Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Power of Contrast

In the Fulbright writing class this summer, we used the splendidly creative and thorough activity designed by one of the curriculum teams in the spring semester, specifically for this population. The focus was genre and the materials were nine short texts all related to the topic of volcanoes. They included a newspaper report about the Iceland eruption, scientific articles about various features of volcanoes, a poem, a proposal for a science lesson, a blog post and a passage from a novel. They ranged across a wide expanse of formality levels.

The students worked in pairs to identify the source of each text and were remarkably accurate in their estimations. But the linguistic sparks really began to fly when I asked them about the features of each text which provided clues: the passive voice in the science journal article; the short paragraphs and direct quotes in the news paper; the imperatives in the recipe; the sentence fragments and use of the word “jeez” in the blog post; the alliteration and enjambment in the poem; the evocation of place in the novel; the citations in the biogeography article.

The crucial role of induction, the value of authentic texts, the power of contrast. Nine texts and a whole set of insights into genre and their distinguishing linguistic features. Awesome.

1 comment:

SakeSam said...

I agree. Hyland's article on genre writing has provided me with a lot of ideas. Thanks Peter.