EmpoWord: A Student-Centered Anthology & Handbook for College Writers
Shane Abrams, Portland State University
Copyright Year: 2018
Publisher: Portland State University Library
Conditions of Use
This text covers 3 areas common to college-level composition courses: narrative, analysis and argumentation. The coverage of these rhetorical situations consists of guiding students to ask pertinent questions and practice writing skills as part... read more
This text covers 3 areas common to college-level composition courses: narrative, analysis and argumentation. The coverage of these rhetorical situations consists of guiding students to ask pertinent questions and practice writing skills as part of producing effective academic essays. Throughout the book, the author encourages students (and instructors) to ask themselves, "What makes for a good story? An insightful analysis? A convincing argument?" The table of contents serves as an index; a comprehensive glossary is provided as are chapter-specific ones.
I saw no inaccuracies in the text's presentation of general trends in writing pedagogy. The author explains the need to question the lens one uses in an analysis and interpretation. I especially enjoyed the use of the term, "wrestling" with a text. As stated in the general introduction, "...it’s important to regularly remind students that no text is perfect; no text is free of bias or ideology.”
There are a few assumptions of shared cultural knowledge - movies, tv shows, etc. This would be something an instructor could update or otherwise supplement.
The language rarely slides into jargon or assumes familiarity with literary analytic terms, for example. When it does, the glossary or suggested sources help clarify.
The structure of each chapter is consistent and clear. The additions and appendices could be integrated into the main structure of the text, however. I don't know if they are later contributions to the original document.
The author emphasizes that good writing is a necessarily iterative process, hence they reference parts of other chapters and bring together skills that help scaffold, for example narration (Ch. 2) and summary (Ch. 5) are used in a research-based argumentative essay (Part 3).
Within the 3 sections, the areas of focus are presented logically and consistently.
I encountered no problems with images or charts. The few video links were operative.
There are some proofreading errors - spelling and verb number ["working within a learning community teach (sic) you to more actively evaluate...." in the Student Introduction]; inconsistent spacing after periods in Ch. 1 reference citations; references from Ch. 6 cited in Ch. 5 end notes.
This is a challenging task, not so much being insensitive as being inclusive of all the variety of experiences and identities in our culture/world. The text does include some readings and examples that are other than White, Western, and Male.
Although this textbook only covers three types of student writing (descriptive, narrative essays; analysis and synthesis essays; and argumentative research papers), it covers these three types of writing quite comprehensively through a combination... read more
Although this textbook only covers three types of student writing (descriptive, narrative essays; analysis and synthesis essays; and argumentative research papers), it covers these three types of writing quite comprehensively through a combination of explanatory writing, tables / images, specific examples, pre-writing activities, and assignment suggestions. It also contains a thorough glossary of terms, all of which are highlighted when they appear in the main text itself.
The content is accurate, unbiased, and generally error-free. I noticed one activity organizer on which the numbering was off (p. 43-4) and one place when a sentence was inadvertently cut off by a table (p. 226), but this was definitely not the norm.
The content is quite up-to-date, but some of the references to Netflix series or the 2016 election may need to be updated as time passes. That being said, I would imagine that these updates could be made fairly easily.
The text was engaging and clearly written. Each chapter begins with a list of vocabulary words that will be coming up, which is helpful when it comes to the technical terminology that's being used. The student examples that follow each section further help to clarify concepts.
Yes, the text is very consistent, with a clearly established framework.
The text is nicely divided into smaller reading sections that could be assigned at different points. For instance, I've already started to plan what I might pick and choose from the sections on Description and Narration to help prepare my students for a narrative essay that they'll be writing. That being said, there is sometimes vocabulary used in later sections with which students would not be familiar had they not read an earlier section. The good news is that these vocabulary words are all highlighted in purple, which tells you that they've been defined somewhere. So, students could look them up in the glossary or use CTRL + F to find where they're defined within the text, but this might sometimes make it more difficult to excerpt certain sections.
The text is very well-organized. Later topics clearly build upon earlier ones, and, were you to include these three essay types within a composition course (as I do), the order in which they're presented within this text is the logical order in which you would cover them in class.
The only reason I'm giving a 4 rather than a 5 for this category is due to the footnotes. In the PDF version which I reviewed, clicking on the superscript number for a footnote brings you immediately to that footnote. This is convenient when it comes to checking the contents of a footnote. However, the only way I could find to get back to the place in the text that I had been before clicking on that footnote was to scroll back up and look for that place.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. The use of student essay examples lends to its inclusive representation of various backgrounds.
One of the best parts about this book are all of the sample student essays that are included within it. I appreciate Abrams' reasoning for foregrounding student writing rather than simply the work of established writers, but even more than that, the inclusion of these student examples addresses one of the greatest stumbling blocks that I've run into when considering the adoption of OER resources--there's lots of good stuff out there about how to write but not a lot of readily accessible collections of sample essays for us to examine together since most essays by professional writers are under copyright. Using the student essays avoids this issue and has the benefit of showcasing examples by our students' peers. The possible activities included near the end of each section are also creative and helpful.
I would say the book is quite comprehensive in covering narrative writing and academic reading/writing. I wish that it had more content about various genres beyond academic writing. I also think it would be really help students to learn about... read more
I would say the book is quite comprehensive in covering narrative writing and academic reading/writing. I wish that it had more content about various genres beyond academic writing. I also think it would be really help students to learn about genre/rhetorical situation if the "Additional readings" section had clear introductions giving context on the texts.
This has up to date information on writing, and I don't foresee that becoming obsolete for a long time. However, in small places, it might use examples that could need updating now or soon.
I found it quite clear
The structure, voice, and approach remain consistent throughout.
I love how modular this text is. Whether you want just a short chapter, or if you want to use a whole sections, lots of pieces can stand alone.
Overall structure is very well thought out -- to me, it makes sense to move from narrative wrong to more traditional academic writing, and within each section, the content/activities start with specific elements and work up to writing longer pieces.
I used the online reading version, and it was seamless.
I didn't see anything offensive here. There might be places where examples could be more broadly representative.
I love that this text is multimodal -- plenty of images interspersed in the text and links to videos.
I especially appreciate the built in writing exercises that are easy to understand, guide students to practice concepts/techniques, and could help to produce stellar writing.
The middle section dealing with close reading and text wrestling was particularly well-done!
The text focuses on three types of writing assignments. While the coverage for each is comprehensive, the fact that it only covers three I find a bit limiting. At all the schools I've taught, composition courses required four major writing... read more
The text focuses on three types of writing assignments. While the coverage for each is comprehensive, the fact that it only covers three I find a bit limiting. At all the schools I've taught, composition courses required four major writing assignments. While lesson plans could certainly be adapted to cover four such assignments with this text, I'd be more likely to supplement with an additional textbook or create additional assignments following the framework here. I'd rather have a textbook that covers beyond the minimum I will teach so I have some flexibility and variation depending on the needs of the class (and just to mix things up more now and then). I'd feel a bit restricted using just this as the main required text.
I love the Chapter Vocabularies provided for every chapter. Very helpful.
I did not notice any inaccuracies, errors, or detrimental bias.
I appreciate the inclusion of multimedia. While all the links functioned properly upon review, they would need to be checked periodically and potentially would require replacements. These and other updates I imagine would be relatively easy and straightforward.
Text is very accessible and appropriate to the audience. Glossary and Chapter Vocabularies are wonderful.
No inconsistencies noted.
The structure lends itself well to flexibility to course schedules -- i.e., it is not necessary to start in the beginning, but one can jump around based on the needs of the course. Personally, I would prefer the Additional Readings and Additional Recommended Resources be placed within the relevant sections of the textbook, rather than lumped together at the end separate from that context.
Organization, structure, and flow or consistent and easy follow.
In the PDF version I reviewed, several pages were cut off on the right hand side. I am not sure if this is present in other versions of the book, but imagine that the PDF format would be one of the more popular ones. Unfortunately, I missed out on some of the text due to this.
Grammar is consistently correct and coherent.
While I didn't notice this to be a glaring issue, efforts could be made to make the content more inclusive and diverse.
I loved the approach of this textbook. The ample student samples are wonderful, and even more so given they are not "perfect" examples. Instead, they are strong examples that still have room for strengthening. The instructor feedback is very useful as well in pointing out these elements. This aspect, along with the chapter vocabularies and approachable tone of the writing are, I believe, its greatest strengths. My main complaint is I wish it was more comprehensive so I could pick and choose between a wider variety of writing assignment types. I feel it is somewhat limited in breadth when it comes to genre and would want to supplement. I'd be much more likely to use this text if it were expanded (rather than supplement with other texts that have different structure/tone/etc.).
