Hi blog followers and casual tourists: I’m working on the second edition of Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers. What would you like to see added or changed? Continue reading “Grammar Choices, 2nd Edition”
Here’s a blog post I wrote for the OUP Global site on teaching grammar through (extensive) reading. It’s loosely tied to Q:Skills for Success, but I’ve been batting around these ideas for some time. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Here’s my speaking schedule for the coming year. Come join me!
Kansas State University Intensive English Program (professional development workshop), December 15
EAP Conference at St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, February 24-25, 2017
- Workshop, “Genres That Work in the Writing Classroom”
- Plenary speaker. “Go with the Flow: Creating Cohesion in Academic Discourse”
AAAL Conference, Portland, March 17-19, 2017
- Connecting Process and Product: Mixed-Method Research into Collaborative Writing
TESOL Convention, Seattle, March 21-24, 2017 (handouts & slides here)
- “Myths of the Five-Paragraph Essay.” Second Language Writing Interest Section Academic Session, with Dana Ferris, Christine Ortmeier-Hooper, Luciana de Oliveira, Deborah Crusan, and Ann Johns.
- ” Argue, Contend, Exort: Teaching the Language of Argumentative Writing” with Silvia Pessoa, Ryan Miller, Tom Mitchel, and Sandra Zappa Hollman
- “Many Hands Make Writing Work: Planning Engaging Collaborative Writing Tasks” with Monica Farling
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.
My article from earlier this year in Modern English Teacher on integrated skills in EAP, which starts with a rather strained metaphor about learning to ride a bike, is now available online. Don’t be surprised to find a little bit of genre pedagogy sprinkled in, too, of course.
I just discovered this fantastic recording of a lecture by Mary Schleppegrell of the University of Michigan in which she introduces the use of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and argues convincingly for the incorporation of SFL metalanguage in order to give ELLs access to grade-level disciplinary texts. I’m going to use this as part of a blended course for Delaware K-12 teachers as they start to read Luciana de Oliveira and Mary Schleppegrell’s Focus on Grammar and Meaning.
I’ve started a page of grammar books for ESL/writing teachers as an antidote to answering student questions with “It just is …”. Please feel free to suggest good books and links I’ve missed.
I’ve spent much of the winter break typing up students’ papers for my dissertation research. The task was descriptive writing — first describing the student’s house, apartment, homestay, or dorm room, and then (after the intervention) writing a featured home article about a house for sale as if for a local newspaper. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was still struck by the number of students who tried to shoe-horn one or both tasks into a pseudo five-paragraph essay, and this despite the fact that neither prompt mentions essays or even paragraphs! In fact, the featured house article is taught as a genre with a regular structure that has little to do the so-called English theme. Some of the results are awkwardly amusing: Everyone has a house, even animals. I’m going to describe my house. Or: this house has two floors. First of all, the first floor. You can imagine the rest.
For anyone still harboring a sentimental attachment to the “ahrehtorical” (to quote Christine Ortmeier-Hooper) and ageneric (as I keep misquoting Christine Ortmeier-Hooper!) teaching of a universal form of bland, banal writing, here are some recent articles fighting the good fight for teacher genre-aware, context-specific writing skills:
- “I cannot prepare students to write their (history, philosophy, poli sci, etc.) papers” by John Warner in InsiderHigherEd
- “Finding a voice for argument in ELT” by Elizabeth O’Dowd in TESOL Connections
- “Let’s bury the five-paragraph essay” by on Talk With Teachers
- “Kill the 5-Paragraph Essay” by John Warner (again) –spot a theme here?
Plus a few of my previous thoughts on the subject:
- Who’s teaching my students to write rhetorical questions?
- From generic writing to genre-based writing
- (Yet) Another anti-5-paragraph-essay rant
Update: Well, this is getting interesting. Over on the TESOL blog, Rob Sheppard has written a spirited defense of the 5-paragraph essay in which he usefully critiques Brian Sztabnik’s rather over-enthusiastic piece. But we couldn’t let that stand, so Luciana de Oliveira and I have written a rebuttal, “Why We Still Won’t Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay.” Let the games commence!
Find out more at JALT 2015 this weekend in Shizuoka!
No, really, I’m not being ironic: who are you? And could you please stop? Two of my high-advanced students — smart people by all accounts — started their diagnostic essays thus:
Do you think profit should be the only motivation for businesses?
Should profit be the only goal for business?
And guess what? (OK, that one was rhetorical) The prompt was: Should profit be the only goal for a business? So, essentially, the students started their essay by asking me the same question I asked them. Oh yes, and the second student had even given the essay a title: Profit is the only goal for business. I need to teach them what a spoiler alert is.
Let me be clear: I’m not blaming, mocking, or criticizing my students. After all, they’re reproducing the poor writing strategies they’ve been taught, in which all writing must begin with a so-called “hook,” and proceed with the familiar tedium of the five-paragraph essay. I don’t really like teaching hooks at all in academic writing. They’re fine for a magazine or newspaper article where the writer’s success (and perhaps paycheck) depends on attracting the reader’s attention, but a hook is entirely useless in a class assignment, which it’s my job to read. I can’t choose not to read essays that don’t have my attention! In the end, what makes an academic argument engaging isn’t a weak rhetorical trope in the first sentence; it’s a thoughtful, balanced, and well-supported claim that’s developed coherently and cogently. Continue reading “Who is teaching my students to write rhetorical questions?”