March 30, 2013 by k. liz
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and studying about second language academic writing. There are so many theories and ideas that it can get a bit overwhelming. In my opinion, it’s not about getting and incorporating everything, it’s about finding the little things, trying them, seeing what works, and then adapting. Teaching is a constant cycle of growth and learning. (If you want to read more about this, check out my post on the first chapter of a book all about Teacher Inquiry.)
So, one of the things that I have come across in my study is the concept of content-based academic writing. A lot of articles address the fact that academic second language writing classes really need to be preparing students for the academic writing that they will actually encounter. In reality, students don’t generally write on foreign topics that they have never been introduced to in the classroom, but they also don’t get to choose any topic that is dear to their heart. Rather, a topic is taught in the classroom, and as an extension activity, or a summative assessment, students are asked to write essays or reports on the topic to both prove their understanding and demonstrate their ability to utilize the information.
How can we mimic this in the classroom and actually make our writing classes constructive and beneficial for students? We don’t always have the freedom to create a content-based lesson system in the classroom, but we can provide more information related to content that will allow students to write authoritatively. One way that I have enjoyed doing this recently is by using infographics. Infographics are a good, visual way to communicate a lot of content in a short and easy way. By providing infographics, students can fill the gaps in their knowledge or understanding quickly, visually, and without the need for extensive reading. My academic writing class is at a pre-intermediate level, and by giving them 3 or 4 infographic sheets and leaving it up to them to use them as they chose, I saw an increased amount of confidence in the content. Students had statistics and prompts in their hands that they could understand as well as utilize without too much trouble.
Infographics are my new best friend!
To give a quick example, here is a writing prompt and some infographics I might present my students with.
Social networking has changed lives all around the world. Do you agree or disagree? Why/why not?