Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Crime has always been a problem for society but in the 21st century, there is a new type of crime which is spreading fast: cybercrime. It is no surprise that crimes involving computers and networks should have arisen parallel to the developments in computer science but what exactly is cybercrime? Do your research and write a definition essay on the topic
Familiarize yourself with the term:
Reading material to annotate:
1.       “Cybercrime”
2.       “What is Cybercrime?”
3.       “Cybercrime”
4.       “Computer Crime”
Videos to watch and make notes on:
1.       “Everyday cybercrime---and what you can do about it” By: James Lyne
2.       “Three types of online attack” By: Mikko Hyponnen

3.       “What is cybercrime? Protect yourself from Phishing scams”

      Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Preparing for the listening part of any major English language test( The proficiency, TOEFL, IELTS) is very easy in the contemporary world as you no longer need someone to read to you; you have quadrillions of videos to do the job.  The general principle is to combine your listening with writing to guarantee the transfer of information and accelerate learning. So here are my suggestions on how to prepare for the listening section of a proficiency exam entirely on your own provided you have internet access. Copy paste the following into you search section and check out the results:
1. and how to use it:
·         Decide on a topic to research; for instance ‘Slavery in the Modern World’
·         Print the title in the search section
·         Click talks from the list on the left of the screen and go for it
·         You will get a long list of videos. Watch them first without English subtitles and take notes. Then watch them again with subtitles and check your notes.
·         Last of all, write your essay based on your notes
The Bonus: this listening into writing activity will help you learn vocabulary, collocations, organization and revise grammar in addition to testing your listening.
2. and how to use it:
·         This is an audio book website and is free. First go to the left of the screen and select a genre ( history, romance, science fiction and the like)
·         The site will throw up pages of audio books in the category you selected.
·         Download the book you chose onto your phone, mp3 player or listen on line.
·         Listen to the book in parts over a period of time as part of your study routine.
·         Write a book report on it when you are done.
·         There are other audio book sites listed under ‘Useful Websites, in the file marked How to Use this Blog’ on
The Bonus: in addition to the advantages listed above, this activity develops into a habit and helps you maintain your standard after you leave the language course you are attending.
3. and how to use this site:
·         This site provides access to free movies, free audio books and free pretty much everything connected with language learning. Let us try the audio books first so click on this title.
·         The books on the site will be listed in alphabetical order. So select, download, listen and write.
·         Now try the free movies. Click on free movies or Oscar winners. Once again, they will appear in alphabetical order and are free to down load. So select, watch and write.
The Bonus: the advantages listed above for both sites will apply here so you can look forward to both learning and having fun.
4. or  (or any other good film site) and how to use them:
·         Let us take top documentary films as an example. Access the site, click ‘Documentary List’ from the bar at the top to the left of the screen.
·         You will get a huge list of documentary films categorized according to genre (society, politics and the like). So select an area you are interested in and click.
·         Select a few documentaries about the same issue or aspects of the same issue and watch them. You know what you do next!
·         This activity is also possible with a single film, but make watching a documentary a part of your daily study routine.
The Bonus: all of the above advantages will apply here as well.

5.       YouTube, and other video posting websites including videos posted on major news websites, daily newspapers and magazines:,,,, and the like.
·         Research a particular topic on the site of your choice or watch available news videos and make notes.
·         If you are following a news story, watch videos about the issue on multiple sites and make notes.
·         When you are done, write up your notes.
·         If you are researching a topic on YouTube for instance, watch a couple of videos, make notes and then write.

The Bonus: all of the above advantages will apply here as well.
6. and how to use this site to improve your listening:
·         Access any of the writing files listed on the right of the screen and click.
·         You will be faced with a writing activity based on reading and videos.
·         Do the research and write.
The Bonus: being a listening into reading into writing activity, a lot of learning will take place and help raise your general standard of English.
7. and Randall's ESL cyber listening lab And how to use these websites:
·         The former houses a selection of listening activities with exercises so select a topic.
·         Now hit RP for real player or WMP for windows media player.
·         Listen and do the exercises; this is selective listening.
·         Stop to check your answers at any point and go on.
*    The latter has reading listening and speaking so click "Tips for students" and follow the advice

In conclusion, you are the learner and the internet is the source;  the above are only a small selection of what is available. There is no need to say that the methods outlined above have worked brilliantly for many hundreds of students but the ball is firmly in your court. If you don’t have access to a teacher to check your work, try

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Thanks are due to my dear friend and colleague Füsun Savcı for this wonderful post
The 21st century with its tower blocks and rapidly disappearing countryside has given rise to a grave new problem: nature deficit disorder, which wreaks havoc with one’s quality of life and shortens one’s life span. Familiarize yourself with the problem via the link below, read up on it, watch the suggested videos and write an essay analyzing the causes and suggesting solutions.
Familiarize yourself with the problem by studying the link below:
Reading material to annotate:
1.       “Do Trees on Streets Make People Happy?”  By: Vanessa Barford
2.       “Back to Nature: Understanding ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’” By: Network Ireland
3.       “Decline of the Biology Nerds” By: Nessa Carrey,
4.       “Analysis: Animals Can Help Tackle Nature Deficit” By: Chris West
Videos to watch and take notes from:
1.       Videos about Last Child in the Woods”

2.       Nature Deficit Disorder”
       Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Thanks are due to my dear friend and fellow teacher Pınar Pekel and her student Ege Aygıt (Advanced B, fall 2013) for this brilliant post
Games are enjoyed by one and all and always have been yet at first glance, they seem to serve no practical purpose. Children love playing all manner of structured or unstructured games, adults play sports, board games and video games but why do they do it? Do your research and discover the reasons and then write an essay discussing the causes.
Reading material to annotate:
Video to watch and make notes on

