Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Three Cases of Repetitive Punctuation

In each of the sentences below, the number of commas is excessive, which can obscure comprehension because the reader is distracted from effortlessly recognizing the syntactical structure of the statement. Discussion and a revision follows each example.

1. The next step is to escalate the issue to the executive management, including the CEO, and, through appropriate channels, the board of directors.
When repetition of commas or other punctuation marks within a sentence is overbearing, recast the sentence or, as shown here, change punctuation marks to reduce the number of identical occurrences: “The next step is to escalate the issue to the executive management (including the CEO) and, through appropriate channels, the board of directors.”

2. They will need to exercise their own judgment when considering whether a lower threshold is appropriate for a portion, or all, of their customers, which, again, may lead to inconsistent practices across the industry.
If a word or phrase signals an abrupt or unexpected shift in a sentence, a dash is likely a more appropriate substitute when too many commas burden a sentence: “They will need to exercise their own judgment when considering whether a lower threshold is appropriate for a portion, or all, of their customers—which, again, may lead to inconsistent practices across the industry.”

3. The entrance of nontraditional competitors, such as fintech, or financial technology, companies into the financial services industry, is driving this recent evolution.
The primary parenthesis in this sentence is misidentified: The phrase “or financial technology” is inserted into the parenthetical phrase “such as fintech companies,” which expands on the main clause “The entrance of nontraditional competitors into the financial services industry is driving this recent evolution.” The parenthesis should therefore end at companies, not industry: “The entrance of nontraditional competitors, such as fintech, or financial technology, companies, into the financial services industry is driving this recent evolution.”

However, the proximity of punctuation here is oppressive, and punctuation isn’t always required when additional information is inserted into a sentence; the statement is equally intelligible as punctuated here: “The entrance of nontraditional competitors such as fintech, or financial technology, companies into the financial services industry is driving this recent evolution.”

FYI: In a list of things, the last item is usually preceded by an ‘and’.  American English puts a comma before the ‘and’.  British English does not…as in the following:

AmerEng: I went to the super market and bought an apple, a banana, and a carrot.

BritEng:  I went to the super market and bought an apple, a banana and a carrot.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Small Talk - Lesson Plan

The ability to make small talk comfortably is one of the most requested skills of almost any English student. This is especially true for business English learners, but applies to all. The function of small talk is the same the world over. However, which topics are appropriate for small talk can vary from culture to culture. This lesson plan focuses on helping students develop their small talk skills, while also addressing the issue of appropriate subjects. Difficulties in small talk skills can arise from a number of factors including hesitancy in grammar and comprehension skills, lack of topic specific vocabulary and a general lack of confidence. These topics can also lead to more involved conversation lessons to get at the heart of the matter, so make sure to give students ample room to delve into the subjects if they seem particularly interested.

Aim: Improving 'small talk' skills

Activity: Discussion of appropriate small talk subjects followed by a game to be played in small groups

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

  • Write 'Small Talk' on the board. Ask students to brainstorm as a class to define small talk. Write examples on the board.
  • Discuss the importance of small talk skills with the class. (you may want to refer to the making small talk page for ideas)
  • Divide students into groups of 3 - 5.
  • Give students the small talk work sheet. Ask them to complete the first section: Small Talk - Appropriate?.
  • Once students have discussed the various situations, solicit responses on the various subjects from the class as a whole. Make sure to ask for examples of comments on appropriate subjects and explanations for those topics which students feel are not appropriate. Feel free to let students debate the issue (thus developing their conversational skills!), as some subjects are sure to be controversial.
  • Have students get back into their groups and play the small talk game. Circulate around the room helping the students when they run into difficulties.
  • Take notes on subjects that students find difficult and brainstorm on appropriate comments for those subjects after the game has finished.

Small Talk - Appropriate?

