Writing for Change: An Advanced ELL Resource
Inés Poblet, Whatcom Community College
Copyright Year: 2021
Publisher: Whatcom Community College
Conditions of Use
Inés Poblet did a great job at acknowledging some of the topics that I expected to see in this text like identity, intersectionality, systemic oppression, code meshing and code switching, personal narratives, World Englishes, access (to food in... read more
Inés Poblet did a great job at acknowledging some of the topics that I expected to see in this text like identity, intersectionality, systemic oppression, code meshing and code switching, personal narratives, World Englishes, access (to food in this case), Black Lives Matter, and ancestral lands and Indigenous peoples to name a few. For a teacher or a student that is just getting started with the work of decolonization, I think this text is a great place to start. The author states that this text was designed for advanced ELLs; however, I think it would also work well for intermediate students as the writing section at the beginning of the text and the vocabulary sections in each chapter are not very detailed.
I didn’t see anything in the content that I felt to be inaccurate. The only discrepancy that I kept thinking about while reading this text is that the text itself doesn’t read like / or require advanced language skills. However, the additional resources do include more advanced texts, videos, podcasts, etc. Also, the author mentions that “models and activities about multiple ways of organizing ideas in an essay” are included in this text. In the writing section at the beginning of the text, there is a good description of how to write a very basic narrative essay with a focus on how to form the introduction with thesis statement in various positions, body paragraphs, and the conclusion. I was hoping to see how to form different types of essays like problem/solution, cause-effect, argument, etc. The topics given in the “Topics for Writing” and “Project” sections could easily be used for this type of writing or discussion. It would have been nice to see the link between anti-racist pedagogy and language skills like writing, grammar, vocabulary.
This text is timely, but not in such a way that it will soon become obsolete. Decolonization in any/all classrooms is something that we will be hearing about for quite a while. The “Read all about it” sections and the additional resources provided are all relevant and credible.
Because this seems more like an introductory text, I think it should include a little more context or description surrounding terms like decolonization, anti-racist pedagogy, collectivism, intersectionality, identity, systemic oppression, and white privilege. Newcomers to this subject may not be familiar with this terminology or understand core issues depending on their positioning with such topics. It seems like if the purpose of the text is to collectively make changes, everyone needs to know what changes need to be made and why. I don't think this text needs to become a history book, but a little context would be helpful.
The text is well organized, and readers know what to expect from chapter to chapter. Each chapter contains the following parts: “Warm up,” “Vocabulary preview,” “Read all about it,” “Discussion,” “Topics for writing,” “Project,” and “Additional resources.”
This text could easily be divided into smaller “chunks” and used in conjunction with other course texts or activities. It doesn’t need to be used from start to finish. Chapters can be used in any order.
The topics in this text are logically situated. The first part of this text has three parts: “To the educator,” “Creating our classroom culture,” and “Getting ready to write.” This is followed by 7 short chapters and an appendix with additional resources. “To the educator” opens up the discussion on identity and the need to unpack that. “Creating our classroom culture” looks at values, self-care and support, and goal setting. “Getting ready to write” consists of 6 parts including “Understanding the assignment,” “Generating ideas: brainstorming,” “Introductions,” “Thesis statements,” “The body paragraphs,” and “Conclusions.” If using this text as the core text of a course, I would want to start with “Creating our classroom culture” and “Getting ready to write.” The chapters include the following topics: “Identity,” “World Englishes,” “Power and poetry,” “¡Si, Se Puede!,” “Food deserts,” “Protecting Mauna Kea,” and “Black Lives Matter.” These could be used in any order, and refer back to the “Getting ready to write” section.
In Chapter 1, the second video (“Gender Identity and Pronouns – What Will You Teach the World?”) did not load in part G. I was able to search for it within YouTube and found it. Everything else looked and worked fine.
I saw very few grammatical mistakes in this text. The language used was very straightforward and easy to understand.
I liked the variation of cultural aspects and issues included in this text. This is more than we normally see in regular ESL textbooks. In terms of resources, I think we’ve just scraped the surface here. I hope that teachers will continue to contribute more to this list in the future. This is a great foundation, though.
As far as composition texts go, this one couldn't be my core text in my academic writing course. There aren't enough writing skills presented here. However, I think the "Getting ready to write" section could easily be expanded to include additional skills. I would definitely consider using this text as a supplement, though.
Although the author Inés Poblet describes this as a textbook, she also acknowledges that "the chapters ... are by no means exhaustive or complete. I envision fellow educators continuing to add more OER texts for English Language Learning.... read more
Although the author Inés Poblet describes this as a textbook, she also acknowledges that "the chapters ... are by no means exhaustive or complete. I envision fellow educators continuing to add more OER texts for English Language Learning. Together, we can continue to lift up the power of the collective within an anti-racist and decolonization framework" (8). In this light, one might better consider this text an introductory workbook that provides 1) activities to help determine shared class values and a supportive learning community, 2) basic strategies to understand multiple ways of writing an essay, and 3) seven short readings from a collectivist and anti-racist approach to discussions of identity, language, community organizers, activists, and social justice movements.
Content is accurate and error-free as far as can be determined. Because this text is labeled as “an advanced ELL resource,” it would be useful to know on what basis this was determined or more about the envisioned student audience. For example, the highlighted and defined vocabulary is more often intermediate (B1 , B2) than advanced (C1) according to the Common European Framework of Reference. The readings and activities themselves would serve both intermediate as well as advanced learners. In the "To the Educator" section, the OER list of contents indicates that a "contrastive and multilingual approach to exploring grammar patterns to support writing" is included (9). Although the benefit of multilingual brainstorming is briefly discussed in the Getting Ready to Write" section (15), no other approaches, instruction, examples. or exercises are specifically provided regarding grammar in the textbook. As this would be particularly beneficial for all ELL educators and students in learning about the relationship between anti-racist pedagogy, language, identity, and Global Englishes, I hope to see this in a future edition.
