I was inspired by Rachael Cayley’s excellent plenary at the Consortium on Graduate Communication’s Summer Institute last year to post more about successful lessons on my blog. So here goes … My annual summer gig for the last 8 years has been to teach a Second Language Acquisition course for Delaware K-12 teachers. Our state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of English learners, who now account for almost 9% of total public school enrollment. However, we have a critical shortage of certified ESL teachers, which we have tried to address in part through the University of Delaware’s Additional Certification in ESL program, which I created and coordinate. Our strategy is to train as many existing teachers as possible in the theory and methods of ESL teaching so that they can not only support ELs directly but also disseminate their expertise in their schools.
Which brings me to last Monday and the first day of the 2019 course in Dover.* Continue reading “New Language Immersion Experience”
The third edition of my co-authored textbook Q:Skills for Success, Reading/Writing 5 has just been published by Oxford University Press. The new edition is a welcome refresh for the series, which I started writing in 2007 (I know exactly how old it is because I was remember working on the first edition at my computer in Michigan with my newborn son napping in my arms!).
The third edition adds several new readings, including a chapter on the value (or not) of learning foreign languages and another on the gig economy. There are also a ton of videos on the companion website — you’ll even hear Scott Douglass and myself narrative the “Critical Thinking Skills” presentations. So as a bonus, you’ll get British, Canadian, and American accents throughout the book. We’ve also updated the vocabulary lists to align with the Oxford 5000 and Oxford Phrasal Academic Lexicon, which was a really interesting process.
You can get exam copies of any level of Q from your friendly OUP sales rep. It will be available for sale from Amazon and other fine retailers — it’s very new, so it’s not yet appearing everywhere. There is also a “split” edition in two halves, A and B.
What do you think of the new edition? Do let us know!
Right, I’ve taken on critical thinking, EAP as preparation, and grading in my last few posts, so here’s one last heresy for this year:
I think teaching word parts (roots, suffixes, and prefixes) is overrated.
Yeah, I said it. Continue reading “Affixing the tail on the donkey”
In one of my favorite moments in the TV series The West Wing, politico Josh Lyman winces when a member of the president’s staff uses the word “recession”:
Larry: “If the economy is heading into a recession–”
Josh: “No, no, no. We don’t ever use that word around here.”
Ed: “What word? Recession? …What should we call it then?”
Josh: “I don’t care. Call it a boat show or a beer garden or a bagel.”
Larry: “So if it is a… bagel, the Fed thinks it’s gonna be a mild bagel.”
If you work in the West Wing, then calling an economic downturn a recession makes it a recession (once repeated on cable news, Twitter, and around the proverbial water cooler). On the other hand, if the average English teacher, say, reads in the Delaware News Journal that the stock market has fallen and declares to his two young children at the breakfast table that the US is in a recession … nothing happens. The president’s economic advisors’ utterances have illocutionary force: they make something so by speaking it into existence, just as a licensed official alone can declare two people married.
So what does this have to do with grades?
Continue reading “When is a grade a bagel?”
A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to Japan to speak at JALT and visit some schools and universities with the wonderful representatives from OUP. During a book fair at a university near Tokyo, a tall Australian ex-pat teacher asked me if we had any books on critical thinking. I dutifully pointed him to a series I’d written for which has “critical thinking tips” and explained how we tried to embed them in the content and assignments. “No,” he frowned, “I want a book that just teaches critical thinking, not a language textbook.”
Honestly, I have no idea what that kind of book would look like, and I certainly couldn’t write it. I’m not even sure what critical thinking means, and I’ve been teaching academic ESL for over 15 years. So I’ve stopped talking about critical thinking, and I don’t claim to teach it. I’ll leave thinking to the psychologists and philosophers.
