Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling" from Emily Kissner

"Night Cafe at Arles" by Paul Gauguin

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: our guest is Emily Kissner, a schoolteacher in Pennsylvania and author of a book called "Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Retelling."

Emily Kissner

EMILY KISSNER: "When you summarize, you need to first choose what's important in the text -- look for the main ideas. And a good way to do that is to look at what the author refers to over and over again, because that's probably what's important.

"And then you need to condense those main ideas. You need to get rid of the repeated ideas. You need to exclude the trivia, those little details that are in there to keep you interested but really don't contribute to the main idea."

AA: "And then from there, you've boiled it down, you're looking for the important ideas, how do you begin to put them down on paper?"

EMILY KISSNER: "Different readers use different methods. There's been a lot of research on retelling, which is where you just retell the important ideas to someone else. Even without someone telling you it's good or bad, retelling what you've read changes something about how you store the information in your brain and helps you to understand it better. So one great way to start summarizing is just to turn to someone else and say 'Hey, I just read this, listen to what the author's talking about.'

"And from there, you can maybe list some of the main ideas. And then if you need to write a formal summary to give to someone else, you can kind of look for the connections between those ideas and then use those to frame your summary."

AA: "You write in your book here, you say: 'Left to their own devices, most students write the topic of a text when they're asked to write a main idea.' Now what's the difference between the topic and the main idea?"

EMILY KISSNER: "The topic is usually just one word or phrase to which everything in the text refers. So, for instance, if you were reading about dinosaurs, the topic of the book could be 'dinosaurs.' A main idea is usually a sentence that explains why the topic is important or explains something about the topic. So one article about dinosaurs might be 'dinosaurs evolved to many unusual creatures.' And so then everything in the text would go back to that main idea."

AA: "Do you find these techniques of summarizing to be helpful at all, or especially helpful, to English learners?"

EMILY KISSNER: "Where I teach right now, we actually have quite a significant population of students who are learning English, and one method that I found especially helpful for them was looking for key words in the article or the text. And so we would kind of develop their background knowledge first, and then they would look for key words that were important.

"And using some of these techniques like finding the main idea and looking for the structure of the text helped them to -- by the end of the year, they were writing some really competent summaries. And that really shows they were understanding the texts."

AA: "What would a bad summary look like?"

EMILY KISSNER: "A lot of students, and a lot of adults, use what's called the copy-and-delete method: 'Oh geez, I have to write this summary. I don't really know how. I'm just going to go through and pick up a few sentences here and a few sentences there, copy it down, I'll leave out a few sentence, and I have something that looks like a summary.' So when you're seeing a lot of text that's directly taken out of the main article, you can tell that the writer of that summary isn't working with very effective strategies for summarizing."

AA: "Now what's the difference between summarizing and paraphrasing? Since the title of your book is 'Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Retelling,' what's the difference?"

EMILY KISSNER: "Paraphrasing is just putting ideas into your own words. So, for instance, you could read a paragraph about global warming and you could paraphrase it and it could be just as long as the original paragraph. The key part with paraphrasing is that it's in your own words. With summarizing, you have a more formal product that is shorter than the original text."

AA: No one says any of this is easy, even for teachers. Emily Kissner recalls the day she told her students about her book.

EMILY KISSNER: "And then one kid just looked at me, and raised his hand and with a kind of sly smile said, 'Missus Kissner, could you summarize the book for us?' And suddenly I was put on the spot and I had to put all of what was in the book to the test to try to summarize this book in a way that the students could understand."

AA: "And did you pass the test?"

EMILY KISSNER: "Well, I think I did. [Laughter] It's hard to do on the spot."

AA: Emily Kissner is a schoolteacher in Pennsylvania and author of the book "Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Retelling." And that's Wordmaster for this week. Archives of our segments are at I'm Avi Arditti.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning Business English, and a Little Philosophy, in Tough Economic Times.

AA: I'm Avi Arditti. Rosanne Skirble is away. This week on WORDMASTER, on the phone from Southern California, is English teacher Nina Weinstein. She teaches business English, among other things, and I was curious how she and her students are addressing the economic crisis.

NINA WEINSTEIN: "Well, I teach students from all over the world. In one of my locations I teach for the University of California, and I teach a graduate group of students who are working on professional certificates. And after they finish my course they'll go into the regular university with native speakers. So one of the things that of course is on everyone's mind right now is the stock market, and I always advise my students to listen to a radio station we have out here.

"We have local news stations that keep repeating stories, kind of in a loop, and so it gives them an opportunity, if they didn't hear it the first time, to hear it again and again and again as the day goes on. So what I've done is I've given them kind of the basic vocabulary that they need to know if they're listening to a stock story."

KFWB NEWS 980: " ... Dow stocks went positive a few moments ago -- that was then, this is now. We're back in negative territory with the blue-chips down fifty-two points. Nasdaq stocks are down by thirty-one, and S-and-P lower by a dozen ... "

AA: "Your students are here from other countries, they're going to, presumably most of them, [be] returning to their countries, so they're kind of observers of this economic crisis that we've got in the United States. And obviously it has spread around the world. But what are they saying about their own reactions to what's going on in the markets?"

