Teaching ESL Academic Composition Online:
A Pilot Study

F. Scott Walters

(EdPsy 387 Major Project Report)

Background    |    Research Questions    |    Procedure    |    Results    |    Evaluation    |    Appendix

      Background:   The Intensive English Institute (IEI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has since 1972 been providing instruction in English to non-native-English-speaking students intent on entering an English-speaking university (for many of them, the University of Illinois itself). To this immediate end, among the academic goals of these students is to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In addition to providing instruction in various components of English language use -- structure, academic reading and writing, communicative strategies, academic listening and speaking, improvement of which skills are viewed as central to any effort at English acquisition -- the IEI also offers elective courses in TOEFL preparation -- Structure, Reading, and Listening.

       One limitation of these latter three elective courses is that up until recently, they have not directly addressed the needs of students as far as preparation for the Written portion of the TOEFL is concerned. Justification for this has been that (1) development of basic, intermediate, and advanced writing skills has been offered in the core IEI curriculum; and that (2) up until recently, the Written portion of the TOEFL (formerly, the Test of Written English, or TWE) was offered only periodically, not at every TOEFL administration. However, in July 1998 the Educational Testing Service (ETS) implemented its new Computer-Based Test (CBT) in many countries, and made the Written portion a requirement for examinees taking the CBT. Given this development, it might be natural for intensive English programs such as the IEI to implement an elective course to help students prepare for the Written portion.

       However, there were real administrative problems involved, chief among them being insufficient time for a TOEFL elective instructor to cover the academic essay-writing topics required without also drastically cutting back on coverage of topics in the respective TOEFL Reading, Listening, and Structure courses, each lasting only four weeks. In the fall of 1999, therefore, it was tentatively decided by the TOEFL elective instructor (the present writer) to pilot a TOEFL-Prep Writing component during the upcoming TOEFL Structure class, to be held from November to December. (This seemed appropriate given that ETS had announced that examinee scores from the Structure and Written portions would be combined into a single score.)

       However, in order not to diminish the class time needed for the TOEFL Structure class to cover the grammatical topics needed for preparation for the TOEFL, it was decided to offer the TOEFL-Prep Writing component asynchronously, that is, entirely outside of class in an online environment. Offering such an online "mini-course" and nota full-blown composition class, it was thought, could also be justified on the grounds that general development of ESL writing skills was being covered in other courses, as mentioned above.

       Given the above constraints, limited pedagogical goals were formulated:

  • Introduce and/or review basic elements of U.S. academic composition;

  • Provide both structured exercises for students to practice these elements and also feedback on their work;

  • Familiarize students with the format of the Written portion of the TOEFL to facilitate testwiseness.

       Of particular interest here, of course, was the potential of the online medium for the teaching of basic essay-writing skills. Given that foreign-language learning may be one area of education that cannot be wholly transferred to a computerized format, it was wondered whether students of intermediate and upper-intermediate ESL proficiency could effectively learn the basics of academic composition without face-to-face contact with an instructor. Could appropriate instructional materials in fact be developed for the online medium that could justify, in terms of time and resource allocation, the use of such technology? (One did not, it was felt, merely wish to put a version of a static composition textbook on the World Wide Web.)

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       Research Questions.  The above concerns boiled down to the following questions for research:

  1. Overall, is an asynchronous, online format an effective mode for the teaching of basic English essay-writing skills to intermediate ESL learners?

  2. Which subskills may be most effectively taught thereby, and which least effectively taught?

  3. Can effective, interactive exercises be devised to give intermediate ESL learners practice with elements of essay composition?

  4. Which elements of composition are better suited to an online medium, and which to a traditional classroom setting?

(Unfortunately, Question 4 could not be answered in this study, since (a) only one section of the TOEFL Structure elective was offered in the fall semester of 1999, and (b) from the pool of ESL students in the one section that did hold classes, there were not enough volunteers to form a control group. This question, therefore, must await further study.)

