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Writing an Effective Essay

One of the secrets to writing an effective essay is to be organized in your approach.  Use the following steps as a guideline to writing your next essay.

  1. Understand the topic
  2. Read and annotate articles
  3. Collect quotations and paraphrases on cards
  4. Write a clear Thesis Statement with predictors
  5. Freewrite, brainstorm, or cluster
  6. Outline your essay
  7. Write a topic sentence for each predictor
  8. Decide on a logical order
  9. Write your first draft
  10. Revise checking for unity and coherence
  11. Edit checking for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors
  12. Write your final draft
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My Experience

RCarrigan_0921By Richard Carrigan

Many years ago in Japan, when I was studying the language, I remember thinking to myself that no one could really speak this language at home. Certainly they must speak English when they relax. After all, for me English was my mother tongue and came easily, but this Japanese was hard. So certainly, this also must be true for them. Well, after many years of studying, practicing, and struggling with this new language, I slowly begin to discover that Japanese really wasn’t that difficult. What had been difficult at the beginning of the journey, had slowly become more workable and even manageable with practice.

In the end (if there is an end to language learning), I learned more than a language; I learned what I believe to be the basic principles to language acquisition, which I will share with you here.

First, I learned that language cannot be memorize. When I first started to learn Japanese I tried this, but could never find a situation that matched a dialog. I learned that language is absorbed through meaningful listening and reading, in reality, becoming part of a community.

Second, language must be spontaneous. If I tried to translate words or grammar when communicating, the conversation would not go very far. Even if errors are made, the language must be spontaneous.

Third, language is best learned in meaningful interactions with native speakers. As I used the language that I knew, I found that I could begin to understand the language that I didn’t know.

The forth thing that I learned was the value of reading. I found that when I read material that was both interesting and easy to understand, that language then begin to become part of my thinking. Reading develops a natural flow of words.

Now I can hear someone saying, “What about grammar?” In my own experience, I found that if I studied a grammar book, one grammar point at a time, I soon became bored, discouraged and ready to give up. But if I used the grammar book as a reference when I heard or read something new, then the new grammar became meaningful in real-life communicate.

As I look back now on my Japanese learning experience, it proved to be very helpful in developing my own methods and classroom curriculum. Now when students come with their language struggles and frustrations, I am able to give them a new perspective and help them in their journey. After all, learning a new language is only difficult when we think it to be so. We may not all be native speakers, but we all can learn to communicate.

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Creative Thinking Exercise C

Creative Thinking Exercise C

Learning to Think Outside the Box

Directions: Read the passage below, and then answer the questions. This is a NO CELL PHONE activity.

Download: Creative Thinking Exercise C

By Laura Pappanobeb (2014)

1. Once considered the product of genius or divine inspiration, creativity — the ability to spot problems and devise smart solutions — is being recast as a prized and teachable skill. Pin it on pushback against standardized tests and standardized thinking, or on the need for ingenuity in a fluid landscape.

2. “The reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative,” says Gerard J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, which has the nation’s oldest creative studies program, having offered courses in it since 1967.

3. “That is why you are seeing more attention to creativity at universities,” he says. “The marketplace is demanding it.”

4. Critical thinking has long been regarded as the essential skill for success, but it’s not enough, says Dr. Puccio. Creativity moves beyond mere synthesis and evaluation and is, he says, “the higher order skill.” This has not been a sudden development. Nearly 20 years ago “creating” replaced “evaluation” at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives. In 2010 “creativity” was the factor most crucial for success found in an I.B.M. survey of 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries. These days “creative” is the most used buzzword in LinkedIn profiles two years running.

5. Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges, extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.

6. The view of creativity as a practical skill that can be learned and applied in daily life is a 180-degree flip from the thinking that it requires a little magic: Throw yourself into a challenge, step back — pause — wait for brilliance to spout.

7. The point of creative studies, says Roger L. Firestien, a Buffalo State professor and author of several books on creativity, is to learn techniques “to make creativity happen instead of waiting for it to bubble up. A muse doesn’t have to hit you.”

Retrieved from


Answer all questions from the passage using your own words.

  1. According to the passage, what is creativity?
  2. Why are more and more universities focusing on creativity?
  3. In this passage, does the author’s equate critical thinking with creative thinking? Explain.
  4. According to the passage, is creative thinking an inherent ability? Explain.
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Creative Thinking Exercise B

Creative Thinking Exercise B

Directions: Reading the passage below, then answer the questions.

