Archive for the ‘Space Order’ Category


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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sunshinigSome words in English have a larger meaning than others. The easiest words to learn are the words with the smallest meanings. As meanings get larger, the process of grasping that meaning sometimes becomes more difficult. That is one reason that articles (a, an and the) in English and prepositions are a bit challenging for some English language learners. One way to help students acquire the meanings of prepositions is to break them down into smaller categories like prepositions of location or prepositions of time. These two types of prepositions are good starting points and lots of exposure to them should help students begin to understand their large meanings.

Flashcards are one way to increase the exposure students have to prepositions. I’ve made some flashcards that cover prepositions of location that students can either put on their mobile devices or review using Slideshare. If students have  iPods or cell phones that have photo browsing capability, they can save the cards through the zip file and then put them on their mobile devices in the same way that they put photos on their devices. Alternatively, students can view the flashcards on Slideshare by linking to the address below.

I’d just like to add one more thing about making flashcards for mobile devices. I made these using PowerPoint. I like using PowerPoint because the font is clear and I can easily add some photos to the cards. PowerPoint also allows me to put the “presentation” on Slideshare. To make the cards for mobile devices, I simply save the PowerPoint presentation as jppgs. They end up in a folder. I then zipped that folder, put it on my website and now I have a link that I can give my students and you!  The links are below.

Cards for mobile devices:


 Link to the presentation on Slideshare:


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ChunkThis fall I’ll be teaching Beginning Intensive Writing without a textbook for the first time and right now I’m in the process of developing the materials for the course. One of things that I’ve been working on is putting the objectives of the course into manageable chunks. I’ve decided to use spatial order as the first rhetorical pattern because it uses some of the basic grammar that I want my students to be able to control. The grammatical chunks that I’ve decided to use in the module on spatial order are:

Please click on the links to see short nonlinear PowerPoint presentations on these grammatical points. The beauty of chunking is that as time goes on, I can develop these chunks further. I really like nonlinear presentations, but some day I’d like to learn how to turn some of these chunks into interactive games.

Thank you to PLS for teaching me how to use exits, entrances, and movement in PowerPoint, Jeff Ertzberger’s site for inspiring me to learn how to use triggers, and the Teacher’s Materials for Focus on Grammar for showing me some great examples of how to use PowerPoint.

Added Later: Here is a link to a post with some flashcards on Prepositions of Location.

Photo Source

rachaelrayforever. Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough. Retrieved June 13, 2009 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/11231765@N08/3003185295/

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In an earlier post I mentioned that I would like to work on ways to make learning activities portable. I’ve been experimenting with how to do this and I’ve learned a few things. Most of the examples of portable activities that I have seen are simply jpeg images loaded onto a handheld device. These images can be created in a variety of ways (MS Paint, software, PowerPoint, photos), but in the end are saved as jpegs. In the case of a portable quiz, the first image will be the instructions (01);  the second image will be the first question (02); the third image will be the first answer (03). The second question (04) will follow and the second answer (05) and so on. In the case of both a quiz and a PowerPoint presentation, the images must be numbered with at least two digits so that the mobile device can put them in the correct order. Understanding this, opens up all kinds of creative possibilities.

The images are then made available to the students through the web, in a course management system, or sent to the students through email. If they have iPods or iPhones, they will sync the images the same way they sync photos. This means saving the images in the folder (usually a picture folder) that syncs to the iPod. Getting the images to cell phones is something that is more challenging. Both Joe Dale  and Dave Foord have given me some helpful advice and encouragement. Dave Foord feels that the reason getting the images to phones is a bit “tricky” is that it’s “not something that can be achieved with a ‘1 size fits all’ solution especially as all phones are different and all institution systems allow people to do different things in different ways.” His advice is to rely “on the learners being able to upload files…, so all we need to do is get the files into a folder, and make this available somewhere” and he wisely advises that it is a good idea “to talk to the learners and find out what they would find easiest.”

As you make these types of portable activities, just keep in mind that because the images are jpeg, the quiz questions can only be multiple choice or have one answer (correct or incorrect, true or false, a one word answer such as a vocabulary response to a photo, or a fill in the blank answer.) Critical reasoning and analytical skills could be accessed by asking the students to provide reasons along with their answers.  Also, PowerPoint presentations can only be presented in a linear fashion, and as a result animations and non-linear aspects are, unfortunately, lost.

In my opinion, activities that are somewhat large are better as portable activities than smaller ones since a larger activity makes the time taken to download it and then transfer it to a portable device more worthwhile.  

Using MS Paint to make cards is easy. I learned how to use MSPaint to do this from a video made by Lilian Soon. I read about it on Joe Dale’s Blog and he learned about if from David Foord. Here it is! Thank you to all of you.

After talking to my students, I made 92 cards on Prepositions of Location  and made them available. (They need to be removed from the zipped folder.) One very enthusiastic student downloaded them and synced them to his iPod immediately.  When he appeared in class the next day showing off his portable flash cards, there was a beautiful buzz in the classroom and since then (just last week) another student has accessed the cards.  At the request of the students, I have also turned some PowerPoint presentations on grammar into jpegs and made those available. It’s been kind of exciting! To turn a PowerPoint presentation into jpeg slides, simply choose “Save As” and save it as a jepg. You will end up with a folder containing one jpeg for each slide in the presentation.

For me, the easiest way to create quizzes for portable devices is to use a software program called StudyMate. You have to purchase the software, but it allows you to make an activity available to students in a variety of ways. They can either work with it as a link from their computer, or they can download a version of the activity and snyc it to their iPods or put it on their phones. One of the books that the students in our program use for reading and vocabulary development is Contact USA. In the teacher’s book there are a lot of multiple choice questions that cover the vocabulary. Using StudyMate, I turned these questions (with a few revisions) into 100 cards for review. There are three versions of the review: flash cards for use on a computer, a game that requires two participants, and cards that can be used on a Portable Device. If you’d like to see these, the first two can be found at Cards and Game for the Computer  and the portable cards are at Cards for a Portable Device. Since almost all of these questions were taken from the teacher’s book, I was concerned about copyright and contacted  the publisher. I was told that it would be fine for me to make this activity available.

One more way to create quizzes is iQuiz Maker. It is very easy to create quizzes on iQuizmaker; it’s free; and there are some nice flashy templates available for Mac users. To get it, go to iQuizMaker with iPod. Create the quiz and make it available to your students in the way that is easiest for all of you. Students will need to download the file and then put it in their iPod Games folder which is in their iTunes folder. The quiz will automatically sync to their iPods just like it does for any new music download. I have made a very small (ten questions) experimental quiz pack with iQuiz maker that you are welcome to take a look at. To view it, you will first need to download iQuizMaker.

Of course, you can use your camera to take pictures and use those as images. For beginning vocabulary building, you could make the first image a picture and then use MS Paint for the second image, which would be the word. 

There are other ways to make portable learning activities and I am sure that as handheld devices become more sophisticated, teachers will have increasingly more options available. At this point, I’m happy to know that at least some of my students are carrying a little bit of their writing class with them when they ride the bus.


Dale, Joe. Create mobile phone quizzes in MS Paint. Accessed January 19, 2009, from                          http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2009/01/create-mobile-phone-quizzes-in-ms-paint.html.

dgrice. PowerPoint to iPod. Accessed January 19, 2009, from http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=fe1efe93b16e8d353499.

Foord, David.  Using ‘Paint” to create simple quizes for a phone. Accessed February 11, 2009, from http://davefoord.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/using-paint-to-create-simple-quizes-for-a-phone/.

Martin, Kelly. CTA-articulated-bus. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CTA-articulated-bus.jpg.

Soon, Lilian. Creating quizzes for the phone. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2479360146328027324&hl=en.

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copy-of-lampIn my writing class on Friday we continued to work on paragraphs organized according to space order. Prior to Friday, students worked on prepositions of location and topic sentences for paragraphs that describe a place. To practice space order, we used a non-linear PowerPoint presentation that I made using some pictures of my apartment. (If you’d like to see an earlier post on how to make this type of presentation, go to Non-linear PowerPoint Presentation.) I’ve been tweaking this actvity for a while. The trickiest part was to find a way for the students to see enough of the apartment, and at the same time maintain a sense of where in the space the items were located. In the end, I laid out small photos on a drawing of the space. The small photos then link to larger ones so that the class can see more detail. We start with just the map and then look at the map with the little photos on it. I then click the little photos one by one so the students can see things in more detail. Each time I return to the map before students view the next picture. Later when the class is writing, I leave the map with the pictures on the screen. Each picture and place is numbered, so if they have any questions or would like to see something again, they can easily refer to the number.

To begin, we reviewed a couple of  things that are useful when writing a paragraph using space order: First, the paragraph needs a topic sentence with a main idea. Then, the writers need to decide on a starting point for the paragraph and describe things in relationship to that point, using prepositions of location. I also reminded students to not only write about the location of things in the space but to include some interesting detail. I was really pleased when they mentioned that this detail could include examples, feelings, or explanation. Next, the students sat in pairs and we viewed the photos. With each photo, I added some detail. For example, I mentioned that when people come over after dark, we turn on the little lamp in the hallway by the front door because it makes the entrance feel cozy and welcoming. I also told them that some mornings while I eat breakfast, I look at the picture of the colorful four vases and think of my three colorful sisters.

After viewing the photos, students worked with their partners to write their paragraphs. I felt that they were very successful at collaborating and when one pair had difficulty coming up with a topic sentence, the other pairs shared their ideas with them. This practice also gave me a chance to move around the room and talk to all of the pairs about their work and remind them of a little grammar including how the first time you write about an indefinite singular count noun you use “a” and after that you use “the.” We also noticed that it is a good idea to use a variety of grammatical patterns instead of using the same pattern again and again. They tended to depend on “you can see” and “you can find.” We talked about some alternatives including “there is” or occasionally starting a sentence with the item being described.  If you’d like to see the photos we used for this practice, click here: An Apartment.

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