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       I.   Instructional Materials.   The present writer (who was also the ESL instructor involved) designed a set of four online lessons in HTML format, using two HTML editors, Netscape Composer 6.1 and BBEdit Lite 4.1. The documents were written primarily on a Macintosh G3, but results were checked periodically on one of several IBM-compatiable computers to ensure near-uniformity of look and feel. The four weekly lessons, accessible from a webpage that served both as main menu and course syllabus (click here to see the menu ), covered the following subtopics: (1) Basic Paragraph Structure, (2) Paragraph Coherence, (3) Basic Academic Essay Structure, (4) and Coherence in Longer Essays. The syllabus, in keeping with the philosophy of the instructor/researcher, was understood to be semi-negotiable:   In the course of the TOEFL class, the fourth lesson was later eliminated upon negotiation with student-participants, who wished to terminate their involvement in the project early so as to concentrate on other end-of-semester coursework. In place of the fourth lesson, the instructor posted a four-item questionnaire, answers to which were to be submitted before the end of the semester. (N.B.: Additional links to webpages containing information and activities for advanced writing study, for example, a lesson on plagiarism, were given at the bottom of this syllabus page. However, these resources -- most still under construction at this writing -- were intended for a future online writing class and were not used in the present study.)

       II.   Participants.   Out of eighteen students enrolled in the Fall 1999 TOEFL Structure elective, only three students chose to participate in the online writing-prep component. For reasons of privacy we will refer to them as Students A, B, and C. Student A was a male native speaker of Spanish (from Venezuela) who had been placed into an intermediate-class level of the IEI ("Section 3B"). Student B, a female native speaker of Japanese, had been placed into an advanced level in the IEI ("Section 1A"). Student C, also a female speaker of Japanese, was a student in the same class as was Student A. Two of these students had taken the TOEFL exam once before. All were frequent attendees of the early-morning TOEFL Structure class (they had even been enrolled in the TOEFL Reading class the previous month). They often participated in class discussions about course material -- asking questions, negotiating meaning, and co-operating with fellow students during periodic in-class pairwork. In short, they were highly motivated language learners.

       III.   Introducing the Writing Component.   At the end of the first week of class, the instructor briefly outlined the format of the Written portion of the TOEFL. (For more information on the TOEFL Written portion, click to an Educational Testing Service [ETS] webpage linked here.  Note: You must scroll down briefly to read about the Written portion.) Then, to familiarize the students with the format, all the students were given a sample 30-minute practice test, prompted by directions given in the class textbook. (Click here to see the pretest essays that the three participants produced.) The student essays were collected at the end of the 30 minutes and returned the following Monday with feedback regarding grammar, word usage, and mechanics.

       Also that following Monday, the entire class was then invited to participate in this study, and informed of the voluntary nature of the component. (Click here to see the informational handout given to them.) They were asked to (1) read one web-posted lesson per week, (2) do the relevant writing task, and (3) e-mail their written work to the instructor for comment and evaluation. (Unfortunately, the then-current technical expertise of the instructor precluded the provision of a Submit feature on the lesson webpages themselves. See below, "Evaluation," for more on the technical side of this project.) E-mailed submissions arrived in the instructor's e-mailbox within a day or two of the assignment of each web lesson; feedback was e-mailed back to the student within a few hours of submission.

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       As mentioned above, due to the voluntary nature of the exercise and the intensive nature of the students' courseload, only three out of eighteen individuals in the TOEFL Structure class volunteered to take part in the online tutorial project. Moreover, not all students participated to the same degree; only one of the three participants submitted all the assigned homework. The amount of data collected, therefore, was somehat less than what had been hoped for. Nevertheless, it is believed that the level of participation is sufficient to give one a general sense of the effectiveness of the online format for the teaching of basic academic English essay skills. This paper will first review the available data (the pretest work and assigned homework) and then (see the section "Evaluation" below) examine the direct student feedback on the online tutorial lessons.

       A review of the data will begin with consideration of written work by Student A, who participated the most, followed by that of Student B, and finally by the written work of Student C, who provided the least amount of data. It should be noted that the focus in this review and in the evaluation that follows will be on the students' development of written organizational skills in a macro-sense -- coherence, unity, adequately-focused topic sentences, use of details -- as opposed to grammatical accuracy alone, since the "macro" issues were the explicit focus of the respective lessons and the purely grammatical issues were the focus of the in-class TOEFL elective activities.

       Student A.

       Pretest. As can be seen in the Appendix, Student A on the pretest shows a bare understanding of academic essay form. Ignoring questions of grammaticality, one can see a kind of introductory paragraph, but it is only one sentence long, as is the sparse concluding "paragraph." The opening sentence, moreover, does not contain enough information to allow the reader to determine the topic of the essay, as it depends on the context given by the prompt to establish said topic. The fairly short body paragraph does, however, evince a certain understanding of the use of transitions, as seen in the use of "First" (which lacks appropriate punctuation), "For example," and "Second." The closing sentence seems to go off on a tangent, characteristic of a rough-draft essay that is on the whole not very unified.

       Basic paragraph structure. The first homework assignment shows a bit of improvement. First of all, the three sample topic sentences are relatively focused and clear, in particular the second sentence, "I would like to travel to Paris because this city has many things that I want to know," which includes a focused topic, travelling to Paris, and phrase "many things that I want to know," which can help the reader anticipate the structure of the coming essay. The one-paragraph essay itself, based on this topic sentence, has three main supporting sentences, set off by transitions, that are related to the topic sentence. Some supporting details -- e.g., shops in Paris, the paintings of various masters -- are included as well. On the whole, this paragraph is an improvement over the pretest example.

       Coherence. The paragraph for Lesson #2 is in some respects a bit of a backslide, inasmuch as the supporting sentences do not really expand upon the idea of changes in the way of doing business that have been brought about by development in communications technology; that is, there is no comparison between old and new that the sentence implies will be discussed. (To be fair, comparison-contrast essays were not treated in this project.) On the other hand, even given the brevity of the paragraph, the writer attempts to paint a picture with a certain amount of detail and moreover tries to expand his use of transitions, the goal of the lesson, though he occasionally makes errors in punctuation (e.g., with "moreover" and "However").

       Multi-paragraph essay. With his first multi-paragraph essay, Student A addresses the main shortcoming of his Lesson #2 paragraph -- the relative lack of unity between topic sentence and supporting sentences -- by putting "the grand development of communications" into a rough historical context by way of the introductory paragraph, which narrows the general topic of communications to a thesis statement focusing on changes, and which also provides predictors of the essay's organization. The topics of the three body paragraphs suitably correspond to these predictors and employ transitions fairly well in most instances. Finally, the concluding paragraph is an advance on the single-sentence close of the pretest essay, consisting of two sentences and in addition touching on the main theme of change brought about by communications advances as a kind of binder to the essay as a whole.

       Student B.

       Pretest. The pretest essay of Student B shows some skill at writing topic sentences, but only slight ability to weave sentences into a coherent whole. "Paragraphs" are of only one or two sentences in length, and there are no formal transition markers, though the student does use anaphoric phrases, e.g., "this way" in paragraph 3 and "the thing" in paragraph 4. Another shortcoming is that there is virtually no development of ideas through use of supporting details. However, it is noteworthy that Student B does frame the entire essay with an anticipatory sentence in main-thesis position, i.e., "The reason why I agree is as follows." The essay is in some senses an academic essay in embryonic form, so to speak.

       Basic paragraph structure. The three topic sentences, though understandable, are unsuitable as topic sentences because they are mere statements of fact and do not provide the reader with a sense of focus or interest. On the other hand, with regard to the single-paragraph essay, there are several details provided, though they are scarcely interconnected, and the body as a whole is fairly well framed by the topic and concluding sentences.

       What is remarkable about the student's interaction with this online lesson is that here the student responded to e-mailed instructor feedback by voluntarily submitting a revision. (Due to the restricted time span of the project and the courseload of the students, the instructor had decided early on that revisions would be welcome but not compulsory.) This feedback had pointed out the above shortcomings (lack of focus and coherence), and Student B's response was to attempt to solve these problems, which she did remarkably, though briefly, well, providing a more focused and structure-anticipating topic sentence ("...several interesting things in it"), and coherence markers for supporting sentences, each of which in turn supported by at least one supporting detail.

       Paragraph coherence. Use of coherence markers is expanded slightly here, though there seems to be some confusion over the correct use of the word "however" in the third sentence, where it is used not as a contrastive coordinator but an adverbial clause marker. In addition, there is a punctuation error in the next to last sentence with regard to the use of "moreover."

       Student C.

       Pretest. Among the three participants, Student C evinces on the pretest the best command of basic essay structure, at least in broad formulaic outline. For example, the basic five-paragraph format is manifest, however sparsely detailed. There is a kind of thesis statement, however garbled, with a focusing phrase, "there are some reason." Each body paragraph, though short, is set off by a clear transition. Finally, the concluding sentence recapitulates the main points of the abbreviated essay. Despite the shortcomings of the essay -- too-short paragraphs, lack of coherence among supporting details -- all the above suggests a writing ability that can be built upon.

