Harris and Silva’s,“Tutoring ESL Students” and ESL students and the Writing Center

It is sometimes difficult to explain the complexities of the English language to a native English speaker, let alone someone who is learning English as a second language. I am taking a course in Writing Center Theory and Practice, and we just recently covered this topic. It was very interesting and enlightening to see how one’s culture shapes their writing. Muriel Harris and Tony Silva hint at that idea in “Tutoring ESL Students” when they briefly discuss the idea that people of different cultures compose differently. In WCT&P, we discussed these differences in more depth. One’s culture can determine the structure and word choice that they choose for composition. For example, when composing essays we learn to typically state the thesis in the first paragraph and then use supporting evidence in each of the paragraphs that follow. In another culture, one may learn that the essay should end with a thesis and that the entire essay should work toward getting to that main point.

We also discussed how certain assignments might make ESL students uncomfortable; an ESL student may not know the right way to approach a certain assignment. For Instance, in some countries it is not acceptable to critique the government or to speak against people in government positions. So if an ESL student were asked to write an argument paper and discuss such a topic, they may not be comfortable or know how to approach the topic.

Here is my blog for WCT&P:

  English is a complex language, and I think that as native speakers, we take that for granted. In “Come Again”, Jessie Reeder asks her audience to imagine taking a challenging graduate program in a second language. This is the reality for ESL grad students. Reeder writes, “They are swimming upstream through ceaseless waves of partially-legible information”. As tutors in the Writing Center, “we give them a chance to slow down the flood for a moment”.  Tutors have the opportunity to not only help these students grow as writers, but to help them to build their confidence as students.

                But first, as tutors we must understand how to help ESL students, and we must acknowledge the difficulties that they face as students. Doug Enders approaches this topic (as well as a possible solution) in “The Idea Check”. Enders notes that although it is not ideal for any student to focus primarily on corrections and to bring in papers late in the writing process, this is especially problematic for ESL students. These students often feel extra pressure to produce correct work.

                The article details a procedure run by the Shenandoah University ESL program and the Writing Center. The program “requires all ESL students to make Writing Center visits an integral part of their process for each writing assignment”. At the first appointment, the student reviews his ideas with the tutor, and the tutor assists with organization and clarification. At the second meeting, a first draft is reviewed with global issues given the priority. The conclusions of the study of the implementation of this procedure show that the Idea Check program appears to have positively changed the way that ESL students use the Writing Center.

Writing Centers are a great resource for helping ESL students because teachers may not have the time to dedicate to continuous one-on-one conferencing with each student. Harris and Silva also discuss ways that tutors and teachers can help ESL student writers. One of their most important points is that “there is a tendency to think about ESL students as if they’re all alike when obviously they’re not”. So each student should be treated as an individual.

When peer tutoring, all errors should not be given the same priority. The authors note that when looking at first drafts by ESL students, sometimes the differences in writing style or the types of errors that the student makes might be overwhelming; the tutor may not know where to start. The first step is to acknowledge what the writer has done well. Moving forward, global errors that affect the reader’s understanding should be given priority. Reading aloud is not always an effective proofreading method for ESL students, Silva and Harris note, because some students are not proficient enough in English to “edit by ear”.

One of the most important things that I learned about tutoring/teaching ESL students is that one must understand that these students are trying to learn a whole new language at the same time that they are learning to be effective writers. One of the best things that a teacher/tutor can do is to help these students succeed in the long run by preparing them to not only succeed in college, but to also be successful in their future careers. In order to do that, we must resist the urge to over-correct or to do the writing for them by simply supplying students with better vocabulary choices and corrected grammar.

First Draft of Project

This is the first draft of my project. I would like to use one of the digital tools to link to very short interviews of some of the people in my life. I will be asking, "What defines a writer?" and "Am I a writer? Why/why not?"
                                                         That Writing Moment
                                                          That Writing Journey



When do you become a writer?

At what point can you call yourself a writer?

Am I a writer?

Is it what’s inside that defines me as a writer? Does my mind work in a certain way that places me in this role? Or is it the output? Do I need to produce something tangible? What specifically do I need to produce to earn the coveted title of writer?

Is there a word count requirement? A certain format to follow?

Should I be published before I call myself a writer?

Do I need to wait for a HarperCollins or a Random house to start breaking down my door? Will it count if I publish myself?

Was I a writer back in 1996, when I was just a ten year old girl writing her first chapter book in her little-girl bedroom?

Does someone need to read my work in order for it to count? If so, how many readers do I need? Specifically.

Who gets to judge my writing? Teachers? Mom? Husband? Best Friend Who Hates Reading? Dog?

