Daily Routines as a genre

We often use ‘Daily Routines’ lessons to introduce or practise the simple present. Recently, however, I’ve tried looking from a genre perspective and asking what, exactly, is the purpose of these kinds of text. Who, also, is the audience? They are, I think, a kind of report genre with evaluative lexis. You can find these kinds of texts in, for example, city guides for expats (“What’s it like living in …?”). A good site is matadornetwork which has a whole series of “A day in the life of an expat in…” texts. They’re great for higher level students. Another idea is university career guides that often have overviews of different kinds of jobs and what they involve.

For lower or beginner level students I’ve found the genre approach particularly useful in enabling the students to think about the purpose of their writing. A simple GSP for a report is a General Opening followed by a Sequence of Related Statements. To adapt this for a Daily Routines text I tell the students they are writing a letter to a foreign pen-pal, explaining their daily life. The opening then establishes the evaluative mood (I am busy everyday) while the sequence expands on and explains the opening (I get up really early at 6am and rush around getting ready for work). We also group the sequence (into morning, afternoon, evening, etc) and show how changes in Theme can highlight the change from one group to the next.



Activity: Written Movie Review

Here is a very short text from http://metropolis.co.jp/ that shows nicely the Generic Structure Potential (GSP) of Written Movie Reviews:

“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”

The premise is strained in this Disney film about the holocaust, but the approach is fresh, the acting believable and somehow it all works.

Opens Sunday.

The text starts with a simple title. I think this simplicity is an important point as it indicates that this is a short summary rather than full-length review, which often have a small evaluative sub-heading:

The Tree of Life
Family story imbued with a new perspective

One of the best movies you’ve never heard of

The title is then followed by a general evaluation of the film as a whole (the premise is strained), which could be called an Ideational Evaluation, I guess. Then comes a Description of the story (film about the holocaust) and a detailed evaluation of different elements within the film (the approach, the acting). The end of the text is signalled by the author’s opinion of the film, or Interpersonal Evaluation (somehow it all works).

The GSP of movie review texts would thus be:

  • {Heading
  • (Sub-heading)}
  • {Ideational Evaluation – general
  • Description
  • Ideational Evaluation – detailed
  • Interpersonal Evaluation}
  • {Details}

Activity: Household phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult areas of language teaching. They are used extensively in natural conversation yet their meaning is often opaque. This is an activity for a Pre-Intermediate class using household phrasal verbs, such as ‘turn [the TV] down’ I recently did that seemed to be helpful. The text is from a short conversation between a mother and teenaged son:

  • M: Could you turn down the TV?
  • S: But it’s down already.
  • M: Well, a bit further, please.
  • S: Oh, OK.
  • M: Thank you.

Step 1: Clause

i. Ideational meanings:

First, using a picture dictionary, we identified all the household electrical items, looked at possible Attributes for them (‘The TV is on’) and possible problems (‘The volume is up’). Then, we matched with Processes (‘Turn the TV up/down/on/off’).

ii. Interpersonal meanings

First, we looked at how the imperative Mood may be altered interpersonally through modality to be made either softer (‘Could you turn down the TV, please?’) or stronger (‘Would you turn down the TV’). Then, we looked at some resources for disagreement and turn-taking (‘but’, ‘well’).

iii: Textual meanings

Here, we first looked a bit further into the use of ‘but’. Then, we looked at how stress can alter textual meanings of given-new by comparing ‘It’s DOWN’ with ‘It IS down’.

Step 2: Exchange

First, we looked at a basic move structure with an expected response:

  • M: Turn down the TV, please?
  • S: Ok, sorry.
  • M: Thanks.

Then we compared this to a more complicated structure with an unexpected response:

  • M: Turn down the TV, please?
  • S: But it is down.

We then looked at how this might be resolved.

Step 3: Register

First, we discussed as a group possible other situations where this exchange might take place and the participants in them. The students were then placed into pairs. Their task was then to write (and then perform) a short dialogue based on one situation, taking into account the field, tenor and mode for that situation.