Sunday, May 6, 2007
I hope that you understand that a proficiency test is designed to measure your competence in English. Unlike an achievement test, it cannot really be prepared for in the sense of reviewing particular grammar, vocabulary, or skills. A well-designed proficiency test is like a snapshot of your ability to function in English.
The best way to do your best on a test such as the MEIPE is to make sure you get plenty of rest beforehand; if you stay up all weekend studying for it, you will end up sleep-deprived and unable to do your best. Go to bed early on Sunday and Monday nights. Eat a healthy breakfast before the test, and make sure you arrive in the classroom (HBK 0123) in plenty of time. If you are late, you will be flustered and upset, and again, unable to do your best on the test. The time for studying is past. If you have been working hard all semester, your test results should reflect that, so don't worry. Have a nice Sunday, and good luck to everyone!
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Looking down Terp Town Center at the TDK fountain
Jennifer, David, and Vicki
Vicki and me with the Basketball Terrapin (Comcast Center)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This Saturday is Maryland Day, which is the university's annual community day, when the campus is open to everyone and anyone to come and see what the University of Maryland is all about. There will be games, exhibits, performances, food, music, demonstrations, dance, children's activities and more. It's a wonderful opportunity for all to experience the university in all its diversity. Even those of us who live, work, and/or study here cannot begin to know all of what goes on here. It's a fascinating place! I hope you will take a few hours off from studying this Saturday to come and join the fun. You can get a sense of what it's all about from this website. I hope to see you there!
P.S. MEI's Intensive English Program will participate with tables in the Global Village area, Hornbake Plaza.
P.P.S. Even though rain is forecast for the next few days, it's supposed to be nice on Saturday.
P.P.P.S. Last year, I touched a live tarantula on Maryland Day! Yes, really!
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It was hard at first to grasp the full extent of what had happened. Gradually, as I watched the news on TV, listened to the radio, and read accounts in this morning's Washington Post, I began to realize the horror. (Click here for the Washington Post's coverage.) I feel so sad for the victims and their families and perhaps even sadder for the parents of the killer, a Korean immigrant from Centreville, Virginia. I can't imagine their grief and despair at the knowledge that their son could have committed such a heinous crime, coupled with the pain of losing him (he killed himself).
Monday, April 16, 2007
The original essay upon which this exercise was based can be found here. Geographer Matt Rosenberg disagreed with some of the statistics and revised it here. Can you see any differences?
Sometimes the village has 1000 people instead of 100, as in this site. (Notice that the author shifts from the hypothetical conditional to simple present tense as she describes her imaginary "village".) You could practice your conditionals by rewriting the sentences using unreal conditional forms.
Finally, here is a little video produced by campers at Camp About Face in Georgia, USA:
Friday, April 13, 2007
Here is a picture of Ibrahim and me at the TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington in March--our first face-to-face meeting!
Here are two excerpts from the chat:
NinaTL: Ibrahamjon, why don't you tell the class about your job?
IbrahimjoR: In 2002 I graduated from the department of foreign language of Khujans State University in Tajikistan, where I studied English and Farsi, so then I went to my home town, Isfara, to teach English at secondary school.
JennifeGst1: It's very interesting.
IbrahimjoR: and later in 2004 I joined Relief International Schools Online, where I worked as an educator at an Internet Learning Center, teaching students to use computers and partnering with US schools. In March 2007 I attended the TESOL Convention in Seattle.
NinaTL: How did you first become interested in educational technology, Ibrahimjon?
IbrahimjoR: In 2003, I got my first computer, and for the first time I used Windows Start button, though I had been using email since 1997. In April 2004 I began using computers with students, and the whole day I had to use my computer, learning and creating materials. Later I became interested in creating web projects with my students.
NinaTL: Can you please tell Ibrahim what you are studying here at the U of Maryland?
FelixGst3: I'm studying Plant Science.
NasserGst5: I’m studying fire protection engineering.
MacakinGst8: I'm studying Civil Engineering.
HsingchGst13: I’m studying dietetics.
FeitianGst6: I major in Animal Science.
NazaninGst4: I'm studying French literature.
KashishGst10: I am studying computer science.
JennifeGst1: My major is Library & Information Science, and I am minoring in children’s libraries.
IbrahimjoR: so different!
NinaTL: Most of the students are in graduate school,...
MohammeGst9: fire protection engineering
AzizGst7: I’m studying Electrical Engineering
GreivisGst14: I'm undecided because I need a major that won't take all my time, so I can play basketball at the same time.
MohamedGst2: I'm studying Entomology.
NinaTL: but we have some freshmen and a couple of transfer students as well.
MakotoGst15: I am studying semiconductors.
NinaTL: Is that in the dept. of Electrical Engineering, Makoto?
MakotoGst15: Yes, it is
NinaTL: For the graduate students, this class may be their only opportunity to meet students who are not studying the same thing they are.
IbrahimjoR: I'm impressed to learn about what you are all studying. Well done; good job! ;)
I think everyone enjoyed this intercontinental chat! You can learn more about RISO's Internet Learning Centers in Tajikistan here. Thanks, Ibrahimjon, for visiting us at Tapped In today!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Today my former MEI colleague, Dr. Rae Lan, brought four of her students from Soochow University in Taiwan to observe our class, and we took some pictures! Natalie, Marcy, Dorothy and Claire are studying to be English teachers.