We all know that business about the tree falling in the woods and blah, blah blah…  Well if I write, but no one ever reads it, was I ever a writer at all?

What if I never finish writing that novel (or that other one)?

Worse yet, what if I publish that novel (or that other one) to great success, but can never write anything of value ever again? What if I am the Right Said Fred of writing?

Do I need to be a serious writer? There are 56 people following a Vampire Diaries fan fiction that I started in 2012 (and never intend to finish); it has been viewed over 7,000 times. Am I a writer yet?

Do I need to earn more than reviews to be a real writer? If so, does that coveted title get handed over along with the first reader’s dollar, or do I need to earn a certain amount before I’m deserving of such a title?

If I write a blog, will real writer’s scoff at me? Will they let me join their club?

What if I write a thesis, but can’t string together a few lines of dialogue? What if I produce narrative after narrative but can’t remember what a haiku is?

What if I’m published posthumously? Was I a writer in life?

What if, after I’m famous and very much dead, my husband finds those horrifyingly, humorously embarrassing poems that I wrote when I was eight and publishes those too? Should I leave a note in my will to burn those poems and never let them see the light of day?

Is there a specific moment when you become a writer? Is it the first time that you write in your diary,  or that time that you wrote your first chapter book at age ten in your little-girl bedroom, or when you penned all of those horrifyingly, humorously embarrassing poems, or when you wrote fan fiction or a blog post or a narrative, or when you got an A in that composition class, or finished that novel (or that other one), or got an agent and then a publisher, or when you first saw one of your novels on a bookstore shelf or in the library or on Amazon, or was it when you finally remembered what a haiku is and actually tried your best (and failed) to write one?

Is this the point that I can call myself a writer?

Writing Theory and Practice 2015-11-09 16:48:00

“Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World Second Language Writing in Composition Studies” by Paul Kei Matsuda was interesting to read. I learned a lot about what “multilingual writers” go through (Matsuda 38). Certain sections the author called attention to, made me think about my writing center theory and practice class. For example, my class just got done reading about “WAC/WID” and some points Matsuda brings up in his discussion did not cross my mind (47). In fact, a lot of the suggestions Muriel Harris and Tony Silva give in “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options” I have heard before during discussions in my writing center class. Furthermore I agree with a lot of the points Matsuda raises, especially “it is time to start thinking more seriously about how to prepare monolingual students to write like the rest of the world” (50). Although I agree with this point, I am a little worried. I would love to know and write others languages fluently but if some people have so many difficulties learning English I imagine learning another language being twice as hard. I remember deciding to stop learning Spanish after my third year in high school because the exam was so difficult. In my high school, the fourth year was the year really dedicated to writing in Spanish. I stopped before I even got to the most challenging part, and I was already struggling. I just have a feeling that I would be struggling and stressing, and I prefer not to go through that unless I have to.

A part of me feels like it is not fair to have “ESL writers” go through so much and learn English fully while some people have the option to fully learn another language (Matsuda 38). The years they require us to take in school were not enough and after reading Matsuda it does not compare to what others go through to learn English. In my opinion, all you really needed to know was enough to pass the tests. Lastly, I like how Matsuda gave some suggestions in his article that would possibly make things fair for “multilingual writers” (38). Moreover, these articles make you think about your own actions.


Rough Draft of my Vignette

This is my rough draft of my mini stories/scenarios of students struggling with their writing. I’m envisioning having each mini story/scenario in an individual box using the thinglink app.

The mini stories/scenarios are written in a way that you could sort of like see the “behind the scenes” of the students’ lives; their reality as to why they could be struggling with their writing. 

Some of the mini stories/scenarios are showing how the students are really trying to work hard on their papers with every minute they have but others also show how the lazy student just doesn’t have any interest in learning.

1.      As if is not enough with your daily family drama,
you are not doing very well in your writing class.
You feel like your professor just doesn’t understand
how hard you are trying. You get home after a full day
of work and you want to work on your papers, revise them,
read them aloud, go over printed copies rather than
just reading them off your computer, but there is noise
all over your home. Your parents are constantly arguing,
your nieces, who are 5 and 3 years old, live in the same
home with you and they run all over your house. You are really
trying to dedicate time to your papers but it seems like although
you are giving it your all, it’s just not enough.

2.      You wake up before the sun comes out to prepare
breakfast and lunches for your three little ones.
You go to work after that all day, and then sit
through your classes at night. All you want is an
education so that you can give your kids a better future.
After you put your kids to bed, you stay up until late
writing and revising your papers only to have your
professor return it saying that it needs to be revised.
But you revised; you spent all the hours you could possibly
have in your day revising it and you just don’t understand
what else could you do with your paper to make it better.
You must have a talk with you professor and ask what it is
that you are doing wrong so that you can improve that.