       Basic paragraph structure. The topic sentences that Student C writes for Lesson #1 have the positive feature of containing topic-focusing phrases, albeit those phrases have word choice problems, that is, the use of the indefinite article "some" and the ungrammatical use of "reason" for "reasons." The Lesson #1 paragraph shows some grammatical problems with transitions -- again, "reason" for "reasons." The writer tries to develop the main idea through use of details, but these are a bit sparse. Despite the sparseness, however, the paragraph body is framed within topic and concluding sentences, as per the examples in the lesson.

       Coherence. The goals of Lesson #2 are partially achieved in that Student C employs a wider variety of transitions. The paragraph suffers most from the point of view of focus and unity; exactly what the topic sentence and the paragraph as a whole are about seems uncertain. Does the passage wish to give a list of reasons why students study abroad ("in the United State also there are many international students"), or try to persuade the reader to study in the United States "you can make many foreign friends")? Despite the lack of focus, this paragraph does attempt to develop its main idea with details more than does the paragraph in Lesson #1.


       In evaluating the effectiveness of this pedagogical website, at least two kinds of data may be taken into account -- student performance on the assigned homework and student feedback/commentary on their written performance and on the website itself. These results may be considered in the light of the questions raised in the "Research Questions" section above, which are restated here for covenience:

       Question 1. Overall, is an asynchronous, online format an effective mode for the teaching of basic English essay-writing skills to intermediate ESL learners?   While the sample size of participants here is rather small, a tentative answer to this question would be "yes." As for objective, writing-related evidence, in all cases steps toward mastery of basic paragraph structure, of the use of transitions, and organization in multi-paragraph format can be discerned. Even where there is visible backsliding, as in the case of Student A's performance on Lesson #2, where unity is an issue, the backsliding need not necessarily be attributed to inherent features of the website or the electronic mode in which the instructor's feedback was sent. Rather, the errors may be attributed to the normal vacillation of an ESL learner's interlanguage (i.e., the developing foreign/second language of a non-native learner), made in the process of acquiring new grammatical and discourse structures, given that these areas showed some improvement in the Lesson #3 essay. As for self-reports on the student questionnaire, while only two of the three participants submitted feedback, the feedback was generally positive. One student wrote, "Yes, I feel that the on line [sic] lessons helped me improve my English essay writing." While this statment lacks concrete detail, the other student gave slightly more informative feedback: "Yes, because typing is essential in [the] CBT [computer-based TOEFL]."

       Question 2. Which writing subskills may be most effectively taught thereby, and which least effectively taught?   Again, an answer to this question must necessarily be tentative since there were only three weekly online lessons offered and submission of revisions was optional. However, it appears that the aspect of writing that was most effectively learned by the learners in this project was the learning of transitions, if not always their appropriate use. Given the discrete-point nature of this aspect of essay writing, this is not surprising as many ESL learners, in the experience of this writer, do emphasize vocabulary building in their learning process, often at the expense of higher-level skills such as discourse competence. It is hypothesized that the second-best learned aspect of writing in this project was the basic five-paragraph essay format, although this cannot be objectively supported due to the paucity of data. The most problematic feature of essay writing among the three participants was with regard to the use of supporting details. This may be a function of the intermediate level of the learners as much as a function of the online lessons; in the experience of this writer, skills in usew of transitions and formulaic paragraph/essay formats seem more easily attained by ESL learners than skills in paragraph development.

       Question 3. Can effective, interactive exercises be devised to give intermediate ESL learners practice with elements of essay composition? Using JavaScript, an interactive exercise on transitions was devised. (Click here to see the exercise.) This was expected to be of some value, but there emerged some limitations. These were due to the fact that given multiple if statements associated with a single "Check Your Answer" button, it was difficult to program in an overall else statement to cover mistyped or erroneous student responses. Alternate if statements were devised to cover several conceivable, "typical" mistakes, such as leaving off a comma from a transitional word or phrase, but this programming device could not cover all possible errors. The result was that if a student filled in a later box first, but then went back to change an answer in a previous box, he or she would receive no feedback. To rewrite a transition nearer the beginning of the paragraph, she or he would first have to erase all transitions that had been written in boxes further down the page. However, perhaps the greatest problem with the program as written was that while it was accessible on either a Macintosh or a PC, it was useable only with Netscape Navigator, not with Microsoft Internet Explorer. While it had been assumed that all the student-participants would make use of the Netscape-served, Mac-only computer lab that was reserved for all IEI students, two of the particpants, Students A and B, complained that they had been unable to use the exercise, apparently because they had been using Internet Explorer at home or elsewhere. (See the Appendix for the questionnaire responses.)

