I am teaching an advanced ESL course in
written communication this semester, and
for the third time I am using Blueprints 2, by Folse et al (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).
I like this book and I hope that I am
improving my understanding of how to use
it each time. The Blueprints textbook presents traditional essay formats--classification, process, comparison, cause-effect, etc...--as well
as including a considerable number of
grammatical points, each in the context
of an essay type which lends itself to
The first unit reviews paragraph form
and then transitions to essay form, so
that it is natural for the teacher to
draw connections between topic sentence
and thesis statement, supporting sentences
and body paragraphs, and concluding
sentence and concluding paragraph. This
unit also includes a nice section on
different ways to construct a "hook"
to draw the reader's attention.
My students had already completed their
first essay project before we started
preparing the first major essay activity
that concludes Folse's unit one. In our
first project we had done first drafts,
second drafts, collected the second drafts
into a pdf classbook, and each student
had read his or her paper aloud in front
of the class. I did up a one-sheet agenda
the day of their performances, with the
titles of their essays and their names,
and each student got a copy of this.
The students also wrote an in-class essay
for an assessment, which was scored using
a modified version of the checklist found
at the end of Blueprints unit 1, with points awarded based on the presence of
a "hook," a thesis statement, the relationship between each body paragraph and that thesis statement, etc...
The assessment informed me that students
were not yet incorporating hooks, thesis
statements, etc..., in their essays, so
I was especially interested in having
them go through Folse's preliminary exercises enroute to writing their first
Blueprint essay, on a person they admired,
because these important rhetorical aspects
are addressed directly, step by step.
Everyone came up with an idea of who they
were going to write about. That was the
assignment one day, just to think about who they admired. The next day in class, each student (except a few who were still
thinking it over) told me the person they
wanted to describe. Their next assignment
was to prepare a paragraph explaining why
they had chosen that person, and these
paragraphs went through a rewrite. Meanwhile, we moved into the outlining
portion of the Blueprint assignment, in
which the textbook has an outline with
blank spaces for the student to fill
with information and draft thesis statement and topic sentences.
These outlines were turned in on paper
for me to read and respond to, and students got their outlines and second
drafts of their paragraphs back just
before the weekend, so their homework
was to write the first drafts of their
essays by Monday.
Most of the essays came in by Monday,
and several more came in on Tuesday,
so I had a pretty complete set to
go over and give them feedback on
Several students had asked earlier
in the week whether they would be
reading these essays aloud, and it
seemed that some wanted to, but others
didn't, so I suggested that those who
wanted to read theirs to the class would
certainly get that opportunity.
When they got their papers on Wednesday,
this class--mostly students from China,
along with one from each of Mexico,
Korea, and Russia--responded in an
interesting way to my question as
to when they would like to turn in
their second drafts. They wanted to
write them overnight, for the next
day, Thursday. O.K., I said, and that
was their homework. I told them that
if anyone wanted to read theirs the
next day in class, they could do so.
Thursday I took their rewrites with
me and scanned them into a pdf "classbook"
before adding my scribbles and feedback.
I put this onto the Web and sent the
link to my students via e-mail.
Friday morning, I thought perhaps three
or four students would want to read their
papers outloud to the class, but they
all indicated they wanted to do this,
so it became the activity that day. Luckily, on Fridays the class that normally is waiting for our room on
Mondays and Wednesdays does not meet,
so we were able to stay an extra 10
minutes, allowing every one of our
students to speak (13 out of 14--one
was not present and had not completed
the second draft).
Listening to them from a seat in the
very back of the classroom, I detected
improved pronunciation and increased
fluency, which helped to make their
content and the coherence and unity
(key Folse concepts) ring through
It is a nice feeling when the students
push the agenda forward like this. Of
course, the fact they were writing about
topics of such heartfelt importance made
a difference, too. As my friend and mentor
Dave Hopkins says, "They made a personal
investment in their learning."
By Robb Scott
Editor, ESL MiniConference Online
2008 ESL MiniConference Online
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