September 2004 — Volume 8, Number 2
Ready to Write: A First Composition Text (3rd edition)
K. Blanchard & C. Root (2003)
New York: Longman
Pp. iv + 156
ISBN: 0130424633 (paper)
As the title suggests, the authors of Ready to Write: A First Composition Text believe that learners at any level are ready to write. This combination workbook and textbook starts from ground zero to guide even the least proficient writer through the process of composing meaningful and well-organized English writing. The text integrates grammar, reading and writing through clear and stimulating activities.
Ready to Write is organized in fourteen short chapters, each of which introduces a specific writing skill. The first half teaches organizational and writing skills; the second introduces methods for composing in various genres (writing descriptions, opinions, compare and contrast, etc.). Each chapter includes an explanation of the concepts with numerous examples, drawings, and charts, and then provides writing samples and integrated activities. Each chapter also contains three sections of specific writing activities: “You be the editor” requires the student to edit a paragraph focusing on a specific writing topic (i.e. capitalization), “Ready to Write” sections include a writing prompt that relates the concepts learned in the chapter and requires a written response, “On your own” is an open-ended assignment for the students to complete away from the workbook, presumably as homework.
The book is not aimed specifically at younger students, but the format, spacing and selection of visuals would suggest that it would appeal to a more juvenile rather than adult audience. The simplicity of the explanations and activities, especially at the beginning of the book, might also be redundant to a writer who already had strong L1 writing skills.
The text’s greatest strengths lie in the explanations of organization and integrated activities throughout. The first seven chapters provide an excellent discussion of the importance of organization and practical explanations about how to do it. The book presents specific ways of organizing information (by time, importance, space) and provides examples and space for the student to practice organizing things before beginning to write.
The activities are on interesting topics, allow for group and individual work are heterogeneous to allow for various levels and cultures in the same classroom, allow for student expression of thought, provoke thought and creativity instead of mimicry.
These same activities do, however, have some minor pitfalls in that the language of the reading excerpts, letters and transcribed conversations provided is quite stilted. There is an admirable amount of diversity in themes and topics of the reading samples and writing prompts, but the forced and unnatural language caused by limited word choice and short sentences is distracting. Beginning readers and writers clearly need manageable texts, but perhaps a few authentic texts would improve the contextual basis of the textbook. [-1-]
The writing topics in the “Ready to Write” and “On your own” sections are open-ended, allowing the students to offer their own opinions and interests, but often do not offer an authentic audience or context. Only at the end of the book when the format of letters is taught is an authentic audience introduced (the recipient of the letter).
Despite these minor shortcomings, this text remains an effective tool for any beginning writing or integrated skills classroom. It makes an important contribution to the field of teaching by offering a refreshing look at writing through explicit instruction about organization and process in English writing and through integrated activities.
Brigham Young University
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