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SLWIS News, Volume 5:1 (March 2010)

by User Not Found | 10/31/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Beyond “Help!”: A Strategies-Based Approach to Improving L2 Writing
    • Composition Textbooks for University Writing Programs: A Comparison of Three Bestsellers
  • Book Review
    • Review of Interactive Notebooks And English Learners: How to Scaffold Content For Academic Success
    • Review of Adventures in Composition: Improving Writing Skills Through Literature
    • Review of Teaching Academic Writing: An Introduction for Teachers of Second Language Writers
  • Context Column
    • CALL: Internet Tools for Teaching ESL/EFL Academic Writing
    • EFL: Multidimensional Vocabulary Acquisition: Implications for Writing
    • Four-Year Liberal Arts College/University: “Are You The ESL Person?”: First Impressions as an L2 Liaison
  • Convention Updates
    • TESOL 2010 Highlighted Sessions
    • Special Event at TESOL 2010
  • Announcements and Information
    • The Symposium on Second Language Writing: 2009 Report and 2010 Preview
  • About This Member Community
    • Second Language Writing Interest Section Contact Information
    • SLW News: Call for Submissions

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Christine Tardy, 2009-10 SLWIS Chair,

Dear SLWIS Members,

Unbelievably, the 2010 TESOL Convention is quickly approaching! The SLWIS is looking forward to this year’s convention, which features a record number of sessions for our interest section. In addition to a wide range of research and pedagogical papers, demonstrations, discussions, colloquia, workshops, and poster sessions, participants can attend numerous featured sessions, such as the Second Language Writing Academic Session on “Linking Second Language Literacies” and InterSections that address issues related to technology, program administration, and Generation 1.5. Full details of SLWIS sessions will be sent out to members prior to the convention and will be available at the SLWIS booth in the exhibit hall.

And speaking of the booth, as those of you who have attended TESOL recently know, our interest section has developed a well-deserved reputation for our lively and welcoming presence in the IS booth area. Stop by the SLW booth for the latest information about the IS, to meet well-known scholars in the field, to see familiar faces, and to meet some new ones.

As always, you are cordially invited to attend the SLWIS Evening with Friends of Second Language Writing, a lively social event for networking, reunions, intellectual discussion, and fun. We hope you can join us for this annual event. This special event will follow the SLWIS open business meeting, which will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 25. See the article in this issue for details.

In the current economic climate, unfortunately, we realize that many of you may be unable to attend this year’s convention. The IS newsletter and Web sites will continue to be important channels for bringing the convention to the wider community of SLW scholars. If you attend the convention, please consider writing session reports and even taking photos of the events that may be shared on our Web site ( If you are unable to go to Boston, keep in mind the many other opportunities to participate in the SLWIS community; consider, for example, contributing to the SLWIS newsletter, initiating and participating in discussion on the SLWIS e-list, or submitting materials on second language writing to the TESOL Resource Center (

Finally, I’d like to thank the SLWIS leadership team, who work hard throughout the year to make the convention a successful one, and those of you who have contributed to the IS by reviewing proposals, volunteering your time at the convention, or preparing sessions for Boston. It is exciting to see the IS grow so rapidly into such a vibrant part of our field!


Articles Beyond “Help!”: A Strategies-Based Approach to Improving L2 Writing

Nigel A. Caplan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,; L. Ruelaine Stokes, Michigan State University,; Andrew S. McCullough, Michigan State University,

When faced with a particularly thorny pile of essays, even the most experienced second-language (L2) writing teacher occasionally reacts with an impassioned “Help!” After all, the quantity and quality of challenges facing L2 writers can be overwhelming and the task of teaching them daunting. It is perhaps for this reason that the five-paragraph essay becomes attractive as a fallback position: It represents a safe, if stultifying, alternative to the chaos of a developing paper. However, if the only strategy available to academically oriented L2 students is an inadequate formula, they will be ill-prepared for their college-level classes. In the metaphor of one university writing center, “Writing a five-paragraph theme is like riding a bicycle with training wheels. . . . Once you can write well without it, you can cast it off and never look back” (College Writing, n.d.). In other words, both the teacher and student need strategies that go beyond “Help!” and move toward academic writing.

To do this, it is first necessary to distinguish between “surface features” and “deep features” (Elbow, 1991). The surface features of writing, such as thesis statements, topic sentences, introductions, and conclusions, are those most commonly addressed in ESL textbooks. To that list might be added mechanics, spelling, and 1-inch margins. Notwithstanding the value of all of these surface features in a good academic paper, it is the deep features that deserve more attention and that require a toolbox of strategies from which to draw:

I suspect students can learn the surface features of academic style better if they have first made good progress with the underlying intellectual practices. When students are really succeeding in doing a meaty academic task, then the surface stylistic features are more likely to be integral and organic rather than merely an empty game or mimicry. (Elbow, 1991, p. 150)

The following activities are designed to practice the “underlying intellectual practices” of academic writing. By recognizing the “deep” problems that developing L2 writers face and breaking down the “meaty” tasks of both teaching and learning writing into manageable micro-skills, each with its own strategies, teachers can move far beyond “Help!”


In our experience, many ESL students experience the fear and avoidance of writing; they are unable to approach the act of writing itself. For a variety of reasons, writers of all skill levels may “get stuck” even before they begin to write. At worst, this may result in the inability to produce any writing at all, with serious consequences for the student.

Writer’s block applies to a range of difficulties or obstacles and may appear as any of the following behaviors: difficulty articulating concepts and getting them down on paper; minimalistic writing with a lack of expressiveness; plagiarism; failure to meet deadlines; missing class or coming in late; and even behavioral problems in class. Some of the many ways in which students may experience difficulty include basic performance fear inhibiting the ability to think and write, inability to bridge the gap between mind and paper, difficulty negotiating levels of cognitive and syntactic complexity between the L1 and L2, lack of sufficient knowledge or experience with the topic, lack of a clear communicative goal, uncertainty about where to start, and not spending enough time on task.

The most helpful strategy for these students is to regularly use ungraded, in-class writing activities that appeal to students’ imaginations and real interests. Such low-stakes, informal, or “private” writing (Elbow & Belanoff, 1995) can include daily, varied forms of freewriting and a rich variety of writing games. Because writer’s block can occur at any time in the writing process, these strategies can be successfully introduced during prewriting, drafting, or revision to liberate students’ thinking.


Most ESL teachers have seen the paper that lacks a focus on a central, unifying idea or theme. At the sentence level, the writing might be clear but the ideas are so general and vague that the paper lacks concrete substance, rather like an unfocused photograph. Or the paper may contain many ideas with little indication of their relationship or relative significance, like a “cluttered” image in which many elements are jumbled together with no unifying design. Often the reader feels tired after reading such a paper and experiences a strong urge to call for “Help!”

The lack of focus may be manifest in introductions that begin with “the creation of the universe” (i.e., a topic so broad that there is no way to discuss it accurately within the paper); thesis statements that have no relevance to either the introduction or essay; inadequate topic development, or several possibly related topics somewhat developed; or a purpose for writing that is unclear to the reader, the writer, or both.

As strategies for writers who lack focus, we use question-based activities to help the students clarify their thinking. Another successful technique for focusing ideas at the planning or drafting stage is to engage in a debate on the topic and then summarize one’s argument succinctly, orally or in writing.


Many students arrive in our classes with little or no experience in critical thinking, or “skill at analysis and higher-order thinking” (Sullivan, 2006, p. 17). As a result, their writing is composed of an unanalyzed list of facts, observations, and quotations, which might even be considered plagiarized. These writers may struggle with developing ideas through exemplification, explanation, justification, or evaluation. It is first essential to help students understand the nature of academic writing in U.S. universities, in which writers are expected not only to show comprehension of texts and facts but to use them in the service of their own argumentation (“College Writing”, n.d.).

We offer students practice in critical thinking by providing them with contexts in which this type of argument is essential. For example, writers can study this flowchart that leads students from making observations to performing analysis. In this group activity, they then go through the process of analyzing a quotation, fact, example, or statistic. This technique can subsequently be applied to the task at hand.


Although most writing teachers would agree that revision is a necessary and useful step in the writing process, it can be frustrating for both instructors and students to see revised drafts that show little evidence of improvement. We suspect that one reason for this is that ESL students may not recognize that they are their own first readers, which would enable them to write with more awareness of their audience.

Extensive use of peer and self-review can greatly improve revision. Peer review is valuable not only for the feedback offered by readers but also for focusing writers’ attention on their own texts, for instance by requiring writers to respond to their peers’ reviews and their teachers’ feedback. The sample forms cover a sequence of strategies involving self-review, peer review, response to feedback, grammar drafts, and cover letters. Critical feedback can be a difficult pill to swallow, but the goal of these strategies is to make students aware of their writing from a reader’s perspective and, ultimately, to help them become successful and independent academic writers.


It is probably impossible to make writing and the teaching of writing easy, but they can both be made more manageable with these techniques. Once the underlying “deep” problems with the essay or writing process have been correctly identified, the teacher and writer can draw on appropriate strategies and begin to see progress.


College writing. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2009, from

Elbow, P. (1991). Reflection on academic discourse: How it relates to freshmen and colleagues. College English, 53(2), 135-155.

Elbow, P., & Belanoff, P. (1995). A community of writers: A workshop course in writing. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sullivan, P. (2006). An essential question: What is “college-level” writing? In P. Sullivan & H. Tinberg (Eds.), What is “college-level” writing? (pp. 1-28). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Nigel Caplan is an ESL specialist in the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; L. Ruelaine Stokes and Andrew McCullough are ESL faculty at the Michigan State University English Language Center. This article is based on a workshop presented at the 43rd International TESOL Convention in Denver, March 2009, and an earlier paper published in the Proceedings of the 2007 Michigan TESOL Conference, edited by Christen M. Pearson, Kay Losey, and Nigel A. Caplan.

Composition Textbooks for University Writing Programs: A Comparison of Three Bestsellers

Catherine Smith, Saint Cloud State University, Minnesota, USA,

In composition programs and textbooks, writing pedagogy is often based on rhetorical theory. Traditional rhetoric (e.g., Toulmin method) offers a framework for analyzing the quality and meaning of sources and organizing one’s argument appropriately. New rhetoric teaches respect for individualism by deconstructing genre as a device that positions readers and writers and thereby reinforces institutional relationships (Hyland, 2007, pp. 35-43). Composition programs and textbooks often use a hybrid of both approaches to teach so-called strategies and processes of writing while trying to maintain a democratic stance toward the writing process students use.

However, it seems that “strategies and processes” often become discussions of rhetorical concepts and rhetorical moves. The discussion does not appear to include the actual strategies or processes (Echevarria, Vogt & Short, 2004; Kroll, 2001; Swales & Feak, 2007) that writers may use to create a text as a product for evaluation. Thus, conceptualizing writing pedagogy in terms of rhetorical theory seems to be incomplete. Writing, even university writing, can be understood as a language-learning process that entails learning to use professional conventions to create written products that are well received by readers. This language-learning process includes an awareness of language choices and knowledge of how to use choices appropriately. An awareness of language choices and appropriateness falls under the applied linguistic concept of communicative competence (Hymes, 1972). This suggests that concepts from applied linguistics (defined here as the pedagogically motivated study of language use and learning) are also useful for writing instruction and may complement theory from rhetoric and composition.

Under the auspices of an international publisher, the current project began as a comparison of the three best-selling composition textbooks of 2008. The results of this work are presented in this article. The analytical framework designed for the project was informed by theory in rhetoric and applied linguistics. The resulting observations are reported in two ways. First, a descriptive review of each textbook identifies perceived strengths and limitations that seem unique to each text. Second, a comparative review suggests contributions and gaps across five categories: sources of language input, language output activities, pedagogical approaches, instruction on strategies, and the textbook’s style and level. We close by taking stock of features that theory suggests may be helpful to learners but that appear to be missing from the three best-selling composition textbooks examined.


Four concepts from applied linguistics informed the current project’s approach to reviewing the three best-selling composition textbooks. These concepts are explained below.

1. Variation in communication context causes register variation. In other words, texts are significantly different across registers of language use in their lexicon (vocabulary), syntax (grammar or sentence structure), and discourse or information structure (Biber, 2006). This means, for example, that textbooks differ significantly from course lectures on the same topic; academic, fiction, and professional writing differ significantly from each other; the same register of writing (e.g., the academic journal article) varies significantly across disciplines; and so on. (Note: A register is a situationally defined variety of language use described for its lexico-grammatical features; it is a general term with no implied theoretical distinction; Biber, 2006, p. 11.)

2. Language input directly influences language output (i.e., language development) (Ellis, 1997a, 1997b). This suggests that the texts to which learners are exposed may significantly influence the texts that learners produce. This means that learners need exposure to the kinds of texts (including discourse or information structures and vocabulary) that instructors wish them to produce. At the same time, however, these “teaching texts” need not be the only source of input. Texts that are non-targetlike in structure and lexicon may also be useful for their inspiring or informative content. Also, the non-targetlike linguistic features that they provide can contribute to learners’ linguistic repertoire. Learners may wish to use such features in creative ways or to accommodate special communicative purposes (e.g., using first- and second-person pronouns to create a sense of connection with readers).

3. Fluent and accurate language use is a product of explicit and implicit knowledge (Ellis, 1997a, 1997b). This suggests that both conceptual and procedural knowledge are needed before learners can communicate with fluency and accuracy. In other words, learners need exposure to both concepts about writing and the processes and procedures for writing. Using activities that integrate multiple language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) can be useful, too.

4. Input becoming intake depends on how much a learner’s attention is being taxed (Schmidt, 1990, 1994, as cited in Ellis, 1997a). Learners’ attention and mental energy seem to have limits. This concept can justify using overlap and scaffolding in reading and writing activities. Otherwise, learning may be hindered if reading texts and writing tasks are entirely different from one another (e.g., in vocabulary or discourse structure), or if multiple tasks are assigned in which there are few or no linguistic similarities to the desired writing outcome (e.g., a presentation on rhetorical theory followed by discussion, grammar exercises, a literary reading, and an analytical writing task).

These four concepts motivated the selection of several categories in the analytical framework used to review the composition textbooks. These categories were Sources of Input (authentic/professional readings, readings across disciplines, readings across genres/registers, student writing samples), Output Activities (traditional academic tasks, professional writing tasks, idealized vs. authentic writing expectations, speaking tasks or extension activities), Pedagogical Approaches(language input mapped to expectations for language output, scaffolded learning activities, integrated language skills), and Text Style and Level (style, level).

In addition, several practices from rhetoric/composition and applied linguistics informed the current project’s approach. These practices are explained below.

1. Discourse analysis can be used to design reading and writing activities. Research methods in discourse analysis can be employed to analyze information structures in targetlike texts. The results can inform the design of teaching texts that guide students in reading and writing. The purpose or role of a particular paragraph or section in expository writing usually influences its structure, and so it is recommended that this variation be considered when planning the design of reading and writing exercises.

2. Rhetorical analysis can be used to guide close and critical reading. Interpretive and evaluative processes in rhetorical analysis can be employed to situate a text contextually and evaluate the text and its author. It can also be used to raise awareness of meaning as it is constructed at the word, sentence, paragraph, and text level. Rhetorical analysis can be understood as a type of discourse analysis, particularly in this last role of identifying how meaning is constructed.

3. Processes for reading need to be demonstrated to guide learners in gleaning information from texts. This means presenting strategies for reading different kinds of texts (e.g., visual texts, essays, articles) and demonstrating different kinds of reading processes (e.g., scanning, skimming). In addition, it is important to demonstrate how to make ties or connections while reading. This may include showing learners that there are relationships between various parts of a texts, across different texts, and between texts and readers. Demonstrating how to find or make these ties prepares learners for different kinds of writing tasks (e.g., summary writing, synthesis writing).

4. Strategies for research and project management need to be demonstrated to support learners. These kinds of strategies can show learners how to start a project (e.g., find and evaluate sources), develop it (e.g., interact with information enough to master it), and follow a plan and timeline to completion (e.g., distance oneself from authors to create one’s own purpose and agenda; read and write a certain amount each day).

5. Strategies for professionalism need to be demonstrated to help learners achieve a level of ethics, maturity, and sophistication in their work. These include guidelines for activities such as peer review, self-evaluation, editing, and discussion.

These five processes motivated the selection of an additional category and subcategories in the analytical framework, including Instruction on Strategies (reading strategies, writing strategies, research strategies, guidelines or rubrics for peer review, guidelines for self-assessment, guidelines for project management), Sources of Input (pictorial readings, sentence-level modeling, discourse-level modeling), and Pedagogical Approaches (discourse theory, rhetorical theory). Together, the concepts and practices described in this section operationalize multiple processes involved in written communication.


This section presents a descriptive review of the three best-selling composition textbooks from 2008: Writing From Sources (Spatt, 2007), Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum(Behrens & Rosen, 2008), and They Say, I Say (Graff & Birkenstein, 2006; please note that a second edition of this book has been released in 2010, but this book was not available at the time of the current study). The objective of the descriptive review is to address each textbook’s perceived contributions and limitations in terms of claims stated by the authors or implied by the text’s content and from the perspective of the current reviewer. To serve this purpose, the descriptions address these three categories: the book’s origin or purpose, the book’s conceptual definition of writing, and the book’s perceived pedagogical accessibility and effectiveness.

Spatt, Brenda. Writing From Sources. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2007, 680 pages, $53.75. Spatt does not include a description of the text’s origin. However, the text does present a very thorough and systematic treatment of rhetoric and composition theory. A topical treatment of rhetoric seems to be the purpose of the text as well as the conceptual definition of writing. From logical devices to paraphrase/summary, the book defines, discusses, and illustrates each rhetorical topic one by one. In this way, the book provides an excellent treatment of rhetorical theory. However, the absence of explicit procedural connections between rhetorical theory and written communication practices reduces the pedagogical accessibility and effectiveness of the text.

This shortcoming appears in several sectional categories throughout the text. For example, upon initial examination, the text appears to offer procedural writing instruction due to the use of headings such as summarizing a paragraph, summarizing an article, and summarizing an essay. However, closer examination reveals that the text’s instructional presentation is topical, and procedural instruction on reading/writing procedures that demonstrate connections between theory and practice is absent. Summative lists of reading and writing strategies potentially offer an explicit process to follow, but the strategies are not uniform or presented as a sequential procedure that leads to a written product. In addition, the readings are thought-provoking and inspiring, but they do not serve as writing models to imitate or draw upon. Thus, learners are left to their own devices to figure out how to get from reading a text (which does not resemble the style, organization, or communication purpose of the text they are supposed to write) to writing a text.

The exercises are thought-provoking as well and effective at teaching analytical skills; however, they do not offer a procedure to follow (e.g., in one exercise, learners are asked to define, infer, infer, define, and define again). An explicit procedural explanation of how to organize or apply the definitions and inferences within a process of generating a written text is needed. The lack of a procedural explanation for generating written texts seems further complicated by the inclusion of too many readings so that learners are not allowed adequate time to generate their own logical procedure for digesting one text as input and generating a second text as output whose communication purposes, rhetorical features, and discourse organization are different from each other.

Furthermore, paragraph-level writing is thoroughly exercised in the first part of the book, while text-level writing is not addressed until the end of the book. This presents writing as a linear (not cyclical) process and also reduces the pedagogical effectiveness of the text, because cyclical repetition of writing processes is needed before sophisticated development in idea content and language skills can emerge. Though there are many useful features of the book (particularly the treatment of researching databases), they are presented as discrete (i.e., unrelated or separate) topics and disconnected from a procedure for creating a document. The essential effectiveness of the text seems to be its detailed instruction on the many aspects of writing. However, it seems important to note that the text does appear to describe or demonstrate steps or processes that lead to a written product.

Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard Rosen. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008, 880 pages, $61.20. Behrens and Rosen do not describe the text’s origin, but they do offer an explanation of the book’s purpose, which is to teach a set of writing genres, namely: summary, critique, synthesis and analysis. Upon examination, one finds that for each genre, the book presents a process approach to writing instruction consisting of three steps: plan, draft, and revise. Thus, one can infer that the text’s conceptual definition of writing consists of both genres and processes. Another noteworthy feature of the book is that it follows a template that Pearson/Longman sometimes uses for book manuscripts. This template consists of four main categories: definition, illustration, application, and variation. Each chapter follows this systematic pattern of organization. The effect of this structure and the illustrations of variation in techniques are undoubtedly helpful, and these two features support the book’s accessibility to learning.

However, despite the book's pleasing overall organization, there are also a few features that seem to reduce its accessibility. These features pertain to the content of each chapter and the book's instructional style. For content, the book presents processes (plan, draft, revise), but these seem too general to be useful. Specific procedures (i.e., descriptions of sequential steps) and strategies (i.e., ways of organizing one's thinking) for creating the different documents in the book seem to be missing. For example, students are shown illustrations of expanding a text, but there is no explanation of what motivates or drives the expansion (i.e., there is no guidance for organizing one's thinking to expand a text appropriately). For instructional style, the book presents abundant conceptual knowledge (e.g., definitions), but procedural knowledge on how to apply this information seems to be missing. Thus, it appears students need to infer what they must do. Also, the book appears to use application activities too early, and techniques that establish initial familiarity with the learning material (i.e., techniques for lower cognitive processes) seem to be absent. The potential effect is that learners may not have adequate opportunity to build familiarity with conceptual knowledge before they are asked to apply it in reading and writing procedures, which they need to infer because (apart from the general processes of plan, draft, and revise) the book does not appear to present any. To illustrate, each chapter in the first half of the book presents a discussion of a definition (e.g., what is a summary), an illustration (e.g., what does a summary look like), an application (e.g., how is a summary produced), and various techniques (with illustrations). The second half of the book provides opportunities for application in the form of readings across disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, biology) and activities for synthesis and research. One may wonder if beginning a learning unit with discussion and ending it with synthesis is suitable for learners. Thus, it seems this book is appropriate for students who are well prepared in academic writing and need an introduction to the various genres used in a university setting. However, its reliance on learners' abilities to infer and deduce procedural knowledge for how to complete reading and writing tasks seems to reduce its accessibility and effectiveness for students who need support in developing academic literacy skills and who may be unfamiliar with expectations in a writing class.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say, I Say. New York/London: Norton, 2006, 199 pages, $14.17. Graff and Birkenstein write a handy book that is accessible in writing style, size, and price. Its origin is the authors’ classroom teaching notes, and its purpose is to make academia and polite discussion more accessible to learners. It does this by explicitly modeling language functions and patterns that characterize academic conversation but are low frequency and thus unfamiliar in communication situations that are known by students (e.g., casual conversation). This feature comprises the text’s main technique for making learning accessible and effective. The authors recognize that language is a social act, and although it is not explicitly stated, they seem to also recognize that language is used to mark social group boundaries (i.e., ideas must be packaged in the language conventions of the academy to be received). Also, they seem to understand that familiarity with language structures and functions increases both reading and writing competence.

However, several features of the text seem to compromise its effectiveness. For example, the organizing framework of the text is a simple communication dichotomy of author and other, whose lexical manifestations are presented and illustrated according to thematically organized rhetorical moves. Models and exercises provide opportunities for observation, practice, and exploration of these rhetorical moves across different professional texts as well as the students’ own writing. Experiential learning (i.e., constructing meaning from direct experience) is used to compare and contrast styles and develop awareness, proficiency, and preferences in using polite rhetorical moves. However, the authors do not draw on relevant applied linguistic theory (e.g., speech act theory) or research methods (i.e., systematic sampling of documents) to inform their selection or presentation of rhetorical moves. Thus, the books appear to be informed by the authors’ intuition or preferences. Also, sentence templates are useful, but templates at the discourse level are not included. The main effectiveness of the book seems to be a presentation of etiquette for participating in academic discussion. However, the book does not seem to move beyond civility to address procedures in writing.

Overall, it seems that the three best-selling composition textbooks make valuable contributions in several areas, including rhetorical theory, variation across genres or registers, and the role of civility in academic discussion. However, it seems accessibility and effectiveness of the textbooks may be hindered by an absence of instruction on specific writing processes. The descriptive review suggests there may be additional gaps as well, and these are addressed in the following section.


This section presents a comparative review of three best-selling composition textbooks. The objective of the comparative review is to address each textbook’s perceived contributions and limitations in more detail using concepts and practices in applied linguistics and rhetoric/composition. To serve this purpose, the comparison is organized according to five main categories: sources of language input, language output activities, pedagogical approaches, instruction on strategies, and the textbook’s style and level. Results of the comparisons are organized in five figures, which follow.

Figure 1 presents information on the sources of input used in the composition textbooks. This main category is defined by several subcategories that are provided in the first column.

Figure 1 shows that the best-selling composition textbooks have strengths in two subcategories: authentic, professional readings, and sentence-level modeling. However, only Behrens and Rosen include academic journal articles. There are several subcategories that are not consistently addressed. These include readings that are varied (i.e., readings across disciplines, readings across genres or registers, pictorial readings), readings that are accessible to learners (i.e., student writing samples), and discourse-level modeling that illustrates how to select and organize information for different kinds of paragraphs or sections of papers (e.g., body, introduction, conclusion). This part of the analysis suggests that more variation in reading and discourse-level patterns is needed.

Figure 2 presents information on language output activities. This main category is defined by subcategories provided in the first column.

Figure 2 shows that the best-selling composition textbooks address traditional academic writing tasks (e.g., essays), and two out of the three textbooks address professional writing tasks as well (e.g., business reports). Also, the same two textbooks tie writing to class discussion. However, the analysis suggests that variation in writing tasks and activities that link writing to other skills are needed. At the same time, it seems there is variation in expectations or standards against which student writing performance is measured. Spatt appears to hold rhetoric as the standard, Graff and Birkenstein appear to hold literature as the standard, and Behrens and Rosen appear to hold authentic language use (i.e., the language preferences that are specific to each discipline) as the standard. Perhaps this variation in how standards or expectations are defined needs to be recognized. An approach that combines writing or language expectations from rhetoric, literature, and various disciplines could yield a definition of writing standards that is more sophisticated and democratic.

Figure 3 presents information on pedagogical approaches. This main category is defined by subcategories listed in the first column.

Figure 3 shows that the best-selling composition textbooks are consistent in their inclusion of rhetorical analysis theory. However, the analysis suggests that the pedagogical approach is perhaps excessively homogenous. Apparent gaps include the absence of discourse analysis theory, suitably scaffolded steps in learning activities, mapping of language output expectations to language input, and integration of language skills. With regard to discourse analysis, rhetoric can be defined as one approach to discourse analysis. However, the integration of other approaches could be useful as well. In general, discourse analysis can be understood as describing the structures (e.g., information structures) and functions (e.g., informative, interactive) of different types of written or spoken texts (e.g., essays, reports) as well as their various parts, including, for example, paragraphs (in written texts) and episodes (in spoken texts). Discourse analysis theory recognizes that the structure and content of a text, paragraph, or episode change in response to its role or purpose. Also, discourse structures usually vary systematically in expository writing, and therefore they can be identified, mapped to discourse functions, and described for teaching purposes. This part of the analysis suggests that writing instruction could benefit from diversification of pedagogical approaches.

Figure 4 presents information on strategies. This main category is defined by subcategories in the first column.

With regard to instruction on strategies, Figure 4 suggests that the main strengths of the best-selling composition textbooks concern writing strategies (primarily) and (to a lesser extent) reading strategies, research strategies, and guidelines (or rubrics) for manuscript format or editing. Nevertheless, it seems that both reading and writing strategies need to be addressed adequately, in a suitable sequence, and at a suitable pace throughout the textbook. Also, research strategies and guidelines for formatting or editing need to be included more consistently. Notable gaps include guidelines or rubrics for peer review (e.g., identifying main points, organization or structure, strengths, weaknesses), self-assessment (e.g., identifying strengths, weaknesses, processes, obstacles overcome, areas of confidence, skills acquired, plans for a revision), and project management (e.g., timelines, daily reading or writing goals, reading or writing logs). This part of the analysis suggests that diversifying, sequencing, and pacing instruction on strategies is needed.

Lastly, Figure 5 presents information on the textbooks’ style and level.

Figure 5 suggests that the best-selling composition textbooks address students whose reading skills are relatively strong. In light of the fact that students in composition courses typically need to develop language skills while learning to adapt to university culture, writing instruction materials may be more effective and accessible if they were packaged more simply so that students might have mental energy to focus on the job of writing and other course-related tasks that they must do.

Overall, it seems clear that the three best-selling composition textbooks offer robust and helpful instruction for students. Nevertheless, the analytical framework used in the current project seems to illuminate some gaps in writing instruction materials that could be addressed to increase the accessibility and effectiveness of writing education. A summary of the perceived contributions and gaps of the three best-selling composition textbooks is presented in the next section.


What Is Available

Overall, the analysis in the current project illuminates several strengths in the three best-selling textbooks. They offer authentic, professional readings and ask students to produce relevant academic writing tasks. To help students along the way, they provide a thorough treatment of rhetorical theory. They may also provide sentence-level modeling, reading and writing strategies, and guidelines for manuscript formatting or editing. In addition, search tools for databases and grammar exercises may be included, although these may not necessarily be tied to a writing process or assignment. Also, these contributions are packaged in a formal style.