1.       “Why do we play games”     
      Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The purpose of this essay task is to show you how fluid the lines between various ‘essay types’ are: you will be able to use classification structures, comparison contrast structures and write an argumentative essay as well. The reason is that not having a reason for comparison is not an option and what better reason than a personal preference? What better method of supporting your view than a comparison?
I.                    Introduction: Democracy has always been defined as the government of the people by the people, and an integral part of any democratic process is the elections during which the people vote freely for people to represent them in parliament and govern them in their stead. This is the principle but there are various different electoral systems which can be classified in different ways. Two of these systems are the absolute majority system, and the system of proportional representation; both are examples of ‘multiple winner models’ yet which is more appropriate for your home country is a matter of debate. Thesis statement here: state clearly which method you think is more appropriate for your home country and compare and contrast them in your development to justify your choice.
II.                  Development: In order to write your essay, you will need to research the merits and demerits of the two systems mentioned in the introduction. Once you have completed your reading, you will need to decide how to organize the development. Read and annotate the reading material suggested below:
1.       “Multiple Winner Models”
2.       “Proportional Representation”
3.       “Democracy Building: Elections Voting Systems”
4.       “Pros and Cons of Proportional Representation”
5.       “First Past the Post”
Suggested Plan for the Development: It is suggested that you compare the two systems in terms of "their effects on the electoral system" in the first paragraph of your development and in terms of "their effects on the outcome of the election" in the second paragraph of your development. In your first developmental paragraph, you could compare them interms of how representative and democratic each is and in your second developmental paragraph, you could compare them in terms of the kind of governments they produce. 
III.   Conclusion: Write a restatement

Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


The purpose of this writing task is to draw your attention to the close relationship between classification and comparison / contrast essays. You will need to use structures you learnt when studying both to complete your essay. Read the introduction to an essay classifying painters below, which you can use, do your research and complete the essay:
The desire to portray events and depict the world around in the form of visual art dates back to the cave paintings in France and the rock paintings of the Aborigines. Since that time, many gifted individuals have provided humanity with immortal masterpieces that we enjoy hundreds of years after their creation. We still appreciate Picasso’s Guernica, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa – or La Giaconda – and we will continue to do so. Yet there are many different kinds of painters and they can be classified in many different ways two of which are the school of painting they belong to and their subject matter.
II. First developmental paragraph:
Criterion: the school of painting
Examples: the Impressionists, the Expressionists, Cubic Painters
Points to compare and contrast: you will need to do your research to discover these points.
The Impressionists:
The Expressionists:
Cubic Painters:

III. Second developmental paragraph:
Criterion: subject matter – portrait, landscape, still-life, abstract and the like.
Examples: Jonathan Yeo, John Constable, George Claire
Points to compare and contrast: you will need to do your research to discover these points.
Jonathan Yeo
John Constable:
George Claire:
IV. Conclusion:
In your conclusion, discuss the importance of painting in adding colour to our lives and contributing to happiness. Seeking beauty is an inherent feature of human beings

Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Monday, October 21, 2013


“Educational robots, intelligent implants, brain chips: scientists and legal experts will meet this week to debate how to deal with the rapid march of technology”
By: Nicola Davis
Published: The Observer, 20 October 2013; Alternatively, just google the title and writer’s name.
Level of difficulty: **
  • Turn to the end of the text and look at the 'Future Questions’. Discuss them with your classmates or read them carefully and think about them.
  • Now skim the text quickly and place the subtitles listed below in their correct places. The answer key will follow the print version of the text. The subtitles are in the correct order: Introduction, IBM’s Intelligent System: Watson, Driverless Cars, Enhanced Body Parts, Social Robots, Conclusion
 Ethics and robotics
The ethics of robotics
  1. What lead to the need for the ‘EUCogIII members’ conference?
  2. What does the phrase “if we get it wrong” mean?
  3. What advantages does Watson have over a living, breathing doctor?
  4. What is the dilemma concerning Watson?
  5. How could the drawbacks of such a healthcare system be minimized?
  6. Driverless cars seem like the solution to many current problems yet people are worried. Why?
  7. How could both drivers and car companies be protected against problems of malfunction?
  8. What current law would become meaningless when driverless cars hit the market?
  9. Why might individuals wish to replace their perfectly healthy legs and arms with prosthetic devices?
  10. What does “it” refer to in the phrase “and yes, it’s a problem”?
  11. The writer says “Running scared is not an option”. Why would some people want to run scared?
  12. What interesting discovery was made concerning social robots in education?
  13. The scientists involved in the upcoming convention have invited the public to join the discussion. Why have they taken this step?
Write an essay in which you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of “the rapid march of artificial intelligence”. Consider the advantages and disadvantages below and use notes you make on the text to provide support.
  • Saving time and effort
  • Accuracy
  • Security concerns
  • Legal issues
This text introduces a completely new dilemma: the lure of modern artificial intelligence in the shape of various different kinds of high functioning robots and implants versus the dangers they pose. New developments in artificial intelligence are coming at us thick and fast and we, as a species, need to deal with the implications. The discussion of future moral quandaries at the end of the text should be interesting and revealing. The points given for the essay task will need to be supported with information from the text.
Introduction: paragraphs 1+2; Watson: p.3, 4, 5, 6+7; Driverless Cars: p.8, 9 +10; Enhanced Body Parts: p. 11, 12, 13 +14; Social Robots: 15+16; Conclusion: 17+18
  1. The fact that artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionize our lives
  2. If we make the wrong decisions concerning the ethical and societal impact of such systems
  3. It can crunch through swaths of medical information and make decisions; it could suggest an accurate diagnosis faster and more often, as well as predicting an individual’s health risks.
  4. Whether we want to give up some of our privacy in order to get improved services like better health care.
  5. By making it essential that doctors are closely involved in training such systems, understanding how they work and confirming the diagnoses are spot on.
  6. Insurance and legislation
  7. Through the usage of compulsory insurance schemes or by assessing so called safe harbors. The rest is not necessary.
  8. Speed limits
  9. Because they could outperform our natural limbs
  10. The fact that technology is moving faster than technology can keep up
  11. Because with the possibility of technology becoming intertwined with our very bodies, the threat of unauthorized access looms large.
  12. Robots sporting a face and personalized conversation evoke a strong response
  13. Because such technological leaps are set to transform our lives.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


