Multiliteracies & Writing.

Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options- This article resonated with me because I work directly with ESL students. Over the summer I worked with teenagers who learned English as their second language. Throughout the school year I work with pre school aged children who mostly speak Spanish as their first language. Both cases are unique in that the children are in two entirely different age groups, which presented different challenges for me. In my World English class I’m surrounded by not just teachers but specifically ESL teachers. They talk openly and candidly with me about the issues they face in teaching these students English. Sadly a lot of the issues seem to stem from the politics found within school systems, which most teachers can’t seem to escape. But besides the trials and tribulations they spoke about, I found that all of them really cared deeply about their students. All of them were pursuing their MA degree in ESL so that they could further their education but also to be more qualified and capable of teaching in this difficult field. It feels good knowing there are educators who really care about and still have a passion for their work and their students future success.

Harris and Silva do a great job of dissecting the complex issues facing ESL tutors and students. They also provide insightful tips and strategies to help ESL tutors teach students how to read and write. In the opening paragraph they talk about the importance of one on one interaction between the tutor and the student. This is essential for ALL students in my opinion. Whether they are ESL learners or not, every teacher as busy and frazzled as they may be, should try their best to find time to talk to and work more closely with struggling students. I know from personal experience that we can always find time! You just have to sacrifice and make it happen for your students. I know it can be done and I think that when a student has that more personalized interaction with their teacher it humanizes the teacher in their eyes. Which makes them feel more at ease and able to open up to the teacher who now isn’t this authoritative figure but also a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. This is even more critical when it comes to ESL students. Every single ESL student has a unique background and experience. That depends on their age and when they arrived in the U.S. Also the circumstances surrounding their arrival and how much exposure they had to learning English at home or prior to arriving in the U.S. So its important for ESL teachers and tutors to realize that each and every student has a unique and special story to share. They should try to recognize this in their students because I believe it translates to their teaching and to their students learning of the English language.

In the section of the article that talks about the composition issues ESL students face when writing an essay I think the authors were spot on by suggesting that the tutor focus on the organization and structure of the essay FIRST, then work on the grammatical issues later. Students who are not proficient in English just yet, will face a lot of challenges when they have to write essays. So to have them brainstorm ideas, work with a outline and formula to follow, I think would benefit them immensely. Again I like to use the example of my experience working this past summer with the EEOF summer program. In the writing course I taught, the majority of my students were Hispanic and their first language was not English. Many of them spoke to me with heavy accents but understood English. I also had one Egyptian born student in my class who learned English as her second language. What I found remarkable was that although my L2 language learners had difficulty with grammar and word usage. Their writing was superb compared to many of my L1 speaking students. I was shocked to say the least, maybe I shouldn’t have been but I was. The Egyptian student was such an articulate writer! I was blown away! Many of my Hispanic students who were L2 wrote just as well as she did. I guess this proves that you can’t judge a ESL student by its cover or by their thick accents. Research definitely needs to continue to see the connection between speaking English, then learning to READ and then WRITE in English. There is a strong and vital connection for ESL students between them speaking, than learning to read but also learning to write in English. But from my first hand experience over the summer I realized that although many of my students had grammar issues and tense issues when writing, they also had strong accents and not yet proficient English speakers, regardless their overall essays were very strong! The content was clear and sensible. Keep in mind I did provide all my students with a outline for each essay writing assignment. Again I’m a big proponent of that! Give a student ESL or not a formula to follow and watch them soar!

Another interesting part of the article and one in which I’m happy the authors pointed out was the importance of acknowledging that each student comes from a diverse background and culture in which they are not yet accustomed to the ways of American life. I think its important to treat each student regardless of age with respect and understanding to gauge where they are in the English learning process and also observe how comfortable they are with their new surroundings. This can help ESL tutors to connect more and make a more comforting and learning conducive environment for the students. What I also found interesting in my personal experience teaching the writing course this past summer, was that my L2 students were a lot more invested in coming to tutoring and also asked more questions during class about particular assignments. My American born students didn’t seem as invested. I tried my best to not have tunnel vision and just focus in on grammatical errors or slight tense issues with verbs or nouns. Instead I focused more on the content of their essays and if it flowed and made sense to the topic assigned. I know in the future grammar will play an important role in their academic writing, but for my summer assignments with them I wanted to focus more on the material and find the GOOD in their writing, not all the MISTAKES. I felt like my main job was to encourage them and make them feel more confident within themselves as English learning writers and readers.

