All posts by Darline Ceus

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 

Globalization

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! 

Voice in Writing​

Last week while watching Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk video about “The danger of a single story” I was able to relate to many of her experiences and agreed to the statements she made about the dangers of a single story.  Growing up in Haiti, my parents always enrolled in private schools, I enjoyed summers in resorts and lived a life unlike many others. In my younger childhood years, I was unaware of Haiti’s poverty and political destruction until I went to other places for holiday and other people would talk about terrible things happening in the country. My parents, for the most part, kept me sheltered from that reality because they planned to move out of the country in the future. After living in both Canada and the United States, I have a story about Haiti that many other people would not assume. I suppose people would expect a story of poverty, misfortune or any other stereotypes that connect when it comes to the country and living there.

Nevertheless, I, like Chimamanda have a voice in the story of Haiti that is unconventional and different from stories in the news, or books. If I were to write a truthful story about my childhood in Haiti it would sound natural to me, however, to be more persuasive for others I would probably write a different story about a reality that fits more into the stereotype of a Haitian childhood. This is a point Peter Elbow makes in his article Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries when he referenced philosopher, Aristotle. He states,

We can now see that a writer must disguise his art and give the impression of speaking naturally and not artificially. Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them. (1404b)

The point of voice in writing is further elaborated in the text. Elbow discusses the difference between writing (text) and voice ( language). He discusses in great details about the way writers have an authentic voice and one that is tuned and polished in order to create writing styles that are appropriate in context ( i.e classroom, teacher expectations, etc.)

Another point Elbow referenced in his article is from associate professor Darsie Bowden who argues that,

…voice is alive in our classrooms. Students at all levels instinctively talk and think about voice, or their voice in their writing, and tend to believe they have a real or true self—despite the best efforts of some of their teachers (170).

It is in a classroom setting that many students, unfortunately, lose their voice because teachers tell them that they should write in ways that fit categories, and proper writing formats. Students are adversely affected in this way because they are no longer able to express themselves in writing and ultimately their true voice is silenced. They then go on to write stories or text that simply gets them a satisfactory grade.

College Expectations (blog 1)

The first few weeks of classes have been tough, mostly just settling and getting used to being a college student again. During the first week of classes, I did not know where my classes were located because they were each in different buildings and also on different campuses. Even so, the idea of being a college student again and being in a classroom environment feels exciting and I am ready to take on all the opportunities Kean has to offer me. I was excited to meet my new professors and learn from them because I read about them before coming to Kean and they have done some amazing work in their careers.

My ultimate career goal is to become an education coordinator, helping students learn and teachers lead classrooms. I am excited to complete a master degree because I believe furthering my education will help me reach this career goal. I expect the work to be challenging yet very rewarding and inspire me to learn new skills and concepts in writing and literature.

The first reading for theory class was Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer, I haven’t read any work by this professor yet and this one was very informational for understanding the English major and study. In the article, Lauer explains the relationship between rhetoric and composition. She describes composition as writing in a different context. She further explains the history of how composition established in the 1960s developed largely in the 20th century. Furthermore, she evaluates written discourse (that is rhetoric) and its significance to writing. Rhetoric is essential to understating grammar, reasoning, and philosophy. In the end, she concludes that rhetorical studies have increased greatly in interested over the years. Studies in combustion and rhetoric have made an impact on teaching and pedagogies.