       Despite these limitations, however, it does appear that such an exercise can be beneficial to ESL learners. Evidence for this comes from watching an experienced fellow ESL instructor (a native speaker of English) try out the above exercise on a Macintosh. This colleague agreed with the project instructor as to the limitations of the exercise, but likewise agreed that even with the bugs, the concept appeared to be pedagogically sound, as it provided, potentially, an easy and engaging way of seeing and erasing one's transition errors in sentential context. It is noteworthy in this connection that in responding to the questionnaire item on how the website might be improved, Student A remarked, "I think that you would [should] put more interactive exercises like the exercise in lesson # 2."

       Aside from the beta-tested interactive exercise, other features of the online lesson site were described by learners as being either easy to use or educationally beneficial. In answering Question 2 on ease of use, Student A wrote, "Yes, I liked to used [sic] the lesson webpages." To the same question Student B commented, "For me it's very good because after reading, I can write assignment. However, the most important part is your email response because even if after reading, I can't understand everything," which indicates that for some learners, at least, asynchronous essay-writing learning is feasible.

       Question 4. Which elements of composition are better suited to an online medium, and which to a traditional classroom setting? As mentioned above, due to the small number of participants, it was not possible to create a control group and test this hypothesis. The only data even indirectly related to this question is a comment by Student A, who recommended (as mentioned above) that more interactive exercises be added. Also, Student B wrote, "Before reading, I studied how to write English essay in reading and writing class, but I couldn't understand." These intriguing (though not very detailed) comments, coupled with the fact that the three learners did show signs of beginning to acquire discrete-point and larger discoursal academic forms, seem to imply that certainly someaspects of academic essay writing can be taught at least as effectively online as in a classroom setting.

       Evaluation: Further considerations.
       Although the results of this pilot study are encouraging, it is regrettable even that there was no time, beyond the three weeks allotted, to explore these research questions further. With regard to future research and development, however, there are several issues that need to be addressed: First, certain technical problems of the present tutorial website need to be resolved. Second, obtaining a larger n-size for further studies is necessary to bring sufficent data to bear when analyzing/evaluating the effectiveness of a given piece of courseware. Third and more broadly, the entire enterprise of teaching writing online needs to be carefully examined from the standpoint of ESL learning theory. For example, as Chapelle (1999) points out, tasks in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) need to be analyzed from a perspective of language authenticity. That is, an online writing tutorial developer needs to ask, How similarare the online language-learning tasks to real-world writing activities that ESL learners will eventually perform? Of course, as Widdowson (1979) points out, "[there] is no such thing as authentic language data." Nor can "authenticity" in language-learning materials be absolutely correlated with acquisition of communicative competence. Learning tasks that mirror actual native-speaker usage may or may not be appropriate to a learning context, depending on the goals of the activity. Similarly, learning tasks that are somewhat artifical and removed from native-speaker linguistic and rhetorical conventions may or may not have a place in ESL pedagogy -- again, depending on the goals of the lesson in question.   In this connection, the interactive exercise discussed above, for example, can be seen as having both "inauthentic" and "authentic" aspects that may be appropriate for online ESL learning. On the one hand, the act of typing discourse markers into empty textboxes is not a very authentic, real-world activity, yet one can argue that in the beginning stages of learning some mechanical practice of forms can aid in their internalization. On the other hand, it can be argued that there is an authentic aspect in the above exercise in that even the discrete-point nature of the activity can have value if the rhetorical elements are analyzed in a discoursal context. To the degree that the JavaScript-ed exercise used in this pilot study can show transitions in a meaningfulwritten context, that exercise can be seen as tending toward a useful authenticity. (Of course, the full realization of such usefulness would be dependent upon overcoming various technical/programming limitations.)

