I will describe the contents of the five modules, look at the course plan, explain briefly what the final project is, and mention the bonus material that accompanies the course.
Before you jump into the course contents, you should take the pretest to check your familiarity with academic writing and ways of teaching it to English language learners.
As I mentioned in the “Welcome lecture,” each module has a short video introduction, several recorded lectures, an accompanying tape script, a reading, an interview (in three of the modules), a self-assessment exercise, and a graded quiz.
For each lecture, you have the choice of watching the video or reading the tape script–or doing both. I recommend that you print out each tape script so you can add your own comments and questions to your printed course book.
The emphasis in this course is on how to teach academic writing. However, all the material in the course can be applied to teaching how to write a literary essay.
The course has five modules. You should probably begin with the first module. Since this is a self-paced course, you can follow the other four modules in any order you wish, depending on your own needs and interests.
The first module describes the context for teaching academic writing. The second module explores successful language teaching and learning. The next module deals with the features of good writing. The fourth module shows you how to develop ideas for writing with learners. The last module focuses on getting learners to improve their writing.
Module 1: Context for teaching academic writing
In the first lecture, I look at the challenges in teaching and learning academic writing. I talk about the reasons for teaching academic writing as well as define academic English and academic writing.
In the second lecture, I focus on the problems English language learners face in learning to write at an acceptable level. Then I mention some effective ways to teach academic writing as a prelude to later lectures.
Lecture 3, “The context of English language teaching,” is a quiz. You have to identify whether five statements related to English language instruction are true or false.
The fourth lecture examines three key issues in the academic classroom. The first deals with the distinction between conversational English and academic English. The second issue looks at the content classroom versus the language classroom. The third issue touches on the distinction between comprehensible input and output.
There is an informative interview with Kelly Reider, ELL specialist and founder of English Learner Portal, on using the WIDA writing rubrics with English language learners.
The reading is entitled “Teaching in the dyslexia-friendly classroom.” It is an article I wrote that focuses on a multisensory approach to teaching English language learners with learning challenges.
Module 2: What is successful English language teaching and learning?
This module sets the stage for using interesting writing strategies with ESL language learners.
In the first lecture, I look at the elements for successful teaching and learning by describing the ESA method for getting students to learn English: Engage, Study, and Activate.
The second lecture focuses on teaching the features of effective writing, such as focus, organization, and style. These are features we will develop more deeply in later modules.
The reading in the module, “11 recommendations to improve writing,” shows teachers how to explicitly teach appropriate writing strategies.
Module 3: Features of good writing
This is the longest module in the course because there are so many elements in teaching your learners to write well.
In the first lecture, we look at writing simple declarative sentences, using different kinds of verbs in English, and writing more complicated sentences.
In the second lecture, we look at ways of varying sentence structure. For example, I talk about mixing simple and compound sentences as well as using complex sentences.
In the third lecture, I describe ways of teaching good paragraph organization, using for example a topic sentence with a controlling idea.
There’s also a lecture on teaching the distinction between coherence and cohesion.
In addition, there are lectures on showing your students how to paraphrase, summarize, and use direct and indirect quotes.
Finally, there’s a brief look at getting your students to avoid plagiarism.
The reading is a visually appealing presentation of teaching tenses to ESL students.
Module 4: How to develop ideas for writing
The first lecture deals with doing research before writing. I look at different sources of information, such as primary and secondary sources. The lecture also provides a handy reference worksheet, a useful way for learners to keep track of sources of information.
I also talk about the SQ3R method for reading comprehension: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.
The second lecture in the module looks at different note taking techniques that you can show your students. These include the two-column method, the outline method, and the flow-based method.
The third lecture focuses on ways to sharpen your students critical thinking skills. I show six critical thinking strategies that lay the foundation for writing a good argumentative essay.
The fourth lecture presents some ideas on free writing or stream of consciousness writing.
There is an interview with the effervescent Dorothy Zemach, author of 50 ways to Practice Writing, on the writing process.
The reading, “Teaching secondary students to write effectively,” shows teachers how to integrate writing and reading to emphasize key writing features.
Module 5: How learners can improve their writing
Module five deals with the three steps that are often missing in the second language classroom: revising, editing, and proofreading.
Self-editing a text is often overlooked by students because they don't think it's worth the effort. Bad move!
In revising a text, students ensure the overall unity and coherence of the whole essay.
In editing a text, students look to improve their vocabulary and sentence structure.
When students proofread for errors, they correct any mechanical mistakes, such as grammar and spelling, for example.
These three actions make for a much better score on an essay.
Lastly, there is a presentation of the MLA 8 style guide which explains proper formatting and the use of in-text citations when citing sources.
The reading focuses on the writing errors that English language learners make.
There’s a stimulating interview with Nick Walker, an ESL teacher, who created a marvelous self-correcting tool called the Virtual Writing Tutor.
You will see that it is very easy to navigate in the course because of its crystal-clear layout. By clicking on any particular lecture you go to both the video presentation and the tape script. You can stop the tape script at any time by clicking on the pause button. And as I mentioned, you can print out the tape script to annotate with questions and comments.
As you work through the course, you will have an opportunity to plan the final project, preparing a two-lesson teaching unit for your students.
The final project, due at the end of the course, gives you the opportunity to put in the practice some of the knowledge about teaching writing to English language learners.
You will prepare two 75-minute lessons. Your lesson plan will include the following elements:
- Lesson objectives
- Materials (listening or reading texts) you will use
- Timing for each part of the lesson
- Teaching notes for individual, pair or small group work
- Evaluation for judging whether your students have performed adequately
There is also a special set of bonus materials for teaching literature through film which I describe in the Welcome lecture. There are five lectures which appear at the end of the course based on my own classroom practice teaching literary analysis through film.
There you have it: a snapshot of what you can expect in this course. We took a quick tour of the contents of the five modules, which include 36 lectures, five readings, and three interviews.
It gives you a good idea of what is offered in the course. You are expected to do all the graded quizzes and self-assessments as well as to complete the final project. You are also encouraged to comment frequently on as many lectures as you can.
I would like to end with a quote from Stephen Covey, author of the influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His second habit is called, “Begin with the end in mind.”
What did he mean by this? He explained it this way, and I quote: "To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction" (Covey 98).
You can now begin with the pretest. Check your knowledge of the writing process and ways of teaching academic writing.