Growing up as a first generation Italian American I grew up in a home with both my parents speaking Italian to each other, to the rest of our family and even to my older brother and I. But I was lucky in that although they were very proud of their heritage, they made sure to teach my brother and I English first, then Italian second. My parents who emigrated from Italy due to poverty and lack of opportunity, knew first hand how difficult it was to learn English and adapt to this big, scary, new American land. A land in which they both tell me they would hear glorious stories about growing up as poor kids in Italy. It was like Dorothy finding OZ, they were Dorothy and OZ was America. I will never forget my mother’s first vivid memory of seeing the Verrazano Bridge for the very first time. She was mesmerized, frozen with excitement. As a kid I would shut my eyes tight and try to envision what my mother looked like and what she felt in that exact moment: a young, nervously shy, skinny, 17 year old Italian immigrant girl, excitedly seeing NYC for the very first time. Both my parents struggled to learn the language but never had the finances to afford going to school to learn. So learning English was up to them, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that process. My mother shared her horror stories of getting lost on the bus and having trouble communicating where she needed to go to the bus driver, who was sweet but didn’t understand Italian and couldn’t really help her. She was scared and saddened by the communication block. Through the years my parents prevailed. They both speak English today, very well I might add, and of course they still have their thick Italian accents, which I honestly don’t even hear but my close friends do and love it. But looking back after all these years I’m proud of my parents for making the choice to teach us English at home first. Even though their English was not perfect they made sure to speak to us, read to us and even yell at us in their “broken” English. My brother and I learned to assimilate into school with no issues. We knew how to speak English and did well in reading, writing and spelling. We understood Italian as well. My brother still speaks it fluently to this day. I can write, read it and understand it all but speaking it, ugh I stink!!

Why I wanted to give a background on my own family and how I was taught English as my first language, was because I see a connection when I’m working in the preschool in downtown Elizabeth. Most of my 15 students are Hispanic and most only speak Spanish. They seem to understand English, but from meeting their parents its clear Spanish rules in their homes. Its not only hard for educators to communicate with children but also with parents who don’t speak English. Last year we had a problematic child who was getting violent in the classroom. His father came in and didn’t speak a word of English. I needed help from the Spanish speaking TA. I felt awful because the father had so much trouble in understanding me, and I wish it wasn’t this way for the benefit of his son and the issues he was facing. I also see first hand the difficulties and the frustrations that the children have when they cant seem to get the right word out, or when I’m looking at them with a blank expression trying to figure out what their saying. Its not easy and very tough. We should never and I would never make a student regardless of age feel badly about their native language. That would be a disservice to the child. But I always try to gently encourage them to answer me in English. Luckily throughout the decades and with the influx of immigrants coming to the U.S. from across the world, many more ESL programs are available to students now in all grade levels. I feel encouraged by the ESL teachers I was lucky enough to meet here at Kean who are working towards their MA in ESL and really take pride in teaching their students to learn English and be the very best. Now if only I could get the majority of parents and guardians on board in them teaching their children English as a first language at home, even if like my parents, their English is far from perfect. But in a world where you can get around just fine within your Spanish speaking community that’s a uphill battle. So in the meantime I’ll just have confidence and faith in the dedicated ESL educators who still do exist today. Being a first generation child of immigrants, I understand and empathize with the struggles the parents and students face in their journey to learning standard English. I wish them the very best and I know because I saw my parents do it that they can do it too. Xo

Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria- Yay John Bean is back!!! I have a special place in my heart for him because his article was the very first I read for this class and presented on. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and presenting on his Feedback In Writing article. I thought his insights and ideas were an awesome tool for educators to help guide and grade their students works with integrity and leaving their students feeling empowered rather then demoralized. His idea of “coaching” them through it was awesome! Reading his theories on the use of rubrics was interesting. I didn’t know as much in depth information about analytic vs. holistic rubrics until I read this article. Holistic scoring gives students a single, overall assessment score for the paper as a whole. Analytic rubrics provides students with at least a rating score for each criterion, the rubric for analytic scoring offers teachers enough room to provide some feedback on each criterion. Holistic rubrics are sometimes preferred by teachers because they are quicker and more efficient. While some tend to criticize the use of analytic rubrics because they believe writing cant be analyzed in component parts. Both rubrics can be classified as generic or task specific. Teachers just like students are all unique and individual. They have to decide which rubrics are best for them and their teaching style, as well as taking into consideration what would be best for their students. John Bean gives an overview of what he believes can help teachers decide. Sometimes that can mean they choose depending on the type of essay assignment. Again every teacher is different, some may prefer very detailed rubrics while others prefer a simpler guide for students. Regardless of the rubrics teacher use to determine grades, I have and always will be PRO RUBRICS!! In a previous blog post of mine I revealed how the very first grading rubric I was introduced to was in my junior year of college. I had never seen or heard of one before that. It was for a Women’s Health Studies course where I was writing a APA formatted research paper on the plight of women in Afghanistan. The rubric was so very helpful! I find the more detailed it is and the more categories and boxes I can check off the better! I received an A on the essay. Of course I was a solid, overall good writer even without a rubric but I strongly feel like the rubric took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Once I was able to see exactly what my teacher expected of me, I was able to get to work! My creativity blossomed once the pressure was off. I didn’t second guess myself as much, I was able to ask less questions and instead figure stuff out on my own. Which I think was a huge advantage for me and I would think for other students.

