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!


Extensive Reading for Beginning ESL students

Extensive Reading for Beginning ESL students

Initially, when teaching in IEPs, I used Extensive Reading with intermediate students.  These students were already accustomed to reading some in English, although they usually only did so for class purposes.  Day (2011) has found several benefits of using Extensive Reading--it can improve reading comprehension, help students employer greater use of reading strategies, increase reading speed, and increase writing proficiency and vocabulary.  Plus, because students often enjoy it, they become more excited about reading in general.

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Documenting student results using pre-tests & post-tests

ZhaoHong Han, my Second Language Acquisition professor at Teachers College, was the first teacher I ever had that showed data to support her students' progress over the course semester.  It made a lasting impression on me, and since then, I've tried to do the same with my students.

At the beginning of the term in my Reading 100 class, I give pre-tests for both reading and vocabulary.  During the last week of the semester, students take the same test again.  Then, after the results are scored, I give them the results of the whole class and show the students' individual progress (anonymously, of course).  This is pretty easy to set-up in an excel spreadsheet to make a simple graph to display.  Students are always so pleased to see evidence of their learning.  I make a big deal of it and make sure to acknowledge their hard work.  I also emphasize how the small score increases are actually quite significant. (And they are--the test is quite difficult).

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For Reading Students

This post is for my Reading 100 students.

Maybe your questions are: "Abby, what can I do to continue learning English?" Or, "What can I do to improve my reading?"

There are many ways that you can work to improve your reading.  Even during summer vacation!  Here is my advice: 

1. Continue to read stories.  

If you did not finish reading Give Us the Money or Flying Home, finish those!  If you want to find new stories, get an App called "How Good is your English."  This app will help you to find the right book.  You can read more stories on your phone, iPad, or you can buy them on the Internet.  Here is a short video that will explain more about the stories.

2. Read the news.

We used the readings from News in Levels in class at times.  I think almost every student liked this news article about criminals who steal wallets or phones.  They come in different levels--some are easy and some are hard.  Try to read one article every day.  Listen to the news as you read, and answer the questions.

3. Practice sounds and spelling.

Because you don't have pronunciation class, you need to remember sounds and how they match with letters.  There are some apps that can help you with this.  Hooked on Phonics is made for English speaking children, but I think it can really help you too! Spelling City has a lot of games that can help you to practice your spelling.

4. Continue to learn words!

Use your picture dictionary.  Learn and study words that you do not know and that are interesting to you.  You can make flashcards for your favorite words.  Use Quizlet to make flashcards and then share them with friends.  If you want to practice like we did in class, use the Picture Dictionary Practice.

5. Review what we learned in class.

You can always go back and watch parts of Reading 100 again.  How much easier is everything now?  

If you have any questions about reading or English, you can always find me on Twitter.  Keep up the great work! 

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.