What Is Needed

At the same time, the current project suggests that writing education materials could benefit from a general diversification strategy. According to the analysis, it seems that diversification may be needed in eight general areas. These areas are described below.

  • Reading. Variation in reading is needed. This includes using both textual and pictorial readings, both professional texts (i.e., texts written and published by professional faculty) and student texts (i.e., texts written by students), readings across disciplines (e.g., literature, philosophy, science, business, technology), and readings across registers (e.g., travel logs, memoirs, academic essays, academic journal articles).
  • Writing. Variation in writing is needed. This includes using both academic writing tasks (e.g., essays, summaries, analytical papers, research papers) and professional tasks (e.g., science or business proposals and reports).
  • Modeling processes and writing patterns. Variation in modeling processes and writing patterns is needed. This primarily concerns teaching students about the nature of discourse. Discourse structure typically varies according to the role that a text or paragraph plays. In expository writing, this variation is usually systematic and can therefore be identified and described for teaching purposes.
  •  Standards. Variation in defining standards or expectations is needed. This suggestion involves eclectically drawing on expectations from rhetoric, literature, and all disciplines to arrive at more sophisticated and democratic descriptions of writing quality.
  • Language skills and nonlinguistic skills. Variation in the integration of language skills (e.g., linking reading, writing, and speaking activities together) and nonlinguistic skills (e.g., linking reading and writing activities to performing art activities) is needed.
  • Pedagogical approaches. Variation is needed in the pedagogical approaches used. This primarily includes integrating theory from discourse analysis, using task analyses to properly identify writing processes and scaffolded learning steps, and mapping input to output expectations.
  • Strategies. Variation, suitable sequencing, and proper pacing are needed in instruction on strategies. Clear strategies, guidelines, and rubrics are needed for reading, writing, peer review, self-evaluation, and project management.
  • Textbook level or style. Variation (or perhaps simplicity) is needed in how information is packaged in composition textbooks. If students are asked to focus their attention and energy on a composition textbook that is dense or complex, then they may be less inclined to produce writing that is effective in style or sophisticated in content.

The list above provides a potential map for systematically adjusting the content of writing education. Adjusting composition textbooks so that they address these eight categories and their subcategories could yield materials that are more accessible and effective for students.


The current project seems to illuminate several gaps in composition textbooks. Though the previous section describes these gaps in terms of the project’s analytical framework, they are re-articulated in terms of theory and practices below.

  • A unified theoretical framework for learning is needed that incorporates the social aspect of language acquisition and acknowledges the diverse pedagogical, cultural, and language backgrounds of students.
  • A unified theoretical framework for writing is needed that introduces learners to the kinds of documents they will encounter and acknowledges language variation, input-output matching, and learner attention.
  • More practices are needed that model reading and writing processes in a procedural and sequential order (rather than topical isolation) and lead to written product outcomes.
  • More practices are needed that model language at a discourse level (not just word and sentence levels) and demonstrate paragraph structure and text structure.
  • More practices (e.g., checklists) are needed that cultivate independent and participatory learning.
  • More visually organized and accessible presentation of information is needed.
  • More learning materials are needed that are based on systematic, empirical observations of authentic language use across disciplines and registers (instead of descriptions informed only by intuition, idealization, or anecdotal observation, although these all play a useful role, too).

The theory and practices above generally encourage a diversification effort. Such a suggestion may unwittingly encourage writing instruction that is too complex. Thus, with regard to implementation, one is encouraged to remember simplicity. The idea of simplicity can be important in education because learners often need time and energy to participate in the creation process of writing. Because writing is a creative and social task (and thus cognitively demanding), it seems advisable to explicitly define the content and processes on which one would like students to focus.

In addition, the idea of simplicity can be manifested in a writing instruction in several ways. For example, instead of using instruction to address theoretical concepts, use a task analysis to organize lessons. The task analysis can help one hone in on the specific concepts and procedures that are relevant to a particular written product: describing and demonstrating specific steps and processes that lead to a particular written product. Another useful strategy is basing instruction on authentic writing, by selecting readings and writing tasks that students are likely to encounter at the university and at work. Language input has a strong influence on language output, and corpus-based studies establish that registers of language use are significantly different from one another. Consequently, it seems advisable to use readings whose features are desired in the students’ writing. If this seems too homogenous, then offering options in readings or writing tasks can inspire course participants and accommodate variation in classroom personalities. A third useful strategy is a project approach. A project approach can help one select and organize only those elements needed to produce a written product. A project approach can be defined as having three simple keys: (a) build background knowledge; (b) use a task analysis to identify necessary concepts and procedures; and (c) sequence activities in a scaffolded way that leads to a written product. A project approach can be an effective way to organize theory and practices from both rhetoric and applied linguistics into a unified approach to writing instruction.


Biber, D. (2006). University language: A corpus-based study of spoken and written registers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M. E., & Short, D. (2004). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model. New York: Pearson Education.

Ellis, R. (1997a). SLA research and language teaching. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (1997b). Second language acquisition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Hyland, K. (2007). Genre and second language writing. Michigan Series on Teaching Multilingual Writers. Series edited by Diane Belcher and Jun Liu. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Hymes, Dell, (1972). On communicative competence. In J. B. Pride & J. Holmes (Eds.), Sociolinguistics (pp. 269-293). Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Kroll, B. (2001). Considerations for teaching an ESL/EFL writing course. In M. Celce-Murcia (ed.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language(3rd ed; pp. 219-232). Boston: Thomson Learning.

Schmidt, R. (1994). Deconstructing consciousness in search of useful definitions for applied linguistics. Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée Review, 11, 11-26.

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158.

Swales, J., & Feak, C. (2007). Academic writing for graduate students (2nd ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Catherine Smith is faculty at Saint Cloud State University where she offers courses in applied linguistics/TESL and general studies. Her interests include corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, language structure, and first and second language writing. Her PhD is in applied linguistics from Northern Arizona University.

Book Review Review of Interactive Notebooks And English Learners: How to Scaffold Content For Academic Success

Chris Roe, CSU Stanislaus, California, USA,

Carter, M., Hernandez, A., & Richison, J. (2009). Interactive notebooks and English learners: How to scaffold content for academic success. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Press. 136 pp., paperback.

In short, Interactive Notebooks provides English learners with a hands-on tool with which to explore language prior to sharing. English learners want and deserve a safe and anxiety-free environment while practicing the new language, just as any language learner would want (Krashen, 2003). Teaching English learners requires teachers to have a variety of strategies that will enable students to access curriculum. The students must have the opportunity to produce language for meaningful purposes (Swain, 1995). Interactive notebooks provide English learners with a useful tool to add to their “toolbox” on their way to understanding and producing English.

In eight chapters, the authors guide readers through the process of implementing interactive notebooks in virtually any classroom setting. From how to begin (chapter 2), to how to assess (chapter 5), to putting it to work in the classroom, each chapter puts the reader in the driver’s seat with a clear understanding of how the notebooks work for English learner success.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the definition of interactive notebooks, first introduced in History Alive! from Addison Wesley (Teachers Curriculum Institute, 1994). It is described as a “self-created, teacher-directed collection of notes taken for the purpose of commentary . . . that students use for their own reference and study” (p. 4).

This book acts a set of interactive links between the teacher, the student, and the student’s family, providing each with a connection to the learning process. Interactive notebooks also provide the teacher and student with an effective assessment tool used to monitor the student’s progress with language learning.

After the teacher gives information to guide the student in the design of a particular writing, the student responds from a personal viewpoint. Interactive Notebooks uses prior knowledge to activate the student’s background information. This enables the learner to make the necessary connections to language production.

Chapter 2 begins the discussion of notebook logistics, including possible sources of funding for classroom sets of notebooks. In actuality, the notebooks can be inexpensive or not, depending upon school and/or family resources. The authors recommend a spiral-bound composition notebook of at least 200 pages. The basic setup as well as the format for setting up the book is explained.

In order to best meet the needs of our English learners, we first must know what their proficiency level is in English, of course. Once this is established, then their needs can best be met. Chapter 3 defines the approach of setting the stage according to their individual needs.

In chapter 4, students begin to set up their notebooks by using the left side of the open page for background knowledge (think of the K-W-L template here: Know, Want to know, and Learned), as much information as they know about the topic at hand. If they don’t know much, then a mini-lesson may be required to produce some background. The right side of the open page is designed for input. This may come in the form of a handout they can place in the notebook or actual note-taking, depending on their language abilities. An example given is Jack London’s Call of the Wild. On the left notebook page, students generate as much as they know about the Arctic, using pictures, words, and symbols to describe their knowledge. The right side of the page is the information provided to the students, which can be in the form of a handout or their written words from class discussions or a combination of both.

Assessment of English learners, always a difficult area for teachers, is presented in chapter 5. Rubrics are discussed along with informal and formal assessments. In addition, a self-assessment tool is provided. A key factor here is the involvement of parents, which promotes their involvement in the learning process as well as looking at student work from a nonjudgmental point of view.

Chapters 6 through 8 address the needs of English learners, which include a lengthy discussion on scaffolding strategies; instructional sequencing, taking what was described in chapter 6, and expanding on these scaffolding techniques with specific examples; and finally, in chapter 8, putting the notebook to use. This chapter gives examples in various language arts areas (novels, viewpoints, writing, etc.) that will give the teacher further strategies to challenge the learner as English production is increased.

Interactive Notebooks is a resource any classroom teacher would want to have in his or her toolbox of strategies for English learners. It is thorough in its explanation, teacher-friendly, and easy to use for both students and teachers. Interactive Notebooks and English Learners: How to Scaffold Content for Academic Success is a must for anyone teaching English learners.


Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in language acquisition and use. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidhofer (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics: Studies in honour of H.G. Widdowson(pp. 125-144).Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Teachers Curriculum Institute. (1994). History alive! Engaging all learners in the diverse classroom. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Company

A former California administrator and elementary teacher, Chris Roe is an assistant professor in the California State University system. His research interests include English learners and new teacher preparation.

