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Topics - beecorleto

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I am teaching reading to an intermediate RW class at an IEP, and we are using Making Connections 2 (the second in the series) for our intensive reading texts. In the past, Making Connections 3 has also been used, but this class has a much wider range of learners, particularly some who are still lower readers.

I really like this series for reading. There are six units that focus on different topics that are relevant to most people: The News Media and how it has changed; Population Growth; Issues in Education, etc. Each unit has four readings that vary in length but are all related to the umbrella topic. A typical reading has pre-reading prediction or scan-for-topics activities, during-reading tasks, and post-reading activities that test comprehension of main ideas and details, provide vocabulary support and facilitate the use of context-clues, and provide critical thinking opportunities.

Additionally, in each unit, there are two new skills/strategies that are reinforced with the readings that follow. Some of these are using context clues, understanding main ideas, using the dictionary, collocations, and so on. The back of the book contains an Academic Word List as well as an index with definitions for the important vocabulary words from each reading. This textbook is organized and has topics that are applicable and encourage critical thinking and discussion.

Of course, no textbook is perfect, and rarely does a textbook serve as a standalone resource in a class, but I have enjoyed using this series as part of the materials and texts for this class.

Organization / Coherence/Structure Strip Activity
« on: March 01, 2017, 03:38:08 AM »
This activity can serve as a warm-up for a lesson on coherence and/or paragraph structure or as practice after some discussion/teaching has taken place.

The activity is simple but can be modified in many many ways depending on the level of students and what kinds of structure or cohesive devices you want to focus on with your students. The material posted here was a paragraph written as a model for an intermediate writing class on compare/contrast. The paragraph structure we teach is to develop near essay-like paragraphs so that when they move on to the next level, transitioning to essays is easier for them.

Be aware that there are some sentences in this group that are not clearly related to a particular example and can be difficult for students to correctly place because they lack a transition phrase or specific thematic information. You may choose to leave them in to facilitate student discussion on why they placed a sentence in a certain place, or you may decide to delete them from the activity to avoid students derailing.

As with any strip activity, careful cutting is key to avoiding students trying to put together the physical paper rather than focusing on the content of the text. An alternative to this is to use something like Google Docs where students can cut and paste to manipulate the order of the given sentences.

If you've used something like this before or have other ideas for adapting the material, please share! :-)

Descriptive Writing / Using Order of Adjectives to Aid in Descriptions
« on: March 01, 2017, 03:28:32 AM »
During our unit on description paragraphs, I decided to introduce the concept of "order of adjectives" to my students as a way to introduce them to something new for the more advanced students in the class, but also to aid in their use of multiple adjectives to describe a person, place or object.

I gave a mini-lecture with the PowerPoint attached here and allowed them some practice opportunities. To enforce the concept of the order, I printed out adjectives that described my little red laptop and had the students order the strips according to the order of adjectives they saw from the mini-lecture. Then, they practiced by breaking into small groups of 2 or 3 and picked a Pokemon from the slide on the screen (Pokemon GO had just released a big update to the game and most students were familiar with the characters if not also the show and games). They were to write as many adjectives as they could, in the correct order, to describe their chosen Pokemon. Then, they read their descriptions and other students had to guess which Pokemon they were describing. We then extended this to a brainstorm of adjectives we could use to describe people (which was related to their assignment). This activity got a lot of positive feedback from the students.

A model of the slides I used is attached. I found the images on this website, but you can find them on Google Images as well:

General Writing Resources / Quickwrites
« on: March 01, 2017, 03:11:58 AM »
One brief activity I use on a weekly basis with writing students is the "quickwrite". The rules are simple: Respond to the prompt and write for the entire time (5-10 minutes). You must not stop typing, and do not delete anything. You are not worried about typos, spelling, grammar, etc. The point is just to write as much as you can in the time frame. This is a helpful activity for building writing fluency.

You as the teacher can keep a log of their word counts over the semester and see how much more they can produce by the end than when you started. It is imperative to explain the rules to them, however. If students stop writing/typing, the activity is not doing its job.

