Academic register and style

This is a little lesson that could be tagged onto an IELTS lesson or used in the EAP classroom.

Its aim is just to raise awareness of writing style while also giving a some opportunity for some writing practice.

The lesson is on powerpoint, as well as having a worksheet. However, in the spirit of materials light teaching, if you have the ability to use the powerpoint, you probably won’t need the worksheet, unless you want them to have it as a record.

Level: IELTS / EAP / Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Aim: To raise awareness of academic style

Time: 45mins – 1hr

All of the answers for this, apart from the students rewriting answers are on the powerpoint. So it is handy if you can show it.

Procedure:

Ask the students to look at the cloud and decide what is normally a feature of academic writing.

  1. Ask the students to examine the sentence, highlighting where the sentence is not academic. Ask them to focus on:

vague language                      subjective language                informal vocabulary

2. Ask the students to rewrite it and improve it. Board examples and briefly highlight the improved features.

3. Ask them to look at the longer example and highlight what is wrong. Then focus them on the questions. (In the powerpoint this is done step by step with highlighted examples)

The seal is there as that is Paro – the robot discussed in the paragraph, you could do prediction work based on the picture, or leave it there for decoration. Here is a video showing it. If you wanted to go further.

4. Board good examples or get them to peer correct for some variety.

Follow up / Reflection: 

Ask students to look at some of their recent writing and ask them to critique it, bringing in an example paragraph with corrections for the next class.

Materials: 

 

Phrasal verbs – Register

One of the things I have noticed most is that our students lack knowledge of how much lexis affects register.  Even CPE students I have taught have been puzzled to find phrasal verbs highlighted (by me) in essays, assuming the issue was with meaning, not style or register.  I think students need to know about register and how their choices affect it and so here is a little lesson to highlight it.

The other reason for doing it like this is that students often say:

“phrasal verbs are hard, I’m just not going to use them.”

This hopefully gives them a reason to use them in a way that is manageable and demystifies them, seeing them as just another piece of vocab.

For follow up I am setting noticing skills, asking them to see if they can find other examples in newspapers / magazines / films and bring them into class.  As always, the key is trying to make them a little more autonomous and get them reading outside the classroom environment.

*I am using ‘phrasal verb’ in the lesson to describe multi-word verbs, I know therre is a debate about what is and what isn’t but don’t think it is necessarily helpful for students to play that out in front of them.

Level: High Int +

Aim: To highlight the effect on register of using phrasal verbs

Procedure: 

This lesson starts with a little sort of needs analysis, getting students to think about this first just helps you to find out more about their strengths and weaknesses.

Needs Analysis: You could set it as homework and then ask them to bring it to class to discuss, but I do this as my warmer.  Depending on the students this stage can last between 10-30 mins.

Answers

  1. I think the second option is correct, but in a sense you could accept that both are correct
  2. look at is not a phrasal verb – look into (investigate) and look up (search in a dictionary/online) can be both normal verb and phrasal verb.  Look for meaning search for something is a phrasal verb.
  3. Students own answers and good for discussion
  4. probably more spoken but not exclusively.  There are some phrasal verbs which we use a lot in written English

Get letter – sheet 2: 

T/F questions -answers

  1. F
  2. T
  3. F it is grammatically good but has register issues
  4. F

Meanings of get

  • get your reply – receive
  • getting around to – finding time to
  • get involved in – take part in / participate
  • have got – have
  • will we get – receive
  • get picked up – be picked up – get used in passive
  • get on well – have a good relationship with

The rewrite could be done in class as groups, something I like to do, or could be set as homework

Putting knowledge into action

When I do this I ask them if there is a subtle difference in the two choices, highlighting that synonyms are rarely perfect for each other and that they add subtle shades and nuances.  Try to elicit this from students as well as any other synonyms that come up.

  • talk – catch up
  • spend time with – hang out with
  • plan – sort out – in this context
  • meet – get together – I also emphasise that meet up would work here too
  • like to go – be up for it
  • come – pop by
  • interested in – keen on
  • excited about – looking forward to

These words make it more informal and friendlier in its feel.

Materials:

 

How can I write it if I don’t know what it is?

So, this lesson was something I taught yesterday to try to help my students with their writing, I only took over the class recently and in the needs analysis a few of them stated that they needed to work on their writing, two of them telling me that they hadn’t been able to join the advanced level because they hadn’t done well in the writing paper of the level test.  When I asked what had been wrong with the writing, one reported that the writing had been “good but in the wrong style”, I asked what she meant, but she just said, that was what she had been told and wasn’t sure how to change it.  A quick check with the rest of the class confirmed that she was not alone in being a bit lost when it came to how to write in different styles, so I thought I would start at the beginning.

That’s what this lesson is, a beginners guide to genre, or a quick revision of it, whichever you prefer.

Aim: to increase awareness of genre and register in writing, so that the know the key features so that they are at least aware of what they should be using for different writing

Level: High Int + (the class I did this with yesterday were a pre-advanced level)

Procedure:

1. Cut the extracts out from the page, stick them on the wall and invite the students to read them with some background music playing. (I only did this to generate interest as I felt handing them a piece of paper would be a little dull.) While reading I asked them to think about what type of writing they were and where they thought they had come from.

2. Ask them to sit down and discuss it in pairs or groups for a few minutes

3. Write the possibilities on the board and ask them to match the types of writing to the possibilities in their groups.  Once most of them had got close to finishing I asked them to sit down and gave them the worksheet so that they could look at them and confirm their decisions.

4.  Check the answers but at this stage I gave them the answers only, I did not give them reasons.

5. Elicit from the students how they knew the first one was an essay and wrote what they put on the board.  I then asked them as a group to go through the other examples explaining what features of the text they thought were typical.  I monitored and helped to steer them in the right direction if they were lost.

6. Group feedback – you could give them the answer sheet here, but I think it is more fun to elicit and get the information from the students.

7. Give the students the opportunity to check any vocabulary they don’t know, they may have done this already, as always try to encourage them to guess the meanings, but help if needed. (you could arrange a matching exercise here if you wanted with meanings, but as it wasn’t the main focus of the lesson I chose not to this time)

8. Ask the students to arrange the different types of writing into similar styles, don’t set them any rules here, what they decide is often very interesting and useful for them.  If you have them get them to write it up on the IWB, the different groups.  Make sure all the groups are involved even if it is only to affirm other groups decisions.

You can obviously make your suggestions once they have discussed theirs.  For example, all of the formal types together, etc.

Follow on: Obviously writing, but where you go totally depends on your students and where you feel they need practice.  The easiest would be to carry on the story.

You could also get them to predict what the title of the article might be, or activities that get them interacting with the texts more.

Hopefully the good thing is that this lesson can be referred back to whenever you want to focus students on different genres.

 

Materials: 

1.Genre

2. Answers