The ability to produce well-structured and effective academic writing is a must for any university student. The formal structure demanded by this type of writing can be an especially daunting task for a student writing in a second language.
Key English for Science: Writing Skills Level 1 and 2 provide the instructor with real tools to help students write effectively. Each unit starts with a lengthy dialogue which introduces the topic and main points to be covered during that class session, including the theme of the writing assignment at the end of the unit. The use of dialogues as a starting point for the material in these two books has numerous advantages. The dialogues are:
They are adapted from and based on actual lectures delivered in university classrooms, and authentic conversations related to science that students studying abroad have had with their lab partners and classmates. This is important, because the dialogues therefore provide a realistic context for the target language and writing tasks that follow. Academic writing is not performed in a vacuum; it’s based on both research and various forms of communication. A student who cannot understand a classroom lecture is going to have a hard time writing an academic paper related to it, regardless of his or her writing ability. After having used these books, a student attending a science class conducted in English and completing writing assignments will find the experience to be easier and less intimidating.
It can be difficult for university instructors to find material which is appropriate for large classes in which the English levels of students may vary widely. These dialogues are written with vocabulary (such as scientific and technical jargon) and grammatical structures that will challenge more advanced students, yet the gist and main points will be understandable and usable for lower-level students.
ESL/EFL classes, regardless of their primary focus, can be made more effective and engaging when they utilize an integrated-skills approach in which the four primary language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) are practiced and improved, as well as closely related skills such as vocabulary development, spelling, and grammar. These dialogues are both comprehensive and versatile, and may be used in many different ways, depending on the objectives of the class and the specific skills the teacher wants the students to most improve.
The “Quick Survey” section introduces the dialogue by having students discuss and debate five questions related to the topic of the unit. This warm up activity helps to provide scaffolding by activating the students’ previous knowledge related to the subject.
Comprehension questions follow the dialogues, and these questions are supplemented by dictation activities. Many units then include sections in which students must summarize and paraphrase the information contained in the lecture or dialogue – essential skills for academic writing. This is followed by a grammar practice section, in which students will study and practice grammatical points essential to academic writing, and the TOEFL and TOEIC examinations. Finally, students brainstorm different ideas related to the topic of the lesson with their partners, and complete the unit’s central writing assignment on their own. Over the course of the two books, these assignments require different types of writing, such as:
- Descriptive paragraphs – Narrative paragraphs – Definition paragraphs – Process analysis paragraphs – Comparison and contrast paragraphs – Opinion paragraphs – Illustration paragraphs – Cause and effect paragraphs – Summary paragraphs – Writing an effective resume – Writing an effective cover letter – Writing an abstract