Learning to Mean in Spanish Writing: A Case Study of a Genre-Based Pedagogy for Standards-Based Writing Instruction

By Troyan, Francis J. | Foreign Language Annals, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Learning to Mean in Spanish Writing: A Case Study of a Genre-Based Pedagogy for Standards-Based Writing Instruction


Troyan, Francis J., Foreign Language Annals


This article describes the results of the implementation of an interactive instructional model through which the touristic landmark description was explicitly taught to fourth-grade students of Spanish as a foreign language (Troyan, 2014). The pedagogy was informed by the genre-based pedagogies of the Sydney School of Linguistics (Derewianka & Jones, 2012; Rose & Martin, 2012; Rothery, 1989, 1996) and was intended to equip students with the interpretive tools to access the full "meaning potential" of language in a communicative context (e.g., Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004, 2013; Liamkina & Ryshina-Pankova, 2012). A key feature of this genre-based pedagogy in promoting literacy development is the explicit teaching of the organizing features, functions, and choices of grammar and vocabulary that are available to interpret and produce a variety of specificgenres-including the three global text types (narrative, expository, and persuasive)-that are taught and assessed across the K-12 school curriculum (e.g., ACTFL, 2012a; Christie, 2012; Derewianka, 2003; Martin & Rose, 2008; NGA/CCSSO, 2010). In addition, genre-based pedagogies have been successfully implemented in a postsecondary foreign language program in the United States (e.g., Byrnes, Maxim, & Norris, 2010) and in K-12 instruction of English language learners (e.g., Brisk, 2014; Gebhard, Harman, & Seger, 2007; Gebhard, Shin, & Seger, 2011; Ramos, 2014, 2015).

This study was designed to investigate the implementation of a genre-based pedagogy and traces the development of the focal student's "learning to mean in writing" in a standards-based foreign language program (Byrnes, 2013). The study represents a response at the K-12 level to the call for reconceptualizing the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (WRSLL; NSFLEP, 2015) and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines-Writing (ACTFL, 2012b) through pedagogies that exemplify "principled and simultaneous linking of both content and language learning" and that are focused on the role of meaning making through texts in sociocultural contexts (Byrnes, 2012, p. 9).

Theoretical Framework: A Genre-Based Pedagogy for Writing

Defining Genre

In this article, genre is defined according to the theory developed by the Sydney School of Linguistics, which emerged from research describing the writing of students in the public schools of Sydney, Australia. Through the "Writing Project" (1980- 1987), Martin, his colleagues, and graduate students deconstructed student texts to identify primary school genres (Martin & Rose, 2008; Rothery, 1989, 1996). Some scholars moved beyond the school genres to identify, study, and describe other genres, for example, service encounters (Ventola, 1987), narratives (Plum, 1998), and casual conversation (Eggins & Slade, 2005). According to Martin, Christie, and Rothery (1987), genres are viewed as

social processes because members of a culture interact with each other to achieve them; as goal oriented because theyhaveevolved to getthings done; and as staged because it usually takes more than one step for participants to achieve their goals. (p. 59; emphasis in original)

Given the communicative goals in a particular context, genre theory offers language users a means for selecting the appropriate genre to achieve the intended purpose of communication. Genre theory states that the genre of any text, written or spoken, consists of field, tenor, and mode (Derewianka, 2011; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004, 2013; Martin, 2009). Derewianka (2011) offered three questions to elucidate these components, respectively: "What is the subject-matter?" for identifying field; "Who is involved in the interaction?" for identifying tenor; and "What is the channel of communication?" for identifying mode (p. 6). Figure 1 depicts the relationship between the context in which a spoken or written text is used and the language choices available to the creator of the message. …

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