Louis Pasteur

Download: Creative Thinking Exercise B

“Exploration into this mysterious world of germs began around 1850 by a Frenchman by the name of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). At that time Pasteur, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Lille, was approached by a man who worked at a factory that produced beer from sugar beets. Much to the businessman’s lament, vats of the fermented beer were turning sour, so the businessman asked Pasteur to find out the cause.

“Pasteur used a microscope to analyze the beer samples and found thousands of microorganisms. His theory was that these microbes or “germs” were not the result of the beer going sour, rather they were the cause. Pasteur went on to study other liquids such as vinegar and milk.

“From his experiments with liquids, Pasteur became convinced that the air contained tiny living organisms unseen by the naked eye. These organisms could cause putrefaction of liquids and could be prevented by killing the germs with heat. Initially his beliefs were ridiculed by the medical community, but he was able to prove his case beyond doubt. Indeed, we are all familiar with the term “pasteurized milk” which was named in Pasteur’s honor.

“Further, in his career Pasteur became convinced that microbes could affect not just liquids, but humans as well. Furthermore, he believed these microbes could spread diseases among humans. . This became known as the “Germ Theory of Disease”. He continued his work by searching for ways humans could be protected from getting diseases.”


  1. According to the passage, what is a synonym for “germs?”
  2. The author uses the word, “putrefaction” in the third paragraph. From the context, what does the word mean?
  3. Why do you think Pasteur’s beliefs were “ridiculed by the medical community?”
  4. Is there any evidence in this passage that would suggest that the “medical community” finally accepted Pasteur’s ideas? Explain.
  5. What was Pasteur convinced of? (Paraphrase)
  1. Paraphrase the last paragraph in this passage.


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Creative Thinking Exercise A


Exercise A

Discovery of Machu Picchu

Download:  Creative Thinking Exercise A

Directions: Read the excerpt from “Machu Picchu’s anniversary, cause for celebration and caution.” Then answer the questions. (

“Why was the discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 a significant moment in history? It was the first opportunity that our world had to learn about this mysterious Incan royal city located high among the mountains. In the 16th century, Spanish invaders destroyed most of the Incans’ civilization, but never found Machu Picchu during their conquest in Peru. For that, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site, which has helped it garner attention from historians, academics, and tourists across the globe. The discovery not only changed the perception of the world; it also changed the way people thought about the world and increased their understanding of the significance of ancient civilizations. On a more personal note, it has provided incredibly enriching experiences for Northeastern students participating in the Peru Dialogue of Civilizations programs.” (Shemin)


  1. Summarize the main idea of the paragraph in one sentence.
  2. The author says, “Spanish invaders destroyed most of the Incans’ civilization.” Explain why she calls the Spanish “invaders.”
  3. Why does the author say the discovery of Machu Picchu was “highly significant?”
  4. Why do you think this discovery changed the perception and understanding of the world? (Do not use personal pronouns).


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Using Pronouns to Build Coherence

time-3098699_640Instead of repeating a noun in a paragraph, use pronouns to refer back to the person, place, or thing you are talking about.
Some examples of pronouns are I, you, he, she, they, we, it, this, that, these, and those.
Because pronouns refer back to their noun, they are often used to create coherence and flow in a paragraph.
  • “The students are trying to understand the concept of relativity. It is not an easy theory.”
  • “The company has developed a new marketing strategy. They will introduce the idea next week at the conference.”
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Simple Past & Present Perfect

When do we use the simple past, and when do we use the present perfect?

Simple Past

We use the simple past to talk about things that happened in the past and were completed in a time period that is finished.


  • Tom bought a new computer yesterday.
  • Jan wrote her essay last week.
  • They passed the TOEFL test last month.
  • I went to New York last year.
  • She turned in her assignment two day ago.

Notice the time expressions refer to a period of time that is completed in the past.

Present Perfect

We use the present perfect when we talk about things that were completed in the past, but the time period is not yet finished.  Such as this week, this month, this year, my life. We may not use a time expression when using the present perfect because the stress is on the completed action as it relates to the present and not on the time.


  • Tom has bought a new computer, so he can compete his assignment.
  • Jan has written her essay, so she doesn’t have to study tonight.
  • They have passed the TOEFL test, so they can begin university courses.
  • I have been to New York several times, so I know the city pretty well.
  • Because she has turned in her assignment, she doesn’t have to come to class today.

Present Perfect / Present Perfect Progressive

We may also use the present perfect or the present perfect progressive to talk about things that were started in the past but are not yet finished. In this case, we usually use for (a length of time) or since (a point in time).


  • I have lived in New York for three years. OR I have been living in New York since I came to America.
  • Akiko has studied English for one year.  OR She has been studying English for one year.
  • He has been traveling for three days.  OR He has traveled since Monday.