There are a lot of organizations in the world whose only aim is to help, support and preserve with no view to making a profit and no connections to governments which do a lot of good. These organizations, termed non-governmental organizations or NGO’S, are many and varied. Write an essay in which you classify International NGO’s. Naturally, you will need to do some research first.
In your introduction, discuss NGO’s in general and end with a thesis statement indicating a classification according to purpose. Make notes on the link below to be able to write your introduction:
In your first developmental paragraph, discuss NGO’s whose focus is health care. In this context, focus on a few examples and discuss what they do and how. It is suggested that you focus on Doctors without Borders or MSF and the International Red Cross. You will be able to further classify these NGO’s according to their specific area of focus / interest or the extent of their remit – a wider remit, a more limited remit. Use the links below:
In your second developmental paragraph, discuss NGO’s that focus on the protection of rights. It is suggested you focus on Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, PRI and The Walk Free Foundation. You will be able to further classify these NGO’s according to their specific area of focus / interest or the extent of their remit – a wider remit, a more limited remit.  Use the links below:
In your third developmental paragraph, discuss NGO’s that focus on conservation. It is suggested that you focus on Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth and The Sea Shepherds. You will be able to further classify these NGO’s according to their specific area of focus / interest or the extent of their remit – a wider remit, a more limited remit. Use the links below:
In your conclusion, discuss the importance of the work such organizations do.

Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:  

Friday, October 18, 2013


“Contrary to conventional wisdom that humans are essentially selfish,scientists are finding that the brain is built for generosity”
By: Elizabeth Svoboda
Published: The Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Essay, August 31, 2013, Alternatively, google the title and writer’s name.
Level of Difficulty: ***
·        Generosity 
1.       What view is supported by Darwinism and economic theory but not completely by the latest science?
2.       What does “This” refer to in the phrase “This represents a new scientific frontier”?
3.       In attempting to explain altruism, scientists linked the feeling to
·         A form of selfishness
·          Family protection
·         Social welbeing
·         All of the above
·         None of the above
·         Other : please specify
4.       The veterans Dr. Grafman studied in the 1980’s seemed to have the lost the feelings of ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
5.       Read Dr. Grafman’s study with 19 subjects carefully. What important observation was made during the experiment? What conclusion can we draw from this experiment?
6.       What was the second important finding made during the experiment and what conclusion can we draw from it?
7.       How did Dr. Grafman reach the conclusion that the anterior prefrontal cortex is affective in complex judgements and decision making?
8.       Read Bill Harbaugh’s experiment carefully to the end. Now answer the following questions:
·         At the beginning, the researcher decided that people engage in altruistic behavior because…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
·         Was this view proved, partially proved or disproved by experiments with the MRI scanner?
·         In what respect did the observations made during the experiment correspond to Dr. Grafman’s?
·         How does the above observation impact real life decision making?
9.       According to what criterium did Dr. Harbaugh categorize people?
10.   Why could some people be categorized as “dedicated altruists”?
11.   Read the paragraph beginning “On balance…” carefully. Which of the following statements is / are true according to this paragraph?
·         We don’t often come across pure altruism.
·         We can never be sure that an act of generosity is purely altruistic.
·         Level of self satisfaction is not linked to altruism
·         All of the above
·         None of the above
·         Other: please specify
12.   What does “this technique” in the phrase “using this techniques” refer to?
13.   Dr. Deisseroth’s experiments proved that behaviour modification is possible / isn’t possible.
14.   Linking generosity solely to biological factors is a mistake because ……………………………are/is overlooked.
15.   Dr. Harbaugh has a possible answer to the issue of increasing generosity. It is…………………….
Use the information you gleaned from the text and the suggested plan below to write an essay in which you discuss the reasons why people act generously.
In your introduction, introduce the concept of communal living  and the values upheld in society. Introduce generosity as one of these desirable characteristics and explain what it entails. End with a thesis statement in which you state there are three categories of reasons for generosity.
In the first developmental paragraph, discuss the biological explanation. Explain that we feel actual pleasure as a result of generosity. Refer to the text.
In your second developmental paragraraph, discuss environmental influences: looking good, gaining social leverage, helping individuals improve their prospects by contributing to the welbeing of a strong collective(text).Give examples.
In your third developmental paragraph, discuss individual initiative: ensuring the survival of kin, pure altruism. Give examples.
In your conclusion, explain that generosity is highly desirable and that people can be made more generous. Refer to the text.
It is very rare that I am able to find a text which is written in such a way that serious careful reading questions become possible. This is one such text. The Saturday essays in the Wall Street Journal are always a treasure trove but this is a little gem because it is interesting, well written and has all the twists and turns someone writing questions loves to see. The bonus is that there is a brilliant writing task to follow.
1.       Survival of the fittest or the self centered theory
2.       Biological hardware that makes altruism possible
3.       All of the above
4.       Generosity and empathy (= caring what other people had to say)
5.       When people made the decision to donate to what they felt was a worthy organization,parts of the midbrain, the same region that controls cravings for food and sex… ; giving is actually inherently rewarding (the rest is optional).
6.       The subgenual area was also strongly active when his study subjects made the decision to give to charity; altruism and social relations are intimitaly connected.
7.       This area lit up when the subjects were willing to give even when they knew it would cost them
8.       They expect some tangible reward; partially proved( the econ 101 model still stood but it was no longer the only reason: the biological reason was also valid);similar observations were made concerning the area of the brain that was active or a similar phrase; people give to charity not only because they think it is a good thing to do but also because giving makes them feel good.
9.       According to their amount of nucleus accumbens activation. The next sentence is what the doctor surmised.
10.   They were willing to give because they knew it would help others even if giving didn’t make them feel all that great.
11.   1 and 2
12.   Activating and deactivating the cells by snaking an optical fiber into a mouse’s brain and turning on the light. You might want to stop and discuss or think about this and wether it should be applied to humans
13.   Is possible
14.   Environmental influences and individual initiative
15.   Giving relatively small amounts of money to charity to start with…