       In addition to questions of authenticity, considerations of the writing processmust inform the planning, beta-testing, execution, and evaluation of a CALL writing tutorial site. As Reid (1994) points out, the academic writing process (any writing process, actually) involves several factors, among them topic selection, audience identification, purpose, pre-writing strategies, organization and coherence, drafting, revision, and editing. Given the above-mentioned limitations on time and student participation, the present study necessarily focused on how a CALL environment might affect the teaching and learning of only two of the above factors, namely, organization and coherence. While the results are encouraging, more work needs to be done in the area of incorporating as many of the other factors as feasible into the online instructional mode. For example, how can the issue of audience selection be applied to an online tutorial context? Of course, in an academic setting, the audience is often predetermined (the teacher/professor). Yet given the emergence of web-based academic journals and academically-oriented listservs, it would not seem "inauthentic" in the long run to design a course that taught, say, academic discourse forms in the sciences to ESL learners who may eventually both submit, collaborate on, and evaluate journal articles online. As another example, the possibilities for adapting pre-writing strategies -- e.g., listing, freewriting, concept-mapping, flow-charting -- to an online graphical, "mouse-overing," "drag-and-drop" format appear potentially engaging and merit further testing. In short, while the results of the tutorial website under review seem to bode well for the eventual application of computer technologies to academic writing instruction, only further piloting and research will determine how much of "the authentic writing process" can be put online.

Works cited.

Chapelle, C.A. (1999). Theory and research: Investigation of "authentic" language learning tasks. In Joy Egbert and Elizabeth Hanson-Smith (Eds.), CALL Environments: Research, Practice, and Critical issues. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Others Languages (TESOL).

Reid, Joy (1994) The Process of Paragraph Writing, 2nd Ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Widdowson, H.G. (1979). The authenticity of language data. In H.G. Widdowson (Ed.), Explorations in Applied Linguistics (1). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 163-172.


Click on the links below to see individual student work. The Lesson links in the first row will take the reader to the original online writing lessons.
Lesson 1
Paragraph Structure
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Essay Structure
& Responses
Student A
Student A
Student A
Student A
Student A
Student B
Student B
Student B
Student B
Student B
Student C
Student C
Student C
Student C
Student C

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       A.   Baseline data (Pretest)  

The pretest essays below were responses to the following prompt, taken from Phillips, D. (1996). Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test, Vol. A, 2nd ed. White Plains, NY: Addison-Wesley, p. 354:

(N.B.: 30 minutes were given to write these essays. All student errors are retained in the typescripts. The spacing between paragraphs is not a feature of the original student responses but is editorially inserted to enhance readibility.)

Student A: Pretest

    I am disagree with the statement for different reasons, which will be explained in this essay.

    First at all is necessary to know the economic conditions of the person. For example, iF a person is living with his parents and they don't have much money to pay his studies in a University far from his city, the person must live with his parents untill he finish his studies. In my country [N.B.: name of country given here but withheld from this report for reasons of privacy] is difficult for a young couple to buy an apartment because they are very expensive, then the couples must to live with his parent untill they have enought money to buy o rent an apartment. Second, It is important to analize the composition of the family. Some familes only have one child and they hope that the boy o oril live with them all the life because they feel very well when they are together, in this case is difficult to the boy o girl go away.

    I think that there are different oportunities for people live at home with his parents after the age of twenty five

Top    |    Lesson 1    |    Lesson 2    |    Lesson 3

Appendix Menu

Student B: Pretest

       I agree this statement that people should never live at home with their parents after the age of twenty-five. The reason why I agree is as follows.

       It is said in [name of student's country here] that it is important for parents to live without children who become adults. If parents live with their children, the children is forever children after they become adults.

       People, over fifty-five age, can live by himself or herself because they usually finish school and they can work. I actually did like this way.

       People living without their parents can understand the value and kindness of their parents. I realized the thing when I lived alone, I did housework, and I went shopping with my money which I earned.

       I think it important that people live without their parent. But I also think it important that people living without their parents should keep good relationships with their parents, and say their regards.

Top    |    Lesson 1    |    Lesson 2    |    Lesson 3

Appendix Menu

Student C: Pretest

       It had better to live alone after the age of twenty-five, because people can get good experiences. Of cause sometimes they get bad experiences, but more or less, it is better for them. there are some reason, I agree with it.

       First, they have to take care of themselfs; such as, washing clothes, cooking, washing dishese, cleaning their room, and so on. Maybe. they didn't do such kind of house work. when they live with their family.

