Bi, Butch, Bar Dyke, and Beyond!

“We must think seriously about identities we bring with us into the classroom, remain conscious of the way those identities interact with the identities our students bring, and insert ourselves fully into the shifting relationships between ourselves and our students at the same time that we resist the impulse to control those relationships” (Gibson, Marinara, and Meem, 92).


Entering a new week and a new blog! This article was fascinating to read but also important. All of our past articles have touched upon topics and controversies that I believe needs to be taught more in classrooms. This article is another topic adding to that list. This article stands out differently from the articles because the authors told their own stories. That is what really drew me to the article. A collection of authors, Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meem all have various stories but come together to tell them. I loved the idea that these women are telling their stories and were able to read their point of view and their voice. “Through our ‘stories,’ we hope to complicate the notion that identities can be performed in clean, organized, distinct ways by examining and theorizing our own experiences of class, gender, and sexual identity performance” (pg 70). I’ve always believed that the way to learn and absorb information is through hearing other people’s experiences and even going through situations for yourself.

Another part of the article that I found interesting was the concept of voice. We discussed the topic of voice by Peter Elbow. There was a part of the article that expanded on the importance of voice. Gibson talked about how writing students define voice.

“Writing students define ‘real me’ voices as safe, static, inherent, and inviolate; public voices, though, are required to listen to other public voices, and listening can cause uncomfortable changes. The tension, the uncertain space writing teachers and students find between the familiar, ‘real me’ voice and an emerging public voice, should not necessarily be resolved with already codified positions; rather the tension should be a space to work from and with because the language of any personal narrative contests static identities” (pg 72).

I found this quote to be so powerful and influential that I couldn’t help but put the entire passage in my blog. Touching upon the concept of tension in writing is also an interesting discussion. Every student, teacher, and writer probably already know about the uncertainty that writing and voice can bring. This passage then made me bring up the question of “real me” in my own writing. Do I even have a “real me” when I am writing about personal experiences or in academic papers? The tension should not be something that a writer fears but it should be embraced. More specifically, “a space to work from…” (pg 72).

This article had a lot of rich content. The last quote from this article that stood out to me that I want to point out is the concept of silence. “I know that stories like mine can be used to create silence” (pg 91). I have questions that I want you to think about that expanded my mind as well. Is silence something we need our classrooms? Does silence hinder any progress? Is it the same as the phrase, “no news is good news”? Meaning, is silence a sign for processing information in a good way? Should we be having more teachers and lessons in the classroom who create silence to make a change? Lastly, does the silence in the air equal silence in writing or does the silence allow students to write loud words? 


Grammar & equity in the writing classroom

The Grammar Debate

Thank you Darline for walking us through a smart consideration of Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell.  Darline’s link:  Presentation Powerpoint

Scholars have been arguing for decades whether grammar should be taught formally in schools.  Some research suggests that teaching grammar does nothing to improve composition. Other scholars insist that grammar is basic and necessary, and that we face a literacy crisis today partly because of poor grammar instruction. But one thing the article does make clear is that much research has been done on this topic. 75 years’ worth of research, and yet, the issue of whether grammar is foundational to writing instruction still remains unresolved.  As we read Hartwell together, we come to apprehend that the complexities of linguistic tradition(s) and language acquisition makes it difficult to pinpoint a “perfect formula” for the role grammar must play in writing pedagogy. Perhaps formal grammar instruction pedagogy should be overhauled instead of scrapped altogether.  Effective writing instructors know there is not just one way to learn, and we accommodate different learning styles in schools and universities with various classroom procedures and pedagogies.  Whether we will ever be able to agree on a clear and final role that grammar must play in writing instruction, it seems to me (and Darline as well) that we must teach it in some capacity – offering it as a tool in our students’ toolboxes.  It is a critical tool which can aid in the metacognition and metalinguistic awareness of their own acquired knowledge.

Our ongoing discussion of equity

From a concern over the role that grammar might play in a writing classroom, we turned our attention in the second part of class to the question of equity. The rapid acceleration and adoption of digital content for learning is a pressing catalyst for digital equity.
So what does it mean to be a “good” digital citizen in a globalized context? How can we recognize and redress conditions that deny some students access to the educational opportunities enjoyed by their peers. How can we work together to create and sustain equitable and just learning environments for all?

