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“Aurality”…Say that Three Times Fast

“Participation means being able to speak in one’s own voice, and thereby simultaneously to construct and express one’s cultural identity through idiom and style” -Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere.”

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The author of this article, Cynthia L. Selfe, successfully composed a well-stated problem and solutions to something that I have thought about for years. With her strong voice and opinions supported by research, Selfe demands that teachers and scholars broaden their minds to a world outside the traditional writing pen to paper in a classroom. The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing(https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.dmacinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/selfe-aurality-composing.pdf), is a pot full of ideas, opinions, statements, research, and examples of how the classroom has shifted into a multimodal environment. There were also a few surprises in this article as well that I will elaborate more on later. I was thoroughly impressed that an educator and scholar could have such a “colorful” mind. I am using “colorful” as a way to describe her not overlooking people of color who have suffered in the American education system. Selfe made it clear what her intentions were for this article. She is not telling the reader what to do but suggesting and guiding. She also explains the history of aurality and how that has changed in the classroom setting. Here are her three main points:

  1. I argue that the relationship between aurality (and visual modalities) and writing have limited our understanding of composing as a multimodal rhetorical activity and has thus, deprived students of valuable semiotic resources for making meaning. (Also the history of writing in the U.S. composition instruction).
  2. A single-minded focus on print in composition classrooms ignores the importance of aurality and other composing modalities for making meaning and understanding the world.
  3. I suggest that the almost exclusive dominance of print legacy works against the interests of individuals whose cultures and communities have managed to maintain value on multiple modalities of expression, multiple and hybrid ways of knowing, communicating, and establishing identity.

Her suggestion for this problem: “I suggest we need to pay attention to both writing and aurality, and other composing modalities, as well. I hope to encourage teachers to develop an increasingly thoughtful understanding of a whole range of modalities and semiotic resources in their assignments and then to provide students the opportunities of developing expertise with all available means of persuasion and expression, so that they can function as literate citizens in a world where communications cross geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic borders and are enriched rather than diminished by semiotic dimensionality”

(Selfe, 617-618).

She states that race, gender, and class all play crucial roles when it comes to this issue. Such as male (white) children receiving the best education resulting in them becoming statesmen, ministers, and high in the legal field. On the other end of the spectrum, women and people of color received poor education and majority of the time, no education at all. “Many black citizens were denied access to schools with adequate resources and other had to abandon their own formal education to help their families survive the economic hardships that continued to characterize the lives of blacks in both the North and the South (Hibbitts). (Selfe, 624). The sad part of this statement is that this is still an ongoing issue. What I thought was interesting was how Selfe demands that more respect comes in the classrooms when it comes to people from a different class, gender, or race besides the “acceptable” and “normal” white, the male student in the U.S.

One of the last parts of this article that caught my attention was this: “In 1973, Wilson Snipes investigated the hypothesis that ‘orientation to an oral culture has helped cause a gradual decrease in student ability to handle written English in traditionally acceptable ways’, citing ‘haphazard punctuation,’ ‘loose rambling style,’ and ‘diminutive vocabulary’, writing that is ‘superficial, devoid of subtle distinctions,’ and thought that remains ‘fixed in a larval state’ (629-630). Hopefully, my question will be answered in class on Monday, and my question is what does that mean exactly?

Selfe encourages the value of a multimodal classroom environment. Teachers should pay more attention to how writing and teaching writing comes in various forms. Today’s world is constantly changing. There needs to be respect represented in the classroom for other cultures, backgrounds, and class. Lastly, she emphasizes how teachers feel they do not have enough time in with their students to create a balanced learning environment that involves a multimodal platform. How should that problem be solved? 


Final Project Sketch

Jeanne: I had an idea of using coloring or art to spark enthusiasm in the students in the writing classroom. I love music as well, so I was also thinking about using music. Create a mashup of two songs. One that you love and one that you can’t stand and see what happens. Do you feel differently about the song? How did the feeling of comparing and contrast feel and how would you use that for your writing?

Serken: There is a “trend” going around of girls using the “black girl” as a cosplay costume instead of realizing that being a black female is a not a costume. They are human beings. However, when they post themselves of them in their “cosutme”, they can easily pass as a person of color. These girls post these photos on Instagram and Twitter causing others to fantasize and others low self-esteem.

Christina: I was thinking about using my own writing maybe for this section. My “voice” was never accepted when it came to writing and identity in the classroom. I am still trying to work this one out. I could use some feedback and class on how to go about this section.

Darlene: *Subject to change* I was thinking about using some of the articles from class for this section, depending on what the subject is. However, I am sure that the topic that is chosen will link well with the articles I had in mind. Articles about revision and rewriting in the classroom.

