When reading Elspeth Stuckey and Robert Yagelski and their views on the “violence” literacy can create in different populations, I never figured to tie it to ESL students. After watching American Tongues and that other video in the Writing Center meeting, I can see how the North American education system can brand ESL students as “ineffective writers” who can therefore be “denied avenues of advancement” (210). The cognitive, formal approach of writing for New Criticism (or the audience only), can also be a detriment to sociological advancement, which is key for ESL students who are trying to learn and communicate in a second language. As Canagarajah points out, this can turn ESL students into “automatons,” creating “static, passive, and one-dimensional” text (212). So how can we prevent the creation of a literary robot? I think Canaragajah has a good idea in creating writing as an activity instead of just looking at it as an object (213). By making it part of daily life, and looking at it through different lenses (also working on in the Boician sense, a little at a time so not to get burned out), students will indeed find it more purposeful, or in other words, “not as a product, but a practice” (213).
In order to do so, students must write about what they know. And what most know best is their culture. Canagarajah, like many others we have read in rhet/comp as well as transnational studies, decrees that “students cannot be expected to leave behind their identities and interests as they engage in the learning process” (219) What Canagarajah proposes in this case is the negotiation model, which is basically give a little, get a little, it seems. Mix up some genres, experiment with processes. Great from a social constructivist standpoint, but how far can this cultural version of the stretch model actually go before it snaps? In other words, how far do we let liberatory learning go before bringing them back to the discourse their parents have paid good money to have come them come to learn, which is the American way of doing things. Do we let them write in their first language, and for how long? Is this their way of “questioning the dominant knowledge structure of the academy?” (222)
Mastuda and Silva
How funny this article pops up at this time in the semester. In my last class, right before Spring Break, half my classes were missing. The half who were missing were the NES. All my international students were there. While reading Matsuda and Silva, it was as if they were describing my classes exactly. When I have a full class, the ESL students don’t talk. At all. Except for one. But when the NES were gone, students who I had never heard their voices were speaking and conversing with me and the few NES that actually showed up. They broke out of that “don’t challenge the teacher” mode and conversed! It was like a whole other class! They asked intelligent questions. They talked through the answers with me. They gave examples. No once did they say, “I don’t understand,” and throw up their hands. Like I said, it was like a whole other class. I can see the pros and cons of Silva and Matsuda’s argument, and I agree. While it would be helpful to have the ESL students be in their own 1301 class, there is the downfall that they would not get to converse with NES. But what if the stretch model (a type of mediated integration (249)) was implemented here? What is 1301 offered ESL only classes, and then 1302 was mainstream. Also, to make it more of a choice for the ESL student, they could choose if they wanted to be in the ESL 1301 class or not. I know some of mine would fall into that category of an ESL 1301 “not providing a sufficient challenge” if they were forced to be in an ESL only class (249).
I do like Matsuda’s idea of a portfolio sequence, and it seems to mirror what University of Texas and Miami University do with portfolios in First Year Composition. I sometimes wonder why we do ours the way we do. I know we talked about it briefly in practicum, but that was a while back. I like how Matsuda lets them choose what to put in and what to revise. I think that is possible with any composition class, not just a cross-cultural composition class.
This article ties back to Silva and Matsuda, and working with ESL only classrooms where some more advanced students may not feel they are being sufficiently challenged. I think it does not stop at ESL. In any classroom if students are not given enough direction (too liberatory) and only write expressivist pieces they may feel like they are not learning. Expressivist writing plays two roles in academe: as a creative writing class, and as invention for more research-oriented projects. If expressivist writing is the only form of writing used in 1301 or basic writing, students will not be prepared for 1302, or whatever area they are moving to. Johns emphasizes this when talking about instructors: “they turn their classes inward toward the students themselves and away from the literacy lives that have constructed, or will construct them” (284). What Johns suggests here is that instructors must present some type of curriculum, a “repertoire” for the students to follow, and not let them just freewrite all class period. Instead she takes a humanist approach with the socioliterate model or teaching, which emphasizes not the individual, but how all are shaped by social contexts and culture (285). This directly reflects a mixture of the literacy and community autobiography some instructors here in the FYWP use in 1301. It allows for the students to identify who they are and where they want to go before they take steps to get there. This could also be associated with Johns’ Goal 1(287).
