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Get It Down: You can write in English

Jared Angel, Kobe Shoin Women’s University
Cengage Learning, 2011

[Neil Cowie & Keiko Sakui. Tokyo: Cengage Learning, 2009. pp. 83. ¥1,890. ISBN: 978-4-86312-104-1.]
Get It Down is a writing task-based textbook that introduces university students to a variety of practical writing skills. The book contains ten chapters and two reviews. For first-year students or low-level second-year students, each chapter can be used for two or more lessons with extended writing practice, which makes itideal for year-long courses. The book also workswell with high-level second- or third-year students for semester-long courses,with each chapter being covered in a single lesson.
The topics covered in the ten chapters include writing an informal email, a formal email, a movie review, and a school web page. For each topic, students are asked to consider who will be reading their writing, and as such, must write with the appropriate structure and formality for the target audience. For example, for the informal email, students practice writing a letter of introduction to a host family that they will be staying with when they go abroad. For the formal email practice, they write an email to a company asking to be considered for an internship.
Each chapter contains seven exercises—warm-up, language focus, example model, getting ideas, first draft, editing, and reflection. The warm-up introduces students to the intended target audience and the kind of writing they will be practicing. The language focus is a grammar or vocabulary point that is useful for the writing task. The example model provides the correct form of the target writing practice with comprehension questions. The fourth exercise, getting ideas, helps students think of topics to write about through a variety of techniques including brainstorming and pair work. The first draft exercise is the target structure practice. There is space provided in the textbook for this, however, it can also be done as homework on a computer. Editing, the sixth exercise, helps students improve their writing on their own. Each chapter offers different points to specifically look for while revising the first draft. In chapter three, one difference between the articles a and the is highlighted. The final exercise, reflection, asks students to discuss with partners what they learned in the chapter and how their writing improved.
Get It Downemphasizes writing tasks that students can clearly apply to real-life situations and visualize the intended target audience. This is in-line with Hyland’s third approach to writing (2002, p. 5), in which he describes how writing for an intended audience makes the writing process both interactive and a form of social interaction. Through this visualization process, writers can engage readers with clearly expressed goals. In addition to writing for a target audience, Get It Down also helps students produce final writing tasks through its consistent use of the seven exercises mentioned above, and easy-to-follow examples of the target structure in each chapter.
The possible drawbacks to Get It Down include the lack of visual appeal and limited grammar and structure practice. The black and white pictures along with hand-drawn sketches could be a deterrent to student interest. However, when I pointed out to students that the inclusion of more color and better graphics would increase the price of the textbook, they quickly had a change of heart and appreciated the cheaper price. For students who need a lot of work on structure and grammar, the writing tasks may be a bit difficult and discouraging. I have found that bringing in additional resources for extra practice can easily meet their needs and ensure they remain engaged with the practices in the textbook.
Overall, the book is well thought-out and flows from chapter to chapter so that students can clearly see an improvement in their writing. The practical writing tasks are a great alternative to essay writing and sentence structure textbooks. The solid writing examples for students to follow, the relevant topics to their daily lives, and having students clearly visualize the intended audience ensure that students actively engage in the lessons and improve their English skills.
Hyland, K. (2002). Teaching and researching writing. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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