Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

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Teaching Register

Jennifer MacDonald


I recently came across this article from the BBC: “Slang banned from Croydon School to improve Student Speech” and immediately did a face palm on behalf of those school administrators. Not only does this make no sense from the perspective of teenage psychology (forbidden fruit becomes all the more tantalizing), but it ignores some of the most basic aspects of sociolinguistics, and is a waste of a wonderful teachable moment.

The idea of register is at the heart of most societal hand-wringing about youth today and the downfall of the English language. “Kids today don’t know how to speak/read/write/spell/communicate!” “They only know how to communicate in slang and txt speak!” ETC. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with slang and textspeak. They are simply examples of an informal register of speech, when used in the appropriate time and place among a the speech community of one’s peers there’s nothing…

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Working towards a transformative writing centre pedagogy

Writing in the Academy

I attended a really interesting seminar presentation last week by Cecilia Jacobs from Stellenbosch University near Cape Town on ‘academic literacies and the question of knowledge’ (this is also the title of a paper the talk was based on – well worth reading). One of the points she made, referring to a 2007 paper by Theresa Lillis and Mary Scott has really had me thinking, and is the subject of this post: that we need to move, in our academic literacy work, from a more ‘normative’ framing and practice to a more ‘transformative’ framing and practice.

Briefly, Lillis and Scott describe normative practices as those which are focused on identifying textual features or features of practice – genres/moves/’rules’/steps/forms etc – and inducting students into these so that they can become proficient and recognised as belonging to that community of practice. An example would be teaching students how to write argumentative…

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