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What is This Thing Called Flow? Helping Writers Help Their Readers. Jan Frodesen email@example.com TESOL, 2009 Denver, Colorado. Flow and good academic writing.
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DePauw University Writing Study (2007): What do you believe are the most important characteristics of good writing? Check the 3 you believe are the most important:
Some think of flow in a linear way, but reader experience of flow in a piece of writing is more like a web of connections. (J. Harlig)
Flow often described in terms of disruptions, problems re writing instruction; potential for flow disruption between every structural component …
“Flow chats” with Writing Program and Tutoring Center colleagues
UCSB Writing ProgramsFlow chats: Problems with flow
UCSB Writing ProgramsFlow chats: Problems with flow
Avoid “stacking” in nominalizations.
Avoid too much “chaining” of topics (A-B, B-C, C-D, D-E etc.).
Put new information, long phrases clauses at end of sentence.
Considerations in designing and conducting activities
sentences, within sentences
published texts (e.g. Williams, 2006) or websites
Topics and tasks to be presented today:
We judge sequences of sentences to be cohesive depending on how each sentence ends and the next begins… Think of cohesion as fitting together the way two Lego® pieces do.”
We judge whole passages to be coherent depending on how all the sentences in a passage cumulatively begin…Think of coherence as seeing what all the sentences in a piece of writing add up to, the way a hundred Lego® pieces create a building, bridge or boat.”Thematic relations: A Note on cohesion and coherence
Focused topic string:
In a sequence of sentences, all of the new information at the end of a sentence is related back to the same old information at the beginning of the sentence.
Pattern: A-B A-C A-D A-E and so on
or A-B B-C B-D B-E and so on
(1) Two competing myths about Freud
(2) The first myth, that of official psychoanalysis,
(3) The second, opposing myth,
have gradually developed.
depicts Freud as a lonely genius, isolated
and ostracized by his colleagues.
places Freud as getting all his ideas from
someone else and taking credit for what
were in fact no more than minor
modifications in previously developed
Adapted from: Little Red Schoolhouse materials by Joseph Williams, handout from Karen LunsfordFocused thematic string
Chaining topic string: This sequencing links the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next sentence.
C-D and so on
Note: Few paragraphs use chaining exclusively and most paragraphs are a combination of focused and chaining strings.
For this purpose, municipalities have issued not general obligation bonds, but rather revenue bonds.
These bonds are backed by below-market interest rate
Mortgages carrying below-market rates are capable
of generating sufficient income to compensate
purchases because the bonds have tax-exempt status.
That status makes possible relatively low rates.
From: Little Red Schoolhouse, Joseph Williams
Give students short paragraphs from assigned texts or articles in their fields. Ask them to identify the pattern: focused, chaining or combination.
The relationship between steam economy and the overall heat transfer coefficient is shown in Figures 3 and 4. Both graphs show that the higher heat transfer coefficients reflect increased steameconomy.The steam economy, in turn, reflects the rate and amount of water evaporate. These values are recorded in Table 2.
(Handout from Karen Lunsford)
Steps for students to take in identifying cohesion/theme breaks:
1. Underline the subject or topic of each sentence. If the subject is a complex one (modified by adjectives, prepositional phrases, etc., underline these too).
2. Read through the underlined topics as if they were a list. Is there a link between the sentence subject and ideas in the previous ones?
3. If one of two topics differ from what the passage is about, make sure this unanticipated” topic is in the appropriate part of the sentence. If it is “new” information, put it near the end of the sentence.
4. Revise your paragraphs to improve the flow/cohesion. Add sentences if you have forgotten some information. OR switch the order of nouns in the sentence, putting the new information near the end of the sentence (after the main verb).
Adapted from course handout by Christine Holten, UCLA Writing Programs
Sample student introduction (slightly edited) for essay on cyberbullying:
The advancedtechnology has many traps.
People especially teenagers tend to be giddy-headed and reckless.
They are addicted to cyberspace and easily trust strangers
who use sweet words to lure those innocent
Nowadays,the relationship has drifted away because of busy jobs and life;
Therefore, people seek mental comforts in order to gain strength.
That is why the social network site becomes a criminal way.
An online tragedy happened in 2006 was a typical example which leads us to think about the
complication and chaos of internet.
