In psychology we may look at childhood or adolescence or consider the way in which we develop our gender identity or sexuality. This topic, cognition and development, considers the way we develop our ability to think, our sense of morality and our sense of self-identity. We remain that way for many years, certainly compared to most species, many of whom can be up and running and taking care of themselves within minutes.
I was a student teacher in a Massachusetts elementary school, and it took me awhile to figure out the correlation between the pencil and hallway behavior. If I replied, "Yes, you should bring a pencil," the walk to my classroom took 15 minutes and involved a lot of disruptions, student squabbles, drifting students and other various misbehaviors.
As a student teacher, I was very focused on keeping order and creating a challenging learning environment. If I replied, "No, you don't need a pencil today," the walk to my classroom took about five minutes, even with a stop at the drinking fountain.
So, what was the correlation?
The students knew that if they had to bring a pencil they would have to do writing in the class, and they dreaded it.
If they didn't need a pencil, we would be working on projects or doing more verbal work, and they liked that. What they weren't expecting was that half-way through my student teaching, I bought 10 boxes of pencils and kept them in my classroom, so they never had to bring a pencil to class — I had plenty to go around.
This improved the hallway behavior, but still left me with the question of how to improve ESL student writing when they were frustrated by the practice and went to great lengths to avoid it. I have been teaching ESL for many years and there is no perfect solution to this problem; however, I do believe I have added quite a few writing activities to my bag of tricks and improved my ability to differentiate writing tasks based on student ability.
As I improved my ability to ensure that each student would be successful in the writing activity, their confidence increased, and they were less likely to engage in disruptive behavior. I hope some of the writing activities I share with you will help you to reduce anxiety in your ESL students and increase their language and writing skills.
There is a very important correlation between writing and language development. Why is writing often the last skill to emerge? It almost seems that reading would be more difficult because the student needs to sound out words and understand the author's message.
It would seem writing might be easier because students are sharing their own ideas already in their heads and simply putting them on paper. However, writing requires a lot more processing of language in order to produce a message.
First the student must have an idea, then think of the appropriate way to say it, then start to write it and spell it correctly, and then create another sentence to continue to communicate the idea.
If we add the students' worry that they are making huge, embarrassing errors or that their ideas aren't very good in the first place, then we begin to understand the complexity involved in writing in a second language. In fact, the way we communicate, or the way students put their ideas on paper, is largely influenced by their culture.
In some of my classes, my Asian students were very confused when I told them to revise their writing because this was a "first draft. The idea that they had to write it over again didn't make sense to them.
Students from other cultures may have developed a storytelling style that involves laying out a lot of background information and detail and takes quite a while to get to the point. In most western writing, we expect a topic sentence or a lead paragraph that will tell us what the point is, and then everything written after that leads to a direct conclusion.
Many of my students had great difficulty connecting their ideas this way. With that said, teachers have a big task in improving ESL student writing skills, but the payoff for instructional dedication can be great. A researcher on adolescent literacy at the University of Minnesota, David O'Brien, did a study on improving the reading skills of adolescent students.
All of the students were involved in a six week study and during that time they were responsible for creating brochures and other types of communication on computers. They had criteria to input a certain amount of text and graphics to create a final project.
This required lots of thought and revisions to achieve the final result. At the end of the six weeks the students took a reading test and the majority of them had improved their reading skills significantly.Dear Twitpic Community - thank you for all the wonderful photos you have taken over the years.
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