One of the things I like about this book is that it offers a focused way of looking at 3 different aspects of writing rather than trying to cover absolutely everything about writing. It focuses on narration, responding to texts, and... read more
One of the things I like about this book is that it offers a focused way of looking at 3 different aspects of writing rather than trying to cover absolutely everything about writing. It focuses on narration, responding to texts, and argumentation. These align well with the major assignments I teach.
The book is accurate. It is written in the first person, so it does present a biased perspective, but the voice is approachable. I believe the first person perspective will be appealing to students.
The book has some current references, but I don't think they will grow stale quickly. I do take issue with how the the book teaches source evaluation using the CRAAP Test checklist rather than emphasizing lateral reading and reading like a fact-checker which is a more current approach.
"EmpoWord" does an especially good job of identifying and defining difficult and relevant vocabulary. The beginning of every chapter contains a list of definitions that will be important to understanding the material.
The material is consistently high quality throughout. The instruction is strong, and the suggested activities are interesting. There are a lot of good examples of both professional and student writing.
The book is contains large chunks of text. My primary complaint about it is that there are very long pages that are difficult to navigate within, and it would be hard to assign students smaller sections. That's really frustrating because the material is high quality, and I would like to be able to direct my students to different parts more easily.
The book is logically organized into large sections and relevant chapters. The Table of Contents provides a good overview of what is included. I highly recommend reading over the "How to Use This Book" section to have a clear orientation to the book. It explains what is contained within each chapter (instruction, activities, and model student work).
The pages are much too long and are not broken into smaller pieces which would make it easier to navigate. It is easy to get lost in the lengthy pages.
The writing seems error-free.
The book acknowledges that "the most singular definitions of 'good writing' are deeply entrenched in racist, sexist, and jingoist prejudice." It provides examples from a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
My overall assessment of "EmpoWord" is that it is an excellent resource that has a lot to teach me and my students about writing. The individual chapters are divided into three parts: instruction, activities, and model student work. I can imagine making use of parts of the book and drawing inspiration from it for my own teaching. My major complaint is that the chapter pages are very long and are not divided into smaller, more manageable sections that I can easily link to. I find myself getting lost in the long pages, so I know that would be hard for my students, too.
EmpoWord is a comprehensive first-year writing textbook that, as its subtitle dictates, is student centered. It includes an overview of three main different types of genres (narrative, textual analysis, and argument) and is thorough in its... read more
EmpoWord is a comprehensive first-year writing textbook that, as its subtitle dictates, is student centered. It includes an overview of three main different types of genres (narrative, textual analysis, and argument) and is thorough in its information. Each unit (broken down in "parts") includes chapters that delve deeply into the subject matter, includes one chapter of assignments, and includes student paper examples. It also includes writing assignments and thorough directions for writing workshops. The table of contents includes annotations that give an overview but visually it's a bit cluttered and was a bit difficult to figure out to "read"--I wasn't sure at first as to why the annotations were included. What benefit does this have for students? The three appendixes (Concepts and Strategies for Revision, Engaged Reading Strategies, and Meta cognition) provide ample support materials that are concise.
I found the content to be accurate--this is an excellent and thorough textbook that covers a broad range of writing genres. As the writer intended, it is student-centered and does a good job at explaining writing and rhetoric theory without being condescending.
The textbook focuses on three genres of writing that are often assigned in a college writing class (as well as assigned in other courses as well)--narrative, textual analysis, and argument. It integrates contemporary andragogy theory--it is student centered and encourages students to take control of their own learning. One thing I especially appreciated was encouraging students to lean on a "learning community"; that is, to take advantage of what a college classroom can provide--a well-trained writing instructor, sure, but also peers, librarians, as well as the writing center. The student papers wrestle with contemporary issues such as transgender rights, race, gender divides, and class.
The tone of the book is friendly and accessible without being condescending. Each chapter includes a short glossary of terms which is really helpful. Some of the definitions such as genre still include some jargon; if I used this text I will edit some of the definitions, perhaps give examples for terms that can tend to be extra troublesome.
The textbook is consistent in its organization. Each unit includes a few chapters that are focused on developing a skill set. These chapters are followed by a number of assignments so that students can work to apply theory to practice. And each unit ends with a writing assignment and directions for workshopping.
This is a long textbook--over 500 pages--but it's easy enough to divide it into accessible parts. There are three units--narrative, textual analysis, and argument--and each one is broken down into chapters. The chapters themselves have manageable chunks of text broken up with images, graphs, and other extra information that's relevant.
In the past, I have taught college writing by starting with a rhetorical analysis, a literary analysis, and completed with a large research/argument paper. I have been planning on reorganizing my class and starting with narrative, and combining rhetoric theory with argument. As a whole, this text is perfectly laid out for me to do so. Still, this text would be beneficial to an instructor who may only need one of the units. While an instructor can easily scaffold in the order given, it isn't exactly necessary. The instructor would just have be prepared to do some more outside work here.
All that to say, I appreciated the organization overall. Each unit starts with theory and then gives an opportunity for practice. It is concluded with a writing assignment sheet and workshop directions.
The interface is fine and is generally easy to navigate. As others have mentioned, it's important to note it's only available as a PDF which could be frustrating for some users--it's a lot of scrolling. Embedded links that I clicked on all worked. The table of contents, as mentioned above was visually clunky and I was uncertain as to what to do with it. But overall the textbook is visually appealing and easy to use.
No grammatical/sentence mechanic errors that I noticed other than what's in the student papers.
The students essays, selected readings, images, and embedded videos are diverse and include a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Student papers explore contemporary issues such as transgender rights, race, feminism, and socioeconomic issues with sensitivity.
This is a very thorough text and is one that I will probably use next time I teach this course. One other thing I really appreciated was the inclusion of what is called "Teacher Takeaways"--feedback comments on student papers. These takeaways include what's working well in the paper and also what could be strengthened. I imagine this will give students an insight into what feedback can look like. It will also show them that writing isn't stagnant--it can always be stronger.
This text contains a wealth of readings and a helpful rhetorical apparatus for a one-semester composition course structured around three major assignments: a personal narrative, a textual analysis, and a persuasive research essay. For courses... read more
This text contains a wealth of readings and a helpful rhetorical apparatus for a one-semester composition course structured around three major assignments: a personal narrative, a textual analysis, and a persuasive research essay. For courses that require more than three major assignments, instructors would need to rework and/or supplement the material in this text.
This text’s main strength is the number and variety of student essays that model the rhetorical modes of narrative, analysis, and argumentation. I also appreciate the idea-generating exercises included in each chapter. These would work well as in-class activities or short, scaffolded assignments.
Abrams gives an accurate overview of rhetorical techniques as well as concepts from literary theory. Instructors wanting to give their students a broad overview of composition theory and practice can rely upon this text.
The student-written essays in Abrams’ text are relevant and timely. In the section on “text wrestling,” however, the choice of “Richard Cory” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” as sample texts seemed odd and outdated. Yes, these canonical chestnuts are frequently anthologized, but in a “student centered” composition text, why not choose texts that are more recent and (more importantly) more diverse?
Abrams does a great job defining and explaining specific rhetorical skills and then offering multiple student-written examples. I appreciated his discussion of composition concepts such as the rhetorical triangle and the importance of understanding the subject, occasion, audience, and purpose (SOAP) of any given text. The apparatus of this text is wonderfully clear.
One point of confusion, however, lies in the sample essays included in both the main chapters and the section of additional readings at the end. For each sample essay, the title is given but not the name of the writer: if you want to know who wrote the piece, you have to click the footnote or scroll back to the detailed table of contents. This omission was maddening for a number of reasons.
First, if students were to print any of the sample essays to read offline, they would have no indication of who wrote that essay. Although many of the student samples are anonymously authored, the students who agreed to have their names included should have those names published alongside their essay, not in a distant footnote.
Second, the section of additional readings at the end of the text includes both student essays and published texts by professional authors. Although I understand Abrams’ desire to create a “learning community” where student writers stand alongside published professionals, it is confusing to encounter a text that has been excised from its original context. Yes, some scrolling or clicking clears up this confusion, but I would have appreciated greater clarity.
In the general introduction, Abrams emphasizes rhetorical situations: that is, the fact that we write for many different reasons and in many different contexts, and those reasons and contexts affect the way we choose to express ourselves. Given this emphasis, it would have been helpful to have had the assignment prompt for each student-written essay. Were all of these samples written in response to the main assignment prompt at the end of each section? If so, it seems disingenuous to emphasize in the introduction the wide range of subjects, occasions, audiences, and purposes students will find themselves writing given that all the student texts are academic essays written (apparently) in response to a required assignment in a college-level composition class.
This text is nicely “chunked” into modular pieces that instructors can assign in whole or part. This modularity works best, however, if instructors structure their class around the three modes of narrative, analysis, and argumentation. If instructors choose to assign additional (or different) assignments, they might struggle to make the apparatus of this text meet their needs.