Which topics are appropriate for small talk discussions? For those topics which are appropriate, think of one interesting comment to make when the teacher calls on you. For those topics which are not appropriate, be able to explain why you believe they are not appropriate for small talk.
  • The latest films
  • The One True Path to Eternal Life
  • The local basketball team
  • Cars
  • A product you would like to sell to everyone
  • The Death Penalty
  • Your home town
  • How much you make
  • Your last holiday
  • Your favorite movie-star
  • The correct political party
  • The weather
  • Gardening
  • Your health problems
  • Your family

Small Talk - Socially Mixing

Play this game quickly in small groups. Throw one die to move forward from one subject to the next. When you get to the end, return to the beginning to start again. You have thirty seconds to begin making a comment about the suggested subject. If you can not, you lose your turn!
  • Your best friend
  • The last film you saw
  • Pets
  • Rock and roll
  • A magazine
  • Learning a language
  • Playing tennis
  • Your current job
  • An interesting excursion nearby
  • The Internet
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Keeping healthy
  • Human cloning
  • Your favorite food
  • Finding a job in your country
  • The last book you read
  • Your worst holiday
  • Something you've never done, but would like to do
  • Teachers - what you like
  • Teachers - what you don't like

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Affect vs Effect...Confusing?

Are you one of many people who find using the words affect and effect tricky and oftentimes interchange them?
Let us help you untangle the confusion:

Affect is commonly used as a verb that denotes the act of changing or influencing something.

“How ‘Brexit’ Will Affect Travel to Europe”
The New York Times

“How the sounds you hear affect the taste of your beer”
Washington Post

Effect, on the other hand, is mostly used as a noun referring to something that occurs due to a cause. An effect usually results from something that has been affected.

“5 Weird Negative Effects of Social Media on Your Brain”
Reader’s Digest

“Quick Analysis Finds Effect of Climate Change in French Floods”
The New York Times

Effect may also denote the state of being functional, operational or in execution.

“New Regulations Take Effect to Protect Student Aid Recipients”
“New Laws on Abortion Set To Take Effect around the Country”
ABC News

Though it may be easier to remember that affect is a verb and effect is a noun, both terms have lesser known uses. Effect may sometimes be used as a verb to denote the sense, to bring about.

“Small Businesses Have the Power To Effect Change Faster Than Government”

“Ricken Patel: middle classes have most power to effect political change”
The Guardian

Effect may also be used to refer to making a desired impression.

“Trump Campaigns for ‘Effect,’ Would Be ‘Different’ as President”
NBC News

“Bombing for show? Or for effect?”
The Washington Post

On the other hand, affect has a secondary, lesser known use as a noun referring to feeling or emotion in psychology.

“To what extent do oral contraceptives influence mood and affect?”
Journal of Affective Disorders

“The Effect of Music-Induced Mood on Aggressive Affect, Cognition, and Behavior”
Journal of Applied Social Psychology

Knowing the different forms and uses of affect and effect is a good start, but in order to master these words, you need to identify and clarify the purpose or message of the sentence first before deciding which one to use.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

8 ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more

If you do fewer teacher-directed activities, that means the kids will naturally do more talking, doesn’t it?  Not necessarily. I have often found myself talking almost constantly during group work and student-directed projects because I’m trying to push kids’ thinking, provide feedback, and help them stay on task.

Even when the learning has been turned over to the students, it’s still tempting to spend too much time giving directions, repeating important information, and telling students how they did instead of asking them to reflect on their work. Here are 8 ways teachers can talk less and get students talking more:

1. Don’t steal the struggle.
It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle to figure out an answer, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe. Similarly, learn to love think time. I often worry about keeping the momentum of a lesson going, and it’s uncomfortable for me to allow several moments of silent “wait time”or “think time” before calling on students. However, I try to push against the feeling that I will lose students’ attention because I know providing wait time can actually increase the length and quality of their responses. Letting kids think instead of rushing in to narrate or question builds anticipation around what’s going to be said next and increases participation as more kids are prepared to move into the conversation.

2. Move from the front of the classroom.
It’s easy to get in an instructional rut when you stand at the same place near the board all day long. Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.” Because students are used to the person at the board facilitating the lesson, they are likely to talk for much longer than if you stay at the front and they’re in their seats answering you. You can even remain sitting among the class once the student is done demonstrating and ask follow up questions from other students instead of commenting on the students’ demo yourself (“What do all think? Is that an effective method–how do you know? Does anyone use a different strategy?”)