We first took a look at the article by Paul Gorski which share three critical terms: -cultural competence, -cultural proficiency, and -equity literacy.  Presented like ascendent steps on a skill-based latter, these terms have helped us think through the goals we make or take to building a fair learning environment.  Equity literacy (as the most desired of the three skills to attain in this tiered formulation) describes the skills and dispositions that allow us to create and sustain equitable and just learning environments for all learners.

We then took a moment to spend time with Sherri Spelic’s thoughtful prompt which makes us think further about the blindspots that are so inherent when teachers design their learning environments.

We also looked at this powerful showcase of how bias and prejudice work on our hearts and minds:

Finally, we took a closer look at how racism works.  I think it is important to note that curiosity about human difference (in and of itself) is not a problem.  It is actually a significant POSITIVE trait to have an inquiring mind and want to learn about something you don’t know about.  But there is much revealed by how you might ask a person who is different from you about their difference.  There is the kind of curiosity that opens up dialogue (encouraged and critical to any learning) verses the kind of curiosity that is bathed in privilege and arrogant ignorance (see below video).  The distinction makes all the difference:

In addition to these food-for-thought prompts, I also want to share with all of you the second Equity Unbound Studio Visit we conducted this week regarding the work of striving for equity in our classrooms – it was certainly another profound and timely conversation:

What is next?

  • Please read Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Michelle Gibson, Matha Marinara, and Deborah Meem.  Christina will present on this article in the first part of our seminar style class time.
  • Write your fifth blog post, reflecting on Christina’s chosen article as well as any thoughts you are formulating about the equity discussion overall.  (I encourage you to take a peek at the Studio Visit above to prompt further thoughts.)
  • Don’t forget you can tweet comments/thoughts and your blog post to the #unboundeq hashtag!
  • We will continue with our #unboundeq activities (on the theme of Equity).  For our second half of class, I will focus on the TED talk on “intersectionality” from the  Equity Unbound suggested activities.  I think this selection might be a good follow up to the Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality article.

See you next Monday!  Enjoy the weekend.

Dr. Zamora

“Expressing” Grammar

Drawing is one of my favorite hobbies. It is very personal and expressive. I had a few opportunities to attend drawing classes as electives in my undergraduate college life and the thing that I remember vividly the most is frustration. The professors were keen on establishing and enforcing the rules as we exercised drawing, which only served as an obstacle more than anything else. Their common belief was creating a foundation onto which the student could built upon but I did not share the same belief. Rules do not build foundations, they only serve as overall guidelines to form a standard. If one wants to express complex thoughts or feelings, sometimes the rules that may hinder their depth need to be broken. Drawing is an art form of emotional exercise and study of expression. So is the language.

I have always viewed grammar as the rules that dictated the structure of a language. Although their importance is undoubtful, the degree of restriction that they impose is exigent. The article, Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell, presents the clash of ideals about how to implement grammar in language pedagogy. The two sides of the spectrum are identified as proponents and opponents, or more preferably as grammarians and anti-grammarians, respectively. I tend to fall into the camp of opponents but I believe it is important to note that my position is based on my own personal experience. In the article, it is suggested that “teaching grammar does no harm” by the proponents but I would disagree. Making someone aware of the rules beforehand makes them aware of their own errors and “degrades their performance”. More often than not, I have observed students who fail to express their thoughts because they make an unintended stop over an error and attempt to correct it. This is something I have also struggled with during my own language acquisition.

Throughout my high school life, learning grammar was always the top priority in my ESL and ENG courses. Present perfect tense was the most complicated. I was perfectly (no pun intended) fine doing exercises on paper but I could never actively use that tense in speech. Looking back, I believe the major reason of difficulty in transition was too much emphasis being placed on the form rather than implementation in discourse. I have seen many of my own students struggle with the same transitional problems. Exercises such as fill-in-the-blank or error correcting do not necessarily help someone to develop the grammatical skill to utilize it in language but for whatever reason every grammar book, regardless of proficiency level, seem to include variations of these activities and do not offer much else. As the article suggests, the best approach would be. I managed to learn how to actively use the present perfect tense after writing essays in my senior year at high school. Although there was grammar correcting, it was not the priority of the essays. My focus was to organize my thoughts and present them to an audience.