Vee: For my section, I would like to include videos and images to express my concern for the politics of language in a basic classroom. Along with those images and videos, I would insert a small blurp underneath giving a description on why I believe this is relatable to my topic. I will base this all on my own experience of dealing with the unawareness I had with the politics of language in my learning environment. For that, I will use the example I used this semester with Lena from “A Different World”.

Revision Strategies… Blog post 9

The article Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers discusses the different models of the writing process. Her focus primarily is on the revision part of the writing process. In the article, she describes revision as ” a sequence of changes in a composition-changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work” (pg. 380). She presents two other theories of revision from educators Gordon Rohman and James Britton.

  • Gordon Rohman’s suggest that the composting process moves
    from prewriting to writing to rewriting (“A writer is a man who … puts [his] experience into words in his own mind”-p. 15)
  • James Britton’s model of the  writing process as a series of stages described in metaphors of linear growth (conception-incubation-production)v

Revision, in Rohman’s model, is simply the repetition of writing; or to pursue Britton’s organic metaphor, revision is simply the further growth of what is already there the “pre-conceived” product. The absence of research on revision, then, is a function of a theory of writing which makes revision both superfluous and redundant, a theory which does not distinguish between writing and speech. (pg.379)

Both theories are modeled on the forms of speech of the writer. In order to properly analyze these theories of writing, Sommers conducts a case study comparing student and adult writers.

The student writers were twenty freshmen at Boston University and the University of Oklahoma with SAT verbal scores ranging from 450-600 in their first semester of composition. The twenty ex-perienced adult writers from Boston and Oklahoma City included journalists, editors, and academics. To refer to the two groups, I use the terms student writers and writers because the difference between these experienced principal two groups is the amount of experience they have had in writing. (pg 380)

These two groups of writers were asked to write three essays and revise it twice for a final product. The results showed that the student writers “did not seem comfortable using the word revision and explained that revision was not a word they used” (pg. 380). The experienced writers, on the other hand, “describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument” (pg. 384)

Her article further discuss these two models of the revision process and the different approach of both groups of writers. This article is important in the context of teaching writing because it is a very important process that all students must learn and teachers should teach students the best ways to revise their work.

Read the Article Here   

I agree with Serkan’s idea of fake news as a theme for the class group project. I think it is an important part of the class research as well as its opportunity to be creative.  We can each present a fake news and discuss its relationship to teaching students in the classroom.

Creative and Functional: Revision vs. Rewriting

Every writer, whether student or professional, has a process for the journey from ideas to finished product. How the writer learns and interacts with that process is the topic discussed in both Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers as well as Teaching Writing as Process Not Product, by Donald Murray. Both pieces provide insight and inspiration collected through many years of experience.

Nancy Sommers led Harvard’s Expository Writing Program for 20 years and established the Harvard Writing Project. She is a renowned researcher and the author of several books on compositional studies. In Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, Nancy Sommers outlines several theorists that support writing as a linear process connected mainly to the function of oration. She then takes the reader through the portal of her case study which investigates the relationship to revision in student and experienced writers.

The essay outlines the significant distinctions that contrast approaches to the stages of writing in student writers verses experienced adult writers. The students tended toward a “thesaurus philosophy of writing[1],” with their main focus on cleaning up the word choices and checking for redundancy. The thesis statement was acting as a cage with a suffocating component rather than a structure on which to build. On the other hand, the experienced writers tended toward a relationship with revision that was not linear, allowing and inviting each change impact the whole. The process involved honing the argument and refining lines of reasoning. It often engaged the perceived reader as a collaborator as the writer transforms the content into a thesis. The thesis is part of the evolution of the product becoming a structure on which to build further. The reader arrives soundly on the other side; with the understanding that revision is not just a rewording activity. Through the work accomplished in this case, study Sommers redefined revision as “a sequence of changes in a composition. Changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work[2].”

Donald Murray was a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and columnist for The Boston Globe. He was a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire for twenty-six years as well as a writing coach for several national newspapers. Donald Murray’s mission was to demystify the process of writing. He explored the habits, processes, and practices of writers and took seriously his role of the coach; generously sharing his findings. Murray divides the writing process into three distinct stages: prewriting, writing and rewriting[3]. Although his outline follows the seemingly linear format that Sommers’ critiques, Murray’s presentation of the process is anything but linear.

Murray adds and emphasizes the human touch of the teacher. He presents the importance of the educator’s role in influencing the relationship a student develops to their writing. An educator must consistently redirect and re-engage the student in the process of seeking out their truth. Murray encourages the reader to teach process not product and create curriculums from this vantage point. He places listening and interaction at the heart of compositional studies and reveals ten implications of teaching in this style which include student-driven text, unique subjects and language, multiple drafts as needed, creativity and functionality side by side, individual exploration, alternatives without limitation, time, mechanics and in the end a grade. Murray emphasizes the importance of time and space to allow a process to unfold before completing a final product. Even then, the writer is never finished.