This activity is one I usually use to start the day as a warm-up/schema activation activity. I typically give 1-3 guiding questions for students to consider when they type. Sometimes I use this for feedback as well, such as after a peer feedback session.

An example Quickwrite prompt would be:

The rules:
1. You get 10 minutes to write.
2. Do not worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation or capitalization--just write!
3. You must write for the whole time. Never stop typing! If you cannot think of anything, just write any words to keep your English flowing!

The topic:
What is going to school (getting an education) like in your home country?
  • How do students act in the classroom?
  • Does the teacher talk the whole time?
  • Do you have a lot of homework? Do you have a lot of exams?
  • Are you expected to be on time to class?
  • Do you have group work during class time?
  • What do you like about school in your home country? What do you not like about it?
You can add anything about education in your home country that you want to tell me. Just write for the whole ten minutes!

General Writing Resources / Blogging!
« on: March 01, 2017, 03:05:30 AM »
I use blogging in my writing class as a way for students to gain out-of-class practice with writing. This allows them to build their writing production/fluency and also an informal space to practice structures we learn in class.

I typically have blog post topics that are closely associated to the paragraph type we are learning in a given unit (i.e. compare/contrast, cause/effect, definition, description, opinion, narrative, process, etc.). I try to list several topics for students to choose from each time so they can be a little more invested in the choice to write about one topic over another. It can be difficult to come up with topics that are appropriate for students, so here are a few websites I've found that list many different topics you could use in your classes. Of course, not all topics are suitable for all contexts, so be sure to choose according to your students.

60 Writing Topics: Extended Definition:

200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing:

22 Cause and Effect Topics:

163 Questions to Talk About:

Technology and Teaching Reading & Writing / WordPress
« on: March 01, 2017, 02:46:40 AM »
Apologies if this tool has been discussed in the forum--I did not see any recent posts and thought it handy to (re?)introduce one of my favorite parts of writing class: WordPress blogs.

In my intermediate writing classes, I assign a blog topic every week for students to write on. This is a good opportunity for informal writing to build fluency but also to give them a place to practice the paragraph structures we learn in class. Then, after the post is due, students comment on their classmates' blogs, which gives them reading practice and serves as a check for the OP (writer) to make sure their post is actually clear and easy to understand.

The technology tool I use for this is WordPress has a lot of ~FREE~ benefits and tools for students to create and maintain a blog and for the teacher to monitor those blogs. It is easy to subscribe to other blogs and like and comment on posts. Students can post pictures and other media to share with their classmates. My intermediate students were able to set up their new blogs with some guidance in class, and my advanced students were able to set them up outside of class with a step-by-step tutorial from me. With a little guidance, the blog is easy to set up with students of any level. I have found WordPress to be rather user friendly especially when it comes to writing posts.

WordPress sites can also be used as class websites, particularly if you do not have access to a course management system like Moodle or Blackboard. It is easy to customize the settings and themes of the site so that you have multiple pages organized as you see fit. It can also look very professional too if you are interested in using it for tutoring/freelance work, or for your online teacher portfolio.

I could go on and on about WordPress, but I'll keep it short for now. If you have any questions, post them below! :-)

Getting to Know You Activities / Venn Diagram
« on: March 01, 2017, 02:35:06 AM »
I've used this ice breaker several times, and students seem to really enjoy it.

Each pair of students gets a venn diagram (easily found on Google images, or they can draw one), and they must come up with similarities and differences between themselves to write in it. Students can ask questions about each other, their countries, their purposes for learning English, etc. It allows them to see that they do have things in common with their seemingly different classmates but also that they can learn new things from their classmates during the semester.

You can extend this to having each pair do a mini-presentation/report on what they discussed and what some of their similarities and differences are.

This activity has been used in the writing classroom as a sneaky way to get them thinking about compare/contrast ideas that we have returned to later in the semester. You can then refer to it as a graphic organizer for such a unit in your class, and they will have worked with it before.

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