It’s one thing to be a naturally strong writer, or someone who enjoys writing. But for the students who find writing a college essay daunting, I feel like a good, solid specific rubric is essential! Also the article makes a good point in highlighting how a rubric can be useful for teachers. It gives them a guide just like it does for the students. Also if parents or students have specific questions or concerns about their grades and why they received a specific grade then teachers have a more tangible and solid explanation to give, which will satisfy most parents and ease tensions. I think that facilitates more open, honest communication and brings a deeper understanding all around. This is a huge benefit to the parents, teachers and student’s in building a solid relationship with each other which I believe we need more of in classrooms today. A final note when Emily and I were anxiously starting to work on our presentation for this class, I found the rubric Dr. Zamora provided. I rushed to print it out and gave Emily a copy! We both were excited to see it, read it and touch it! We were so nervous and full of self doubt in giving our very first graduate school presentation and here before us we saw the guidelines and boxes, and it was a huge relief! It was like our mini Bible for the time being! I know for myself personally I referenced the rubric as I was beginning to create each slide, and made sure to factor in the specific parts of the rubric that had to do with the presentation aspect. Overall I think Emily will agree that the rubric was a helpful tool and guide that helped to ease a bit of our anxiety. With a lot of hard work we were able to pull it off and give a solid presentation! We both received a awesome grade and it definitely boosted our graduate school confidence!! YAY RUBRICS!! Hope you all enjoy this video below!! I thought it was a great guide for teaching and supporting ESL students!! Xo.

Multiliteracies & Writing

Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, in their piece “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options,” speak on the problem present when coaching ESL students and offer suggestions to better interactions when teaching these students. The apparent problem is, tutors and teachers, don’t know where to begin when examining a paper written by an ESL student. I have ELL students transferred into my class every year, and this is the very problem I face. Harris and Silvia recommend plunging in by looking for what has been done well in the paper. Tutors should also let their students know errors are a natural part of writing, and it’s totally ok.

Contrastive rhetoric, which is the study of differences in rhetorical preferences among various cultures, is proven insightful into how the writing of ESL students may differ.

There are two components:
(L1) linguistic and rhetorical patterns to the second language.
(L2) writing has been a central and contentious issue in ESL studies since the beginning of work in the area.

This technique can be useful when identifying typical problems associated with particular ESL groups. However, tutors must not think that all ESL students will manifest the same issues.

Tutors need to distinguish individual student skills. A student with low English proficiency might not be able to produce any writing, and another student with enough English proficiency may be able to compose a five-paragraph essay. Tutors then must distinguish between language proficiency and writing ability. They can do this by looking at general English proficiency tests, analyzing sample student writing, or asking the student what the is primary difficulty they are facing.

Through Silva’s research, we see ESL learners spend less time planning, write with more difficulty, reread their papers less, and revise less based on peer-editing. What might be helpful to these learners to guide them to plan more, write in stages, and to provide realistic strategies for edition, both rhetorical and linguistic? When it comes to grammar, ESL students have a hard figuring out why a sentence may be incorrect. The tutor has to layout explicit rules to a certain extent to help guide them. Tutors have to also refrain from correcting every single grammar mistake. They have to remind the students to concentrate more on substance and not worry so much about style. So to stop supplying all the answers, the tutors need to make the expectations and goals clear. Tutors have to be “tellers” to some extent to provide rhetorical and linguistic information. Not all the time, but when neccassay, they have to be the informant.

The essential aspects of grammar the tutor should concentrate on are verbs, nouns, articles, and prepositions. These are the four types of mistakes most commonly seen in ESL students. Tutors also need to encourage students to read aloud to correct their errors. If that doesn’t work, more mechanical rule-based proofreading will be necessary. Lastly, insights from ESL writing theory, research, and practice can help writing centers and tutors to deal effectively with ESL students.

John Bean, in his article “Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria,” begins by addressing the controversy surrounding the evaluation of writing. Paul Diederich conducted a study where he collected three hundred essays written by first-year college students. He had them graded by fifty different professions; all of them ranked with a different standard in mind, including ideas, organization, sentence structure, wording, and flavor. Diedrich, with this study, proves that all educators grade differently. He is thus pointing out the value of using rubrics.

Next, Bean offers an overview of rubrics presents currently.

1) Analytic- separate scores for different categories.
2) Holistic: one score that reflects the reader’s overall impression of the paper.
3) Generic: one size fits all rubric.
4) Task-specific: fits and the individual assignment or genre.

As a teacher, I find the analytic rubric to be the most useful. It breaks down the characteristics of an assignment into parts, allowing me to see what’s good and what needs improvement. It is also fit for students; it gives them a clearer picture of why they got the score got. The only downfall about the analytic rubric I feel is, it takes quite a bit of time to create one.

Bean shows how he uses rubrics and states that teachers must find rubrics that work for them. Another way to improve grading practices is to have a conversation with colleagues about what is excellent, good satisfactory, and poor writing. I like this technique because frequently, I find myself biased when grading papers, and I always second guess myself. I have a stack of papers to grade this weekend, and maybe I’ll try to use Bean’s approach. Perhaps not, it’ll take a lot more time. We’ll see!