Continue reading “A criticism of critical thinking”
While I was working at the University of North Carolina, I made a series of online workshops for ESL students who didn’t have time to attend the face-to-face sessions we offered. (I call them the bobble-head videos, for reasons which will be obvious if you watch one!) Since then, the Writing Center has reorganized their website (looks slick, guys!), and many of the links I’ve posted on the blog previously don’t work. So, here are the direct links to all the videos:
Update 1/22/13: The video links are not working — either there’s a problem with the server, or UNC has canceled its account with Panopto. I’m working on a solution, but in the meantime, please use the PDFs, and you can just imagine my talking head …
- Paraphrasing and plagiarism 1: Using sources (video) (pdf)
- Paraphrasing and plagiarism 2: Preparing a paraphrase (video) (pdf)
- Paraphrasing and plagiarism 3: Writing a summary (video) (pdf)
- Ten principles for writing email (video) (pdf)
- Corpus tools part 1 (video) (pdf)
- Corpus tools part 2 (video) (pdf)
- Vocabulary development strategies (video)
- Academic Word List introduction (video) (pdf)
- Making the most of your learner’s dictionary (video) (pdf)
- Using a thesaurus (video) (pdf)
- Culture shock (video) (pfd)
Please feel free to use and share these with students and colleagues. Please note that the links mentioned in the workshops might not still be active.
My last major task before leaving UNC-Chapel Hill was to finish a series of video presentations on paraphrasing and plagiarism that I’ve been promising to make for months! They are finished, and you can watch them here.
I had already done a video on this topic last year, but after hearing some great sessions at TESOL in March, I wanted to revisit this important area for academic writers. In particular, the second-language writing interest section’s colloquium on plagiarism (handouts here) stressed the importance of teaching learners good use of sources and not just threatening them with the consequences of plagiarism.
So, that’s what I’ve tried to do in the video presentations. I start by discussing how to use sources — or rather, I give writers questions to ask about sources in their field — and then go on to show the language tricks and techniques that make for acceptable paraphrases and summaries. The series is written for ESL graduate students, but others might find it useful, too.
Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
March 4 is …. National Grammar Day! Sadly, ESL teachers don’t all get a day off to celebrate (or, maybe, we should teach especially well on that day?). This is a publicity stunt by the “Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar,” one of many self-declared and self-aggrandizing stewards of the English language. Their website isn’t actually terrible (although you get bonus points for spotting some of their inconsistent punctuation on the home page), but linguists find the idea that English grammar needs promotion or protection laughable. After all, the language has survived — flourished, in fact — without (despite of?) efforts to save it.
And while I’m thinking about it … why National Grammar Day? Does the U.S. need to serve as the world’s linguistic police? Or does SPOGG only promote good American English grammar? Do they fear our friends from the north are trying re-introduce the widespread use of the letter “u”? Or are they afraid of British ex-pats complaining, “It’s ‘Have you eaten yet?’ not ‘Did you eat yet?’!”
So, I unilaterally declare every day to be henceforth International Grammar Day, dedicated to using the resources of language to boldly communicate meanings in whatever ways work!
One of my arguments for the importance of understanding plagiarism is that it is not just an academic obsession: in the “real” world, real writers can face scandal and even legal action if accused of plagiarism. Traci Gardner has this detailed summary of the latest such case over on NCTE’s InBox blog. I need to brush up my German and read the novel at the center of the controversy, Helen Hegemann’s Axolotl Roadkill. (If I’ve translated the blurb on amazon.de correctly, it’s a semi-autobiographical novel about excessive drugs, partying, and speech in Berlin. Excessive speech? Now I’m curious what Sprachexzesse really means …)
This reminds me of the most famous recent case in academia, in which Steven Ambrose, a well-known historian, was accused of plagiarizing from a book by Thomas Childers, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania (a Penn undergraduate wrote a nice article about this for the Penn’s alumni magazine). The situation here was more complex: the issue was whether Ambrose gave adequate credit to Childers — in the German novel, there are (apparently) entire pages lifted from other sources.
Regardless of the merits of the accusations and defenses in either case, you don’t want articles and blogs about plagiarism to be the first hits in a google search for your name! Another reason to teach and learn plagiarism well as early and often throughout every stage of higher education.
You can watch my video introduction to plagiarism and paraphrasing for ESL (mostly graduate) students here.