For Advanced ESL Reading and Writing Students

Happy New Year guys! I hope that you had a fun time ringing in 2015 and you've gotten enough r & r (rest and relaxation.)  I know that you were very busy at the end of the fall semester.

Many of you are probably back in your home countries and you won't be returning to us at the IEI. We will definitely miss your intellect, hard work, and kind spirits. Before leaving for break, some of you asked me what you should do to continue to hone your writing and reading skills. So, here are a few suggestions that I've compiled with your level (500) and learning experience in mind:

Grace Kelly, a famous american actress, reading 

Grace Kelly, a famous american actress, reading 

1. To read faster 

All of your reported in your student feedback that you found speed reading to be very helpful. Well, the author and research behind the speed reading we did in class, Paul Nation, has several free books that you can read online to continue reading for fluency. You can select one that seems to be your level and time yourself as you read, just like we did in class. Go to the Free Graded Readers section of Nation's page. Choose a reader at the 4,000, 6,000, or 8,00 word level. If you need to test yourself, start with the 6,000 level. If you can read and know 98% of the words on the first page, great. Try the 8,000 level. Can you do the same? If you can't read 98% of the words, go down a level.

2. To write faster

Next, you'll want to keep up your Quick Writes. Are you wondering how to do that without a writing prompt from me? Have no fear! Here is a great resource written by the editors of for writings with a number of interesting prompts. There are 365 prompts, one to go with every day of the year. That means you can do a little bit of writing in English! Write as much as you can for ten minutes without worrying about grammar or spelling.

3. To expand your vocabulary

If you wish to continue working on the Academic Word List, here are a variety of vocabulary exercises to help. Remember, it's not enough to be able to recognize the word or say its definition. You need to be able to use these words in your writing.

Another option to continue to develop your vocabulary is to hear and see how words are used in the news.  The BBC's Learning English has a great section devoted to words in the news to help viewers learn more vocabulary.

4. To revise and edit your writing

 Now that you aren't always able to get teacher feedback on your drafts, you're going to need to be sure to do careful editing before you submit applications or send important emails. Two universities in Indiana (my home state!) have helpful resources so that you can review your writing carefully. Indiana University helps you to proofread for common surface errors and Purdue University has one of the most comprehensive guides on English grammar and writing for ESL students. The OWL website will be a place you'll want to visit again and again to look for information on how to document sources, extra grammar explanations, or business writing. 

5. Still thirsty for more?

Don't forget about the resources on the IEI's website. If you have any questions about other steps you can take to keep working on your English, let me know! I'd be very happy to hear from you.

Wishing you all the best!


Icebreakers for ESL

Icebreakers for ESL

Each semester, as I think about breaking the ice with students, I get a rush of excitement mixed with panic.  It's time to pick out a new icebreaker, and so I start searching.  I have to say, each semester I diligently look for new ones to use.  Some that I find are attractive, and seem as if they will work in my given context, but without fail, I rely on my old favorite.

This ice breaker never lets me down, involves almost no prep, and always gets students engaged.  I first learned of it from Dave's ESL cafe when I was teaching IELTS test prep classes in New York.  As much as I sometimes think that I should change things up, I just can't tear myself away from using this one.

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Incorporating Reading and Writing in Chats

I think that one interesting way to incorporate reading and writing into video chats would be to have a shared reading, perhaps a news article related to a current hot topic to be read first.  If reading controversial news stories could be assigned before the chat, students would have to recall their reading and talk about the text, which we know helps aid in reading comprehension.  Students could also have the reading in front of them and they could reference while chatting.  Of course, the reading material would have to be carefully selected to ensure that it was interesting and could prompt a good deal of discussion.  I also think that using video chat as a way to form a sort of book club could be a great use.  Maybe prior to chatting, sections of an assigned book could be read and students could be asked to write reflections on those assignments, then they could use asynchronous CMC to share reflections with one another.  They would already have some indication on how their chat partners were responding to the text before interacting in real time.  I think that activities like these could really focus the learning and help ensure that students remain on task.