Here is the actual gif of me grading papers this weekend.

The Truth Behind Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy has been a part of society for thousands of years. Women would have children at a young age because the survival rates were extremely low. However, over time the average age to have children is in your late 20s to early 30s. Within the past decade, couples decide to have children in their late 30s to early 40s because they want to make a ‘name’ for themselves and establish a career. On the other hand, teen pregnancy was an epidemic in the nineties, however, since MTV released its hit reality show 16 and Pregnant and the spin-off show Teen Mom in the late 2000s, teen pregnancy dropped a dramatic 44% since 1991.  


Teen pregnancy is a problem in many parts of the world, the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among developed countries. Many people question why teen pregnancy rates are so high? Many believe it’s due to large amounts of sexual exposure on TV and in the media. Others believe that it’s due to the lack of sex education in school. These allegations are correct, but experts state, “contraception remains crucial in the fight against this complex social issue. A sexually active teenage girl who does not use regular contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within one year.”

10 Facts About Teen Pregnancy

  1. 3 in 10 teen American girls will get pregnant before the age of 20. That’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year.
  2. Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. More than 50% of teen mothers never graduate from high school.
  3. About 25% of teen moms have a 2nd child within 24 months of their first baby.
  4. Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.
  5. In many cases, the child’s father is either missing or unable to provide the proper financial support; almost 80% of teens do not marry the fathers of their children.
  6. 60% of teen pregnancy result in births while around 25% of all teenage pregnancies end in abortion.
  7. In 2008, the teen pregnancy rate among African-American and Hispanic teen girls, ages 15 to 19, was over two and a half times higher than the teen pregnancy rate among white teen girls of the same age group.
  8. Children who are born to teenage mothers are immediately placed at a greater risk of developing many physical, social, and behavioral problems.
  9. More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. In fact, two-thirds of families begun by a young, unmarried mother are poor.
  10. Teen pregnancy costs the U.S. almost $11 billion per year; this includes increased medical care, foster care, increased incarceration rates among the children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue.

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Multiliteracies & Writing

Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options

Learning another language as your second language can be very hard, especially English. Coming into a school where you’re not familiar with the language and accepted to learn the material in that language can be extremely hard.

Harris and Silva explain how having one-on-one instruction is beneficial for an ESL student because:

these students need the kind of individualized attention that tutors offer, instruction that casts no aspersions on the adequacy of the classroom or the ability of the student. We should recognize that along with different linguistic backgrounds, ESL students have a diversity of concerns that can only be dealt with in the one-to-one setting where the focus of attention is on that particular student and his or her questions, concerns, cultural presuppositions, writing processes, language learning experiences, and conceptions of what writing in English is all about” (525).

I agree with this quote completely. It’s important for the students instruction be one-on-one and customized to their particular needs in the language. This article reminded me of two past experiences, (1) working at Huntington Learning Center as an ACT/SAT Prep English tutor and Writing tutor and (2) have an ESL student in my preschool class two years ago.

(1) I only worked at Huntington Learning Center for a few months, but during my time there I was taught multiple learning styles to fit each child’s’ individual needs. I only had one ESL student and I was completely taken back by how differently I need to change my teaching approach for that student to better understand what they were learning.

After our first session, I did a lot of research on how to teach an ESL student how to write in English. I did not have any background knowledge on teaching an ESL student, but I taught myself so I can better teach the child the material.

(2) Being a preschool is something that I never thought I would love to do; watching little minds grow and fill with so much knowledge. It’s honestly one of the best jobs in the entire world. During my several years of teaching preschool, I was lucky enough to be introduced to such a smart little boy. He didn’t speak any English when he came into room, but by the end of the year, we couldn’t get him to stop speaking.

His first language was French, which I speak a little bit of. To get him comfortable with the students and myself, I would talk to him as much as I could in French, then I would say the English word afterwards. By doing this, he was learning the English words and my other students were learning a little bit of French. I also labeled everything in my room so my students could so the written form of the object and underneath the English word, I wrote the French word as well.

After a few weeks of going back and forth between French and English, I only spoke English in my class. After a few months, he spoke English like it was his first language.

Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria

This article reminded me a lot of the article that I presented in the beginning of the semester. I find that rubrics can be very helpful in a writing class because it helps you [the teacher] with the direction of your grading process.

Also, by having rubrics for writing assessments the student is able to understand what category a specific topic was graded as and they would be able to enhance or improve for the next assessment.

Analytic V. Holistic

The analytic method separates each criteria into topics such as: grammar, organization, sources, format, etc. By doing so, the teacher is able to get more specific with the criteria he/she wants to focus on for that assignment and it gives them the opportunity to really understand the students writing with this approach.

On the other hand, the holistic method is just an overall score shown with a number. By using this method, you the student won’t be getting the full effect of what he/she has done wrong or right in their paper and the teacher doesn’t really get to examine the students work on a deeper level.