In reading this text as well as Silva and Matsuda I think I have a good idea of what I would like to do with my next set of fall classes, whether it be here or somewhere else. I like, but have never fully implemented genre rewrites, and I think that would be helpful. Also, revision has been only about 9 percent of my class time, and I think that is something I would like to work on more. That is why I like the idea of revised papers in one portfolio. Or maybe I could make the second portfolio a revision and genre rewrite or Portfolio 1, implementing research. There are lots of things to think about.
I remember reading an article by Canagarajah last semester in Sociolinguistics called "The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued." It is about using World Englishes in academic writing, some of it focusing on the creativity of multilingual students in how they use words or create new phrases, such as "can able to" instead of "might be able to." It is an interesting article, which I thought offered some valuable ways to allow for more diversity in academic writing. With this background knowledge of some of Canagarajah's ideas, I went into the reading for class expecting similar concepts. This article, though, seems more theoretical to me than his World Englishes article, as it introduces different models. He doesn't seem to give as much practical classroom examples or applications, which I was expecting...this doesn't necessarily make the article bad, but I felt like it was missing some of what I liked in his other article. Anyway, the part I found most important in the article was "The Challenge" section that outlined with bullets the concerns for teaching critical writing skills. I thought these were great, as they are straightforward and tell how the situation "generally" is now versus what needs to happen for writing critically. The focus of many of these bullets seem to be having the students question what they are told and to explore ideas for themselves. I like his explanation of the "negotiation model," a phrase which he really seems to like, and how it gives the students the ability to appropriate the discourse and use language in a creative way (this part reminded me a lot of the other article...). His model allows the students to take control, to gain agency, by bringing their home literacies to the classroom to use them effectively in an academic setting. Canagarajah gives a good breakdown of the history of the term critical, beginning with the Enlightenment, which I think situates it well. I also like his discussion of ESOL students today and how "ESOL students are not aliens to the English language or Anglo-American cultures anymore" and "we shouldn't assume that they all require an 'introduction' to the English language and Anglo-American culture" (216). He breaks this down to show that it is not as simple as making broad generalizations about ESOL students, but that their cases must be looked at individually because their cultural identity may be different than one would assume.
Of the three articles this week, I enjoyed reading this one the most. I recognize both of the authors names, but am not sure if I have read anything by either of them before. I do like this idea of the "cross-cultural composition course," which I had never really heard much about before (besides someone mentioning it in passing). As far as I know, we don't officially do anything like this here at TAMUCC, although Jen does have a number of ESL students in her class. But, if I'm correct, I don't think that was totally intended or labeled differently than other composition classes. What I really like about this idea is that it is voluntary. Before I really got deep into the article, my main question was about the placement into the class (was it mandatory? how it the balance maintained?), but the authors address this issue later on, saying that some system should be put into place if this is going to be implemented. I guess this whole idea of separate ESL classes is new to me, although I have heard of it before, I'm just not very used to it, seeing as everything is mainstreamed here (which I kind of like as well). I have mixed feelings about mainstreaming, but each semester seems to improve my opinion of it with the ESL students I have who do excellently in my composition classes. I remember my first semester of teaching seminar, I had about 7 ESL students and it was a mixed bag...some did relatively well, though they all seemed to struggle in some way, and some struggled a lot, barely hanging in there (and getting close to being sent back home because of academic suspension). This year, though, my ESL students have all been some of my best and most successful students overall. I had two last semester that were just accepted into the honors program and I think they will do well in it. I am thinking the ESLI program is improving, and that has an effect on the ESL students who enter first-year composition. Anyway, to return to the article, I like the idea of having teachers who are prepared to teach ESL students teaching the cross-cultural classes; sometimes I don't feel like I am adequately prepared for some of the issues ESL students have with their writing, and I end up being really directive. I think working at the Writing Center has helped some with this, as it helped me figure out to discuss the contrastive rhetoric from their cultures to western culture to figure out how arguments are structured differently, etc. I also thought the example assignments for the class were good, giving the students from different cultures time to collaborate and build relationships, but also allowing the students to reflect on what they have learned by the end of the course about cultural awareness. I actually think the class and its assignments could be beneficial for anyone. It also introduces them to a variety of types of assignments. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the timed essay test, although they say it is to prepare the students for what they might have to encounter later on...I still don't like it, and neither did the students who voiced their opinions about it to the president of the university in the Johns article. This article makes me wonder what some of the students in my classes might have been missing out on because of their fears of speaking in front of American native speakers in the classroom and just from not having the experience of the cross-cultural type of classroom.
