Yesterday, we spent the whole class working on thesis statements on the board, and making bubble maps for the essays. I think just under half the class got help on the board, and hopefully everyone learned and thought about things.
Doing thesis statements on the board is one of those difficult things early in the semester. In my regular classes (the ones I usually teach with native speakers of English), students are shy about criticizing, uncertain about what makes a good thesis statement, and less certain about what makes an ineffective thesis statement. The class here had the additional difficulty of having to try to speak English at the same time, so you'll understand that they were pretty silent. After a few examples, one or two students did pipe up to say when a thesis statement did a good job being specific about the assignment, so I was encouraged.
I think most (maybe all) of the students have been taught bubble mapping in the past; some said they had, and they seemed comfortable with the basic idea.
I held the beginning of a week of extensive office hour appointments today, and was happy to see that every student who came in had at least a bubble map for the essay. I'm not claiming I taught them how to do it, but they were all using bubble maps effectively, and I was able to help several focus their essay in more depth.
I spent a lot of time trying to explain why giving examples is important and effective, so I need to talk more about that in class, and also talk more explicitly about how direct American style essays are compared to essays in Japan (and some other countries; I think of French essays as being spirally, getting to their point after circling it a bit).
All in all, very fun office hours; the students who signed up (I didn't require them this time) seemed enthusiastic and willing to try hard to make their essay better.
I'll meet with students all week, and then they'll do peer editing on Friday. The essay is due for real next Tuesday (it's a 2 day a week class, very strange!). I'm thinking I'll probably have extended hours on Monday to help with last minute worries and such. And then proofreading on Tuesday in class! (I wonder if students have sticky pads here?)