The Hidden Face of Horror: A Review of Cafe Macabre

It’s really all in the title. This is a collection of short stories edited by Leah McNaughton Lederman. Several of her own unique stories are also included in these Tell-Tale heart beating pages (yes it is that good). The collection represents the human face of horror that we often do not see in current fiction pieces. It is not filled with stereotypical “gotcha moments” or “jump scares.” However, there are definite elements of surprise that will have you looking over your shoulder. I read this in the small, stolen hours of the night and that made it even more eerie. The stories were written by diverse women who really delved into their characters’ psyches to give us the best possible scares that leave indelible marks. The collection is highly atmospheric, so much so that it is a sensory delight to read (that is rare). Women and men will be able to relate to the stories and will be pulled into worlds from which they will not soon depart. The graphics are a joy to behold and add so much to the collection. I enjoyed learning about the artists and writers at the end of the book. Leah McNaughton Lederman also includes editorial instructions at the end that I found to be invaluable. Cafe Macabre is available on Amazon. Buy it. It is horror at its best because FRESH perspectives are introduced that are highly relatable…scary, right?

Frame(works): Multiliteracies and Writing

Image result for framework house
Good Frames make for Great Houses

In Multiliteracies and Writing, the developing of frameworks is crucial. Without giving students a framework, they will become nervous, frustrated and at worst, quit. This is something that I appreciated as part of Writing Theory and Practice. The pre-Fall 2019-me balked at the idea of giving students frameworks (too confining). I thank Nives, Susan and Linda in helping me see this issue from a different point of view. You should not hand a child a fancy balloon without one of those smiley face weights attached to it. It will go flying off and there will be inevitable tears. Frameworks provide solidity and they are a necessary part of structured learning, critical thinking and writing.

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ESL Students: All part of the Same Globe

In “Teaching ESL Students: Issues and Options,” Harris and Silva explain that there is a “pedagogy of the tutorial” (526). This involves developing a hierarchy of what is considered to be most important. Ibid. Tutors should focus on the big picture and resist the itch to correct every error (530). First, as the authors mention, tutors should gain training on the special needs of different ESL students and how their cultural backgrounds may affect the way they learn. It is also important for a tutor to get to know, as much as possible, his or her tutees. From her descriptions in class, I know this is how Patricia approaches her students. We have to remember that at the other end of the desk is a student with feelings and different perspectives. It is difficult to develop a relationship with students if they are coming into Writing Centers (WCs) on a sporadic, as-needed basis. I would encourage for all ESL students, especially those just at the beginning of their writing journeys, to consult WCs often, during draft stages, so that tutors and students can get to know each other and develop a rapport and trust.

I agree that is important that rhetorical structures be prioritized over grammar and syntax. For that, I refer back to much-beloved Aristotelian triangle:

Getting Back to the Greeks!

I agree with the stretching out of the composing process:

(1) include more work on planning– to generate ideas, text structure and language; (2) have ESL students write in stages, e.g. focusing on content and organization in one draft and focusing on linguistic concerns in another draft; and (3) separate their treatment of revising (rhetoric) and editing (linguistic) and provide realistic strategies for each, strategies that do not rely on intuitions ESL writers may not have.


Adhering to grammar is important; however, it should not take a front seat. I think it would be best if ESL students had separate training on grammar and syntax. As the authors mentioned, tutors also need to have a formal way of conveying these components, because even if they come second-nature to us, we may not know how to teach these rules.

The main goal in teaching ESL students is communication. In communicating, it is always important to emphasize the positive aspects of a student’s writing. Again, trust is an important in every relationship, including the student-tutor one.

Rubrics are Useful to Both Students and Teachers

In “Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria,” Bean explains that rubrics aid in planning a class at the outset and in describing the expectations required by the instructor (267). This idea, which I once disliked, makes sense because it conveys a sense of shared purpose between the student and his or her teacher.

I found Paul Deiderich’s experiment to be crucial (268-269). He was able to train readers to balance their assessments over 5 criteria: (1) quality of ideas, (2) sentence structure, usage, spelling and punctuation; (3) organization and development; (4) creative wording or phrasing and (5) liveliness of committed voice (“flavor of personality”).

I think that both analytic and holistic rubrics can be utilized. It is important to gain an overall impression of a paper (holistic) and then to grade it according to the crucial hallmarks noted above and in the analytic rubrics Bean included in his piece. It is important to know that giving too specific of a rubric can backfire, causing students to approach writing as a plug-in-the formula experience, rather than as a critical exercise of their own thoughts. I think that it is also important that there be room for teacher’s commentary on a student’s work. However, it should never be cursory or vague, as we have discussed in other classes.

In the Controversies Abut Rubrics section, I felt that Bean was speaking to the former me. I used to see rubrics as stifling to the creative process. I thought that it would lead to individuals being put in a box from which they could not easily extricate themselves. This reminded me of George Michael’s personal transformation from sex symbol to a writer/performer who had something genuinely different to say, but had to struggle in order to do so. I direct you to his beautiful song, “Freedom” (

Bean states that opponents to rubrics believe that they are unfair to students because rubrics them the wrong “message that there are universally agreed-upon standards for good writing” (277). That is incorrect. I think that students, especially beginners, need concrete structure in order to clearly organize their thoughts on paper.

