They said keep a journal … yeah, that’s not going to happen, but I am happy to share two documents I created as part of training the English Language Institute faculty to move to remote instruction as our campus rapidly shut down in the last few days due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. I presented these as part of hours of in-person and (later) online workshops and demonstrations spread over 3 slightly hectic days.
We decided to limit our technology to platforms licensed and supported by the University which we felt gave the biggest return on the investment of time without making excessive demands on faculty who are less comfortable with technology. So we’re primarily using Zoom for “live” teaching, and Canvas (our LMS) and GoogleApps for those feeling a bit more adventurous.
These Google Docs are licensed with Creative Commons so you can copy, adapt, and share them. Hope they’re useful to other programs living through these challenging times!
I was inspired by Rachael Cayley’s excellent plenary at the Consortium on Graduate Communication’s Summer Institute last year to post more about successful lessons on my blog. So here goes … My annual summer gig for the last 8 years has been to teach a Second Language Acquisition course for Delaware K-12 teachers. Our state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of English learners, who now account for almost 9% of total public school enrollment. However, we have a critical shortage of certified ESL teachers, which we have tried to address in part through the University of Delaware’s Additional Certification in ESL program, which I created and coordinate. Our strategy is to train as many existing teachers as possible in the theory and methods of ESL teaching so that they can not only support ELs directly but also disseminate their expertise in their schools.
Which brings me to last Monday and the first day of the 2019 course in Dover.* Continue reading “New Language Immersion Experience”
The third edition of my co-authored textbook Q:Skills for Success, Reading/Writing 5 has just been published by Oxford University Press. The new edition is a welcome refresh for the series, which I started writing in 2007 (I know exactly how old it is because I was remember working on the first edition at my computer in Michigan with my newborn son napping in my arms!).
The third edition adds several new readings, including a chapter on the value (or not) of learning foreign languages and another on the gig economy. There are also a ton of videos on the companion website — you’ll even hear Scott Douglass and myself narrative the “Critical Thinking Skills” presentations. So as a bonus, you’ll get British, Canadian, and American accents throughout the book. We’ve also updated the vocabulary lists to align with the Oxford 5000 and Oxford Phrasal Academic Lexicon, which was a really interesting process.
You can get exam copies of any level of Q from your friendly OUP sales rep. It will be available for sale from Amazon and other fine retailers — it’s very new, so it’s not yet appearing everywhere. There is also a “split” edition in two halves, A and B.
What do you think of the new edition? Do let us know!
Are your students lack of syntactic accuracy? Take a look at my column in this month’s Cambridge Grammar Newsletter on how to use lack, lack of, and similar noun/verb pairings.
Quick post to end the year and let you know that I’m writing for the revived Cambridge Grammar and Beyond newsletter. My December post was about the tricky verbs make and let. Let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to answer in future columns!
Make me do it, or let me do it?
I was a bit surprised recently when one of my colleagues told me she’d head that I oppose teaching students how to cite sources.
I presume this came something I’d posted on Twitter or some rant at a conference. But no, I’m not opposed to teaching citation. Continue reading “I’m not anti-citation (as such)”
I received a spam email the other day with the subject line Call for paper. This is charming. Spam, but charming spam nonetheless. This is either from someone who desperately needs to read Dorothy Zemach’s wonderful English for Scammers, or someone who desperately needs office supplies. I choose to believe the latter. Thus, in an effort to put off the journal review I’m supposed to be writing, I humbly share …
A call for paper (with apologies to the musical Oliver!)
Paper, glorious paper!
Clean A4 and foolscap.
I don't want to be rude
It's OK if it's called scrap.
Vellum, letter, and parchment too:
It's just something to write on.
Wood pulp in its many forms
Is what I've set my sight on.
Paper, glorious paper!
I'm anxious to fill it.
Quills, notebooks, or reams
My ink's ready; let's spill it.
Please replenish my printer drawer,
Torn, folded, or mailer.
Oh paper! writable paper! printable paper! just send me paper!
There’s something about the phrase good writing that bothers me. Don’t get me wrong, I love good writing, I try to produce good writing, and I really want my students to get better at writing.
But when I see generic lists of tips or, worse, rules for good writing, I always want to ask “writing what?” As I said in Changing Practices in the L2 Writing Classroom: Moving Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay: “We don’t just write. We write something to someone for some purpose.” What makes good writing in one situation would be out of place in another. That’s why a lot of Onion and McSweeney’s parodies work so well (this list of “top millennial injuries reported in urgent-care facilities” detours into a rant against the stereotyping of millennials, while using the word existential correctly, unlike some newspapers of record).
So I was rather concerned by a piece that circulated back in January with Steven Pinker’s “13 rules for writing better.” Oh good. Only 13.* Now, to be clear, I am a fan of Pinker: he signed my copy of The Language Instinct when he came to speak at the Cambridge Union in about 1998. He was also the first person I ever saw using a PowerPoint presentation, which looked pretty funny against the ornate wood paneling. I think he’s a great writer about linguistics**, and judging by the number of books he sells, so do many others. Continue reading “Sorry, there are no rules for good writing”
[Changing Practices for the L2 Writing Classroom: Moving Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay] is a thorough look at the research and practices surrounding the use of the five-paragraph essay, particularly as it has been employed in second language writing instruction, though I believe it speaks to all writing classrooms. John Warner, Inside Higher Education, 5/21/19
John Warner (author of Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities) interviewed Ann Johns and me last week about our new co-edited volume Changing Practices for the L2 Classroom: Moving Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay (available from the University of Michigan Press or as a Kindle e-book). You can read the full interview over on his blog on Inside Higher Education. We had a lot of fun jointly composing our answers to his questions by email (thanks, Google Docs!), and I think we’ve set out many of the arguments we and our contributing authors make throughout the book. Our goal in Changing Practices is:
dispelling the myths of universality (everyone writes five-paragraph essays and has always written them), transfer (the training-wheel syndrome), scaffolding (it will help them later), and generalization (all students write essays in all their classes).
John takes a slightly different approach to the the five-paragraph essay in his book, viewing it as a symptom of many other problems in the US education system. I definitely recommend reading the book: he has an interesting background as a composition teacher, and he makes important points about the larger picture of writing in schools and, particularly, universities. In our volume, we’re not really trying to kill the five-paragraph essay (which I jokingly called graphicide on Twitter recently!) but rather to encourage teachers and curriculum designers to change their practices, even if that means starting by revising just one assignment from an “essay” to a genre.
Take a look at the interview and let me know what you think!