Thursday, October 10, 2013


The Rules of the Game as Set out by Mother Nature
Mother Nature is not renowned for providing safety nets or back up for those deemed inferior, lacking or ailing in some way. As Darwin so aptly pointed out in The Origin of Species, it is the survival of the fittest, the strongest, the ablest and the most knowledgeable that matters. In short, if you have got what it takes in accordance with the rules of the game as set out in the beginning, you survive and also prosper if you are lucky; if not, you are relegated to the rubbish heap of nature: extinction; like that error of creation the dodo. The sick, the young, the weak and the runts fall victim to various members of the cat or dog family and the vultures deal with what is left making the whole scene look as if the individual in question was never there in the first place. There are certain freak cases that defy all rules and are evolutionary success stories like cockroaches who, I am reliably informed, are the single most successful  species of all having been around since T- Rex roamed the world. I am also told they are continuing to evolve to dislike sweet things and resist current sprays; all this in blatant defiance of the super animals of prehistoric times like woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers.
The Modern World Was Quick to Follow
Human society has always deemed it necessary and morally right to help those who are less fortunate, the trend gathering pace in the last century and opening the doors to the modern welfare state but this was meant for the most extreme cases, not the average Tom, Dick or Harry who finds the going tough. The latter were left to the mercy of modern capitalism and the free market economy with rules of survival even Mother Nature would frown on. Competition is now firmly embedded in the psyche of all of modern mankind and it starts young and by young I mean kindergarten for which the young victims have to interview and take a test in Japan. The destructive influence of this cut throat competition is best exemplified by a child who, if I remember correctly from an article I read in the Economist some years ago, was either South Korean or Japanese and jumped to his death having failed to complete his homework. The life of the modern child is like the never ending hurdles which the child erroneously supposes will come to an end upon graduation. Little does he know; the private sector takes over where school leaves off.
The Ten Thousand Meter Dash and its Consequences
One of the hurdles described above in our part of the world is the preparatory year of most famous English medium universities. The law governing these institutions is clear: students are allowed one year to master university level English in preparation for their freshman year or else. Fail in June, and they have a right to attend a summer school program, which has, over time, come to be seen as the third term for beginner and pre intermediate students. Fall at the next hurdle and they are left to their own resources but allowed to come back to repeat the proficiency test a number of times. By law, the students do have the opportunity to transfer to a Turkish medium university; an option most of those who fall at the hurdle regard as giving up on their dreams and being sent to finish their dinner in the kitchen. It is no exaggeration to say that students at such universities see passing the proficiency as a matter of life and death as they feel it is a turning point on which the course their futures will take depends. A degree from one of the top English medium universities will enable them to rise out of the working class or lower middle class and lead lives their parents dreamt of for them with all the accoutrements of middle class life. It is, in short, the route to success and happiness – whatever that may be. 
To return to the average prep year and what it entails, common sense, above anything else, dictates that completing the task is a reasonable possibility for most who undertake to do so and that everything humanly possible has been done to minimize failure and this is indeed the case and a continuous struggle. Yet in order to be able to state whole heartedly that such is indeed the case, one has to be very sure of one’s syllabus, one’s teaching staff, the teaching methods employed, the teaching aids which are available and, importantly, the students. There are countless reasons for failure which are directly related to action taken by the institution. Most of these issues have already been covered in previous papers yet the most important players in this game, the students; have not, so it is to them that I shall now turn.
What if the Students are Human?
The punishing pace of the syllabus as hinted at above naturally produces frantic teachers who, well aware of the rules of the game as well as the track, can’t help but crack the proverbial whip to maintain the momentum. There is a slight problem with this truly punishing pace thought: the athletes are humans not replicas of Deep Blue. The human brain is certainly a wonderful computer equipped with a wonderful electrical circuit powered by 20 volts or so of electricity yet learning is not quite as simple as entering code, writing a program and being done with it. Humans, unfortunately for the coach – the teacher whose duty it is to keep up the pace – have emotions and personalities; definite obstacles to learning in some cases. They also have limits to what they can absorb in an average work day and to add insult to injury, they get tired! Therein is the problem:  there will be those who are left by the way side, who drop out of the race and the greater the number of these failures, whatever the reason, the more unpleasant it becomes for the management of the club – the school administration.  Large numbers of failures look terrible for a school: the implication is that the institution is just not able to get the job done or worse still, has no idea how to rectify the problem; a most definite no-no.
Corporate business has its own remedy to the problem of failure: sack those responsible, sweep everything else under the carpet and “disappear it all”; it is quick and efficient. Unfortunately for university administrations, this is not possible in the case of students who will hold demonstrations, bang on doors and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Then of course there is the press and before you can say Jack Robinson, the headlines are in the nationals: university fails hundreds and deserts them to their fate! To be fair, the coaches hate members of their team to fail with a passion that can only be imagined; they have powerful instincts pushing them to get the whole team to the finish line and they are prepared to resort to any subterfuge to do so giving Machiavellianism a whole new twist. No subterfuge is beyond them and no stone is left unturned in efforts to cheer on anyone who is lagging behind all in a very noble cause obviously: to get the students through to their freshman year. There is a lot that can be done to help students who are having trouble ranging from counseling, which is available to students at our university free of charge, to the rethinking of aspects of the syllabus and methodology but it is to another of these safety measures that we shall now turn: the writing center.
One Small Step for a Teaching Establishment, One Giant Step for the Students
The writing center has been operational at our university as an afterhour’s project for many years involving teachers spending three hours a week seeing individual students for fifteen minutes each and providing face to face feedback on essays on an individual basis. Writing academic essays to the standards demanded by our university is no easy task especially if much of primary and secondary education has been spent focused on the those infamous test type exams coming at one thick and fast. In such a learning environment, certain cognitive skills that facilitate essay writing proper remain, quite understandably, atrophied leaving people like myself and my colleagues to bring them alive at the ripe old age of eighteen. The students in this university can score full points on the SAT, which is very little use when it comes to essay writing per say. Their inability to write is also linked to the lack of a reading habit, which can partly be blamed on the competition focused education system so prevalent in the world and partly to the effects of modern technology. This is not a universal affliction by any means but it is widespread. Hence comes our conundrum: how to get intelligent students who have a very mediocre reading habit and untapped essay writing abilities up to par.