I really liked Bean’s specific approach to using rubrics (279-280). However, I think that adding up numbers is too formulaic. Additionally, I wonder if Bean’s approach would be extremely time-consuming for already over-taxed teachers.

Bean’s article reaches an apex of greatness when he states that instructors have to find an approach to grading that works for them. This will most certainly vary with the subject matter (i.e. literature as opposed to scientific lab reports). As I explained before, I think that it is vital that teachers set out expectations of their students and stick to them. Bean has included some great rubrics that would have even satisfied the pre-Fall 2019 me because they allow room for creative expression.

Writing and Identity

Writing and Identity

We had two important readings to consider together last night.  Paulo Freire’s seminal Pedagogy of the Oppressed dovetailed perfectly with Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue.  Dana and Fatima did an excellent job of presenting the material and drawing out the important reflections from both works.  The common theme here was the question of liberation and the role that language and writing instruction plays in the development of the self.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.”

Thanks to Dana’s selection of this material, we have had the chance to consider education as a practice of freedom versus education as a practice of domination.  Paulo Freire is one of the most important critical educators of the twentieth century.  He is considered one of the founders of critical pedagogy, and he envisions an approach to education that aims to transform oppressive structures by engaging people who have been marginalized and dehumanized and drawing on what they already know.  “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  Dana presented this material with a comprehensive understanding and a discerning analysis, prompting us to make connections with our own current political realities.  How can we imagine a pathway to freedom when confronted with the profound complicity of an educational system that perpetuates the oppressive elements of society itself?  Freire believes that part of the purpose of education is to help children develop the ability “to ask good questions.” Teachers are at the frontlines of this struggle to open up a critical eye to the world, guiding new generations to think in complex and dynamic ways in response to a world foreclosed.  It is through this ability to think critically that education can help guide us in our journey towards liberation and freedom.

The Silenced Dialogue

After our collective consideration of Freire, we aptly turned to Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue to think about what is happening to non-white and poor students in our own national context.  Fatima presented the major strands of Delpit’s argument, highlighting an invisible  “culture of power” and the importance of gaining certain cultural capital.  As a specialist in teaching and learning in multicultural settings, Delpit seeks to provide opportunities for minorities and poor communities to articulate and effect change in the United States’ educational system.  She is also concerned with creating connections and building bridges between teachers of differing cultural backgrounds, between educators and culturally diverse children and their parents, and across the multi-cultural communities that make up our society.   In reading Delpit’s work, we come to see that everyday interactions are loaded with assumptions made by educators and mainstream society.  But by developing code-switching literacies and refining specific cultural translation skills, we might start to forge a pathway for certain children to grow and thrive as they continue to navigate a world designed to leave them behind.  I think Fatima selected an excellent case study video to exemplify the work that needs to be done:

What is next?

The final theme for us to consider is Multiliteracies & Writing and we will have two presenters-

Patricia has selected:

Tutoring ESL Students:  Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva

Linda will focus on rubrics, and she has selected:

Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria by John Bean

Your “to-do” list:

  1. Read the above selections from both Patricia & Linda.
  2. Post your Blog #10 which should be a reflection on Multiliteracies & Writing stemming from the above readings.
  3. As a follow-up from last week regarding your early thoughts on your final group project, please free-write for 20 minutes in response to the following prompts: -What learning outcomes matter the most to you?  -How can you make this project impactful in a way that is truly meaningful to you? 

Patricia and Linda will wrap up the presentations for the seminar with a synthesis of their selected material.  This will be our grand finale for the seminar “discussion lead/presentation” cycle!  
In the later half of class, we will proceed with a think-pair-share exercise designed to get you thinking/deliberating about the possibility of a shared purpose for your final group project.

See you next week!  Have a great week and weekend…

Dr. Zamora


Writing & Identity

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I’m going to be completely honest, I was lost where reading this article. I read it about three times and I’m still a little lost. I’m going to try really hard to summarize both chapters. If I misunderstood anything (which I know I probably did) I apologize ahead of time.

In chapter one of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire he explores the justification of oppression which resulted in the mutual process of the “oppressor” and the “oppressed”. Freire goes into colonization and the impact that has brought to oppression and the constant fear of freedom,

Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion” (pg 4).

In the second chapter, Freire explains this metaphor of the ‘banking’ approach in the education system and how students account are left empty until the teacher deposit into them. He’s not for the ‘banking’ approach and states how it dehumanizes the students. He also argues how the banking approach stimulates oppressive attitudes that are now practiced in society. He believes that education should be given equally despite your location.

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children

Lisa Delpit writes a powerful article about how teaching students of other cultural and ethnic backgrounds is extremely important. This article reminded so much of the course I’m taking now, Racial Theory and Ethnic Identity. During the semester we have been introduced to Asian, Latino, Native American, Muslim and Black theories through text and how they were perceived through the boarding communities who were predominantly white.

