Sunday, June 24, 2012

Verb + ing

Recently I realized that telling students that prepositions are usually followed by nouns or gerunds (= verb+ing) confused them.  Why?  There are lots of structures in English that have the pattern of verb+ing. What are they?  In addition to the gerund, we have the present participle that is used in the progressive tense (e.g., "I am singing a song now.") with the verb "to be."  We also use it as an adjective form in the participial adjectives like interesting, fascinating, compelling, frustrating, demanding, and so on.

It is important that students understand what words do - that words play different roles in a sentence.  Verb+ing can act as an adjective (He is simply dazzling, isn't he?); be a part of the progressive or continuous form of a verb (Now look at him.  He's dazzling people with his ability to dance.), or function as a noun (Dazzling people is easy for him.).  Teachers, the next time you talk about Verb + ing and see a lot of hands go up or puzzled faces, these several uses of the structure verb+ing could be the reasons your students are confused.  Anticipating such areas of possible confusion always helps me feel like I'm at least two steps ahead of my students in the classroom.

After having taught very advanced-level students for a decade, it is stimulating to be teaching intermediate levels again.  In many ways, questions from intermediate-level students are fundamentally more challenging because they focus on structures that are similar in appearance but whose functions are quite different.  What I love most still about teaching English is how much I learn about my native language from my students.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Addendum to "Spellbound by Spellbound"

It is gratifying to see that many of my readers still come to visit an earlier post called "Spellbound by Spellbound" about the 1999 National Spelling Bee competition.  Keeping a blog up to date is a challenge because some links go dead after a few years.  Angela Arenivar, for example, changed her blog name, so I recently updated my link to her.  Here is another link that tells the reader where the students profiled in the 2002 movie are now (as of 2011).

This year's winner is another student of Indian background who lives in San Diego. Her name is Snigda Nandipati and, like Nupur Lala (one of the "stars" of "Spellbound"), was a second-time returnee to the Nationals this year.  You can read more about Snigda Nandipati in this Huffington Post article, which points out that Nandipati is the "fifth consecutive Indian-American winner and the 10th in the last 14 years."  You can also revisit the topic of why children from this heritage have been overwhelmingly successful in the American spelling bee.

Some Tips on Writing (Blogging) Well

I haven't written about blogging for a while, but my daughter has sent me a link to a great site for copywriters.  I am passing along this link about several common writing mistakes because I am sure that you want to avoid these errors.  They are errors that ESL and English instructors everywhere try to avoid making themselves and try to get their students to avoid making.  Sometimes my ESL students seem unconvinced that the rules I teach are ones that native speakers need to follow, too.  Maybe these tips and this site will reinforce my lessons or yours.