ESL Writing

This section of the portfolio contains artifacts from my time in the U.S., Qatar, and Singapore teaching various levels of composition to international and multilingual students. In these courses, my main goals are to see writing in English as a process of negotiation with other readers and writers – not simply as a matter of “correctness” – and to provide opportunities for successful transfer of writing knowledge to genres in the disciplines. My work is strongly influenced by others’ thinking on multilingual student agency, most notably as part of the rich history of L2 research and recent developments in translingual writing.

Stop sign in Arabic and English
Photo of stop sign in Arabic and English taken by Amy Hodges

In my ESL course at the University of Arkansas, the course description and textbooks for this course were standardized – I particularly cringe at the mention of “near-native abilities” –and I actually didn’t use the vocabulary textbook that was assigned and very rarely referred to the APA textbook. Instead, I asked students to read some accessible and applicable texts from open-source websites and to work with the vocabulary in the academic sources they were using for their researched writing. Thus, the syllabus reflects how I refuse to divorce issues of language learning from issues of learning a new discourse, such as genre, purpose, rhetorical situation, and stance of the writer.

woman at computer doing technology work

Photo of woman at computer by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

As in FYC, I use the inquiry method in this course to structure my assignments, but I add more emphasis on critical reading and discipline-specific ways of writing. While Writing about Writing theory influences my choices in FYC, I use more Writing in the Disciplines theory when I work with L2 writers, particularly, as has been true for most of my career, I have students who express strong interests in writing as professionals in STEM fields. Thus, the first project from a pre-university ESL course situates students as apprentices in a discourse and allows students to choose the genre most appropriate to their course of study.

In addition to teaching towards students’ future majors, I frequently ask multilingual students to look back at their own educational experience. This set of assignments I used in my most recent course at Singapore University of Technology and Design puts my students and their analysis of their own background in conversation with a variety of popular sources on East Asian education, digital learning, and cross-cultural education. Scaffolding these assignments also made students revise their work in terms of content, not only language.

Indian woman reading a book on a curb

Photo of woman reading on curb in Chennai, India by Prasanna Kumar on Unsplash

I am still working on how to integrate more critical reading into multilingual composition courses, so I include here a Twitter assignment that I developed for graduate students at the University of Arkansas and am thinking about modifying it for undergraduates. I like how the assignment aims to get students in touch with professional networks, but I’m unsure about how effective it was at accomplishing this goal. Next time, it might be more reasonable to focus the goal towards rewarding students for the reading they already do, as well as encouraging them to explore new sources and types of texts.


First project assignment guidelines, Spring 2013 University of Arkansas

Twitter assignment guidelines, Spring 2013 University of Arkansas

Set of writing assignments, Summer 2015 Singapore University of Technology and Design