Although I found Nancy Sommers’ case study very interesting as a starting place, it fell short for me in several regards. I would argue that the variables were only subjectively distinguished. In separating groups by age and experience, many other questions were opened and left unaddressed. I would like to test long-term studies to see what stages are contingent on the development of the frontal lobe of the brain and a result of matured executive functioning. I would also like to track more specific distinctions in learning style using the seven different styles that have been outlined by Mainemelis, Boyatzis, and Kolb: visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary[4]. Working with a similar process to Sommers, I would like to analyze data through the lens of these learning categories.

I would also like to find a way to isolate the significance of mentorship and coaching in the development of writers from student to experienced writer. Inherent in Sommers’ study is the idea of making independent writers. Relationship to the teacher is implied, but not directly connected to the data. Murray emphasized this component in his work. I believe mentorship and human interaction is a vital part of the process is. That is where the art of teaching comes in to play. Even in a classroom setting each writer can and should be addressed as an individual with a unique process. I believe this is what Murray meant when he said: “respect the student .” By nature, students are result/goal oriented. It’s the nature of the education system because grades have been an essential way to codify and measure learning.

In some ways, I think the process is just as it should be. Every so often each learner comes upon a mentor that shifts the process from autopsy to a living and connected experience. These moments are magical, precious and select. I always heard that it takes ten years to no longer be a beginner at anything. In my experience, writing has stages to pass through. I see each stage as a rite of passage each time I go through the process. I love the loose way that Murray outlines the stages and then infuses the personal touch.

Questions about the content of the articles:

1). Maturity is progressive, and executive functioning develops as the frontal lobe of the brain matures. For most this process continues into the mid or late twenties. Perhaps to teach these more evolved forms of “revision” will create more opportunity for stress and frustration. Is the linear process necessary for young writers to become the more developed experienced writer?

2). Regarding inspiring student writers. How much of that is the teacher’s responsibility and how much the student’s responsibility to be present, open, and engaged?

3). The question of time. How much of it is a lack of time?

4). Is the problem the fact that students think it is supposed to be easy? How do we teach process without suffocating creativity? How do you inspire? How do you engage? How do you find the “truth?”

 

Footnotes:

[1] Sommers, N. (1982). Responding to Student Writing. College Composition and Communication, 33(2), 148-156. doi:10.2307/357622 p381

[2] Sommers, N. (1982). Responding to Student Writing. College Composition and Communication, 33(2), 148-156. doi:10.2307/357622 p. 381

[3] Villanaueva, Victor. Cross-Talk In Comp Theory. A Reader. Urbana, Illinois. “Teaching Writing as Process Not Product.” Donald Murray.

[4] Mainemelis, C., Boyatzis, R. E., & Kolb, D. A. (2002). Learning Styles and Adaptive Flexibility: Testing Experiential Learning Theory. Management Learning33(1), 5–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507602331001

 

Further reading that I would like to connect to these two essays:

  • James Zull

http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el200409_zull.pdf

  • Learning styles:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1350507602331001

  • Cassidy:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0144341042000228834?needAccess=true

 

Regarding end of they year group project:

I love the idea that seems to be settling of a potluck website. My understanding is that we each pick a theme to submit and then everyone will make an entry on each of the themes.

The theme I would like to put forth is the idea of inspiring students to write and revise. I am interested in how each person in our class would present an assignment that leaves the space and time that Murray referred to in his essay. How would you create an assignment that both leaves room for a search for the truth and develops the skill of mechanics and argument simultaneously. So the assignment should have room for three revisions as Sommers presented in her study.

 

 

 

 

Revising a Journey

Reading the articles, Teach Writing As a Process Not Product and Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, by Donald Murray and Nancy Sommers respectively, made me visualize an analogy of sort. The message that the articles attempt to share is basically allowing students use the language as a tool to discover themselves. The writing process in itself should be a reflection of their personalities and views on life; understanding who they really are. Therefore, an analogy such as the following could be made from it:

There is an inexperienced guide who wishes to make a trip into an unknown region. He believes that making a solo trip will allow him to earn the experience he needs in order to become a real and dependable guide. Based on what he knows, also on his own intuition and expectations of what is to come, he begins to make the necessary preparations for it. He could visualize his journey; an informative experience consist of trials and hardships out in the wilderness. A backpack full of important items, a sleeping bag, and even a walking stick are all included in his list of ideal components.

The first steps of the journey make him excited, as well as pretty nervous. He considers the possibility of failing in his quest but manages to find the courage to continue. A lot of effort is required of him. He treks through an unknown land full of forests, hills, and streams. He makes mistakes along the way, such as taking the wrong turns or following the wrong trails, but he figures out the perfect path to reach the destination; the farthest reach of the land. He begins to realize that the journey is a self-discovery of his own nature in actuality and the path-finding aspect is only an incentive. He keeps a paper with drawings and notes on it. As he discovers more paths and signs, he jots down more notes or discards others. Eventually, he makes it to the end of his journey and recalls his full experience for one final reflection of his achievement.

He now feels the need to perfect a map and share it with others. Based on his recollection, he makes the adjustments needed. A map with great artwork and crucial marginal notes that displays the region with utmost details is created. The sheet of paper is basically a culmination of his full experience he has earned from his journey, and it is ready to be shared by everyone else who is interested. He now feel confident that he has taken a big step toward becoming a great guide in the future.

 

Final Project:

In our last class, we have decided to create a web-page that displays written works based on different themes. I think, I would like to go with the theme/topic that we have already explored in the class and it is Fake News. Or rather, being more specific, exploration of how people conceive what truth is and how they choose “the truth” that benefits them the most. There is a couple of sources that come to my mind which would be very useful for this project. One of them is a YouTube video showcasing a psychological study in relation to this particular topic. Another source is an old article I had read long time ago, and it is about the concept of truth. It examines how people choose to believe in “the truth” by the way it is presented to them. Though, I will have to find the article first in order to be able to use it. Of course, Equity Unbound could also be a great resource.

Writing Process/Revision: We Need to do Better

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness.” -Donald M. Murray (4)

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I never seem to get bored when it comes to reading our weekly articles. I love the adrenaline feeling when I learn something new. There were many nuggets throughout both articles that I had never heard before or seen the perspective of. Both quotes from the articles above stood out to me because of the honesty it carried. The first one, from Donald M. Murray, discusses the process of writing and how it affects the students’ writing. Murray states that we should treat writing as a process and not a product. What I found interesting was how he described the process we should teach:

  1. It is the process of discovery through language.
  2. It is the process of exploration of what we know and what we feel about what we know and what we feel about what we know through language.
  3. It is the process of using language to learn about our world, to evaluate what we learn about our world, to communicate what we learn about our world.

(Murray, 4)

I never heard someone say that we should appreciate the fact that a piece of writing is never truly finished. Usually, what students are taught is to hand in a draft, revise it, and then hand in a final draft. Some teachers allow two or three drafts. I personally have not that opportunity unless I was in one of my required writing courses during my undergraduate years. In high school, it was just that “process.” Write, revise, hand in “final.” I value lessons that allow teachers to not be so set in their ways and prideful that teachers can’t learn new ideas and tricks. That is exactly what Murray suggested in the first quote above; teach unfinished writing.

Murray also mentioned ten implications to the writing process:

  1. The text of the writing course is the student’s writing.
  2. The student finds his own subject.
  3. The student uses his own language.
  4. The student should have the opportunity to write all the drafts necessary for him or her to discover what he has to say on this particular subject.
  5. The student is encouraged to attempt any form of writing which may help him, or she discover and communicate what they have to say.
  6. Mechanics come last.
  7. There must be time for the writing process to take place and time for it to end.
  8. Papers are examined to see what other choices the writer might make.
  9. The students are individuals who must explore the writing process in their own way, some fast, some slow, whatever it takes for them, within the limits of the course deadlines, to find their own way to their own truth.
  10. There are no rules, no absolutes, just alternatives. What works one time may not another. All writing is experimental.

These implications don’t require much. According to Murray, they require, “a teacher who will respect and respond to his or her students, not for what they produced, but for what they may produce, if they are given an opportunity to see writing as a process, not a product” (Murray, 5). This statement is what the article is all about. As a future teacher and learner, I believe applying this method would show a significant shift in the classroom culture.

“Good writing disturbs: it creates dissonance. Students need to seek the dissonance of discovery, utilizing in their writing, as the experienced writers do, the very difference between writing and speech-the possibility of revision.” -Nancy Sommers (387)

Tieing Murray’s article to Nancy Sommer’s article, she discusses another important aspect of writing that I don’t hear much about either, which is inspiration. Just like the unfinished writing, inspiration was something that my teachers did not strive upon. I had to be analytical and sound a certain way to have the “okay” for my teachers to give me a passing grade. Sommers, however, explains how a student’s level of inspiration is what’s going to allow them to write to their best ability.

“For the students, the extent to which they revise is a function of their level of inspiration. In fact, they use the word inspiration to describe the ease or difficulty with which their essay is written, and the extent to which the essay needs to be revised. If students feel inspired if the writing comes easily and if they don’t get stuck on individual words or phrases, then they say that they cannot see any reason to revise. Because students do not see revision as an activity in which they modify and develop perspectives and ideas, they feel that if they know what they want to say, then there is little reason for making revisions” (Sommers, 382).

There needs to be more of a push for students to want to write, not a need. What I took away from these two articles are not only reviewing strategies but that we need to rethink what the purpose of the classroom is for. Is the classroom a place for sacrificing young minds to create a product that doesn’t benefit them? Or is a place to create and recreate a writing process for students to become experienced writers and become inspired?

“This process of discovery through language we call writing can be introduced to your classroom as you have a very simple understanding of that process, and as soon as you accept the full implications of teaching process, not product” (Murray, 4).

We need to do better…

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POTLUCK!: Reflection on Final Project

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I was really inspired from last week’s class from the idea created by my classmates of having a Potluck website for our final project. The theme that I had in mind to bring to the table was the idea of language. The two articles from my presentations during this semester have broadened my spectrum when it comes to the idea of what language really is and how it can affect students during their learning process. Starting off with my own experience of language and discover how my home dialect conflicted with academic writing. Second language speakers, native English speakers, ASL, all of these language barriers are brought to the classroom. Unfortunately, there are not many methods and teachings on how to deal with them. I would like to contribute the articles and findings of my own from this semester to the Potluck along with whatever my fellow grad classmates have in mind as well.

 

A Quick Stop by the Writing Center

The first thing I remembered after reading the article, Tutoring ESL Students:
Issues and Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, was the Learner Autonomy class that I had to take when I was an undergraduate student. More specifically, the time when we had guests from the writing center of the university who conducted an exceptional long presentation for us. The goal of their presentation was encouraging students to take full advantage of their services in writing center. It was a meticulous and an effective presentation. As I had expected, none of the students in that class decided to attend any of those tutoring sessions afterwards. I knew ESL students all too well.

I still find it fascinating to this day, that majority of ESL students are very reluctant for tutoring in writing. I believe one major problem tends to be the fear that stems from the idea of being inadequate. I’m sure most ESL teachers deal with this issue quite often. I remember a certain student from one of my ESL courses who could write poems in her own language and share them with others during breaks. Unfortunately, she used to struggle with English and it was obvious that made her tense during the lessons. That inability to take full advantage of the language caused her to feel incompetent and she was reluctant to push herself to full potential. ESL students feel the need to hide their proficiency level, especially if they believe it is at a low level. It serves as a great obstacle. Attending the writing center is seen by some as a sign of weakness. So, most of the students avoid it. The students who do not shy away from it are the ones who stand a great chance of improving their abilities in writing.

It is important to note that some of those attentive students might have different set of expectations than intended. As the article puts it: “Tutors are supposed to be educators, not personal editors. This problem is often a result of a mismatch between the assumptions and expectations of tutors and students.” That seems to be the case most of the time. The students attend sessions in writing center simply to get their essays edited out before handing them in. One possible reason why this sort of expectation occurs could be the way that writing centers are promoted as. They need to be seen as additional lessons. As in, certain students require “make-up” classes to improve their abilities without spotlighting the inadequacy and making sure that the focus of these sessions are not just error-correcting.

There was an example in the article about the usage of prepositions and how it could be challenging to delve into. It was this particular statement: “Tutors can be reduced to stunned silence when they try to explain why we say ‘on Monday’ but ‘in June’.” Although I understood what the intention was, I believe the chosen example was poor. Prepositions indeed pose a great challenge for ESL students to comprehend but it is not the basic form as shown in that example. I remember doing a preposition exercise in the class with domino pieces (actually cutout papers) after going over an intuitive chart that displays the rules; general settings require ‘in’, more specific settings require ‘on’, and very specific settings require ‘at’. The students could always recall back to that fun exercise and correct their errors; it was not that hard. I believe a more complex preposition comparison such as ‘about’ vs. ‘of’, when to use which, would have been a better example to display in the article (I do not know why this bugged me so much).

Speaking of errors, the article makes an interesting distinction between global errors and local errors. This was a topic of many discussions in my TESOL classes in university. Though, I can’t seem to recall if we ever used those particular terms from the article while we were discussing them. An example from one of the discussions included the answer “I think, it went boring” after being asked: “How was the meeting?” The verb ‘went’ does not seem to make sense in that context but the logic is something transferred from the mother language of the student. The article suggests that these types of patterns could be detected by the instructor. However, I do not think it is necessarily easy to correct them on the spot without explaining the reasoning. Obviously, a grammatical reasoning could be offered but it is not a local error as mentioned. Global errors in writing, especially by ESL students, occur by mixing the logic of two different languages. Although I am certain a more in-depth lesson about this issue could be conducted in class, offering alternative examples as to why the term ‘went’ does not sound right would probably the best approach to handle it during a session in the writing center, where the time and resources are limited.

It is difficult to handle these sorts of issues at times. The section of the article that introduces certain strategies reminded me of my own presentation from last week. It was based on the article, Writing Comments on Students Papers, by John Bean and there are a lot of parallels between the two articles in terms of how to effectively resolve certain issues in writing. Of course, the effectiveness depends on the execution by the instructor. One specific common strategy mentioned was hierarchy of errors to be concerned about; higher-order issues such as ideas, organization, and development that tend to be more rhetorical in comparison to lower-order issues such as grammar, spelling, and style that could be addressed better at a final stage.

This article ended up being a great follow-up to previous week’s. It was very informative, and it could also serve as a reminder of many important aspects that we have discussed in class so far. It certainly did remind me of many things from my own experience and it is a great thing; being conscious of possible issues in order to be ready to deal with them when encountered.

Tutoring ESL Students

In the article Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options, English professors and authors Muriel Harris and Tony Silva discuss the roles of tutors when it comes to teaching ESL students. The author’s main points explain that as non-native English speakers, ESL students need individualized attention that teaching requires. The authors explain that when language is the barrier, the best teaching strategy is “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).  In the article, they provide strategies and tips for tutoring ESL students. One very important strategy that the authors mention at the beginning of the article is that tutors should take into consideration multiculturalism. ESL students are multilingual and have prior language and/or writing skills. This is important to understand because tutors should not approach the transfer as negative or positive but as a different way of learning for these students. This will make the relationship between tutor and student more bearable and productive. After all, the authors state that “understanding and accommodating cultural differences are, to a great extent, what ESL instruction is all about” (p.527).

The first approach that Harris and Silva suggest is for tutors to become aware of a student’s rhetorical preference in writing.  This is important to know because then they will prioritize what is most important to fix. Instead of trying to correct every error,  tutors should categorize what is the most important things to fix in order to resolve the general problem. These problems include mistakes in grammar (verbs, nouns, articles, preposition),  rhetorical approach and vocabulary choices. The authors urge tutors not to simply tell ESL student how to fix errors but provide “them with strategies that will make them effective, independent writers” (531).

In a research review conducted by Silva comparing ESL and native English speakers writing style, the results showed that ESL writers write the way that “sounds right” as compared to native English writers. In order to fix this problem and help students become independent writers, the authors suggest that tutors should read out loud with their students.  This is often difficult because ESL students are expecting tutors to correct all the grammatical errors in their paper. This is a problem the authors mention in the relationship between tutor and student. Instead of learning the rules, “ESL writers often come to the writing center seeking an editor, someone who will mark and correct their errors and help them fix the paper.” (pg. 530). On the other hand, tutors “want to begin with rhetorical concerns before looking at sentence-level matters” (pg.531). Both parties should negotiate an approach that will have the best learning outcome and that is for ESL student to learn and know the rules, not just told how to fix their grammar mistakes on a paper, also tutors should do their best to accommodate a multilingual learning style.

I thought the most important approach in the article was the first point the authors mentioned, which is for tutors to understand that ESL students do have prior learning and writing skills. These skills are already there, tutors need to bring out these skills in the context of learning a difficult language.

Read the Article Here

Blog 8: Tutors as Writing Collaborators/ Our Group Collaboration

Last week we brainstormed the start of some ideas for our group project. All week I have been thinking about Serken’s idea of a “potluck display.” There are so many creative directions this idea can go, and it seems like we could use it as a jumping off point for each person’s individual interest. My understanding was different “writings” on small strips of paper served up as a potluck meal. Everyone brings their dish, and together we share it as a meal. In the spirit of revising, or “re-visioning,” I thought maybe we could work independently of some piece of writing and take it through several drafts that will be shared in our group meetings. We will have a chance to work with some of the pedagogical theories we read in class regarding feedback, etc. In this class and also Children’s Lit we have been talking about the willingness to cut out the parts of our work that we feel are most precious. In the spirit of all of these ideas, we can take a final draft and shred it into strips and “serve” at our potluck. This idea of a potluck reminded me of a saying that my friend has: “word salad.” She uses this phrase when someone is talking and saying nothing. Maybe together we can make the side salad out of a collection of fake news?

Our reading this week was entitled, Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options, by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/358388?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

The gist of this article to me is that learning a second language is a long slow process, a journey. The ultimate goal is real learning and writing improvement over time, not just a polished paper, no matter the language background. Language proficiency is the goal for everyone, both for second language learners and for native English speakers.
I have always lived and worked in an environment where people of all backgrounds and cultures were thrown into the same learning environment. Connecting to all different kinds of people has been one of my favorite parts of working in the arts. While there are both strong and weak teachers in every area, I have been fortunate to have some incredible mentors along the way. One of the things I have treasured in my favorites has been accountability for the learning process of students. I was taught at a young age, that if a student doesn’t understand, then it is my job as the teacher to find another way to explain. When language is the barrier, it is my job to move that student beyond that barrier. It is my responsibility to be aware, observant and creative. I take that responsibility seriously and have found it to be one of my favorite parts of being a teacher. I appreciated having these points outlined through the lens of responsibility of an ESL Tutor. The authors state this point concisely in this phrase: “Understanding and accommodating cultural differences are, to a great extent, what ESL instruction is all about (p.527).”