I've never heard of Johns or this socioliterate approach (SA), but it doesn't seem all that new to me. It reminded me a lot of what Garrett and I tried to do in our classes since last semester by incorporating multiple genre assignments and the analysis of different genres and discourse communities. Even so, I found some ideas in here that I thought could build upon what we had already done with our Narrative of Family assignment (where the students chose 3 different genres to write in about a central theme representing their families) and Good Writing assignment (where the student brought an example of anything they thought was good writing and then--a surpise to them--had to write a paper in the genre they brought). If anything, this article gave me a new term to use (SA) to describe this kind of approach, of the students bringing in their own literacy and analyzing texts and genres. I hadn't really thought of this idea in the context of language minority students, though, which brings a new dimension to it. My ESL students, when asked to bring good writing at the beginning of this semester, brought a rap song and "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. I hadn't thought about that much, but now it makes me wonder what they would have brought if I had asked them to bring "texts that have influenced their literacy lives" (286). It would have probably been very different, considering one is from Turkey and one is from China. I liked how some of the assignments mentioned in here were for real audiences and purposes, like the president or writing to the newspaper. One issue I kind of grapple with is mentioned: "If we take the attitude that sudents may go elsewhere to have small errors corrected, then we can concetrate on other issues" (294). I just wonder if those services are always going to be available while the students are in school because writing centers typically won't sit there and correct a student's grammar for them, and I don't really know anywhere else on campus that will. Does this mean taking it to a friend? Or paying someone to do it for them? I can see once they get into the professional world and hiring an editor or something, but most professors I've heard in upper divisions (at least here) are not satisfied with having the grammatical errors in the papers. So, I guess I'm a bit confused with how that statement is put into action. Besides this issue, I found this article useful in the discussion on SA and the focus on the social context of texts.
Before reading Canagarajah’s article, I had always considered reading to be an important and crucial tool for survival in American society, but I had never given the same thought to writing. Don’t misunderstand me. I consider writing to be important, but I had never thought of it within the context that Canagrajah applies when she says, “Writing can bring into being new orientations to the self and the world...just as passive, complacent, or mechanical writing parrots the established view of things (which may serve the unfair, partisan interests of dominant institutions and social groups)” (210). To me, this almost clearly seems to be that idea of writing as a political act and also saying that the way that we teach writing can either create automatons or free and critically thinking students. Canagarajah even uses the term “automatons” later in the text (page 212) as she discusses the teaching of formulaic writing.
The discussion of the multi-lingual writer’s orientation into the field of American writing again reminded me of the TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment) that Texas Public schools use to assess the writing ability of the enrolled ESL students. The rating systems on those tests are geared primarily towards, as Canagarjah brings up, “grammatical competence” in academic writing (215). A student’s rating gets higher as their grasp of appropriate grammar becomes more improved. I’ve even heard instructors of the TELPAS assessment say that a rating of Advanced or Advanced High occurs when the writing sounds “like the writing of another average English speaker”. To me, this is basically saying that a student’s writing becomes suitable enough when they have completely lost the ability to use their native voice in their writing. Playing the devil’s advocate here, I have to say that I understand why the teaching of writing in the English language is geared to this sanitized type of writing. The other standardized writing assessments a student may take would have no room for writing in a native language and this places the risk of failure on the student. However, it is unfortunate that this need to streamline a student’s writing has erased the student’s native voice from their writing.