The syllabus is prepared with military precision with all this in mind; the aim being to fill the gaps in their background knowledge, widen their horizons as well as furnishing them with the skills a university student needs. Naturally, while doing all this, the secret wish, the desire closest to all our hearts, is for our students to also learn to love learning for its own sake discovering many avenues of interest they delve into throughout their lives besides building a career. This, we hope, will make the effects of the tight grip the business world can have on them less stressful opening the doors to sources of happiness they never thought possible.
The first and foremost safety net if you will, the writing center, was established with this lofty goal in mind; at least this was the dream of the dedicated members of staff who faithfully taught them for years. Initially, the writing center was an afterhour’s project with teachers seeing students for brief periods on an appointment basis. Though dedicated and idealistic, these teachers devoted time to this project after a full day’s teaching and with the full knowledge that they had papers to correct on reaching home not to mention lessons to prepare. The pressure of work and responsibilities probably hampered efforts in this initial version of the writing center, which is very understandable considering the work load. Well aware of the benefit of this safety net, our administration moved to make the writing center a full time job as soon as they could spare the staff and conditions allowed. It is to this altered version of the writing center that I shall now turn.
The Mantra of the Writing Center
The first step to take on embarking on such a venture is to determine the job description by setting out clearly what the duties of the writing center are. These principles can be listed as follows:
·        To disabuse students of the idea that they can write essays with divine inspiration as their only guide.
·        In lieu of this, to convince them of the need to preface the actual writing with adequate research in the form of reading and listening.
·        To help them develop basic research skills – a must in this part of the world where not everyone grows up with access to computers
·        To convince the students that the absence of adequate research leads to their native language becoming the source of inspiration
·        To demonstrate the pitfalls of the above with concrete proof of speedy progress
The first hurdle my colleagues and I had to overcome was changing students’ mind sets and persuading them to accept this mode of study. This was no mean task as most students in this country are accustomed to “the segmented approach to education” with each subject neatly packed away in its little pigeon hole. Thinking across disciplines, and we are not talking of leaping off the Victoria falls but just stepping across the merest trickle of water, was a completely alien concept. Gentle persuasion and proof of the advantages along with our professional talent of persuasive speech helped overcome this first hurdle not after a struggle though. One objection that was voiced was as follows:
·        Students seemed to feel that since no research or preparation was done before writing tests, none should be done while preparing for the said tests.
The faulty logic and absurd reasoning is painfully obvious to us as is the fact that students equate studying with preparing for tests. They also seem to think that endless trial runs will eventually get them there. Changing that view was an uphill struggle and we didn’t always win. The second problem we encountered was the following:
·        The students were not nearly as tech savvy as we had initially thought; not when it came to using the internet for intellectual pursuits anyway. Many seemed oblivious to the depth and breadth of the World Wide Web. They ended up having to have their hands held and guided through the maze.
·        The students, I discovered to my utter amazement, could not do research
The problem they encountered while doing research was selecting key words to google, which is after all a summary task if you like. For instance, I would ask them to find a video concerning the issue dwelt on in a particular reading activity and the students would then print the title of the reading text in the search section of and naturally get nothing. One example I recall is a student who having done the reading activity titled “War Against Girls” on my blog, wished to find a video before tackling the writing task and failed because he printed the title of the text in the search section. The solution to such problems is adopting a holistic approach to teaching from the word go, which would enable a host of mental skills to develop more successfully as well as furnish the students with the necessary technical skills. Another problem this failing on the part of the students hints at is the inability to summarize, paraphrase and annotate a reading passage. These skills are a prerequisite in any reading and writing program worth its salt and should be integrated in the syllabus from the word go. That such skills do not get the attention they deserve in secondary education goes without saying; a natural consequence of a test based and exam oriented system. You will find in the appendix a sample reading task with two writing tasks: the first a summary and the second an essay.  This format should probably be a rule of thumb in any reading program where reading into writing is the goal.
Putting Pen to Paper
Having established the ultimate goal of enabling students to write essays to the standards required by any respectable proficiency test ( IELTS, TOEFL) and having determined the approach to writing – a holistic one – one should set about listing the steps the students needed to follow to write the essay. These steps, of which the students should be informed at the outset, are as follows:
·        Making sure the essay or paragraph followed some reading and preferably some listening as well.
·        In connection with, this to base essays on reading they had covered in class
·        Alternatively, to search for texts related to a topic they decided to write about, read and annotate the texts
·        Then seek out videos on the topic, listen and make notes
·        Lastly to use all the notes they had compiled and opinions they had formed to write their essays
With a view to helping students in their endevours, I established a blog some years back ( ) which has grown in scope over the years as I add ever new reading tasks. One thing I always make sure of is a reading related writing activity or a summary as this is the best way to guarantee full grasp of the text, enable transfer and consolidation of information and also help students learn to enjoy reading – the ultimate aim being the establishment of a lifelong reading habit. I also prepared writing activities following the same principles I wished students to follow to set the ball rolling so to speak. One such writing task I prepared is provided below:
Every year millions of young girls are married off before the age of eighteen in many parts of the developing world. This cruel practice has devastating effects on the girls themselves and on future generations. Do your research and write an essay discussing the causes, effects and solutions to the problem. This will end up being a longish writing task but brilliant practice. If you want to shorten the task, consider the causes or the effects or the solutions.
1.     “Girls not Brides” ; click on “Where it Happens”, then click “What is the impact”
4.     “Photo Essay: Child Brides”
5.     Child bride, 13, dies of internal injuries four days after arranged marriage in Yemen
1.     “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides”
2.     “Child Brides, A Cruel Custom”
3.     “Turkey's never ending tragedy: Child Brides”

