The goal of the ESL program is to help ESL international students achieve a balance of language skills that would allow them to perform competently – and on a par with their native peers – the academic writing tasks relevant to their majors.
The ESL course sequence is designed to enhance the ability to read complex texts critically, discuss and interact effectively, and present ideas in grammatically correct, coherent, and effective writing. A major goal is also to cultivate awareness of the rhetorical conventions of academic English and to teach the students to apply culturally appropriate strategies for maintaining classroom discourse.
ESL tutoringinthe Writing Center provides additional scaffolding for the class instruction. Trained tutors with ESL expertise offer assistance with specific kinds of mechanical and grammatical errors, as well as with issues in overall organization of academic papers. Tutors are not expected to edit papers, but rather to work on symptomatic trouble-spots in the student writing and to respond to specific needs identified by the WR097/098/100ESL instructor. They work in appointments set by the students themselves or through referrals from instructors.
To ensure consistency of coverage and instruction across sections per level, we designate the texts for WR097 and WR098 (ordered in bulk through the BU Bookstore); the syllabus templates provided by the program suggest a timeline for the required activities and assignments.
WR097 Course Requirements The course is designed to set the foundation for college writing and prepare students for the challenges of WR098 and subsequent mainstream writing and disciplinary courses. Students learn to employ the structures and vocabulary appropriate for academic writing. Assigned readings provide models for analysis and discussion that help students recognize and emulate the processes used in academic texts (cf. catalog course description and syllabus template).
Core Skills and Points of Knowledge All WR097 sections follow the same curriculum and aim to achieve the common goals for the level:
use effective strategies for reading college-level texts and for acquiring new vocabulary in academic contexts
begin to build up a logical analytical argument in a short essay
identify and practice various writing styles and formats
fluently perform classroom language functions
express ideas using a controlled range of structures
understand the culture of the American academic classroom
acquire knowledge of advanced grammar and meta-language
begin to perform meta-cognitive and self-reflective tasks
The focus of WR097 is on developing linguistic fluency and accuracy.
The instruction focuses on reading comprehension; discussion and oral presentation skills; vocabulary development; grammar and mechanics (sentence-level correctness; paragraph coherence). The priorities are:
Grammar: The teaching of grammar is in context, organized in targeted structures to respond to linguistic needs across the class, as well as to map individual student agendas.
Public speaking: The special emphasis on public speaking necessitates attention to pronunciation to facilitate fluency and communicative confidence.
Acculturation: As the course is the entry level to college, a component on academic acculturation (developing basic academic literacy) should be put in place in the first couple of weeks.
Short non-fiction texts constitute the bulk of the readings; ancillary (not mandatory) apparatus helps model the standard class activities.
A longer work (novel) at the end of the semester revisits themes and activates various grammatical structures discussed during the semester.
The syllabus is organized in four units (an average of four weeks each) which illustrate different genres and disciplines and progressively build fundamental writing skills. Frequent short homework assignments and in-class writing promote the incremental acquisition of skills.
Two major papers: basic summary (10% of final grade) and argument-based analysis of the novel (20%)
Three minor papers: basic summary, outline, and response to rhetorical technique (for a total of 15% of final grade)
Weekly homework: rotate reading journal, outline, summary, discussion questions (HW is not letter-graded: instead, graded with check minus/ check/ check plus)
Two teacher-student conferences – one (10 minutes), early in the semester, to set up an individual list of writing priorities based on Unit 1 tasks; one (20 minutes) to discuss the draft of a major paper. Recommended tutor appointment(s).
Presentations on readings are assigned weekly. Students work in teams, decoding and analyzing the text in order to lead a class discussion. The whole class is engaged in the discussion, providing constructive feedback on text interpretation and public speaking skills (see specifics below).
Three unit quizzes – on all aspects of the class work. The quizzes should include a significant writing component.
First-week diagnostics: in-class writing, along with screening of grammar fundamentals and speaking skills. The diagnostics are used to identify outliers and promptly request level changes, as well as to calibrate the syllabus and to refer students for tutoring.
Mid-semester self-assessment: program questionnaire used across sections.
Grammar is taught/reviewed throughout the semester in context and through patterns (not discrete tokens), often illustrated with examples culled from student writing.
Their format is designed to achieve the following goals for public speaking:
use agreed-upon rules for informal and formal discussions (in small and large groups); formulate and pose relevant questions, listen actively, and contribute ideas in group discussions; gain fluency and confidence.
The rationale for regular oral presentations is that the procedures learned through them can be transposed directly into the students’ academic writing. This rationale needs to be reiterated – and demonstrated – frequently and persuasively (e.g., through short in-class writing).
Typical main presentation format (30 minutes):
Students are assigned readings from the text, develop a handout, and serve as discussion leaders for class analysis of themes, rhetorical techniques, vocabulary, and argumentation (see handout template.)
The instructor and the class provide feedback based on agreed-upon criteria. (Suggested written feedback on grammar and pronunciation by the instructor to individual presenters vs. oral debriefing of strengths/weaknesses by the whole class.)
The presentation is occasionally followed by in-class writing - e.g.,
answering a discussion question from the handout.
Secondary oral presentation on syntax:
A syntactic structure is identified in the text and a team of students is asked to research its characteristics in the grammar course text (and recommended handbook/online resources). The team reports on their findings and illustrates the usage through examples of their own (5-10 minutes).
A description of the focus of each unit with relevant assignments follows:
Unit 1: Sentence Structure and Formal Apparatus: review of core syntactic structures and the language of textual analysis; note-taking techniques and text annotation; cross-cultural rhetorical conventions introduced.
After reviewing in class different types of questions (factual, interpretative, open-ended, etc.) students are asked to formulate questions on a reading and categorize them into types. Written responses to select questions are assigned in class and analyzed to illustrate the way the type and form of the question shapes the answer. The exercise on question formulation also practices reading strategies and critical text interrogation.
Suggested format: elements of basic summary and critical response without the constraints of specific organization; obligatory component of minimum five vocabulary items (words, phrases) with dictionary definitions and student-generated illustrations in context (aka vocabulary log). The reading journal is kept as a weekly assignment throughout the semester to insure consistent familiarity with the class texts and steady vocabulary development.
* Required brief instructor-student conference to set up an individual list of writing priorities based on all Unit 1 writing.
Unit 2: Paraphrasing and Summarizing: reading comprehension; paraphrasing and summarizing techniques (plagiarism pre-emption); revision strategies; cross-cultural rhetorical conventions revisited.
Outlining hinges on correct reading comprehension and allows students to map the text, showing the hierarchy of ideas. This exercise also practices word formation and basic phrase vs. sentence structure.
The goal is to identify the basic facts and essential ideas in the readings, and to build awareness of the characteristics of different genres. The basic summary builds on the outline and fleshes out linguistic means to connect ideas in writing. Quotation and revision techniques are introduced, and the drafting process is modeled and practiced.
Unit 3: Paragraph Structure and Analysis: paragraph organization; lexical and stylistic analysis; in-text citation. Introduction to academic argument; discussion of cross-cultural rhetoric (cont.).
Required writing: Response to rhetorical technique (1 page).
Response to rhetorical technique:
This assignment develops the elements of rhetorical analysis introduced in the reading journal and requires the students to focus on a specific lexical or grammatical use and to relate it to the meaning of the passage. Textual analysis is modeled step by step. The assignment generates discussion about style and the linguistic means to shape it, and revisits the notion of academic integrity.
Quotation formats are reviewed, and self-editing is encouraged.
Unit 4: Argumentation: argument and evidence; thematic analysis
This unit reinforces and applies the skills learned so far. The focus is on substantiating an argument, essay organization, and editing for sentence structure and diction. Students practice close analysis of text, formulation of thesis statements, and incorporation of adequate supporting detail into logically developed arguments. Citation is revisited, and revision is encouraged through drafting and in-class workshops.
Required writing: thesis-driven essay (3 pages): an argument-based analysis of a theme in the novel.
ESL students come with a basic understanding of the vocabulary of grammatical description and good, yet passive, grammar knowledge. The goal is to activate that knowledge and put it in the service of analytical writing. Grammar topics are covered through targeted teaching of linguistic structures and workshops on patterns of errors identified in students’ writing.
The following topics have been identified as important for the level (NB: some structures are marked as level priorities and need to be addressed throughout the semester):
Word forms (priority)
Agreement: subject + verb (priority)
noun – pronoun
verb phrase structure
tense sequencing; tense shifts
3. Sentence Structure:
word-order fundamentals (priority)
clause types -- relative clauses (priority)
run-ons; comma splices
4. Punctuation: commas, quotation marks
The topics will be reviewed as mini-grammar lessons and class exercises are structured around the students’ own writing. Approximately 1/3 of class time should be regularly allocated for discussions of language issues and academic writing conventions.
The ranking and sequencing of the grammar topics to be covered will be based on your own initial diagnostics and on the problems that emerge in ongoing student writing (in class and in assignments). However, L2 writing research and our own experience in the program have shown that there needs to be a realistic approach to errors -- based on the level goals and on the seriousness (stigmatizing perception) of those errors. Please keep the following typology of errors in mind:
Errors that affect the reader’s understanding:
Verb phrase structure;
Subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement;
Basic sentence structure (fragments and word order).
Errors that usually do not cause misunderstanding; they are typically not rule-bound and require more practice in reading and writing for noticeable improvement:
Coordination and subordination patterns;
Prepositions and articles;
Punctuation and mechanics.
Socio-linguistic errors -- rooted in lack of rhetorical awareness and English usage conventions:
Formal/informal usage and academic diction;
Plagiarism cases (mimicking of language and diction).
WR098 Course Requirements
WR098 is a reading-based course, with emphasis on critical textual analysis; the logic of exposition and argumentation; audience and tone; accuracy in language use and prose mechanics. The course tasks respond to the linguistic needs of the students by addressing specific elements of English grammar and style. A strong public speaking component helps students achieve oral fluency and confidence. Two individual conferences: one with instructor and one with a writing tutor (cf. catalog description and syllabus template).
Core Skills and Points of Knowledge All WR098 sections follow the same curriculum, use the same designated texts, and aim to achieve the common goals for the level:
read academic texts on varied subjects with accurate comprehension and intellectual discernment
recognize and use the conventions of expository and argumentative
discover and interpret issues and incorporate background knowledge in oral and written responses
develop the tools to critique academic texts, including the ability to
identify and critique thematic and rhetorical structures.
compose structurally sound papers, with attention to thesis
express oneself with linguistic accuracy, fluency, and diction
appropriate to a university environment
plan, write, and revise academic papers with structural accuracy,
clarity, coherence, and attention to stylistic features of written
understand American academic conventions
develop and use effective strategies for finding and correcting errors in one’s own work
The course, entitled The Global University, covers a variety of themes that encompass the life of a global university and its place in 21st century society. The instruction emphasizes guided reading; close textual analysis; modeling of argumentation patterns; strategies for summarizing and documenting sources; consideration of audience and purpose; fluent speaking in semi-formal setting; correct lexical and syntactic usage.
The priorities are:
Argumentation: students are taught to enter the academic conversation by emulating established argumentation patterns. Instruction models the main elements of an argument (claim, reasons, and evidence; acknowledgmentand response) and cultivates understanding of their rhetorical effects.
Linguistic accuracy: Regular work on identifying and eliminating patterns of errors helps put in place self-editing techniques.
Close reading and vocabulary work
Study of grammar and prose mechanics
Modeling of essay structure.
Discussion of academic integrity and plagiarism; practice of citation conventions
Non-fiction readings of essay length for the first ¾ of the semester. A longer work (novel/ memoir) at the end of the semester revisits themes from previous readings.
The syllabus is structured around four thematic units encompassing the life of a global university. Each unit presents a variety of genres and culminates in formal writing assignments.
Two required conferences: one with instructor and one with a WC tutor.
Oral presentations on assigned Reader essays - throughout unit 3.
Three formal papers with drafts (specifics below)
Portfolio (cover letter; final paper, two minor assignments of the student’s choice)
Three unit quizzes – covering all aspects of the class material per unit
First-week diagnostics (grammar screening; in-class writing; short assignments) to identify outliers and adjust placement, and to make decisions for tutoring referrals.
Weekly homework assignments on scheduled reading throughout the semester to insure consistent familiarity with the class texts and steady vocabulary development. Rotate summary, reading journal, outline, each followed by a list of key vocabulary of the student’s choice.
The format is designed to achieve the following goals for public speaking:
use agreed upon rules for informal and formal discussions (in small and large groups); contribute ideas and constructive criticism in group discussions; make individual presentations that demonstrate appropriate consideration of audience, purpose, and the information to be conveyed; use correctly sophisticated vocabulary (proper register and context); apply knowledge of the structure of the English language and standard usage conventions.
It should be demonstrated that the procedures learned through the oral presentations can be transposed directly into the students’ academic writing. Plan regular written follow-up of presentations.
Typical presentation format:
Students are assigned readings from the text, develop a handout, and serve as discussion leaders for class analysis of themes, rhetorical techniques, vocabulary, and argumentation.
The instructor and the class provide written and oral feedback based on agreed-upon criteria.
The presentation is often followed by short in-class writing based on the discussion.
A description of the theme and focus of each unit in the academic sequence with relevant assignments follows:
Unit 1, Education: Summarizing; paraphrasing; textual analysis
The unit develops skills and strategies that are the building blocks of essay writing. Students practice close reading and annotation skills. Various summarizing and outlining techniques are modeled. Paraphrasing with exercises on lexical and syntactic variety are assigned in class and for homework. Special emphasis on plagiarism and review of the BU Academic Conduct Code.
Required writing: (not letter-graded) basic summary (a couple ofparagraphs); reading journal (free format); outline (up to 1 page); analytical summary (AS) (up to 3 pages; usually ungraded, or given a letter grade for orientation only, not factored into the final grade);
It checks reading comprehension and applies knowledge of the specific structure and elements of texts in the students’ accounts. Paraphrasing techniques are revisited. Review for paragraph unity and development and include a checklist for grammar accuracy. The assignment generates discussion about the value and applicability of paraphrasing; it also sets the tone for semester-long work on avoiding plagiarism and practicing academic integrity.
Includes elements of basic summary and critical response without the constraints of specific organization. The reading journal is kept as a weekly assignment throughout the semester to insure consistent familiarity with the class texts and steady vocabulary development.
Outlining hinges on correct reading comprehension and allows students to map the text. This exercise also practices word formation and sentence structure.
A reader’s guide to the text. Students summarize the main points of the reading and provide interpretative commentary. The assignment builds the skills of logical mapping of the text and rhetorical analysis by discerning hierarchies of ideas and encouraging speculation about the function of details, as well as appreciation of stylistic nuance. NB: It should bring together elements of all the preceding assignments and present opportunities for incremental low-stakes tasks (both in and out of class), as well as for peer-editing practice.
Unit 2, Global Citizenship: Explication, formulation of thesis/claim; citation
This unit builds upon the skills learned in the summary unit. Students describe the internal logic of assigned readings and identify their theses. They also study the English-specific patterns of argumentation and learn to mine the texts for valid evidence and support. Review of methods of MLA citation.
Required writing: Argument-driven analysis of a single work (3-4 pages).
Students develop an argument through critical analysis of selected passages to support a claim. (NB: a. Options: Instructor provides a variety of prompts; b. Students generate their own topics.) Draft reviewed by instructor and workshopped in class.
Unit 3, Great Debates: Argumentation; textual evidence; documentation
The unit reviews thesis writing, argumentation, evidence, etc. and enhances the skills of rhetorical analysis and critical thinking. Students discuss the structure and/or validity of the arguments, or the significance of a particular motif. Introduction to methods of comparative analysis; models for effective comparative analysis. Instruction in writing a “Works Cited” page.
Required writing: Comparative analysis of two works (4 pages). Draft reviewed by instructor and workshopped in class.
Unit 4, Reflecting, Revisiting: Synthesis of themes; drafting and revision overview.
Practice in developing complex claims. Review of writing process skills: moving from reading/note-taking, to summary and explication, to outline, draft and revision (instructor-guided; peer-editing; self-editing).
Required writing: Synthesis: analysis of a theme in a set of works
The concluding essay synthesizes twoReader essays covered in class earlier and the final long work. A shared theme is discovered and discussed in the form of a thesis-based argument, thus encouraging students to revisit topics and ideas explored in the course.
Drafts workshopped in class. Hard-copy draft and revision submitted at the same time as part of the portfolio.
NB: Working papers from conferences with instructor or consultations with tutor are attached to all final versions of the major papers.
Grammar topics are covered – and frequently revisited – based on the linguistic objectives for the level and the patterns of errors, which in-class writing and assignments have identified. Close error analysis suggests individual weak areas, and the instructor designs and updates a plan of action for each student (through systematic tutoring referrals, targeted exercises in workbook resources; office hour appointments).
NB: The sequencing is at the instructor’s discretion, but class time should be regularly allocated (on a weekly basis) for discussion of language issues and academic writing conventions.
The following priority areas of syntax coverage have been identified by L2 writing research and our own experience with ESL students in the program:
Tenses: review, with emphasis on tense shifts in academic writing
Coordination/subordination – review
Run-ons; comma splices; mixed constructions
Word order – emphasis on modifiers and transitions
Clauses: relative, noun, adverbial
Modals – pragmatic aspects
Sentence variety – syntactic permutation patterns
Comma; semi-colon; other marks.
WR100ESL Course Requirements
Core Skills and Points of Knowledge The course follows the format of the mainstream WR100 but adds a language-specific component to meet the individual needs of ESL students. It is taught by instructors with ESL background and sensitivity.
By addressing ESL-specific language issues in an expert and prompt way through the stages of the writing process, the course provides students with an easier transition to WR 150 and a more coherent first year of writing instruction. Students continue developing the core skills cultivated in WR098 while working intensively on prose style and expanding their writing repertoire. Assignments are the same as for the mainstream WR100, but adding frequent short ungraded homework (check, check plus, check minus) and in-class writing. Special emphasis on summarizing is maintained throughout the course to insure reading comprehension. To respond to the linguistic needs of the students by addressing specific elements of grammar and style, instructors should incorporate a language/grammar workshop with examples culled from students’ work, on a regular basis (at least bi-weekly).
NB: Follow the general WR100 course template, but schedule targeted language workshops (see above). Also, please add the following paragraph to your individual course description:
Although all sections of WR100 require the same intellectual rigor, use the same assignment sequence and portfolio approach to writing, and prepare students equally well for WR150, this section is restricted to ESL students. By addressing ESL-specific language needs in an expert and prompt way through the stages of the writing process, we will provide you with an easier transition to WR150 and a more coherent first year of writing instruction.