Inside my genre-based writing presentation!

Tamara Jones has written a lovely two-part description of my recent workshop on genre-based pedagogy and Inside Writing at 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!

Q: Skills for Success, 2nd edition (2015) is here!

CoverOxford 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!

Webinar: Genre-Based Writing Instruction

My webinar on Genre-Based Writing Instruction on Friday, October 24, is now available as an archived recording. The quality is a bit choppy, but you should get the general idea. I am also often available to give live professional development workshops and presentations!

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!

Introducing “Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Students” (video)

Grammar Choices (2nd edition coming January '19) | More information
Second Edition

Here’s a short video I made in 2012 at the Symposium of Second Language Writing at Purdue introducing the first edition of  Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers and explaining how and I why I cross-referenced my  book with the 3rd edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students, both from the University of Michigan Press. Please note that the second edition is now available (2019).

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 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 welcome feedback from users or reviewers of Grammar Choices. You can leave a comment below or on the Michigan ELT blog or contact me directly. Exam/review/desk copies are available now from the publisher, and you and your students can buy the book directly from the Press, from, or in class sets from your university bookstore.

“Grammar Choices” — available now!

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!

I welcome feedback from users or reviewers of Grammar Choices. You can leave a comment below or on the Michigan ELT blog or contact me directly. Exam/review/desk copies are available now from the publisher, and you and your students can buy the book directly from the Press, from, or in class sets from your university bookstore.

Anatomy of a book launch: Grammar Choices is proofed!

The verb proof refers to the process of “activating yeast” so that your bread will rise. I won’t torture the analogy too much, but I’ve just finishing proofing my textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers, which in its own way activates the final stages of the publishing process. Now, I just need to let it rise … OK, never mind.

Since I last wrote, a very patient typesetter has decoded the multiple layers of corrections and changes made by the editor, development editor, and myself to the “copy” (the marked-up version of the manuscript) and set the text as it will look in the printed book. I then read through everything to make sure nothing had slipped through and everything still made sense. Independently, a proofreader checked for typos, inconsistencies, and other oddities. Then, the editor–the wonderful Kelly Sippell, ESL manager for the University of Michigan Press–reconciled the two sets of proofs and scoured the whole book with her eagle eyes. That led to a bunch of gently worded questions like “are you sure this reference to section 4.11 is correct?” (there is no section 4.11). With those resolved, the book marches on towards final editing and printing, appearing on the shelves some time in September, we expect.

The strangest error we found was in a table of statistics that I’ve used in a data commentary exercise. The table shows how different generations use social media for job hunting. It’s from an authentic source, but I mistyped the labels so that the generations covered were X (18-29), Y (40-47), and boomers (48-65). Yep, I created a missing generation … which includes me! For the record, Generation Y is defined in the report as 30-47. That’s why we have proofreaders to make sure our bread doesn’t fall flat.

Update (9/10/12): Grammar Choices is now available, fully proofed!

(Image credit: Flikr, Creative Commons License)

Grammar Choices takes another step forward!

My new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers is one step closer to publication! This a picture of the copyedited manuscript (about a ream of paper!), which I have reviewed, revised, rewritten in places, and am now ready to put in a big box and send it to Ann Arbor.

This has been a really fascinating step in the development of the book because it involved a development editor who was not familiar with the project checking every word I wrote and making suggestions and corrections. Quite a lot has been changed at this stage – we found examples that didn’t make sense, exercises which were too hard, and explanations which were rather strange! My students have helped by pointing out questions they couldn’t answer and answers that didn’t fit the questions.

Now, the managing editor will review my comments and make final decisions, and then a typesetter will figure out how to interpret the multiple layers of notes to turn the manuscript into “pages” (basically a PDF proof of the book), which will be checked and revised again before we go to print. And good luck to the typesetter, as you can see!

Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers will be published by the University of Michigan Press, expected in August 2012.

TESOL 2012: Making Grammar Choices in Academic Writing

This is a recording of my session at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia introducing my forthcoming textbook, “Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Students.” Thanks to the ELI’s videographer, Lowell Riethmuller!

This is a recording of my session at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia introducing my forthcoming textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers from the University of Michigan Press (UPDATE: published, September 2012). Thanks to the ELI’s videographer, Lowell Riethmuller! You can also download the handout and other materials.

(Yes, I know the still image in the video frame looks like I’m performing a one-man show of Animal Farm, but I can’t seem to change it!  I’m surprisingly normal in the rest of it.)

Graduate Writing Sessions at TESOL 2012

If you’re in the great city of Philadelphia for TESOL 2012, please join me for two presentations on teaching graduate writing:

  • Making Grammar Choices in Advanced Academic Writing (introducing my new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers from the University of Michigan Press). Thursday, 4pm, room 118B.
  • Preparing for Excellence: Strategies for Teaching Graduate Writing with Chris Feak, Grace Canseco, and Jennifer Greer. Friday, 10am, Marriot Independence Ballroom I.

Handouts, PowerPoints, and bibliographies available here.

Q: Skills for Success 5 Reading/Writing is out now!

I just received my sparkling new copy of Q: Skills for Success, Reading Writing 5 (Advanced), the textbook I wrote with Scott Douglas for Oxford University Press. You can read a sample unit on OUP’s global website (Unit 2: What is lost when a language disappears? — one of the units I wrote!). You need to register for Oxford’s Teachers Club first (free).

Our book is written for advanced-level students to help develop critical reading and writing skills along with grammar and vocabulary. We used authentic texts from a wide range of sources and academic disciplines — from linguistics to business to communications to recycling to a whole short story by the great Nick Hornby (“Small Country”). Students also get access to Q Online Practice, which has at least one practice activity for every skill in every unit in the book (about 100 extra exercises). We’ve also written the teacher’s book, and that has answers, tips, alternative assignments (in case you don’t like ours!), and rubrics. Update 11/20/11: The Teacher’s Handbook with Test Generator is now available from your OUP rep (I haven’t seen it yet in print!).

A great deal of planning, writing, and re-writing has gone into the book (Scott and I have been working on this project for over 3 years!), and we hope you like using it! Every reading, every exercise, and every skill box has been looked at by many pairs of eyes (not all of which saw the same thing!) in an exhaustive — and at times, exhausting — process. In the writing assignments, we encourage students to write three drafts of their essays. In our case, we wrote far more than that! Leafing through my copy, I’m very pleased with the product and grateful to the editors who finally got our manuscript into a printable state.

Contact your friendly local Oxford rep for an exam copy! Feedback is most welcome.

Nigel Caplan & Scott Roy Douglas, Q: Skills for Success Reading and Writing 5 Student Book Pack (includes Q Online Practice). New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-19-475642-6. (Available at