Glossary of ESL terms


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 Writing Lesson plans, Worksheets, and Handouts for ESL.

Let's Argue

A Young ESL Writers' Workshop:


Originally, the Young Writer's Workshop was the 2001 March lesson plan, a mini- workshop consisting of three writing projects: Weighing an Argument, Building an Argument, and Refuting an Argument, students examine issues and are asked to write about them in a clear, logical manner. This workshop has expanded to include paragraphs on writing reasons, problems, ways, and others will be added in the future.


Teaching writing to middle school ESL students can present a challenge.  Often, they just don't have the grammar or vocabulary to write much.  These problems are overcome by providing them with model paragraphs to imitate and a dictionary.


This lesson is not about style but about clarity. In fact, many of the paragraphs that they will study and write will be completely devoid of style. The sentences are not grammatically complex and the structure of the paragraphs are simple, though the vocabulary is somewhat difficult. The justification for this approach is that second language learners would get bogged down deciphering grammatical structures and miss the main point of the lesson: they can communicate effectively, even about difficult issues so long as they stick to simpler sentences. And once they learn to write effectively, they will begin to find their style.


As mentioned above, the focus of these lessons is clarity in writing: Topic sentences followed by well-ordered supporting points and examples.  This is not the only way to write, but may be important for ESL/EFL students to learn in order to succeed in English language environments. Kaplan and Hind have shown that different cultures use different discourse structures, which may be equally valid. Linear writing with a topic supported by points and examples is an example of a deductive discourse strategy prevalent in English. It is important to teach ESL/EFL students this structure so that they are not perceived as being poor writers, when they are in fact merely writing according to their own cultures discourse structures.


A word of warning:  this lesson is not for everybody. The content is somewhat difficult and beginning students will find it challenging. This lesson has been tested on groups of middle school grade 2 and grade 3 students in groups of 5 or 6. However, it could also be used for high school or university writing classes, provided suitable topics were chosen. A dictionary is essential for this workshop were students will be trying to express ideas in writing, far beyond their speaking ability.  The teacher will wander around the room giving suggestions and answering questions as needed.


An added benefit of this workshop is that students will also be exposed to vocabulary used to express issues such as banning smoking, using public transportation, or providing free university education.


For more resources on the net, check out the Perdue University's  On-line Writing Lab and the Capital Community College's Guide to Grammar and Writing. Both sites

provide extensive materials for writing. They are not ESL sites but very useful nonetheless.  






Writing about Problems

This paragraph writing worksheet examines the problems of human space exploration. Students isolate lexical chunks used for writing about problems and write some paragraphs of their own. One problem with . . .

One problem that . . .New




Stating Reasons to do Something

This paragraph writing exercise teaches students how to state the reasons for doing something. They examines the reasons for using public transportation. One reason to . . . is to . . . New





Ways to do Something

This paragraph writing worksheets teaches students how to list the ways to do things. They write to simple paragraphs. One way to . . Another way to . . .  New




Weighing an Argument

Students examine the pros and cons of students electing their teachers. Using these pros and cons, they weigh the argument of whether students should elect their teachers or not. On the one hand . . . But, on the other hand . . .




Building an Argument

Students examine the arguments for banning smoking in public places. They are asked to come up with supporting points and then examples.  Then the students look at linking language. The lesson teaches students how to support their ideas and make their arguments flow.




Refuting an Argument

In this lesson, students examine three steps to refuting an opponent's argument: introduce the argument, evaluate the argument, and make a counter argument.