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English Fundamentals

July 12-13: Week 1 , Day 4-5

English Language Fundamentals

  • Core Competencies
  • Successful Approaches
  • Promising Practices


Ahh, the "fundamentals."  Are they best taught in a specific course focused on grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., or best integrated into the beginning dev english writing courses? 

What works best for engaging students in learning these essential building blocks? 

Do you think puzzels, games, drills, matching exercises are effective?  

Can you imagine activities that can be used on mobile phones?

What do you think?

Task Discussion

  • Malkiel Choseed   July 13, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

    For those with questions or comments about 'skill and drill' vs other types of teaching approaches, I find this to be very useful and clear

    I have shared it with my staff on several occasions.

  • Anonym   July 16, 2012, 10:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Malkiel Choseed   July 13, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

    Hi Malkiel,

    Thanks for sharing this.  I also use this with my colleagues when I'm doing professional development.  I get frustrated sometimes when the extensive body of research and literature is ignored.  I think we know some very definitive things about making writing instruction work effectively, but that is often ignored.


  • Ruth Rominger   July 13, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    College Level Reading Competencies:  What's sufficient?

    Do these cover what students need? (General college placement criteria)

    1. Apply efficient textbook study strategies.
    2. Explain main ideas in single and multi-paragraph readings. 
    3. Explain the relationships of details to the main idea(s) they support.
    4. Apply word meaning strategies. 
    5. Draw inferences from reading selections.
    6. Utilize patterns as aids to comprehension of single and multi-paragraph readings.
    7. Integrate information from graphics with text information.
    8. Vary reading rate.
    9. Apply skimming and scanning techniques when appropriate.
    10. Summarize single and multi-paragraph readings.
    11. Compare and contrast ideas from several readings. 
  • Maggi   July 13, 2012, 5:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ruth Rominger   July 13, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    I do a lot of consulting with schools that are redesigning their curriculum. The posted question comes up  lot. I ask people to identify which skills or strategies their students will need in subsequent courses. To me, this is the core purpose of developmental educsion for the underprepared learner - to help them be better prepared. We can also look to the research. There is evidence thst students  who can effectively  review  their own summaries are the most successful students.  So, the absolutely essential competencies  may be summarizing and using efficient textbook reading study strayegies.

  • nabb   July 16, 2012, 8:43 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Maggi   July 13, 2012, 5:16 p.m.

    Morning Maggi, 

    I agree.   Focusing on what students will need to succeed in future classes helps to build a solid curriculum.   And that's exactly why it is difficult to have a universal or national standard.   Every first-year English program I have taught in has been slightly different.   Thinking about the common threads among these programs kind of makes my head hurt.  

    I think it is also important to help students see how what they are learning in this course will translate to future courses.

  • Ruth Rominger   July 13, 2012, 4:10 p.m.

    Online Reference Tools?  Grammar, spelling, punctuation, dictionaries, style guides... do you have any favorite online "English Handbook" sites you recommend to students or intergrate into your curriculum?  Do you think reference books (paper) are still essential? 

  • Ruth Rominger   July 13, 2012, 4:06 p.m.

    Mobile devices, social media, online communities?  Can we imagine how the ubiquity of these tools can engage students and enhance learning English?   

    These two articles came across my screen this week which speak to this future. What do you think? What have you experimented with in your programs?

    Texting in the classroom

    Writing without Networks

  • Rhonda Traylor   July 13, 2012, 2:48 p.m.

    I think both schools of thought are correct, games and skills/drills.  You never know which one will stick to which type of learner.  I sing the Schoolhouse Rock songs in my classroom all the time.  I also sing the helping verb song.  So many students seem to have a problem using helping verbs correctly.  I have run into students three and four years later who laugh because they still remember the song and have used it to find the right helping verb in their writing.

    I don't think there is any magic bullet or one specific way that works for all students. Yes, there are some techniques that work more often than not but variety is the best way to help students figure what works for them. They need be accountable for their education so when they know what works for them, it becomes their responsibility to use it.

  • Ruth Rominger   July 13, 2012, 3:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rhonda Traylor   July 13, 2012, 2:48 p.m.
    Rhonda, As NROC looks into the various opportunities for using media and online technologies to support the learning of English fundamentals, we are planning to explore the approach you suggestion... that is, we would like to offer a variety of techniques and approaches that teachers can use with students to develop their English competencies. It would be really helpful to hear about some of the techniques teachers find most helpful to different students, whether in class, with pen and paper, flash cards, music, etc. It will be our task to figure out if media or technology can enhance the experience. Ruth
  • Catherine   July 13, 2012, 12:28 p.m.

    Personally, I like to deliver grammar both ways--through grammar exercises and through students' work.  Students learn in various ways; therefore, presenting information in different fashions appeals to more students.  Teaching grammar the "old-fashioned way" may seem boring, until a person considers that students should have every opportunity to learn.  For instance, diagramming sentences never appealed to me, but it allows students who are technically gifted to know which parts connect.  A person who needs to know how things work could gain a better understanding of the English language by this method.