(I suspect, in other words, that this text works best in classes where the instructor designs their assignments to mirror the text rather than trying to match the text with existing assignments.)
The sections and chapters are well-organized, with sample student essays to illustrate each rhetorical mode or skill. There is also a substantial selection of additional readings at the end of the text.
This division between the sample readings included within the content chapters and the additional sample readings included at the end was confusing. I appreciated the inclusion of additional readings to supplement an already-impressive selection of sample texts, but the lumping together of random texts (some by professional writers, others by student writers) seemed unduly arbitrary.
I appreciate the flexibility afforded by the wide range of essays included throughout the text, but designing a coherent syllabus will involve a lot of flipping back and forth between the “front” and “back” of the text.
This text is formatted as a long (over 500-page) PDF, so plan to spend a lot of time scrolling or clicking to navigate. The text includes clickable hyperlinks to web resources, but I wish it included clickable links from the table of contents to individual chapters and from highlighted vocabulary words to their glossary entry.
Many of the text’s brainstorming activities consist of blank organizers in landscape orientation. This works well in a print book, but it doesn’t work as well in an electronic document. In a face-to-face class, I could imagine photocopying these individual pages as handouts for students to complete in class. For an online or paperless class, I would have preferred to have these activities in Word or Google Doc format so students could save a copy, fill it out electronically, and then submit online.
Although the sample student essays include grammatical errors, the apparatus of the text itself is error-free.
The topics of the sample student essays in this text reflect a wide range of timely and relevant topics, including coming out as gay, living with social anxiety, and navigating family conflict. Since many of the student samples were anonymously written, I can’t tell whether these writers accurately reflect the diversity of our classrooms.
Despite the (minor) shortcomings I note above, I am looking forward to using this text in my Fall semester first-year writing classes. Although I have an existing syllabus and assignments I have used for years, I am re-working my course from the ground up, and this text offers a good framework for designing a new course or re-envisioning an existing one.
Abrams chooses quality over quantity in his development of the text. He divides the book into 3 sections: 1. Narration, Description, Reflection which guides us through the process of writing a good 1st person narrative; 2. Text Wrestling, which... read more
Abrams chooses quality over quantity in his development of the text. He divides the book into 3 sections: 1. Narration, Description, Reflection which guides us through the process of writing a good 1st person narrative; 2. Text Wrestling, which gathers modes of critical reading and responding to a text, and 3. Research, the section on finding and using sources correctly.
At first, I thought I wanted more separate modes to choose from, but as I read through the 3 sections, I found the value of connecting modes under one heading to make sense, as the sections themselves create a context for modes.
I found the section on Narration particularly comprehensive, as it addresses the use of descriptive, concrete writing along with the need for developing a thesis. He doesn't just say, "this is how you make a thesis," he shows us how to take the details of an event and create an organized thesis of them. I think this would be very useful for the students.
One thing I would've liked was a little less reliance on Rhetorical jargon. I went through and edited out(in my mind), some of the vocabulary and found the meaning to be just as clear. For Intro to Comp students stepping into the world of college writing, I think this could be a bit distracting and intimidating. However, with a caveat from the instructor, this could be circumvented.
I FOUND NO INACCURACIES
The content of the book and the readings, the presentation of the exercises and their value is somewhat timeless. The rhetorical jargon, however, may date the text.
Because of the Covid 19 virus and moving writing classes online, I have been on the search for free and readily accessible web sources to use in my Intro to Comp class. I found myself happily reading along in Abrams' book quickly and easily. As I imagined a student reading the text, I thought they should find it equally clear; the exercises and explanations make his thesis almost organic. Several times, however, I came upon words in the current rhetorical vernacular that I didn't understand ...and not all of them appeared in his glossaries, which I otherwise appreciated.
Abram's approach seems very user friendly. He does not talk down to his reader; he maintains a consistent, friendly, informative voice throughout.
This is where the book shines. The connections he makes between modes I find very useful, yet it is clear that an instructor could use sections within the sections without losing context.
Again, this is the highlight if this book. Its organization is creative, thoughtful, and cohesive.
The attempt to make the list of essays make sense in the context of the book's purpose was a little confusing to me. The use of the term "Diegetic gap" is not one I know, nor could I easily find it in the text. Again, Abrams creates a useful organization and context, but the jargon irritates.
I found the writing clear and not overly done, except, again, where the jargon of the discipline got in the way.
I was not aware of a concerted effort to make the text more inclusive in terms of diversity.
I am strongly considering using Shane Abram's text in my fall WR 115 class. It provides a useful structure on which to build a syllabus and the exercises seem fun and useful.
The cover is so poorly designed.
Empoword is one of the most comprehensive textbooks I've encountered. I stopped using textbooks a few years back, because so often I found that they lacked the key ideas I wanted to share with my students (and because they cost so much); this... read more
Empoword is one of the most comprehensive textbooks I've encountered. I stopped using textbooks a few years back, because so often I found that they lacked the key ideas I wanted to share with my students (and because they cost so much); this textbook totally ameliorates both issues. Standard approaches to writing pedagogy like audience, purpose, and thesis are all included in addition to more innovative approaches along with thorough explanations and engaging exercises.
The textbook relies heavily on student writing samples, which is much needed; while professional writing can be instructive and inspiring, students benefit significantly from seeing examples written by their peers. The index and glossary were useful, and I especially liked the appendices, covering such topics as engaged reading strategies and metacognition.
I deeply appreciated the way Abrams contextualized and explained the rhetorical situation at the beginning of the textbook (I don't know that I've seen that concept presented so clearly in other textbooks), although I expected a bit more discussion of specific rhetorical situations in each of the sections of the textbook; more explanation about the why or the when of the particular type of writing would have been helpful.
I found no errors. I appreciated a resistance to a "right way" of writing, which suggests an attempt to avoid bias and to consider equity issues around writing.
This textbook presents three "traditional" modalities of writing--narration, analysis, and argumentation--and will feel familiar to most instructors. At the same time, within each section, the exercises and explanations are innovative and provide fodder for instructors who seek to teach beyond modalities. The textbook draws upon a wide variety of current writing scholarship, effectively translated into student-centred content. The contemporary relevance feels anything but faddish, and also could be easily updated.
The writing is clear. The tone of the textbook is respectful of students from "cover" to "cover"; complex and important concepts and vocabulary are graspable but not dumbed down.
Each major section (narration, analysis, and argumentation) follows a clear pattern, beginning with a quick introduction and vocabulary list (presented in easily accessible and digestible tables), and divided into four chapters: three that convey different aspects of the overall section and one that provides instructions and multiple examples for a synthesizing assignment.
The textbook could easily be adapted to suit an instructor's preferences. Content could easily be rearranged and/or omitted.
The concepts build nicely on one another (for example, moving from close reading to summary to analysis in one section), and the overall structure of the textbook is logical. The book also provides handy references to page numbers where concepts are explained in more detail.
The table of contents contains easy links to each chapter. Because it's such a large pdf, there can be loading lag time; athough of course a pdf has its own interface benefits, I could see a hard copy edition being useful in some contexts.
I did not see any distracting grammatical errors.
One of my favourite aspects of this textbook is, as the title suggests, its clear commitment student-centred writing pedagogy. From the introduction to the final appendix and including all of the student writing examples in between, Abrams shows profound respect for students and appreciation of the wisdom and knowledge that students already possess. Abrams's intention of creating a textbook that honours all college students and provides a reflection of students from a variety of backgrounds is clearly evidenced through the many, diverse student examples.
This book has a lot to offer and I plan to draw on it in my future teaching.
Abrams' EmpoWord provides a comprehensive guide for first-year writers with extensive student-focused explanations, hands-on exercises, and suggestions for workshops and assignments, as well as an impressive array of first-year student-authored... read more
Abrams' EmpoWord provides a comprehensive guide for first-year writers with extensive student-focused explanations, hands-on exercises, and suggestions for workshops and assignments, as well as an impressive array of first-year student-authored writing. It would be useful not only as an introduction to academic writing styles (including personal narratives, critical analyses of all sorts of texts, argumentative essays, and research papers), but also as a refresher for writing-intensive classes directed at more advanced college students. The author emphasizes that this text is “student centered,” and encourages them “to envision themselves in the role of author.” While that is a laudable goal, I found the textbook short on samples from professional writers. One of the learning outcomes for my department’s first-year writing courses is to exercise and develop students’ abilities to read complex and challenging professional essays. As there are few examples of such in this text, I would need to supplement with outside readings. Nevertheless, the benefits of this textbook far outweigh that one deficiency.