Grammar can be considered “the internalized system that native speakers of a language share”, as suggested in the article. The key term in this particular definition is “internalized” as it hints at how grammar often exercised by native speakers; unconsciously. Children began using their native language by simple repetitions. They obtain phrases or short sentences used on daily basis from those around them, particularly their parents, by listening. Then, they recite those phrases or short sentences themselves until they develop an aptitude to mold their own language. The exposure to the rules of the language comes later down the road; most likely at elementary school. Some instructors believe that this particular approach is much more efficient in implementing grammar in comparison to a much traditional one. I would often give the example of “what time is it?” to my students in class. The idea was to examine the possibility of learning through repetition. The question “what time is it?” is not something that they would create from ground-up using grammar. I would suggest that the same method could be applied to longer sentences or even daily conversations. Practice of communication could improve their grammar better than constructing sentences by following rules listed in front of them because they would not only repeat the sentences but the grammar as well. It would be a recreation of the method of how children tend to learn grammar as mentioned.

One of the misconceptions that many instructors have is “all the rules taught will be learned” and it is simply not true. The overwhelming amount of rules, especially when enough time of exercising is not given, run the potential of negating each other. Delving into the complexities of language is more challenging for students than most instructors seem to realize; “mental baggage” of a student is a real issue. Each proficiency level has set of grammatical items that the language learner is expected to utilize but not necessarily be able to offer reasoning for their usage. Hence, overwhelming a learner by introducing every single rule is not necessary. In my experience, offering the most basics and allowing the students to apply them correctly had the potential to encourage students to broaden their ambitions. They had the illusion that they were already using correct grammar and thus they could easily shift their focus more on other skills, such as speaking or writing. More complex grammar could be taught by repeated exposure through these skills and acquired unconsciously. Sometimes, it is easier to haul if you do not see the size.

There is an unfortunate disadvantage to that natural method however. It is something that I was reminded of after doing the adjective exercise offered in the article. The exercise was simply to place the listed words in proper order. I was able to form the correct sentence of “the four young French girls” as expected, but I was not able to express the reasoning. It was simply natural. As most native speakers would agree, sometimes it is impossible to explain why certain things need to be in a certain way. When an error is detected, the vague explanation tends to be “it just does not sound right”. This is a problem that I often deal with and I believe it is due to how I acquired grammar. The unconscious utilization of it creates a challenge to present it. There are many grammatical rules that I am unconsciously aware of but offering elaborate explanation instead of “it is just the way it is” proves to be more laborious than I would like; especially as a language instructor.

I always had difficulty with grammar trees. Other instructors, the ones who learned grammar traditionally and utilize it consciously, are incredibly fast with constructing grammar trees for complex sentences. It is like puzzle-solving on advance level. I think the suggested correlation between “the study of grammar and the ability to think logically” comes from this particular aspect but I would argue that logical thinking does not necessarily need to be a conscious effort. Inability to explain something is often confused with lesser cognition. I tend to compare this difference to people who utilize one side of their brain more than the other. Some people, the left-side dominant ones, excel in mathematical skills and memorization. This probably makes it easier for them to exercise grammar in more detail. Other people, the right-side dominant ones, excel in artistic merits and emphasize the bigger picture more than its details. Obviously, this is not a conclusive notion but more of a suggestion of possibility. The instructors who could ace grammar trees were much better at presenting the rules of the language but not so well at actually using it in real life. I guess the satisfactory lies on the position of the individual.

Teaching grammar is and probably always will be a controversial topic among language instructors. I can only offer my perspective based on my own experience to the conversation. The best way to state how to approach this issue would be by the statement in the article, and I strongly agree, that we should “see it not as a cognitive or linguistic problem but rather as a problem of metacognition and metalinguistic awareness, a matter of accessing knowledges that learners must have already internalized by means of exposure to the code.” I believe the students of language are more than capable of attaining this metalinguistic awareness and develop a “syntactic sophistication”, as long as they have freedom to practice their voice and attain it by natural means as opposed to methodically.

