Inside Writing

Inside Writing is a new series of writing textbooks from Oxford University Press (2014). I helped design the pedagogy for series and co-authored books 2 and 4 with Jenny Bixby.  For Inside Writing, we took a genre-based approach. This means we don’t see writing development as simply a progression from sentences to paragraphs to short essays to long essays, but rather as learning new ways to use language to meet communicative needs in specific social contexts. Inside Writing is not another five-paragraph essay text! Yes, we teach students how to write essays, but not the essay: they learn to write essays in different genres and for different purposes, such as argument, discussion, challenge, and synthesis. Inside Writing also teaches business proposals, test-question answers, persuasive letters, public policy writing, discussion boards, and many other real-world and academic uses of writing. We’re also less obsessed with paragraphs — some assignments can be completed in one paragraph, but could easily be extended to a multi-paragraph composition (in fact, I just taught the product review chapter in my reading/writing class and had students write 2-3 paragraph responses: what’s important is the staging of the information, not the number of paragraphs!).

Inside Writing also shows students how to use every family in the Academic Word List, and raises important points of grammar that are useful for writing each target genre. The writing models are level-appropriate and designed to simulate real-world scenarios, exemplify the genres, and present grammar and vocabulary in context. Oxford has made the book and extra resources available on iTools, its fabulous classroom presentation software, so you can show pages from the book on a projector or SmartBoard and play with the examples!

I’m really excited about this project: now teachers who aren’t satisfied with the tedium of the five-paragraph essay have a choice. The books look great (thank you, Oxford!), and they show the possibilities of a genre-based approach to ESL writing instruction.

You can find out more on the Oxford website, or by leaving me a message here.

The Inside Writing teachers’ site gives you access to table of contents and descriptions of all the genres in the 5 books, as well as my essay on genre-based writing instruction and sample units from each book. You need to register for OUP’s Teachers’ Club, but that’s free. The student site also has the “About the Genre” pages and comprehension questions for all the writing models in the series (since this is a writing series, we didn’t put reading comprehension questions in the book, but we knew teachers might want a quick comprehension check, so that’s online). The iTools DVD which you can order if you adopt the series for your classes includes all these documents, plus answer keys for everything, and assessments.

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