Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy End of the Semester!

It’s almost the end of the semester. In fact, there are only two more teaching days left, and then there are the final exams. I thought for this post, I’d give some tips on how to write an essay for the EAP 1 final exam. Let me know what you think about them!

Thirteen Steps to Writing a Short 4 Paragraph Essay for the Final Exam

Step One:

  • Brainstorm three or four supporting ideas for the topic.

Step Two:

  • Brainstorm three or four supporting points for each of the supporting ideas from Step One. Brainstorm facts, details, statistics, anecdotes, examples, elaborations, explanations.

Step Three:

  • Choose the best two supporting ideas from your brainstorm and decide which one is the first body paragraph, and which one is the second body paragraph. Remember to save the best for last!

Step Four:

  • Choose the best two or three supporting points for each of the supporting ideas you have chosen for your essay. Underline or circle them in your brainstorm.

Step Five:

  • Write a thesis statement for your essay.

Step Six:

  • Write a topic sentence for your first body paragraph.

Step Seven:

  • Write a topic sentence for your second body paragraph. Don’t forget a transition between the two body paragraphs.

Step Eight:

  • Write a concluding statement for your conclusion paraphrasing the thesis statement.

Step Nine:

  • Write a general to specific introduction. It should be about four sentences long.

Step Ten:

  • Write the first body paragraph. It should be about 100 – 150 words long.

Step Eleven:

  • Write the second body paragraph. It should be about 100 – 150 words long.

Step Twelve:

  • Write the concluding paragraph. Use added thoughts, comments, predictions, hopes, wishes, judgements, opinions, or recommendations. Do not add any new information about the topic.

Step Thirteen:

  • Read over the essay carefully two or three times. Revise for ideas, and edit for grammar and mechanics.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Extraordinary Measures and Popcorn!

Last Tuesday class was really different than usual. It was a special holiday for our Muslim students, so the class was really small. As a result, I decided we could have a "fun" educational day instead of the usual classes. First of all, I showed the students a couple of powerpoints on adjective clauses . . . I'm not sure if this part of the day was so fun for the students, but then the fun stuff started to come. I made popcorn in class! I brought in my hot air popcorn popper, and I silently demonstrated to the students how to make popcorn while they took notes. This fit in perfectly with our unit on Process Paragraphs because after I was done making the popcorn, the students had to use their notes to write a process paragraph on how to make popcorn. I was surprised at how educational it actually was! The students learned lots of new vocabulary like "measuring cup" "hot air popper" and "kernels". Anyway, after we finished our process paragraphs, I made up a whole bunch of popcorn and melted some butter. Now we were ready for a movie!

The movie my students chose to watch was Extraordinary Measures. In the morning I showed the students the trailers to five different movies, and then they voted on the movie that they wanted to see in the afternoon. I was really happy that they chose Extraordinary Measures because I had never seen it before. Basically, it is about this guy whose children have a terrible genetic disease. He finds a scientist who can help him make a cure for the disease. I won't tell you the ending, but I think a couple of my students were crying during the movie! here is the trailer:

All in all, it was a really great day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Convocation 2010

It's now official. I have a PhD! I had my convocation last Friday, and I've received my fancy piece of paper saying that I have a Doctor of Philosophy with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language. Hmmm, does this mean I now have to give my students more homework because I'm an "expert" now?

Convocation started off with my parents picking me up at my house. We then went to the university for the Faculty of Education convocation lunch. The lunch was really nice with posh little sandwiches and cream cake, but all I could manage was a cup of coffee. For some reason, I was actually feeling nervous, so I couldn't eat anything. This is really rare for me!

After the lunch, I went over to pick up my special robes and hood and put them on. I also picked up my degree at that time. Then, once everyone was ready, we marched into the Jack Simpson gym headed by a Scottish Piper. The ceremony started at 2:30, and it finished around 3:30. My turn came when I went up on stage and my hood was official attached to my robes. I then shook hands with a bunch of people on stage, got my picture taken, and sat back down. Once that was over, I was a doctor!

