Learning to define a term is necessary in academic writing and an important skill for EFL learners especially when it comes to speaking strategies like circumlocution or ‘talking around the word.’ I have mixed feelings about having students write an entire definition essay. I think many of the examples found in textbooks and the internet are quite trite and melodramatic. On the other hand, writing a definition essay requires learners to reflect deeply on language and at times personalize the term being defined. Thus, once I decided to go ahead with the definition essay, the question remained, “Where do I find decent texts for us to analyze?” The answer was to be found on reddit.com.
I found and posted a few of the standard “What **** means to me” essays deemed decent enough on our course management site for the learners to study outside of class. However, I wanted to find shorter texts with a conversational feel and a non-academic discourse. I felt that presenting a non-academic discourse in class would be less threatening for students. I wanted shorter texts and texts defining the same term, so we could analyze several texts in class and learners could join the debate over defining the term.
I went to reddit.com and entered “definition for” in the search bar. I found the following link, Female redditors, what is your definition of a gentleman? As you can see after clicking the link, what follows is a discussion/debate on what constitutes a ‘gentleman’ between reddit members. This was a perfect topic because we had just been discussing gender equality and ‘women in society’ in our conversation class.
The Lesson: Part One
- Instructor chooses the most appropriate comments.
- Form groups and pass out a comment to each group.
- Groups read, discuss, and find the main points from each comment. Then, write a more concise version of the text’s definition.
- Instructor circulates and helps with discussion, language, & the text.
- Each group shares how their text defined ‘gentleman’ and we discuss as a class.
- Instructor notes emergent language on the board focusing on lexical items and common elements found in each text.
- Class discusses the discourse of the texts with help from questions posed by the instructor. (“What common vocabulary/phrases/expressions are used?” “How do the authors support their definition?”)
The Lesson: Part Two
- It is absolutely necessary to draw a little gentleman in the center of the board!
- On one side of the board take notes on the defining points all texts agree on. (I always like to have learners do a majority of the board work, but I had to note down comments from the class for the sake of time.)
- On the other side of the board, note down main points on how the class defines ‘gentleman’. (This sparked some good debate in class.)
- Compare and contrast
- Class works together to concisely define ‘gentleman’.
Ideas for Homework
- Working from the class definition (students are free to alter the definition), students compose a brief definition essay on ‘gentleman’ at home as extensive writing.
- Students also wrote essays defining a term of their choosing. Drafts were due a couple of weeks down the road.
- Bring some Wikipedia definitions to class and let the students choose terms they would like to define in brief extensive writing essays. Tell the students to redefine or add to the definition provided by Wikipedia.
Examples of Wiki Extensive Writing ( Author gave permission.)
- Note: I never correct extensive writing. The class is welcome to discuss the extensive writing over the course management site and we discuss and analyze select extensive writing texts during the beginning of class.
What is Feminism?
Do you know the word ‘Feminism’? Maybe you know this word’s meaning. What do you think about feminism’s meaning? The dictionary said that this word is a social and political movement. It means feminism is about changing the way that people see men and women. Feminism said that women were poorly treated in the past and that this must stop. Many people use this word when the women are getting more powerful than the men. Most of people think that somebody who follows feminism is called a feminist is the opposite side person against freedom like racist. However, feminism does not mean the women who got a power are the best in the world. That is why a lot of people hate this word. However, they completely misunderstood that word. Actually, I want to try to define the feminism by my own word and by the other way. There are many different types of feminism. Feminism can be a nice word for people even if for the men.
First, feminism does not mean the women power is the best. It just means that women can make their own voice by themselves between men. These days, there are no race or religion discriminations. For such a reason, sexual discrimination has to disappear. Feminism can be meaning the freedom of voices. I can tell feminism can mean conversation between men and women.
Second, feminism is the part of the world. There are many kinds of people in the world. Also, the feminism is the part of freedom of expression. There are many kinds of people who have other thoughts is caused of existence of feminism. How can you block the freedom of expression? Of course, feminism has a big issue between societies. The developed well society takes the feminism better than undeveloped society.
Third, feminism can be meaning of confidence for the women. All those years ago, the women did not have a sure for their thoughts and actions. That is why the women had to being under the men. However, there were many incidents from those years, now the women have a confidence and feel sure about them. It means the society is developed as well.
In a narrow sense, feminism can have some bad meanings, but if you think about that word little bit more deeply, you can find out other meaning. As you can see, feminism does not mean only social movement. This word can mean also the disappearance of sexual discrimination, the freedom of expression, evidence of development society and confidence of the women. If you see someone does not know about feminism well, you have to teach other meaning of feminism to the person.