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SGarza: CommentFromCaleb-ErrorsAndExpectations

After reading Shaughnessy's introduction, quite a few points resonated with me. In my own teaching experiences, I have come across students that seemed incapable of producing a sentence because they feared making an error. During one of my tutoring experiences, I worked with a student trying to obtain a GED. Though the student seemed to understand the basics of grammar, when forced to write about anything, the student would clam up, become nervous, and would become consumed with grammar. Though this student had many outside interests, and was very capable of thinking logically, often all logic would be lost when trying to write. I found working with this student to be a challenge, mainly because I wasn't sure how to balance GED preparation with composition instruction. Thinking back on this experience and the reading, I had a few questions about the application of this method. How can teachers, tutors, etc, step away from the basics like grammar when standardized testing is the primary measure of academic excellence and institutional effectiveness? Would it be a disservice for teachers to focus on the writing process and transition of ideas in a student's writing if their students are to be measured on their ability to understand and employ basic grammar, sentence structure, and writing formats? Or, would focusing on the writing process and connecting ideas develop a student's understanding of the basics?

response from ed

Good questions Caleb. Just going by my experience in the writing center, I have asked some L2 writers about their acquisition of English. Most of them said they learned English in their home country. They were given grammar tests that entailed filling in the blanks and they were given vocabulary tests. A few of them said they did not like learning English this way. I can see this same English teaching style in what you are explaining. I think the teaching of English needs to focus more on the literacy aspect and then the fluidity will show in the student's writing.

Response from Wendy

Reading through everyone's comments as well as the readings, somehow I have reached a point where I feel the best approach is to allow the student to speak - on paper - what they are thinking without being overly concerned with the grammar rules, etc. Encourage them to draft the same way I draft - just letting the ideas flow and worrying about the format later. This applies to the idea of the second language learner as well. Some basics are necessary such as vocabulary, spelling, grammar, but the most important element is to get your thoughts communicated. Once the fear is broken of trying to get the ideas on paper or the foreign words spoken, it can be a kind of adventure to learn how to shape that into the kind of writing expected in the academic environment or the kind of language needed to talk with a native. It seems the real key in helping students learn what they need to know to pass the standardized tests is to break the fear, let them know that no one writes a perfect first draft and then they become more open to understanding how to make it 'look right'. The problem with this is breaking the teacher's fear that the students will perform poorly on the standardized test.

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Page last modified on March 08, 2011, at 05:47 PM CST