After the ceremony, my parents then took me to my favourite Chinese restaurant in Brentwood Mall, and we had Pekin Duck. It was so good. I love the little pancakes that come with the duck. We also had duck noodles, and duck tofu soup. My dad also wanted to have some vegetables with black bean sauce, and we ordered some extra ginger chicken because my mum doesn't like duck too much. She thinks they are too cute to eat.

Anyway, it was a great day! Enjoy the photos!

Me with my PhD:Me walking off the stage: My mother and I:
My father and I:

The "convocation" cake and I:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Right now in my class we are reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Scary stuff!!

I don't usually link to funny youtube videos, but I couldn't resist. Let me know what you think about it!

If you like the song, you can find the lyrics here:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Back from Edmonton!

I’m back from Edmonton. Above you can see a picture of the hotel I stayed at. I was only there for two days, but I feel like I was there for a week! I was in Edmonton for the Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language (ATESL) conference. I always love going to conferences, and this conference was great. On the Friday of the conference there was a speaker from Australia, Lynda Yates, who made a presentation on pragmatics. Pragmatics has to do with how language is used and how culture influences how language is used. One example that Dr. Yates gave was that in Canada we might say “how’s it going” when we greet someone, but someone from Chinese might say “have you eaten yet?” or “where are you going”. If those are translated directly into English, they won’t work very well on an English speaking Canadian. The other keynote speaker was Dr. Tom Cobb. He presented on the Saturday of the conference. It was really great to hear Dr. Cobb speak again. He first presented at an ATESL conference in 2002, and that was the first conference that I ever went to. Seven years later, I based my PhD research on his work! I finally got to meet Dr. Cobb at the conference in person, and I was pretty nervous. Especially when he came to my presentation!

However, conferences are more than just presentations. It’s also a great chance to meet up with friends from all over the province. I was really happy to meet colleagues from Edmonton and Lethbridge that I hadn’t seen in a while. It’s always great to catch up!

All in all, it was a great conference, and I can’t wait to go again next year!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alexander the Great Presentations

I wonder how many of my students have started to go out for coffee with a friend, even if they both speak the same first language, and promise themselves that they will only speak English for 30 minutes. I remember learning that languages are learned when you have two people who are willing to negotiate meaning with one another. That is, if one person doesn’t understand, the other person doesn’t mind trying to explain what they want to say in a different way one more time. Finding someone like that, however, can be difficult. I see it all the time, but I guess people have busy lives, and if a native English speaker is speaking to a non-Native English speaker, they don’t always have the patience to negotiate meaning. That’s why I tried recommending to my students that if they can’t find an English speaker to practice with, that’s no problem, they can just practice with each other.

On another note, my students have just finished doing their presentations on the Penguin Reader Alexander the Great. The presentations were brilliant! I was actually surprised because, to be honest, sometimes I dread presentations. They can go on and on and no one understands what is being said, and the students spend the whole time speaking into a piece of paper or with their backs to the audience talking to the power point screen. Painful! However, this time, it didn’t happen. Usually, presentation time is a time of open topics with students choosing their own group members. This time, however, I randomly chose the groups for the students, and I assigned the topics. The Penguin Reader we have been reading in class has 10 chapters, so I divided the class up into ten groups, with each group presenting a different chapter in order. Although students could search the internet for pictures and maps, they weren’t allowed to use any other information except that in their books. By narrowing down the information they could use, the students really focused on the chapter they had to present, and boy did they know their stuff! I have an entire class of experts on Alexander the Great! I think by lowering the amount of work they had to do in order to find content for their presentations, they were able to focus more on the English and delivering a good presentation. On top of all that, because the groups were randomly assigned, there were speakers of different first languages in all the groups. The working language had to be English, so it was good practice as well while they were preparing. Anyway, I was very impressed! I can’t wait for the next presentations!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nihongo Half Hour!

I think a lot of my students know already, but my hobby is learning Japanese! I lived in Japan for two years, and I think one of my biggest regrets is not learning how to speak Japanese fluently. I remember, when I first went to Japan, I thought it would be easy to learn the language because I had been to other places before, and I had quickly learned the local language. For example, when I was 17, I went to Quebec for six weeks, and by the end of six weeks, I couldn't stop speaking French!

