Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


In writing class my students work on writing paragraphs, and within that context they develop their sentence writing skills. Attached to this post is a very short presentation that gives students practice writing sentences that use the imperative. It also reviews some prepositions that are used when giving instructions on how to cook something. To use it, I suggest that you

  1. Show the picture and the words that are used as prompts.
  2. Ask the students to write the sentence.
  3. Ask the class to show their sentences to their partners or the people sitting near them.
  4. Show them the sentence with a blank where the preposition should be and ask them what they think the preposition is.
  5. Show them the sentence.

Note – It is always put in and add to.

Prepositions for Cooking / Writing Sentences That Use the Imperative

Source for the photo:


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I’m afraid that I made a mistake in the presentation that I posted on transitions for cause and effect. It seems that that is why is a noun class, so there should be no comma after that is why. I’ve corrected the presentation. I apologize.

Transitions for Cause and Effect (That Is Why)

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Reading and analyzing other people’s writing is one way for students to improve their own writing. In the beginning, it can be helpful to guide the analysis. As they gain experience analyzing other people’s work, they will become increasingly capable and eventually independent.

The attached presentation is a simple paragraph written by a student in the fourth week of the semester. Some semesters I attach the presentation to Blackboard, and ask my students review it as part of their homework. Other semesters we analyze it in class. In this case, I write the aspects of spatial order paragraphs that we have studied and that are found in this paragraph on the board.

  • topic sentence
  • detail
  • concluding sentence
  • background information
  • article (a/an/the)
  • there + be (to introduce something)
  • a signal word or phrase
  • punctuation after a dependent clause
  • a starting point

Students sit with partners and talk together about each highlighted section of the paragraph. After the pairs talk, we review what the pairs have discussed.

An Analysis of a Spatial Order Paragraph — My New Kitchen

A simple alternative to using PowerPoint would be to give the students the paragraph on a piece of paper and ask them to find the aspects of spatial order in the paragraph. The advantage of doing the activity this way is that the students are able to see the entire paragraph at one time. The PowerPoint slides present the paragraph in halves.

Source for the image:


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Toward the end of the semester my writing class works on summary paragraphs. One of the challenges of writing a summary paragraph is paraphrasing. In order to paraphrase successfully, the writer needs to convey the correct meaning of the original without plagiarizing. This is especially difficult for students who are still developing their English language skills. For the last few semesters, I have been using a PowerPoint presentation with paraphrasing exercises created by Professor Jean Van Meter of Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland. Slide one starts with the words reading, thinking, understanding, and rewriting. The first time I viewed this slide, I had the feeling I was about to see something good. This first slide gives me the opportunity to remind my students that paraphrasing it not piece by piece work. A successful paraphrase is not a puzzle with tiny parts that you arrange. In order to paraphrase well, you must truly think about what you are reading and understand it. The rest of the presentaion is a series of quotations. Each quotation is followed with wh-questions. These questions are presented one at a time, and after each question the key words used to answer the question are highlighted in the text. This step by step approach is extremely helpful, and students can use this same process later when they paraphrase without the help of their instructor.

In order to help students activate their schema before reading the quotations, I added some images and prereading questions to the orignal presentation. When I asked Professor Van Meter if I could share her presentation with the readers of this blog, she very kindly said yes. The link is


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When students give a speech that gives instructions or write a paragraph that gives instructions, they sometimes need to remind their listeners or readers about something. The attached presentation gives examples of reminders and the grammar that is used with them. It then presents sentences with errors. I use this presentation in class. I ask the students to sit in pairs and then show them the sentences with the errors. They work with their partners to correct the mistakes, and then we discuss the corrections as a whole class.


Image — http://blogs.colgate.edu/pancakes-syrup.jpg

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A couple of years ago I used a very short PowerPoint presentation on The Eight Parts of Speech. I made the presentation available to my students so that those who were confused about nouns, verbs, etc. could refer to it. I then decided that an expanded interactive presentation might be more beneficial. I also did not want to be tied to the traditional categories used in grammar.

I have now “completed” the expanded interactive version; however, as you can see from the title of the presentation, after some exploration, I decided to organize the presentation in the old, traditional way. While the categorization is old and traditional, the presentation of the material is not. The presentation is an interactive PowerPoint that allows students to follow their curiostiy by clicking on buttons. The second page of the presentation is “home,” and from there students can click on the part of speech that they would like to learn more about. I have also included an index. The icon for the index is in the upper right hand corner. Buttons in the bottom middle of the pages allow students to go back to the sections within the presentation.

In the future, I plan to expand some of the sections of the presentation. For prepositions of orientation, in particular, I imagine that  photos demonstrating the meanings of the words would be very helpful.


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This video was very useful as an example of language that gives instructions. I used it today in my writing class, and it worked well as an introduction to several teaching points. The first time my class watched the video, pencils were down, and the students just watched for enjoyment and to get the general idea. The second viewing included a closer look and an analysis of the language used in the video. The video offers some good examples of features found in language that gives instruction.

Imperative Verbs

    • start
    • push
    • rest
    • cut
    • select
    • serve
    • enjoy
    • cajole
    • assure

Expressions That Are Useful When Giving Instructions

    • You will need _____
    • You will have to _____.
    • You need to_____.

A Reminder

    • Be(ing) careful not to _____.

The video also gave students exposure to interesting and slightly more complex introductions and conclusions than they have written so far this semester.


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In my experience it is more difficult for my writing students to choose interesting controlling ideas for essays on similarities than it is for them to choose interesting controlling ideas for essays about differences (contrast). One key to writing about similarities is finding two topics that at first glance appear to have very little in common.  Recently a friend who admires Fred Astaire shared a You Tube video about some mirroring that Michael Jackson did of Fred Astaire. Although this topic is not particularly academic, the video illustrates some interesting similarities between a piece of work by Michael Jackson and some work by Fred Astaire.

I plan to use this later this semester in my writing course when we work on writing about similarities. I will either use it at the beginning of the unit as a “buy in” or at the point when the class is preparing to choose their topics.


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A few weeks ago one of my colleagues mentioned a really cool presentation that she had seen that was made with Prezi. I checked it out and started to think of some ways that I could use Prezi for my courses. I thought it might be useful to help writing students understand how text is organized. Here is my first Prezi. It is a paragraph that I wrote about an experience that I had in Japan. I hope this Prezi will help my writing students begin to understand how paragraphs of time order are organized.

A Time Order Paragraph

The link is http://prezi.com/fgljq9y81_-k/

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During week seven of my writing course, we focussed explicitly on the writing process and now during week nine, students are dutifully using prewriting, organizing, drafting, editing and revising. It is a sight (and a beautiful one) to behold. Some where in all of this, we began to use the wondrous wiki for editing and revising.

Step one was to for me to set up the wiki for our class. Here I’d like to offer you a word of warning. When I used a wiki with students for the first time, I learned about something called orphan pages and I am hoping that you won’t make the same mistake. With my original (wicked) wiki, I thought everyone could simply do their work on the same page, but that is when the orphan pages began to appear (or not!). Orphan pages are pages that users create, but then don’t link to any other page. In my case, without being instructed to do so, some of my students created their own pages, did all of their hard work on that page, saved it, and then closed. The unfortunate thing was that there was nothing on the home page or any where to indicate that these pages even existed. It wasn’t until some students said that they had done the work and couldn’t find it that I went hunting. Under “Pages” I found these little lost pieces of work and quickly made links for them to the home page. To be honest, it was kind of a mess.

The best way that I have found to avoid this is, when I make the wiki, to create a page for each student and put links to these pages on the menu. When you use a wiki, you won’t always want everyone to have their own pages, but because my students use the wiki to write rather long pieces, I wanted each of them to have his or her own page. Next, I familiarized the students with the wiki. I showed them where their links were and explained they needed to click on edit, do their writing, and then save.

Wikis are excellent for editing and revising because I can look at the history of the pages and see what improvements have been made. With paper and ink pages, this type of insight is lost. This weekend I graded students’ tests and next week students will take their tests, put them on the wiki with the mistakes, save the page, edit and revise, and save the page again. Not only does this ensure that students benefit from feedback, it allows classmates to see one another’s work, ah – from wicked to wondrous.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY

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