Great Writing 4 by Keith Folse Review | Teaching ESL Writing

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The Great Writing Series

Great writing 4 is an excellent book that I’ve been using this semester to teach Advanced Writing to English majors, who are mostly 3rd and 4th year university students. I was given this book to teach and didn’t choose it myself, but thankfully, it’s the best English writing textbook I’ve used. The other books in the Great Writing Series are equally as good, in case you’re wondering. Overall, it’s an excellent series for teaching ESL writing.

Here’s why I like Great Writing by Keith Folse so much:

The Great Writing Series: Process/Product Approach Hybrid

The first reason it’s fabulous is that it’s a hybrid between the process approach to teaching writing (focusing on brainstorming/selecting main points/editing, etc) and the product approach(using a model text upon which students should use to base their own essay upon). Folse has selected the best from each approach and combined them into one, easy to use and teach book.

Chapter Organization for Great Writing: Solid!

The first chapter is an introduction to essays in general, and then subsequent chapters cover a certain type of essay (narrative/comparison, etc) in detail. There are always 3-4 example essays and some questions to help the students analyze it.

The questions are helpful at getting the students to notice the subtleties of the text, but not too detailed to be burdensome. The focus is less on the actual content of the essay than it is on noticing the structure, which I appreciate. I’ve found assigning the reading of an essay and answering the questions an excellent homework assignment. Then, in class I put the students into groups of 3-4 and give them some time to discuss their answers together.

The second part of the chapter is more focused on the writing process and talks about things like good hooks and thesis statements, brainstorming, or vocabulary choice. At the end of the chapter, there are some topics for that kind of essay, as well as a timed writing assignment. I’ve been using the essay topics for graded homework assignments and the timed writing as in-class practice.

Buy it now on Amazon: Great Writing 4: From Great Paragraphs to Great Essays

Great Writing 4: Any Weaknesses?

Vocabulary Focus

Something  I don’t love is the vocabulary focus. While I like the idea of it, it’s just one of those things that I never use due to time constraints and I’m really not sure it’s the most important thing to focus on, especially for Korean students who are already pretty solid on this. Perhaps in other countries it would be more useful.

Peer-Editing Focus

I also don’t love the peer editing and the book seems a bit heavy on this. I’d MUCH rather have more about self-editing, complete with checklists, etc. It’s actually a major weakness of Great Writing 4 in my opinion, but of course, it’s due more to a difference in teaching philosophy than anything else.

The Takeaway on the Great Writing Series:

You can’t go wrong with this book if you teach very high level students who are at the point where they are ready to write academic, 5-paragraphs essays. And if they’re not quite there yet, check out something like Great Paragraphs or any of the three books in the Great Writing series before this one. I’ve used them as well and would also give my unqualified recommendation.

Oh yeah, here’s the grading rubric I use to teach this: ESL Writing Grading Rubric.


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