One of the most critical points in the article came toward the end but struck me as an important starting place. The authors address the idea of managing expectations and setting goals. “ESL students need to know that tutors are expected to help them with strategies that will make them effective, independent writers. We need to explicitly state that tutors are supposed to be educators, not personal editors (p. 532.)” This point is important in any learning environment. Not only are there different languages in a room, but there are also different learning styles. Some people are visual learners. Some people are auditory learners. As a teacher, I learn so much from these differences. When expectations are clear, miscommunication can be minimized, and connection maximized. I loved the reminder of the quote by Steve North regarding the goal of a tutor: “to produce better writers, not better writing.” Ironically, by helping the writer clarify their process, it is likely that the writing will improve. I also love the reminder to resist the urge to tell students how to do things. Instead, the authors encouraged tutors to offer opportunities for the student to explore and find their solutions. When English proficiency impedes that process, then the tutor may need to be creative in solutions or opportunities to practice rhetorical skills.
I like the learning hierarchies presented in this article and find them to be great metaphors for other forms of teaching as well. For example, begin by looking for what has been done well in the paper, acknowledge that, and go from there. Then prioritize among errors. Distinguish between errors that will interfere with the intended reader’s understanding of the text (global errors) and those that will not (local errors) and to give priority to the former (p.526). When the learning goals are clear, students tend to be more likely to embrace the slow process described by Harris and Silva; with emphasis on the composing process (p.529). I see it as an invitation to engage. I know from my own experience that I tend to remain in the superficial aspects of learning when I have not received clear guidance or a roadmap to the learning journey. In the writing context, that would translate to an emphasis on the quick fix of sentence structure.
One of my mentors used to remind new teachers that 80% of our job is repetition in some form. She would reiterate that this is most important to remember when we feel we have been repeating something many times and someone or several people are not “getting it.” When I as the teacher am most frustrated, I have to call on my reserves to find yet another way to clarify something. In the writing context, it is especially important to remember, that “the rules of English vary in terms of level of usefulness (p. 534).” Creative repetition is essential. Not only is the ESL writing student dealing with the time-consuming learning process; they are also contending with the extraordinary abnormalities of the English language.

Tutoring ESL Students: Tutors to the Rescue!

“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” (Harris and Silva, 525).

esl

This was a great article to pick up where I left off from my first presentation about teaching in a multilingual world. After hitting the shell of how teachers and students are becoming more accustomed to multilingual students and integration of different types of speakers in a single classroom setting, this article hits the core of one of the major problems in our learning-teaching environment, which is tutoring ESL students. Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, educators and authors of this article talk about the importance of ESL requiring “individualized attention” to become proficient writers. They break down the problems in the writing centers, but they also suggest how tutoring ESL students could be improved. Throughout the reading, they emphasize that aside from ESL students having different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, there are various learning styles across the board. The key is to find what strategies and learning styles work for each individual student. What I also found interesting was that Harris and Silva also shine a light on how teaching style works for the tutor for them to teach and guide the students in the right direction in their writing.

The authors brought up a point about tutoring ESL students that I had not thought about before. The students want to know the rules, not just told how to fix their grammar mistakes on a paper. “Although tutors do not work primarily on grammar and mechanics, some ESL writers-especially those whose first acquaintance with English was as a foreign language taught in classrooms in other countries have a tendency to want to know rules” (Harris and Silva, 530). ESL students should not be cheated out of the experience of learning English but should be granted the same opportunity and time that native speakers of English are given. (Simply my personal opinion). This connects with another problem that was brought up; some ESL students would rather have the grammatical errors corrected for them by the tutors instead of learning the rules. This puts the tutors in an awkward position where they are not able to do their job effectively. Thus leading to low productivity from the tutor and the student. The role of a tutor is not to simply tell the student what is right or wrong in their papers. “ESL students need to know that tutors are expected to help them with strategies that will make them effective, independent writers” (Harris and Silva, 531). A tutor should be given a high level of respect, and we (in the educator world) need to stand behind these tutors and defend them as real educators, even though they are not in the traditional academic setting.

One strategy that Harris and Silva suggest that would help ESL students excel in learning English and having sessions with their tutors is reading out loud. The students are able to find more mistakes, and it helps. However, the con to an ESL student using this strategy is that not all students can edit “by ear.” These students are not at a certain level of English proficiency to hear what mistakes are being made on their papers. With the help of a tutor, who is a native speaker of English could read their work out loud and guide them through this strategy.

