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Taller de escritores in the NECTFL Review
Paola Maneiro-Mena and Barbara Williams, Georgia State University
Bleicher, Guillermo and Canon, Paula. Taller de Escritores: Grammar and Composition for Advanced Spanish. Boston: Vista Higher Learning, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-61767-100-5.
Taller de Escritores is aptly named, as it is a textbook that serves as a guide for advanced students learning to hone writing skills in Spanish. This textbook, which is designed for advanced Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) students and heritage Spanish speakers, includes essential elements that will help students improve their Spanish compositions skills. There are a total of six lessons/chapters which progress from basic writing to a full-fledged academic essay.
Each chapter contains three distinct sections: an introductory reading selection, relevant grammar topics, and a writing workshop. Following each introduction is a section that includes relevant grammar topics which will help to facilitate accuracy in writing. The grammar lessons represent topics that SSL students commonly have difficulty mastering (e.g., ser vs. estar, preterite vs. imperfect) and are accompanied by practice exercises. The final section of each chapter is a writing workshop. Three different literary models of the composition genre are presented with corresponding writing activities. Along with each model, a pre-writing exercise, an outlining exercise, and a final draft exercise help to walk students through the process.
Six styles of composition are covered: descriptive, narrative, narrative essay, expository, argumentative, and academic essay. The level of complexity increases as students proceed from Chapter one to Chapter six. A reading selection, accompanied by a short biography of the author, introduces each chapter and exemplifies the type of composition that is the focus of each lesson. Chapter 1 utilizes three short excerpts from Platero y yo by Juan Ramon Jimenez to model descriptive writing. A decidedly longer work, La siesta del martes by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, demonstrates narrative writing in Chapter 2. In the next chapter, the essay titled Hernán Cortés, by Carlos Fuentes, demonstrates how to compose a narrative essay. Expository writing in Chapter 4 is modeled on Antonio Jiménez Barca’s essay titled La generación de los mil euros. Chapter 5 focuses on argumentative writing and is illustrated by Antonio Di Benedetto’s Mariposas de Koch. The final chapter deals with the most complex writing style presented in the book, namely the academic essay. Mario Vargas Llosa’s critical essay titled Crítica literaria sobre la novela Santa Evita serves as a fine example of this type of writing. Each writing selection is also accompanied by comprehension, analysis, and discussion questions for both individual and group work.
Taller de Escritores is an excellent text for any Spanish composition course. It provides several models that exemplify the six composition genres presented. It also introduces students to the various cultures ranging from Spain to the Americas. Furthermore, it gives students access to an online Supersite providing students with additional practice via auto-grading exercises, voice boards for oral communication, instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, application sharing, and threaded discussions. We find the text interesting and recommend that subsequent editions broaden the diversity of the authors to include women and people of multicultural origin.