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Messages - minhha

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Organization / Writing Organization - Powerpoint Presentation
« on: December 04, 2006, 10:34:52 PM »
Here are the Powerpoint slides that we used to present patterns of organization.

Persuasive Paper / Pursuasive Essay Organizer
« on: December 01, 2006, 10:22:11 PM »
The attached file is a nice collection of graphic organizers that may help you work more effectively on pursuasive essay.
This file was retrieved from on December 01, 2006.

Feedback--Teacher / Rating Scale
« on: December 01, 2006, 09:06:42 PM »
The following analytic scale is suggested by Reild (1993). I find it much easier to use than some others that I've tried before. The reason for my preference for it is that all the criteria are intelligiblly and briefly described. What is more, the components of the essay are reasonably weighted.


Informative title and lead-in               1      2      3      4          5
Clear thesis statement                      1      2      3      4          5
                                                           Total         (out of 10)

Specific examples and details             4      8      12     16        20
Connections between ideas               2      4       6      8         10
                                                           Total         (out of 30)

Transitions                                     2      4       6      8         10
Paragraph unity and coherence          2      4       6      8         10
                                                           Total         (out of 20)

Sentence structure                          1      2      3      4          5
Vocabulary                                     1      2      3      4          5
Grammar                                        1      2      3      4          5
Mechanics and spelling                     1      2      3      4          5
                                                           Total         (out of 20)

Rhetorical Stance                   
Purpose clear throughout                  2      4       6      8         10
Audience expectations met               2      4       6      8         10
                                                           Total         (out of 20)

Grades: A = 90-100     B = 80-90     C = 70-80     D = 60-70     F = below 60



The following link will get you to a web site that I think is ideal for EFL students who are interested in compare and contrast essays. The web site is well-organized and looks very restful to the eyes. The information is well-organized. You may easily find brief descriptions and illustrations of all related issues such as graphic organizers, transitions, paper organization, examples, and checklist. I think this web site is appropriate for intermediate students or a lower level. It could be useful for writing teachers as well.

Postreading Activities / Using BINGO as a Post-reading Activity
« on: December 01, 2006, 06:39:07 PM »
Here is an interesting game that you may use as a post-reading activity. Students often tend to be a bit tired and bored after spending most of the class time on pre-reading and while-reading activities. Having students play a game at this stage seems quite useful a way to refresh their minds and nourish their interest in the next reading lesson.

I picked up the activity from a book that I think serves as a rich source for reading teachers:

Greenwood, J. (1988). Class Readers. Oxford University Press. 


The purpose of the activity is to help students review associations between characters, traits, events, etc.

1. Ask students to make their own bingo cards with the names of four characters of their choice on them.

2. The students should also prepare small pieces of paper on which they should write one piece of information about each of the characters on their card and his or her role in the story. They do not mention the character by name.

3. Place the pieces of paper in a bag and draw out at random and read aloud. If a student hears a piece of information which refers to one of the characters on the card she or he crosses off the name. When all four characters on the card have been mentioned the student shouts "Bingo" and repeats the information she or he heard about her or his character in order to win the game.

Beginning Readers / Story mapping
« on: December 01, 2006, 05:13:01 PM »
In general, beginning level second language readers are just at the stage of pulling meaning from simple and short reading texts.  One good way to help these beginners read better is familiarizing them with different types of skeletal structures of stories through an activity called story mapping. Story mapping is an example of scaffolding which enables readers to use the basic structure of a story for comprehending or composing stories. For example, if we are going to use children?s stories as reading materials, we may see that several of these stories are made up based on a very common structure in which the main character has a goal to achieve. In order to achieve this goal he/she has to get over an obstacle, and the story ends with a resolution of the conflict between the goal and the obstacle. When I teach beginning readers, I often make use of this activity before getting them to read the assigned text. I ask questions to elicit who the main character is, what the obstacle may look like, and how it is overcomed. I could even ask the students to refer to a similar story written in L1 and try to map the story. Students then use this story map to facilitate their information processing at the while-reading stage.

Using story mapping can create a very encouraging and interactive learning environment for beginning readers because they can produce different versions of the story before accessing it. In this way, we give the readers not only some background information but also an opportunity to be more imaginative and creative.

Vocabulary / When to teach vocabulary
« on: November 06, 2006, 07:36:49 PM »
Vocabulary teaching may be part of what the teacher often does in class. As language teachers we can find good answers to the two basic questions about what vocabulary words to teach and how to teach them. Another issue that I believe is worth further discussing here is when we teach vocabulary during an hour of English instruction.