3.      You were just a kid when your parents decided to
come to this country. You never asked them to bring you
here. You were doing just fine with your studies back home
but now you are struggling as an ESL student. You
must learn the language. And every time you make the
same mistakes in your papers, your teacher writes “you
keep making the same mistake all throughout your paper”
without explaining to you how to fix it. When you ask your
teacher for help, she wants you to figure it out on your own.
She says that this way, you’ll be able to better learn to not
make the same mistake again. You look things up in
dictionaries and you try to ask classmates but if your
teacher could just guide you a little better you know
you’ll be able to do much better.

4.      There are just no excuses for you, you sleep
through classes and you think that just because
you have an athletic scholarship your writing
teacher will just go easy on you. The truth is that
you have to work as hard as the other students.
You must draft and revise your papers, otherwise
you won’t write quality papers that will make you
earn the grades that you need. The grades you need
to keep that scholarship. You must wake up
and work hard.   
5.      Your mom abandon the household 5 years ago
and since then, you somehow became a house wife.
Your father and brothers won’t clean anything after
themselves. And there you are, tired after work and school,
coming home to clean and cook. There is no time for you to
revise and rewrite and do all the things your professors are
telling you to do in your writing classes when you come
home from work. So after you cook and clean you stay up and
you read and write and read again and again. You take your
homework to work, and every free minute you get,
you spend it working on your papers. You hope that
this could help you improve the quality of your writing.
You are really giving it your all, but you are not sure

if it will be enough. 

Reaction Paper

1.      Sabine Posy-Stewart
Eng. 5020
November 9, 2015
Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options

Muriel Harris and Tony Silva begins the article by first defining the goal of the tutor. They state, “The goal of tutors who work in the center is to attend to the individual concerns of every writer who walks in the door.” after describing the goal of the tutor Harris and Silva states the challenges tutors face when trying to explain certain concepts to non-native speakers. They wrote that tutors can be reduced to stunned silence when they try to explain why “I have many homeworks to complete” is wrong. They also note that new tutors often see a draft by an ESL student and are unsure of what to address first, their advice is to begin by looking for what the student did well in the paper and begin the session on a positive note. The authors reveal that tutors do not really know how to work with ELLS. They advise that in order for tutors to work effectively with ELLs they need some perspective on rhetorical approaches. They begin by introducing rhetorical preferences then they ask the question, is it helpful to generalize ELL students? To answer this question the authors brought up the issue of “contrastive rhetoric,” (which is how a person first language and culture influences his or her writing) vs. “contrastive analysis” (which states that positive transfer would occur where two language are similar). They assert that understanding “contrastive rhetoric” and “contrastive analysis”   would be valuable to the tutor because both describes pattern of rhetorical preferences in other culture and describe first language transfer, all possible reason that could explain the seemingly inappropriate rhetorical strategies used by ELL students.  But in the end both authors concludes that tutors should know rhetorical preferences in culture, but should not expect all ELL students to fit the molds they have learned because obviously everyone is different. Harris and Silva transition into the next discussion “recognizing differences” by stating that tutors think that all ELLs are the same and therefore must have the same problems. They advise against this perspective because every student has different strengths and weakness.  Harris and Silva suggest that tutors assess the skills the student has or doesn’t have and determine whether the student need help with the writing process or the language.
The authors briefly talk about ELL students overall writing process. In that section they discuss research on adult ELL writers. The research states that adult ELL writer plan less, write with more difficulty, and reread what they have written less. The authors provides various strategies so the tutor can better help these type of students. Strategies include helping them plan their ideas and writing in stages. They also offer other important strategies and solution to the tutors when they encounter sentence level and grammar issues. The authors wrote, “A merely intuitive understanding of how English works would not be sufficient for helping ESL writers---who do not share the tutor’s native speaker’s intuitions and who often need explicit explanations.” They further express that knowing the rules can better help tutors with ELL’s grammar errors, mechanics errors, and overall writing rules. Knowing the rules can especially help those ELL students who are rule oriented and rely on organizing their knowledge of English by rules.  But they also advice against tutors becoming “grammarians” who shout out rules.   Furthermore the authors suggest that tutors resist the urge to correct everything. They write, “Tutors need to resist their impulse to help as much as ELL students need to resist their desire to have every grammatical error corrected.”
At the end of the article Harris and Silva reiterate the goal of the tutor and emphasizes that ELL instructors and writing tutors need to keep interacting and learning from one another. They also advice tutors to be mindful of rhetorical strategies and languages of other cultures and to always make the tutoring session interactive. Overall I though Harris and Silva did a great job of identifying the issues tutors usually encounter when working with ELL students and I also though they did an even better job in providing effective strategies to remedy these issues.

