For teachers

How can I automatically evaluate opinion essays?

Do you teach opinion essays? Many teachers do. It is a common practice in English Second Language teaching to ask college level students to write a 4-5 paragraph opinion essay on a range of topics. An opinion essay goes by many names. Often, it is called the hamburger essay, the 1-3-1 essay, the persuasive essay,

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Interview with Canadian Poet Peter Van Toorn

Peter Van Toorn is the author of three books of poetry, Leeway Grass, (1970); In Guildenstern County, 1973; and Mountain Tea, 1985. As editor, he has published various collections over the years: Cross/cut: Contemporary English Quebec Poetry (with Ken Norris), 1982; The Insecurity of Art: Essays on Poetics (with Ken Norris), 1982; Lakeshore Poets, 1982;

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How can I automate essay evaluation for free?

Many teachers would like to give better, more detailed feedback to students on their writing assignments but realize that there are not enough hours in the day to do so. With the arrival of artificial intelligence, faster feedback on essay writing tasks is now possible. The Virtual Writing Tutor offers four types of automated writing

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How do students react to automated film-analysis essay evaluation?

Recently, I reported on the perils and promise of a project I have been working on with Dr. Frank Bonkowski. We created an automated film-analysis essay evaluation system to provide the correction and formative scoring of essays to his advanced English Second Language learners at CEGEP de St-Laurent, in Montreal, Canada. The idea was to

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How can I evaluate an argument essay in 2 seconds?

Many college teachers assign either opinion essays or argument essays to their English Second Language students. These highly structured writing assignments give students practice organizing their ideas and defending a point of view. The goal is to prepare students to go on and write research reports or graduate theses at university. However, when it comes

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How can I evaluate achievement in a Business English course?

Businesses use a variety of effective advertising strategies. They can take the form of audiovisual media like videos and radio ads and print media like posters, brochures, business cards, and flyers. Flyers can be single-sheet promotional tools that list products, descriptions, and prices. Flyers are simple yet compelling ways of helping businesses to announce sales

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Can I evaluate a film-analysis essay automatically?

This article discusses automatically scoring film analysis essays. Here are links to other automated evaluations on the Virtual Writing Tutor.  Pen pal exchange project  IELTS practice tests Argument essay evaluation system Lately, I have been developing automatic essay evaluations for IELTS and now for college-level academic writing. I sent an email to colleagues in my

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Off2Class Explained by Chris Rush

I love meeting talented and passionate ESL teachers. In a recent episode of Little Rascals, Frank and I got to interview Chris Rush from Off2Class.com. Chris explains how he got started, what Off2Class can do for teacherpreneurs, and how Off2Class might be used to support English Second Language Help Centers at colleges and universities. Watch

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How can I give detailed feedback with the Win-10 Multi-Clipboard?

For corrective feedback on writing to be effective, it must be consistent, frequent, immediate, and explicit. That’s difficult for a teacher to achieve with 120+ writing assignments piling up and lessons to plan. Difficult, but not impossible. How can I give detailed feedback? Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of having to use terse correction

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How can teachers promote achievement using persuasion secrets?

We all want our students to succeed, but sometimes we encounter resistance. If we could persuade students to cooperate with us sooner without having to resort to rewards and threats, we might be able to get better results, right? Here are some sneaky persuasion secrets that marketers and advertisers use to influence behaviour. Teachers can

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Grammar Checker Testimonials

This semester, I asked students what they thought of the Virtual Writing Tutor Grammar Checker as a learning tool for their English course at Ahuntsic College in Montreal. You can learn more about the VWT here. A number of them replied using our internal messaging system (MIO) in either French or English. I have blurred

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Self-Publish or Perish

Ouch! No college teacher is going to die because they don’t self-publish. What an overstatement! Luckily, the pressure in academia to publish research does not extend to college ESL teachers like me, so why use such a provocative title? Because self-publishing keeps you engaged in the best parts of teaching. Also, teachers who are not

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Essay Checker

Imagine a website that could help students write better essays with automated feedback. Now imagine the same website but with additional commenting tools to help people record audio comments and rate each other’s essays using IELTS and TOEFL rubrics and comments. There you have it: an essay checker for the Virtual Writing Tutor. For a

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Translation Card Game

English has borrowed 60% of its vocabulary from French over the centuries. Some words have entered English almost unchanged. Some loanwords are unrecognizable. Some words look the same in both languages but are used in different ways. False Cognates These “false-friends” or “faux-amis” are often referred to as false-cognates, from the Latin co for “together” and

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Stickers for teachers

You can design your own custom stickers and even sell them for a commission, and /or order stickers for your school that others have designed and have them delivered.    Please follow and like us:

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Free Go Fish Card Game

Play this card game in groups of three or four. Shuffle and deal six cards each. Players take turns asking “Do you have any _____?” to complete books of the same rank. The player with the most books at the end of the game is the winner. For complete playing instructions, see How to Play

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Postcards for Pen Pals — Free Download

Postcards are great. The colourful picture on the front can surprise, inform, and inspire. The stamp on the back can form part of a collection. There is just enough room to write a few well-chosen sentences. Messages are short and focused. The beginnings and endings are formulaic. Good Pedagogy Indeed, the skills you learn from

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A Pen Pal Exchange for Communicative Writing Practice

More on pen pals: Start a Pen Pal Exchange project for students on the Virtual Writing Tutor. For instructions on how to create a pen pal exchange for your students, check out these step-by-step pen pal exchange creation instructions for teachers. Click here for an article on pen pals that students can read to introduce them

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Free Grammar Practice Activities

Here are some links to free online grammar practice activities to help you or your students get additional grammar help eliminating grammar errors. Online activities provide instant feedback, which helps learners know what they are doing right and what they need to improve. These activities are best done on a computer rather than on the

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Storytelling at the World Bank

Many ESL teachers feel that argumentation skills are essential for academic and workplace success. Essay-writing remains at the heart of every college ESL course and Business English course. There are good reasons to question the over-emphasis on 5-paragraph essay writing and to reintroduce narrative writing into English Second Language courses. In Storytelling in Organizations, Stephen Denning

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Teaching the Social Curriculum

Schools usually have a very strict and clear academic curriculum. The social curriculum can be less clear, but it’s just as important for the development of children into healthy adults. The social curriculum relates to teaching students how to interact and empathize with others. Learning these things helps young people to build healthy relationships and

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Are Narratives Superior to 5-Paragraph Persuasive Essays?

Many teachers believe that the 5-paragraph persuasive essay is the only appropriate writing task for college-level students. Almost all of the college-level ESL textbooks published for the Quebec market include units on the so-called 5-paragraph persuasive essay, but units on narrative writing rarely appear. This dearth is unfortunate since there are some very good reasons to

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The Economic Benefits of Bilingualism

On paper, Canada is a bilingual country. It has two official languages: English and French. All students in Canada take second language courses at school, but many do not learn enough of the second language to be considered bilingual. In part, this is because the second language is not always taught effectively in schools, and

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Academic versus Conversational Vocabulary Differences

There are “extensive linguistic differences” between different registers of English (Biber et al., 1999, p.9). Academic and conversational registers reveal a complementary frequency distribution of vocabulary and grammatical forms. Some of the principle differences are as follows: Vocabulary Differences Arranged by Parts of Speech Nouns Conversation has a lower density of information and therefore fewer

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