       Another thing is they have to get money and pay for apartment or house. I think it is so difficult and hard matter that living alone is it manages to live by themselves. It is hard for them to get money, that is also good experience for them.

       Finaly. they can get freedom, but they have to control themselves. Freedom is such a wonderful word. However, if they don't control the freedom, the living alone will be not good for them. If experience; control their lives, are very important on their lives.

       Housework, to get money, control their lives are good for them to live with their own family;their wife or husband and children.

Top    |    Lesson 1    |    Lesson 2    |    Lesson 3

Appendix Menu

       B.   Lesson #1 Homework.  

Student A: Lesson 1
(Basic Paragraph Structure)

Three topic sentences:

  • Caracas, my home town is called the city of eternal spring.

  • I would like to travel to Paris because this city has many things that I want to know.

  • I am learning English because I need to speak this language for my job.

Homework Essay:


       I would like to travel to Paris because this city has many things that I want to know. First, I want to see the Eiffel Tower. I have seen many television programs and photographs of this tower; also I have red that this tower is the twenty-century symbol in Paris. Second, I would like to visit the Louvre Museum. In this museum there are the greatest collection of painting in the world. I would like to see "The Mona Lisa", painted by Leonardo da Vinci, and other paintings done by Picasso, Manet, Monet etc. Third, I would like to visit The Triumph Arch and The Champs Elise Avenue, which is located in the center of the city. The most prestigious stores are located at this avenue. Finally, I would like to go to Paris because in this city the are many good restaurants, and I love to eat very well.

Pretest    |    Lesson 1    |    Lesson 2    |    Lesson 3

Appendix Menu

Student B: Lesson 1
(Basic Paragraph Structure)

Three topic sentences:

  • I introduce my hometown, Yokohama.

  • I would like to travel to Florida.

  • I study at IEI in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Homework Essay:

       I introduce my hometown, Yokohama. Yokohama is one of the biggest cities in Japan. The population is almost the same as Chicago's population. Yokohama is near to Tokyo which is capital of Japan. Yokohama is famous for Chinatown and port. Yokohama's Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in the world. You can enjoy good Chinese food. Yokohama's meaning is bay. Yokohama has beautiful bay and big port, which is a gate to foreign countries. These are features of my hometown, Yokohama.

Unrequested Paragraph Revision after Teacher Feedback:

Accompanying student comments: "Thank you for you[r] feedback. I understand that I have to attempt ["attract"?] readers in thesis statement. [In this revision] I don't use "I" and "you". I try to organize paragraph using 'first', and so on."

       My hometown, Yokohama, has several interesting things in it. The first thing is that Yokohama is one of the biggest cities in Japan. The population is almost the same as Chicago's population. The second thing is that Yokohama is near to Tokyo which is capital in Japan. It takes only 30 minutes by train between Yokohama and Tokyo. The third thing is that Yokohama is famous for Chinatown and port. Yokohama's Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in the world. You can enjoy good Chinese food. The forth thing is that Yokohama's meaning is bay. Yokohama has beautiful bay and big port, which is a gate to foreign countries. These are features of my hometown, Yokohama.

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Student C: Lesson 1
(Basic Paragraph Structure)

Three topic sentences:

  • My hometown,Kyoto,has some reason to be very famous in Japan.

  • I have some reasons why I'm interested in Europe.

  • For some reason, many women doesn't marry.

Homework Essay:

       My hometown,Kyoto,has some reason to be very famous in Japan. The first reason, Kyoto is a old capital. About one thousands years ago my hometown,that was called "MIYAKO", is a capital in Japan. There are many old temple and shrine,such as:"KINKAKU Temple" and "KIYOMIZU Temple",which are another reason. Kyoto also has many interesting old traditional festivals. For example, "Gion Mtsuri" is held on July. Many tourists come to see this festival from all over the world. For these reason, you understand my hometown is very old and famous in Japan.

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       C.   Lesson #2 Homework.  

Student A: Lesson 2

       The grand development of communications has changed our manners to do business. For example, if you want to do a business in some place in Africa, you can be in touch all the time with this people by telephone or Internet. Also, you can ask them about the business and they can answer at the moment, and moreover you can have a videoconference whit them. One reason is that you can see the face and gestures of the people and this helps you to understand what they are thinking. Another reason is that you can show features of your business and they can suggest you changes. However in some complex business it is necessary to have personal meetings because it is important to work together to reach final decisions.