What I recommend is starting with the photo gallery, discussing the photographs and then moving on to the reading and listening. I suggest that students do their research over a day or two, reading and annotating a few texts and making notes on a video each day. Coming back to a topic over a day or two helps consolidate learning. If the activity is to be done in class, it would be a good idea to start with the photo gallery and then assign the research as homework. The students could then come into class with all their notes on a specific day and write their essays. An alternative would be to do half the research together in class and the rest at home. This type of writing activity has turned out to be very popular with the students as they both learnt a lot and broadened their horizons and improved their language skills. A second example is as follows:
Currently, drones are being used ever more widely to target specific individuals considered a threat by the US. What are the merits and demerits of the use of this new weapon of war? Do your research and write an argumentative essay on the issue.
Reading Material to Annotate
1.     The arguments for and against drones” by John Rentoul
2.     Everything you need to know about the drone debate in one FAQ” by Dylan Matthiews
3.     What is not wrong with drones? By Rosa Brooks
4.     The case for and against drones
Listening Material to Make Notes on
1.     The legal, political arguments for drones
2.     Drones are not ethical and effective
As can be seen, one attraction of this type of activity is the fact that it is very topical; students develop the long term habit of following current affairs and thus become better informed and more aware of what is going on in general. More examples of such activities are on my blog. Below you will find an essay written on the above topic after completing the research; this student passed our proficiency exam in June.  This essay is a second draft, written after a session at the writing center but as I am sure you can guess, the first draft was also good. An example of the proficiency test is on our university website should you care to gage the standard.
   In the course of time, people’s values and priorities have changed yet there is one that has remained the same since the beginning of time: the need for security and to win battles of all kinds at any cost. People have tried yet failed to eliminate wars, but they work hard to preserve their own safety. Because of this, scientists developed UACs and drones thanks to technological developments. In this century, people are killed easily by push button crafts. Drones are one of these UACs and the legality of drones is a matter of debate in many countries. Some of them are in favour of the drone strikes whereas others are against it for some valid reasons. It ıs my contention that drones are not a legitimate weapon of war.
   First of all, many civilians are killed by drones. In spite of the murders being committed right and left, the drone technology is moving ahead at full speed. Drones were used firstly in the Yugoslav conflicts, and the use of drones escalated in the Afghanistan war. Due to the drone strikes, not only militants but also noncombatants are killed. According to some research, there have been 41 known drone strikes in Pakistan since Obama became president and due to these strikes, 450 locals have been murdered. This is an enormous mortality rate. The drone strikes are giving more damage to the civilian population than militants. Because of this, the drone strikes pose a great risk for humanity.
   A further argument against the drone strikes is that the drone strikes have some adverse effects on the drone operators. The drone operators suffer from conflict-zone trauma, despite not being in the line of fire. They are faced with the knowledge that they themselves are responsible for the death of innocent people. Moreover, the drone strikes are controlled via some computer software; therefore, this system can be turned into a military threat by hackers. Hackers can enter the military network and take control to drive the drone into the ground or use it for their own personal gain. For example; Todd Humphreys, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, showed how his research team was able to take control of a US military drone just by using a store –bought GPS in 2012. This is not impossible; therefore, drones should not be used in order to preserve world peace.
   The supporters of drone strikes claim that these aircrafts are far cheaper than other weapons because the initial cost is not as high as manned aircraft. It is asserted that when the government uses the drones, military spending may decrease in the country. However, this is a very superficial idea. The initial cost is just the beginning of the story.  The personnel will need to specialize in training operations; therefore, the operation cost is likely to soar over time. The driving of a drone is harder than manned aircrafts; thus, the requirement for specialized men will escalate in the country.
   To sum up, UACs provide some advantages for the military but the drawbacks cannot be overlooked. Due to the drone strikes, a lot of people suffer from trauma and many civilians are murdered. Because of this, the drones are not a legitimate weapon of war.
Written by: Hilal Demirtaş; May 2013
This brings us neatly to how exactly one should work with the students in the writing center and how the practical aspects are organized and it is to this aspect that will be dealt with next.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
It is necessary to specify at this point that correction of an essay involves not only tackling grammar mistakes but also every lexical and organizational aspect of the piece of writing. The procedure to be followed could be listed as follows:
·        Correction and explanation of grammar mistakes
·        The introduction of better ways of expressing a specific idea with explanations – in accordance with the students’ level
·        The correction of misused vocabulary
·        The provision of alternatives to the above with explanations
·        The amendment of organizational mistakes
·        The provision of alternatives to the above
·        The rewriting of especially introductions and conclusions as examples – in accordance with the students’ level
·        Instruction on how to use outside sources without plagiarizing
One word of warning though: correction and instruction are inseparable and the tutor should be prepared to do both if he is to prevent that mistake from rearing its ugly head again and again. A writing center is not an assembly line where essays are fed in at one end and they emerge corrected at the other. Such an approach would be very inadequate. The tutor must be prepared, for instance, to change unless to if not and also explain he is doing this because if not means otherwise in the said sentence. He needs to say change vital to grave and explain that vital means important and necessary but the student was referring to a problem. He then needs to make some sample sentences so that the point registers. If the student has not grasped the essence of how to write introductions or conclusions, the tutor needs to be prepared to demonstrate; the tutorial provides by far the best opportunity to iron out any problems after all.
As for organizational mistakes, they usually disappear very quickly in this ‘source related’ way of handling writing; students absorb the correct organization quite comfortably while reading with the help of basic common sense. The American college system of handing down ‘formulas’  for writing various ‘types of essays’ should be avoided as it takes all the joy out of researching a subject and writing as well as making sure all those cognitive skills remain atrophied. Research related writing is a superb learning opportunity guaranteeing a flow of information ranging from vocabulary and structure to relevant content into the student essay; this flow should not be interrupted.
Naturally, no essay writing activity of this sort would be possible without first showing students how to annotate and make notes on a text for which purpose I prefer the Cornell Method. This method which involves making short notes on a reading passage, eliminating unnecessary details and reorganizing of the notes in preparation for summary writing is by far the quickest and most efficient way to help students acquire these skills.
The session being complete, the student should be required to go home and write a second draft of the essay with the corrections and suggestions for improvements in mind, which should also be seen by the tutor where possible. It is also recommended that students keep a log of their typical mistakes which they can then refer to the next time they write an essay. It is also advisable for students to file both drafts of their essays away for future reference
The Man on the Ground: The Old Dog
The next decision to be made concerning such a venture involves those who are to man the tiller and the best choice is experienced members of staff; a view shared among my colleagues. There are various reasons for this and you could be forgiven for thinking anyone is up to the job. Any well qualified language teacher can fulfill the tasks described thus far in the paper; the problem though is this: they can’t do it fast enough. There is a limit to how long tutorials can be; the said limits being determined by student numbers and available staff and most institutions have too many of the former and too few of the latter, which seriously curtails the time allowed for each student. The time allowed is often in the vicinity of 15 or 20 minutes, which brings us to our problem: only experienced staff can rattle off answers to all the questions a student may ask as well as correct stylistic and organizational mistakes. Speed and efficiency come with experience so where possible, senior members of staff should be assigned to this post.
Reward for Good Work
The long term goal of any writing center is to maintain the flow and keep the students interested and keen. This can be achieved in various ways. For instance, monthly writing competitions for each level could be held with a jury of teachers who don’t teach at that level reading the entries. The essays of the winners could then be posted on bulletin boards or on the school website. This idea was applied by my friend and then assistant director Deniz Atlı with a great deal of success. Another idea would be the publication of level newspapers which could be published once a month. The papers would not have to be printed; they could be published online on a website the students could set up. Class blogs could also be set up with students contributing on a regular basis with pieces of writing concerning both in class and extracurricular activities. The teacher could also contribute to the blog making it real teamwork.  With research and writing thus becoming a central part of the students’ lives, success will be a certainty. Students will also broaden their horizons, learn to enjoy reading and writing, become more pro active citizens and hopefully also be happier; advantages that we all dream of.
A Reward of a Personal Nature
One unexpected bonus of the writing center was the realization that students were really benefitting from the mentoring that was naturally taking place at the writing center. Discussion of essays inevitably led to study habits and some brief discussion of the personal problems the students were facing while trying to meet the demands placed on them by the school. University education in this part of the world where the number of truly outstanding universities is low and are congregated in the big cities of a vast country, the demand is huge and resources are stretched is a strangely impersonal affair. The tutorials which are the pillars of university education in the UK do not happen here, class sizes can go above a hundred reducing opportunities for a one on one relationship between lecturers and students to the detriment of education. How deeply this alienation, if you like, was felt became apparent to me during tutorials. I observed that those students who came regularly to see those of us conducting the tutorials became happier, better adjusted and more engrossed in their work. It must be remembered that university is the first time many students leave their home towns to travel to huge metropolises to start their university education, which means that this first year is also one of the toughest on a personal level. All this means that students actually benefit from the writing center tutorials on a personal level too lending further support to my view that remedial work is of vital concern at an establishment such as our own.
In Conclusion: The Importance of Remedial Work
It is sad but true that remedial work and help for those experiencing problems with the syllabus are being neglected in the hurry to speed up ‘through put’ – the pressures to make way for ever increasing numbers of students coming in each year being enormous and driving university administrators to distraction. A system such as the one described above however, is easy to set up and keep going; what is more, the rewards are enormous: ‘through put’ is increased due to the fact that students find the support they get helps enormously to increase their individual success rates both in the short term and in the long term as reading habits, intellectual curiosity and good study skills become entrenched. The writing center helps students who would otherwise have difficulty keeping up with the ‘system’ to get on the right track and fulfill their potentials, and as such is very rewarding for tutors who are fortunate enough to take on such a task. It is not the whole answer by any means but it is an important and feasible step in the right direction; especially in the current age of technology where the internet can also help with ‘the teaching’ provided students know where and how to look.