Review of Adventures in Composition: Improving Writing Skills Through Literature

Helena Hall, Loras College in Dubuque, IA, USA,

Kay, J., & Gelshenen, R. (2007). Adventures in composition: Improving writing skills through literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 232 pp., paperback.

Adventures in Composition consists of 11 chapters covering a variety of useful topics for ESL students who are developing their writing skills. The book is divided into four sections: narrative, descriptive, comparison/contrast, and expository writing. In addition, each section centers on a theme: humor, personal growth, making choices, and surprises. Students need to have a thorough understanding of what they studied in the first section, because the authors point out that “What you learn in Part One will be the foundation of all the writing assignments in this book” (p. ix).

The 11 chapters are organized the same way—students orally answer two to four questions loosely tied to the theme of the short story, write a brief text based on a number of questions (also connected to the theme of the short story), review a vocabulary list that explains words and expressions used in the short story, read a brief biographical sketch about the author, read the short story, discuss a number of questions related to the text, do a vocabulary exercise connected to the short story, organize 10 sentences from the short story in the correct order, and write their own summary of the short story (based on the previous exercise). The authors then move on to “writing basics,” where a brief explanation about a certain writing topic is provided before students practice what they have learned. All chapters except one end with three different writing exercises.

Chapters 1 to 3 cover narrative writing. In chapter 1, the focus is on different parts of a sentence (subject, verb, and object) and how a coordinating conjunction fuses two independent clauses together to create a compound sentence. The authors also introduce narrative techniques, such as “Use chronological order—a chain of events—to tell the story. . . . Write in the past tense. . . . Write the characters so that the reader can visualize them” (p. 17). The authors include a “peer evaluation form” and ask students to use this form in several of the chapters in order to evaluate their peers’ writing. The “writing basics” in chapter 2 cover prepositional phrases, complex sentences, and the purpose of the last sentence in a narrative. The authors point out that this sentence needs to bring the story to an end so that the audience knows what happened. Chapter 3 discusses subject-verb agreement and the importance of using transitions for a sentence to flow smoothly. In addition, the authors provide a list of transition words.

Chapters 4 to 6 focus on descriptive writing. The “writing basics” in chapter 4 center on the role adjectives play in writing as well as parallel structure in a sentence. The authors include a list of “descriptive writing techniques,” such as “Use sensory details to help the reader visualize your subject. . . . Use strong verbs. . . . Include a topic sentence to state the idea of your essay” (p. 77), that students should pay attention to when writing a descriptive essay. They encourage students to use these techniques in all three chapters in this section. While chapter 5 centers on run-on sentences, word order in questions, and helping verbs in questions, chapter 6 focuses on comma usage and how to use quotation marks in direct speech.

Chapters 7 to 9 discuss comparison/contrast. In chapter 7, the authors focus on comparing adjectives and transitions that will help a text flow more smoothly. They also include a list of transition words. Furthermore, they provide a “Comparison & Contrast Writing Techniques” list in which they offer suggestions for how to write a good comparison/contrast paper. Their suggestions include “Choose two subjects to compare or contrast. List your subjects. . . . [and] Support each statement with details or examples. List one statement with all the details that support it” (p. 137). The authors ask students to refer to this list in a number of chapters. In chapter 8, students study adverbs and relative clauses, and in chapter 9 the focus shifts to conditionals and reported speech.

The last section of the book, chapters 10 and 11, centers on narrative writing. Chapter 10 discusses possessive pronouns and the authors provide “persuasive writing techniques,” encouraging students to, for example, “Give examples and details to back up your statements. . . . [and] Make sure your statements are true and accurate” (p. 198). The last chapter in the book focuses on modals, and the authors provide “cause-and-effect writing techniques” telling students to, for example, “State the cause or causes of an event in the first paragraph. . . . [and] Analyze the problem” (p. 213) when writing expository essays.

Adventures in Composition: Improving Writing Skills Through Literature is a good book to use in intermediate ESL composition classrooms. The short stories are both fun and interesting to read. Because the writing exercises are at the end of each chapter, students have already learned new vocabulary and practiced what they studied in the “writing basics” section. Therefore, they can include their new knowledge in their own writing.

Helena Hall directs the writing center at Loras College in Dubuque, IA. She also teaches freshman composition and conducts workshops on writing across the curriculum. Her research interest is ESL composition.

Review of Teaching Academic Writing: An Introduction for Teachers of Second Language Writers

Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA,

Paltridge, B., Harbon, L., Hirsch, D., Shen, H., Stevenson, M., Phakiti, A., et al. (2009). Teaching academic writing: An introduction for teachers of second language writers. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. 200 pp., paperback.

Composition scholars who are not familiar with second language (L2) writers are not sure how to treat L2 students in terms of different issues in their classes. Over three decades, L2 writing has been gaining attention and popularity among scholars around the world along with the emergence of the Journal of Second Language Writing, which has been one of the most influential journals in L2 composition. The emergence of L2 writing has a significant impact on the composition scholarship by expanding another dimension of composition scholarship. This book is based on research and classroom practices, and it is suitable for scholars who have recently been introduced to or are gaining interest in L2 writing.

The book is composed of nine chapters covering different aspects of L2 academic writing. Chapter 1 is the introduction of the book; chapters 2 through 8 explore the following issues: needs analysis, approaches in teaching academic writing, vocabulary issue, an intercultural perspective in writing, feedback, and assessment. Each chapter in this book includes leading questions to be discussed, classroom implications with suggested tasks for practical use, questions for teachers to explore their beliefs and practices, and a further reading list with short annotations. The concept of contextualization of a writing assignment is implied throughout every chapter of the book.

Chapter 1, “An Introduction,” orients readers with the concepts of academic literacies, cross-cultural issues, discourse communities, and generation 1.5 in academic writing classrooms. This chapter aims at situating readers in the broader issues of the scholarship. Though this chapter does not cover every topic being discussed in the scholarship, it covers major issues in academic writing. This book is intended for scholars around the world and the authors do not forget to include the issue of generation 1.5 students, as this group of students is of particular interest for scholars in the United States.

Chapter 2, “The Nature of Academic Writing,” discusses the academic writing aspects in terms of writing inventions, environment, and other factors affecting and affected by written assignments, cohesion, and correctness in academic writing, and "emphasizes the importance of raising academic writers’ awareness of their own writing processes, task requirements, and their textual output. It stresses the importance of building writers’ meta-linguistic awareness . . . and meta-textual awareness . . . and also . . . their ability to self-regulate.” (pp. 17–18)

This chapter is based on published research articles ranging from the cognitive (or process writing) to the social construction (or contextualized writing) approaches to the teaching of writing.

Chapter 3, “Needs Analysis and Teaching Academic Writing,” revisits the issue of needs analysis and offers different ways of gathering information to meet students’ needs, and how teachers can use the data to design the course accordingly. After the needs analysis is conducted, the data can be used to tailor their writing classes. In chapter 4, “Approaches to Teaching Academic Writing,” different ways to design the writing course are explored, including rhetorical functions, content-based courses, the genre approach, the process approach to be tailored into genre-based writing, and the critical approach to teaching writing. The issue of audience is also raised in this chapter. The authors encourage scholars to explore the following issues such as the use of technologies in writing classrooms and ways to teach students as researchers. Another interesting issue in L2 writing is vocabulary, which is discussed in chapter 5, ”Vocabulary and Academic Writing.” This chapter touches on different ways and methods for writing teachers to teach appropriate vocabulary for students to use in their writing.

The challenge that writing teachers face in teaching students who come from different cultures can be explored in chapter 6, “An Intercultural Perspective on Teaching Academic Writing.” The issues of contrastive rhetoric, developing intercultural competence, and approaches to teaching academic writing interculturally are briefly discussed. Contrastive rhetoric is the issue that writing scholars around the world pay the most attention to; however, more background on this issue is needed before some suggestions can be given for future research.

For the past three decades, the research on writing feedback probably gained the most attention from scholars in L2 writing. Chapter 7, “Feedback and Academic Writing,” received the largest section of the book. Two types of feedback, teacher and peer feedback, are elaborated on, with advantages and disadvantages of each approach being discussed. This chapter offers various ways of conducting writing feedback and a practical guide for teaching students to conduct peer feedback in the writing classroom. Chapter 8, “Assessing Academic Writing,” discusses the most controversial issue in academic writing, writing assessment. The discussions in this chapter include validity and reliability, fairness, practicality and validation, stages in the design of assessment, and development of criteria.

Chapter 9 offers an annotated bibliography for scholars interested in exploring different issues in greater detail. Apart from that, an online writing support list is also provided along with a short description of each Web site.

In conclusion, Teaching Academic Writing: An Introduction for Teachers of Second Language Writers does a fine job connecting research and practice to use in the writing classroom. The attempt to connect these areas in academic writing is appreciated. Moreover, this book could serve as an introduction to scholars who are fairly new to L2 writing scholarship.

Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri is a PhD candidate in composition and TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include identity and language learners, voice in second language writing, World Englishes, and NES-NNES issues in ELT.

Context Column CALL: Internet Tools for Teaching ESL/EFL Academic Writing

Joseph Heilman, University of Digital Content, Tokyo, Japan,

Teaching academic writing to ESL/EFL learners presents many challenges to the educator. Differences in writing styles, cultural perspectives on the rules governing writing, and learners’ current level of English writing ability are just a few of the issues faced when developing learners’ skills. For academic writing instructors, or any instructor for that matter, having a large collection of activities or tools to pull from in any given course is essential. In this article, I proffer some ideas to add to your arsenals. Some readers may find that they already use some of the suggested activities or tools, but I hope to provide those readers with a new perspective on them, and with any luck, I will provide most of you with new things to try.