Schleppegrell, Mary. (2009). Grammar for generation 1.5: A focus on meaning. In M. Roberge, M. Siegel & L. Harklau (Eds.), Generation 1.5 in college composition: Teaching academic writing to U.S.-educated learners (pp.221-234). New York: Routledge.
One of the ways that writers create cohesion is through introductory or subjectnoun phrases that have lexical links to previous text:
(a)In addition tothe concerns about rising
unemployment and unstable banking systems,
(b)One consequence ofall this debate about
increasing unemployment ratesis …
Developing writers need instruction/practice in the elements that
create these abstract phrases used so often in academic writing.
Creating noun phrases that link to other ideas often involves adding a prepositional phrase after a noun. Many nouns require specific prepositions after them for particular meanings.
Task: Using examples from assigned readings that will be useful for students for their academic writing, give phrases to complete using correct prepositions.
1. One unfortunate consequence ______ (something or doing something)
2. This trend _______ (doing something)
3. The direct result ______ (doing something)
4. The criteria _______ this evaluation
5. The first stage _______such a process
6. One other solution _______ this dilemma
Task: Explain the difference between the (a) and (b) sentences. Which
one do you think might best follow the first sentence. Why?
1. In some lecture halls, students spend their time searching the web or answering e-mail on their laptops instead of paying attention to the lecture.
a) These activities may distract the students around them.
b) Such activities may distract the students around them.
Task: Write a sentence using such + classifier noun phrase that could follow the sentences below.
Road rage, in which motorists act rudely or even violently toward other drivers, is another type of uncivil behavior in contemporary society. In extreme cases, drivers have even tried to shoot at or run over people with whom they are angry!
Example: Such violent reactions by motorists have made some people afraid to drive on the freeways and on city streets.
As concerns this ongoing problem,
With respect to these difficult choices we are facing,
Task: Create noun phrases to follow introductory expressions by changing the words in parentheses into a noun phrase. Use a form of the underlined word for the head noun. Write the phrase in the blank.
1. As concerns _____________________ (a problem needs to be solved)
2. In regard to ______________________(this proposal may have some drawbacks)
1. As concerns the solution to this problem (a problem needs to be solved)
2. In regard to the possible drawbacks of this proposal(this proposal may have some drawbacks)
This kind of task gives writers practice in changing word forms and vocabulary. Note that for (2), possible has replaced modal may. Instruction can include probability adjectives that can express modal meanings.
To simplify the task: (a) Make all transformations the same; (b), tell writers which word needs to be the head noun: e.g., direct students to change an underlined word as showninto the head noun.
Task: Read each of the following groups of sentences. The form of the topic introducer in the last sentence is incorrect. Cross out the topic introducer with the incorrect form and write the correct form in the blank. More than one correct choice is possible.
1. Tuition costs are on the rise, even for public colleges and universities. As related to this problem is an increase in housing and textbook costs, which makes a higher education even less affordable. ________________
I am [now] able to identify concepts and ideas which I have only heard of. One of those concepts that I am starting to see is flow… when reading a piece of writing, there are certain things that slows me down: unusual punctuation, long and descriptive nouns, using a subject’s name rather than a pronoun that refers to it, more then two short sentences together, and of course long lists. I refer to these things as bumps, because it slows me down. Bumps are useful because when used correctly it stresses ideas or facts to make them more important, but when used incorrectly the essay will have bad flow.
Graf, G. & Borkenstein, C. (2006), “They say, I say”: The moves that matter in academic writing.New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Schleppegrell, M. (2009). Grammar for generation 1.5: A focus on meaning. In M. Roberge, M. Siegel & L. Harklau (Eds.), Generation 1.5 in college composition: Teaching academic writing to U.S.-educated learners (pp.221-234). New York: Routledge.
Tannen, D. (1999) The argument culture: Stopping America’s war of words. New York: Ballantine Books.
Williams, J. (2006a). Style: Ten lessons in clarity and grace. 9th edition. New York: Longman.
Williams, J. (2006b). Style: The basics of clarity and grace. 2nd edition. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.
Website with Little Red Schoolhouse information and exercises: http://www.faculty.virginia.edu/schoolhouse/WP/index.html