Below you will find one of three reading activities on aspects of the same problem and the sample writing activities. All these reading activities are available on
By: Andrew Hough
Published: The Daily Telegraph; 8 April 2013; Alternatively, just google the title and writer’s name
Level of Difficulty: *
Note to the Student: This task should be covered in conjunction with “Twitter and Facebook Addicts Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms” and “Toddlers Becoming so Addicted to iPads They Require Therapy”. The writing tasks involve all three so don’t attempt them until you are ready.
·        Read the title of the text. Do you believe this kind of addiction is possible? Explain.
·        What are the symptoms of addiction?
·        Would you describe yourself as an addict?
·        Do you know any addicts?
1.     What proof do we have that college students are addicted to technology?
2.     What symptoms did the students in the study who didn’t use their gadgets experience?
3.     What does “These” in the phrase “These included emotions such as …” refer to?
4.     Which of their reactions to lack of technology came as a surprise to the students?
5.     Why did the students in the study experience all these reactions?
6.     In the study at Bournemouth University, what were the students allowed?
7.     What hypothesis did the study confirm?
8.     What positive outcome was noted?
After you have also completed the two other related writing tasks, write a combined summary of all three in no more than 100 words. Your teacher will show you an example when you are done.
Write a paragraph describing the disadvantages of excessive use of social networking sites. Remember: you will need to complete all three reading tasks first. Your teacher will show you an example when you are done.
It is really wonderful to find three texts on a topical issue which have a wow factor and also lead to a combined – three text summary. Don’t let the summary scare you; it is very straightforward I assure you. I would suggest putting a few notes on the board or the screen, repeating the process for the other two texts and then crossing out repetitions – of which there are plenty. What is left will be very easy to summarize in a 100 words. The longer writing task should follow the summary; it isn’t an either or proposition; they both need to be done I feel. Examples are available under Sample Essays.
1.     Nearly four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for a whole day.
2.     Cravings, anxiety attacks, depression
3.     The words the students used to describe their emotions
4.     The psychological effects ( is enough; you don’t need the rest)
5.     Because they have spent their whole lives plugged in
6.     Landline telephones and books
7.     That students were addicted to modern technology
8.     The students got into more in-depth conversations; OR, a difference in conversation in terms of quality and depth

