College Humour

CaptureThis is probably the first and last time I’ll take an idea for a lesson off of College Humor, home to such intellectual gems as “The Problem with Jeggings” and “The 7 Types of Hangovers You Will Have on New Year’s Day”.

But If Everyone Still Wrote Like They Did In College could actually be a  nice resource in a lesson  on text genre, writing for your audience or how to avoid the cliches of formulaic essay writing.

The joke is they take a variety of written texts–a newspaper article, wedding invite, Ikea instruction sheet, Craigslist ad, recipe, etc.–and flout the expected textual conventions of each, replacing them with text written in the style of an academic essay. (In many examples a cliched, over-the-top example of the most stereotypical bad academic writing one could imagine.) Hilarity ensues.

But you could see how these pieces could the gateway for some valuable discussion.

Why is this piece considered funny? What does a typical text of this type look like, in terms of format, vocabulary, structure, tone, register, etc.? How is the text that appears here NOT like that? Could you re-write the text as it appears here in a way appropriate for this genre? These examples are considered bed examples of academic writing–can you identify why?

If students seemed to really grasp why these examples just “feel” wrong, I’d probably underline that someone reading an academic text where the writer does not fulfil the conventions of academic writing gets that same feeling that something’s not right, and that it can even border on humorous. Sometimes its hard to convince high-IELTS-scoring students stuck in that high-intermediate plateau who think their writing “good enough” that no, it will not cut the mustard at university, and it’s nice to have a more visceral example to drive that point home.

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2 thoughts on “College Humour

  1. Interesting lesson plan. I can see this being really effective with a high level ELT class. I think it might be useful for our engineering elt — a way to help them realize that different tasks require different writing styles.

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