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Contents of this E-NEWS
"If you're not making any mistakes, you are playing too small," said one of my "gurus." Mistakes are a natural part of expanding one's skills..we reach out to a higher level, and until we master that, we make mistakes...and when there are no more mistakes, we may feel relaxed for a while, but the ambitious spirit wants to get to the next level...and so we make the mistakes that come with learning to master that level.
Hopefully, our students make mistakes. It's part of the risk of speaking and writing a new language. How we react to them teaches them either to be fearful of risk or bold and fearless in their communication. I had a rule in my class (for myself). No corrections of conversational English. Conversation was for free expression. I'd acknowledge the communication with a response--sometimes repeating what the student said, but modeling good grammar, and inviting more communication.
Student: Yesterday me see movie.
Moi: You saw a movie yesterday! Terrific. What was it about?
Student: It about space war. Me like very much.
Moi: Was it Star Wars? I liked that movie a lot, too. What was your favorite part?
However, when we have a grammar lesson, learning a structure (for example, irregular past forms), after plenty of practice with making the structure natural in explanation and drills and practice, if the student makes an error, I will signal the student with a raised eyebrow or a tilt of my head to see if he or she can self-correct.
To speak or write in a new language IS to make mistakes...guaranteed, especially if the student risks saying anything that is important to him or her.
In creative writing, or essay question answers, my first concern is to get the student to love writing English...the more they love it the more they'll write in English, and that leads to better and better expression over the months. So I respond to the content first, agreeing, finding something similar in my own opinion, or asking a question.
In the body of the written work, I underline a few good expressions and say well done. I correct only what I have taught, or supply the word the student didn't't know, and limit the red ink to what I feel the student is ready to handle.
In writing Easy English NEWS, I am way over my head. There are 58,000 possible errors to avoid each month from typos, wrong information, wrong dates, wrong definitions, sentences too difficult, difficult words not boldfaced, headlines not the right size, photos not framed or captioned or credited, wrong typeface, map locations out of place, not to mention forgetting to close quotes or parentheses, and leaving out or putting in extra periods or commas.
Rewriting, editing, re-rewriting, spell checking, and re-editing and entering new edits takes up half the time of production...which is a full month per edition.
My standard for each sentence is that it be within the structural grasp of second-year English students at high school or adult level. Words that are not in that vocabulary level must be boldfaced and asterisked for definition and defined in language likely to be understood. I find most of my own mistakes, but a sequence of four editors who each see something different, find more mistakes, and point out ways to improve the articles.
When we are 99.99% perfect, there is still room for error. Kindly, teachers and readers point them out, and we redouble our efforts...I do appreciate knowing when I've gotten a fact wrong. Teachers should know that I am an ESL teacher, not a reporter in the field. I get my facts from government sources, watching three TV news programs a day, reading various Internet news reports each morning; reading various weekly and monthly news magazines, Googling many websites, cross referencing facts, and my own memory...., and doubting...My motto is that I, you, and our students should not "believe a thing your hear, and only half of what you see." (And none of what you merely remember ...)
Teach students Mark Twain's maxim: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble, it's what you know that just ain't so." (Witness last month my writing that Chernobyl was in Russia. I wrote it from my memory...Four editors also thought that was true. The nuclear incident happened when Chernobyl was located in the Soviet Union, and I made the transition to Russia, without consulting a modern map...it is in the Ukraine.)
My main goal is to give students the vocabulary in English to be able to follow and take part in discussions they hear around them. Teachers in the classroom are partners in this, both by being alert that I could be mistaken, and by adding facts and vocabulary that are appropriate to the students in front of you.
For June, I wrestled with what to write about the Ukraine...news in this arena is fast moving, very complex, highly suspect (classified) and potentially frightening. Until the news settles down, I serve up a map of the Ukraine and its position touching Europe and Russia, so our readers will at least be able to do more than the average American: locate the Ukraine on a map.
The news from the Korean ferryboat disaster is far too distressing for an ESL class. I weep as I watch the parents' agonizing grief. It's too much to handle. English lessons should go in with smiles and happy stories.
So in lieu of gruesome articles on today's news, or tough news from heroes and history, I am serving up Paul Bunyan...after all, it's June, and attentions are wandering and in need of fun. So I hope you and your students find this to be a fun reading and fun activity of writing tall tales.
In the past 18 years of writing Easy English NEWS, it's gotten a little easier...but my plate never gets empty because I add new things: the Teacher's Guide came out in 1999, the E-News in 2009, the Cloze exercises in September 2010, and the Short Answer Tests in September 2013.
Contents of Easy English NEWS for June 2014
Front page: Childhood Obesity
Life in the U.S.A. Where to Buy Clothing: Types of stores, return policies, making a return.
Events in June covered in Easy English NEWS:
Acadia National Park: A cool place donated by America's wealthiest families.
- Flag Day
- Father's Day
- Summer Begins
- Independence Day
- Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Heroes and History: An American Tall Tale: Paul Bunyan
Ask a Speech Coach: Pronouncing ng and nG in singer and hanger.
Plus our regular features: This Is Your Page (readers' stories), Funny Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word Help.
PLUS PLUS: free at my website: 16 pages of self-correcting tests for the current issue of Easy English NEWS. If you didn't get your Teacher's Guide for June, its available at my website.
FREE 24-page generic "How To Use Easy English NEWS in Your ESL Classroom" with 9 reproducible graphic organizers.
Order form for Easy English NEWS. There is no change in prices for the coming year. The prices will be valid until June, 2015.
Books by Elizabeth Claire:
ESL Phonics for All Ages, Books 1 through 5 with CDs
ESL Teacher's Activities Kit
ESL Teacher's Holiday Activities Kit
Easy English Crossword Puzzles
Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kit # 1 and Kit # 2
Kristina, 1904, the Greenhorn Girl
Just-A-Minute! Speaking Game
Help Your Buddy Learn English
Your Health by Dr. Majid Ali An E-Book of 31 reproducible easy English articles with word help from past columns of Your Health by Dr. Ali, $10.
Treasure Chest 1, a potpourri of reproducible games, songs, and useful stuff is also $10. Check them out.
The Constitution in Simple English
Hurricane Safety in Simple English
Other free materials
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Carry on your good work!
© Elizabeth Claire 2014.