Written during the pandemic and engaging with identity and activist action on contemporary issues, this text is relevant without being dated. Topics covered, for example, are World Englishes, Food Deserts, Environmental activism. Poets, activists, and community organizers such as Amanda Gorman, Maya Angelou, Dolores Huerta, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors are discussed. This text is highly relevant to the cultural moment. Resources are current and credible additions.
The writing of the text is usually very clear and central ideas are generally explained. Terms in bold are used in the following discussion or short readings. Because vocabulary is often introduced as an activity to complete, users of the text are expected to refer to peers and instructors for development or answers. Grammatical constructions are appropriate to the intermediate level. The included resources are often more advanced and may need further discussion in class for comprehension.
Chapters 1-7 are well organized with consistent headings that help develop readers’ expectations for content and activities: “Warm Up” (what you know and what you want to know on the topic), “Vocabulary Preview” (keywords to define), “Read All about it!” (short text on the topic), “Discussion” (partner questions including discussion roles), “Topics for Writing” (choose a prompt to write about), “Project” (Application of topic to personal identity or experience and presentation).
Sections and Chapters are well organized and designed for readability. Each section or unit could be used independently, aside from the reference back to the second section “Getting Ready to Write” in each chapter’s “Topics for Writing.” One could easily build further activities or assignments around the additional resources provided in each chapter.
The first part of the text has three separate sections. The first is addressed “To the Educator” and is an introduction to identity work using ideas of intersectionality from Crenshaw, Bell, and Menakem, in order to prepare the instructor for engaging pedagogy in a more anti-racist, culturally responsive manner. The second section “Creating Our Classroom Culture” provides reflective activities for developing shared classroom values, goals, self-care, and support. This ordering makes logical sense in preparing the whole person of the educator and student for the classroom journey.
The third section, “Getting Ready to Write” provides information and explanation on various ways to generate and organize ideas in an essay. Although not highlighted as such, some of the samples in this section use material from the following chapters, thus creating helpful examples of reflective or informative writing on the topic. The following seven short chapters are topical and could be used in any order, depending upon which ones they might want to develop further or make stronger connections between. I would have been interested in knowing the author's objectives for choosing and organizing these topics in the introduction.
User interface is clean and clear. Most links are functional in the online text version, and a variety of resources are provided in several modalities (video, audio, digital text)-- useful for different learning needs. Resource 5, “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture” under Identity Resources, appears to be a broken link.
As a PDF text, there are inconsistencies in the bolding of headings, and there is no information provided as to how to find the extra resources--just an underlined title that is a broken link. Hopefully, the publication information could be added so that PDF users could locate these great resources.
I did not notice any grammatical errors, and there were no glaring unexplained idiomatic phrases that are so often used in Engish language learner texts.
The entire purpose of this text is to acquaint teachers and students with approaches and materials that English language learners could use that are more culturally relevant to their identities, experiences, and values. Resources feature women scholars, writers, and speakers of color. Examples often engage with, and assume, a willingness to consider social activism.
This is a valuable resource for educators new to anti-racist pedagogy in the field of ELL. I appreciate and value Inés Poblet’s purpose for writing and sharing this text as part of her own journey in finding resources and developing lessons for English language teaching. As a writing text for an ELL course, I find the “Getting Ready to Write” section just beginning to approach ideas that could be useful, such as code meshing or code switching, but not enough to be a stand-alone text for a Multilingual writing course. The chapters, too, are useful, relevant, and interesting topics that help open up these ideas to our students. Because each chapter is so short, I think educators should be sure to prepare or to consult the very good references in the “Appendix: Decolonizing ELT” in order to be ready to continue the discussion and to answer student questions on these hard topics that these brief readings are sure to raise. I am a sojourner in decolonizing English language teaching as well, and hope to see more work in this area in open text resources; much like the cultural blind spot whiteness can produce, the unexamined use of standard English in language and writing courses can create painful assumptions of both reader and writer.
Table of Contents
- Creating Our Classroom Culture
- Getting Ready to Write
- Chapter 1: Identity
- Chapter 2: World Englishes
- Chapter 3: Power and Poetry
- Chapter 4 ¡Si, Se Puede!
- Chapter 5: Food Deserts
- Chapter 6: Protecting Mauna Kea
- Chapter 7: Black Lives Matter
About the Book
This book has been a part of my pandemic journey with a goal of building English language learner resources, gathering up what I have learned about anti-racist, culturally responsive, and decolonization approaches. I know that I have not nearly met this goal in this single resource and that there is so much more to do. I am simply starting on the collective path and am so humbled to join fellow colleagues in the work of rewriting the myths and false narratives of our field. This goes well beyond one specific discipline. It is a call to all educators and all institutions to choose love in action, to choose change.
This OER text includes the following:
- an introduction to creating a collectivist culture to support learning
- models and activities about multiple ways of organizing ideas in an essay.
- short readings and discussion highlighting the work of community organizers, activists, and social justice movements
- writing prompts that ask learners to synthesize, reflect on, and connect to the topics
- projects inviting learners to apply the content to their community environment
- additional resources offering multiple modalities for further learning including videos, articles, and podcasts
- a contrastive and multilingual approach to exploring grammar patterns to support writing
About the Contributors
Inés Poblet, Whatcom Community College