Senmon English II

Common Academic Modes of Discourse: Description, Exposition, and Argumentation


Students will gain experience in, and develop necessary skills and strategies for success in academic English environments. This course will focus on written and oral communication  in typical modes of discourse encountered in academic English environments.


  1. Introduction to Modes of Discourse
    1. Modes of Discourse is a fancy way of referring to the different kinds of writing (and talking) that we use for different purposes.  We sense this intuitively as normal human beings: they way we talk to a friend to invite him to lunch is very different from the way a salesman talks to a customer in a store. We use different vocabulary, grammar, and strategies.  In “the academy”, that is, school, we have very special ways of writing. You cannot write a university essay in the same “voice” as a Line message (and vice versa!). But even within the university, we have different ways of writing depending on the writing task at hand.  Traditionally, there are four “modes” of academic discourse: Exposition, Description, Narration and Argumentation. We are going to look at three in some detail.
    2. Pretest Writing Sample
  2. Description 1: Using sensory information to paint a picture
    1. Short descriptive passage
    2. Show a picture of Yosakoi, in groups, have students make “word collages”  
  3. Description Essays Assignment: Your favorite place
    1. The sun is blasting out of a crystal blue sky and making the white sand beach, just 20 meters away, shimmer like white gold. I watch a young boy race across the burning sands to get to the little creek that feeds in from the back of the campground. Though he’s facing away from me, I can imagine his face in a tight pinched pain as he ouch-ouch-ouches his way across the sand. But I’m in the surf, safe from the heat and my white canvas hat with its strap is keeping the worst of the sunburn off of my big nose. And anyway, I have to keep my attention on the coming set of waves. Never turn your back on the waves, is what my surfer friend taught me long ago. Watch the waves, pick your time…
  4. Exposition 1: Making Logical Comparisons; Simple Object and Abstract Ideas
  5. Logical Comparison Workshop
  6. Comparison Poster Presentations
  7. Exposition 2: Cause and Effect Mapping
  8. Cause and Effect Workshop
  9. Cause and Effect Poster Presentations
  10. Argumentation: Identifying Logical Connections and Common Fallacies
  11. Argumentation 2: Strong and Weak Arguments
  12. Pro and Con Essay Assignment: Taking a Stand
  13. Pro and Con Essay Workshop
  14. Pro and Con Essay Draft 1 Conferences
  15. Pro and Con Essay Draft 2
  16. Final Test and Reflections




Description Essay: 10 pts

Comparison Presentation: 20 pts

Cause and Effect Presentation: 20 pts

Pro and Con Essay Draft 1: 10 pts

Pro and Con Essay Draft 2: 40 pts