Archives for posts with tag: Education

Well it’s the beginning of a new quarter at my university, and that means a new schedule and new subject.

For the past two quarters, I’ve been teaching Grammar out of the Focus on Grammar series. Overall, I’ve enjoyed it a lot, and I especially enjoyed the last quarter. I felt like my students and I really managed a solid grasp of the material overall.

So of course, the laws of the universe dictate that my tiny teaching universe be completely turned on its head.

This quarter, I am teaching reading to a lower level, and I’m on the evening shift (This last bit being completely irrelevant except to drive home the whole “turned on its head” bit).

I am still a pretty new teacher, so I was really nervous. Slowly, though, I remembered my Hagwon experience in Korea and the fact that I actually love teaching Reading because…well…I love to read. That simple.

I could think of no better way to spend my days then spending a few hours sharing my love of reading to a captive audience–

captive in the literal sense, of course, because they are bound by university rules to stay in class or be dropped.

Of course the love of reading isn’t enough. I have to teach these students how to pass their final exam, and how to pass the TOEFL if that’s their goal.

According to the Journal of Studies in Education, there are nine basic ways of reading: Intensive and Extensive reading; scanning; skimming; search reading; receptive reading; critical reading; reading for meaning; prediction; and redundancy.

With a teacher along to help develop these ways, students can use reading as a powerful language acquisition tool and it can provide them with critical target language exposure.

Intensive reading is pretty task-based, and its easily modified to a classroom environment. The article “Teaching Reading to EFL Students to make them Better Readers” states that the overall aim of intensive reading is get students to understand the meaning of a text and how that meaning is produced. In extensive reading, on the other hand, we often teach parts of a whole (book), and in that way we will be able to construct the meaning.

This strategy is a bit more difficult to adapt to the classroom because they can be forgotten. Also, in my limited experience, the length alone is intimidating to students, and it requires significant patience and review to keep even the lowest learners on par and engaged with a veritable mountain of foreign-language text in front of them.

That’s right. In my class, I’ve decided to teach my low-intermediate English readers a book: The Giver, to be specific.

This is one of my all-time favorite books and I think it is intensely appropriate for an academic setting. Plus, right now with the dystopian YA novel-turned-movie renaissance, I think it’s quite relevant, and that students have a lot of schema they can activate to contextualize the story and themes.

As the article states, longer texts also provide ample opportunity to practice reading strategies like skimming and scanning, plus it gives students a chance to compare the text against itself, and to think about the way the plot and characters develop, and to even discuss the writers’ point of view.  I’m hoping that in studying these topics, students will also be able to develop their receptive reading and critical reading skills.

And hey, maybe their critical thinking skills too? It is college, after all.

I realize that I’m not going to make them fluent readers in 10 weeks, but my earnest hope is that I will be able to impress my love of reading upon at least a few of them. The skills that I’m teaching them this quarter are the skills some excellent teachers taught me years ago, and in turn those teachers have gifted me with basically the love of my life: the love of reading a good look.

I’m really excited and optimistic about passing on that gift to a few of my students. Not unlike The Giver 😉

Source: Macrothink Institute. Teaching Reading to EFL Students to Make them Better Readers.




At times, the academic process seems like just a whole lot of jumping through hoops as someone with more power and prestige than you dangles that carrot. Or brass ring. Whatever.

This was one of those nights.

As a part of my practicum, my practicum coordinator has to observe me teaching, and while I do understand it, and she is also very nice…at the same time I can never quite put out of my mind that she is the person with the power to say “No, you don’t get your degree.”

So with that in mind, I taught my advanced II grammar class, nervous as all h-e-double-hockeysticks.


I chose for her to observe this class, because I like the vibe of this class. The class is mostly made up of Saudis, and they are very congenial. They are also pretty forgiving; they help me help them.

But this is the same class that I got that “lose credibility” feedback with from before, and it is the same class that for some reason I just have this crazy-difficult time remembering their names.