Teaching composition in the multilingual world

Pal Kei Matsuda begins his article by describing the demographic shift of student population in U.S college composition program. This shift, he concludes has made the U.S higher education highly heterogeneous in terms of the language backgrounds. He urges college writing programs to provide opportunities to prepare students for a globalized world. Matsuda wrote, “ Today, with  the globalization of economy and information, teaching writing  to college students is not just about preparing students for academic, professional, and civic writing within the national boundary; it is also about preparing students--- both domestic and international---for the increasingly globalized world that  always been, and will continue to be, multilingual.”
He continues by first examining the various terms used to describe second language writing which refer to writing in any language that the writer did not grow up with.  He defines the many terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. Such terms include ESL, ESOL, and the current one ELL.  Matsuda explains that these terms have been in reference to both international and resident ESL students. Now, because the distinction of these terms have not always been clear they have caused confusion and even conflict among teachers and researchers. He further states that the terms have also been problematic for some resident students who, associate ESL with being “foreign.”  These students resist the institutional label imposed upon them and more recently have been using the term generation 1.5. This Matsuda states is a term describing college ESL students who are U.S.-educated learners of English and whose linguistic profile is distinct from that of prototypical international ESL students.  After drawing our attention to the problematic matter of terms Matsuda jumped straight into the history of second language writing in composition studies.
In this section Matsuda writes second language issues became an important concern among teachers and administrators of first year writing program in the late 40s when the conclusion of WWII brought an influx of international students to U.S. higher education and into first year writing programs. In response to this situation administrators developed separate sections of first year writing programs for “foreign” students. Although this population of students continued to enroll in mainstream writing courses at many institutions, the discussion at CCCC came to a stop in 1966 when the creation of TESOL organization “institutionalized the disciplinary division of labor.” But in the 70s and 80s that all change when the rise of basic writing and the growth of resident ESL began. Matsuda explains that second language writers were placed in basic writing classes because not all institution had separate ESL course. These placement could have been productive if only basic writing teachers had background knowledge in second language instruction. Fast forward to current times and second language issues have become more visible. Second language students are still place in first year writing program taught by teachers who may not be experience with working with second language writers of various kinds.  In response to the current demographic shift Matsuda believes that separate section of first year writing courses for second language writers need to be establish and if unable to separate the course he advice to at least make the first year writing courses ESL friendly. He also talks about the importance of creating professional development for writing teacher. While some schools are already doing this Matsuda further emphasizes the importance of making the curriculum in writing programs appropriate for students who bring a broad range of linguistic and cultural differences to the class.      
Lastly, Matsuda mentions the lack of second language issues being discussed in professional literature and text.  Which ironically focuses on international issues. He further addresses the writing center. In the topic of writing centers he ask writing center administrators to examine their assumptions of the writing center, which were developed with monolingual English users in mind. At the end of this article Matsuda basically reiterate his point and states this: Composition specialists need to embrace the multilingual reality of the global community and today’s classroom by exploring ways to engage all students in the development of global literacy.   

1.       Explain one thing that you learned about second language learners that you didn’t know before?

2.       How would you work with ELL writing students? What strategies would you use?

3.       Consider one advice you would offer an ELL student about writing? 

English is a Crazy Language

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in
eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England. We take English for
granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can
work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from
Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers
don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of
them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship…
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and
in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

Retrieved from LiveMocha.com

Vignette Rough Draft

When my sister-in-law Karyn got engaged, her side of the family was pretty disappointed.  The guy that she had been dating was a louse, a clod, and a cretin. He isn’t the kind of person that I would not associate with unless I positively had to. Since he was marrying my wife’s sister, all signs pointed to me being stuck with him for life, or as long as the marriage lasts.

It’s a very selfish way of thinking. After all, Karyn was choosing to become his wife, and no matter how uncomfortable I was with the idea, she would have to live with the decision.

Plus, she obviously loves him. I would often joke around that she was only marrying him to upset the rest of us. That’s an incredibly self-absorbed concept. Would this young woman actually play such a game with her life just to upset me? Why would I assume that she would be so malicious?

It took some time and some introspection to realize that just because I didn’t approve of her choice, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t the right choice for her. I had always celebrated her intelligence. By doubting her relationship, I was suddenly insulting her ability to think rationally.