We also discuss the importance of learning from those of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds from your own because you will be introduced to other views that you never show before and you also might have a different perspective on the topic being discussed.

Pedagogy of Liberation: Freire and Delpit

“Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one.” 

-Paolo Freire, 1968

Although Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire was written in 1968, his critical theory allows us to examine the socio-economic and political struggles of the 21st century, as exemplified by the #MeToo Movement, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Same-Sex Marriage through the paradigm of oppressed vs. oppressor. 

Freire asserts that within humanity, there are “two real alternatives: humanization versus dehumanization.” Humanization, according to Freire, is every person’s “vocation” or natural inclination; yet, humanization is both “negated by injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence,” and “affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice.” So, in other words, people intrinsically want freedom and justice; however, dehumanization occurs when people’s humanity is stolen from them. Interestingly, dehumanization occurs when oppressors are stealing the oppressed’s humanity because “it is a distortion of the oppressor’s vocation of being a full person” — that is, an oppressor oppresses an oppressed because he does not see the other person as a human. The oppressor loses his humanity, his sense of compassion and empathy. He is no longer a full person. To illustrate, women in the #MeToo Movement want to regain their sense of human dignity by suing rich, powerful white men for sexual harassment; African-Americans fight for their fundamental right to live by exposing police brutality and use of excessive and lethal force; and the LGBT community fight for their right to get married. It is “not in the three groups’ destiny to be dehumanized,” but instead, it is an “unjust order” that engenders dehumanization. 

Interestingly, according to Freire, it is the oppressed — not the oppressor — who must “restored humanity in both the oppressed and the oppressor” because the oppressor does not have the “strength” to liberate both himself and the oppressed. Why would Harvey Weinstein or Daniel Pantaleo admit to any wrongdoing? Freire argues that the “power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed would be sufficient t free both of them.” Furthermore, the power of collective voices can also be powerful enough to “restore humanity” in both the oppressed and the oppressor. Does Harvey Weinstein appear remorseful? Somewhat. Is Daniel Pantaleo upset that he is no longer a police officer? Perhaps. 

In order to liberate themselves and the oppressors, the oppressed may garner solidarity from supporters but Freire makes a distinction between “true generosity” and “false charity” in that false charity is a ‘hand-out’ to the “rejects of life” which further make them dependent; whereas, true generosity is a ‘hand-up’ where the oppressed is provided with the necessary skills to uplift and to liberate them. Think of a teacher. An empathetic teacher who acts in “true generosity” would have high expectations for her students, even students who look different than her and her children. She equips her students with the necessary skills to be successful in life, while the sympathetic teacher who doles out “false charity” would have lower expectations for her students because she feels sorry for them. She does not adequately equip them with the skills necessary to be successful in life. 

Why would the oppressor (e.g., the teacher or the boss) relinquish his power? No, the oppressed must fight for her freedom. In the fight for freedom, Freire cautions the oppressed by saying that they may become the oppressor themselves; this idea evokes the image of the pigs at the end of Animal Farm, where it was difficult to discern the difference between the pigs and men. Freire warns that the oppressed may suffer from a “duality” where they fear “authentic existence, but at the same time, fear it.” For example, some slaveowners have argued that they provide for their slaves, and therefore, there is no need for freedom. Once they are freed, they will need to think for themselves and fend for themselves. Are the oppressed equip with the necessary skills to take care of themselves. So, Freire ends with a central problem of “How can the oppressed as undivided, unauthentic beings participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation?” 

The first step in creating a pedagogy of liberation is to create a democratic, student-centered classroom where the teacher is more of a facilitator of learning rather than the ‘sage on the stage.’ At this juncture, I will focus my discussion on Lisa Delpit’s “Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.”

Although it was written in 1988, Lisa Delpit’s issue of voice, power, and authority is still very relevant in classrooms and boardrooms. Delpit starts her essay with vignettes of minority faculty or students (or to use Freire’s term, the oppressed) members in English departments who have been silence and sidelined by their majority white peers or colleagues. To quote one black Principal, she says, “It becomes futile because they think they know everything about everybody. They don’t want to hear what you have to say. They only want to go research what other White people have written.” Here frustration reverberates in the hallway of academia as reported in the news recently that the students at Williams College are boycotting the English Department because of “history racism, sexism, transphobia, and other violences” ( The oppressed faculty member is revolting against their oppressors, demanding to be treated with dignity and to be promoted equitably. They refuse to remain silent.

In terms of writing pedagogy, and in turn, liberation pedagogy, in the classroom, Delpit argues for process writing rather than skills-oriented writing. She further examines power in the classroom by making the following assertions: 

1.) Issues of power are enacted in the classroom.

2.) There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a “culture of power.”

3.) The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the classroom of the rules of the culture of those who have power.

4.) If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier. 

5.) Those with power are frequently least aware of — or at least willing to acknowledge –its existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence.