Sequence, Interaction and Grammatical Incantations

In “Grammar, Grammers, and the Teaching of Grammers,” Patrick Hartwell poses interesting questions about the intentions of educational research. He suggests that the very basis of this discussion is designed to perpetuate the debate, regarding formal grammar., not resolve it. Grammarians and anti-grammarians. Transformational or traditional. Magical thinking or alchemy. Cognitive or linguistic. Many studies are presented in the reading representing different periods of the past century, bouncing back and forth from one side of the argument to the other. In conclusion, Hartwell illustrates that the teaching of formal grammar does not fare very well. At best the evidence is inconclusive, at worst it doesn’t help at all and perhaps inhibits a student’s ability to write well. Hartwell’s intention is to ask what he considers the right questions, with the intention to shed light on issues, terms and maybe most importantly, assumptions.
Grammar based instruction has a model that is rigidly skills based. The formal teaching of grammar (sentence structure, diagramming, etc) is the first step in that sequence and acts as the cornerstone. With that, Hartwell brings the reader’s focus to the key elements of the grammar controversy: sequence in the teaching of composition and the role of the teacher. Traditional sequencing unfolds in the following way: First Grammar followed by an absolute model of organization all controlled by an omnipotent teacher at the center. The idea of style does not enter the picture until much later in this paradigm. Without a doubt, this is the way I learned composition in grade school and high school. Or I should say, this is the way they taught composition. I struggled with grammar lessons, and wrestled with organization in an abstract way. But the whole experience was dominated by the intimidation of the teacher. But I have no question that this form of teaching lead to what Hartwell later refers to as teaching error and nurturing confusion (Thomas Friedman, p.120). After graduating high school, I spent an endless amount of time reading, and developing my own literacy. I was working in an environment where there were a lot of different kinds of people and so I was developing communication skills and by default my own rhetoric. As an adult being back in school, I have finally learned to write. The scarring from those elementary school grammar lessons finally have begun to fade.
I appreciated the breakdown of different categories of grammar. Although, it remains clear as mud I am afraid.
Grammar 1:(P111) Three features include 1) the grammar in our heads. The internalized system of rules. A tacit and unconscious knowledge. 2) The abstract and even counterintuitive nature of these rules, particularly in relation to our ability to express them in terms of grammar 2 rules. 3)The way in which the form of one’s Grammar 1 seems profoundly impacted by the acquisition of literacy.
Grammar 2: (p114) A scientific model of Grammar 1. The branch of linguistic science that is concerned with the description, analysis and formulization of formal language patterns. Not to be confused with the stable entity it is often presented as. It is an attempt to approximate the rules of grammar 1. However, these rules are continuously in flux depending on the dominant research of the time.
Grammar 3: (p121) Linguistic etiquette. This relates specifically to the usage of grammar. Usage issues which tend to be linguistically unnatural departures from the grammar in our heads.
Grammar 4: (p119)Rules of grammar. I am personally not clear on what distinguishes grammar 1 from grammar 4. However, the author refers to grammar 4 as incantations and a complete sham. Perhaps the reader was not supposed to gain clarity?!
Grammar 5:(p120) Stylistic grammar. Grammatical terms used in the interest of prose. Romantic. Classic. Philosophical theory of language as opposed to linguistic.
According to Hartwell, above all, writers need to develop skills at two levels and can be developed in any language activity that enhances awareness of language as language.
1)Broadly rhetorical. Strategies, and procedures for communicating in a meaningful way.
2)The ability to actively manipulate language with conscious attention to surface form.
This seems to dovetail with themes in previous readings. The gem out of this reading for me was the idea of language being “verbal clay….to be molded, and probed, shaped and reshaped, and, above all, enjoyed (Kolln, p 125)”

I was very excited by some themes that Hartwell raised and would like to revisit them:
• Those who dismiss formal grammar instruction as the cornerstone have a model of instruction that is focused around a complex interaction of learner and environment in mastering literacy. (P108) I personally believe that teachers are the guardians of learning threshold. That interaction between learner and educator can be magical.

• Hyperliterate perception of the value of formal rules. Most students reading their writing aloud will self-correct a majority of grammar 2 errors. Hyperliterate is such an interesting way to frame things.

• Mastering codes from top down (issues of voice, tone, register and rhetorical strategy). Not bottom up (grammar usage, to usage, to fixed forms of organization)

Tacit: understood or implied without being stated.
Posit: assume as a fact; put forth as a basis of argument.
Orthography: the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage.