But that didn’t stop me from dreaming. Even up to the day of their wedding, I was holding out hope that she would change her mind.

            My wife was the matron-of-honor and was tasked with delivering a speech at the reception. I volunteered to help her write the speech because I felt that it was my chance to say something, whether it was my voice or not. My wife and I have similar feelings towards Nick, so I had her complete trust. Besides, I’m not brazen enough to cause a scene, or put my wife in a compromising position.

            I wanted to use the opportunity to give constructive advice since they seemed intent on going through with the wedding. Choosing a partner that you plan on sharing your life with is not something that is done lightly. Since I was welcomed into my wife’s family quite easily, I never had to “win” my way in. I struggled with the thought of my in-laws not liking me, but even after walking in Nick’s shoes, I wasn’t cutting him any slack.

            I look at the relationship that my wife and I have, and I want that for Karyn. I didn’t think Nick was capable of living for another person at the time, and part of me still feels that way.  But who wants to be reminded, at their wedding, that loved ones think the marriage is doomed to fail?

            I attempted to give advice that would work for any relationship, but also highlighted the deficiencies I have witnessed in theirs. Below are some key pieces of advice, followed by an explanation of why I felt it necessary.


   In his book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky says, We only accept the love we think we deserve.

A reminder that in your moments of doubt, when you feel as though he’s not giving you the love you deserve, it’s because you accept that from him. Be empowered and demand the love you feel you deserve.


   You have chosen to accept each other and let one another into aspects of you that no one else will know. Show that you are deserving of each other by being the best for each other.

A second reminder to be deserving of one another. This is preceded by pointing out her responsibility in choosing to marry him, while also pointing out that she sees something in him that the rest of us don’t.


   Your decisions should be made based on what is best for both of you, since now your actions will reflect you as a couple.

Directed towards him as a way of saying “Don’t mess up, you represent her now.” An indirect way of telling him not to be selfish anymore and start living for someone else.


   Remember that when you stop living for your spouse, then you start to fail as a couple.

This is where I see trouble in their relationship, so it was important to emphasize how a marriage is the joining of two.


   Its very easy to get caught up in the romanticism and good vibes that engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and weddings bring. What makes you a couple is what happens when everyone else has gone home and you are left with the one thing no one else has- each other.

This is something that many young couples revel in today. There are now so many different ways of celebrating the couple before the actual wedding. The couple may be shocked when they come home from their honeymoon to find that they are just another couple now. People aren’t clamoring to give them gifts or drop everything to spend time with them.

            The speech was well received, but not by whom it was intended for. Nick was too drunk for the advice to sink in. He was also reveling in the speech the best man had just delivered; a speech that highlighted what a great guy the groom was and how he’s a real “bro”. Not surprisingly, it said nothing about them as a couple and only served to fluff his ego.

Blog #7 – Harris & Silva and Matsuda

Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options by Murial Harris and Tony Silva & Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World Second Language Writing in Composition Studies by Paul Kei Matsuda

Both essays this week talked about teaching ESL students. As I read the essays, I found myself being able to relate to a lot of the things mentioned in them. I can completely understand how teachers could be, to an extent, lost when trying to teach ESL students to write. But I think that those students feel lost in the process as well. I remember being an ESL student and trying to figure out how could I understand all the rules that were being presented to me while at the same time trying to translate what I wanted to write from one language to another. I felt, at many times, that I was more focused on trying to translate everything I wanted to say rather than focusing on the rules of grammar. I felt so confused and frustrated at times because I couldn’t figure out the reasoning behind so many of these “rules”.

Harris and Silva state in their essay that tutors of ESL students feel speechless when they try to explain why “I have many homeworks to completed” is wrong or why we say “on Monday” but “in June.” There were many times when I just didn’t understand those same examples. It was hard for me to see the reasoning behind it.

Harris and Silva also mentioned that new tutors feel like they need to fix everything the ESL writer has done wrong instead of teaching them by sections at a time. Their essay mentioned that tutors should first tell the students what they have done correctly and then approach the mistakes one at a time without approaching everything that’s wrong with their writing. This reminded me of essays we’ve read before where it was said that teachers should let the students know what’s going well with the draft first and then tell them what they should focus on to improve their drafts. 

In Matsuda’s essay, it was mentioned that in writing centers ESL writers were also important. This made think about the fact that ESL students don’t only need help in translating their writing into another language but also in understanding the rules of the language. These students also need help with their writing process just like any other native speaker writer. This makes me think about the importance of individual help where you are focused on having help for what you need specifically. While not every teacher will be able to assist students individually, writing centers play an important role for students as well.