This week’s readings are Learning to Praise by Donald A. Daiker and Teaching One-to-One, The Writing Conference by Muriel Harris. The link Muriel Harris’ piece is a diagram for comma placement. I thought this was a valuable tool, and an easy to follow one as well.
To me, the most important section in Harris’ piece was the practical advice for teachers (and tutors who are well trained) given in “Can Grammar Be Taught?” These were clear, practical strategies for helping students (or anyone) learn to proofread their writing, such as: reading out loud to find grammatical errors, strategies for sentence recognition (the parts of a sentence), subject-verb agreement, and finally, my favorite because it is a personal weakness, comma errors.
These strategies were laid out in a simple to apply approach. What I thought most interesting was some of these strategies are used by authors when proofreading their novels, like the reading out loud. It is amazing how many errors that can be caught this way. Although reading out loud is an unnatural process, a writer can quickly adapt when the reward is catching their mistakes, and ultimately feeling more confident in their writing. Some of the other strategies were asking who/what and yes/no questions to clarify subjects and predicates, and independent clauses, respectively.
What I found the most rewarding when reading through this piece was that the student is empowered with tools. It’s not an indirect approach where the student has to find an answer to a question they don’t feel confident in answering, and sometimes don’t even know where to look for the answer. Instead, they are given tools to help them master their writing, grow in confidence, and become a better writer. The goal is still the same with this conference, one-on-one style: How can the teacher/tutor help one student, at one session become a better writer?
I enjoyed reading Harris’ writing; it gives me more hope for the future of writing centers, and possibly, is what the focus of strategies should be. The other reading for this week is encouraging as well.
Learning to Praise focuses on just that—learning to praise the student. Daiker goes through how teachers are taught to look for the errors. We all remember the red marks on our papers. Sometimes, the pressure in which the marks and notes were made caused us to feel the intensity of our errors, magnifying them to the point we dread writing at all.
Daiker’s approach in this essay is for the teachers to find good things to say, not just bad. He included this quote, “The art of the teacher –at its best—is the reinforcement of good things” (Diederich, 58). I like this quote because it is what most, if not all, teachers’ desire. However, how do teachers grade papers without pointing out the errors? And if the same errors are not shown to every student, doesn’t that lead to frustrations of English being too subjective?
I do not think this is what Daiker was saying, or leaning toward. What he was interested in was finding something praiseworthy, no matter how difficult to find, in each student’s writing. That would mean knowing each student’s level of writing and working with them from that particular point to grow. Parents of more than one child know each child is different, learns differently, and grows at different rates. What if teachers (many of whom are parents themselves) were able to focus on the individual student, rather than a stack of papers? Daiker went on to discuss the value of positive reinforcement. If you have the time, his essay is worth reading and is not very long.
For those of you that are enjoying these posts, thank you for reading them. I am learning a lot about writing centers. Having been a tutor for non-English speakers for 5+ years, studying the spectrum of approaches is interesting, and hopefully, will add value to my tutoring.