For a critical teacher, she must have high expectations. She must believe that her students are capable of higher-order thinking and reasoning. Students, regardless of levels, must be challenged. She also argues that it is not the school’s job to change the homes of poor, nonwhite children to match the dominant culture of power since she maintains that “each child’s culture and heritage is unique; however, there is a mainstream culture and mainstream language (Standard Written English) that they all must learn.” Delpit ends her essay with a powerful call to action: When educating other people’s children, we must include the parents and educators who look like them in the conversation. White teachers and white administrators cannot make all the decisions on how to educate other people’s children.

Image result for teaching other people's children
Involve the parents when teaching other people’s children.

The Silenced Dialogue and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

One theme that has been consistent in our studies this semester has been the handling of different cultures in the context of the classroom and pedagogical strategies.  Both of the articles we have read this week get into how race and culture can be addressed in a classroom setting, and how it should be handled. Starting with the Delpit article, I found this to offer some interesting insights right from the beginning with little anecdotes of students of color navigating the educational landscape and what they have had to deal with in their education.  What each of these narratives have in common is this feeling that white instructors have some sort of power over non-white writers and students. Dulpit begins to talk about the “culture of power” and the aspects of power:

  1. Issues of Power
  2. Codes and rules for participating in power
  3. The rules are a reflection of those who are in power
  4. Explicitly knowing the rules makes it easier to gain power
  5. Those with the power do not acknowledge their power

These 5 aspects of power are interesting to me, but the last three specifically are of the most important.  Number 3, which tackles, in a way, some discussions we have had on previous readings this semester. The rules that come are made are a reflection of those who have power.  The most obvious reason this could be “unfair” is that the rules come from the experience and intellectual opinion and thought of the person in power. From what we are discussing, it could be problematic if the evaluator is from a totally different line of thought and background of the students they are teaching, they could lose touch with their class and what is important to them.  Even more important is the idea that there might be an expectation that everyone fits into a box that was made up by this one person in power. Just like anything else, it is easier for people to learn and take something from an experience if it is one they can sympathize with, and hearing concerns of minority students having to relinquish that kind of power over their education is a red flag.  For people to feel as though the dynamic is almost set up against them, is something that needs to be rectified and fixed. Number 4 on this list is knowing that the rules are set up for those who follow them to find a voice of power in the classroom. This becomes especially concerning from the point of view that those who are already feeling they need to subscribe to a particular system if they want to climb up the ladder and eventually have that type of power for themselves.  This could lead to the student losing their voice and their purpose and “gaming” their education to fit into that box. As I think I’ve made clear through all of my blogs is I do not like the idea of anything that limits thought and puts anyone in these figurative boxes in any way. Number 5 is probably the most concerning. It states that those who have the power do not acknowledge their power. The reason this is so problematic to me is anyone with power in any situation could be dangerous to those around them.  It lends to the idea that there is no checks on power. How can you keep a powerful in person in check if they do not recognize that what they have, is indeed, power?  Anytime this becomes an issue, it is a symptom of a larger problem; that those in the system feel a sense of powerlessness.  That they must conform to a system and a thought they already feel does not represent them. These were the biggest principals I took from the article, as it lays out what the problem is on a more institutional level.  Leter, Dulpit talks about the idea of “cultural capital” meaning that some students understand the power structure that is already in place and that those who already have the power keep it. The last major part of the article, to me, is the idea of appropriation in the classroom.  “..ensuring that each classroom incorporate strategies appropriate for all the children in its confines.” Dulpit is saying here that in order to facilitate learning for each and every student, it is important that we keep them and their different cultures and backgrounds in mind. Dulpit also dives into “process” v “product.”  Mentioning how, in this country, all that matters is the product, and the process in creating it does not matter. This goes against alot of what I believe makes writing so great. The journey of learning to write is just as important, as the process creates a foundation for how one effectively creates a product. I know this article will lead to a fun discussion in class tonight.  The Frier article piggy backed off the ideas of the Dulpit reading, but did so in a different way. This article was more to illustrate a dynamic between the oppressor and the oppressed in a pedagogical sense. Oppressed v Oppressor is the tune this article sings, and I think that was an interesting direction. Frier talks alot about this idea of the oppressor fighting the fight of the oppressed along side them, and how, even in aligning with the oppressed, they migrate some of their prejudices and notions that helped exacerbate the issue at hand.  Kind of, as mentioned in the article, a sense of false caring. Given todays political climate, I think we can see how these ideas play out in a more pragmatic sense. Frier goes on to talk about how teachers are the depositors in this “banking” relationship with the student. I do not like this, as it is described, a trust that the teacher is giving the “right” information for the student to study and learn. However, there seems to be an emphasis on the reproduction of what was learned. While I understand the need and purpose, there are a multitude of ways, as we have discussed, to make learning more of a thinking activity as opposed to a regurgitation of information.  Frier put it best in the article when he said ‘Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information.” I love this quote as it gets to the root of the issue- learning needs to allow for the students to think and conceptualize so that they can apply, not only their knowledge, but their process of thinking critically and analytically into their everyday life. I look forward to going over these ideas in class, especially with all of the teachers we have in the room!