Why, then, can't I speak Japanese? I think the main reason why I didn't learn how to speak Japanese while I was in Japan is because most of my friends spoke English. I had a lot of American friends, and naturally we spoke English together. Also, I only spoke English with my Japanese friends as well! As a result, after two years, I hardly spoke any Japanese. In contrast, whenever I go to Quebec, I speak French all the time. In fact, I even speak French with a lot of my English speaking friends. When I lived in Quebec the first time, I went to college for a six week French program, and we were forbidden from speaking English. As you can imagine, I soon learned how to at least communicate.

Anyway, now that I am finished my PhD, I really want to work on my Japanese again. I go to Japanese school every Friday night for two hours, and I have a Japanese tutor who comes to my house for two hours a week. On top of all of that, my friends and I have have just started a new activity. Once a week, we meet in a cafe and we only speak Japanese for half an hour. We call it Nihongo Half Hour. I came up with the idea because I'm always telling my students they need to practice speaking their English more. However, they always complain that they don't have any native English speaking friends to practice with. No problem! Practice with each other!! Anyway, I decided to talk my own language learning advice to heart, and now we are doing Nihongo Half Hour. It's hard! Our conversations are really basic - mostly we just talk about our hobbies and food, but for 30 minutes, it's nothing but Japanese. After the 30 minutes are over, I think some of us are relieved! However, we do it, and I think we are getting more fluent in Japanese. I totally recommend my students do the same thing in English. I hope they can find a coffee shop that they like, and time themselves for 30 minutes so that they only speak English for half an hour. If I can do it in Japanese my English speaking friends, they can do it in English with their non-native English speaking friends!

Good Luck!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Midterm Exams!

Here is a funny cartoon I found at this website:

Mid-terms are over, and I’m sure my students are sitting anxiously at home waiting for the results. I’m in the middle of marking them all right now, but I thought I’d procrastinate a bit and write in my blog.

Mid-term week is a busy week in the EAP program. It started off with the writing and grammar midterm. This year, I gave the students almost three hours to complete their writing and grammar midterm. It started off with 60 multiple choice grammar questions and the different grammar points that we studied in class, and then we had the writing section. I really wanted to see if the students were comfortable with the writing process, so I included the brainstorming, outlining, and rough draft in the exam before the students started writing a good copy. I hope that they understand that when they are writing paragraph, there are a number of steps they have to take before they get around to writing the final copy.

After the writing and grammar midterm, there was the reading midterm, which was also about three hours long. The hardest part on this midterm seemed to be the vocabulary. Actually, it was very interesting because usually I expect a few students to do really well, and a few students to do really badly, with the majority of the students doing average or okay. However, this midterm it seemed like their were definitely two groups of students. Students who did amazingly well (almost 100% on the vocabulary) or amazingly badly (almost 0% on the vocabulary)! I bet I know which students were the ones who studied their vocabulary really hard!

I also did oral exams with the students for these midterms. I really enjoy the opportunity to speak with the students one-on-one in these types of situations. I do always get the change to talk to each student in class, so it is a nice opportunity for me. Also, it was again obvious who studied! The students who studied had lots to say, but the students who didn’t open their books looked a bit shocked with I asked them some of the questions!

To end it all off, there was the listening midterm. This midterm wasn’t as long as the others, and I think some of the students really enjoyed it. Again, you could tell who studied!

Now, it’s time to finish marking the midterms, and start thinking about the final exams in December!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Turkey with my Parents`

I had such a great long weekend! I went to Olds on Monday for Thanksgiving Day, and I ate Turkey with my parents. My mum tried to roast the smallest turkey she could find in the grocery store, but it was still huge. The turkey was cooked just the way I like it. Nice and crispy on the outside, but still juicy on the inside. Along with the turkey, my mum also made quite a few side dishes. Naturally, there was stuffing, but we also had brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, mashed turnip, carrots, broccoli, and a delicious turkey gravy to cover everything. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it again! After that we ate some pumpkin pie, which was really good.

It was nice seeing my parents on the weekend, and it was especially great seeing their two dogs as well. I think I must have fed them about half of the turkey off of my plate! Anyway, I can’t wait to eat turkey again. I think I’ll cook another one just for fun in November for no special reason!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I went shopping with my PhD supervisor!