Teaching Grammar

At the very beginning of his article Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar, University professor and author Patrick Hartwell agrees with the conclusion offered by literary scholars Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer in their 1963 journal article Research in Written Composition. They conclude that

In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing.(pg. 105)

Even so, Hartwell goes on to present the issue of grammar and its debate among other scholars. This issue he argues has always been a controversial topic in the classroom and continues to adversely affect teachers everywhere. His main argument debates that “formal grammar instruction, whether instruction in scientific grammar or instruction in “the common school grammar,” would have little to do with control over surface correctness nor with quality of writing.” (pg. 125). In essence, Hartwell is stating that the issue of grammar is a complicated one that needs more research. One specific example that he highlighted to make this point is found in his agreement with author Martha Kolln, who has conducted extensive experimental research in the studies of grammar and also “calls for more definition of the word grammar” (pg.106).  

Furthermore, in the article, Hartwell uses the research results and conclusions of several scholars and writers of this debate to validate his main point. Considering the beliefs of these scholars, Hartwell presents four questions that are meant to articulate the grammar issue against those who are pro-grammar. These questions are,  

  1. Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?

  2. What definitions of the word grammar are needed to articulate the grammar issue intelligibly?

  3. What do findings in cognate disciplines suggest about the value of formal grammar instruction?

  4. What is our theory of language, and what does it predict about the value of formal grammar instruction? (This question-“what does our theory of language predict?”-seems a much more powerful question than “what does educational research tell us?”) (pg.108).

The questions asked allow both grammarians and non-grammarians readers to choose a side in the debate. One has to agree whether they prefer the traditional style of teaching grammar or reason with other non- grammarian scholars who agree that grammar teaching in the classroom does not equal witting success. I personally, will side with other grammarians on this issue because I also agree that the traditional style of teaching grammar does improve student writing and success in school.

Hartwell provides the answers for these four questions in detail by properly defining the meaning of grammar. This is another main point that Hartwell suggests as a solution to solve this issue. In order to have a clear explanation and reason for teaching grammar, Hartwell describes the five definitions of grammar presented by 1954 scholar W. Nelson Francis. These five definitions of grammar are, Grammar 1: the set of formal patterns, Grammar 2: linguistic science, Grammar 3: linguistic etiquette, Grammar 4: school grammar and Grammar 5: stylistic grammar. Throughout the article, Hartwell goes more in-depth providing example that clearly apply these five rules of grammar as well as describing each style of grammar.  

Hartwell’s debate was strong and very passionate. Overall, the article was an edifying resource that provided me with the knowledge and viewpoints of the issue of grammar. The thesis presented factual and credible sources for the argument made and his case study is well supported. Even though a majority of scholars argue that teaching grammar in the classroom does not lead to student success in writing I conclude that in the context of academic writing strict teaching of grammar should be though in every classroom and even college campuses. I side with the grammarians on this issue in hopes that students from any background will learn to write academically and use proper writing language. In conclusion, based on the results of experimental research on this debate Hartwell concludes that “Teachers should formulate theories of language and literacy and let those theories guide our teaching” (pg.127). I reason with Hartwell’s final conclusion, however in order to move forward in the attempt to solve the issue of grammar we need to answer more difficult questions. Such as should the government eradicate the requirement of standardized test in schools?  Without the constraints of grammar, how will non-native learners of English write properly? What is the point of English classes if grammar skills are not being thought and enforced in the classrooms? Answering these questions in addition to Hartwell’s questions will bring us closer to solving this ongoing debate.

Click Here to Read the Article! 

Presentation Paper 

Presentation Powerpoint 

iv. grammar matters (?)

Call me crazy, but I love grammar. In every form. Each of the 5 ways Patrick Hartwell describes in his essay “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar.” Anything structure- and usage-related are so fascinating to me.

I love critiquing it… I love employing its rules (and breaking them)… I love learning it… heck, I even love learning grammar of other languages and seeing how they compare to English…

No matter how many times my friends tell me learning conversational Korean is easier by watching dramas and not by studying the intensive grammar rules of the language, I will still geek out over the latter activity.

