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The Quality of Writing in Blog-Based Fanfiction for Language Learning


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This presentation builds upon work in media and fandom studies to explore the use of fanfiction as a pedagogical tool in a technology-enhanced university foreign language class. It examines the linguistic complexity and sociolinguistic choices of advanced learners of English who engaged in blog-based collaborative fanfiction to write a missing moment from Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Presented as part of the Bedömning, Dokumentation och Kvalitetsarbete (BeDoK) series on 15 October 2014.

Published in: Education
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The Quality of Writing in Blog-Based Fanfiction for Language Learning

  1. 1. Report from Middle Earth The Quality of Writing in Blog-Based Fanfiction for Language Learning Shannon Sauro
  2. 2. Fanfiction Source:
  3. 3. Tasks, TBLT &Language Play “an activity in which a person engages in order to attain an objective, and which necessitates the use of language” (Van den Branden, 2006, p. 4) “A rich source of inspiration for the development of such technology-mediated tasks can be found in the language play and language use of online media fandoms…” (Sauro, 2014, p. 242)
  4. 4. Fanfiction &Language Learning • An L2 English learner’s development of a textual identity by creating a fan page and through interaction in fan spaces (Lam, 2000) • Writing development of L2 English writers of fanfiction in anime fandoms (Black, 2006; 2009) • Bilingual fanfiction writing practices of young Finnish fans of American television shows (Leppänen, et al, 2009)
  5. 5. Swedish National Curriculum Secondary (Grades 7-9) Develop English skills for reading/listening to – “Literature and other fiction in spoken, dramatised and filmed forms” (Skolverket, 2011, p. 34); Producing – “Oral and written narratives, descriptions and instructions” (Skolverket, 2011, p. 35) Upper Secondary (Grades 10-12) • “can use fiction, non-fiction and other forms of culture as a source of knowledge, insight and pleasure” (Skolverket, 2013, p. 6)
  6. 6. Tasks & Timeline 1. Story Outline & Map of a Section of Middle Earth (6 Dec) 2. Collaborative Story of a Missing Moment from The Hobbit (19 Dec) 3. Reflective Paper (8 Jan) 4. Oral Presentation (17 Jan)
  7. 7. Part I: Outline & Map • develop an outline of major plot points of a collaborative story that consists of a missing moment from The Hobbit & • create a map of an unchartered section of Middle Earth in which this story takes place.
  8. 8. Part II: Collaborative Story Extension Alternate Universe Addition • Build upon the outline and map generate in Part I to write a blog-based collaborative story (role-play story) based on a missing moment from The Hobbit. • Each writer will select one character and contribute to the story from that character’s voice and perspective. • Each writer will generate at least 6 paragraph-length contributions to the collaborative story.
  9. 9. Parts III & IV: Reflective Paper &Presentation 1. What did the collaborative role-play writing process require you to pay careful attention to? 2. Describe at least two linguistic features of your character’s style of speaking or thinking that you were careful to include. 3. In what way can creative writing like this influence the development of reading, writing, listening and conversation skills in English?
  10. 10. 11 Tales (49,445words)
  11. 11. Communicative Competence • Linguistic competence • Grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation • Sociolinguistic competence • What is appropriate in which situation and with which speakers • Discourse competence • Being able to speak or write for longer periods • Strategic competence • What to do when you don’t know how to say something or you are having communication difficulties. (Canale & Swain, 1980)
  12. 12. Sociolinguistic Competence Considering contextual factors – Status of participants – Purpose of interaction – Norms and conventions of interaction
  13. 13. Hobbit-Like Style "By all the good apricot marmalade I've ever eaten! How insolent!" Bilbo had to take hold of his own collar to keep himself from yelping his thoughts out loud. "Here I am, despite my own dearest wish, on a dangerous route to find that coarse mutt of a dwarf riches, and how am I estimated? This journey is a miserable thing altogether!" – (from Secrets of the Last Homely House)
  14. 14. Status and Legacy Thorin turned his lifeless head towards Beorn while lying in his arms and said: -”Bury me with my ancestors under The Lonely Mountain” This was the end of the king. The end of Thorin Oakenshield, Son of Thrain, Son of Thror, King under the Mountain. (from The Battle of Five Armies)
  15. 15. Voicing The Author “Bombur, it’s time for you to start hauling or you will receive a one way ticket down the waterfall!” Kili yelled. That got Bombur moving faster than ever, except the time they ran from the skin changer, but that comes later in the story. (from The Wooden Bridge)
  16. 16. Attention to Form & Structure It is lying still, yet it spins around It tries to move but its body is bound All because of the precious it stole Fool us again and they eats it whole. (from The Mirkwood Mysteries)
  17. 17. Comparing the Vocabulary to Other Genres “450 million words of text and is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts. It includes 20 million words each year from 1990- 2012 and the corpus is also updated regularly (the most recent texts are from Summer 2012).”
  18. 18. Types of Words Used
  19. 19. Prying
  20. 20.
  21. 21. Types of Words in Actual Fanfiction
  22. 22. What About the Grammar? Linguistic competence Grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation
  23. 23. Measuring Linguistic Competence: CAF • Complexity - the use of more advanced or more varied target language features • Accuracy – the reduction of errors during language production • Fluency - real-time rapid language production (Skehan & Foster, 1999)
  24. 24. A Few Measures of Complexity 1. Syntactic Complexity: • Mean word length of syntactic unit – T-Unit - "one main clause with all subordinate clauses attached to it" (Hunt, 1965, p- 20). – C-Unit – (Communication unit) – an independent clause and its modifiers; “a word, phrase or sentence that in some way contributes pragmatic or semantic meaning to a conversation” (Duff, 1985, p. 153). • Complexity of subordination – Mean number of clauses per syntactic unit – Subordination index - ratio of total number of clauses (main and subordinate) to the total number of c-units. 2. Lexical Complexity: • Lexical Diversity: Measures of vocabulary size – Index of Guiraud - Unique words/√all words • Lexical Density – density of information – Proportion of content or lexical words (verbs, nouns, adjectives) to total words
  25. 25. cs
  26. 26. Finding the Average Length of C-Unit • Main clause – contains both a subject and predicate. Subordinate clause – dependent clauses. They cannot stand alone from a main clause. • C-Unit – a main clause with its subordinating clauses. Below are c-units with the main clause bolded and the subordinate clauses underlined. – /The dwarf was sitting on the chair when Bilbo entered the room./ – /When Bilbo looked under the leaf he saw that the ring was missing./ • Dialog Examples – /And Gollum said, “Where’s my precious?”/ (1 c-unit) – /And Golum said, “Where’s my precious?/ They tooks it!”/ (2 c-units)
  27. 27. Further Measures From Lu’s Syntactic Complexity Analyzer • /synlex/ • Lexical Diversity • Lexical Density • Keyword Analysis – comparison with academic essays, – other fanfiction, – Tolkien’s own words
  28. 28. Next Steps • How can literary competence be promoted through fiction writing? • What kind of language development did this project support (sociolinguistic & discourse competence?)