NINA WEINSTEIN: "I think everybody's scared, this is something that we haven't seen in decades, and I think especially for the younger students. The older students, when I work in private industry I have students of different ages, so they've had something in the past that they've also dealt with and so they can kind of put it in a perspective. But with the younger students, they come here, they're so excited and they're enthusiastic. This is their opportunity to do this final thing before they go out there in the business world. And I think they're scared.

"And so what I say to them is that, you know, these are cycles and even though this is a really bad cycle, there's a beginning and an end. And I say that what I really think is that this is a great opportunity to increase your skills. Whatever your skills are, this is a great time to train. And so when the cycle finishes and things get to be normal again, your training will be even better than what you had planned before. And so this is how I'm treating my own life, and my colleagues and so forth, and this is what I tell to my students."

AA: "So it's business English plus a little philosophy."

NINA WEINSTEIN: "Yeah! A little encouragement. I think everybody needs a little encouragement during these times. So yeah, I think that's part of teaching English."

AA: "Do you ever get questions that require an economist to answer, not an English teacher?"

NINA WEINSTEIN: "Well, actually I work with executives who are in finance and so sometimes they have questions about something that may have happened in their area. And what I do, because I have a background in vocabulary tools and this whole area of breaking apart words and looking at their roots and so forth, often -- even though it's a very technical area, often you can figure out just based on the roots and the context what the term actually means.

"And so, fortunately I can do that. And if it goes beyond that, then I tell them that they need to ask somebody in their own department for that term or what not. But usually you can just kind of figure it out by breaking the word apart."

AA: "And do some of the terms that we've grown used to hearing now in the news, in the depressing business news we hear every day, do those terms translate well into and out of other languages that your students speak?"

NINA WEINSTEIN: "I think that they do. I think that they just realize that they have to learn these terms that we use. The terms that might be used in Japan would be Japanese. It's not like computers, where you have terms that are kind of transcending different languages. And so I don't think it's a problem because they recognize that this is a different language, almost like English is a different language from Spanish."

AA: Nina Weinstein is an English teacher and author in Southern California. Other segments with Nina can be found at Our stock-market audio clip came from Los Angeles radio station KFWB News 980. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. I'm Avi Arditti.


Dow = Dow Jones Industrial Average, based on stock prices for 30 leading, or "blue-chip," U.S. companies

S&P = Standard & Poor's 500, an index of 500 large U.S. companies; based on market value

Nasdaq = Nasdaq Stock Market, an electronic exchange with corporate headquarters in New York

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Voice of America: Learning First Aid: What to Do Until Help Arrives

The Heimlich Maneuver


This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.


And I'm Pat Bodnar. Today, we will provide a short guide to first aid.



Bystanders give first aid to victims hit by a speeding car during Queen's Day celebrations in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, on April 30
Doctors in hospital emergency rooms often see accidental poisonings. A frightened parent arrives with a child who swallowed a cleaning liquid. Or perhaps the harmful substance is a medicine. Or it might be a product meant to kill insects. These are common causes of accidental poisoning.

In cases like this, seek medical help as soon as possible. Save the container of whatever caused the poisoning. And look on the container for information about anything that stops the effects of the poison.

Save anything expelled from the mouth of the victim. That way, doctors can examine it.


In the past, some people forced poisoning victims to empty the stomach. They used a liquid -- syrup of ipecac -- to do this. But a leading medical organization no longer advises parents to keep syrup of ipecac. The American Academy of Pediatrics says some poisons can cause additional damage when they come back up the throat.


Millions of people know how to give abdominal thrusts to save a person choking on something trapped in the throat.

The American Red Cross says a rescuer should first hit the person on the back five times between the shoulder bones. These back blows may ease the choking. If the airway is still blocked, the Red Cross suggests pushing hard five times along the victim's abdomen. The abdomen is the area between the chest and the hipbones.

You can do these abdominal thrusts by getting directly behind a sitting or standing person. Put your arms around the victim's waist. Close one hand to form a ball. Place it over the upper part of the stomach, below the ribs. Place the other hand on top. Then push forcefully inward and upward. Repeat the abdominal thrusts until the object is expelled from the mouth.


For someone in late pregnancy or who is very fat, place your hands higher than with normal abdominal thrusts. Place the hands at the base of the breastbone -- just above the place where the lowest ribs join. Then begin pushing, as with other victims.

The American Heart Association suggests another method in this case. The group advises chest thrusts instead of abdominal thrusts. For chest thrusts, put your arms under the victim's arms and your hands on the center of the victim's chest.


Even if you are the person choking, you can still help yourself. Place a closed hand over the middle of your abdomen just above your waist. Take hold of that hand with your other hand. Find a hard surface like a chair and rest your body on it. Then push your closed hand in and up.

Red Cross experts say taking these steps can save many lives. But they also say abdominal thrusts are not for people who have almost drowned. They say using the method could delay other ways to re-start breathing in the victim.


Hands-Only CPR

CPR is cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It forces air into the lungs and pumps blood and oxygen to the brain. Doctors say CPR greatly increases the chances that a person whose heart stops will survive. It increases the chances that he or she will suffer little or no brain damage.