Just as I understood both sides of the argument for voice, as presented in Peter Elbow’s “Voices in Writing,” so too do I see the merit of both sides of The Grammar Issue. Honestly, the two topics go hand in hand, don’t they? Or rather… go at each others’ throat. [Totally random, but do y’all think “throat” or “throats” is more appropriate in this sentence? While there are more than one metaphorical throats in the situation, it’s just one throat each… So like… What’s the dealio…]

Anyway. The expressiveness of voice v. the technicalities of grammar. Who’s right? Who’s more important? Is there an appropriate balance?

Regarding that last question, I believe there is. Scholars and professors debate about the need for “formal language” in academic papers–arguably for the purpose of snob-nosed elitism rather than comprehensiveness in writing, but that’s neither here nor there–and with that, the rigidity of formal grammar rules and word usage.

While I agree that a certain amount of clarity in language is necessary in academia, I feel like the stress professors/teachers put on student to adhere to those rules is too much and too severe should the student fail to do so. I’d rather not say “fail” in this instance, but you get what I mean.

So back to that balance. When a person strives to follow every single grammar rule thrown at them, it’s a) daunting because even when you fix a sentence to follow one rule, you’re probably breaking three other obscure ones in the process, b) discouraging that the focus isn’t on the content but the means in which it’s presented, and c) damn boring.

Ya gotta throw a lil spice into your writing once in a while. Honestly, in all my past research papers, I feel like I’ve attempted to change sentences around, bend the rules, throw in some spice and humor.

Whether or not I’ve succeeded is another matter entirely.

But anyway, the attempt is there. Academics can be boring enough as is, so come on y’all. Loosen up a bit. The world is too serious, throw a joke into your dissertation. An “ain’t” into the mix, a “gonna” in that intro, and a “fjdlsjfkld” into that struggle of a conclusion.

That last one is a bit extreme. Save that for Twitter.

So, tl;dr, balance, my friends. Grammar is important for clarity, surely, but–… oh. A thought just hit me. I’m drawn back to my last blog post about multilingualism and writing. Adherence to specific, base grammar rules makes for easier translation, easier understanding for those whose native language may not be the one used in the paper, and easier sharing/spreading of information because of that understanding.

Hoo boy. Talk about flip-flopping an opinion. Let’s move on before I change my mind again.

I’ve mentioned how, in the writing center, our focus isn’t on grammar. It’s on the content, while grammar usually stays by the wayside, chilling while we sort out the Big Issues first.

I try to ignore it while it sits over there, just in my periphery, staring and giving a little wiggly wave every now and again.

I succumb to the temptation to point out a necessary comma sometimes. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

We’re not supposed to teach in the writing center. We’re supposed to nudge the student to use the knowledge they already have. But of course, we end up teaching a little bit sometimes. It just happens.

And honestly, when it does happen, the one thing that I hate about “teaching” grammar is the terminology. Comma splices, appositives, pluralization, possessiveness, verb-tense agreement, parallelism… It can get jargon-y very quickly. So it’s tricky figuring out how much jargon-y explanation is necessary (and if the student is willing to hear it all).

Alright, I’m just gonna point out One More Thing from Hartwell’s paper, because I was Literally just thinking about this recently: the unspoken rule that is the order of adjectives. Under the header of “The Grammar in Our Heads” (p.111), Hartwell takes into account our Grammar 1 knowledge.

For years, I didn’t know it was a rule to order adjectives a certain way. I just… did it. “The four young French girls.” That’s exactly the way I ordered the given words in my head. Number, age, nationality. I recall seeing a longer list somewhere on the internet, and maybe I’ll find it before I post this… {I found it.} Or maybe I’ll tweet it out. {Boom, baby.} Or both. Regardless, it was mind blowing.

And it’s so fascinating how any rearrangement of that order just makes it sound… wrong. And how, when analyzed, the order can completely change the concept of the sentence. Fancy subtly nuanced grammar stuff. Wowie. I wonder if there’s a purpose to the order, and how it came about. Pretty sure people didn’t just realize what sounded the least awkward when giving several descriptive words to a thing.

Hm. Food for thought.

Alrighty. That’s it for this week. Looking forward to discussing this article more in class.


