Wednesday, 19 July 2017

We can always learn something new

I have enrolled on a FutureLearn academic writing programme to polish up my writing style (here). I have just completed the first five weeks of a three course programme delivered by the University of Reading. While mainly focused on ESOL students, it contains enough tips to keep native English speakers engaged as well. The course started in May, but, as it is still open, I have been able to follow along, do the exercises, and to follow behind the other participants' discussion.

On the beginner course there was a nicely illustrated exploration of the present simple and the present continuous tenses. While native English speakers would never have thought about this - outside of the classroom - I found it a very interesting, and the examples very useful. I will be able to use some of these examples in my own teaching.

Also useful was an exploration of paragraph structure. To my chagrin I now I realise that I have been doing it 'all wrong'. Apparently I need a topic sentence to lead my paragraph, then I should expand into more detail or examples. I strongly suspect that I only plant the topic sentence flag once or twice in a piece of writing; habitually assuming that the topic sentence is 'self-evident' to the reader. A lack of consistency on my part, and something for me to build into my future writing habits.

Note that the first course is 'beginner'. If you take it, please don't expect it to go into great detail about APA or to have in-depth discussions of narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive essay style. This course is designed to introduce international students to essay writing, with some high-level rules, and it does that well. It is also not a huge investment in time. English speakers should be able to get through the material within an hour each week without any difficulty.

While I don't agree with everything that the course has delivered, it has been a jolly useful reminder that there is always something to learn. If you want to brush up on your writing basics, I would firmly recommend it.


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