We have now witnessed how powerful CLT has been in introducing its teaching tools to EFL classrooms around the world. As a reaction to traditional instruction basically dealing with what Nunan (1988) called syllabuses that introduce ?one item at a time and required mastery of that item before moving on to the next?, CLT, as we all know, emphasizes the processes of communication. Students learn to use language appropriately in different types of situations with a communicative intent. CLT, though prominent it may be, has recognized PPP as one of its embodiments in many current EFL classrooms. By PPP I mean a methodological procedure consisting of present ? practice ? produce, or more concretely, an English class in which activities are designed based on three explicit phases: presentation, practice, and production. As part of the audio-lingual approach, PPP started to take effect in the 1950s and has survived the arrival of CLT by mingling with it (Oliveira, 2004). In the area of vocabulary teaching, PPP greatly influences the ways in which teachers deal with new words. The first possible way is that they organize class interaction to elicit new words and present them. An alternative is, at the presentation stage, doing some scaffolding, i.e. helping students to acquire new vocabulary through the building up of a target language structure over several turns. Some teachers, however, do not follow exactly the same way. At this stage, they prefer to ?provide? students with vocabulary that they believe is new because it appears on the glossary of the textbook; otherwise, it is judged by intuition to be new. 

We then now come to a very interesting question recently arising among many EFL teachers when they are first introduced to TBLT. By TBLT I signify an English class with tasks as the irreplaceable and central element of all classroom activities (Long & Crookes, 1993). TBLT could be the answer to the question of changing classrooms into part of the real world in which students are offered more opportunities to use language the way people do in real life. Students are thrown into ?sink or swim? situations, i.e. tasks, in which there is no way but to employ their communicative competence to the utmost to survive. Tasks now are not confined to the production stage but to the whole one-hour English lesson. Vocabulary teaching in the TBLT framework does not involve a top-down model but the provision of words whenever students need them to ?survive?.

As can be seen, the question of when we teach vocabulary during an English class does not seem to call for one unique answer. The decisive factor may lie in the teacher?s attitude toward the ELT approach he employs and his reactions to teaching materials. At this moment, it is likely that TBLT is relatively new to many EFL teachers; and we do not expect completely to change PPP, a system which has been constructed since the 1950s. I suggest some compromise of the two framework in the way that we can flexibly move performance of vocabulary teaching around, depending on what types of lesson and which language skills to be focused on.  For example, if it is a speaking lesson, vocabulary teaching may take place anytime while the students are involved in communicative tasks; but it could be a more favorable and useful way to do some vocabulary teaching in case we work on a reading text.

Actually, human language cannot work without vocabulary. So vocabulary teaching plays a significant role in the job of a teacher. 


Long, M. H., & Crookes, G. (1993). Units of analysis in syllabus design: The case for
       task. In S. Gass & G. Crookes (eds.), Tasks in a pedagogical context: Integrating
       theory and practice (pp. 9-43). Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Nunan, D. (1988). Syllabus design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oliveira, C. P. (2004). Implementing task-based assessement in a TEFL environment. In
       B. Leaver & J. Willis, Task-based instruction in foreign language education (pp.
       253-279). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Vocabulary / Word frequency levels
« on: November 05, 2006, 04:14:36 PM »
I had some interesting experiences with teaching vocabulary when I took the 411. The course included a practicum in which we taught a SEC class. My group?s lesson plan focused on how students use language to rent an apartment.

I then had some problems with the presentation of new vocabulary. Although these were just cases in which I did not communicate the meaning of new vocabulary successfully, I thought they could be typical examples of certain kinds of trouble non-native teachers may face in class.

I explained the meaning of the word ?criteria? to the students. I used two definitions of the word from the Oxford ESL dictionary for students of American English, but my students did not seem to understand what I was trying to explain. Then why didn?t I use another word instead of criteria? I could have used a lay word and focused rather on teaching common terms that lay people would know and understand. Another situation was when I presented the words ?stomatitis? and ?nervous tension?. According to a native speaker who observed the class, those words sounded somewhat uncommon to her. She thought ?nervous tension? was commonly called ?anxiety? while she had no idea what ?stomatitis? meant. I should have considered ways in which I chose words to teach. And one of the good ways I believe is to check if it is a high or low frequency word with a native speaker. Another useful way can be offered by this fun website that can help teachers analyze the vocabulary level of a text. Teachers can see whether the text is appropriate for a certain group of learners and which words should be in order of priorities in terms of vocabulary teaching. 

All you need to do is click on the Try it!, type in the selected text, and enjoy the results.     

Feedback--Peer Review / Has anything been wrong with peer review?
« on: October 29, 2006, 11:17:15 AM »
I came across this article and would say that it really drew my attention.

Regarding peer review, what the article focuses on is questioning the validity of the peer review process. Even though peer review, by some estimates, has been conducted for more than 200 years, there are now forces asking it to come under scrutity because the public is losing faith in peer review's ability to assist in evaluating research quality. An example was the case of Jan Hendrick Schon, who works in U.S. Bell Laboratories. Of the 25 papers that Schon published during the past 3 years, 16 have been reported to be fault.

Several recent instances of peer review failures have called for two U.K. scholarly societies' participation in reinvestigating the value of peer review as well as systematically revising its methodology.