— C

Monolingual methods & the ? of Equity

Teaching Writing in a Multi-Linguistic World

Another thoughtful evening spent thinking about crucial issues in current writing theory and practice.  Thank you Vee for a thoughtful presentation which guided us through Teaching Composition in the Multi Language World (Matsuda).  Your coverage of the article layed the ground work for an interesting discussion, and the choice to share a video from the television show “A Different World” about college students who attend Hillman College (a HBCU- Historical Black College/University) was particularly instructive. One of the characters from the show speaks “African American Vernacular” and had trouble understanding “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare in her First-Year English class. Until she realized, it was all about translation.

This video served as an illustrative entry point for all of us to keep in mind when considering the politics of language instruction in general.  As sense of legitimacy and power conferred in the mastery of language (in writing) requires a certain kind of determination, as well as a ceaseless supply of intellectual curiosity.  As we have read, Writing Centers, tutors, first year Comp programs often create learning environments where the ELL student is an afterthought.  There is little preparation and even less effective policy that truly supports this vast population of learners.  This is a truth despite the dramatic diversity of our local context.  Our own NJ could very well be more multilingual that the UN (or at least on par).  And still, we have little in place to support this multi-linguistic reality in our shared learning contexts.  Our discussion revealed that the ELL reality is not for the faint of heart.  To learn institutionally under such limited resources while experiencing a  dismissal of any previous global, cultural, multi-linguistic knowledge often becomes part of a sting of stigmatization & “remediation”.  What remains is a profound challenge that is rarely confronted comprehensively (whether by educators or institutions).  I am glad that within our discussion we covered an acknowledgement of the psychic truth of ELL experience.  For any academic consideration of these issues (through theory) should always be rooted in a compassionate understanding of that inherent struggle.  What is clear that we need further support from a professional development standpoint.images-3

Thinking about Empathy & Bias

For the second part of class we turned to the recent Studio Visit with Equity Unbound.  The topic of the informal conversation for this cycle was Empathy & Bias, which was a perfect follow up to some of the questions we had been considering re: the mono-linguistic bias of writing studies and composition studies.  This meaningful conversation covered much important ground, from thinking about identity, borders, and translation, to considering intersectionality and the problem of “cultural taxation”.  We also contributed a bit to the #unboundeq twitter feed to add some reflection.  In addition, you are invited to share thoughts in your next blog post:

What is next?

Have a relaxing and replenishing autumn weekend.  I look forward to our time together on Monday.


Dr. Zamora

Grammar, Grammar, and More Grammar!

“In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing” (Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer, 1963).


Confession time? Grammar has never been a good friend of mine. (Surprise, surprise). The foundation of my grammar comes from various teachers, moving from one school to another, and simply just not having a consistent education. At least that is what I believe. After reading this article, there are probably multiple reasons as to why grammar has never been my friend. Patrick Hartwell, the writer of this article “Grammar. Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar”(, uses other scholars and sources to support his argument of how grammar and experimental research is crucial in this field of composition. Hartwell uses Janet Emig’s term “magical thinking” as part of the base for his article. The term “magical thinking” is “the assumption that students will learn only what we teach and only because we teach” (Emig, 105). For me, I took this definition as there is this invisible rule that the only reason why students are able to take in the information that is given to them is that their teachers are giving them the information. Students are capable of learning outside of the classroom as well.

Apart from Emig, Hartwell also uses Janice Neulieb as a source to discuss grammar. Neulieb wrote, “The Relation of Formal Grammar to Composition in College Composition and Communication” where she wants to reconstruct the definition of the word “grammar”. Her new definition of grammar, “the internalized system that native speakers of a language share” (140). She also expresses a certain goal for this field that is geared toward helping students. “Our goal should be to help students understand the system they know unconsciously as native speakers, to teach them the necessary categories and labels that will enable them to think about and talk about their language” (Neulieb, 150).

What I found interesting was how the article was mainly focused around four questions in order to point out the various grammar issues. Out of the four questions, I believe the first one is the most important. “Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?” (Hartwell, 108). This is not a simple question as it may seem. There are people who believe in teaching grammar the traditional way and then there are people who believe in teaching grammar the non-traditional way. The reason why the grammar issue is so important is because of the students, native speakers of English and non-native speakers of English. “Developing writers show the same patterning of errors, regardless of dialect” (Hartwell, 123). If problems are being shown in both native speakers and non-native speakers, then the different questions and experiments that Hartwell has pointed out to us could be just what the field needs in order to solve these problems.


