I’m only staying for the first half of this, as I want to head to the MaW SIG open forum, but hopefully the first half will be the best half! 😉 I think I actually wanted to be in the Forum on Different Perspectives on Feedback, but at 2 minutes before start time, I am actually too exhausted to try and start finding the appropriate room in this absolutely vast building. So EAP writing it is!
15 minutes per talk then questions, so I should catch just under 2 talks.
Integrating simulations in a seminar based approach to EAP writing
Learning the context and conventions of writing in another language is a great challenge for students (Hyland, 2003)
The advantage of a content-based approach is providing a more focused background and vocabulary for students’ writing. However, non-native speakers may be reticent in seminar situations. A simulation enables students to participate in a real-life like situation by assuming real roles. It is a reality of function, as participants have to act according to a role. The environment is simulated, life-like but not real. It is structured.
4 stages to a simulation:
- Briefing (readings and discussion; at the end of the stage, instructions, handing out roles)
- Preparation/group work, depending on the type of simulation. Debates work well, so students are on one side or the other.
- The simulation stage is where the debate takes place, so students give persuasive speeches and discuss.
- There is finally a debriefing for some cooling off.
- Learners are motivated and gain opportunities for meaningful practice.
- Creativity is encouraged.
- Realism and relevance are injected into the classroom.
How about in EAP writing?
Readings and discussions can give students background/information about essay topics.
Sample simulation 1: Endangered languages
- Students are given the above situation. They receive roles for the hearing. Readings are assigned too. Journal articles and newspaper articles. Videos are watched.
- Students spend a class period and time outside class preparing. Then in a subsequent class, the hearing takes place.
- Several writing assignments can be integrated into this: summary responses to the readings, journal entries describing the simulation role, argumentative essay, different topics possible.
Why do students like this?
By the time they write about the topic, they are primed by all the background information. They gain an opportunity to be creative in developing their roles. Most students enjoy debating.
Some students felt shy in role, some felt the roles were too restrictive, some thought too much research was involved. Some students were too dominant.
Simulations provide an effective framework for thinking about the topic of the essay and lots of background information. More in-depth reading and discussion is promoted. 4 skills are integrated.
Jennifer Macdonald: Beyond the 5 paragraph essay
This refers to the formulaic “McEssay”/IELTS essay – intro, three body paragraphs, conclusion; based on personal opinion/experience. Not based on external sources/research.
It shouldn’t be the sole genre of writing classes, as it only really exists in writing courses. Corpus data suggests that other genres of writing are more common for undergrads and postgrads at university. So to prepare them for what awaits them, they need something else. They need to be able to refer to source texts, for example. Many students’ English training focuses on preparation for a standardised test e.g. IELTS so they think 5 paragraph essay is all there is.
How can we break this mould?
- Teach concept of genre. Get students to think about it before and during writing.
- Unpack the genre. What is the purpose, what is wanted?
- Provide resources on genre that students can access independently
- Assign (For reading and writing) a variety of texts (explanation, definition, methodology, recount, case study etc.)
Genres are like footwear, need to use the right one in the right context. Not the end of the world if you don’t but it’s “kind of weird” if you don’t e.g. snowboots on the beach. Inappropriate.
Most likely you teach mixed disciplines/backgrounds so you probably can’t teach a genre with full authenticity but in the assignments you give, aim for as many aspects as possible. You also need to find work-arounds for research as much isn’t practical.
Look at the British Council LearnEnglish Writing with a purpose website.
Explanation: descriptive account, written to demonstrate understanding of the object of study and the ability to describe and explain systematically how it functions.
-> Can be a paragraph (topic sentences, paragraph-level skills can be introduced)
What to describe? Anything! Draw on web etc.
(Within academia this would be part of another genre.)
Definition: structures used in this genre are of particular interest.
Methodology recount: description of procedures undertaken by a writer – methods, results, discussion.
At this point it was nearly time for me to leave and I also ran out of steam! Though corrected now, I kept making typos because my fingers (and brain?) were so, so tired!! Anyway, it’s ok because Jennifer’s slides are available here. And the upshot of it all was that there is life beyond the 5 paragraph essay and lots of it! I will definitely be having a look at her slides when my brain is functioning better…