I hope we will be interested in looking at ways, in which these two organizations, namely the Cochrane and Royal Society carry out their schemes. Although the central issue in the article is a bit beyond EFL contexts, I still believe that it gives us chance to go further into the area concerned, i.e. peer review process. The article may also give us some idea of treating peer review with care in class no matter how useful it may be for our students to enhance their writing skills. 

Authentic v. Modified Materials / Simplified and Graded Readers
« on: October 01, 2006, 10:22:29 PM »
Whenever we discuss applying CLT in a particular teaching context, authentic materials seem to be part of our talk. CLT is closely associated with real communication and what we, English language teachers, always want to create in class is the miniature paradigm of the real world outside.

Reading is a very practical skill. Our students need to use it a great deal outside the school, not to mention a significant portion of their school-work concerning this skill. So we can never expect to have them be able to read something in real life if they are not trained how to read authentic texts in the classroom.

Despite the current debate in the L2/FL context about whether or not  reading texts should be authentic, it is a fact that texts taken directly from L1 sources are modified or rewritten in some way to fit particular age groups or reading abilities. I am not going to join this debate but very keen on posting here some of Sesman?s suggestions on why and how many publishers produce simplified texts for ESL/EFL classrooms.

According to Sesman, text modification is employed when it comes to creating some kinds of  reading material that are relevant to certain types of readers. To be more precise, these materials will enable them to feel immediately satisfied about their reading ability and thus greatly motivate them to read something more challenging. Sesman also points out what we may do to have a good modified text. (1) Simplify the levels of grammatical structures and sentence structures. Complex sentences and structures should appear at a later stage. (2) The text needs to be rewritten within a vocabulary of a fixed number of words (e.g. 500, 800, 1,000, or 2000 words). Words that are not included in this basic vocabulary should be explained using the basic words. (3) Make complex ideas easier to understand.

Sesman believes that, once modified, the texts will ?form an excellent introduction to reading? because beginners are allowed ?to have a real sense of achievement?.


Sesman, B. (1997). How to teach English. U.K: Oxford University Press.

Mini-Books: A writing and reading project / Mini-book as a test item
« on: September 29, 2006, 10:20:14 AM »
A mini-book is no doubt fun and useful for children, but we will probably also make it interesting and beneficial to adult students if we are able to adapt it.
I am thinking about activities like using mini-books as ?TOEFL test books?. In their individual group, students will use their mini-book to write a ?test item?. This could be a series of drawings or signs that imply a story plot. It could also be an encoded message, i.e. the kind of lexical shortenings we often see in cell-phone messages, about some hot news or current exciting events. These mini-books will then be sent to a different group. Students start to work on the ?test items?. Activity feedback can be very interesting when we let the ?testers? and ?testees? compare their versions.   

Using Literature / Making things more vivid
« on: September 28, 2006, 10:47:33 PM »
Hello my friends,

I jump in with a few interesting ideas of how we can cut out parts of the literary work and then have them acted out by the students.
The link below will provide you with an article describing in detail four activities ranking from a warm-up game in which students mime the name of a movie or a book to ?thought tracking? which involves students in small groups choosing a significant moment in the character?s life, thinking for him/her at that moment and then expressing those thoughts in public.
There are also some valuable follow-up activities that might be useful for strengthening a particular language skill. Here is the link.

Human Is: A Science Fiction Story / Nourishing imagination
« on: September 28, 2006, 10:26:27 PM »
Here an idea just flashed through my mind.

What if we let the students go beyond the story a little bit? For example, they might create a scene in which real Lester comes back in some way and bitterly sees his wife living happily with that Rexorian guy  :o! What would happen if real Lester had already changed something to be a much more passionate and caring man? Students work in groups making different versions that interpret these scenarios. This could also be viewed as a follow-up activity.

So why don't we spend some time nurturing our students' wonder, imagination and love of learning something new and useful from the literature, say, something they can apply in real life?

Things like these may bring a lot of fun, right?  :D

Human Is: A Science Fiction Story / Re: That?s how human is?
« on: September 15, 2006, 02:49:57 PM »

I really liked the way you put the concept. You did give me some food for thought by creating lots of demonstrations about what is human.

In my view, the story itself is human with its HUMAN message found nowhere else but right in those main characters. Isn't it human finding how kindly and sincerely little Gus treats his kitten? Isn't it human the word we may choose to figure out something about Jill, who must be admired for that kind of act saving an innocent soul? And what does human mean to us when we approach such a personality that, alien though it may be, is able to describe itself in gentle speech and caring gestures?

Despite where they are from, what culture they live in, Jill and that Rexorian man still have something in common: It is an orientation toward a change for the better - a life full of peace and love.

So what does it mean to be human? This interesting question really leaves its answers to be explored in several ways. I wish I could use this story in my English class with the students in different groups picking out the characters they like and then seeing whether or not there is anything human in them.   

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