3. Teach students signals for your often-repeated phrases and for transitions.
Cut down on conversations about bathroom/water/pencil sharpening/etc by teaching kids to use sign language to request permission: use sign language to indicate your answer back: yes, no, or wait. I also like to teach kids sign language for please, thank you, and you’re welcome so that I can reinforce their good choices and acknowledge kids without constantly talking. Use music, a chime, or other auditory signal to indicate when it’s time to start an activity, pause, and clean up. The idea here is to give kids a break from hearing your voice: they are far more likely to tune in to a unique sound than to a 20 word direction.

4. Use non-verbal reinforcement for behavior whenever possible.
A lot of the talking most of us do throughout the day is related to student behavior, and most of the time, we’re wasting our breath. Resist the urge to lecture students every time someone forgets their materials, interrupts your lesson, or makes an inappropriate noise. It’s far more effective (not to mention easier and less disruptive) to give students “the teacher look” and keep the lesson moving. If you need to have a conversation about the behavior with a student or issue a consequence, try to wait for a break in your instruction rather than stop the whole class from learning while you discipline one kid.

5. Turn your statements into questions and prompts.
Instead of saying to a group, “Nice work over here, I like the strategy you used for ___”, ask the kids to reflect on their own work: “Tell me how your group has chosen to solve ___.” Instead of telling a child, “Take a look at #3, that answer is incorrect” say, “Would you tell me how you got the answer for #3?” Not only will these questions get kids talking instead of you, kids will also have the chance to reflect on and articulate their learning.

6. Instead of asking, “Does that make sense?” say, “Can you put that in your own words?”
If you’ve ever asked kids “Are you getting this?”, you’ve probably noticed you rarely get an insightful response. So, you either move on without kids understanding or you repeat something you’ve already said. Try inviting kids to put what you’ve explained into their own words, either repeating it back to you (if you were helping the child in a one-on-one conversation) or by turning and talking to a partner/doing a quick think/pair/share.

7. Stop repeating yourself.
It’s tempting to say important points and instructions a couple of different ways to make sure every child understands, but that strategy can backfire when it’s overused. Kids learn that it’s okay to tune you out because you’ll repeat everything you say. Instead, experiment with different strategies for getting kids to follow directions the first time you give them and use call-and-response routines to get kids’ attention right away.

8. Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.
If you hear yourself saying once again, remember, as I said, as always, so to sum this up, or don’t forget, that probably means you’re about to drive home an important point for the second or third (or tenth) time. Practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: What’s the rule about this? Who can sum this section up for us? Who remembers the way to determine ___? Some teachers even turn these moments into interactive activities, where the whole class does a hand motion, body movement, sound, or chant to indicate that they’re summarizing an idea or reviewing directions before getting started.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Current New ESL Teaching Jobs

Here are the latest English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching jobs - week of July 4, 2016. A ‘v’ after a number indicates a ‘volunteer’ position…likely unpaid. All others are presumed to be contracted and salaried positions.

Afghanistan 6, Austria 1, Azerbaijan 2, Belgium 1, Bulgaria 1, Cambodia 2, Chile 5, China 240 +,  Colombia 4, Czech Republic 12, East Timor 1, Ecuador 1, Egypt 6, Estonia 1, France 13, Germany 10, Greece 12, Honduras 3v, Hong Kong 8, India 6, Indonesia 9, Italy 70+, Japan 12, Kazakhstan 5, Kuwait 3, Malaysia 3, Mexico 3+ 3v, Myanmar 4, Netherlands 3, Nigeria 1, Oman 12, Poland 6, Portugal 12, Romania 3, Russian Federation 20, Saudi Arabia 40 +, Singapore 3, Slovakia 2, South Korea 25 +, Spain 100 +,  Sudan 1, Switzerland 4, Taiwan 4, Vietnam 40 +.

722 ESL Teaching jobs are waiting for enthusiastic applicants from English-speaking countries to fill these exciting positions in 44 different countries around the world! 

Do you  have a degree in any discipline? Yes…an Associate or Foundation degree will often be considered. 

If you have would like to spend some time exploring another country, learning a new culture…a new language…then here is an opportunity NOT TO BE MISSED. 

With your degree and our TESOL or TEFL Course, you can apply for any of these positions and be on your way to a personally challenging and fulfilling adventure somewhere in the world in as little as 4-6 weeks! 

Dr Robert Taylor
Dean of Studies
Sunbridge Institute of English