  • Anonym   July 13, 2012, 5:44 a.m.

    I am not a fan of "drill and skill" grammar & fundamentals.  I don't think that students retain much.  I greatly prefer to teach grammar in context, using students' real papers & examples as realia for talking about grammar.  

    I do think that games and other interactive approaches can make grammar fun.  My students really like, which is an interactive grammar game.  I thought they might find it cheesy, but they love to practice on the site.



  • Julie Lemley   July 13, 2012, 2:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   July 13, 2012, 5:44 a.m.

    I visited  and there were a lot of features I liked about it. I've considered the old Grammer Rock (let's face it - the songs stick in your head), but thought they might be too cheesy. However, Grammar Rock doesn't provide integrative exercises like this one does. Heaven knows many students need a lot of help with much of the grammer and writing mechanics.

  • Anonym   July 16, 2012, 10:21 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Lemley   July 13, 2012, 2:04 p.m.

    Hi Julie,

    Sometimes I use schoolhouse rocks just for fun.  It's not interactive, but students seem to get a kick out of it as a framing mechanism for discussions about grammar.



  • Claudia L'Amoreaux   July 12, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

    In response to how cell phones might be used, here's a relevant article that I spotted a few days ago and summarized:


    A developmental writing teacher describes his very slow conversion to valuing cell phone in the classroom. Author gives some great examples of how he now has students use mobile phones for assignments.
    An excerpt:
    Last semester teaching developmental writing at Queensborough Community College, I gave my students explicit instructions on how to record files of themselves reading their papers, both on their phones and in the computer lab. I also demonstrated for them how fast they should read, making a point to demonstrate with a document that had errors. I would interrupt my deliberate cadence on the error, which from the snickers I could tell they’d all heard too, asking for suggestions on correcting the mistake. After correcting the mistakes, I would start my recording again until I did a reading that didn’t have any writing mistakes (as opposed to reading mistakes, which I say are fine as long as they are corrected with a rereading).

    The student responses to these assignments have been mostly positive. However, some students struggle with technology already, and they are none too eager to have to use it some more. Others resent having to do more work than they think they are supposed to do for a writing assignment. A fair amount, though, have grown to appreciate how much this technique helps them -- and not only in finding grammatical mistakes. More than one student has reported that they noticed their arguments or narratives don’t make sense when they read them out loud. My own sense is that the student progress made this semester has exceeded the student progress of previous semesters.
  • Rhonda Traylor   July 12, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

    Has anyone ever used It is a great site for creating instant polls that students can respond to using their cell phones. You pose a question and the students answer. They can also "chat" on Facebook with their phones. My young students love it. Some of my older returning students do not like tech at all, but I work very hard to create a collaborative learning environment so the returning students will ask for help.  Technology can be beneficial when it is available.

    At the post graduted institution I work in the technology is excellent but at the high school level, our tech is questionable at best. I worry about preparing my college bound students for college. There are so many aspects of working a computer that they do not understand, largely because of exposure. They walk into college and they are behind in many aspects.

  • Anonym   July 13, 2012, 5:41 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Rhonda Traylor   July 12, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

    Yes, I love poll everywhere.  I use it similarly.   It's a great alternative to expensive "clickers."



  • Julie Lemley   July 13, 2012, 2:20 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rhonda Traylor   July 12, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

    I had never even heard of, much less used it. However, I had to check it out and I really liked it. I could see this working for a lot of things. I think I could even do reading quizzes on it - either open answer or multiple choice.

    I do agree that many students do not have enough exposure to as many aspects of technology as they should have before going to college. This is where the disparity in school districts can often be quite evident. I know many are finding different solutions as the technology evolves - but there are also often issues of access, particularly in areas with high levels of poverty.

  • nabb   July 16, 2012, 8:37 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Rhonda Traylor   July 12, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

    Yes, I have used polleverywhere, and it is awesome.  

    I also use Punchbowl to send out invites to professional development for my staff.   It makes the invitation special and saves on paper.   Plus, I have one place to go to access all the RSVP's and keep track of who is making the most of the training offered to our tutors. 

    I think it is ironic that you mention the K-12 students being un/under prepared technologically.   We often think the students fresh out of high school have had more exposure to technology in the classroom, not less.   

  • Anonym   July 16, 2012, 10:20 a.m.
    In Reply To:   nabb   July 16, 2012, 8:37 a.m.



    Interesting.  I'd love to hear more about your use of technology.  One of the perceptions I have (and I am very happy to be corrected) is that many K-12 schools have really been restrictive about the use of technology in classroom because of widespread administrative fears of social networking.  

    Thanks for helping me to understand the issue more deeply!