The other day, I went to a one day conference on reading with my PhD supervisor, and afterwards we went to Value Village in North East Calgary. I wonder if any of my students have ever been there. Value Village is a giant thrift shop that sells second hand clothes and other sorts of things. My PhD supervisor loves looking for treasures in this shop. She often finds name brand clothes and other high quality things for bargain prices. The only problem is that the place is so huge, it takes hours to find the treasures in the middle of all the other stuff. While my supervisor was shopping in the ladies' clothing section, I had a look around the books, and I ended up buying seven used books for only $4 each. I also bought a glass mug for $2. They were a bargain! If you are ever bored, Value Village can be a fun place to poke around in on the weekend if you are looking for fun second hand stuff. Also, if you want to get rid of your old things, you can donate your no longer wanted stuff to Value Village and they will give money to charity when they sell your old stuff. Here is their link:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome to EAP 1

It's a new semester at the University of Calgary, and I am teaching a wonderful new group of students in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Program in the Faculty of Education. The program is very intense. There is a lot of homework, but the good news is that I do believe that people who go through the program come out on the other side with the English they need to be successful in their studies.

My students this semester are a really great mix of people, and I think a lot of new friendships are going to be made in the class that are going to last a lifetime. I'm very excited to start this new blogging project with them, and I can't wait to read what they have to say about life, the universe and everything! As for myself, I've been blogging for almost six years now. It is still my favourite writing project, and I love blogging with my students. I hope they are going to enjoy it as much as I do.

By the way, this blog post is 198 words. That's about how much my students have to write every week!

Happy Blogging!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Link to my PhD Thesis

I’m finished! I had my Doctoral Thesis Oral Defence on August 24, 2010, and I survived! In fact, I even passed with no revisions necessary. In the end, it was actually a great experience. My doctoral committee consisted of my supervisor, Dr. Hetty Roessingh, the Chair for English as an Additional Language (EAL) at the University of Calgary, Dr. Thomas Ricento, the former Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, Dr. Bruce Clark, Dr. Tania Smith from the Department of Communication and Culture at the U of C, and Dr. Leila Ranta from the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. They asked some pretty hard hitting questions, and at first I was quite nervous, but I soon warmed up to the topic. After all, I had been living and breathing the study of vocabulary in terms of lexical breadth and depth for four years! After passing my oral examination, we all went to the Grad Lounge for my free bottle of champagne. I think I was in a bit of shock after the exam. It hadn’t really hit me yet that I was finished. However, when I got home and realised that I didn’t need to lock myself in my office (which is in the garage) and work on my thesis for three or four hours, I just started to cry. I don’t know if they were tears of relief or happiness or angst, but I think I sat on my couch and wept for almost two hours. I have to be honest. It was so hard writing that thesis and teaching full time. However, now it’s over and after all is said and done, it was all worth it. Here is the link to my thesis:

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I've handed in my PhD thesis!

I've handed in my thesis! In the end, it was 254 pages long. I've sent it out to my committee, and now all I have to do is wait for my Oral Defence on August 24th. I know that there could still be changes recommended to be done on my thesis by my committee after my defence, but here is the abstract for you to read in the meantime. Enjoy!

Thesis Abstract for
Non-Native English Speaking Students at University: Lexical Richness and Academic Success

Increasing numbers of students in both the K-12 and Post-Secondary educational systems in Alberta do not speak English as their first language. However, immigrants face multiple challenges to taking full advantage of the educational opportunities afforded by their new home. This study focuses on one period of those educational opportunities, undergraduate university education, and one set of challenges, vocabulary and academic writing. The main objective of this study was to measure the lexical richness non-native English speaking (NNES) and native English speaking (NS) undergraduate students bring with them to university in terms of lexical breadth and depth of knowledge, and compare these measures to eventual undergraduate academic outcomes. To carry this out, the Effective Writing Test (EWT) was used to compile a corpus of novice academic writing. The NNES students in the study were academically competent, as shown by their Grade 12 math marks. Nevertheless, the results showed that NNES students came to university with less robust measures of lexical richness compared to their NS counterparts. While NNES students eventually graduated from university in higher numbers, they were faced with diminished academic outcomes in terms of Grade Point Averages, Length of Program, Courses Attempted and Not Earned, and Academic Standing. Using hierarchical regression analysis, a line was traced from the initial measures of lexical richness, through EWT, and on to the academic outcomes. Measures of lexical richness strongly predicted performance on the EWT, and EWT results predicted eventual academic outcomes. The conclusion of this study is that lexical richness plays a strong role in general undergraduate writing assessment, and university level writing competence plays an important part in academic success.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

ACLA 2010

Here is my slide show from the ACLA 2010 Conference (Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics).