The American Heart Association suggests two ways of helping. One combines the use of hands to pump the victim's chest with rescue breathing. The other method is called "Hands-Only CPR."


"Hands-Only" is for people who are unwilling or unable to perform rescue breathing. Some people fear infection. Others say they are afraid of making the patient worse.

But an expert in emergency medicine says a person cannot be worse than dead. Doctor Michael Sayre works at Ohio State University. He strongly urges people in contact with a victim to take action.


The American Heart Association tells how to take that action. It says you can recognize a person needing CPR because the person has collapsed. He or she is unconscious -- unable to communicate or react to surroundings or speech. His or her skin has lost color. The person is not breathing. If such conditions describe the situation, chances are the heart has stopped beating.

You should act by calling for help, or sending someone else. Even if you cannot do mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing, you can perform hands-only CPR. You can do chest compressions that help to keep blood flowing to the brain, heart and other organs.

To perform the compressions, place one hand over the other and press firmly on the center of the victim's chest. Push down about five centimeters. Aim for one hundred compressions each minute. Doctor Sayre says you do not need a measuring stick or a timing device.


If the heart does not start beating, continue with chest compressions until help arrives. For a choking victim who is unconscious with no heartbeat, clear the airway first. Then do chest compressions.

Doctor Sayre suggests that medical workers do both the breathing method and chest compressions. He says some victims, including babies, need the mouth-to-mouth breathing with the compressions. Still, the doctor says it is better to do just chest compressions than to do nothing. CPR is not difficult to learn. Many organizations teach it.



Most CPR training now includes how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Defibrillators use electric shocks to correct abnormal heartbeats that can lead to sudden death. Such devices are found increasingly in public places like airports, restaurants and office buildings. A recorded voice on the AED guides the user. The voice provides detailed information about what to do.

The defibrillator of today has developed from the first defibrillators. Medical historians say the devices appeared late in the nineteenth century.

An early example of Claude Beck's defibrillator

In the nineteen twenties, American Claude Beck performed the first surgical operations to repair damaged hearts. Doctor Beck worked at what is now called Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio.

Another doctor, Carl J. Wiggers, had kept laboratory animals with heart stoppage alive by massaging their hearts. Then he followed this rubbing with electrical defibrillation. This led Claude Beck in his efforts to help return normal heart actions to human patients.

In nineteen forty-seven, Doctor Beck saved a patient with a defibrillator device for the first time. The doctor's success led others to further develop the method and device. Today small, movable AEDs can identify heart rhythms and produce electricity to treat victims of heart stoppage.



Bacteria can enter the body through even the smallest cut in the skin. So medical experts advise people to treat all wounds. Clean the cut with soap and water. Then cover the wound while it heals.

The Mayo Clinic health centers suggest several steps if bleeding is severe. First, if possible, have the person lie down and raise the legs. Remove dirt from the wound and press on it with a clean cloth or piece of clothing. If you cannot find anything clean, use your hand.

Keep putting pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops or medical help arrives. Do not remove the cloth if the blood comes through it. Instead, put another cloth on top and continue pressure. If the bleeding does not stop with direct pressure, put pressure on the artery that carries blood to the wound.


In the past, people were advised to stop severe bleeding with a tourniquet. This device is made with a stick and a piece of cloth or a belt. But experts now say tourniquets are dangerous because they can crush blood passages and nerves.

If a wound seems infected, let the victim rest. Physical activity can spread the infection. Treat the wound with a mixture of salt and water until medical help arrives. Add nine and one-half milliliters of salt to each liter of boiled water. Place a clean cloth in the mixture and then put the cloth on the wound. But be sure not to burn the skin.


To learn more about first aid, ask a hospital or organization like a Red Cross or Red Crescent Society for information. Training may be offered in your area.

If you know first aid methods, you can be calmer and more helpful in case of emergency.



This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Mario Ritter. I'm Bob Doughty.


And I'm Pat Bodnar. Listen again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Employment Dialogues

Click on one or more of the following links to participate in real life conversations about employment; job application or on the job experience.
May I speak with the manager?

Can you work the day shift next Monday?
What job are you applying for?
Do you know how to repair radios and TVs?
Can you tell me a little more about the position?
Are you applying for a job as a stock clerk?
I see you don't have any experience in word processing.

How is your "Business English?"

Take this test to determine your Business English Level. It's a good test of your understanding of English usage in the workplace environment.

Business English Level


1. Waiter and Waitress

2. Registered Nurses

3. Housekeepers and their assistants


1. Why should we hire you?

2. An example of a bad job interview. (humorous)

3. Job Interview Tips

Workplace Safety

Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists. Read this useful information about eye protection on the job.

Eye Protection

Understanding the sources of indoor environmental contaminants and controlling them can often help prevent or resolve building-related worker symptoms. Practical guidance for improving and maintaining the indoor environment is available. Read about indoor environment and worker safety.

Indoor Environment

What can I do if there is a health emergency at my job? Here are some simple first aid tips.

First Aid On The Job

How to apply a pressure bandage: Youtube video

Basic Treatment for minor injuries: Youtube video

Slips and Falls; a video with written text