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Help Teaching TOEFL Writing

 
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analeigh



Joined: 22 Sep 2006
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 11:56 pm    Post subject: Help Teaching TOEFL Writing Reply with quote

I am a brand-new teacher with a CELTA cert that just started teaching in New York. I'm supposed to teach an intensive TOEFL writing class (six weeks,two days a week, 3.5 hrs/day- the other three days the students will cover the other areas of the TOEFL with a different teacher.)

I've never taught the TOEFL and don't have any real experience teaching writing. The textbook for the class is DELTA's Key to the TOEFL Test. The TOEFL-prep is split into two semesters, so I'm only supposed to be teaching half the writing section of the book, and don't know if I'll be teaching the other half of the class or not (probably not.)

I have some ideas about how to approach the class, but could use some input. I was thinking of having students do one timed writing per week, starting with the first week, and do peer editing (I would teach a correction key for them to use), then focus the rest of the class time on writing skill-building: pre-writing, organization, etc. Is this a bad idea? Can you teach writing skills piecemeal (i.e., pre-writing the first week, intros the second week, etc.)? Do I need to teach them the language/grammar skills as well? Do I have to teach to all the different test-types (written, CBT, iBT, etc.?) Is it ludicrous to have students practice handwriting essays if they'll be typing their answers?

Any insight into some, or all of these questions would be much appreciated. Also alternative to how to structure the class are also welcome.

Thanks,
AC

p.s. I'd love to go out and buy some Teacher training manuals, but alas, i have no money to do so at this point. Any ideas for free on-line teacher training guides are also welcome.
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toeflsmeagle



Joined: 30 Mar 2006
Posts: 42

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:39 pm    Post subject: Advice from the ETS pdf "TOEFL iBT Tips" (verbatim Reply with quote

Writing Tips

Integrated Writing Tasks
• Find a textbook that includes questions about the material at the end of chapters. Practice writing answers to the questions.
• Read an article that is about 300–400 words long. Make an outline that includes the major points and important details of the article. Use the outline to write a summary of the information and ideas. Summaries are brief and clearly communicate only the major points and important details. Be sure to paraphrase using different words and grammatical structures. (See tips on paraphrasing below.)
• Practice paraphrasing frequently. Paraphrasing involves restating something from the source material in one’s own words. It is critical to use different words and grammar to convey the same ideas when paraphrasing. In English-speaking countries, you must follow the rules for citing when you use the same words of the original speaker or author. If you do not do this, it is considered a form of intellectual stealing, called plagiarism. While this may be accepted in some cultures, it is not acceptable in most English-speaking academic settings. Therefore, paraphrasing skills are important to learn.
• Learn to find synonyms with ease. Pick ten to fifteen words or phrases in a reading passage and quickly think of synonyms without looking in a dictionary or thesaurus.
• When writing a paraphrase of a reading passage, use only your notes. If you haven’t taken notes, write the paraphrase without looking at the original passage. Then check the paraphrase with the original passage to make sure that it is factually accurate and that you have used different words and grammatical structures.
• Learn and carefully follow the rules for citing known and unknown sources that you have quoted or paraphrased. See page 48 for Web sites that give additional advice on paraphrasing, summarizing, and citing sources.
• Find listening and reading material on the same topic. The material can provide similar or different views. The Internet and the library are good places to find such information.
• Take notes on the listening and reading material and do the following:
1. Summarize the information and ideas in both.
2. Synthesize the information in both and discuss how the reading and listening material relate.
Explain how the ideas are alike, how one idea expands upon another, or how the ideas are different or contradict each other.
Independent Writing Tasks
• Make a list of familiar topics and practice writing about them.
• For each topic state an opinion or a preference and then support it with evidence.
• Practice planning and writing at least one essay for each topic. Be sure to take 30 minutes to plan, write, and revise each essay.
• Think about and list all ideas related to a topic or task before writing. This is also called “prewriting.”
• Identify one main idea and some major points to support that idea, and plan how to communicate them (for example, by creating an outline to organize your ideas).
• Create a focused thesis statement and use it to develop all the ideas presented in the essay.
• Develop the essay by using appropriate explanation and detail.