It was a great conference this year in an amazing city. I have really enjoyed my time in Montreal so far, and I have the added bonus of having uncles, aunts, cousins and my granny here too!

The main thrust of my presentation at this year’s conference was the connection between measures of lexical richness and large scale writing assessments, and the concomitant connection between large scale writing assessments and eventual academic outcomes at the undergraduate level. From this I conclude that lexical richness is an underlying variable of academic success in higher education.

It was very interesting for me to find significant correlations between measures of lexical richness taken in the first year of university studies and the Grade 12 English 30 Diploma Exam as well as the Effective Writing Test. I was then further intrigued by the correlations I found between the English 30 Diploma exam and the Effective Writing Test with GPA at university as well as other measures such as academic probation and length of program. All of this is in my presentation which you can have a look at here:

Now I just have to write all of this up, along with my other findings, and I'll have a thesis . . . . . .

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Busy Writing My Thesis

I just noticed it has been a while since I blogged. I'm not blogging with my students this semester. I thought I'd take a break from blogging with my students while I focus on finishing my PhD Thesis. It's starting to get close now! I just recently did a presentation on some of my PhD research at the BC TEAL Conference in Vancouver at the beginning of May. As always, BC TEAL was a great conference, and I went to some really amazing presentations. I'm always impressed!

My presentation was entitled: Taking Stock of the Depth of NNES Undergraduate Vocabulary. Here is the abstract of my presentation from the program book:

Part of a doctoral research project on non-native English speaking (NNES) university students and the relationship between lexical richness and academic success, this report focuses on the vocabulary errors that persist in NNES undergraduate writing for students who have fulfilled university English language proficiency requirements. Word use is analyzed in both native English (NS) and NNES writing samples from the archives of an effective writing test at a western Canadian university. This report looks at the results of the marking process and analyses the vocabulary errors made by students in the areas of meaning, appropriacy, derivation, form, omission, and style. Preliminary results show that while NS students do make word use errors, NNES students make almost three times more word errors in their essays and the errors differ in kind and seriousness. The word errors made by NNES students affect the readability of their essays, and ultimately the final marks. Participants in this session will leave with a clearer picture of the lexical errors that persist in NNES writing at the undergraduate level. The implications of the report?s findings for the teaching and assessing of NNES students who are bound for higher education are also explored.

Also, here is a link to my presentation slides - enjoy!

Winter 2010 EAP 1 Blogs

These are my students' blogs from the Winter 2010 Semester. Enjoy!

EAP 1 Winter 2010
Abdullah #2
Abdullah #1

Monday, April 05, 2010

It's almost time for the final exam!

I can't believe that final exams start this Friday! That means that there are only three more classes before the academic writing and grammar final exam. However, I'm not worried at all. I've even come up with a 13 step plan for my students to write a great short essay on their final exam. Here it is:

Thirteen Steps to Writing a Short Essay

Step One:
Brainstorm three or four supporting ideas for the topic.
Step Two:
Brainstorm three or four supporting points for each of the supporting ideas from Step One. Brainstorm facts, details, statistics, anecdotes, examples, elaborations, explanations.
Step Three:
Choose the best two supporting ideas from your brainstorm and decide which one is the first body paragraph, and which one is the second body paragraph.
Step Four:
Choose the best two or three supporting points for each of the supporting ideas you have chosen for your essay. Underline or circle them in your brainstorm.
Step Five:
Write a thesis statement for your essay.
Step Six:
Write a topic sentence for your first body paragraph.
Step Seven:
Write a topic sentence for your second body paragraph. Don’t forget a transition between the two body paragraphs.
Step Eight:
Write a concluding statement for your conclusion paraphrasing the thesis statement.
Step Nine:
Write a general to specific introduction. It should be about four sentences long.
Step Ten:
Write the first body paragraph. It should be about 100 – 150 words long.
Step Eleven:
Write the second body paragraph. It should be about 100 – 150 words long.
Step Twelve:
Write the concluding paragraph. Use added thoughts, comments, predictions, hopes, wishes, judgements, opinions, or recommendations. Do not add any new information about the topic.
Step Thirteen:
Read over the essay carefully two or three times. Revise for ideas, and edit for grammar and mechanics.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heritage Day was Fun!!!

