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CRITICAL SCRUTINY OF MODEL ESSAYS: A STRATEGY TO BOOST CONFIDENCE AND MOTIVATION AMONG LOWER INTERMEDIATE ESL WRITERS

March 27, 2020

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VARYING 21ST CENTURY TEACHING AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES IN ESL WRITING CLASSROOMS

December 8, 2019

 

 

This second part of write-up that focuses on the implementation of 21st century teaching and learning activities offers five more activities that could be implemented in ESL writing classroom. Those five activities are taken from various sources (they are not mine), however, the suggestions for ESL writing classrooms are fresh. Hopefully, this sharing will enlighten more ESL teachers especially the younger ones.

 

ACTIVITY 1: THE RUBBER BANDS

 

Descriptions: Each time a group member gives an opinion, she or he is given a rubber band. She / He has to wear the band like a bangle. At the end of the lesson, learners are asked to count the number of rubber bands each of them has and the numbers will inform the class who contribute ideas the most and the least.

 

The Rubber Bands is suitable for descriptive or reflective essays. It encourages learners to contribute ideas, even the simplest ones that they can afford. The accuracy, validity and quality of the ideas are not questioned. As long as the learner is able to contribute an idea, even in broken English, a rubber band is given to him or her.

 

These past SPM questions or new questions can be used to initiate brainstorming and discussion sessions through The Rubber Bands:

  • SPM 2017: If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice.

  • SPM 2016: There are many things to do after your SPM examination. Write about your plans for the next three months and the challenges you might face.

  • SPM 2015: Describe what makes you happy and explain why.

  • Imagine you are a seven-year-old child. What kind of toys do you wish to have and with who do you want to play them? Explain your choices.

  • Describe a cartoon television show that you like. Explain the reasons why you like the show and a lesson children can learn from the main cartoon character in the show.

  • Last night you had a dream visiting a very lovely place which was like a paradise. Describe the place and explain what you saw, did and felt.

  • How can we make mothers feel that they are always appreciated? Give some suggestions and highlight your best suggested idea.

 

When The Rubber Bands activity has ended, it is up to the teacher how to proceed the writing lesson. Learners could be assigned to write an outline for their essay individually or they are paired or grouped to write a complete essay. The Rubber Bands activity should nurture these 21st century skills:

  1. Collaboration – to collaborate with group members or classmates in contributing ideas

  2. Critical thinking – to examine all ideas and choose the relevant and convincing ideas for one's own essay

  3. Creativity – to think of ideas which are different from others

  4. Communication – to communicate one's ideas with confidence

  5. Making judgment – to decide which ideas are interesting or boring

  6. Coordinating with others – to be aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses and able to work with members of diverse abilities

  7. Empathy – to understand and accept someone’s inability to contribute ideas well

  8. Emotional intelligence – to be able to interpret others’ emotion and always be supportive

 

ACTIVITY 2: TEAM STATEMENT

 

Descriptions: Learners think and discuss in pairs to make a statement or stand. Then, all pairs share their statements, negotiate and come to a consensus in making the final statement or stand. Team Statement is suitable for argumentative essays such as the questions below:

 

  • SPM 2019: “Modern inventions have made our lives much too complicated. Things used to be a lot simpler in the past” How far do you agree?Explain why.

  • SPM 2016: Some people believe that all students in Malaysia should learn at least three languages. What do you think?

  • SPM 2015: Social networking has caused a lot of problems. How far do you agree?

  • Students should be allowed to choose their own subject teachers. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

  • Students should be rewarded with cash for their academic success. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

  • Pupils should be encouraged to take performing arts classes. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

 

Team Statement trains learners to think critically before they make any decision or take a stand. It is crucial for them to make the right stand as the whole essay depends on the stand they have made. The next writing tasks, depends on the availability of time and the type of writing practices needed by the learners. If they are still not prepared for individual writing task, then the teacher may have to opt for pair or group task. Team Statement should allow learners to develop and polish these 21st century learning skills:

 

  1. Collaboration – to collaborate with a partner to make a statement or stand

  2. Critical thinking – to examine all choices and make the best stand

  3. Communication – to convince and to reason

  4. Making judgment – to decide which is the best stand / statement

  5. Negotiation – to accept differences in opinions / accept views offered by others

  6. People management – to motivate others and respond to their needs

  7. Coordinating with others – to be aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses and able to work with members of diverse personalities

  8. Empathy – to understand and accept someone’s inability to express his/her views well

  9. Emotional intelligence – to be able to interpret others’ emotion or reaction and always be supportive

 

ACTIVITY 3: TRAVELLING FILE

 

Descriptions: Each group is given a file which contains the essay question and a few pieces of blank papers for pupils to write their responses. The file will “travel” to a few groups. When the group gets the file, they have to complete a task which is assigned by the teacher. At the end of the lesson, the file will “travel” and return to its owner. All the group members have to read and examine the ideas, suggestions or comments offered in the Travelling File.

 

The writing task to be done by each group when they get the file can vary. The task may depend on the objective of the lesson as well as the availability of time during the lesson. Perhaps, each group has to write a paragraph or provide relevant sophisticated words or idiomatic expressions. If time is limited, perhaps, they only write the keywords using a mind map.

 

The group members should complete the task collaboratively. For an example, based on any one of the essay questions below, each group is assigned to offer a point and develop it by writing a topic sentence and 4-6 supporting sentences.

 

  • SPM 2017: Describe the first time you went on a camping trip. You should write about the activities at the camp and explain how you felt about the experience.

  • SPM 2016: What is the best way to help teenagers to stay fit and healthy?

  • SPM 2015: Why is having good neighbours important?

  • Describe your most favourite activity with your siblings on a public holiday. Explain about the activity and convince others to do what you do.

