Reading and Writing for Academic Success

September 2004 — Volume 8, Number 2

Reading and Writing for Academic Success

Mary Kaye Jordan and Lia Plakans (2003)
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Pp. x + 264
ISBN 0-472-08896-3 (paper)
$21.95

Reading and Writing for Academic Success: Teacher’s Manual

Mary Kaye Jordan and Lia Plakans (2003)
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Pp. 70
ISBN 0-472-08897-1 (paper)
$11.95

Reading and Writing for Academic Success is a welcome addition to the relatively short list of texts available to teachers of English for Academic Purposes. It seeks to develop “reading and writing skills as they are interrelated for academic purposes.” It is designed for advanced learners preparing for tertiary studies in an English-speaking college or university. The curriculum is content based and emphasises skills, both academic and cultural, which will ultimately prepare for success in the western academic tradition.

Reading and Writing for Academic Success is divided into 8 chapters, with the overriding theme being that of issues and ideas of concern in the 21st century: education issues, population issues and developing countries. Education issues are further subdivided into the schools, the students and the curriculum. Chapter 1 provides a general introduction to 21st century issues, which chapters 2-5 and 7 develop in more detail, through targeted readings and tasks designed to build knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and produce original ideas and opinions which will, in turn guide the development of academic writing skills. Chapters 6 and 8 are more skill based and lead students through the process of developing a research paper and applying the skills they have learned. [-1-]

All chapters follow a similar format. Each chapter begins with a Preparation section, which introduces the students to the ideas they will encounter and attempts to provoke original ideas and initial discussion, as well as introducing the skills that will be utilised in specific tasks. This is followed by Touring the Text, a section designed to familiarize the students with the previewing and pre reading skills necessary for academic success. The Annotation section allows students to use the strategy of annotation as a link to later summary writing by helping them to take control of the text, and leads directly into the Reading section. The readings themselves are of a variety of genres and introduce students to a range of sources and registers. Comprehension Questions are designed to check student understanding of key issues raised in the text before proceeding with the more important skill development tasks which follow. The Considering the Issues section attempts to lead the students beyond the text and promote critical thinking of the issues raised. The Paraphrasing/Summary Writing section leads students through the process of extracting key ideas from one or more source and integrating them to form a coherent whole. The Vocabulary section focuses on developing the skills that enhance the learning and understanding of key vocabulary items and idiomatic language. The Writing for the Reader section leads the student through important aspects of academic writing such as organisation, coherence, cohesion and clarity. They practice writing introductions and conclusions and edit for style and content. This skill development is followed by a Writing Assignment in which the students practice the skills they have learned and write about the issues raised. At the end of each chapter, students are made aware of their progress through the In this chapter you have learned/reviewed section.

Other components of this text include: Journaling used to promote fluency, Memo writing to allow for communication with instructors, Activities using discussion in which students are asked to interact with others and develop their interpersonal and collaborative skills, Thinking right now tasks to promote inductive learning, and Timed Reading. Finally, the Research Project introduces the student to the multifaceted nature of academic research through a series of interrelated research tasks leading the students through an individual research project on an issue raised in the text.

The Teacher’s Manual is essentially an answer key. However, there are some additional features that make it a useful source for teachers. Each chapter begins with a brief explanation of the content and underlying rationale. Sections are further explained, and supplemented with useful teaching suggestions. Although many of these suggestions are somewhat redundant for the experienced EAP instructor, they may prove useful to the less experienced instructor. They further serve to clarify the intentions of the authors. The Teacher’s Manual also contains an appendix containing a review of Revising Strategies, Sample Student Writings, Sample Syllabi, a Five-Week schedule for writing the research paper and a list of Additional Resources.

If there is one weakness in this text it is the overly broad range of genres used. It would have been of greater benefit to have a higher concentration of academic texts. Having said that, the sources are generally international in nature and, as such, highly relevant to the global audience. The comprehension questions, too, could have had a wider range of styles and types to introduce students to the scope of strategies necessary for understanding and effectively exploiting academic texts. The tasks themselves are certainly not original, but are well organised and logical, and provide non-native speaking students with practice in the many skills and strategies that will enhance their chances of success at the tertiary level. The tone is friendly and the instructions communicate with students as equals. This reviewer also feels that there is enormous potential for additional suggestions and resources that have been underutilized in the Teacher’s Manual. Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, Reading and Writing for Academic Success would make an extremely useful addition to any EAP course list, and the Teacher’s Manual a practical teacher’s aid.

Kaye M. Dunn
Centre for English Teaching, The University of Sydney, Australia
<k.dunncet.usyd.edu.au>

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