Monday, March 26, 2007
We are continuing in Quest Chapter 6 and beginning a chapter on adverbial clauses. The students appeared rested and ready to work hard in the second half of the semester. I was disappointed that six students did not come to class today, however. I can't understand how they expect to improve their English enough to pass the class if they do not attend and participate!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Krashen believes that "free voluntary reading," or FVR, positively affects vocabulary size, spelling, reading comprehension, grammar, and writing style; in fact, research indicates that it is better than direct instruction in improving these areas. (pp. 12-13)
In fact, Krashen writes, "writing style does not come from writing, but from reading." (p. 72) He surmises that although research cannot specify exactly what makes writing "good", "it is...sensible to suppose that writing style is not consciously learned, but is largely absorbed, or subconsciously acquired, from reading."
He notes that people read much more than they write: as much as 150 times as much, speaking of educated adults in the United States, and he further states that the amount of extracurricular (pleasure) reading one does is a strong predictor of English proficiency as measured by the TOEFL, whereas the amount one writes does not correlate with proficiency. This makes sense, according to Krashen, since "language acquisition comes from input, not output, from comprehension, not production." (pp. 74-76)
Television, Krashen says, "does not provide high quality linguistic input" because it is less complex than the language of books, although he admits that TV watching may encourage reading through dramatizations of books. This is because TV uses a small word base, probably under 5,000 words. Compare this to the 3,000+ vocabulary of an average American first-grader.). (pp. 78-81)
Go read a book!
[Page numbers refer to the first paperback edition.]
Friday, March 9, 2007
While I have been writing this, two more students have arrived--another irritating thing. Many stuents apparently feel that it is perfectly acceptable to arrive late to class on a regular basis.
Naturally, if students are really sick or have a valid excuse for missing a test or a class or being late, I have no problem accommodating them. It's this cavalier attitude that "anything goes" that drives me nuts.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
We have had a couple of days with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, and a lot of the ice has melted. Some of the students on campus even wore shorts and t-shirts! There were puddles of water everywhere. Then, yesterday afternoon, a "Canadian Clipper" blew in with gusty winds which made the higher temperatures seem very low indeed. When it is very cold, I detour through Plant Sciences on my way from the parking lot to my office, so that I can warm up a little on the way. It makes it bearable.
There's rather a lot planned for today's class, but if there is time I intend to have the students reflect on what they have been learning in another class this week.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
What I really hate about snow is how after a few days, it gets grimy, like this. I hate thinking that the air I breathe is full of that black stuff--I just don't notice it most of the time. The dirty snow reminds me that I am breathing polluted air. :-(
This photo was taken in the parking lot near the Comcast Center.
Friday, February 16, 2007
After having unseasonably warm weather during the month of January, we have been in the deep freeze recently, and Tuesday night there was an ice storm which blanketed the area with several inches of hard, packed ice. You can walk right over the top of it without even making a dent! Some of the students who are from warm places and have never experienced snow might think this is snow, but it's not. The campus closed early on Tuesday and remained closed on Wednesday. I spent the day (1) making bean soup and (2) clearing my driveway. We had to whack at the ice to break it before we could shovel it (we even broke one of our shovels!), and each shovelful weighed a ton. I considered actually getting my bathroom scale out so I could weigh it, but I was too tired! We also used a pick-axe to break it up. That worked better than the blade of the snow-shovel. I felt like a coal miner, digging for white coal.
I assigned an oral presentation for this week. The students, working in pairs and threes, could choose from four projects, three of which were videos. In the past, I showed these videos to the whole class. Fridays were devoted to videos, and we all went over to Nonprint Media Services to watch them together. This semester, I did not have time each week to devote to the videos, so I assigned them as part of the oral project. I wonder which method is better!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Don't forget to give your blog address to your friends and family back home, so they can follow your progress at UM.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Today we got a start in our textbooks, Understanding and Using English Grammar and Quest: Listening and Speaking 3. However, we couldn't get through all the material I had planned. Although the students would probably prefer to have fewer hours in class, I wish we had (at least) three hours per day!
Almost every student has created his/her own blog. This morning I showed them how to change the default settings for time zone, comment verification and moderation, etc., and assigned a first post for this week, introducing themselves. I have had several offers from EFL teachers in different countries to read the students' blogs and interact with the class. :-)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Everyone in the class seems pleasant and positive, even though I know very well that most of them would rather not take the class!
Here's to a successful semester for all!
In these pictures, the students are practicing using a variety of verb tenses and aspects:
Thursday, January 11, 2007
UMEI 005 (Advanced English as a Foreign Language) is a non-credit one-semester required ESL course offered by the Maryland English Institute for students at the University of Maryland (Maryland, USA). Course dates are January 24 - May 4, 2007. The purpose of the course is to support international students at UM whose English language proficiency does not quite meet the standard set by the university for full-time academic study. We target all four skills in the course, which meets two hours a day, Monday - Friday, for 13 weeks. The students are at both the graduate and undergraduate level, aged about 18-30, and are studying in various fields.
There are about 15 students in the class. We have a class blog and a class wiki, and the students have created their own individual blogs. I am sure they will be excited to read comments from English students and teachers from around the world!
Links to UMEI005 student blogs:
By the way, we might also be interested in some synchronous interaction, e.g., text chat at Tapped In or voice chat on Yahoo Messenger. This would be possible on Mondays or Fridays, when we meet in the computer lab, from 1400 GMT to 1600 GMT.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
You are still on vacation, but I am already back on campus and planning the semester. I always have a class blog, and I like my students to have their own blogs too. A blog gives you a space on the web where you can express your thoughts and ideas in English. These can be read by your classmates, by other students (and non-students) in other places, by your family and friends back home, and (of course) by me, your teacher. We can interact with you by leaving comments on your blog.