This week we read ‘Introducing Students to Disciplinary Genres: The Role of the General Composition Course’ by Linton et al. I found this really interesting because the teaching of writing in different genres was the first lessons course in my ESL class. A lot of the students reported difficulty writing essays for different classes, from the sciences to the humanities and all the disciplines in between. The article touches on the different forms of reference, quote usage, and language in varying genres of writing. These are aspects Dr. Reid covered over the course of many class periods. Near the end of this lesson block, the students got to choose a specific genre to analyze. The main issue I noticed in my tutoring meetings with them was formatting and the use of what is considered evidence in the genre used. Overall I think this was a good assignment to teach awareness of different genres, and I enjoyed the further information provided in this article.
One of the biggest struggles ESL students have in writing is using a direct and linear approach in their arguments being made. This is due to cultural beliefs and instructions in schools in their native countries. I enjoyed discussing this and other ESL Academic layouts in class because it related a lot to some of the models I made for my proposal:
It was also interesting to talk about the background education of international and ESL students besides just Chinese. I enjoyed hearing the experiences of other tutors as well and look forward to continuing to compare experiences with them.
10/19/18 Writing Practicum Session
Today in class we discussed our interactions with the international students who speak English as their second language. Myself and the other writing fellows had some of the most to add given that we only work with ESL students from English 186; although, I was surprised to hear that the writing tutors also get a lot of ESL tutees and they had a lot to contribute as well. We talked about the main aspects of writing we noticed that ESL students have the most difficulty with: improper synonym use, pronouns, and using direct translations that may be inaccurate. We also compared stories of how it is sometimes hard to find out what they are trying to say in a sentence and help them reword it without making it our words rather than theirs.
Another aspect we compared that I had not previously given much thought to was that some of the ESL students feel embarrassed at not understanding certain concepts. When I look back on some of my tutoring interactions I can think of certain cues that support this. Often when I point out an error and begin to explain the grammar principle behind it, before I can even finish explaining they emphatically exclaim multiple times that “Ah okay that makes sense, I get it” even though I get the feeling they don’t fully understand just yet because I hadn’t had a chance to explain it in depth all the way. I think this is because they feel embarrassment at not grasping the concept right away and feel the need to immediately understand these grammatical rules that comes naturally to native English speakers since we have spent our whole education learning these often niche grammar practices. I also have noticed that only a few of my tutees – usually the ones who come around for help more often – are comfortable asking follow up questions or for further help. I hope that as I see the other students more, or as they confer with their fellow international students and find out there are many other people struggling with the same concepts as them, they will feel less embarrassed and more open to asking questions or admitting confusion.
Furthermore, I am currently doing the final read-throughs in order to submit my proposal about Chinese ESL students in the writing center to the SWCA. Even if I am not chosen to participate directly in the conference, I am glad I have done this research because I believe it will really improve my tutoring approaches going forward.
This week I read Jeff Brooks’s (1991) “Minimalist Tutoring: Making the Student Do All the Work”. It reminded me of what Eva and Dr. Hardy briefly touched on during their presentation when they talked about the active and passive roles a tutor can fulfill. Jeff Brook argues it is paramount that instead of trying to fix the paper and essentially become just an editor, a tutor should seek to show the student how to correct his or her paper. As a tutor for non-native speaking students, this is definitely something I think about often. It is easy for me to teach them how to structure a paper, but more difficult to teach the lesser known grammar rules. For instance, whenever I let them know that a certain word wouldn’t be plural, rather than fix it I try to teach them about subject-verb agreement so they learn not to keep making this mistake. However, it is harder to teach certain English concepts that seem to change on a case-to-case basis and have less formal rules, but I always explain the best I can and consult their grammar book if needed.
I felt like I could relate fairly well to the article “Whispers of Coming and Going”, seeing as I also tutor a lot of students who speak English as their second language. Just like Fannie, a lot of these students seem quiet and reserved, but when I hear them speaking in their native language with friends they are boisterous and outgoing. I found the story of Fannie and Morgan to be very interesting, and I liked the points made in the conclusion about how tutors must be able to adjust to their tutees, especially ESL students, and be able to listen for what they aren’t saying. I think it is also important to know the culture of the student being tutored – this reminded me of the good points made by Eva in her presentation about how to address the student, and how people with different cultural backgrounds may interpret certain phrases and statements differently. That’s something I don’t think us native speakers think about a lot, but as a tutor, it should be something we consider and try to work on in order to have the most clarity in our sessions. I think the best point made in the article was that tutors need to not only talk less but also listen more. I’ve been working to do that in my tutoring sessions because I am a naturally talkative person, but since I want to hear about the paper from the perspective of the student, it has not been too hard for me so far to just listen and then collaborate together.
Today we had Ami from career services come in to teach us about resumes for helping students and for our own. I haven’t written a resume since high school, so it was very helpful to be shown the actual formatting used. I worked on my resume and tried to model it like the packet she gave us. She also had helpful information about what kind of language to include, what jobs and accomplishments look best, and how far back into our past activities to go. It was very informative.
Today I attended a seminar by Dr. Christine Cozzens from Agnes Scott College. It was really interesting to hear about the ways in which their writing center is so advanced. I think the Oxford writing center could benefit from doing outreach events like Agnes Scott does. The idea that most excited me was having professors tell tutors what kind of work they are looking for in their students’ papers. Teachers tend to want very specific essay elements that they don’t usually directly communicate with their students, so having the writing tutors be aware of the expectations must really help in tutoring sessions. I suppose this would be a kind of cross between a tutor and a writing fellow. I hope our writing center considers incorporating this technique.