In its discussion of the reading and writing skills generally expected from college writers, the book is clear and accurate. It is presented in a student-friendly tone. Although the book provides argumentative essays meant to stimulate classroom discussion (by nature biased because they express strong opinions), there is an emphasis on the consideration of a wide range of views and on developing evidence-based arguments.
Working through EmpoWord, students are invited to join the conversation about topics they can relate to their own experiences and interests. A few examples include essays critiquing binaries of race, gender, and sexual identity, as well as cultural standards of normativity relating to mental health. The textbook also includes debates about educational philosophy, advertising and branding, and worldwide concerns about piracy and child slavery. (Surprisingly, there are few articles engaging with climate change, although there is one essay arguing for the necessity of less consumption of red meat.) It includes writing exercises asking students to analyze advertisements, television shows, movies, and social media. Students would find many of these topics engaging, encouraging them to become invested in the classroom’s community of learning. If certain topics become outdated (as is common with first-year writing anthologies), the essays could easily be replaced with more appropriate ones. At present, however, the text is relevant.
The textbook was clearly written, and provided extensive glossaries defining key terms for students.
The text is very consistent, with complex skills built up step by step. Each of the three main sections follows a similar pattern while developing a specific writing skill and culminating in a final assignment (personal narrative, text analysis, research paper).
EmpoWord is extremely adaptable to a wide range of first- and second-year writing-intensive classes. It provides specific informal writing exercises appropriate for in-class and assigned work (such as filling in a graphic organizer teaching “thesis building” or a “research scavenger hunt”), as well as step-by-step scaffolding of more formal assignments (a “descriptive personal narrative,” “a text-wrestling analysis,” and a “persuasive research essay”). Each of these major assignments is accompanied by brainstorming guides, an evaluation sheet, and peer workshop guidelines. Although using the entire text would be beneficial to most first-year students, a writing instructor could easily choose to assign only one section for a specific class, or even short sections for students needing to refine or review particular skills.
EmpoWord builds first-year writing skills in a logical manner. Each section follows a similar organization, which helps develop recognition and consistency as students hone their writing skills.
The interface worked well and was fairly easy to navigate. It's important to note that it is available only in a PDF format, which some users may find challenging or frustrating. Moving from one section of the text to another could be frustrating, as mentioned by other reviewers: students may need some guidance on navigating it efficiently. Often, I find one or two students in any given class are happy to share expertise in these skills, so this issue may provide another site for classroom community building.
The grammar was excellent, and the text was written at a level that students would appreciate, both clear and accessible. Student writing samples were left with grammatical oversights in place: this makes them seem real and leaves room for classroom discussion.
The text provided perspectives from a wide variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, not only in the readings and sample student essays, but in the photographs and video clips provided.
I was highly impressed by this text: I will be using it next year in a first-year writing class and will try assigning sections of it to a second-year writing-intensive class.
This book is divided into three major "parts," each of which contain three chapters that provide instruction in distinct skills, followed by a "culminating assignment." If a teacher is using this text for a writing course that requires more than... read more
This book is divided into three major "parts," each of which contain three chapters that provide instruction in distinct skills, followed by a "culminating assignment." If a teacher is using this text for a writing course that requires more than three essays, the book may seem insufficient. However, when the book is evaluated for the depth of instruction it provides--rather than the number of assignments it supports--it is extraordinarily comprehensive. It's clear that Abrams, the book's author, has extensive training in rhetoric and also has an intuitive sense of what is valuable for students to know. The instruction moves students through the process of idea generation to sophisticated concepts for planning their written work. I think the depth of understanding that students would gain about each type of assignment they write is far more complex than with textbooks that focus on a different type of writing in each chapter. If an instructor felt that writing three culminating assignments weren't enough, I imagine that instructor could draw from the appendices to create additional writing assignments: for example, requiring students to do a thorough revision of a previously graded assignment based on the appendix that discusses revision, or assigning students to write a reflection at the end of the course discussing how the course changed their understanding of writing, using the appendix about metacognition as support when writing this assignment. Thus, I find the instruction offered in this book to be substantive and ambitious. I also believe, as Abrams does, that the inclusion of multiple student examples adds great value to what students will learn about each type of assignment.
Abrams is clearly a subject-matter expert. He explains difficult topics like rhetorical situation clearly and succinctly, using examples to illustrate key concepts. His definitions of key vocabulary terms for each chapter highlight what students must understand, and he illustrates the concepts well with everyday examples that will be familiar to students. Much of the instruction in the book is consistent with instruction in other books--like techniques for developing characters and writing dialogue for narration, and common types of fallacies that writers need to avoid in persuasion--but Abrams presents them in fresh succinct ways. I did not find any instructional material that was inaccurate.
The most timely aspects of the book are the students' sample texts. I think Abrams was careful to pick out works that won't become dated too quickly--an analysis about life before and after 9/11 will always seem significant--but it is possible that as time goes on, readings about more recent events might be helpful to add. This is a common phenomenon in writing textbooks. Usually when publishers issue new editions, the readings are the biggest changes in to a book. I don't think that this book is likely to become outdated any sooner than any other composition textbook. In fact, its recent release makes it seems especially relevant now.
In addition to the glossary, which provides a quick means of understanding terms, the book seems clear because it has a written style that is very directive. Different graphic worksheets are included so that students know how to generate ideas for their writing, and instructions for activities use instructions like "Begin by ...." I admire the book's style for being so direct. I think is will serve the students at my institution who are less academically prepared for college-level work well.
Not only is the organizational pattern of each part of the book formulated in the same way, but the book's author explicitly discusses the consistent nature of this organization. He helps students to understand the book on both a macro- and micro-level. He also helpfully contextualizes each piece of student writing that is included in the book, noting in the Table of Contents what rhetorical skills or modes are illustrated within each writing sample.
Each chapter of the book discusses one major idea, so it's unlikely that students would have difficulty knowing what is important or what they should focus on. In the introduction to the book, Abrams invites instructors to pick and choose which parts of the book they want to use, suggesting that it could be used either as a primary course text or as a supplement to other course materials. Several reviewers mention in that they would likely use parts of this book, which illustrates how well it achieves modularity. In the discussions of assignments, Abrams is careful to contextualize a range of ways that instructors may use the book. For example, in the analysis and synthesis chapter, Abrams writes that an instructor may assign a reading for analysis, may assign more than one reading, or may allow students to choose their own reading; he provides guidance for students for each of these possibilities, again demonstrating the multiple ways the book may be used.
I appreciate that that each larger "part" of the book has the same organizational structure as the other parts. This provides more clarity and consistency for students, and it allows the book to be used from beginning to end with fewer surprises along the way.
I noticed in other reviews of this book that this is the criterion for which a less-than-perfect score was most often chosen. Reviewers noted that they disliked that the book was provided as a PDF, which slowed their process in downloading the book and made it more cumbersome to navigate from one part of the book to another. Because I am new to OER resources and even e-books, I was not bothered by the book's interface. Any inconvenience seemed well worth any navigation difficulties because this is a high-quality resource that's available without any cost.
Minor errors were not corrected in the example of student writing, which I did not find problematic. As Abrams states, this helps the essays to seem like more realistic example of student work.
When teaching students how to analyze written texts, Abrams encourages readings to examine a text for its cultural lens. Students are guided to explores a text's assumptions about gender and sexuality; disability; race, ethnicity, and nationality; social class and economy; ecologies and the environment; and post-colonialist perspectives (pages 118-120). I have not seen this level of awareness in another composition textbook, unless it is an anthology that focuses on culture throughout. I was very happy to see this attention to analysis that is not simply logical but is instead grounded in issues of social justice.
I am enormously impressed with this book as an OER offering. I have felt that many publishers of composition texts try to please all possible markets, so much so that the resulting book has little internal coherence or direction. Books that attempt to emphasize both organizational modes and rhetorical purposes or rhetorical skills become like do-it-yourself projects, requiring the instructor to work with multiple chapters from different sectionof the text in order to support the instructor's preferred direction for the course. What i appreciate about Abram's book is that it is very grounded in rhetorical principles in ways that guide students forward with a richer understanding of the considerations they should keep in mind as writers. The book supports the most fundamental understandings of writing at the college level, including adapting texts for an audience, engaging readers' interests, using writing as a means of critical thinking, and understanding writing as a process. I'm eager to adopt this book for an online first-year composition course I'll be teaching this summer, and I'm excited to see what impact it will have on students of all ability levels.
EmpoWord addresses most, if not all, the rhetorical modes one would expect to be covered within a first-year college writing course. Description, narration, reflection, summary, interpretation, analysis, argumentation, and research writing are... read more
EmpoWord addresses most, if not all, the rhetorical modes one would expect to be covered within a first-year college writing course. Description, narration, reflection, summary, interpretation, analysis, argumentation, and research writing are addressed in helpful, digestible chapters. More importantly, Abrams provides sample student model texts that highlight key features and rhetorical moves of each genre or mode of writing. Also extremely helpful are the “Teacher Takeaways” provided within the student models, offering samples of instructor feedback that allow the readers of the book to see passages through the eyes of another.
