introducing new members of the blogging community ~ my esl advanced writing workshop

Wednesday, October 23:  I’ve undertaken a project in my Advanced Writing Workshop this fall.  I have a small class of 10 ESL students who are very strong writers, especially for being non-native English speakers.  I introduced them to WordPress blogs and gave them instructions in the computer lab about how to begin a blog of their own.  I’m very proud of their creations.

I hope you will check some of them out:

Han from Vietnam: Han
Najd from Saudi Arabia: Najd, the girl that dreams big.
Lingling from China: orangelol: I am morning clock – lingling
Yisoo from Korea: Everybody dreams.
Aluisio from Brazil: Aluisio_Paiva
Abdul from Saudi Arabia: Abdul
Abe from Korea: abedoyoung lim
Alvin from Korea: seolnara00
Rakan from Saudi Arabia: rakanali’s Blog
Lin from China: Happy Happy Lin

Here is the list of assignments I gave them.  I gave them 21 topics to choose from; they have to make 8 posts during the semester.  Six of them have to be from my list and the other two topics can be their own.


1. ON YOUR “ABOUT ME” PAGE: Write an introduction about yourself.  Tell about where you came from, why you came to America, the feelings that you have about being here, your hopes and dreams, and where you see yourself in 5 years.  YOU CAN TELL ANYTHING YOU WANT ABOUT YOURSELF HERE.  Example:

2. Write about an unusual encounter with a person of another culture where the language barrier presented some kind of misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Example:

3. Go to visit a new place where you’ve never been before in the local area.  Write about the experience.  Use descriptive details to describe it using all 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste).  Tell how you feel while you are here.  Example:

4. Go to a restaurant in the area that is from another culture than your own.  Write about the experience of the food, the difficulties of understanding the food choices on the menu, the colors, textures and tastes of the food, the decor in the restaurant, the service and any companions you have as well as any interesting conversations you have.

5. Create a BUCKET LIST.  List all the things you really want to do before you die.  Example:

6. List the top 10 experiences of your life.  Then PICK ONE.  Don’t think about it for long.  Just write the first things that come to your mind.  Write it in a narrative form: first this happened, then this happened, etc. Put yourself back in the place and time.  Relax and allow the memories to trickle into your mind.  Finish by writing WHY AND HOW this was a significant moment in your life.  Example (Here I wrote briefly about my top 10 experiences in Oman: )

7.  Go see an American movie or read an American book that you think is interesting.  Tell a SHORT SUMMARY of the movie or book.  Then tell about an activity you did after watching the movie.  Tell how the movie affected your experience.  Example:

8.   Tell about one relationship you have that has weathered more storms than others in your adult life.  Describe the other person and how the relationship is.  Were there any troubles that you had that made the relationship grow stronger? 

9.  Write an unusual TITLE.  Let the TITLE be funny, silly, poetic, strange.  Then pick one and write a story about the title.

10. Go to a museum, an art gallery, or a historical place here in America and tell about the experience, using as many of your senses as you can.  Describe how the place feels, how it looks, the sounds and the smells.  You can go anywhere that you think is artistic: a flower shop, a fruit market, a library or bookstore, a nature trail or garden, a concert or live music performance or a night club.  Example:

11.  Tell about how you think you are changing as you live abroad.  Do you think you will have the same friends when you return home?  Do you think that you will be so changed that you will have to find new friends who will understand you.  Example:

12.  Describe the closest friend you have made since you arrived in the USA.  Tell about your relationship with that person: the kinds of things you enjoy with that person, the conversations you have, how you are similar and dissimilar in your ideas.

13. Go visit a familiar place at an unfamiliar time.  For example, you could go to a supermarket after midnight, a city at night, a cemetery at sunset.  Describe it and how you feel while you’re there.

14. Pretend you are an object – a cup, a shoe, a book or a pen.  Write about this object in the first person.  Give it a voice.   Using the words “I am… describe your size, shape, color, texture, and how you feel in your surroundings. 

15.  Look at the objects you have in your drawers and tell why you have those objects and why they are meaningful or necessary to you.

16.  Pick up any book you have on your shelf.  Turn to page 79.  Pick the 4th sentence on the page and write that sentence.  Then brainstorm any ideas that come to your mind related to that sentence.  Write an essay using that sentence as your topic sentence.
17. Tell about a particularly difficult day you had either traveling or in one of your days here in America.  Describe the situation, telling why it was difficult, and how you felt, and how you managed to overcome the difficulty.  Example:


18.  Take a walk through your neighborhood and describe the details.  Tell about the people you see, the buildings and trees.  Tell about the smell of the air, the feel of the sidewalk, the cars in the parking lot or on your street, the sounds you hear.

19.  Tell about something you DON’T LIKE about America, or Northern Virginia Community College, or any Americans you have met.   Describe what it is you don’t like and then compare how this person or the country or school is different from what you’re used to in your own country.  Example:

20.  If when you died, you could carry only one memory with you into the afterlife, what would it be?  Example:

21.  It can be a very lonely existence when you come to a foreign country.  Describe how you deal with loneliness.  Example:

18 thoughts on “introducing new members of the blogging community ~ my esl advanced writing workshop

      1. Wow! You’re so nice to take the time to do that! I’ll have to go read what you wrote! I told them they might get new people dropping by, so you made my day, mrs. carmichael. I’m sure they will be happy to hear your comments!

  1. Great choice of topics! Am sure your students will appreciate them! I might pick one or two for new posts as well if that’s ok with you.. I need some inspiration! I’ll check out your students’ blogs too… 🙂

    1. I hope you do pick some of the topics. I’ll have to check them out when you post! Sorry I’m hopelessly behind on everything and haven’t had time to keep up with people as I’d like!

      1. U didn’t miss anything 🙂 haven’t been writing much lately. Hopefully will catch up soon.. I’d be interested in knowing your esl program. Since English is a second language for me as well as for your students I might learn new things 😉

      2. Elisa, the ESL program where I teach is Northern Virginia Community College. Most students who come to the USA to study have to go through a 2 year ESL program at the ACLI (American Culture and Language Institute), unless they test at a high level of English, in order to study in the US. I only teach one advanced writing workshop, my other two classes are a high level of Speaking and Listening.

      3. Cathy would you mind if I contact you by email? I’d like to ask you some advice about getting into teaching.. It’s just an idea for now but I’d like to get some insight since you’ve been doing it for so long..

      4. Ok, sure, Elisa. Send me your email address through the contact form on my About me page and I’ll write you back. I don’t want to put my email address out here for the world to see! By the way, I’ve only been teaching for about 3 1/4 years!

      5. Oh ok… I thought longer than that. Anyway, you certainly have some good stories to tell me. Will write on the form later! Thank you 🙂

  2. how fun! I want to take this class 😉 actually, I might keep this list and create some posts for my blog with them. great topics! I’m going to go peruse a few of your students’ blogs.

  3. Cathy, you must be the most inspirational teacher! There’s enough content in this single post to keep me reading for a week. I must’ve missed it first time around. There are certain compelling links so I’ll have to visit those first. Girl, you are amazing! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Jo, for the vote of confidence. Even though I was very excited about the assignment, most of the students, especially the boys, just looked at it as more work to do. I think the girls really enjoyed it though and I expect some of them will continue their blogs even when the class ends. At least I hope so. 🙂

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