·        Student ‘Addiction’ to Technology ‘Similar to Drug Cravings’, Study Finds
·        Twitter and Facebook ‘Addicts’ Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms
·        Toddlers Becoming so ‘Addicted’ to İPads They Require Therapy
Addiction to technology is a modern phenomenon including toddlers as well as adults. Denial of access to gadgets causes withdrawal symptoms similar to those of alcoholics and drug addicts in all age groups and a host of social problems especially in young children. These children find it difficult to form healthy relationships later in life. The quality and depth of adult conversations suffer too along with daily chores.  Although social networking is now a fact of life and those with no accounts are called vagrants of the digital age, moderation in the use of technology is advised.
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Reading related writing activity: The reading texts are as follows and are in the file marked Level*:
·        Toddlers becoming so addicted to ipads they require therapy
·        Twitter and Facebook addicts suffer withdrawal symptoms
·        Student addiction to technology similar to drug cravings study finds
In the modern world, our lives have shifted, at least partly, to the virtual world thanks to all the opportunities provided by modern technology. Smartphones, androids, ipads, computers and all the hundreds of apps available provide us with the opportunity to lead a parallel existence; that is if we become too fond of all the above. Becoming too fond of technology, in other words getting addicted to it, has countless negative effects the first and foremost being withdrawal symptoms, which are both physical and psychological. This is true for adults as well as toddlers all of whom need therapy to kick the habit and get their lives back. Although social networking provides countless opportunities for socialization, carried to extremes, it can affect the quality and depth of conversations people have in daily life. Daily tasks and chores also get neglected; not to mention the physical effects of being glued to a screen 24/7. Toddlers and young children are the worst effected as these young addicts find it difficult to form healthy relationships and if they are not treated, find their teens to be a very lonely period. To sum up, although the countless advantages of modern technology can’t be denied, we should exercise moderation to avoid the countless disadvantages of our cherished gadgets.