Additionally, Abrams includes ample visual figures, worksheets, pictures and heuristics to help demonstrate various stages of the writing process and to facilitate the learning of key concepts. The inclusion of links to videos and external learning tools is extremely helpful, and I was immediately able to envision how to structure activities and lesson plans that would integrate these tools as I read through the text.
This is a comprehensive textbook, complete with ample models and learning aids. Without a doubt, it’s strength is the incorporation of student models of writing— this alone makes the book a valuable addition to a first-year writing course, the size of the collection of student models will make an important addition to any writing instructor’s tool kit. However, Abrams has produced a comprehensive textbook that can easily stand up against many other course textbooks even if Empoword did not contain the student models.
The content is accurate and grounded in contemporary understandings and research. EmpoWord emerges from the constructivist / interpretivist paradigms with nods to the critical traditions. There are also movements toward the post-human traditions through the acknowledgment of indigenous and decolonizing understandings. This is to say that Abrams has a particular stance in his approach EmpoWord and that the concept of “accuracy” will likely have more to do with one’s philosophical understandings about the nature of writing than anything else. Abrams is not biased or heavy-handed (quite the contrary and thankfully so), but he does position writing as a sociocultural action, one that may have profound implications when connected to identity, equity, and justice. This stance guides the way in which EmpoWord positions writing and the writer as an individual and collective actor.
EmpoWord is contemporary, not unhelpfully so, and this currency accounts for its accessibility to the reader. I suspect this text will have an average to longer-than-average shelf life as its core concepts are tested and widely accepted. There are areas within the book that may challenge its continued relevance down the road. References to contemporary pop culture such as Doctor Who, for example, may alienate some readers or risk shortening its shelf life, but these contemporary references are intelligent and make meaningful contributions rather than coming off as sounding hip in unconvincing ways.
Abrams should be commended for producing a text that is not only informative and timely but one that is also a joy to read. The writing style extends an invitation to the reader to imagine the ways in which one’s experience might serve as a stepping stone into continued learning and think of one’s self as a writer. The language throughout EmpoWord works to establish clear and varied connections between writing, thinking, identity, and knowledge generation. Diction is appropriate for the intended audience: providing specific and technical language when appropriate, but never attempting to impress with an overly zealous vocabulary.
Context within each section is layered, allowing students to access and interact with meaning through many pathways. There is an excellent combination not just of the genres of writing (student models and descriptions for example), but also of modes of information (visual, lists, url resources).
One minor concern I noted was that each chapter contained a list of key vocabulary terms used throughout the chapter. This is a helpful device, but I also noticed some words that were emphasized and formatted similarly to keywords but were not contained on the chapter vocabulary list. As I said, this is a minor concern that may or may not be noticed by others.
Within some open source books (as well as textbooks published through traditional routes), there is a sense of chunking in that different sections feel as if they were created by different writing groups or during distinct moments in time. Integration across the texts suffers a bit. This isn’t the case with EmpoWord, at least not that I’ve noticed. Given the consistency of terminology and structure, EmpoWord feels like a cohesive whole without sacrificing its ability to be used modularly.
One of the things I appreciated most while reviewing EmpoWord is the degree to which I could imagine using particular sections during particular moments in my classes while skipping over sections that may not pertain to topics in class. While the text has an overall organizational logic, it is not a logic that demands strict adherence to using the text as a linear device. Sections are easily and readily divisible, with ample subheadings. The text lends itself reorganization based on the pace of the semester and the organization of the class.
Overall, I found the organization of EmpoWord easy to navigate and predict. It follows a particular logic that builds upon fundamental skills of narrative and personal reflection. One thing I would have liked to see in the book's organization is for the student model writings to be grouped by rhetorical mode or skill in addition to listing them by chapter. It would be helpful if the reader were able to see a list of all student writings that were categorized as "argumentation" or "interacting with souces" or another rhetorical mode.
Images are clear and navigation issues are minimal. There are instances I noted in which intra-text navigation links that do not readily appear as links actually actually do function as links to other areas of the text, but this function is readily apparent. Other areas in the text appear as links but are only underlined for emphasis. One aspect that caused some frustration was when I did select a link (an endnote for example), there was no easy way to return to the previous passage other than manually flipping back to the appropriate page or returning to the table of contents and then reselecting the appropriate chapter title. Perhaps offering an ePub version would address some of these navigation issues? EmpoWord is a lengthy book and having no viable way to easily return to the previous page prior to a navigational jump was a bit of frustration.
Abrams does an admirable job of representing multiple perspectives, and racial, ethnic, gendered, and often overlooked identities. Sociocultural perspectives, while they are not the dominant focus of this rhetorically-driven text, are integrated within the sections as well as supplemental materials. For example, there is a link to a video that is included in Chapter 4 as a way to demonstrate a “close reading roundtable,” a strategy and one technique of what Abrams refers to as, “text wrestling.” The roundtable showcases four students (one who presents as a Black female, two who present as white males, and one who presents as a white female) discussing an excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. This video tutorial does a wonderful job of showcasing the text wrestling strategies discussed in Chapter 4, but it also provides an excellent example of engaging in meaningful and important conversations related to racial disparity.
This is an excellent textbook, one that I can envision implementing in my first-year writing courses. Abrams should be commended for creating such a comprehensive resource through an open-source format. Well done!
What I like most about this text is the depth. It covers concepts fitting for both basic and research-based composition, thus it can be used for multiple courses that scaffold. Content-wise, it’s really everything I didn’t know I was looking for... read more
What I like most about this text is the depth. It covers concepts fitting for both basic and research-based composition, thus it can be used for multiple courses that scaffold. Content-wise, it’s really everything I didn’t know I was looking for but really needed. The table of contents and index are clear and easy to follow and each chapter includes a glossary of key terms (which are also conveniently catalogued at the end of the text).
I would like to see more on revision and how students revise with feedback. This is the thing my students struggle with most. I do like the professor feedback boxes as a guidance marker for students. Lots of variety in student samples, but I’d like to see more rough/process drafts built in with these examples.
All the content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased. It is on par with the expensive textbooks from major publishing companies in the field.
I like the timely, up-to-date examples and references to pop culture. The book is current enough to be engaging to students. However, in ten years or so, it will need to be updated – just as most textbooks are. I really like the embedded videos, though I worry about how long the links will stay active.
The text is well-written and accessible for all college composition students. It is refreshingly engaging and conversational rather than stuffy and technical. The author knows his content as well as his students’ needs. I found the text easy to read with lots of concrete examples. I would like to have seen more visuals, though. Random white space could have been better utilized.
I found consistency throughout. This consistency helped scaffold the concepts and build each chapter from the previous. It flows seamlessly, even if you need to skip certain chapters, because of how well the concepts are explained each time they are used.
One of the things I like most about this text is how well it is divided into sections to make it easy to see what might fit where in a course and which sections of the book might be applicable to certain writing objectives. I was able to easily divide up the reading for just the things I wanted to cover. Then, I was able to supplement it with my own materials because it pairs so well with what I’m already doing.
This textbook is organized according to the following general formula: Section Topic, Section Introduction, Three Chapters each containing: a Rhetorical Mode or Skill, Instruction Activities, and Model Student Work, followed by an end-of-section Culminating Assignment, Rubric, and Guidelines for Peer Work.
This structure is easy to follow and helps readers anticipate what’s coming next. The text is engaging without being overwhelming. The chapters have a good balance of rhetoric lessons, practice activities, and student examples. I find the activities practical and fun in preparing for the types of assessments that meet course goals.
This book is only available in PDF format. I wish it had a web version to make it more interactive or easier to click around within the text, especially since it’s such a long book. Scrolling to page 400 is cumbersome for students; however, it’s not a deal-breaker.
You will need to tell students to refer to page numbers of the actual text, not the PDF page numbers. Also, instruct them to right click to open links/videos, etc. in another window (hitting the back button will take you back to the beginning of the book).
I was impressed with the quality of proofreading in this text. I only found two typos in over 500 pages.
The author has taken particular care in making the text inclusive. He uses not only a variety of cultures in examples and readings, but he also covers diversity in his selection of student authors and sample paper topics.
I like how this text incorporates both low-stakes activities to practice concepts as well as formal, high-stakes assignments to assess learning. They provide a “stop, think, write” moment for students to process and apply the skills.
I’m particularly impressed with the research and argumentation section of this book.