A majority of what ESL/EFL learners find in their college or university library is, at least initially, inaccessible, as it is written for a native-English-speaking, academic audience and would take most ESL/EFL learners hours to plod through with a very low level of comprehension. Therefore, the Internet is a good place to start for the ESL/EFL writing instructor. It has a myriad of resources for their learners. Plus, most of what is written for the Web is written for a broader audience, which makes it more easily understood. In fact, as any search regarding writing Web content will show, when writing for the Web, one of the most important things for a writer to do is to keep it simple.

The Internet provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn how to identify which sources are credible and which are not by means of compare-contrast activities. In working with students on research papers, it can be surprising to see what they regard as a credible reference for their papers. Blogs, gossip columns, and a variety of “answer” columns are frequently seen as reliable sources of information. One way an instructor can help students to better comprehend what constitutes reliable information is to ask them to research a given topic on the Web, and then examine a credible reference versus a noncredible one. Instructors can initially guide learners through this process by presenting a well-referenced page created by an expert on the topic and then comparing it with another Web page on the same topic written by someone anonymous. After presenting and explaining the difference in validity between the two Web pages, instructors may then ask the students to do this on their own. The activity prompt would ask students to pick a topic of interest and research it on the Web. Students should identify both reliable and unreliable sources, and then review these with the instructor. As part of the review process, the instructor should help students establish criteria for what constitutes credible information. Then, instructors can discuss degrees of reliability, contrasting sources such as a newspaper article (a daily periodical) and an academic article (a quarterly periodical). Bias in writing can also be taught using this compare-contrast technique. Instructors can demonstrate how different Web sites present information differently based on their beliefs concerning a particular issue.


When mentioning simple, I should discuss the benefits of the Simple English section of Wikipedia. The articles in this section of Wikipedia are written for young learners, people whose first language is not English, or people with learning difficulties. Wikipedia asks that authors writing for the Simple English section write their articles using mainly the Basic English 850 word list. There are a number of ways this resource can be used. If instructors are having students write summaries, they can ask them to upload their summaries to this section of Wikipedia. If the content already exists on Wikipedia, instructors can ask students to provide additional information for the entry. Instructors can also ask students to write descriptive essays on aspects of their culture and publish them here. This kind of activity has the added benefit of taking students’ writing beyond the classroom. Usually, instructors have students turn their papers in for correction and feedback, and instructors return the papers to the students where they are most likely quickly forgotten. This can be remedied by asking students to write papers for publication to Wikipedia, where the papers take on a greater significance because they are made available for the world to read. It has been my experience that when students write with the knowledge that their writing will be published to the Web, they take greater care in their writing and more pride in ownership once it has been published.

Another way to use Wikipedia for educating ESL/EFL writing students is through providing references for existing articles, or “cleaning up” Wikipedia. In my work as an academic writing instructor, I have found that citation is a skill that a majority of my learners lack. Yet, the ability to appropriately cite sources is mandatory for academic writing in English. There are serious repercussions for writers who do not cite their sources or misrepresent someone else’s writing as their own. Therefore, it is a must that ESL/EFL students become proficient in citing their references, and Wikipedia provides them with an excellent opportunity to do so. Because the writing is already done for them, all they need to do is find a source that supports the writing and include that in the existing writing and provide a reference for the source. I have the students provide the original version of the article along with their revised version and score them on the accuracy of their in-text citation and the format of their reference list. Instructors can have students practice different forms of citation such as APA or MLA.

For instructors who work at institutions that lack online systems for assigning writing tasks to students, tracking the tasks completed, and providing computer-automated or computer-assisted analysis of the writing, there is a useful system created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) called Criterion. This system has all of the previously mentioned functions. It also allows instructors to assign leveled essays to their students, or write their own tasks for students and then have the papers analyzed by the system. The system checks students’ writing for grammar, style, and idea development, among other things. Students can view sample essays to assist them in their own writing, and instructors can provide feedback directly through the system, which students can refer to for each revision they make to their essay. The holistic scoring is not perfect, but use of the system is very reasonable (currently use of the system costs 1,000 yen per year for students in Japan, approximately 10 U.S. dollars), and it makes managing a writing course much easier for instructors, especially those handling a large number of students. Students access their accounts through the Internet; therefore, writing work can be completed on students’ personal computers or in a computer lab if available. Also, because the system is developed by ETS, it helps in developing students’ ability to write under timed conditions and to write to specific question types such as those found on standardized tests like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which is published by ETS.


In conclusion, it is important for ESL/EFL writing instructors to make the material we teach as accessible as possible for students. The Web provides an excellent starting point for us and our students because of the level of writing that most sites utilize in presenting information. Plus, the Web allows students to readily make comparisons of writing and see their writing made available for a global audience. I hope that the ideas I have provided here will benefit instructors in their courses and assist with the development of their own Web-based activities for ESL/EFL writing classes.


ETS Criterion. (2009). Educational Testing Service, NPO. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from

Joseph Heilman is the assistant director of the English program at the University of Digital Content in Tokyo, Japan. He currently teaches content-based and academic skills courses including writing, debate, and speech. His research interests include teacher affect on motivation, project work, and CALL.

EFL: Multidimensional Vocabulary Acquisition: Implications for Writing

Ameerchund (Ashraf) Maharaj, Jeddah Community College at King AbdulAziz University, Saudi Arabia,

In this article, addressed to both native and nonnative teachers of English, I attempt to identify and expound on a emergent trend in teaching vocabulary, with implications for writing. In previous approaches, ESL learners were often taught new vocabulary in a strictly one-dimensional manner that exposed them to just a single definition of keywords. Students thus left the classroom with a narrow understanding of words. Meaning was constrained, thus giving students a restricted understanding of words and concepts. This is quite understandable given the fact that English is a second or foreign language and that students may not be expected to use the language widely. However, in an era of increasing globalization where English usage in all fields of knowledge is hegemonic, expanding students’ vocabulary repertoire becomes more and more paramount. Students need to understand that specific words have a multiplicity of meanings and are thus context-bound. As such, the meaning of the same word may be different depending on the context in which it is used. Consider, for example, the following exchange between two workers:

W1: The boss is really proud of my late uncle Fred.

W2: The boss must be crazy!

W1: Why do you say that?

W2: How can the boss be proud of a worker who is always LATE?

It is clear from the above that both speakers are using the word late in a different context. It is also obvious that W2 has one understanding of the word late—that is, the temporal sense of the word. His or her teacher probably didn’t explain the other meaning of late—that is, having passed on or being dead.

Another example to consider would be the following sign:

"If you notice this notice, you will notice that there is nothing really important to notice in this notice."

The second example above reflects an interplay between the two meanings of the word notice. In one sense notice means a sign or poster display; in the other, it means to see or observe. This word play would be totally lost on a student who has not been exposed to the two meanings of the word notice.


Multidimensional vocabulary acquisition (or MDVA) means, quite simply, approaching words from a variety of perspectives so that the word is thoroughly analyzed, giving students access to all “dimensions” of the word. Although the term may be contradictory, MDVA is a sort of “structured brainstorming” in which explaining new vocabulary to students would entail looking at the following elements:

  • synonyms
  • antonyms
  • words often confused with the target word
  • idiomatic usage
  • possible proverbial usage

A multidimensional or M-D analysis involves an in-depth consideration of all the above aspects so that words are thoroughly interrogated. Students then have a much broader concept of the meaning of the word than they did before. An example may help to illustrate the point. If students are required to write a paragraph on the topic “My friend,” the word friend could be subjected to an M-D analysis in the following way:

Each of the elements in the above analysis is explained to students. The above elements are in no way an exhaustive list and other elements may be added, such as words that rhyme with the target word or its analyzed “attachments,” denotative or connotative meanings, diminutive form, or homophones/homonyms. As more words and phrases are generated in the M-D analysis, these words/phrases can in turn be subjected to their own M-D analysis, and so the process becomes self-perpetuating. For example, in the above sketch, one of the antonyms for friend is foe. The word foe rhymes with slow and go, so a possible idea that could emerge from this is the following:

“My friend is an outdoor kind of person. No, Ali is certainly not slow; he’s a guy who’s always on the go!”


Why then should we teach vocabulary in a multidimensional way? Why expose students to a multiplicity of meanings? Won’t this just confuse them? By realizing that words can have more than one meaning (depending on the context used), second language students can broaden their usage of these words, consequently expanding their usage of the language. Becoming aware of more contexts for words leads to more opportunities for explaining the language and thus increasing one’s use of it. Another reason is that it aids understanding when the nonnative speaker is in an environment that is dominated by native speakers, such as when visiting, studying, or working in a country where English is the first or predominant language.

It is crucial to realize that as each element of the analysis is completed, the student is generating more ideas for his or her paragraph or essay. In addition, the analyses can be carried out in myriad combinations and permutations and in any order. Some elements may be more readily connected or linked to the target word than others. For example, the word book may not lend itself readily to the antonym element of the analysis. The ultimate benefit of this kind of analysis is that students are constantly adding to their repertoire of new vocabulary, thus increasing the likelihood of writing better, more original, and interesting paragraphs or compositions.


To explore implications, let’s examine the lexical content of two paragraphs. The topic of both paragraphs deals with the target phrase analyzed above: “my friend.” The first one is a typical example one may encounter in an ESL classroom at school or college.

Paragraph 1

My friend

My friend’s name is Ali. He is 20 years old. He lives with his family. Ali is a Muslim. He lives in Riyadh. He does not have a job, but he is studying at an engineering college. He is getting married next year. He wants to become a pilot in the future. I like my friend.

(corrected, adapted, and reproduced with permission)

In terms of lexical content the paragraph is quite bland, consisting of quite conventional words. There is no depth of vocabulary usage in the sense of using alternatives or experimenting with other words or expressions. There is a strong likelihood that the student has a restricted active vocabulary.

