Journal Topics for Writing Class

As a writing teacher, I love having my students write in a journal for the first 5 minutes of class. It establishes a routine of how we will begin class each time and also gets them in the habit of writing. I find that the only time most students write is for formal assignments. Journal writing can help them experience writing their feelings and thoughts on papers, knowing there is no right or wrong answer and knowing that their grammar won’t be corrected. I have my students buy a composition notebook and only use it for journaling. I collect it every Wednesday (for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class) and give 2 points for every journal entry completed. They can not make up journals once I have collected them for the week. (This saves me from grading 30 journal entries for each student at the end of the semester!) This is an easy yet useful way to get points. It usually ends up to be about 70 points at the end of the semester.  I also make it a response journal. They write and I respond. It’s usually just 1 sentence asking a question or making a comment, but they know that I read it and care about what they write. Sometimes it creates whole conversations and really helps you to learn about your students. I actually enjoy grading these! So that’s how I utilize the journal writing process in my classroom.

Here are some topics I use for my freshman composition class, but they can also work for ESL writing classes, who would also benefit very much from journal writing:

– Why is writing important?  (this is always my first  AND last  journal topic)

-What is your biggest fear?

– What is your  favorite childhood memory?

-What is the most appealing non-physical quality of the opposite sex?

– What is one thing you would change about your personality?

-What is one thing you wouldn’t change about your personality?

– What is the one country you would love to travel to and why?

– Do we depend on technology too much?

– If you were stranded in a foreign country with no money, what would you do?

– Is lying ever ok?

– Do you believe in ghosts?

– Tell about a time when you got undeserved criticism.

-Does racism exist today?

– If you could live in a different time period, which time would you choose and why?

– Explain why attitude is everything.

– What do you use to make a first impression of someone?

– What’s something really good that has happened to you lately?

– Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

– What is your life motto?

– If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

– Tell me about your hometown.

– What makes a person dependable?

– How have you changed since coming to college?

– If you could go back in time and meet any person, who would it be and why?

– If you had to live outside your home country for a year, where would it be and why?

– Describe the most interesting person in your family.

– Describe a funny moment in your life.

–  How does the media affect our body image?

-How do smart phones affect relationships negatively?

– Do you think the phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a good way to live?

– What do you think about immigration to the US?

– What was your most embarrassing moment?

 

ESL students usually take longer to write a journal entry. They may take 10-15 minutes. So, if you don’t want to spend that much class time on it, you may want them to do a complete the sentence activity. I write this on the board at the beginning of class, and they can either write about it or think about it (usually they choose to write), and then we discuss it, which incorporates the speaking aspect of course. It usually takes 5-7 minutes total. They key is that they only have to complete the one sentence.  Here are some ideas for complete the sentence:

– I get angry when…

– Last summer…

-My parents…

– In high school…

– When I was a child…

– I am really looking forward to…

– My favorite vacation was…

– When I have free time…

– I get stressed when…

– I think people should…

– I see my greatest weakness as…

-I see my greatest strength as…

– Being a friend means…

– I feel lonely when…

– I am most talented at…

– My favorite hobby is…

I hope these were helpful. If you have any journal topics you have used that you found to be quite successful, please share! And, as always, please share via social media if you have some teacher friends you think could benefit from reading this.

Spritz and Spreeder

I just learned about speed reading apps, specifically  Spritz and Spreeder. It only shows one words at a time, and each word is in the same spot on the screen. This allows us to speed through reading. Spritz’s website explains it much better than I can:

“Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays. Scrolling, pinching, and resizing a reading area doesn’t fix the problem and only frustrates people. Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page. Spritz makes streaming your content easy and more comfortable, especially on small displays. Our “Redicle” technology enhances readability even more by using horizontal lines and hash marks to direct your eyes to the red letter in each word, so you can focus on the content that interests you. Best of all, Spritz’s patent-pending technology can integrate into photos, maps, videos, and websites to promote more effective communication.”

The average reading speed is about 220 words per minute. I’m a pretty quick reader, so I’d say my reading speed is somewhere around 300-350. Speed readers can help you read up to 600 words per minute! When I tried it, I was able to keep up at 600 and comprehend. I think I would need to practice though to read articles or whole books that quickly. I’d probably stick to about 500 wpm.

Another similar site is Spreeder. It’s a little more advanced than Spritz, because they are actually ready for you to copy and paste whatever you want to read on their site and choose your reading speed. And, it’s free!

http://www.spritzinc.com/

http://spreeder.com/

I really want to try this. I could read journal articles for work a lot faster. I could read news articles online for fun at a quicker speed.

Have you ever used a speed reader before? What speed did you use?