This book is a very good textbook for a one or two-semester, freshman-level college writing course (however, it does not include a grammar/punctuation handbook). As other reviewers have noted, it is an extensive text (teaching... read more
This book is a very good textbook for a one or two-semester, freshman-level college writing course (however, it does not include a grammar/punctuation handbook). As other reviewers have noted, it is an extensive text (teaching narration/description, analysis, and research/argumentation), and some instructors may prefer to split the chapters over two semesters or courses. The instruction is engaging, the examples are good, and the activities quite useful. I especially like the glossary of terms provided in each chapter as well as the "teacher takeaways" provided after each student model.
The instruction is solid and unbiased; it's clear the author is an experienced writing instructor familiar with current pedagogical approaches.
I found the content and topics to be up to date and relevant to today's college students, many of whom are from underrepresented groups and/or nontraditional backgrounds. (The student models provided are truly representative of student work, which I found refreshing.) Updates should be easy to implement if necessary, though I don't see the need in the immediate future.
As a composition instructor, I would have liked to see some inclusion of rhetorical analysis (as opposed to literary analysis) in the analysis/synthesis section, but there's still much that's usable in that chapter. The audience analysis worksheets in the Research and Argumentation chapter (asking students to fill in ethos, pathos, logos) could certainly be adapted and used for rhetorical analysis.
The prose is lucid and very readable, but I did find that some sections are more complex/advanced than others. As I mentioned above, I love the chapter vocabulary.
The terminology and framework are consistent. There is some overlap in concepts/ideas across the three parts, but I personally thought the redundancy might be helpful to students (it might also aid in modularity).
As an instructor who is considering using portions of this textbook, I would have preferred the content to be downloadable as a PressBook file, rather than a .pdf. When I downloaded the .pdf, it not only took quite a bit of time, but I received two error messages in the process.
Having said that, I should point out that the chapters, student examples, and activities are arranged in a way that makes it easy to break up sections and use what you and your students need.
The book is organized well. Many instructors proceed from narrative to analysis to synthesis when they teach writing, so the organization is logical.
I read this book on my computer as well as an older Nook; I had no problems reading from my computer, but in a few cases, I found blank pages in my Nook where graphics or charts seem to have disappeared (for example, the text-wrestling analysis on page 181 is missing entirely from my Nook). (As this is an early version of the Nook, I am guessing that few students would be using this technology, so perhaps it's less of a concern.)
I did find a few typographical errors in the instruction, but these are easily corrected and not overly distracting. The author has made a pedagogical choice to include errors in the student examples, which I appreciated, as they indicate the author values the students' rhetorical choices (and perhaps home language(s)) over "correctness." (If individual instructors who adopt the book are troubled by these errors, I would encourage them to see these "errors" as opportunities for classroom conversation.)
The student examples are inclusive and the instruction models inclusivity.
I was slightly disappointed in the fact that no examples of student revision were provided, especially revisions that responded to the instructor feedback. Also, it would have been nice to see some student reflections on the rhetorical choices they made as they either wrote or revised. However, overall, I was quite pleased with the text and will consider using portions of it in my courses.
This book has a really thorough glossary of terms (relevant definitions are spread through each chapter). There are also quite a number of effective models of student work that demonstrate the text's concepts in action. Lots of activities and... read more
This book has a really thorough glossary of terms (relevant definitions are spread through each chapter). There are also quite a number of effective models of student work that demonstrate the text's concepts in action. Lots of activities and worksheets, too. Key terms are listed in bold or colored fonts to help them stand out from the narrative portions in each chapter.
This was an accurate guide to a composition class. It does feel like you're getting a complete course outline (the author says it would be his ideal course in the introduction). While this doesn't necessary detract from the accuracy of the text, it does feel a little bit constraining. I wanted him to continue in some directions and pull back on others.
Good examples used--modern shows, films, books, cultural events. Even the student essay samples are focused on current events--like transgender rights, for instance.
This book is written in a very clear, easy-to-follow style. The author has a warm personality that comes across in his writing; it's a supportive way to approach learning about writing. I think a student would definitely be appreciative of the author's direct addresses and the reminders that all writers, no matter the level, struggle with putting words on the page. One really nice thing this text accomplishes is that it gives some pull quotes from professors about what worked well in the student sample essays. I think readers just embarking on their academic journeys could find comfort in knowing why a particular essay type (personal narrative, analysis, or argument) is successful.
Very consistent--as it was mentioned above, this book is the roadmap to teaching a composition course. New instructors might find this text to be useful as they start their teaching careers. The language used in these assignments and explanatory chapters could fit any composition class's materials.
This book was structured into three parts: Personal Narratives, Analysis, and Argument. Each section comes with definitions, explanations, graphs/pictures/accompanying videos (all quite helpful!). The chapters are of manageable size and shape.
There were places where I noted repeating information--the paraphrase/direct quote material showed up in one part and then again at the end. Perhaps there should be different citing material from the analysis section to the argument section.
It was quite nicely arranged--links worked, and the supplementary embedded videos were helpful in highlighting concepts (like the empathy video). Some pages were a little more text-heavy than others, but it was still easy to read and digest. The worksheets and brainstorming activities are really helpful. They can be printed out and used in a face-to-face class.
No grammar mishaps that I could see.
The student examples really demonstrated a cultural awareness. Like the author mentions, instead of using published sample readings (which are useful--I wouldn't have minded seeing a few more selected published/professional texts), there are student models to help readers see how these types of essays can be successful and engaging. From the student models, we can really see a diversity of perspectives that help show student writers the variety of stories that exist all around them.
Professional examples--I wouldn't have minded seeing just a few more essays to examine (most likely in the analysis section). I would definitely use this text for my classes (especially online composition courses) and many of the activities that come from it.
What I appreciate about this textbook is the number of writing styles addressed and with examples. I think it offers a great resource for students to see the different was to write and how it can be applied in everyday experiences. There is a... read more
What I appreciate about this textbook is the number of writing styles addressed and with examples. I think it offers a great resource for students to see the different was to write and how it can be applied in everyday experiences. There is a great section on synthesis and how to use sources which is valuable to students and writing in composition courses.
The information is accurate and error-free.
The content and current. There is also a variety of authors and examples of their writing.
Text is clear and written for students understanding and comprehension.
The text is internally consistent in terms and terminology.
The text is easy to reading and assign parts of the books. The sections are clearly marked and are clear. It is organized in an effective way.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is culturally sensitive and the authors are from many backgrounds.
I plan on using this book next semester.
Overall, this text provided comprehensive material for students taking an English Composition II in the Louisiana Community College System. The information on analysis and argumentation is well put together, and the student sample essays are... read more
Overall, this text provided comprehensive material for students taking an English Composition II in the Louisiana Community College System. The information on analysis and argumentation is well put together, and the student sample essays are helpful. The index and glossary are well done and efficient. I would have liked a section that delved more into MLA rules possibly in a Handbook style. I did appreciate the references to external sources that provide the missing information; however, including the information would have been more effective.
The content appears accurate. Bias is avoided in the text, and an apt discussion of bias in writing and argumentation is provided which is helpful for student writers.
The content is up-to-date. The material is timely and draws interest. The text is arranged in a way that should allow for the replacing of out-of-date examples when it becomes necessary. Due to the lack of MLA section, faculty users could easily link students to supplemental MLA material that is up-to-date.
The use of a "Chapter Vocabulary" at the beginning of each section is a definite positive. This allows for more clarity. At times, the prose does indicate a more advanced composition student such as a second-semester English student in the community college realm. Additionally, the text provides a solid context for all included content within the text.
The textbooks consistent framework allows for ease of use and navigation.
The hyperlinked table of contents made it easy to access individual sections, making it easy to break up assigned sections for students. Additionally, sections have clear headings and sub-headings which makes assigning smaller sections possible.
The text logically orders material focusing on developing a student's skills by beginning with a solid grounding in basic skills and moving towards more complex topics.
The PDF loaded slowly and even displayed an error message once while downloading. Additionally, some of the fonts seemed to be distorted when using a tablet to access as opposed to a desktop computer. The navigable table of contents was quite helpful!
It would have been effective to mark the errors in the students' writing samples to draw attention to student users as this would likely help students understand the revising and editing process.
Examples and text represent inclusivity. It would be easy to supplement readings that are appropriate to a school's student body.
Overall, this text offers a functional option for an English Composition II course with its focus on rhetorical strategies and research writing. I enjoyed the student examples, the classroom activities, and the engaged reading strategies. This is a text that I will be bringing to my English department for adoption (with some supplemental material to address the lack of MLA Style information).
