Category: Teaching tips

How to appreciate reading and writing essays

Typically, we write essays to present an argument. That argument is often summarized in the thesis sentence. Then each paragraph of the essay develops a reason that supports the main idea expressed in the thesis.

The way you read an essay is to analyze the effectiveness of the arguments while you read it. You should find a claim in the thesis and numerous reasons for the claim developed in the body paragraphs. The evidence that goes with each reason will either be strong and persuasive or weak and not so persuasive.

Those three things will help you when it comes to writing an essay too:

1. Come up with an argument or claim

2. Come up with supporting reasons

3. Come up with strong evidence

#1 goes in your thesis sentence in the introduction. #2 and #3 go in the paragraphs that follow the thesis.

Presentaion on interview skills

Interesting presentation on interviewing strategies from Microsoft. Here’s the link. If that doesn’t work try this one and then click “view the video”.

It’s pretty long. You might be bale to skip the phone interview stuff (the face to face stuff starts at 7:30). You might also skip to 9:40 where they start the 6 types on interviews.

One little bit of jargon they use are “pain points” – a company’s pain points are its concerns both in the current business environment and in the future. In other words, what problems do they need you to help solve?

Also around 23 minutes in they give some IT kind of examples that will be lost on many students and teachers (including me).

I like the first example of the stumper question: Why are manhole covers round? Also “How are M&Ms made?” and “If Microsoft gave you $5 million to start a business, what would you do?”

At 31 minutes they talk about whiteboarding – which is probably outside the scope of most ESL classes because it’s for showing off your code. That’s where I stop the video.

Conversation questions: suspension for self defense? how parents teach kids to react to bullies?

Here’s the story. A little skinny kid throws a few punches at a chubby kid before the bigger kid body slams the skinny kid.

Here are a few native speakers talking about the issue. This could serve for language models for your non-native speakers:

1. That bigger kid was probably bullied and teased due to his size for a long time. He is also most likely a pacifist and never stood up for himself.

You absolutely cannot suspend a kid for protecting himself unless the school has ways of doing it. My kids’ schools also have stated that if you try to defend yourself, then you are also guilty and will be punished.

I am tempted to send a registered letter with a copy of that particular communication from the school stating that since my kids are unable to defend themselves, I hold the school 100% responsible for defending them. If anything happens to them while at school (ie harm from another student), then legal action will be taken against the district since the kids are not permitted to defend themselves.

In what world does all of this make sense?

2. I’m fine with the bullied kid getting a school punishment along the lines of “violence is never the answer”, so long as

1) The little bastard got a significantly harsher penalty to send the signal that his actions are what’s the problem; and,

2) The bullied kid’s parents take the proper stance and treat their son to whatever dinner he wants as reward for standing up for himself.

Best of both worlds: school sends the message it should be sending (no fighting, ever) and the kid gets the message he should be getting (defend yourself when you have to).

I also think the bullied kid deserves a lot of credit for simply walking away after that quasi-powerbomb he delivered, instead of exacting further revenge by continuing a (deserved) beatdown. The restraint is admirable: he defended himself, walked away.

3. This is one thing I’ve been crystal clear with my wife about – I will never, NEVER punish my son for standing up for himself. I don’t care what some school administrator says or does. Is he going to protect my son? Hell no, and the kids that go crying to a teacher are the kids that are going to get beat on even more. Bullies are weak and they’re cowards – they go for the easy pickings. A kid who fights back, even if he loses the fight, will be better off for it. My son will not be raised as some kind of half-assed pacifist. He better not start fights, or it’ll be his ass when he gets home, but I’ll be damned if I tell him not to fight back.

What does it say when a high school boy refuses to wrestle a high school girl?

This is a fairly interesting discussion topic for me, possibly because I used to wrestle in high school. Anyhow, in the Iowa state wrestling tournament a boy chose not to wrestle a girl. To facilitate discussion, their names are Joel Northrup (the boy) and Cassy Herkelman (the girl).

So the following are just a few opinions. You might want to have your students share their own opinions before giving them these which they can analyze and then agree or disagree with. Showing them the following opinions should give them some model language they can use to refine their own personal opinions so they can start using more accurate language.

This has become a fairly major discussion topic in some circles in America and I have heard the following arguments:

Joel’s decision is impressive because he gave up a chance at winning the state tournament in order to stand up for his beliefs and values.

Joel’s decision implies that Cassey and other girls have no business wrestling on the same mat as boys. It’s discriminatory and sends girls a message that they should not play the sport.

Wrestling is a combat sport. Men and women should never compete against each other in combat sports.

Joel’s decision makes no sense. If his religion says not to engage women this way shouldn’t it also tell him not to roll around with sweaty boys in tights?

If society wants to teach men that they can not use violence against women, how can that same society tell a man that he has to go out on the wrestling mat and try to physically beat a woman by taking away her control over her own body?

He knew before he signed up for wrestling on a public school team that women were allowed to play too. If his self-righteous attitude prevents him from wrestling the opponent he draws like everyone else, he shouldn’t be on the wrestling team.

Heavy discussion topic: should government educate people about how to stay safe on drugs?

Interesting article here. Obviously a topic for adult students who might have all different kinds of reasons for thinking this is a good or bad policy. A few sample arguments:

Pro: Harm reduction efforts like those outlined above are far more realistic and likely to have some real world impact than continuing to dump time and money into prohibition.

Some education about the risks and ways to reduce them can’t hurt. If someone benefits from knowing about the risks of hypothermia or dehydration while using ecstasy then what is the harm?

Con: They don’t sound concerned with stopping drug use just that those you use it have some safety tips.

I fail to see the benefit of this. I can’t see people going to this and saying, “well, I was going to do ecstasy but it says I have to drink a lot of water so I better hold off on that.” Or, “I really want to drink alcohol but this flyer says not to drink and do ecstasy so it convinced me.”

Cathy Cruz Marrero: Nobody took my feelings into consideration

Not one single person went to my aid.

These are quotes from Cathy Cruz Marrero AKA “Fountain Lady”. Not only did no one come to her aid but fountain lady’s lawyer says that mall security helped get the video on Youtube where it, of course, caused (and is causing) lots of embarrassment to the woman who fell.

The roleplay possibility is fairly obvious: Student A is fountain lady or her lawyer. Student B is the mall’s lawyer. Student C is the judge.

Here’s an ABC news video to help set the scene.

The Youtube video makes it fairly obvious that mall security saw this on their cameras and that one of them recorded it on his/her cell phone while having a nice laugh. Seems cruel but should fountain lady sue? And should she win? And if so, how much?

CNN Crossfire videos from Youtube

A few CNN Crossfire videos for students to discuss as an introduction to public forum debates.

The space program – is it too expensive?

Flag burning & Nelson Mandela:

Crossfire – does it suck?

Teaching public speaking through Steve Jobs speeches (Youtube videos)

Every time I teach a public speaking class, my students bring up Steve Jobs. I’m betting that he’s more famous in Korea than he is in America. So I figured why not search Youtube for some useful Steve Jobs’ speech videos.

This one is a speaking coach breaking down Jobs’ method. He mentions the theme (I call it the purpose) when you give your listeners a reason for listening. He mentions the outline and transitions, he mentions enthusiasm (don’t be stiff – have fun – be excited about the topic) which is a huge one based on my experience.He says to make numbers meaningful, he says to use very little text on visual aids (my students love wordy Power Point slides even though I tell them no more than 6 words).

He says to give them a show but I don’t want to encourage my students to play video clips. He says Steve Jobs spend lots of time rehearsing. Another one I’m not so sure about is the “one more thing” or the “added bonus” at the end – most EFL students aren’t exactly in a position to introduce a band at the end of each speech!

Interestingly, Steve Jobs wasn’t always so exciting. Here he shows flashes of greatness but he also spends time looking at the floor and rubbing his chin. Point out how when he makes eye contact the speech seems much better:

Following the “Think different” theme introduced in the previous video here we see an improved Jobs making better eye contact but still looking at the floor and rubbing his face. I think we can say his style here is clearly better than in the first video.

Interestingly, Steve Jobs more recent speeches show the same tenancies. He sometimes looks at the floor or his visuals or rubs his mustache or whatever. Sometimes people with charisma get to break the rules for public speaking. Some of my students probably have that charisma but they still need to follow the rules in my class so Steve Jobs will not be considered the perfect example. He can show you how to use a natural voice but his eye contact isn’t where those of us with less charisma (and those of us in this class) need it to be. We want 99 to 100% eye contact when you’re speaking.

Steve Jobs’ audiences already love him. Most of us don’t have that so we need 100% eye contact.

And here is an analysis of that same speech. Again they mention excitement in his voice “conveying emotion.” They also talk about how he demonstrated while sitting in a chair – it’s cool but we don’t do it in class! Become rich and famous and then you can break the rules.

Convey enthusiasm

Be conversational

Show, don’t lecture:

Now we have his famous Stanford commencement speech. The introduction mentions “think different” around 5:20 but really you can skip to 7:30 when Steve Jobs begins talking. He reads (most of his speeches have far better eye contact) but students are interested in his life story (like he’s adopted, why he dropped out of college, how he got fired from Apple, etc.). Notice how around 15:30 he stumbles and keeps going – no apology necessary.

Sense of humor or politically incorrect?

Interesting story here that could make for a good discussion topic on political correctness.

I wanted to actually see the video but I can’t turn off safety mode on Youtube…

Brian Melendez called the video “sexist and offensive.”

“The day when a woman was judged by her looks rather than her competence and intelligence should have passed three generations ago,” Melendez said in a statement Tuesday. “But apparently Republican leaders in the year 2010 still think of that bygone era as the good old days, and want to bring it back.” Melendez called for the video’s removal and an apology from branch GOP chairman Joe Salmon.

Local Republican state House candidate Andrea Kieffer also requested that the video be removed, Paul Schmelzer reports for the Minnesota Independent. Kieffer called the video a “juvenile attempt at ‘marketing.’ ”

“This is not something I would condone, and I am sending a request that the webmaster take it down immediately,”

branch GOP chairman Joe Salmon took a parting shot at what he seems to view as the humorless enforcers of political correctness. “It [is] really unfortunate to relearn that the other side is severely lacking a sense of humor.”

Youtube videos: Chinese vs. American business culture

Contracts in China:

Communication in China:

List of cultural differences: