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Incorporating Skeptical Thinking into the Classroom

Here is my presentation for the International TESOL Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 18, 2011. Below the presentation, you will find a link to the handout I distributed. This presentation is an update to a similar one I gave at the 2009 MIDTESOL Conference in Springfield, Missouri.

This is the link to the handout.
The 2-page handout is a PDF, so you will need Adobe Reader to view it. Click here to download the latest version of Adobe Reader.

Response to questions raised during the presentation:
After the presentation, I realized that 2 points should have been made clearer: 1) the reading ability of the students, and 2) the course objectives. I have described these below and I believe this will make it easier to understand how far along the students were in terms of reading the ability to think critically.

I may have made the wrong assumption that most attendees were familiar with ACTFL's proficiency standards, and I should have been more elaborate on the reading ability of the students upon entering the course.

1) Reading Ability - All of the students entered the course completing a novice-high reading course at the ESL Institute. This means they have read at most one page of text from an ESL textbook for a given class assignment. They had the ability to answer comprehension questions including personalizing and a little evaluation. My class is the first time they are introduced to a book. After 2 semesters, I discovered that a balance of academic and non-academic texts satisfy their linguistic and affective needs.

2) Objectives - The objectives of the course can be found in the class blog I presented, but I will reprint it here for your convenience.

ESL 111-001 is designed to assist ESL learners in the development of reading for academic purposes, emphasizing science fact and fiction. Student will develop their reading skills and strategies in and outside the classroom environment as well as improve their vocabulary. Students will be introduced to the concept of skepticism. They will be provided with the foundation of the scientific method. Students will also read various science-fiction short stories. Online science guides will supplement their understanding of certain concepts.

Primary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students should be able to perform all of the following tasks:
  • read fiction and non-fiction at the level of an American high school student
  • preview fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify the main idea of fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify general and specific statements
  • guess vocabulary from the context of the reading materials
  • identify contrasting statements
  • identify causes and effects
  • identify support for the main idea of the reading materials
  • summarize fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify the setting, character, and conflict in fiction
  • identify themes in science-fiction
Secondary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students should be able to perform most of the following tasks:
  • practice and use their newly acquired reading vocabulary
  • make inferences based on the reading
  • infer conclusions from the reading
  • make outlines of the readings
Tertiary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students might be able to perform some of the following tasks:
  • demonstrate an appreciation for the sciences
  • apply skepticism when encountering pseudoscientific claims or statements
  • seek out science readings or science-fiction stories on their own


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