The last point I would like to make is that there is research available for tutors on what ESL writers have the most issues. According to this research, Harris, and Silva state that there are, “four error types account for most of the errors made by ESL writers with a fairly high level of English proficiency…”(534). Those four are “verbs, nouns, articles, and prepositions.” My presentation will discuss further the specifics of each category. At the end of the day, teaching ESL students are about help and guidance. “Understanding and accommodating cultural differences is, to a great extent, what ESL instruction is all about. This is especially true when working with students who are very new to and not very cognizant of the workings of American culture” (Harris and Silva, 528). 

Writing Comments on Student Papers

As a teacher, it comes without saying that you are expected to grade papers. It is an inevitable task that is part of the job responsibility. Teachers of all grade levels from grade school to college have graded student papers in the course of their career. Even so, grading papers is a challenging task that can either hurt or help students when it comes to writing. In his essay Writing Comments on Student Papers, author John Bean discusses this topic and provides several strategies on how best to complete this task.

It is true that teachers do read a massive amount of papers. Often times they are reading papers that are not the best writing and as a result, they let their irritation show on the page by writing harsh or sarcastic comments on student papers. Bean makes a differentiation in those comments, he states that the best kind of comments: “enhance writers feeling of dignity” in comparison, the worst kind of comments are “dehumanizing and insulting”. Even though teachers want students to write better papers they don’t often show that in their comments. Students often read teacher comments and get discouraged and think that they are not good writers. In order to show the reaction of students, Bean presents a 1990 study conducted by researches Spandel and Siggins. In the section Students Responses to Teacher Comments, several students were interviewed to show the reaction of teacher comments on their papers. The comments were “needs to be more concise”, “you haven’t really thought this through”, “try harder”. As you can expect the result of these negative comments, (although well-intentioned) tend to “make students feel bewildered, hurt, or angry” (pg. 319). This is what Bean urges teachers to stay away from. Additionally, in another study (conducted at a large midwestern university), the best form of feedback is the mitigated criticism, a type of feedback that combines both positive and negative comments. This result correlates with Bean’s argument that in order to improve techniques for commenting on student papers “we need to remember our purpose, which is not to point out everything that is wrong with the paper but to facilitate improvement” (pg.321).
I expected the result of these studies to favor the more positive comments because students are encouraged to change their papers when they are not bombarded with comments that make them feel fearful and lack ambition.

Furthermore, Bean discusses the purpose of commenting on student papers, which he writes is to coach revision. When teachers first receive a student draft they should focus on identifying these main points.

  • Identify the thesis
  • does the draft follow the assignment?
  • where is the paper going?
  • what are the authors main ideas/arguments?
  • is the draft effectively organized?

If the paper lacks any of these essential elements the marginal comments should address it while being limited to a few problems.

The general strategy for commenting on drafts:

  • Comment on the tile and introduction
  • Comment on topic sentences
  • Comment on grammar, punctuation, and spelling

After giving coaching advice, Bean suggests that teachers should give students at least one week to edit their draft. That way they have ample time to make corrections and rethink about their papers. He also recommends that teachers allow rewrites.

I noticed that in the article Bean considers comments on grammar, punctuation, and spelling to be “lower-order concerns” (pg.330). Nevertheless, he makes it clear that when he suggests minimal marking he is not advocating for teachers to be soft on grading errors, but they should let students know that there will be points deducted off their papers if they do not make these corrections. I also agree with this idea because these small mistakes can easily get fixed by students and save teachers time.

OLD/ NEW Contract examples: 

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Another issue Bean discuss is the topic of writing style. This is apart from the concern of grammar errors. The writing style is based on technical language and the voice of a student. Although this is not a commenting issue, Bean suggests that teachers should address their pet peeve about style to their students (ex: chappy sentences, lazy use of “ this “ as a pronoun, etc) before they write comments.

Bean concludes his essay with a call to action for teachers to improve their grading. In order to make his point about this important part of grading, Bean makes a comparison to the butterflies. He writes that the end comment of a draft is like a butterfly without the metamorphosis. At this point of the writing, it is a caterpillar, however, with proper feedback and revision, it will become like a butterfly. I thought this was an excellent imagery of the writing process. In order for teachers to enhance positive emotion, the final comments should show

1) show the strengths of the paper
2) include Summary of a limited number of problems
3) include recommendations for revision
Overall, I thought the article was a great piece of advice for teachers and any other profession that grade student papers. I agree that teacher comments should be a guiding light that allows students to achieve their highest quality of work. Most importantly, teacher comments should encourage students to take pleasure in redoing their papers correctly.

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