I knew them last session, and the crazy thing is the class is pretty much the same, but I get their names mixed up and I have called students by the wrong name before.

This confusion of course only intensified because I was nervous, and I ended up getting confused on students whose names I know I knew.

One guy got so frustrated that he ended up muttering under his breath “he has a name” the next time I called on a student without using his name. I know dude. But I’m under a lot of pressure right now.

This does not bode well for Orals.

Then, of course because I was being observed, one student absolutely grilled me about the difference between adverb clauses and noun clauses. Like, this guy took me to task for every teacher who ever gave him an unsatisfactory explanation on the subject and he would not stop until he was un-confounded.

I think I helped, but it was a rough road.

Now I wait for my feedback.



so it goes. I guess in my line of work, things are hard to predict.

Today I taught two classes, one writing and one grammar. These are a part of my practicum, so they are not my classes, but my mentor lets me plan them and execute them and pretty much only jumps in if I’m drowning.


Tonight was my first night teaching again after a two-week hiatus due to both a family emergency and break between sessions, and I was mostly excited but also a bit nervous.

I was excited because I was teaching conjunctions and I felt like I planned this lesson to a T. I studied it and I had this nifty train car metaphor and I had conjunction junction and this lesson was gonna be IT, how I bounced back after a somewhat shaky first session (in my eyes).

I was nervous because I was also teaching a writing class and I had spent so much time and energy on the conjunction junction that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do for the writing class.


As the saying goes, you can never be too rich or too thin. Or predict which classes are going to go well and which will have you looking/feeling/sounding lost.

In the writing class, I introduced the Objective Report by examining (deconstructing, I’d like to think ^^) an article on the New York Sugary Drink ban.

And that did have some issues, but they weren’t due to my teaching (mostly). They were just normal issues of, like, vocabulary and some students still finding their sea legs after moving up a level.

As opposed to my beautiful, well-studied conjunction junction which got stopped in its tracks. At one point, I literally said “OK I can see this is not working. Ignore what I just said and let’s just do this.” And then I proceeded to have them do some exercises out of their blue Azar book.

It seems that in my preparation for the lesson, I got too meta. I was too far above the material–I lost that balance of how to present it in their terms.

And I understood it so well that I didn’t know how not to understand it, so I was having a hard time even understanding their questions.

Which prompted my mentor to remark that she understood, and that it comes with working more with the class and getting a feel for them,

and that “you can’t understand the material TO them.”


This week I wanted to look into something that has been pecking at my brain for a little while now, regarding the teaching of composition, and that is in looking for a balance. We learn so many theories regarding writing and its purpose, and in First Year Composition (FYC) students to understand writing and its purpose. Combined with my Descriptive Grammararian/Non-Privileged Dialect/TESOL linguistic background, I sometimes find myself in a rabbit hole and I finally find myself thinking “…but where do I draw the line?” as in, where do I draw the line between living and letting linguistically live and teaching how to produce cohesive, impressive, readable text? I chose this article in an attempt to understand…

Marcus, M. (1964). Dilemmas of the college composition teacher: As humanist and technician. The Journal of Higher Education35(9), 481-487. Retrieved from,&searchText=teaching&searchText=humanist&list=hide&searchUri=/action/doBasicSearch?Query=teaching+composition%2C+humanist&gw=jtx&acc=on&prq=humanist%2C+composition&Search=Search&hp=25&wc=on&prevSearch=&item=13&ttl=5141&returnArticleService=showFullText

I was a bit apprehensive about this article because of its publication date—it was published in 1964, and in my program it has been kind of drilled that we want to be cognizant of publication dates in research, and that we want to be choosing more recently published articles (>15 years). In this case, however, I thought that the article’s timeframe could be a strength because it was published in the timeframe when the dialogue between Current Traditional Rhetoric, Classical Rhetoric and Expressivism was unfolding.

