[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 (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!
The book started out as a popular panel at TESOL 2017, but it was a much more complex process than just writing up the papers we presented. We expanded the scope, both in terms of authors and topics, and really focused on the changes we recommend in practice. We wanted to write this book not only for the anti-5PE choir (in which we all sing loudly) but also for teachers and administrators who are hesitant about or resistant to these practices or who sense that the five-paragraph essay is inadequate but aren’t sure what to do instead.
As Ann Johns and I wrote in the conclusion, we don’t expect this one book to be the death knell of the five-paragraph essay. We need new textbooks and teacher handbooks (we’re working on both – watch this space!). But Changing Practices is an important step forwards, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done here and thankful for the amazing authors who contributed to the volume.
Why did we produce a second edition? The first edition of Grammar Choices was published in 2012, so it’s had a healthy life-span of 6 years, but of course academic English hasn’t changed much in that time! With any second edition, you have to strike a balance between adding and changing enough to justify a new edition, while not alienating users who liked the first edition. There’s always going to be a reading, exercise, or example that you’re angry at me for dropping (sorry).
A new collection which I helped edit has just been published by the University of Michigan Press. Supporting Graduate Writers: Research, Curriculum, Program Design (Simpson, Caplan, Cox, & Phillis, 2016) is the first edited volume to discuss options in designing writing support for graduate students writing in English both as their first or additional language. You can find it on the Press’s website, amazon.com, and all fine booksellers. The blurb is below the break. Thanks and congratulations to editors Steve Simpson, Michelle Cox, and Talinn Phillips as well as the amazing cast of contributors. It was a fascinating project to work on.
Tamara Jones has written a lovely two-part description of my recent workshop on genre-based pedagogy and Inside Writingat Howard Community College. Her writing is so vivid, I almost feel I was there. OK, I actually was there, but if you weren’t, you might enjoy reading about how she was converted to genre-based writing and the teaching/learning cycle. Thanks for the kind shout-out, Tamara!
Oxford University Press has just released the greatly improved 2nd edition of Q: Skills for Success. (UPDATE: The second edition of all levels in the series is now available for ordering. The first edition will remain available for at least another year, but check all this with your local Oxford representative.)
It’s been nearly 5 years since the first edition came out, and it’s been incredible to see it adopted by so many schools and universities around the world. For this second edition of Q: Reading/Writing 5 (co-authored by Scott Douglas and myself), we’ve updated the content, added some new readings, and responded to two common requests from teachers: more reading comprehension exercises (done!) and more writing models (done!). The models are especially exciting as they show students attainable standards of writing and include exercises that help them analyze why the writing works. The design is more appealing, and there’s a great big “Q” on the cover, so you can’t miss it. There’s also a video built into every unit and much tighter integration with the online practice site, now called iQ. Get it? I … Q … Can’t imagine why we never thought of that before. Oh, and the teacher presentation software, iTools (which I love using in the classroom!) comes on a USB stick, so no more installations from the DVD, which will cheer up our tech crew.
I’ll be sharing ideas for teaching from the new edition at JALT in Shizuoka, Japan, and also at Oxford Japan’s Professional Development Day in Kyoto in November. For samples, please contact your friendly Oxford rep. I hope you like it!
The webinar was hosted by Oxford University Press to introduce the pedagogy behind OUP’s new textbook series, Inside Writing. I explained the stages of the Teaching/Learning Cycle and demonstrated how we use it to teach academic, realistic genres such as product reviews, arguments, summaries, and data commentaries. We even did a successful Joint Construction: collaborative writing with a worldwide audience of over 100 people I couldn’t see interacting via a chat box!
And yes, the piece of paper on the table was my cheat sheet (I don’t get a teleprompter!). It was actually quite easy to tie my book into AWGS because Swales & Feak’s approach to writing is inextricably linked to language (grammar and vocabulary), and they were already using a somewhat functional approach to grammar. In fact, the third edition has a wonderful expanded discussion of old-new information patterns, which I develop in the last unit of Grammar Choices (my students’ favorite part of the book, usually).
We put a lot of thought into how much new terminology to introduce in Grammar Choices, and on the advice of Chris Feak (as in Swales & Feak) and our mutual editor, Kelly Sippell, I tried to stick to terms (technically, a metalanguage) that would be familiar at least to North American readers and especially to those using AWGS. I also wrote an expanded introduction which explains concepts that are a little less frequently used here, as well as a glossary. I was greatly encouraged at the recent Genre 2012 conference to hear Jim Martin, no less, of Sydney University endorse teaching materials that simplify systemic functional grammar’s daunting metalanguage into familiar terms, so hopefully my attempt to use functional principles with more “traditional” (structuralist) terminology will help writers benefit from the major insights of functional grammar without me having to explain it or them having to learn it!
I just got word that my new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers, has been printed and will be on show at the Symposium of Second Language Writing at Purdue this week (which is also when I’ll get my hands on an advance copy!).
You can also see it here on the University of Michigan Press website and download Unit 1 to whet your grammatical appetite!
Update (9/6/12): I just saw a pile of the books here at SSLW. Makes it all seem rather more real!