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Sunday, March 30, 2008

WRTING: Preparing Students for the TWE

The Test of Written English (TWE) is a required part of the Computer-Based TOEFL. Students must compose an essay in thirty minutes. This demonstrates their academic writing proficiency in the following:

  1. Generating and organizing ideas on paper.
  2. Supporting those ideas with evidence or examples.
  3. Using the conventions of standard written English.
TWE test results help institutions evaluate your students' academic writing proficiency and place them in the appropriate writing courses.

What is the TWE? explains the TWE, its function, how it is scored, and sample essays.

In general, model TOEFL essays concentrate on: Suitable word usage; Content; Organization; Examples / Evidence; Formal writing style; Correct grammar and Sentence variety. The best way to prepare for any writing test is by writing. Here are some sites to help you prepare yout students for the TWE.

Two sites, Findscore and GetToefl (computer scored), offer free essay scoring, which should help teachers with oversize classes assign more writing. Findscore's offer of free scoring by human readers sounds too good to be true, so it might be. Take care not to agree to hidden charges.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Read The Words

How Read the Words Works

First, You must create an account. Accounts are completely free and ready to go in less than 1 minute.  Your information will never be shared with 3rd parties. Once you create an account, you will be taken to the “My Readings Page”.  You can manage your current Readings and create new ones by Clicking the button, Create New Reading.

Step 1 - Select what you want read
  • Upload Adobe PDF
  • Upload MS Word
  • Upload HTML File
  • Write Text Content
  • Cut and Past Text
  • Input Website Address
  • Input RSS Feeds URL
Step 2 - Select a Reader
  • Listen to Reader’s samples 
  • Choose 1 of 14 Different Readers
  • Each Reader has a Unique Voice and Some Have Accents
  • Control your Reader’s Speed
  • Play with your  Reader’s Pitch
  • It takes our readers approx 1 minute to generate a 1 hr long recording
Step 3 - Sit Back and Listen
  • Listen to your reading online
  • Download your reading to your ipod or other mp3 player
  • Broadcast your reading as a podcast and share it
  • Post your reading in your Website or Blog
  • Save yourself Time
  • Turn the readers of your blog into listeners
  • Allow your readers to listen while they multi-task and download your blog

 


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

SlideShare

Share PowerPoint presentations online, slide shows, download presentations, widgets, MySpace codes.

SlideShare is a great site for sharing presentation slides, it’s like youtube for presentations. Upload your pdf or ppt and it will convert it into flash. You can then embed it via a small snippet of code, share it, or download the video. Share publicly or privately. Add audio to create a webinar.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Task Based Learning

Ten tips for using a task-based learning approach
from About.com Continuing Education, by John Iveson, education

A group of adult learners chooses a house to buy from a real estate brochure. Next, they select a mortgage from a list including fixed and variable rates with various payment schemes. Learners also calculate how much they expect to pay over the course of the mortgage given certain economic conditions.

In another classroom, groups are watching a series of video clips. In each clip, an accident takes place. Consequences include burns, bleeding, loss of consciousness, and broken bones. Student groups discuss the action they would take in each case.

Next door, a teacher tells adult groups that their boss needs a Microsoft Word document by lunchtime. The document should include a table showing the staff work schedule for the next month. The necessary staffing information is on the whiteboard. Each group attempts to create the required document by the set deadline.

These lesson snapshots are from programs in finance, emergency first-aid, and an introduction to Word. In each task, students must communicate in order to achieve a goal. Groups then report their decisions and findings to the class as a whole.

After the report stage, each teacher may give feedback on students’ task completion, give teaching input, and set focussed practice of the target skills. In future, students can draw on this feedback and input during the completion of other tasks.

All three teachers are following a task-based learning approach to their classes. Task-based learning (TBL) has emerged as a major approach to language education over the last two decades. However, its principles can easily be applied to all subjects.

TBL lessons follow a flexible cycle. The process usually includes several key stages. Firstly, a short pre-task stage sets the theme. Next, learners draw on knowledge and experience to complete a task in a group. Following the task is a feedback and practice session.

Although the onus is on learners to complete tasks successfully, the role of the teacher in remains vital.

The following ten tips can help teachers to plan and implement effective task-based learning lessons.

1) Introduce ideas in the pre-task
The pre-task stage should help students understand the coming task. Here, teachers can bring up themes, ideas and vocabulary, and discuss pictures or data. Teachers should avoid teaching new content at this point. Learners should enter the task stage feeling free to draw upon any knowledge and skills they wish.

2) Pitch the level right
Setting the task at the right level takes practice. If the task is too simplistic, learners may achieve the goal quickly with little effort. As a result, they are unlikely to develop skills. On the other hand, a difficult task can frustrate students into completing a task with minimal communication. In an effective task, students explore ideas and reach consensus after productive negotiation.

3) Gauge cognitive demands
Teachers can change the cognitive load required to suit the learners’ level. For example, a task may involve finding solutions to financial problems. Higher-level students could discuss case histories and hypothesize about similar situations. Lower-level learners could arrange a list of solutions to a financial problem in order of effectiveness. In each case, the theme remains the same, but the intellectual demands differ according to level.

4) Be flexible with task demands
Cognitive demands of a task can also be changed to manipulate task difficulty. A teacher can increase or decrease the task demands by changing the following factors: Group size, time allocation, number of operations required, and familiarity of material. Providing more or less visual support is another way to influence task demands.

5) Step back
During the task, it can be tempting for teachers to step in and correct learner errors. However, teachers should refrain from intervening. The task is a time for learners to work towards a goal using their available skills. Teachers may help learners formulate their ideas and reasoning. However, they should take care not to correct errors at this point.

6) Be a good monitor
While monitoring learners, teachers need to listen carefully. They should make unobtrusive notes. These notes will be used during the feedback and correction stage later in the lesson. It can reassure learners to know that teachers are also noting good examples. Eye contact should be avoided while monitoring unless a learner makes a direct request.

7) Give time for report preparation
After the task, learners prepare to report their findings to the whole group. This report stage gives presentation practice in a more formal setting. It is important that learners are given enough time to prepare their reports. In this way, they can pay attention to the accurate and effective organization of ideas.

8) Avoid public correction
When offering feedback to the group, teachers should avoid naming students who made specific errors during the task stage. Maintaining confidence during the task stage is especially important. Students need to feel comfortable expressing themselves. Highlighting mistakes by named individuals can erode confidence for future classes. Explaining this policy to learners often helps create a positive learning atmosphere.

9) Choose errors wisely
Providing good feedback involves choosing errors that relate to the majority of students. Learners may lose focus if they do not feel involved in the feedback stage. Also, teachers should mainly select errors that relate to the specific learning aims of the task. Having good and bad examples from learners helps to clarify aims effectively.

10) Provide a model task
Where possible, teachers should provide a task model. This can give more exposure to relevant information and ideas. The model can be given in the pre-task or feedback stages. Be careful not to provide a solution to a task during the pre-task! The model is often given after the task. This can grow learner confidence through the knowledge that they have completed a similar task to an acknowledged model.


More about Task Based Teaching

Sunday, March 2, 2008

YouTube

YouTube offers authentic examples of everyday English used by everyday people. Study English with free videos from YouTube,

YouTube - Essay Writing for ESL/EFL Students

YouTube and ESL

YouTube Videos in the ESL Classroom

ESL videos, with quizzes

You can also visit YouTube and do search for ESL or just look for videos in English that interest you.

AN ONLINE YOUTUBE ASSIGNMENT:

Go to youtube and look for videos. Pick one (or more) share with the rest of the class. Write a brief description and review.

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