I really want to show this to my ESL reading class and even my domestic students. Everyone could use a little boost in their reading speed, especially students, who are required to read so much!

 

How I Made my Students Really Mad

This semester, I am back to teaching a composition course for college freshmen. Apart from learning in-depth about research writing, we also read the play A Raisin in the Sun in College Writing II.  This play took stage in 1959, and it focused on an African American family in Chicago. It showed what life was like for blacks in the 50’s and 60’s. I wanted my students to know a little more about the civil rights movement and also the discrimination and segregation of this time period in American history.

To begin the lesson, I asked everyone with blue or green eyes to sit on the left side of the room and everyone with brown eyes to sit on the right side of the room. They were expecting a quiz on the introduction to the book, so they were very confused about what I was doing. I explained that instead of a quiz, we would be working on something else for which they would receive points. I gave the blue/green eyed students a page copied from the dictionary and told them they had to copy it letter-for-letter, word-for-word. They all glared at me with a look that seemed to say -Uh, are you serious? The brown-eyed students seemed scared to get their assignment next. However, they were relieved when I told them they would be working on a word search puzzle about pizza. As they were working, I told them to be sure and find the word pepperoni. I went over to the other side of the room and told that students that they better finish the whole page. I let this go on for about 3 minutes, then I finally allowed them to stop. I asked them how they felt knowing that the other half of the room was working on a different assignment. The light-eyed group said they felt angry at me and at the other group of students. They said they wondered what they did to deserve the terrible assignment. The brown-eyed group said they felt badly but not badly enough to exchange assignments with anyone or to even ask questions about why the assignments were different. I did have one blue-eyed guy ask me why he had to do the dictionary assignment and not the pizza one. It all worked perfectly. I asked my students to relate their feelings and the way I treated them to how Africa-Americans felt in the past. I think it really hit home with them and made a good point.

I then went on to show 2 YouTube videos. This first video really makes me emotional. I really can’t believe this happened so recently in my own country. I can’t fathom why people thought they were better solely based on their skin color. This video is a general overview of everything that happened. It’s about 5 minutes long.

The second video is about Bull Connor, who greatly influenced the civil rights movement, because of the terrible things he allowed to happen in Birmingham, Alabama while he was the commissioner of public safety for the city. It’s about 10 minutes long and really worth the watch.

After the activity, the videos, and a discussion, I really felt my students were ready to read A Raisin in the Sun and fully understand the context and the time period. I hope that no matter the grade level, this recap of my lesson might be helpful for you to teach about the civil rights movement, especially since it is black history month. Share with me some ideas you’ve used to teach this same topic.

English Proficiency in the US

“Everyone that lives in the US should learn English or get kicked out!”

Have you ever heard someone say that, or have you maybe even said it yourself? There are many people that are residing in the US that self-report not speaking English well.

9% of the population in fact. 

The Migration Policy Institute just released a new study that determined that 9% of the population of the US is not proficient in English. It was at 6% in 1990.

9% of the US population is about 25.3 million people, which puts it into perspective a bit more.

63% of these LEP (limited English proficient) are Latino, and 20% are Asian. 13% are non-Latino white, and 3% are black.

About half of these LEPs live in California, Texas, and New York, which have always had large numbers of immigrants. In fact, 1 in 5 people in California have limited proficiency in English, which puts California at having 27% of the LEP population. And, of course, larger cities have larger populations of non-proficient speakers. Cities such as DC, Miami, and Chicago have large populations of LEPs.

Limited English Proficient Population

limited English proficiency states

While many LEPs are foreign born, about 19% were actually born in the US.  That leaves 81% that are foreign born.

Separately, there are an additional 2.8 million LEPs in Puerto Rico, which is part of the US.  (When I visited Puerto Rico, I was surprised that hardly anyone spoke English fluently since I had read that both English and Spanish are the official languages there.)

Does not being able to speak English while living in America hurt LEPs? This study does show that they are more likely to be living in poverty or be doing menial jobs. Many LEPs work in construction, transportation, or the service industry. They are less likely to hold college degrees. Is it difficult to live their day-to-day lives? I am sure it is. Many LEPs have children that are proficient in English from going to school, and their children must help them do simple tasks, like pay bills. It is taxing on the parents and the children.

However, not everyone has the time or the opportunity to learn English. If you’re working 60 hours a week, it’s very difficult to squeeze in time to learn English. Additionally, many people don’t know how to go about learning. Some don’t realize there are many free classes to help them learn English. And another major reason is that learning English can be intimidating. It’s hard to admit that you don’t know the language, and then go to a class and feel like a toddler while learning the basics. (I can relate to that while living in China and trying to learn Chinese!)

This study goes to show that there is a definite need for qualified ESL teachers. There is also a need for volunteers to teach English. There are so many organizations with which one can volunteer to do this. They will give you basic training, but the teaching will be simple, and any native English speaker would be able to do this easily. One example is Pro-Literacy America.

So instead of getting angry when people can’t speak English,  think about what you can do to help. Also, be considerate of their circumstances. It may very well be their first day in the US, or they may be taking classes but their ability level is still not very good yet.  Put yourself in their shoes, and be considerate of their feelings and situation.

I hate when people say that everyone in the US should know English, “because English is the official language goshdarnit!”  If you’d do your research you’d know that the US does not actually have an official language. So, chew on that little tidbit for a while.

I hope this post was informative. I got my information (and the images) from this website. So check it out if you’d like to read more if you’re a language/English/teaching nerd like me.   :]  And please help me out and  share on your social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.) if you enjoyed this post.

Eastern vs. Western Learning and Education

I’ve had a few requests to share what I do to help train teachers to go to China. This is my 5th year helping with this training. It’s the program that I went to China with way back in 2006. They help teachers find jobs in China and train them to go. The training includes things like the history and culture of China, information on living in China, and teaching in China. To be a teacher in China, you need a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. It doesn’t have to be in education. However, in the last few years, many provinces in China are starting to require either a teaching background, teaching experience, or a TEFL certificate. Therefore, we now require all our teachers to go through some sort of online TEFL training that China will recognize.

So, my job at orientation is to give them detailed information on teaching ESL, and, more specifically, teaching English in China. I do four sessions that are about an hour each.

In the first session I teach, I try to help the teachers understand the different mentality between the east and west when it comes to teaching, learning, and education. The difference is quite vast!

For example, the concept of the teacher is extremely different between the East and the West. In America and Europe, the teacher is more of a facilitator. The teacher leads a discussion, as opposed to dominating it.  In opposition, in Asia, the teacher is “the sage on the stage”. The teacher is the authority on everything and shouldn’t be questioned. That was such a strange concept to me as an American teaching in China. I could literally write the word “kat” on the board and no one would dare correct me.

Americans are very individualistic as a whole. We focus more on me, me, me. In the educational world, this translates to being very competitive in the classroom. In the Eastern world, students are more group-oriented. They work together more and help each other more often. This also translates to more cheating, because they feel the need to help their classmates.

In China, students are most often respectful and polite in the classroom. Students are eager to please the teacher. As we know, Americans are like this when they are very young, but, usually, after elementary school, this sadly disappears.

In the West, students are taught to think outside the box, to do their own thinking, and to challenge existing ideas. Whereas, in the East, students usually memorize, usually take official answers without questioning them, and have trouble being creative in the classroom.

These are just a few of the differences in learning and education between the East and the West. If you plan to go to Asia to teach, knowing these differences is extremely essential. You might try a teaching method or a way of managing your classroom and it just doesn’t work and you don’t get why. Culture affects learning. Expectations affect learning. Learn these differences before you go and teach. These concepts are also helpful even if you teach in the US and have Asian students in your classroom.

More teacher training to come!

Miss Fugett is an Angel

I can’t get a break in the cafeteria at school. A student is either asking me what they got on the test that they just finished taking 5 minutes before lunch, or they’re trying to put the moves on me. Most recently, it was the latter.

I walked by a table of basketball players, many of whom were in my college composition classes in recently. As I walked to the salad bar, I patted one student, A, on the shoulder and said a general hello to the table. A jumped approximately 10 feet in the air when I touched him. Another student, J, wasted no time.

“Hey. Miss Fugett, you know why A jumped when you patted his shoulder?”

“Uh, no J. I don’t know,” I said a bit confused.

J then went on to say, “It’s because A never had an angel touch him before!”

Seriously?

A jumps in- “Uh, yeah Miss Fugett. Yeah! I never had no angel near me.”

I look at them both and they have the biggest, cheesiest grins on their faces. (I don’t even know what their teammates thought at this point…) And I said, “Guys! You don’t even have me for class anymore. There’s no opportunity for bonus points.” and continued on my way to the salad bar.

Sometimes I wonder about college boys. And apparently sometimes they wonder about me as well!

Why I Despise the Commuters’ Lounge

I can’t decide if hate, loathe, despise, or vehemently dislike best describes how I feel about the new commuters’ lounge that has so graciously been placed across from my office at work. What I do know, is that every single day something about it drives me a little more insane than I already am. Here is the ever-growing list of reasons why I hate it.

1) It has a clear glass door.

-I always feel like the students in there are spying on me. Even if they aren’t spying on me, they are at least staring at me and some of them very creepily so. One time, a student even pressed his face against the glass and made a face at me. Stop. It. Now.

2) My office always smells like ravioli.

– They heat up their lunches in the microwave, and the smell always wafts into my office. The mix of about 10 meals creates quite the stench. Every other person that walks into my office asks me why it smells like pasta. Doh.

3) The room is not soundproof.

– When there are a lot of people in there, they are so loud that I can’t concentrate to work. The strangest thing though was last week when I sneezed, someone in the commuter lounge blessed me through the closed door. That’s just not right.

4) I can hear you in the hallway too.

– People step out of the lounge to take phone calls so that their peers don’t hear their phone conversations. Well, the problem with that is that they are right outside my office talking on the phone. I don’t want to hear you fight with your boyfriend. I don’t want to listen to you describe your ailments to your doctor. Stay in that room and yak.

5) The sign’s not even spelled right.

– The sign on the door says commuter’s lounge. Is it just for one commuter? Oh how I wish! You could have asked me. I’m an English teacher! Plural possessive=s’. COMMUTERS’. My boss stopped by the other day, and we chatted about that mistake for about 10 minutes. Only English teachers would do that. So, now I have to stare at that erroneous word every dang day. Who should I report that too?

I better stop at 5, because I’m starting to get angry on a Sunday night. I’ll wait until tomorrow morning when I’m across the hall from “that which shall not be named” to get annoyed. If you walk by my office and see me banging my head repeatedly on my desk, you now know why.

Update: A sign of rules was just posted today. The rules are so strange, so you can understand how strangely they act in this lounge! The parenthetical after the PDA rule and the shoe rule are my favorites.

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College Culture Night

After many hours of prep work, I pulled off my university’s culture night. And oh boy, it was more work than I ever imagined! I asked the participants, I helped them think of an idea for a performance, I wrote bios for each performer, I wrote the script for the emcee, I arranged the facility, and I advertised. Shew! I’m tired all over again from just typing that!

I desperately wanted to give our international students a chance to showcase their culture and their talents, and I wanted to give our American students a chance to learn about their classmates. We had students from Japan, Guatemala, the Philipines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and America  perform. They all did an excellent job, and I do believe that all involved had a great time. I hope to make this event a yearly thing!

Japanese culture

Masa and Shin doing kendo fighting

Filipino student

Mara singing in Tagalog, a dialect of the Philipines

Japanese student

Hikari bowing in her kimono after her piano performance

Japanese kimono

Masa writing Japanese calligraphy

Puerto Rican student

Orgen rapping in Spanish

traditional Chinese dress

Minmin introducing a video about dating in Taiwan

Puerto Rican musician

Orgen, from Puerto Rico, playing the bongos

culture night

Culture Night Participants (I’m 2nd from the left in the front row)

Thanks to our school photographer, Derek, for the great photos.

If You Don’t Love NSYNC….

Man, I must be getting old.

I am officially 10 years older than the college freshmen I now teach. I am really starting to notice the age gap too.

Today in class, a student was talking about how a mom in North Carolina is going to court for allowing her 11 year old son to get a tattoo. I asked my student how old he thinks a person should be before being allowed to get a tattoo. He said he was 16 when he got his first one, but people need to be able to make a mature, informed decision. I went on to say that it was a good thing that I didn’t get a tattoo when I was a 11, because I would have been sporting an NSYNC tattoo on my arm today. My comment was met with blank stares. Are you kidding me? Do my students not know who NSYNC is?!

Apparently not.

boy bands

Image courtesy of Google

This got me thinking about some other things that make me feel old when it comes to daily interactions with college students.

– I don’t like skinny jeans.

– I like Facebook more than Twitter.

-I don’t get all the Pokemon references.

– I know what the floppy disc icon on Microsoft Word stands for.

But, it goes the other way around too. I work with a lot of people who are a great deal older than me. The other day at lunch, a lady I work with was talking about how it was her 28th wedding anniversary, and that she was married in 1984. I quietly snuck this jewel in- “That was the year I was born…” So, I probably made her feel the way my students make me feel. What a vicious cycle.

But to sum it all up, if you don’t like NSYNC, we can’t be friends.

TEFL Bloggers

I’m excited to be a permanent feature on the TEFL Bloggers website. It’s a website that promotes blogs of people who are teaching English abroad.

http://teflbloggers.com/

There are some great blogs here!  Check them out and follow if you want to know more about what it’s like to teach abroad or just want to read about everyone’s crazy adventures.

Please read and “like” my page on the site as well! http://teflbloggers.com/Ashley_Fugett.php

Thanks TEFL Bloggers!

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