ESL Curriculum

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