I really agreed with Canagarajah when she said that, “Practicing a critical pedagogy would involve instructors being similarly clear about their values, positions, and interests as they engage in teaching writing” (221). I am also intrigued by Canagarajah’s suggestion that an instructor acts in a counterproductive way when they pretend to be neutral. I try every day to be neutral in my classroom not because I have anything to hide, but because I really am trying not to impose any of my own values on my students. This is particularly important, considering that the school I teach in is very conservative and I have some liberal tendencies. I had never given thought to the possibility that doing so might actually be inhibiting my students’ abilities to their own deeper social awareness.
Matsuda and Silva
The idea of the cross cultural composition class seems like a very good one. Before reading this article, I had not really considered the possibility that ESL students were segregated in the college setting. My primary reason for my lack of awareness is that, in high school, while there is an ESL class, there is no real segregation. A student may come into the classroom with ESL modifications, but they are a part of the class just like everyone else. To me, this cross cultural model seems almost like an inclusion classroom where the students are basically told up front there are indeed special learners in here and there are general education learners in here. Believe me, I would absolutely love to confess this to my inclusion class, but state law doesn’t allow me to.
The thing I think I like most about the idea of a cross cultural composition class is simply that all students are aware of the nature of the class and this awareness allows the students to have different kinds of growth. The English Language Learner is given the opportunity to sort of mainstream and the Native English speaker is given the opportunity to branch out of the norms.
It was funny that, as I read the journal entries of the language learners, I began to rate the students using the TELPAS ratings I spoke about above. The students were all writing on an advanced high level, which is equivalent to graduation from the program. I guess one question that I have in relation to this observation is that I wonder what the levels of the students were prior to this class. Is there a minimum skill level that a student must have to come into a college composition class? I mean, I know there is a minimum skill level, hence basic writing classes, but what assessments are done for ESL students entering college writing classrooms, and what skills are they expected to have?
“All of these texts are viewed as social, influencing the students’ literacy theories and approaches to reading and writing” (286). This quotation really struck me. Last night in Composition class, we talked about teaching graphic novels such as “Maus” as part of a curriculum. Having had Maus taught to me during undergraduate studies, I was greatly affected by this study and wanted so much to study it with my students. My main reason for wanting to do this was not necessarily that it was a comic book but just because I thought that the text would present an accessible way for students to study literature and a historical event. Another reason I wanted to do it was that I am trying to reach a variety of students that are frustrated with the canonical literature that we study with them. They see no point in it because they are not affected by it. One reason I think they are not affected by it is because the students are not accessing the information independently and, instead, are often dependent on a teacher to help them understand what it is that they should take form a particular piece of literature. “For “The Scarlet Ibis”, you SHOULD learn symbolism. For “The Most Dangerous Game”--conflict...”. And, so it goes. Even though I realize that Johns had a lot more to say in this article. I triple circled her quotation on page 286, because it is part of a model where students bring in the items they want to study for the reason that the text is important to them. This is especially important for language learning students who, along with mastering the language, must master an unfamiliar context. Johns is certainly saying that allowing students to first study things that are familiar to them is a method of students being able to springboard into the more critical studies that they are required to do.
Canagarajah has some pretty strong points about how important it is for writing to not merely be a mimicry of other writing and how important it is that writers not become "automatons" (212). This reflects a critical pedagogy. However, I do see some need for mimicry in learning since usually, in the first stages of learning, any sort of technique or technical variation involve it in some way.
The more expressivist view of this seems to be that writers, in order to engage the world critically through writing, must write about what they know (themselves and their culture). I do strongly believe that is part of the equation, but so is learning about new things and how to look at things from new perspectives. Otherwise, we would all have a very narrow view of the world at large. I don't think you can really think or write critically or universally with such a view.
So, in the end, it seems that mimesis and expressivism are probably equally involved in the learning process. It is just one of those paradoxes that works out in the end to produce good writers (or at least what I think are good writers).
My final thoughts are more of a curiosity than anything. I really wonder to what degree instruction in writing and thinking removes the native voice in all of a student's writing and thinking (ELL or NES). I am thinking that writing instruction removes native voice somewhat from writers' academic writing and thinking but not from their personal writing and thinking (their stories, poetry, lyrics or whatever it is that they may do outside of class if they do indeed see writing and thinking as something to do for personal and/or social reasons). The problem then would fall on academia because it would be academia that would impose its own intellectual and cultural standstill on itself by not allowing different voices than its own (SAE) into its discourse.