About three pages into a lofty description of the composition teacher as someone who probably does not want to be a composition teacher and is most likely ill-prepared to teach composition, I think I stumbled upon the answer that I was seeking, which is that the composition teacher struggles to convey to students that “he is criticizing the logic, detail, clarity and consistency of their presentations, and not their intrinsic ideas…and to point out the difference between fact and opinion, and between rant and grounded opinion” (Marcus, 1964).

Marcus’s main argument, however, lies in the difficulty of conveying the point above in the current language environment and in relation to students’ fixed (and sometimes contradictory) values/beliefs. Although here “current” is 1960s, the supporting points made in the article remain relevant. Marcus points out the difficulty of learning how to write with honesty and clarity when inflated, untruthful language is so rampant. He uses advertising as a supporting point, with the example that his baby’s “meat jars” are labeled “‘our most precious product'” (Marcus, 1964).

Regarding students’ sometimes contradictory values and beliefs (for example that everyone is moral, but expediency is valued over morality), Marcus points out that it may be sometimes difficult to find a framework within which to criticize students’ detail, reasoning, clarity and themes (Marcus 1964). Critiquing from outside this framework may alienate the teacher from the students; criticizing from within may reinforce these views.

Although I think that this article was written with a somewhat condescending tone toward students, I nonetheless found it to be interesting and valuable. Marcus points out that it is our duty to analyze the misuse of language and the underlying desire for power without presenting our analysis as the final truth. He effectively details the complex negotiating process involved in teaching composition. This article provided me with the answer I was looking for, so I would definitely recommend it.


The article that I chose to review is called “Designing and developing a language environment for second language writers.” APA citation:

Knuttson, O., Pargman, T. P., Elundh, K. S., & Westlund, S. (2007). Designing and developing a language environment for second language writers.Computers & Education49(4), 1122-1146

When beginning their discussion, the authors state that it is essential to provide second-language learners with tools that will facilitate their developing an enjoyment and understanding of writing in the target language. They argue that this can be done by developing computer-language tools, specifically, saying that computational linguistics can be expanded. Grammar checkers, verb conjugators, “set-expression translators,” bilingual dictionaries, online grammars, etc. are some examples of computer-based language tools.

The authors make their first point by answering the question of why they chose to focus on errors. To do that, they explained the taxonomy of errors made by language-learners, categorizing them as slips, mistakes, errors and solipsisms. They then address the role of written feedback, ultimately arguing that it can in some cases be largely effective at improving students’ second drafts and that students appear to want the feedback, ultimately tying this back to why the focus on errors in writing instruction.

Next they move to detailing the study itself: they chose participants who are learning Swedish as a second language and focus on the Granska grammar checker. This grammar checker is genre-based but overall more accurate than Microsoft Word. The learners were preparing to take a Swedish TOEFL-equivalent test that would allow them to study in Swedish universities. Ultimately the study is measured through the number of grammatical judgements that the participants made while using Granska.  The results were that users found this tool difficult to use. The authors concluded that the teacher is an important part of the feedback process. The study appeared to reinforce the importance of feedback in second-language writing instruction. They found that students want explanations to accompany their feedback and that both students and instructors had a difficult time trusting Granska.

The authors then took what they learned from the Granska study and applied it in a program titled Grim, where they were able to apply the focus on form approach and add tools that made grammatical categories explicit, as well as focusing on authentic language use. However, they concluded that Grim is not a “pedagogically neutral tool” because teachers must invent their own settings when and if they decide to use the program.

In my brief experience in a second-language writing class, I have seen the importance of human connection in writing instruction. As Downs & Wardle show, the writing student’s feelings about writing in general can influence their performance. I think that a caring instructor who will provide personalized feedback is an integral part of creating a learning environment that is comfortable for students so that they will be receptive to instruction. Having said that, I would recommend this article because I think it is important to have explicit and empirical explanations available for the sake of credibility. As technology expands, it is important to understand when and how its use is appropriate in the classroom, and this article contributes to that larger conversation.