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Tuesday, 15 November 2016 23:03

"I couldn't believe it!"

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In a recent SAT-level online writing class, my students wrote on the topic: "I couldn't believe it..." They only had about 15-20 minutes to write, in class, from their homes in Hsinchu, Taiwan. They wrote so well, I thought you would like to see their masterpieces!

*************************************   "Playstation Breakdown"

 I couldn't believe it when my Playstation 3 broke on my first day of summer two years ago. My only source of entertainment worked just fine the day before, then suddenly everything fell apart. Sparks of flame shot out from the console; there was nothing that I could have done except just watch it with tears dripping from my eyes. Once I had witnessed this catastrophe, it felt like as if the world had ended. My everyday life started to feel hollow, as if there were missing pieces in my puzzle of life. The times that were originally for games and entertainment were filled with staring into space instead; I couldn't help it. 

One day I decided to make a change for the better since I knew wheedling my dad into finding someone to fix my Playstation is something that was never going to happen, no matter what. First of all, I tried playing board games to replace video games. It was somewhat fun, but then I realized that the excitement that these games can bring is limited; no wonder they're called "bored" games. Sports was my next attempt at distraction. I played badminton and baseball, and after a while, it hit me: sports are REALLY fun. It was endless enjoyment for me when playing with friends. I still remember the time when laughter was the only thing we heard and fun was the only thing we had; I had finally found a remedy for my Playstation 3 addiction. 

--Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan   (Scott's note: I love this piece. It's short, but so easy to relate to, whether you're a teacher, parent, or kid. Several strong points:   His word choice in line 2 reminds me of the novel, Things Fall Apart.  Aaron's word choice: "Sparks of flame shot out from the console/ tears dripping from my eyes/My everyday life started to feel hollow, as if there were missing pieces in my puzzle of life./wheedling my dad/" (Aaron said he learned the word "wheedling" from WordlyWise vocabulary books, that we use at DreyerCoaching.com as well.) Good use of semi-colons (;) and ellipsis (...) LOVE the irony: "First of all, I tried playing board games to replace video games. It was somewhat fun, but then I realized that the excitement that these games can bring is limited; no wonder they're called "bored" games." Rather than a dull sentence with a "be" verb, like "I was bored," he made this: "The times that were originally for games and entertainment were filled with staring into space instead." (Check out more ways to boost your verbs here.)

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 "The Speedcuber"

 
I couldn't believe it. I had become sub-20.
About one year ago, I became enthralled by speedcubing. I had cubed for many months, yet I my average was still above twenty seconds. Until that night.

Rubik's Cube
rubiks cube It was a normal summer night: only the start of summer, and the weather wasn't hot. I was practicing my solves. As usual. A strange sensation then occurred to my mind. I looked up at my speed cube I was using. A peculiar feeling struck me. Truly. I saw matters in a new way, and my mind processed much faster. I took a deep breath and then grabbed my cube. Then everything clicked. Everything felt so smooth. I took my cube and then I got a sub-20 second solve. My quick improvement astonished me. The sub-20 barrier had bothered me for ages. However, on a normal summer day I broke this barrier. I sat straight up and knocked out solves. Then I went to sleep. The next day night, I practiced some more. This time, luck stayed with me. Delight swept through me. Yes! Now I annihilated this barrier, I thought, I finally count as decent in speed cubing! After this, my interest in cubing spiked. Time to conquer blindfolded-cubing! -- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan

  (Scott's note: I like this essay too. A few thoughts Tim loves short sentences. Me too. (Until that night. Truly. Then everything clicked.) In class we discussed how a writer had to know his or her audience, and what they already know. For example, I told him, when many people in my part of the US hear "sub-20," we think "20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit." However, here Tim meant "he could solve a Rubik's cube in under 20 seconds." Be aware of this when you write.   Here too, we want to avoid many "have" or "be" verbs and replace them with stronger words.   I was interested in speedcubing.I became enthralled by speedcubing.
  I was feeling strange. A peculiar feeling struck me.
  I was surprised how quickly I was improving. My quick improvement astonished me.
  My interest in cubing was growing quickly. My interest in cubing spiked. In case you missed it above, find out more ways to improve your verbs in my post. As a class we discussed how to "end with a bang." You always want to have a clear conclusion, and not introduce any new ideas in it. As a group we can up with this: Time to conquer blindfolded-cubing!

*************************

  "Horrible Baseball Weather"

It was a rainy day--horrible baseball weather. As my dad and I arrived at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, clouds filled the sky, blocking the sunlight. Today was the day that my favorite baseball team, the Chinatrust Brothers, would clinch a berth to the championship game of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL). A long line of people snaked around outside the stadium, waiting to witness this event. The rain did everything but stop, picking up, then calming. I waited nervously, hoping the game would play, but the chances seemed bleak. The gates opened, and people flooded into the stadium. The first thing I saw thrilled me. Despite the rain, there was still batting practice, which surprised me. I dashed down the steps, in hopes of getting an autograph or a ball to keep. After twenty minutes of waiting around, I caught the attention of Scott Richmond, a Canadian pitcher pitching in Taiwan, and I got a ball, so I raced back up the steps to take cover from the rain. Then, I could not believe it. The clouds parted, and the rain gradually stopped. All of the fans hiding indoors slowly got to their seats, and the game started. The Brothers won, meaning that they were the first-half season champions. I felt ecstatic that we got to see the game after all, and that I got a baseball to bring home. Ironically, the next two games after that clinch game were cancelled due to rain. Coincidence? I think not. --Justin in Hsinchu, Taiwan
(Scott's note: I love this story, and I tell Justin maybe he should become a sports writer. A few thoughts:   He has the voice of a sports writer: "the Chinatrust Brothers would clinch a berth to the championship game"   vivid verbs: snaked, witness, calming, dashed, raced   "The clouds parted." That sounds like biblical language.   He ends with a bang: "Coincidence? I think not."

 
Read 2434 times Last modified on Friday, 28 July 2017 19:13
Scott Dreyer

A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

dreyercoaching.com/en/about/scott-dreyer

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