Here is a goofy picture of me making grilled cheese sandwiches at the Heritage Day party. I had such a great time at Heritage Day! The food was perfect, and there was so much of it! I was amazed at how much food everyone brought to the party. The only thing is that I found it hard to control myself because all of the food was so good. I felt like I had to try everything. After the party, I felt so full. Naturally, I ate way more than I should have eaten. I'm happy to say, though, that I think everyone really liked my grilled cheese sandwiches - especially Yuri. I think he must have eaten about five of them!

Anyway, I love days like Heritage Day because it is a great chance for us all to get together socially and enjoy some good food. It is also a great chance to try food from all over the world. It is not very often that I get to eat Iranian, Chinese, Polish, Thai, and Arabic food at the same time. I can't wait until our next Heritage Day - it's one of the best parts of our semester!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Postponed Quiz

There is no grammar quiz on Monday. This is the first time I’ve postponed a quiz in years! Usually I like to stick to the scheduled, but lately I’ve started to relax a bit, and I’ve realised that it is more important for everyone to understand the grammar rather than moving through the textbook like a freight train in order to “finish it” before the end of the semester. Now, we have time to understand the grammar a bit more deeply before I move on.

Right now, we are studying adjective clauses (also known as relative clauses). Everyone in the class is really good making basic adjective clauses, but when it gets a bit more difficult, things start to go sideways a bit. The key thing to remember is that when you are making a subject adjective clause, the relative pronoun is replacing the subject of your dependent clause. When you are making an object adjective clause, the relative pronoun is replacing the object of your dependent clause. If you remember that, it will help you to avoid repeating the object twice in the dependent clause when you are making an object adjective clause. It sounds complicated, but don’t worry! I think everyone is getting the hang of it!

Keep on studying!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A question from a student

Today I had a question about why this group of sentences is not correct:

Lindsay had better call me tonight, but that is not okay if she doesn’t. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.*

To the ears of a native English speaker, the above group of sentences sounds strange. The question is why does this group of sentences sound strange. I think the main reason is because of the word “but”. If the word “but” is removed from the group of sentences, then it sounds okay.

Lindsay had better call me tonight. That is not okay if she doesn’t. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.

This new version is perfectly acceptable. Why then is this not correct with the word “but”?

The word “but” in this case is a coordinating conjunction. It joins together to sentenceds. The coordinating conjunction “but” can be used to indicate that two sentences contain opposite or contrasting ideas. “But” can also be used to give a sense a conflict between two sets of ideas, or a sense of negation between two sets of ideas.

The first idea in the example above is “Lindsey had better call me tonight”. The use of the modal “had better” conveys a sense of warning, and implies that something bad may happen if Lindsey does not call.

The second idea in the example above is “That is not okay if she doesn’t [call]. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.”

Does the first idea contrast or conflict with the second idea? Does the second idea negate the first idea? Is the first idea the opposite of the second idea? The answer to all three of these questions is no. The second idea is more of an explanation of the first idea. As a result, the coordinating conjunction “but” doesn’t fit with this group of sentences.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Must versus Have to

The modal grammar quiz is over. Actually, the students did really well on this quiz, but there is still a bit of confusion over some of the subtleties of using modals.

The first kinds of modals we looked at were modals of necessity. Although in essence “must” and “have to” mean the same thing, I noticed that sometimes must doesn’t really work in a sentence, and “have to” is better. There was a question similar to this on the quiz in which the students had to choose between “must” and “have to”:

Murray: I was surprised to see you taking the C-Train this morning. Is your car still not working?
Scott: Can you believe it? It’s still not working. I __________ take it to Canadian Tire to get it checked out, but I never seem to find time.

In the blank, a lot of student put in the word “must” so that the sentence reads:

I must take it to Canadian Tire to get it checked out, but I never seem to find time.