Matsuda and Silva
I really have not had much experience in the area of the cross-cultural comp class having not been in or taught one. I have taught in an inclusion classroom which is similar. In an inclusion class, all students are grouped together regardless of their limitations such as limited English proficiency or a mental, physical, or emotional handicap. I had no ELL students because I was not ELL certified, but I did have a fair number of students with the latter issues.
I think it is good from a social standpoint to have everyone in the same classroom since we all occupy the same world and have to learn how to live together regardless of what problems we may or may not have with ourselves and each other. Better sooner than later I think since I have seen some pretty heinous acts committed by adults on other adults because of prejudice.
I think back to when I was in high school and was always happy when I was in a class with a foreign exchange student because it was something different in a class of too many people who were more or less the same. I think it is good for the NES in the class because it really broadens his/her cultural outlook, but how good is it for the ELL student? Is there any proof that this is better for their language learning?
I wonder if it matters much, from a purely academic standpoint, where they are. I just think that ELL students, no matter where they are, have the barrier of learning another language to breach, and that is going to be hard no matter where they are. I also thought Jennifer M. had some good points based on her experience with her students who really opened up in class when the NES students were not in class. Maybe it is better for them to be in their own class so they are not as intimidated by NES students.
One last thing I am thinking is that it would be wise to have ELL students learn English at the university in the same way that we (NES) learn foreign languages here (since they are learning what, to them, is mostly a foreign language). That would mean classes of students who speak a common language in a class with an instructor who teaches English gradually but delivers instruction in the students' native language. Labs would also be conducted in a similar way.
I think a large part of language learning is achieved through immersion in a language, so it is kind of up to ELL students and how willing they are to completely immerse themselves in English. That will largely determine the rate and depth of their language acquisition. I remember that I learned a good deal of Spanish while taking Spanish classes, but I learned even more by listening to Spanish music, paying attention to people speaking Spanish at bars, stores, restaurants, and so on. I imagine it would be the same for an English Language Learner as it would be for a Spanish Language Learner or any other sort of language learner for that matter.
This really encapsulates what I think needs to be taught about writing in that it argues that "no text is autonomous and the various textual elements are influenced by social and personal factors" (286). The same could be said about the thought process, that no thought is autonomous and the various elements of thought are influenced by social and personal factors. This article really distills everything I have been thinking up to this point, that people have much to give society through self expression, but society also has much to give to the individual (which will in turn enrich their self expression which will in turn enrich society and so on in a cycle of enriched production).
I was particularly interested in the last section of this article about usage in the classroom because it seems like the most balanced approach I have seen discussed so far. It is something I would really consider using a lot of in my classes. I like that this approach not only teaches students what they will need to know to pass timed writing exams but also analyzes the social construction of such tests. I like that it also addresses writing "beyond the final" (291) which is something I saw very little of in my basic writing classroom observation. This is not only a lot more useful for most students, it also seems like it would be a lot more fun for them to do and a lot more fun for a teacher to read.
I can't think of much more to say about this article except that I agree totally with everything in it (wow - that's probably the first time I've thought that about anything I've read this semester), and I don't think that I can argue her case any better than she did. This one really resonated for me.
Where to begin, I guess with Chapter 11 by Canagrarajah on Critical writing. I know nothing about the author, outside of the article, and I am choosing not to focus too much on this article, because it came across as a bit disjointed. While I must admit this has one of the more simply put and clearly defined sections on critical writing, her initial focus and statements seem confused when she gets heavy into the ESOL study. I felt like two papers for some time, and while it ties together at the end, I had to go back and re-read part of it after finding her direction. Now having said that ... This had some great information on pedagogy and practices that I really enjoyed. I would have liked some more examples on the negotiating model. I did enjoy her take on separatist vs universalists on page 220. All in all her statements on making ones pedagogy clear, as well as humane and progressive struck a cord, as well as spelling things out, but not being so ridged that one becomes dogmatic. While this wasn't my favorite of this weeks readings; it was helpful.
Cross Cultural Composition...