The textbook entitled: EmpoWord: A Student-Centered Anthology & Handbook for College Writers by Shane Abrams, Portland State University covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides a per chapter vocabulary, additional... read more
The textbook entitled: EmpoWord: A Student-Centered Anthology & Handbook for College Writers by Shane Abrams, Portland State University covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides a per chapter vocabulary, additional recommended resource links, and glossary, but no material or discussion of MLA or APA style. It only gives examples of links to search for those styles. The text seems to be designed for the more advanced writer rather than a beginning freshman in college. There was no mention of what level of student could benefit from this textbook. Did not contain handbook material.
The text contains mechanical and grammatical within model students essays.
Some of the links may become obsolete in the appendix.
The text is not written for incoming freshman students, but for advance, student writers in an Honors English course and upper levels groups of writers.
The text per chapter is consistent in its format of providing, an introduction, vocabulary terms, activities, and student models, but no professional example model or traditional author for the student to read or view. I guess there were copyright issues involved.
The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course, but the activities should be numbered after its header.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion. But, where did the section called "Text Wrestling" come from? That is definitely different.
The text contains unique images, charts, and graphs. Different color schemes are great eye catchers.
The text does contain some grammatical errors within the student model essays. The word "model" should demonstrate good quality and free of errors so that others can see, understand, and apply.
The text includes a variety of cultural topics of races and ethnicities from the students model text. They could create a great discussion of sensitive topics, but not in an offensive manner.
The best chapter is Argumentation. It is more thorough and to the point with examples; the student model essays contain current issues.
I would have liked the book to include more of a handbook section that would give students guidance on citation of sources and also on common stylistic and grammatical problems. The rhetoric sections were comprehensive, and I also liked the... read more
I would have liked the book to include more of a handbook section that would give students guidance on citation of sources and also on common stylistic and grammatical problems. The rhetoric sections were comprehensive, and I also liked the chapter on Interacting with Sources. The worksheets within the chapters were also helpful, but I have found several of them in many other places on the internet. The "Activities", the comprehensive assignments and the rubrics were useful for me as an example of one way to do things, but I did not end up using them because I relied more on assignments I have done in the past.
I like the fact that the book uses student models throughout. However, I would have liked the quality of these models to have been stronger. When I give students models in class, I would like them to be aspirational without being out of reach. In the models in the book, I would have suggested revisions if my students had written them, so I didn't feel comfortable giving some of them out as examples for students to follow. For example, in the narrative/personal essay examples, the student models did not use dialog effectively.
The examples and student essays were up-to-date. The only chapter that seems like it would need revision soon would be the one on interacting with sources. It is good for now, but as technology changes the chapter will need to be updated. I would have liked to see more about multi-modal communication. Because the book is online, there is an opportunity to do more here, but this would be a section that would need to be updated frequently.
The book was clear and easy to use. The prose was easy for students to understand and follow. The worksheets and readings included within the chapters helped students process the new information.
Yes. The list of vocabulary in each section helped students understand the terms and helped to ensure consistency.
I found the book easy to use in terms of selecting certain sections to share with my class at the appropriate time. The separate table of contents on the readings also made it easy for me to provide additional readings to illustrate certain techniques even if those readings were from a different chapter.
The textbook was organized in a logical way that seemed to build from simpler writing skills and situations to more complex ones.
The pdf is extremely slow to load on the web site. I did appreciate that the table of contents had active links leading to the chapters.
I did notice some typos in certain chapters that were distracting. These were not within the student writing but within the authors' sections.
The student writing represented a variety of voices and backgrounds and the chapters on interpretation and analysis encouraged students to look at texts in ways that examined the cultural background from which they arose.
The graphics and layout were easy to read and pleasing to the eye, but the book did have a lower-budget feel to it than the ones students usually buy. The fact that I was able to save them a lot of money made up for the less-than-slick appearance. I also noticed that there was a higher text to image ratio than in most commercially available textbooks, but I did not find this off-putting and I don't believe my students did either.
This textbook has all of the features of a standard reference book (e.g., tables of contents, graphics, diagrams, sample writing, appendices, a glossary, etc.), but it prioritizes showing over explaining writing concepts. Its commitment to... read more
This textbook has all of the features of a standard reference book (e.g., tables of contents, graphics, diagrams, sample writing, appendices, a glossary, etc.), but it prioritizes showing over explaining writing concepts. Its commitment to high-level overviews of writing concepts is not out of place, however, for use in first-year writing classes or as a primer for those who are out of practice with college-level writing. Though the author offers a general take on many topics that are relevant to college-level writing, the book's content alone could maybe only fill one semester. I imagine instructors will find a need to supplement in addition to cutting/replacing content when adopting this textbook.
The information presented in this textbook seems as accurate as I would expect it to be. Vocabulary, themes, and examples are all well chosen and carefully treated by the author.
I seldom use textbooks in my writing classes because I am used to collecting and curating my own set of relevant examples, activities, and assignments for students. As such, any assigned readings are usually meant to demonstrate a technique, ground a concept, or set expectations about college-level writing. This author's approach complements my course design well because the matters he presents here are timeless and any other resources he provides may be considered alongside or replaced those I already have on hand.
The writing style is straightforward and approachable. By using student writing samples to demonstrate chapter concepts, the author models the expectations of college-level writing for students and keep chapter text brief. The author's focus on the rhetorical situation may be difficult for some students to take on without supplemental resources or instruction, but many first-year writing instructors are already familiar with how to scaffold understanding in this area. This textbook is for instructors who want to introduce topics outside of class briefly and then more fully develop student understanding through in-class discussion and supplementary readings.
The information design of chapters (headings, pull-quotes, vocabulary, examples, takeaways, and so on) are consistent across the book and comparable to what I might find in publisher alternatives. The author defines and uses key vocabulary consistently.
Chapter content is thematically self-contained and available in a variety of rhetorical modes. If an instructor wanted only to use specific activities, passages, or prompts, I find that each could stand well on its own. Similarly, an instructor could either winnow or replace the provided student writing samples with local alternatives. Because this book is only available in PDF at the time of this review, rearranging or cutting content could be time-consuming.
Though writing classes vary in organization, the author mimics the common practice of shifting assignments from informal/personal to formal/academic across a term. Topics covered in the appendices are mainstays in college-level writing, so some instructors may want to highlight or reference this content early and often throughout a class. Ultimately, the relevance of the organization from chapter-to-chapter will depend on the instructor, but the content of each chapter is well-organized.
Images do not appear to be accessible, and captions would be helpful for identifying them in the Full Citations and Permissions section. Though entries in this section are listed in order, it is difficult to keep track of their position in sequence across a 495-page manuscript. As one big PDF, the book is frustrating to jump around. Consistent section headings and organization help, but reading this textbook could improve through dividing content into multiple PDFs or reformatting the whole manuscript as an ePub. Depending on the amount of material an instructor wants to use, the current burden of unbundling seems high.
The in-chapter writing is accurate and well-edited. I appreciate that student examples seem to be authentic in their grammatical correctness.
As far as I noticed, there were no specific overtures to diversity and inclusion. The gender of student authors vary, and examples draw from dominant popular culture. Given the design of the textbook, those who adopt should probably consider supplementing textbook content with cases and artifacts that more broadly reflect the culture(s) of their students. From a cultural sensitivity standpoint, the content here is consistent with what I would expect from a publisher textbook.
Overall, I am impressed with Abrams' text and plan to adopt his book in my class this semester.
The text covers a lot of ground, with different essay types and the attendant skills development sections and numerous example essays. The section on revision I think is quite well executed. The scope of the material makes it a little hard to... read more
The text covers a lot of ground, with different essay types and the attendant skills development sections and numerous example essays. The section on revision I think is quite well executed. The scope of the material makes it a little hard to imagine the kind of course this would be best for. It ranges from descriptive or personal narrative all the way to research writing. In most places I've worked, that would span the standard 2-semester Freshman comp sequence, but I'm not sure there's enough material here for 2 semesters, so it might need to be supplemented. On the other hand... most commercial texts I've used that are intended for 2 semesters have too much material, so maybe this would hit the sweet spot. On the third hand, this text only sets out 3 writing assignments, which wouldn't even cover one semester the way most programs are designed.
Everything seems to be capably presented. I have not yet used this text in a full course, and that is usually where/when one discovers problems with explanations and such.
I saw nothing that would suggest any problems with longevity or relevance within a reasonable timeframe.
The style and tone are engaging and the use of graphic elements is effective while not distracting. I think most students would find the material clear and accessible.
I did not notice any issues with internal consistency. The text seems to have undergone a reasonably rigorous process of editing and revision with these concerns in mind.
I think using this text would require the instructor to create a sequence which jumps systematically between the essay types (rhetorical modes), readings/examples, and skill-building sections on the reading and writing processes. Otherwise it turns into a meal where you eat all the vegetables first, then the meat, then the salad, then the potatoes. On the one hand, this allows for creativity and flexibility in course design, but on the other hand it requires more work for the teacher.
