I have an exciting year of conferences and workshops ahead. Here are the highlights and handouts!
- Penn-TESOL East Fall Conference, Saturday November 9. “From Generic Writing to Writing Genres.” PowerPoint.
- Maryland English Institute, invited workshop on teaching EAP Writing for MEI faculty, November 15
- University of Trento, Italy, invited 2-day workshop on effective EAP instruction, February 17-18, 2014
- Writing Research Across Borders, Feb 19-22, Paris, France. Oh yes, France.
- Making Thinking Visible: Comparing Genre-Based Pedagogy and Cognitive Strategy Instruction (paper with Dr. Skip MacArthur and Dr. Zoi Philippakos). PowerPoint slides here.
- Exploring Disciplinary Genres (colloquium, with Ryan Miller and Silvia Pessoa): The Conflicting Case of the MBA Case Study. PowerPoint slides here.
- TESOL 2014, Portland, Oregon (March 26-29)
- What Graduate Writers Really Need (invited session, with Chris Feak)
- Disciplinary Differences, Disciplinary Genres (colloquium, with Gena Bennett, Silvia Pessoa, Ryan Miller, and Kyung-Hee Bae)
My short essay/conference review From Generic Writing to Writing Genres has been published in TESOL’s Second Language Writing Interest Section Newsletter (October 2013). In it, I argue (again!) in favor of a genre-based writing pedagogy as an antidote to the five-paragraph essay. I also summarize my 2012 and 2013 conference blitz, and you can find all the PPTs and handouts here: CCCC 2012, TESOL 2012, Genre 2012, SSLW 2012, EATAW 2013, and TESOL 2013.
Talking about the five-paragraph essay (as I so often seem to be), there was a great article in Slate recently denouncing the (five-paragraph) essay component of the SAT (one of the standardized tests taken by American high-school students as part of their university application). The title says it all: “We are teaching high school students to write terribly.” The article quotes Professor Anne Ruggles-Gere of the University of Michigan writing center:
“For those trained in the five-paragraph, non-fact-based writing style that is rewarded on the SAT, shifting gears can be extremely challenging. “The SAT does [students] no favors,” Gere says, “because it gives them a diminished view of what writing is by treating it as something that can be done once, quickly, and that it doesn’t require any basis in fact.”
As Professor Gere says elsewhere in the article, the result is that college writing teachers like me have to un-teach what students have “learned” about writing — and it’s not just American students. International students trained to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or other English language proficiency tests also arrive with what Linda Flower has called a “limited literacy.”
Lest you think we exaggerate, here is a horrifyingly amusing blog post by Jed Applerouth, a teacher and doctoral student who takes the SAT regularly to help him tutor high school students to ace/beat the test. Since SAT essay raters are explicitly trained to ignore the veracity of the writing, here’s how to get a top score:
I stuck John Fitzgerald Kennedy in a Saxon war council during the middle ages, grappling with whether to invade the neighboring kingdom of Lilliput. Barrack Husein Obama shared a Basque prison cell with Winston Churchill, and the two inmates plotted to overthrow General Franco. Cincinnati’s own, Martin Luther King Jr. sought out a political apprenticeship with his mentor, Abraham James Lincoln, famed Ontario prosecutor.
Finally, an example of writing with absolutely no communicative value whatsoever. The SAT essay as anti-genre?!
(Hat tip to my Facebook friends and friends-of-friends for these links.)
You can find all the PowerPoints and handouts from my sessions at TESOL 2013 in Dallas here. To recap, they were:
Teaching the Genres of Graduate Writing
with Christine Feak, University of Michigan
Writing is both essential and challenge for graduate students. This hands-on workshop demonstrates a toolbox of techniques for teaching the genres of graduate writing. Learn how your students can identify and analyze genres, build a mini corpus, and benefit from collaborative writing. Adaptations for participants’ teaching contexts will be discussed. (PowerPoint and references)
Grammar Choices that Matter in Academic Writing
Introducing my textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers (University of Michigan Press, 2012). You can read more about the book here.
Roundtable Discussion: Supporting ESL Graduate Students
Notes from the discussion will be published here soon. We had a great discussion with colleagues from around the country and as far away as Ukraine. If you’d like to be part of the ongoing conversation about supporting (ESL) graduate students, please contact me; I’m going to set up a listserv.
I’ll be presenting at these conferences in the coming months. Stop by and say hallo!
- Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), March 2012, St. Louis: “Preparing and Supporting Graduate Student Writers Across the University” (my paper is called “Teaching the Genres of Academic Writing”). Handouts are here.
- TESOL, Philadelphia, March 2012: “Preparing for Excellence: Practical Strategies for Improving Graduate Writing.” Workshop with Christine Feak, Grace Canseco, and Jennifer Greer. Handouts and Powerpoints.
- Also at TESOL: “Making Grammar Choices in Advanced Academic Writing” (publisher session for my new grammar textbook from the University of Michigan Press, due August 2012; sneak preview in my handout here)
- Genre 2012 – Rethinking Genre Twenty Years Later: An International Conference on Genre Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 26-29, 2012: “Genre and Cognition in an MBA Program.” (results from a needs analysis of language skills required for international students in UD’s MBA program)
Yesterday, I was excited to receive my copies of the new TESOL publication, Effective Second Language Writing (in the Classroom Practices series), which opens with my chapter: “Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay: A Content-First Approach.”
In my essay — which is far longer than five paragraphs! — I set out the arguments against teaching (only) the five-paragraph essay/theme form, which I have been making for several years along with my former colleagues Andy McCullough and Ruelaine Stokes at Michigan State’s English Language Center. I then describe the sustained content-based writing course Andy and I developed at MSU for the advanced level of the IEP. (Another article we all wrote together appears in this month’s Second Language Writing Interest Section newsletter.)
The volume was edited with remarkable thoroughness and patience by Susan Kasten, and includes a total of 18 chapters on different aspects of second-language writing from around the world. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it. Come to think of it, it’s so long since I wrote my chapter, I should probably re-read that, too, and see what I said. (This project was launched at TESOL 3 years ago!)