All Writing Tasks
• Increase your vocabulary and learn to use idiomatic speech appropriately.
• Learn grammatical structures so well that you can use them naturally when writing.
• Learn the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and layout (paragraph creation, etc.).
• Express information in an organized manner, displaying unity of thought and coherence.
• Use signal words and phrases, such as “on one hand” or “in conclusion” to create a clear structure for your response.
• Ask an English teacher or tutor to evaluate your writing by using the appropriate TOEFL iBT Writing rubric.
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toeflsmeagle



Joined: 30 Mar 2006
Posts: 42

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

analeigh,

You probably already started your semester, but here's my two cents' worth:

1) (six weeks,two days a week, 3.5 hrs/day- the other three days the students will cover the other areas of the TOEFL with a different teacher.)

That length is great for a TOEFL writing class. Do some kind of in-class writing on each. Have the rubrics ready. Assign some kind of writing with an objective other than to complete the topic.

2) I have some ideas about how to approach the class, but could use some input. I was thinking of having students do one timed writing per week, starting with the first week, and do peer editing (I would teach a correction key for them to use), then focus the rest of the class time on writing skill-building: pre-writing, organization, etc. Is this a bad idea?

Not necessarily, as long as you hold them to rigid requirements. Sometimes peer editing can get out of hand, at least the few times I tried it.

3) Can you teach writing skills piecemeal (i.e., pre-writing the first week, intros the second week, etc.)?

Officially, yes, unofficially, no. On some level you have to appeal to the desire to students to get piecemeal instruction. However, you could make the lesson mostly holistic, by starting with the piecemeal topic (e.g., writing a conclusion), then bringing it in to some content area. It would be nice to see a theme-based approach in a three-hour class, where an in-class integrated writing topic and an out-of-class independent writing topic complemented each other.

4) Do I need to teach them the language/grammar skills as well?

Whenever it is necessary to accomplish the other objectives the program, the test, or the students' needs suggest. Don't kill yourself if you're not doing a grammar lesson in every class.

5) Do I have to teach to all the different test-types (written, CBT, iBT, etc.?)

Please don't. Teach ONLY the iBT. The other two tests are a joke, and preparing students for them, I believe, prepares them for a test but not for actual communicative use of English.

6) Is it ludicrous to have students practice handwriting essays if they'll be typing their answers?

No. Skills from one can carry into skills from another. Some students like to write on scrap paper and then key-enter their writing, editing along the way. Technology in the classroom may limit you to handwritten answers.

Tell us how it all goes!

toeflsmeagle
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analeigh



Joined: 22 Sep 2006
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:52 pm    Post subject: thanks, toeflsmeagle Reply with quote

Your advice, alas, does come a bit late. I finished the Integrated Task class last week. We did A LOT of practice on the Task, and I approached it in a step-by-step way. First, we practiced listening for key vocabulary words that appeared in the both the lecture and the reading. Then we practicied identifying key points from both, and matching the key points that discuss the same topic. I tried to use a worksheet to help them do this- notes from the lecture, notes from the reading, how they compare.

I wish I had done more work with using synonyms (both listening for them and using them in writing.) Rephrasing is tough- grammar skills are not great for them, and many found the vocabulary very challenging, so "rephrasing," in the sense of rewriting what they had been given, was kind of tough. THey were having enough trouble communicating in words what they had heard and read using correct grammar.

I have another poser for you- many of my students wanted to know if they needed to say "in the reading it says," or "the lecture discusses" as a means of citing the material source. Having read some essays that didn't directly cite the reading and lecture in the essays, I told them it wasn't necessary but I thought it was a good idea. Do you have a take on this?

Thanks for your input.
ac
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toeflsmeagle



Joined: 30 Mar 2006
Posts: 42

PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Many of my students wanted to know if they needed to say "in the reading it says," or "the lecture discusses" as a means of citing the material source. "

I agree with this approach. It is very direct, and it is the sort of approach that the Longman Prep book (the book I have been using) teaches.

"Having read some essays that didn't directly cite the reading and lecture in the essays, I told them it wasn't necessary but I thought it was a good idea. Do you have a take on this?"

Yes, although I am not sure how to teach it, except by making them VERY comfortable with contrastive transitions and structures (in the case of the cast-doubt-on prompt), or in becoming very proficient with the point-by-point or block structures for the cast-doubt-on or other topics. I've been happy to have them say what is in the content, say it without too much overt quoting, use smart paraphrasing, and to get the connection. The rest, to me,would be mechanics (sentence variety, lexical challenge, improved accuracy, paragraph structure, etc.).

So, how do you like the Delta? Do you think it's a good textbook for us? Any problems you see with it? I had a life-scarring experience teaching the CBT using the CBT Delta, and it just didn't take. Looking for a thumbs-up from someone knowledgeable with the book to give me the impetus to shake my bad attitude.
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analeigh



Joined: 22 Sep 2006
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I said, this is my first experience teaching the TOEFL at all, so the Delta is my introduction to it. I can't say I'm particulary impressed at all, at least not with the writing section. The Integrated Task section essentially gives nothing but practice tests, and little explanation on how to structure the essays. The "practice" was, essentially, doing the test over and over, which my students found difficult. Part of the problem was learning new, difficult vocabulary for EACH practice. It made it too protracted a process EACH time we practiced.

R.e. vocabulary, I have another question. Do you have any suggestions for vocabulary building for the TOEFL? I had them do some excersises with word lists, blank fills, etc., but I worry that it's pointless when it's not contextualized. Also, my students asked me what sort of outside reading they should do to improve their vocabulary. I told them to read the New York Times. Any better ideas?

Thanks again.
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toeflsmeagle



Joined: 30 Mar 2006
Posts: 42

PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:14 am    Post subject: Contextualized Vocabulary Practice on the Web Reply with quote

Analeigh,

Here are some suggestions:

1) The Words in the News section of the BBC Learn English website has all kinds of stories that go back about four years, complete with sound files, highlighted words, and definitions thereafter:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/newsenglish/witn/

2) T.J. Everest's handout on building vocabulary. Just change the word "Arabic" to "your first language." Anything by T.J. Everest is cool, I've found. She also goes by the names TJ Everest and Terri-Jo Everest. Vary punctuation on these for the widest Googling:

http://www.admc.hct.ac.ae/hd1/word_list_alphabetical.doc

This Abu Dhabi Men's College website, like a lot of Arab-country websites, has good examples of IELTS activities, some of which may be adaptable for the TOEFL.

3) The Compleat Lexical Tutor. Concordancing is a technique for crunching millions of words of data to produce example sentences from various sources. This website does that and links the words to an extensive WordNet definition with examples. There are vocabulary quizzes here and lots of other vocabulary-related stuff also. I recommend bringing in concordances to the classroom to sensitize students to collocation.

http://www.lextutor.ca

4) Interesting Things for ESL/EFL Students. This website has lots of vocabulary items linked to the VOA Special English website, including quizzes, crossword puzzles, etc. Check out both the VOA Special English and manythings.org for cool stuff. Try out the concordance using basic words (the VOA Special English series of stories restricts itself to a lexicon of 1600 words):

Portal: http://www.manythings.org
Concordance based on VOA Special English: http://www.manythings.org/voa/sentences.htm
VOA Special English: http://www.voanews.com/SpecialEnglish/

The VOA Word List is in many pages on the VOA website, but manythings.org provides the same list as one frameless html page.

5) Laurence Anthony's homepage. This has a free downloadable concordancer on it -- several versions, in fact. I've already started a TOEFL test corpus using on-line files from previous TOEFL tests, plus other corpora (that's plural for corpus). Also planning on making a TOEFL-like reader for a recently out-of-print novel, something I can bring to a publisher:

http://www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/software.html

6) On-line websites for news. They may want to sample English-language newspapers from their own countries and compare the same news at that site to news found at an English-speaking country's website. For this, be sensitive to bias in the news. Have both CNN and Fox, Newsweek and Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Economist, The Korea Herald and the Digital Chosun, etc.

7) Also, they could run the stories or online readings they have found through a concordancer of their own. The more stories they collect, the greater their on-line computer format will be. Let's say they downloaded one story and it used the word "concern." Ten stories later, and they have more examples of the word "concern," slightly richer with collocations such as "concern for" and "concern with." Finally, a business story (say, number 15 in their downloaded readings) contains the noun "concern" meaning "business enterprise." Over time, what may occur is meaning-based learning in a meaning-imbedded manner. VARIATION: You could assign five news stories a week, send them the links, and build your own concordance for these. These could even be those BBC Words in the News stories.

And thank you for inspiring me! I just came up with idea number seven, thanks to you.
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aprillove20



Joined: 09 Jan 2010
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your words reach people's hearts and minds. Your writing is more powerful than the sword. It inspires, educates, entertains.
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