Although, must and have to both indicate necessity. In this case it doesn’t sound right. I think this is because “must” is a bit stronger than “have to”. “Must” really indicates the importance of the act. If you use the word “must”, you are really stressing how much you need to do something. It is absolute urgent and necessary to do it. However, in this sentence, the speaker goes on to say “but I never seem to find time.” If getting the car checked out was really urgent (i.e. “must”), then the speaker wouldn’t have said “but I never seem to find time”. As a result, I think that “have to” is the better choice.

Friday, March 05, 2010

We're Blogging!

Here we are in the computer lab, and everyone is blogging away. I'm really happy. I think we have ironed out all of the problems we were having with the blogs, and now we are ready to blog all of the time. One of the biggest problems I found with setting up the blogs was the passwords. Everyone kept forgetting their passwords! I have learned a real lesson about this. I think from now on, I am going to make the students fill out a form. On the form they will have to write their sign-in email, their blog address and their PASSWORD!!!

Personally, I love blogging. I think it is a great way for students to practice their English writing without having to worry too much about things like spelling and grammar. The amazing thing about blogs is you can see what the students were writing like at the beginning of the project, and then you can see all of their progress by the end of the project.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

16 Real Examples of Possessive Nouns

Today we were talking about possessive nouns in class, and I think at one point it got a little confusing. These rules even confuse native speakers. I know when I have looked at the writing from first year university students who speak English as their first language, there is often a lot of confusion over when to use -'s and when to use -s'. Some common mistakes are sentences like:

The wive's flowers are on the table, and the mens' flowers are on the floor.

This should be:

The wives' flowers are on the table, and the men's flowers are on the floor.

After class today, I looked through the corpus of first year university level writing I'm compiling for my PhD research, and I found 8 examples of singular and 8 examples of plural possessive nouns written by native English speaking students. I thought it might be nice to have some real examples.

Here are the singular possessive noun examples:

1. the animal’s physical and mental health
2. a continuation of the province’s debt reduction policy
3. As each player’s skill level increases the level of competition increases.
4. Speaking from a university student’s perspective
5. At this point in anyone’s life
6. prepare them for life’s long voyage
7. needed so much in today’s world
8. Physical education is an important part of the curriculum in a child’s life

Here are the plural possessive noun examples:

1. Allowing women to play on men’s professional teams would be a great change
2. an opportunity to further broaden students’ experiences and knowledge
3. all of those people are affected by their leaders’ choices
4. tension within the parents’ relationship
5. facing longer waits in doctors’ offices
6. it would improve the students’ grades
7. an improvement overall in children and teenagers’ lifestyles
8. the intention behind doing this is to keep the animals’ behaviours the same

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Midterms are Over!

I can't believe that half of the semester is already over for Winter 2010. It seems like time is just flying by. I was really pleased with the grammar midterms this semester. I thought everyone did really well. It was obvious that my students has studied a lot. Sometimes I worry that we are moving too fast through the grammar, and that people don't have time to think about it carefully and learn what we are going over in class. One of the hardest things about EAP 1 is that there is a grammar quiz every Monday, and there are 10 grammar quizzes in just one semester. That means the the students really have to work hard to keep up. However, I'm sure my students can do it. The results of the grammar midterm prove it!

We are also going to start blogging after the midterms. This is going to be an excellent way for the students to improve their writing fluency. I'm also hoping that we are all going to get to know each other just a little bit better.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Welcome Back!

Another semester has started, and I am teaching the academic writing and grammar course in the first tier of our EAP program at the University of Calgary. I’m really excited to be teaching this class because writing has to be one of my favourite subjects. This semester I’m looking forward to blogging regularly about life, the universe and everything with my students. I can’t wait to get started. I think we are going to have a lot of interesting things to write about. This semester we are going to be looking at the topics of international business, art history, psychology, and health science. The students are also going to be learning about how to write perfect paragraphs and good solid academic essays. We are going to be spending a lot of time perfecting our paragraphing skills because they are the basic building blocks of everything the students are going to be doing during the next few years in university. I hope this class is going to be the foundation to a successful time at the University of Calgary. I know the students are going to be great!