  • What is the birthday gift that you really wish to get? Describe the gift, explain the reasons for wanting it and your plans after getting the birthday gift.

  • Imagine you spent the last school holiday staying with a foster family. Describe the activities and what you felt throughout the stay.

 

Travelling File does not only involve oral activities but it also requires pupils to write paragraphs. In the attempt to present and develop ideas in each paragraph, these 21st century skills could be enhanced:

  1. Collaboration – to collaborate with group members to write a paragraph

  2. Critical thinking – to examine options for supporting ideas or details and choose the relevant and convincing ones

  3. Creativity – to offer ideas which are different from others

  4. Communication – to present one's ideas with confidence

  5. Making judgment – to decide on the best idea or point to be offered

  6. Negotiation – to accept differences in opinions / accept views offered by others

  7. Complex problem solving – to give responses to questions learners have never encountered before. Perhaps, they have to offer ideas which have not been offered by other groups yet.

  8. People management – to motivate others and respond to their needs

  9. Coordinating with others – to be aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses and able to work with members of diverse personalities

  10. Empathy – to understand and accept someone’s inability to develop ideas well.

  11. Emotional intelligence – to be able to interpret others’ emotion and always be supportive

 

 

ACTIVITY 4: HOT SEAT

 

Descriptions:

 

Hot Seat is carried out after learners have done their reading or research, individually, in pair or group. A learner/ group member is seated on a ‘special chair’ which is the Hot Seat and has to play the role of a ‘subject matter expert’. This ‘expert’ has to try to answer all the questions posed by the other learners. Learners / Group members can take turn to be in the Hot Seat.

In ESL writing classroom, Hot Seat is suitable for factual or argumentative essays. These are the relevant past SPM Continuous Writing questions:

 

  • SPM 2019: “Modern inventions have made our lives much too complicated.Things used to be a lot simpler in the past.” How far do you agree?Explain why.

  • SPM 2019: Which do you think is more important, money or health? Compare the two and decide if one is more important than the other.

  • SPM 2018: Young people should be trusted to make their own decisions. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

  • SPM 2017: The Malaysian tradition of having open houses is important and should be practised more. Do you agree? Give reasons to support your view.

  • SPM 2016: Some people believe that all students in Malaysia should learn at least three languages. What do you think?

 

For practices, Hot Seat can be applied to answer any of the questions like the ones listed below. Perhaps, all groups get one similar question. It is easier for the teacher to monitor and supervise the lesson.

 

  • Some teenagers lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Discuss the reasons why this is happening and suggest how to promote a better lifestyle among them.

  • Describe what do you think it is like to be the eldest sibling? Explain about the biggest challenge that the eldest sibling has to face and how the challenge can be overcome.

  • There should be a night curfew for teenagers. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

 

This Hot Seat activity would be able to develop these 21st century skills:

 

  1. Collaboration – to collaborate with classmates in contributing ideas

  2. Critical thinking – to examine all ideas and choose the relevant and convincing ideas for one's argumentative or factual essay

  3. Creativity – to formulate different questions to be asked

  4. Communication – to communicate one's ideas with confidence

  5. Making judgment – to decide which answers are good or bad

  6. Negotiation – to accept differences in opinions / accept views offered by others

  7. Complex problem solving – to give responses to questions learners have never encountered before

  8. People management – to motivate others and respond to their needs

  9. Coordinating with others – to be aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses and able to work with members of diverse personalities

  10. Empathy – to understand and accept someone’s inability to respond to questions well

  11. Emotional intelligence – to be able to interpret others’ emotion and always be supportive

 

 

ACTIVITY 5: GALLERY TOUR

 

 

Descriptions: Learners move in groups to see the outcome done or ideas prepared by other groups. Learners could either write about the outcome of their discussion on a mah-jong paper. Other group members will visit the group and read what is written by the group. Anybody is allowed to give written comments for improvements. When the time for Gallery Tour is over, all group members will return to their own group. They are supposed to read all the written comments given by others to them. Moreover, they also need to report what they have learnt or discovered from the other groups.

 

Gallery Tour is suitable for all genres of essays particularly argumentative or factual essays because it allows learners to compare and contrast their ideas with others’ and finally select the most convincing ideas for their essays. For example, the Gallery Tour can be implemented based on one of these questions:

 

  • Every teenage child deserves a monthly allowance of RM200 from their parents. How far do you agree with the opinion? Explain why.

  • How can unity be promoted in your neighbourhood? Give suggestions and highlight a highly recommended activity to enhance unity.

 

The implementation of Gallery Tour would be able to promote these 21st century learning skills:

 

  1. Collaboration – to collaborate with classmates in contributing ideas

  2. Critical thinking – to examine all ideas and choose the relevant and convincing ideas for one's argumentative or factual essay

  3. Creativity – to present creative ideas during discussion

  4. Communication – to communicate one's ideas with confidence

  5. Making judgment – to judge ideas presented by others

  6. Negotiation – to accept differences in opinions / accept views offered by others

  7. Complex problem solving – to give responses to questions learners have never encountered before

  8. People management – to motivate others for the job well done

  9. Emotional intelligence – to be able to interpret others’ emotion and always be supportive

 

CLOSURE

 

Implementing 21st century teaching and learning activities in ESL classrooms does not have to involve state-of-the-art gadget or technology all the time. All long as the 4Cs and any other relevant skills are incorporated and nurtured, to me, that would suffice.

 

The activities selected for this write-up may or may not work effectively in your ESL classrooms. As you know, the success of a writing lesson depends on a host of factors. Perhaps, certain activities have to be adapted or significantly modified to suit your own unique teaching and learning context. Whatever it is, there should be no reason or excuse for not attempting to implement 21st century teaching in ESL classrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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