One possible outcome of exposing students to an M-D analysis of the same topic (as reflected above) is for students to write a paragraph resembling the following:

Paragraph 2

My friend

My friend’s name is Ali. He is 20 years old. He lives with his family. Ali and I are bosom friends. If I had to choose a travelling companion, I would choose Ali. If I had to pick a room- or flatmate, I would pick Ali. If I had a secret I would only tell it to Ali because he is my closest confidant. Ali does not have a job, but he is studying at an Engineering college. He is planning to get married next year. He hopes to be a pilot some day. No matter how serious my troubles are, Ali is always there to help. They say: “ A friend in need is a friend indeed.” This is very true of my friend. I may have many enemies, but if I have one friend like Ali it is enough.

In this second paragraph, the author has used most of the elements in the M-D analysis for the target word friend. Paragraph 2 is clearly more varied and richer in vocabulary. It also makes for more interesting reading.


MDVA contains many elements, all of which can be used in many different combinations and permutations. There are many advantages to using an M-D analysis. As students become more aware of different contexts in which words can be used, their confidence in using the language can increase. They may be less likely to feel inadequate or embarrassed when surrounded by native English speakers. Besides expanding their vocabulary, an M-D analysis can help students generate more ideas to experiment with in their writing.

I was unable to conduct a full M-D analysis with my students because of time constraints, but my intention is to pursue this undertaking in the next academic year. The results of such a task may yield data worthy of further research.

Dr. Ameerchund (Ashraf) Maharaj is a professor at Jeddah Community College at King AbdulAziz University in Saudi Arabia. A South African citizen, Professor Maharaj has been teaching English since 1983 and obtained his PhD in 2005. His interests include professional staff development, and he has presented papers at international conferences in South Africa, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

Four-Year Liberal Arts College/University: “Are You The ESL Person?”: First Impressions as an L2 Liaison

Shawna Shapiro, Middlebury College, VT, USA,

Yes, I guess I am the ESL person—at a college that until this year never had a faculty member with a specialization in L2 writing. I came to Middlebury College this past fall to fill a newly created faculty position devoted primarily to “ESL student support.” This job is in many ways self-iterative: I have been given the opportunity to define what it means to be an “L2 liaison.” I love the multifaceted nature of this work, but it presents some serious challenges. After all, definition is a political act.

Realizing this, I decided to write a series of articles describing some of my key questions and challenges in defining the institutional “niche” of ESL specialist.


I was inspired to begin to write about my experiences after rereading Carol Severino’s (2001) book chapter entitled, “Dangerous Liaisons: Problems of Articulation and Representation.” I’m inspired by the idea that L2 specialists can function as liaisons within their academic communities. I always hoped I might have the chance to facilitate cross-campus dialogue and collaboration—to serve what Severino calls a “mediatory role” (p. 202). As I read her piece in the context of my new job, though, what resonated most was her recognition that such work is inherently political (i.e., dangerous). She described vividly the “risky business” of mediating between groups that often know very little about each other. For example, she is often asked to provide on-the-spot explanations for why ESL students write (or behave) in particular ways.

Over time, Severino says she came to accept that she “cannot possibly be familiar enough with all the international students and their cultures to explain them accurately” (p. 202). Rather than offering “speculative generalizations,” she began to ask more probing questions, to request samples of student writing, and to look more closely at the particulars of each situation before offering a possible explanation or solution. She admits that the temptation to generalize is still strong, in part because as teachers, “we like to explain.” Severino, like many of us, found “great satisfaction in playing Ms.-Know-It-All-Cultural-Liaison and Contact-Zone Contact Person” (p. 203). I still laugh out loud as I reread that line—in part because it so easily explains why I was eager to become the “ESL Person” at my institution.

My job allows me to serve as a liaison in several ways: I teach in the Writing Program, housed within the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research, which is also the home of the Peer Writing Tutor program. My work involves a mix of teaching, individual instruction, research, tutor training, and faculty development. In most of these roles, I work with students, faculty, and administrators all across the campus. Already, I am beginning to see why Severino calls this work “dangerous.” Answering even a seemingly innocuous question can become “risky business.” The one that still has me a bit stumped is this: What should we call them? (them being the students I was hired primarily to work with).

This question took me by surprise at first: I didn’t expect to be given a say in such matters so early on. I had assumed that I would be expected to use the labels that were already in place—at least in the short term. Instead, I was given the opportunity early on to choose wording for our program brochures, course catalog, new Web site, and other publications. I knew that choosing a label for a student group was another form of (potentially dangerous) generalization. Yet I also understood my colleagues wanted consistent language for institutional purposes. I was torn between the terms I knew were most recognizable (international students, ESL students, nonnative speakers of English) and those that are being used more frequently within our field (multilingual students, linguistically diverse, etc.). I see tremendous value in choosing language that emphasizes linguistic and cultural resources, rather than deficits. However, I also want to make sure that my colleagues know which students we’re actually talking about. Also, in using terms that are less recognizable to those outside TESOL, I worry that I might alienate (or simply confuse) potential allies.

The terms multilingual and linguistically diverse resonate strongly at Middlebury, as it is a school with a reputation for foreign languages and study abroad. This presents a problem, however: Many of our native-English-speaking students are multilingual as well—sometimes proficient in multiple languages before entering the college. How are faculty and administrators supposed to know that multilingual tends to refer to nonnative speakers of English? Furthermore, what might happen if the students that I was hired to support do not identify as multilingual? (It is likely, in fact, that many of them do not. See, for example, Ruecker, 2009.) Wouldn’t this confusion (and possible exclusion) outweigh the potential benefits of using the term in the first place?

At the same time, other labels have their own pitfalls: International students is only partially accurate, because some of our L2 writers are permanent residents, and many of our international students are native speakers. ESL would seem to be the most viable option, but I recognize that although it is still commonly used, it can have a negative connotation—not to mention being inaccurate in many cases, where English is not a second language, but a third, fourth, etc. (or sometimes a first language). After much deliberation, I have chosen a hybrid label: multilingual/ESL students. At first, the construction seemed a bit awkward, but some of my colleagues are beginning to adopt this language. And whenever I use it, I have an opportunity to explain why I feel that ESL is not a sufficient descriptor.

Perhaps the reason that I’ve taken the question of student labeling so seriously is that I believe that first impressions are important. As an L2 liaison, I am frequently involved in creating such impressions. I am asked to describe the strengths and challenges of various populations of multilingual/ESL students. Students ask me to explain the expectations their professors have of them. And in the midst of it all, I am asked to characterize (and in some ways to justify) this new position I am filling. In all of these conversations, I continue to seek language that is itself “mediatory”—accessible, but also accurate; familiar but also forward-thinking.

My own L2 liaising has just begun, but I know that many of you have been doing this sort of work for a long time. I hope you’ll share some of your own impressions and experiences with the rest of us. In my future writings, I’ll be sharing other questions that have arisen as I figure out what it means to be the “ESL Person” at my institution.


Ruecker, T. (2009, November). Multilingual students, their views of identity labels, and first year composition placement preferences. Presentation at the Symposium on Second Language Writing, Tempe, AZ.

Severino, C. (2001). Dangerous liaisons: Problems of representation. In T. Silva & P. K. Matsuda (Eds.), On second language writing (pp. 201–208). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Shawna Shapiro is a visiting assistant professor of writing at Middlebury College in Vermont. She teaches courses in composition and linguistics, and conducts research projects and training workshops related to multilingual/ESL student support. She has published in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes (JEAP), and has several chapters in TESOL’s forthcoming Classroom Practice Series.

Convention Updates TESOL 2010 Highlighted Sessions


Linking Second Language Literacies: Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Practices
Time: 10:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2010
Location: Boston Convention Center, 104A

Presenters: William Grabe, Fredricka Stoller, Cathryn Crosby, Alan Hirvela

How does L2 reading interact with L2 writing? How can teachers connect literacy practices for language learning? Presenters suggest connections between reading and writing and other media interactions. They also share research from two different course contexts, including a chemistry writing course and a reading course for developmental immigrant students.


Re-Imagining L2 Writing in a Digitized World
Sponsors: CALLIS, in partnership with SLWIS
Time: 8:00-9:45 a.m., Thursday, March 25, 2010
Location: Boston Convention Center, 102A

Presenters: Deborah Crusan, Paul Kei Matsuda, Paige Ware, Mark Warschauer

New technologies are reshaping how we teach. This InterSection features new directions and possibilities for teaching L2 writing in a digitized world. Speakers from the CALL and Second Language Writing Interest Sections will explore theories, research, strategies, and tools.

Re-Envisioning EFL in the Digital Age: Challenges, Options, and Opportunities
Sponsors: EFLIS, in partnership with NNESTIS and SLWIS
Time: 1:00-2:45 p.m., Thursday, March 25, 2010
Location: Boston Convention Center, 102A (Technology Showcase Room)

Presenters: Carla Arena, Linglan Cao, Barbara Dieu, Dafne González, Erik Johnston, Ron Chang Lee, Ke Xu, Aiden Yeh

Technology advancement is constantly reshaping the EFL teaching environment worldwide and posing tremendous challenges for EFL professionals. How should EFL teachers adapt their curriculum and methodology to meet these challenges? This workshop examines major challenges EFL professionals face in the Digital Age, and explores teachers’ options and opportunities to meet these challenges.

Rethinking L2 Writing Programs for Increasingly Complex Learners and Contexts
Sponsors: SLWIS, in partnership with PAIS
Time: 1:00-2:45 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2010
Location: Boston Convention Center, 109B

Presenters: Tony Silva, Doreen Ewert, Lara Ravitch, Dudley Reynolds, Dana Ferris

This session addresses the importance of rethinking writing programs when student audiences shift. Connecting program administration and second language writing, the session provides detailed cases of programmatic change in a variety of contexts, including an intensive English program, a community college, and an American research university’s branch campus in Qatar.

