Marking boring academic essays: A Tien-needs-help approach

Marking academic papers bores me to death. And the only way out is simple:

This is Tien’s paper when he was a beginning learner. Please help him.

I will look at my learners’ papers as if I was looking at mine when I was learning academic writing. That’s how I push myself forward, providing as much detailed feedback as possible.

This is Tien’s paper when he was a beginning learner. Please help him.

I treat learners’ problems as my own problems. I view learner’s mistakes as my own ones. Fixing my learners is fixing my younger self, when my writing skills were not carefully reviewed.

This is Tien’s paper when he was a beginning learner. Please help him.

Please help him.


I scored low on the grit scale.

Today we’ve learned about grit scale.

Dr. Angela Duckworth’s grit (defined as one’s power for perseverance) has been a buzzword in the past few years. There are times when I think it’s the single most important personality trait that should be taught at schools. And I’m a strong advocate for all the grit research.


The grit score is actually useful. I realize I’m not gritty as I assumed, and that I should stay focused on my goal and my priorities. Sacrifices should be made.

If you’d like to assess your own grit score, take it here.



After all the team collaborations, the feedback you received is an infant number:

I’ve done 98% of the work. Yours? 2%. Don’t you agree?

What else could I say? I have to acknowledge that mine is minor, but well, 2% is indeed a shocking figure as that indicates how much your colleague has valued your presence.

Next time, don’t include me in the process. I’ll be happier to receive a 0%, to crawl solo.


Using Padlet to engage students in latest news discussions

PROBLEM: many English majors don’t follow top stories in English.
SUGGESTION: Using Padlet to engage students in latest news discussions. (See our class wall here:
1. Upload an interesting photo news story to Padlet. Have students guess the story behind the photo (Who, What, When, Where, Why) (My photo: sock diplomacy)
2. Share the Padlet wall with learners. Have them create a post, including a photo, a headline, and the source.
3. Set “Choose/Pair/Share”. Students choose three photos from the Padlet shared wall, using the IAI – IAM – IDC framework
IAI: I Am Inspired: Talk about a photo on the wall that inspires you.
IAM: I Am Amused: Talk about a photo that makes you laugh.
IDC: I Don’t Care: Talk about a photo that you’re not interested in.
After that they’ll pair up and share their selections. Volunteers then report back.
REFLECTION: the activity works in my classroom, except the volunteering stage 🙂
Thank you

My photo: sock diplomacy
Students’ shared wall

The linguistic research that won a Nobel Prize: Huh?

You read it half-right. It's Ig Nobel!

Ig Nobel prize for MPI researchers

MPI researchers Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira and Nick Enfield have won a coveted Ig Nobel Prize for their work which shows that ‘Huh?’—a word people use when they missed what someone just said—may well be a universal word. The prize was awarded in the same week that their research group published a major follow-up study on how people deal with misunderstandings in conversation.
Ig Nobel prize for MPI researchers

The Ig Nobel Prizes honour scientists for achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think. Dingemanse: “What may be most surprising about our finding is not that ‘Huh?’ appears to be universal, but that this was discovered only now. Linguists have only recently started to compare conversation across cultures. There’s a lot still to find out.”


(Re-posted from

TEDx @NguyenKiem

Looks like a normal presentation activity in a normal speaking course.

However, the talks were truly thought-provoking, amusing, and entertaining, which focused primarily on sharing narratives that are worth sharing.

It’s a humbling experience to host these amazing classroom-based, TED-styled speakers. The topics vary, ranging from overcoming setbacks to defining patriotism. They’ve made the the audience think, laugh, and cry!

To read their verbatim (“Ideas worth Spreading”, click on the image.