Effective Writing = Organization

Emily,  Level 5 Writing Instructor

Emily, Level 5 Writing Instructor

Many students wonder how to make their writing more effective, and the answer is quite simple: O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N-!

Yes, organization is a fundamental component to the writing process. In order to write an effective essay, it’s important to first choose the proper method of organization. This sounds easy, but different types of essays have different types of organization.

For example, let’s review one of the basic types of essays—cause-effect. In our Advanced Writing and Grammar class, we have spent time researching the basic organization methods for cause-effect essays: “focus-on-effects” and “focus-on-causes.” These two methods are suitably named because one focuses on effects and, indeed, one focuses on causes.

Focus-on-effects: analyzes the ways in which numerous effects result from one cause

Focus-on-causes: analyzes the ways in which numerous causes lead to one effect

So, let’s say that you needed to write a cause-effect essay about the picture above. If you were to use the focus-on-effects method, you could focus on the results of the boy receiving a shot.

  • Cause: receiving a shot
  • Effect 1: tears
  • Effect 2: pain
  • Effect 3: fear

However, if you were to use the focus-on-causes method, you could write about several causes of the boy crying.

  • Effect: the boy is crying
  • Cause 1: he is in pain
  • Cause 2: he is scared
  • Cause 3: he is confused

As you can see, writing an effective cause-effect essay is as easy as pie. Just choose your method and start organizing!


Spring-1 End of Term Luncheon


Spring-1 End of Term Luncheon

Make plans to attend the end of term luncheon this Thursday, March 14, from 11:45am – 1pm in Room#2. Lots of fun games, prizes, awards, and good food are just a few of the reasons you don’t want to miss this special activity. Make sure and let your listening & speaking instructor or the ESL office know if you plan to attend.

Daylight Savings – Time Change

Krystal, ESL InstructorIt’s that time of year again, time to spring forward! Every spring and fall the clocks are changed in the United States in almost all states. As an international student, this may be something new to you if you do not have daylight savings time in your country (check out the map at the bottom of this post to see which countries participate in daylight savings time -DST). So, we enjoy our sleep while we can, and we look forward to more sunshine in the days ahead. Spring is right around the corner!

Here’s what you need to know…


The clocks will be springing ahead one hour this weekend. Clocks are scheduled to change on Sunday, March 10, 2013, from 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM.  You can change your clock before you go to sleep on Saturday or when you wake up on Sunday morning. Just remember to change it, or you’ll be late for class on Monday morning!

More information about Daylight Savings Time can be found here.


image courtesy of Wikipedia

Need Listening Practice? Try NPR

Robin, Level 2 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Robin, Level 2 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Listen up! Many listening students wonder how they can find resources for listening and speaking. For speaking, there is no better practice than speaking with a real person. Remember to speak constantly, to anyone who will talk with you.

However, maybe you just want to practice listening. There is no reason to ever run out of listening resources, and there are three reasons why: N-P-R. NPR means National Public Radio, and is some of the most high quality and realistic listening you could ever hope to find. The three benefits of NPR are: accessibility, variety, and authenticity. 


NPR means National Public Radio, and is some of the most high quality and realistic listening you could ever hope to find. You can listen in your car (on your way to school) on the radio at 89.9 FM. The Internet is also available. Go to NPR.org to explore the big website.

which way

Speaking of big, the website has hundreds of options. You can listen to almost any topic you want, including news from your home country. Are you interested in gardening? Maybe you want to hear about a soccer match in England? NPR.org has so many stories to listen to, you will never run out. What’s more, there are often transcripts to each story, which means you can read while you listen.

NPR is not a textbook, which means everything on the website is real. Real English can be difficult to hear sometimes, so it is important to practice whenever you can. NPR gives you chances to hear English from all over the world. You may hear British reporters, Australian interviews, or expert chefs from the American South. Real English is varied, so the variety on NPR is very useful for all learners.

Practicing your listening and speaking is, of course, very important. Knowing which resources to use is sometimes difficult. Many learners want to practice, but don’t know where to go. NPR.org is a useful place to start. Explore the website, listen to the stories, and read along if you can. There’s no reason not to improve!

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Ceolho

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Read Paulo Ceolho’s story from “The Alchemist” and guess the moral of the story.

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

The Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls.

He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages.

“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

Courtesy of artsbeat.blogs

The Importance of a Clear Reference—Spring Break Edition


Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that they will have the most fun.

Uh oh. You may have noticed that my last pronoun—they—was not very clear. In the last sentence, who is “they”? It’s difficult to figure out, because I am writing about three different groups of students—it could be any group, right? It is absolutely essential, then, to make sure your pronoun references are clear.

pronoun reference

The subject of my paragraph was “students.” Writers will often repeat the subject of a composition by using pronouns, synonyms, or idioms. To refer to students, I used students, groups, younger students, hard workers, others, their, and they. Did you notice that I used so many different words to refer to the same people? Writers do this commonly—it’s good writing!


Fixing the problem in the first paragraph is easy. We just need to be clear about who will have the most fun. Will the hard-working students have a lot of fun? Maybe, but that’s doubtful. Will the students visiting families have a lot of fun? Very possible, but that’s probably not their goal. Since we know that people have fun at the beach, we need to think of a pronoun, synonym, or idiom to describe this group.

A pronoun, as we have seen, wouldn’t work very well. Idioms are a challenge to use, and might not fit well in a paragraph meant for other ESL students (but, just so you know, a really good idiom for this situation is “beach bums.”). So what’s a synonym for “students who go to the beach”? It takes some thinking, but beach-goers works pretty well. So, let’s revise the paragraph:

“Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that the beach-goers will have the most fun.”

Looks good to me! Remember this process when writing to make references and subjects clear for your reader. Happy writing! Oh, and have a fun break when it comes—especially you beach bums!

beach bum