Generation 1.5 Students in Higher Education: Challenges and Recommendations
Sponsors: HEIS, in partnership with SLWIS
Time: 1:00-2:45 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2010
Location: Boston Convention Center, 107B

Presenters: Cathryn Crosby, Shawn Ford, Jan Frodesen, Hannah Moeckel-Rieke, Theresa Pruett-Said

A panel of community college and university faculty and administrators discusses Generation 1.5 students and the challenges they pose in their schools. The presenters make recommendations for classroom and program enhancements to help these students, with a focus on writing skills.


Exploring and Re-imagining Second Language Writing in TESOL
Time: 7:30-8:15 a.m., Friday, March 26, 2010
Location: Westin, Otis Room

Presenters: Christine Tardy, Erik Johnson, Todd Ruecker, Shawna Shapiro

Presenters share the results of a TESOL-wide survey on contextual constraints impacting L2 writing instruction and members’ own experiences as L2 writers in the TESOL profession. Drawing on survey findings, the presenters identify key issues to address as we re-imagine the role of L2 writing in TESOL.

* * * * *

Don’t miss our open business and planning meeting on Thursday, March 25, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. And then join us afterward for our Special Event: Re-Imagining Second Language Writing (see notice in this issue). Visit the SLWIS booth for details.

For a searchable list of all TESOL presentations, including many other SLWIS sessions, go to and click on “Convention Schedule” in the left-hand menu.

Special Event at TESOL 2010

At TESOL in Boston, you are invited to attend

An Evening with Friends of Second Language Writing
Re-Imagining Second Language Writing

Thursday, March 25, 2010
8:00-10:00 p.m.

Lucky’s Lounge
355 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 357-luck

Mark your convention calendars now!

Our fourth event is titled Re-Imagining Second Language Writing. Last year in Denver at TESOL 2009, the event drew a record crowd of scholars and teachers eager to interact and discuss burning issues related to second language writing as well as renew acquaintances and meet new friends from around the world.

Don’t miss the fun. Discuss hot topics in second language writing, visit with the experts, and enjoy the camaraderie of others interested in second language writing. Check the SLWIS booth or come to the open business meeting for more details.

Be with us as we celebrate the growth of Second Language Writing at TESOL. We’ve come a long way, baby!

Announcements and Information The Symposium on Second Language Writing: 2009 Report and 2010 Preview

Paul Kei Matsuda, Cofounding Chair, Symposium on Second Language Writing, Arizona State University, USA,

I am pleased to report that the 2009 Symposium on Second Language Writing (SSLW), held at Arizona State University on November 5-7, 2009, was a great success.

The largest symposium ever, SSLW 2009 involved 400 participants, 15 percent of whom came from outside the United States. Participants represented 21 different countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Poland, People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These numbers do not include many international students and scholars currently affiliated with U.S. institutions.

With the theme, “The Future of Second Language Writing,” the symposium featured 4 plenary sessions, 2 workshops, 12 colloquia, and nearly 150 concurrent sessions. The plenary speakers addressed some of the key issues that lie ahead of us as we continue to move toward the future: Ann M. Johns explored the future of L2 literacy instruction; Mark D. Warschauer spoke on technology; Mark A. James addressed learning transfer; and Carole Edelsky and Gail Shuck, a mother-daughter team, reflected on generational differences in L2 writing research in a well-choreographed presentation.

Two workshops, a new feature at the symposium, focused on error feedback (led by Dana Ferris) and textual borrowing (led by Christine Tardy). Invited colloquia also explored a wide variety of topics, such as foreign language writing, assessment, systemic-functional linguistics, early L2 writing in Asia, writing centers, genre, teacher education, “generation 1.5,” technology, SLA-SLW interface, and the institutionalization of L2 writing.

There also were some special presentations. One of them featured a panel of L2 writing specialists teaching in doctoral programs. Another special feature was a series of messages to the next generation of L2 writing specialists presented by Christine Pearson Casanave, Linda Lonon Blanton, and Bill Grabe. More details on the 2009 Symposium are available at

I am looking forward to continuing some of the exciting conversations that started last November at this year’s symposium, which is just around the corner. The 2010 Symposium, spearheaded by Rosa Manchon and her colleagues, will be held from May 20 through 22 at the University of Murcia, Spain. “Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries” is the theme. Plenary speakers will include Dwight Atkinson, Alister Cumming, Paul Kei Matsuda, Lourdes Ortega, Gert Rijlaarsdam, Tony Silva, and Mark Torrance. In addition, invited colloquia will be organized by Heidi Byrnes, Ilona Leki, John Norris, Charlene Polio, and Rachel Whittaker.

The proposal deadline for the 2010 symposium has already passed, but we hope you will consider joining us as we continue our efforts to build a strong sense of community and foster the advancement of the knowledge of second language writing across various national, institutional and disciplinary contexts.

For more information about the 2010 Symposium, please visit

Paul Kei Matsuda is associate professor of English and applied linguistics at Arizona State University. He is founding chair of the Symposium on Second Language Writing and the CCCC Committee on Second Language Writing, and has also served as the chair of the Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Caucus. He has edited numerous books and special journal issues on second language writing. He is also the series editor of Parlor Press Series on Second Language Writing and Book Reviews Editor for TESOL Quarterly.

About This Member Community Second Language Writing Interest Section Contact Information

TESOL’s Second Language Writing IS provides a forum for researchers and educators across grade levels and institutional settings to discuss and exchange information in the area of second language writing.

Discussion E-List

Visit the “Communities” link on the TESOL Main Page ( to subscribe to SLWIS-L, the discussion list for SLWIS members, or visit if you are already a subscriber.

Web Sites

SLWIS Community Leaders 2009-10

Christine Tardy

Danielle Zawodny Wetzel

Cate Crosby

Steering Committee
Allison Petro (2008-11)

Deborah Crusan (2009-11)

Jennifer Mott-Smith (2009-11)

Saihua Xia (2009-11)

E-List Manager
Youngjoo Yi

Web Manager
Charles Nelson

Newsletter Coeditors
Margi Wald

Cate Crosby

Book Review Coeditors
Steven Bookman

Sharon Whitehead-van Löben Sels

Context Column Editors

Catherine Smith

Lilian Farag Allah

Four-Year, Private Liberal Arts College/University
Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior

Paul Kei Matsuda

Past Chairs

Gigi Taylor

|Deborah Crusan

Jessie L. Moore

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

SLW News: Call for Submissions

SLW News is soliciting articles on second language writing theory, research, and pedagogy in all ESL/EFL settings.

SLW News welcomes articles that focus on L2 writer and characteristics and text features, classroom materials and practices, placement and assessment issues, writing program administration, teacher development, and other related areas. SLW News encourages submissions related to any educational setting, especially traditionally underrepresented contexts (preK through 12, two-year colleges, community programs, international K-12 schools, etc.). In light of the newsletter’s electronic format, authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks.


June 30 for the August/September issue and December 31 for the February issue.


Articles should

  • be no longer than 1,500 words
  • include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography
  • contain no more than five citations
  • follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA style)
  • be in MS Word (.doc) or rich text (.rtf) format

Please direct your submissions and questions to

Margi Wald, SLW News Coeditor
: +1 510.642.2652


SLW News welcomes reviews of teacher resource books and student texts dealing with second language writing, teaching, research, and administration. Anyone interested in writing a review for SLW News may choose a recently published book in the field and contact the editor for approval and review copies. Reviews will be considered for publication based on the quality of the reviewer’s evaluation and description of the book, and the book’s relevance and importance to the field.

Reviews should

  • be in APA format
  • be 600-900 words in length
  • include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography

Further information and book review suggestions are available from the SLW News book review coeditors: Steven Bookman,, and Sharon Whitehead-van Löben Sels,


SLW News welcomes CALL-related articles, announcements, reports, and reviews in the following categories:

  • Software/Hardware (e.g., organizing systems or integrating software/hardware in learning environments to enhance writing instruction, assessment, or program evaluation).
  • Materials Design (e.g., using software such as Flash or MonoConc to design language-learning activities or materials that address specific language-learning goals, including discovery activities, practice exercises, storybooks, quizzes, or games).
  • Curriculum Design (e.g., using course management software such as Blackboard or eCollege to design e-courses, e-programs, or hybrids for second language writing).
  • Applied Writing Research (e.g., writing computer programs to identify lexico-grammatical features, discourse patterns, or errors/learner variation in writing, such as corpus linguistics).

Submissions should be in APA format and include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography. Further information is available from Catherine Smith, CALL Column editor, at


This column welcomes both short and long submissions.

Topics for short submissions (under 500 words) include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Statements of instructional problems
  • Classroom tips that worked
  • Resources and how to integrate them in classroom instruction
  • A recent article review

Topics for longer submissions (up to 1,200 words) include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Summary of research
  • Literature review with pedagogical implications
  • Book review
  • Lesson plans
  • Handouts and activity sheets
  • Proposed joint research projects

In order to ensure diversity of interest and coverage of as many areas of instruction in the field of EFL writing as possible, the EFL column encourages submissions on the following themes:

  • University writing classrooms
  • PreK-12 writing instruction
  • Learner communities in the writing classroom
  • Computer and the Internet in the writing classroom
  • Writing for tests (TOEFL and IELTS)
  • Technical writing as a booming genre in the EFL context
  • EFL writing instructors’ professional development

Submissions should be in APA format and include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography. Please direct questions and send your contributions to Lilian Farag Allah, column editor, at


SLW News welcomes articles, brief reports, and information of interest to those working in four-year, private liberal-arts university settings. Possible topics include research, pertinent teaching experiences, possible lesson plans, and observations on issues and trends that apply to this area.

Submissions should

  • Be short (500–1500 words)
  • Include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography
  • Include no more than five citations
  • Follow APA style guidelines
  • Be in MS Word (.doc(x)) or rich text (.rtf) format

Procedures for submissions:

  • Send via e-mail attachment to Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior at
  • Use “SLW News Submission” as the e-mail subject