[Series editor: Jeanne Lambert. Authors: Jill Bauer, Mike S. Boyle, and Sara Stapleton. p. 272. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015. ¥3,240. ISBN: 978-1-107-49539-5.]
Final Draft is a 4-level textbook series that guides students through the writing process from paragraph to essay writing from pre-intermediate to advanced levels of English. I used Level 2 in a 1st-year, first semester, twice-weekly academic skills course focusing on reading and writing for intermediate level students. Level 2 contains eight chapters that progress from paragraph writing to essay writing. Each chapter is approximately 30 pages long, and may contain more material than teachers have time for. However, with careful selection, this turned out to be a very good text, even for a one-semester course such as mine, to help students learn how to write paragraphs and short essays.
Each chapter is organized around a theme and a writing genre and guides students in preparing and writing the chapter assignment (i.e., description paragraph, compare and contrast essay). Chapters include two short readings, one of which is a student model. Both are helpful examples of the writing genre and the style that students should aim for in their paragraph or essay. Final Draft subscribes to the principles of the process writing approach (e.g., Bayat, 2014), which is evident in the writing prompt together with a cluster diagram or chart for brainstorming ideas at the start of each chapter. Other writing activities specifically for the assignment appear throughout each chapter. As a result, students can work gradually through the steps in preparing their assignment as they receive guidance from the text and opportunities to practice what they have learned in the supporting activities. This gradual progression of work on the assignment makes the writing task less daunting than the present-practice-write formula found in other writing texts. In between these writing activities are typical components of a writing text: topic warm-up and discussion at the start of the chapter, followed by vocabulary development, a short reading, writing skills practice, error correction practice, drafting and revising, and self-editing. Vocabulary is drawn from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, n.d.; 2000) and the General Service List (2013), and the grammar and common writing mistakes sections are derived from the Cambridge English Corpus.
A unique feature of the text is the Avoiding Plagiarism section in each chapter. It is organized as a letter from a student to a teacher asking for writing advice, which is followed by examples and short exercises. In my case, it helped students become aware of what plagiarism is and the appropriate measures to take to avoid it.
I especially like the way each chapter is organized, presenting the core information needed for each assignment, and following it with two writing skill sections that focus on a particular aspect of writing. Chapter 5, for example, which is students’ first encounter with essay writing after 4 chapters of paragraph writing, starts out by presenting the basics of writing an essay: the introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs, then guides students in noticing the features of each through short tasks. This is followed by two sections focusing on writing skills—one on how to write an introduction with background information, and another on how to write a good thesis statement (pp. 148-152). These are fundamental to good essay writing, but are not often included in shorter compositions. The grammar tables are clear and easy to follow, as they focus on the types of grammar errors that EAP students need help with (i.e., phrasal verbs, and count and noncount nouns).
The readings in the textbook include 500-600 word articles from popular publications, newspapers, websites, and Wikipedia. These were too short and easy for my upper B1 level class. Furthermore, there were only two short vocabulary exercises introducing 8-12 academic words and phrases to accompany them. To challenge them and give them exposure to more academic vocabulary, I supplemented the textbook with additional readings that were longer and more difficult. Teachers who teach academic reading and writing courses may wish to do likewise (Grabe & Zhang, 2013). Despite their brevity, however, the articles served as clear models of the type and style of writing that students should aim for in their assignments. Especially helpful are the questions in the margins of the student models that ask students to identify such things as “words that show this will be the last paragraph of the essay” (p. 133).
The teacher’s manual, which is available as a free download from the Final Draft website, includes the answer key for chapter activities and photocopiable unit quizzes, but does not provide guidance on how to present the material or give extension activity ideas, apart from a general list of suggestions at the beginning.
Despite a few shortcomings, the thoughtful organization, clear presentation of the writing process, helpful grammar and plagiarism sections, and purposeful student models are all reasons for teachers looking for a well-rounded writing text to consider Final Draft.
Bayat, N. (2014). The effect of the process writing approach on writing success and anxiety. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 14(3), 1133-1141. doi: 10.12738/estp.2014.3.1720
Coxhead, A. (n.d.). The Academic Word List. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved from http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist
Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 213-238.
Grabe, W., & Zhang, C. (2013). Reading and writing together: A critical component of English for Academic Purposes teaching and learning. TESOL Journal, 4(1), 9-24.
New General Service List. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.newgeneralservicelist.org