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Student B: Lesson 2

       Making something is sometimes faster than buying something. For example, making homemade pasta is faster than buying pasta. However making homemade pasta seems to be difficult, it is very simple. One reason is that making homemade pasta doesn't need buying anything because it is made from only eggs, flour, salt, and olive oil. These ingredients are usually in kitchen. And also it doesn't need special equipment. Another reason is that it takes only 20 minutes to make homemade pasta because the process is just mixing, spreading, and cutting dough. Moreover it takes only three minutes to boil homemade pasta and it is more delicious than dry pasta. Though making something seems to take time, thus it is sometimes faster than buying.

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Student C: Lesson 2

       Have you ever thought to study abroad which is very popular in all over the world, in United State also there are many international students. One reason is that there are many exchange program in almost university. Also, there are many exchange students in there. Moreover, almost university and college have a language school, which is for international students who don't have enough TOEFL score or just study English. Another reason is that students have curiosity and want to have experiences in another country. It is very good to have many experience in young age. For example, you can make many foreign friends, so you can get many things which you don't know and haven't heard about. Your world is spread out. On the other hand, some students have problems, such as, home sick, mental illness, to get accidents,and so on. HOwever, it is good experience also.

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       D.   Lesson #3 Homework.  

Student A:Lesson 3
(Multi-paragraph Essay)

(Note: The spaces between paragraphs are added to aid readability and were not part of the original student essays.)

       Since humans have lived in the earth, they have used a kind of communication, which has been changed with the evolution of the people. For example, when the wheel was invented, the travels were shorter, after when the man could fly travels were still shorter. When the man could speak by telephone, was a revolution in the world. In the last years the changes in the communications have been so quickly that our lives have change in different aspects such as our way of doing business, our diary live at home, and the education.

       First, the grand development of communications has changed our way of doing business. For example, if you want to do business in some place in Africa, you can be in touch all the time with people there by telephone or Internet. Also, you can ask them about their business and they can answer at that moment, and moreover, you can have a videoconference whit them. Why should we use videoconferencing? One reason is that you can see the faces and gestures of the people and this helps you to understand what they are thinking. Another reason is that you can show features of your business and they can suggest changes. However, in some complex business it is necessary to have personal meetings because it is important to work together to reach final decisions.

       Second, on line communications like Internet have changed our diary live at home. For example, now it is possible to pay most of the home accounts by Internet such as electrical power and telephone. Also if you want to buy something, you can search in the web page, purchase the item on line and have it delivered to your house by mail. You have more time to spend with your family. Additionally, you are informed watching television about what is happening anywhere in the world.

       Finally, The development of the communications has helped to improve the education in many countries. For example some towns far from the big cities, which have difficult access, receive the education by television using microwave or satellite equipments. Another example is that students have access through Internet to much more information. They can access to a library anywhere in the world to search a specific issue. They can ask questions to their teacher via e-mail, and they can get the answer from them quickly.

       The next century will begin soon, and the changes will be bigger than in this century. We don't know what is going to happen but it will have many developments in the communication field, which will change our lives even faster.

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  1. Do you feel that the online lessons helped you improve your English essay writing?

  2. Were the lesson webpages easy to use? If not, why not?

  3. Was the interactive exercise in Lesson #2 Part (b) useful? Why or why not?

  4. How might the online lessons be improved?

       E.   Questionnaire Responses.  

Student A

    1. Yes, I feel that the on line lessons helped me improve my English essay writing.

    2. Yes, I liked to used the lesson webpages.

    3. I used the interactive exercise in lesson # 2, but I could not find the right answer. (My computer had a message "Mistake in line 61".??)

    4. I think that you would put more interactive exercises like the exercise in lesson # 2.

Student B

    1. Yes, because typing is essential in CBT.
      I can understand how to write English essay because of reading your homepage.
      Before reading, I studied how to write English essay in reading and writing class, but I couldn't understand.

    2. Yes. For me it's very good because after reading, I can write assignment. However, the most important part is your email response because even if after reading, I can't understand everything.

    3. This is interesting, but I couldn't use because I didn't have enough time and I mistook answers, "check your answer" didn't work.

    4. I think many people who study English visit your page and study. They may have a good idea. You might add your email address on the WebPages like your homepage.

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This page was created by F. Scott Walters on 11/29/99.
It was last updated on 12/15/99