In his article Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World, Paul Kei Matsuda presents the concept of globalization. This concept is the “global integration of international trade, investments, information, technology, and cultures.” Globalization he describes is one of the primary reason why classrooms are multilingual and students are able to write in multiple other languages. This makes it difficult for teachers to teach English writing in classrooms because students have a difficult time learning to write a language that is not native to them.

Furthermore, Matsuda also identifies this problem in higher education classrooms where there is a lack of attention to students who are not fluent in this style of writing. He presents several ways that the issue of globalization can be addressed in the classroom in the early stages of learning. Matsuda discusses a solution that is ESL based earning. For students who learn English as a Second language, all teachers should have a strategic approach to help these students in the classroom. ESL classes will ultimately develop a student’s writing and speaking style. The article goes more in depth about this concept and the ways that different cultures are able to write distinctively.

*** Read The article Here! 

The Monolingual Myth….

There are a few simple yet profound themes surfacing out of the combined sources we are reading from and sharing about. The focus is on expanding the accessibility of education, opportunity and ultimately hope for a brighter future. It includes broadening the horizons of narrow thinking and drawing out those that are under represented.
The activities in Equity Unbound have been profound in their articulate intimacy, creativity and intellectual stimulation. Every day a different phrase from Lina Mounzer’s article entitled “War in Translation” has swirled through my mind. Mounzer captures the complexity of understanding someone else with such fierce gentleness, that emerging unchanged is impossible. And in spite of my claimed resistance to technology and social media only one blog ago, I have spent a lot of time in the past two weeks reading things written by people found on the @Unboundeq twitter feed. This was one of my favorites this week and somehow intersects nicely: (Sean Michael Morris The Habitus of Critical Imagination)

The other piece this week was reading Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World (Second Language Writing in Composition Studies), by Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda.

This article addresses the shift in student population in US college composition programs as a result of globalization and internationalization. It bluntly emphasizes that the globalized world “has been and will continue to be, multilingual (p36,Kelly & Matsuda).” The huge white elephant in the room is the monolingual North American learner and educator.

Matsuda states that with the globalization of higher education, the myth that English monolongualism is the norm has become increasingly inaccurate. I suppose I have never consciously quite thought of it like that; that English monolingualism is the norm. I have never had to. I was raised on English in America. Upon reflection, I realize I have never had to challenge this assumption, simply because that is how I was raised. My grandparents were Norwegian immigrants who moved to America and learned English working on the docks in NYC. Norwegian was only spoken when they were angry or speaking about the kids. I only speak English, even though I had years of required French in middle and high school. My experience of studying a foreign language was that it was kind of a joke. Foreign language studies began at the worst possible age. Kids were self-conscious and ultra-sensitive. This was in the 80’s, so the assumption was that we probably weren’t going to use it. Honestly, we were just getting past the idea that the only possibility for women was to be a teacher, secretary or nurse. On a personal note, this article made me interested in excavating any unchallenged assumptions that I have, and going beyond them. I can no longer settle for being a monolinguist.

This article highlights the shortsightedness of the monolingual educator. This limitation creates narrow thinkers as well as writing teachers that do not even have a command and thorough knowledge of English grammar. (p50) I am interested in studying further this idea of developing a thorough understanding of grammatical structure and the “nature of second language acquisition and ways of providing feedback on language issues.” Matsuda touched on the research on long term effects of error feedback (Ferris, “Grammar,” Treatment, Truscott and Hsu). I am interested in this idea of error feedback and learning more about strategies that have been applied.

Another theme I appreciated in this article was Global Literacy, as well as emphasis on cross-cultural collaboration. The world is ever changing and higher education in the US is poised to embrace these changes or be shut out. As stated, global communities are multi-lingual by default. It is now time for the monolingual reader and writer to change. “The question is no longer limited to how to prepare students from around the world to write like traditional students from North America; it is time to start thinking more seriously about how to prepare monolingual students to write like the rest of the world.9p”

It is appropriate to embrace the expansion that comes with globalization and internationalization as opposed to defensively guarding against it. Language is the tool that can connect, it is also the tool that can divide. I love Matsuda’s suggestion about “Forging alliances with writing researchers from around the world.” This is exactly what we have been doing with Equity Unbound.

Vocabulary list:
Conation: any natural tendency, impulse, striving or directed effort.