical journal entry including their motivations for taking a class and what they hope to learn. I think it's more efficient to do a survey or something similar early in the semester to "get to know" students faster rather than waiting until the end of the course to become aware of their interests.

Motivation / project-based learning - motivate your students!
« on: May 04, 2015, 11:07:44 PM »
Project-based learning when done correctly (i.e., not just busy work) can be highly motivating to students. Giving students a semester-long (or however long the course, club, etc. is) project to work on, whether individually, in group, or as a whole class, gives students an authentic goal to aim for. The end goal or product needs to be realistic (i.e., achievable) and pertain to the real world. The project is not just for a grade or for "learning" but for accomplishments and goals that extend outside of the structured learning environment.

For example, in a writing class, if you're teaching a lesson on writing emails, students can work in groups or as a class to write an email to a local organizations (e.g., making a complaint, requesting something). For a persuasive writing piece, students can work on crafting an editorial to send to the local newspaper. For creative writing, students can "publish" their short stories, poems, etc. into a journal that is sold in the community and even donated to local libraries. Having concrete outcomes can help students to be motivated about the lessons you teach.

The article "8 Essentials for Project-Based Learning" by John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller and published by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) list some essential features of good projects:

- significant content
- a need to know (to activate students' curiosity)
- a driving question (basically the whole point of the project)
- student voice and choice
- 21st century competencies (e.g., critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity)
- in-depth inquiry
- critique and revision of students' work
- public audience

I think that having a public audience whether it is a published in a newspaper, exhibited to the rest of the school, or emailed to people is especially important to having students perceive the project as relevant to real life.

You can read more about the phases and essentials of Project-based Learning in the attached infographic. (The attached infographic was created by David Lee and posted at his blog. Click here to see the infographic in a page.)

Feedback--Peer Review / Re: Beginning Stages of Peer Review
« on: April 07, 2015, 02:42:57 PM »
I really like the idea of a peer review of a peer review! I think it's always good for students to evaluate feedback (even teacher's feedback).

Feedback--Peer Review / Re: Critique of Non-structured Peer Review
« on: April 07, 2015, 02:42:00 PM »
Both excellent points. I do think that if teachers are not evaluating the peer feedback in some way, it may not encourage students to give "good" feedback to their classmates. I suppose if the students are all highly motivated then they will give each other good feedback. But if peer review is being used in more of a beginning writing class, then it may not be seen as something that is very valuable. So unfortunately, grading / evaluation may be necessary.

Reading Activites (during reading) / Reading for Fluency
« on: March 12, 2015, 01:04:31 PM »

Here are some reading for fluency activities that are very simple, short, and easy to implement into a class. These are from an article published in the English Teaching Forum, published but the U.S. State Department. It's a free journal with lots of great articles/ideas.

"Repeated oral reading: Ask students to reread a short passage aloud (but softly) 24 times for a set period of time (e.g., 45 seconds, one minute), with the goal of advancing further into the text each time."

"Repeated silent reading with a new purpose: Before moving onto a new chapter, ask students to reread a passage for a new purpose"

"Echo reading: Pair a stronger reader with a weaker reader. Ask the stronger reader to start out by reading 12 sentences of a longer passage aloud, after which the weaker reader reads aloud the exact same text segment. The students continue in echo fashion for 46 minutes."

"Buddy reading: Pair students with similar reading abilities. Ask them to take turns, of one minute each, reading aloud a longer but easy text."

For the full description of activities and more activities, go to page 6 and 7 of this file:

A lot of these reading for fluency exercise include reading out-loud which seems counter-intuitive. I mean proficient language users don't read out loud. It slows you down; you can read faster in your head. And when you read, you don't really read every word, skipping over function words like articles and prepositions. However, Grabe and Stoller argue that there is a place for reading out-loud when building L2 readers skills; and they say it helps L2 readers to read more fluently and faster.

Here is an interesting interview with Grabe and Stoller on their careers and their perspectives on L2 reading:

This post-reading activity organizes information presented in the article.

"There's something highly reflective on Ceres twinkling...and scientists hope to figure out what it is after the probe arrives at the dwarf planet later this week."


The article makes some hypotheses of what the "twinkling" may be. Underline in the article the possible explanations. Then draw diagrams for each of the explanations. (Hint: Look for words marking possibility to find the hypotheses.)

Possible explanations that students should draw.

"A meteorite could have created the crater and melted Ceres' underlying ice layer, causing the ice to vaporize..."
"It's also possible that the spots were caused by eruptions of ice volcanoes."
"Scientists are therefore on the lookout to see if Ceres has or ever had an underground ocean; cracks on the surface could be signs that material once burbled up from below."
"The mission team will also look for evidence of any gases seeping from the interior, which could make dust hover on the surface in the dwarf planet's low gravity."

What is a Lexile Measure?

"A Lexile measure is a valuable piece of information about either an individual's reading ability or the difficulty of a text, like a book or magazine article. The Lexile measure is shown as a number with an "L" after it 880L is 880 Lexile."

Most college texts are between 1250L to 1450L.

Read more info about the Lexile measure at

What is the Lexile Analyzer?

The Lexile Analyzer analyzes text and assigns a Lexile measure to the text. You can use the number to determine the difficulty level of the text; the measure depends on a number of factors, mainly the text's "semantic and syntactic elements".

How can I use the Lexile Analyzer?

Create a free account at

The Lexile Analyzer is limited to 1000 words. BUT as an educator, you can request access to the professional Lexile analyzer which does not have a word limit.Log in. In the side menu, click on "My Access". Under "Professional English Analyzer", click on "Request Access". Explain why you want it and that you're an educator.

Why should I use the Lexile Analyzer?

Depending on your teaching objectives/goals, you may want to use text that is below, right at, or above your students' reading level. For example, for extensive reading and reading for fluency drills, you want to choose text that is below your students' level. For more intensive reading, more difficult texts may be more appropriate.

The Lexile Analyzer can help you to more objectively and very quickly rate the difficulty of a text. You can use the Lexile measures to compare texts, sequence texts, and select recommend texts to your students.

DISCLAIMER: I have just signed up for an account on the Lexile website, but I have not used their tools before or taught reading. I'm not sure how effective this tool is or how useful it is to educators, but I have read that it is useful. If you have firsthand experience using the Lexile Analyzer, please respond describing your experience.

Very interesting.  I had not put much thought into font aside from concerns with people who have dyslexia (in which it is a general consensus that a san-serif font is best).  It makes me wonder how many adaptations that are made in order to help some students may hinder the majority of the class without us realizing.  Good food for thought.

I recently found out about a font that was designed FOR people who have dyslexia. I thought it was a neat way to combine research that's been done on how people with dyslexia read text/letters.

Some more information about the designer (who himself has dyslexia):

Sample text of the font:

Free Download:

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