Author Archive

Coming back to China

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Hi all – I’m coming back to China for a visit from the beginning of June. I will spend some time in Beijing and it would be great to see you if you are there. I am thinking of visiting CUPL one day. Send me an email if you’re going to be around and maybe we can arrange to meet up.  Jon 


Wednesday, February 6th, 2008


Welcome to the blog

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Welcome to my English language and culture blog. This blog originated as a resource for students of my English writing and contemporary British culture courses. I ran these courses at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) in 2007. I hope the material available here will be useful to other students of English too.  Please do leave a comment and let me know what you think of the site. Best wishes, Jon 


Sunday, June 17th, 2007

The first part of the examination will be this Wednesday, as I explained in the last class. Just to remind you, I expect to see that you have chosen a question from the list of questions (see the last post), that you have done some independent research (you can show me your notes to demonstrate this), that you have brainstormed to generate diverse ideas (again, I expect to see notes to show this), that you have chosen a central claim for your essay and that you have begun to plan it.

In order to be very clear then, what you need to show me in the class on Wednesday is the following. Please bring everything to class. You do not need to hand it in, but I want to see it and to discuss it with each one of you.

  • evidence of research (notes, statistics, web addresses, etc.)
  • evidence of brainstorming (lists of ideas, diagrams, flow charts, etc.)
  • your planned central claim (the ‘thesis statement’ that will form the basis of your argument – this should be one sentence)
  • an outline plan of the essay (a list of paragraphs with notes on the content)

You do not need to write the essays for this week. I want to talk through your plans with you before you write the final draft.

 OK – good luck! If you have any questions, please post them here.

End of course assessments

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

We’re getting near the end of the course, so I think it’s time to begin talking about assessment. I’m not going to set you exams, instead I’m going to ask you to write an essay – or tw essays if you are following both the writing and the Blair’s Britain courses.

 I’m going to give you a wide choice of questions – you can see them here:

End of semester essay questions

The questions are quite hard, but that’s so you can all show me how clever you are!

 I’ll talk more about the assessment tomorrow and you’ll have a chance to ask me any questions then. You can also ask questions by posting comments to this entry.

 See you tomorrow. 

Superstition in Britain

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Last week we had two classes on superstition. In the first, we looked at some common superstitions in the UK. In the second we tried doing some palm reading on each other.

 You can see my presentation here:


 For the text we read in the evening class, see the link below…


Religion in Britain

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Last week we talked about religion in Britain including the statistics generated by this year’s tearfund survey. You ca find the survey at the address below:

I’m afraid the BBC interview with the rabbi and the bishop that we listened to last week will have been taken down now – they only leave their radio programmes online for one week. Sorry I didn’t get around to putting up a link earlier. However, you can find plenty of news stories related to the subject of faith schools on the Guardian newspaper website which has special sections on religion in Britain and on education:,,179375,00.html

For stories specifically on the faith schools debate see:,,1034028,00.html 



Making claims in writing

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

In the last writing class we looked at claims and found that there are at least three different kinds of claims:

  • Factual claims
  • Value claims
  • Policy claims

These three different claims require different kinds of evidence and it is important that you recognise which kind of claim you are making in an essay so you can make sure that the evidence you supply is appropriate. If you are making a factual claim you will need to supply factual evidence and you will need to evaluate the reliability or trustworthiness of that evidence. If you are making a value claim, in order to make an argument, you will have to begin by supplying other criteria by which to judge the values you are arguing for. If you are making a policy claim, you will have to combine agruments about values (which outcomes are desirable?) with arguments about facts (what policies will in practice produce the desired outcomes?).

In tomorrow’s class we will discuss what makes a good claim. You can see material for last week’s class and for tomorrow’s at:



Online Writing Advice

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Have a look at the page below for some useful advice on writing…

2007 Turner Prize Shortlist

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

The shortlist for this year’s Turner Prize has just been announced. One of them, Mark Wallinger, was featured in the exhibition some of you visited in Beijing.

You can read a short news story about the announcement at: