Genre-based approaches to teaching reading and writing have been widely adopted in Australia and other western education systems, and have achieved spectacular improvements in student outcomes, from twice to more than four times expected rates of learning (Culican 2005, Rose & Acevedo 2006). The development of these pedagogies in Australia has been fuelled by a rapid growth in the proportion of students from non- English speaking backgrounds who require academic skills. Similarly, economic changes impacting on educational demands in China are now sparking interest in innovative approaches to English literacy, particularly in English for Academic Purposes. However, introducing a genre-based literacy pedagogy in English language programs presents a number of challenges, given the variations in education histories and current practices in China and the west. These challenges can be divided along two lines, firstly what it is that EAP students need to learn, including knowledge about language and skills in using this knowledge, and secondly how they can most effectively learn this knowledge and skills, and how to teach them. In this paper we will first examine the ‘what’ of literacy learning, in terms of the genre-based model of language and the skills that English language learners require, and second the ‘how’ of literacy teaching, by reviewing the role of dialogue in the genre-based language in education work of the Sydney School (Martin 2000/2006, Martin & Rose 2005).