I think my view on the text's organization are addressed in the sections on Modularity and Comprehensiveness.
The table of contents did not appear in the sidebar on Preview (Mac), which meant that navigation requires scrolling back to the table of contents pages in the text each time, which is cumbersome. But the links to the given sections on the TOC pages work.
I didn't notice any issues with language use.
I did not see anything that would seem to present serious concerns in regard to cultural sensitivity, though it is difficult to predict where the popular discourse on such things may turn. The inclusion of an essay on T.S. Eliot might be seen as questionable by those who reject the notion that artists' work can be considered separately from their apparent personal failings.
Overall, I think this text would be useful for those instructors who want to take the time to create their own sequence, directing students to the relevant sections in the book, and those who want the flexibility to create their own assignments based on the material in this text.
In addition to including helpful sub-sections in each chapter summarizing important concepts and skills, this book contains a glossary, appendices, plenty of thoughtful additional supplementary readings, and a thorough explanation of the author's... read more
In addition to including helpful sub-sections in each chapter summarizing important concepts and skills, this book contains a glossary, appendices, plenty of thoughtful additional supplementary readings, and a thorough explanation of the author's pedagogical and theoretical stance as they put together this volume. The table of contents is especially useful, as it outlines major takeaways and readings for each chapter so that they can be easily located.
The author grounds their pedagogy and content in rhetorical methods, which are well-described. The author identifies 3 major writing purposes (description, criticism, and argumentation/research), all of which would be demanded of any beginning writer in an undergraduate setting. Each of these purposes is addressed thoroughly, with student paper examples, sample professor feedback, supplementary readings, and multimodal exercises.
The author, as I mentioned, is transparent about their rhetorical approach to writing, and gives an excellent overview of rhetoric and the rhetorical situation. I particularly appreciated guides to rhetoric/communication research methods such as thick description, which rhetorical scholars seem to assume students simply understand without ever making it explicit. Ideas about rhetoric are refined and reinforced throughout the book as appropriate (how rhetorical!).
As a practicing academic librarian and fieldworker in rhetoric, I was particularly struck by the clear representation of the research process--especially its reliance on curiosity-- and the inclusion of the Association of College and Research Library's Information Literacy Framework. The author combines soft skills and habits of mind, like cultivating curiosity, with harder skills, such as learning Boolean logic, that represents beautifully the complex and intertwined processes of research and writing.
In sum, then, I found this a very accurate book. The only inaccuracy that jumped out at me was the conflation of musical composition with written composition. Whereas written composition is a semantic and therefore inherently narrative form, musical composers are often working outside semantics and story in a largely affectual form.
The author points out, rightly, that most writing anthologies in composition classrooms are exclusively writing by professional authors, which perhaps suggests to students an unrealistic set of standards that they are expected to meet. “Representing student writing in this book allows students to envision themselves in the role of author," they say, and I agree. I appreciated that bits of writing that aren't perfect were represented; these can provoke critical and pragmatic discussions in beginning writers.
By focusing on fostering learning communities, the author reinforces the notion that writing is not a solitary activity. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, they acknowledge, and it's hard. We need these horizontal communities as writers, with shared goals and values, that learn alongside of us. This ethos, made explicit for student users of the textbook, seems extremely relevant, particularly as they are trying their hands at a new form.
Finally, by shifting the paradigm from teaching only the technics and production side of writing to responsiveness to the rhetorical situation, the author encourages skills in students that won't go stale.
Author is clear with his agenda, speaking directly to students about his teaching philosophy, which is that writing teachers ought not to “trick” students into learning, but that learning should be cooperative and collaborative and that the instruction should be transparent. The author lives up to this stated approach throughout the book, often laying bare the pedagogical framework engaged for students to understand.
The charts for students trying a method or style of writing for the first time will help, I think, make the experience of these concepts as clear as their description.
The book remained very consistent in terminology and framework, which is always helpful for a beginning writer.
This book is designed to be easily modular, as its table of contents vividly illustrates. Instructors could easily pull out single exercises or sections, swap out readings, and assemble units using parts of the book from different sections. The way the book is organized, too, facilitates students' dipping in and out of various areas to make meaningful connections.
The author creates a formula, including section topic, and then multiple chapters, all of which include a rhetorical mode or skill, and then instruction, activities, and model student work addressing that rhetorical mode or skill. Each section culminates with a culminating assignment, including a rubric, guidelines for a peer workshop, and model student work. This organization is intended to enhance the textbook’s modularity.
This book provides summaries of important ideas, vocabulary used in each chapter at the end, graphics illustrating some of the ideas described in the text in table and other forms. It's easy to locate particular topics if you know what you're looking for.
The issues with interface are not new to online books of any kind: it can be difficult to get to a particular page, and on occasion it's easy to forget where in the text you are presently located-- that is, where topics are in relation to one another.
I saw no grammatical errors.
The author has an eye to cultural sensitivity, directly addressing the often overlooked cultural issues students face when entering the rarefied culture of the academy for the first time. Important academic/scholarly concepts are explained clearly and in language that is accessible and not condescending to beginning students.
Overall, this book is thorough, insightful, theoretically grounded, and, best of all, highly usable. I would anticipate instructors and students alike appreciating its transparency, fresh voice, and thoughtfully-designed exercises.
The text is perhaps too broad in its coverage to be entirely effective. read more
The text is perhaps too broad in its coverage to be entirely effective.
There is some bias demonstrated in the introduction and subsequent chapter prefaces. At 500+ pages it would be difficult to avoid any errors, but those I saw were deliberately left in the examples of student writing.
I do think this text is very relevant and responsive to current issues in composition teaching. However, several of the specific examples (television shows, musicians, etc.) would soon become outdated. Also, several of the Works Cited pages do not reflect the most recent update.
There are sections that are overly wordy and it isn't always clear to the reader where readings or terminology referenced within the text can be found. When referring to an article that will be discussed at a later point, it would be very helpful to include the page reference in brackets.
I did not note any specific inconsistencies.
Some parts are easily divisible into smaller sections, while other parts contain large blocks of text that would need to be gone through. It would be somewhat time-consuming to adapt parts of the text from these sections.
The organization is logical and mostly clear.
I had no real difficulty navigating the text. There were a few places where I found images that didn't seem particularly relevant.
As indicated above, some of the grammatical errors were deliberately left in to show students that their writing need not be perfect.
I did not note any problems in this area.
EmpoWord is organized around an intriguing concept – teaching writing to students using writing by students. Much attention has been paid lately to better understanding how our current students learn differently than their predecessors and how existing teaching practices have failed to make the proper adjustments to a new generation of learners. Research has shown, for example, that diverse student populations in particular have a much higher degree of anxiety in regard to their written work. Presenting students with examples written by other students, rather than professional writers, is thus a solid strategy designed to help reduce some of that existing anxiety by following the pedagogical principle of growth learning, or focusing on current and future successes rather than past or present failures.
Although a number of interesting and productive exercises are provided, the biggest weakness of this book is that it attempts to cover too much. At times the book seems pitched towards beginning, even developing writers (particularly in its belabored discussions of basic concepts) while at other times the emphasis on process is consistent with the typical objectives of a college-level composition course. Fortunately, the author’s choice to allow sharing and adaptation of the manuscript gives instructors the option to select and choose – and there is much here to choose from. Overall, though I would certainly not adopt this book in its entirety, I am likely to use some parts of the book the next time that I teach composition.
Table of Contents
Part One: Description, Narration, and Reflection
- Chapter One: Describing a Scene or Experience
- Chapter Two: Telling a Story
- Chapter Three: Reflecting on an Experience
- Assignment: Descriptive Personal Narrative
Part Two: Text Wrestling
- Chapter Four: Interpretation, Analysis, and Close Reading
- Chapter Five: Summary and Reader-Response
- Chapter Six: Analysis and Synthesis
- Assignment: Text wrestling Analysis
Part Three: Research and Argumentation
- Chapter Seven: Argumentation
- Chapter Eight: Research Concepts
- Chapter Nine: Interacting with Sources
- Assignment: Persuasive Research Essay
About the Book
EmpoWord is a reader and rhetoric that champions the possibilities of student writing. The textbook uses actual student writing to exemplify effective writing strategies, celebrating dedicated college writing students to encourage and instruct their successors: the students in your class. Through both creative and traditional activities, readers are encouraged to explore a variety of rhetorical situations to become more critical agents of reading, writing, speaking, and listening in all facets of their lives. Straightforward and readable instruction sections introduce key vocabulary, concepts, and strategies. Three culminating assignments (Descriptive Personal Narrative; Text-Wrestling Analysis; Persuasive Research Essay) give students a chance to show their learning while also practicing rhetorical awareness techniques for future writing situations.
About the Contributors
Shane Abrams, Portland State University