What a fascinating article. There were so many neat things in here. I found several things to help with the upcoming pedagogy assignment, but completely agree that this kind of course requires a well trained teacher. I found the instructors insights and the students responses amazing. I love it when students go into a course thinking that they already are or know all that there is, and the professor designs it so that they teach themselves or each other, and bam... they figure out that the world is bigger than they have made it. Those AHA moments are awesome. I could see some problems with getting the mix of students so that the dynamics would work well, and it would be important for the university to be on board. I could see where this could be a course that I think should be required. I was speaking with someone the other day about the growing international population on our campus and how there is a growing support for incoming international students, I wonder if this would be something the university would eventually consider? I wonder if we have someone on campus qualified to teach such a course? I think it would be awesome to see something like this become a part of the curriculum.
Opening Our Doors:
This was my favorite and the one that I think I most connected with. While I don't know much about the author I would like to look more into his work, or the idea of a Socioliterate Approach. This one is hard to begin with, since so much article was helpful. While I wasn't sure where he was going at first, I liked the idea of making sure that the students work did not ignore who they were, but was more than “feel good” activities. The lessons he worked out were inspiring, and while the president opportunity doesn't present itself every day, it wouldn't be difficult to get students to work in something like that into their work. I like the idea of having them write something to the university on the notion of testing and placement. I like the idea of empowering them to take charge in their own education and giving them a voice. So many students, even at university level, feel they have little to no control over any portion of the educational process, I feel it is important to dispel that myth. While some things are a certainty, some things you can influence or change. From there I like his way of having them examine their process and the way they have approached the assignments. This is another way of giving them power and insight. His use of multiple styles of types of writing assignments and various genres of reading material were fantastic, I am all for that. My final comment is on using the variety to look at the types of audiences that the students may come up against or see, I feel that this is very important in creating a well rounded writer, especially when dealing with basic writing students. It reminds me of the writing across the curriculum approach which I also find an important skill for many students. I guess I will add one final note, he did make a point not to ignore the grammar, but to point out where he feels its importance lies. I feel, at this point, that I agree.... I liked this one, but I found something useful in each of these.
Since we introduce genre in 1301, Johns’ ideas about having students provide samples of genres from their own languages and cultures could definitely work. In fact, it would also fit right in with the discussion of discourse communities. It is always a good idea to have students bring in samples because it allows the instructor to see if students really understand what is going on and what was assigned. This semester, I have learned how important it is to allow students to have a voice in the classroom. Students appreciate when you do not dictate all of their writing assignments but instead allow for some level of flexibility. This is possible while still integrating writing assignments that allow students to develop the skills necessary to succeed in future writing courses. In fact, many students enjoy writing when they get to write in a variety of genres. It is always interesting to see how students' cultures affect their critical thinking, audience, voice, etc.
ESL speakers need to be around native English speakers in order to gain the complete university experience. It seems like we would be depriving them of so much by segregating them rather than allowing them to participate in cross-cultural composition or mainstreamed courses. What does segregation of ESL writers say to our native English speaking students? Would we project that we don’t want to bother them by bringing the “Other” into the classroom? I understand what Matsude and Silva and saying about the fears that ESL students sometimes have but we are supposed to work to empower our students – all our students – to feel strongly about who they are and learn embrace their backgrounds. We are also supposed to help guide them towards their future – for now, that future is the university. Segregation would be going against what Lisa Delpit discusses in her article, “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.” Delpit says that students must be told and acquire the language and culture of the academy in order to succeed. It would be difficult for ESL students to accomplish this if they were separated. This is where the role of the instructor is going to become very important. The class is only going to be “sink or swim” depending on how the instructor sets things up and offers guidance to every student. If a course is taught to exclude non-native speakers of English, those students might fail or leave. However, if the instructor makes it a point to be culturally aware of students at all times then there is hope. Constant communication with students will be necessary. I find that I spend more time working through things in one-on-one type situations with my ESL students so that I can make sure that they understand. It is time consuming but it is also necessary. These students will not volunteer to share ideas or ask questions unless I assign group work and require that each group share what they have written. I think that they learn by listening to the questions and comments that come from the NES students. I have found that some of my NES students have taken it upon themselves to mentor these ESL students and help me explain things to them. Sometimes, it takes a community.
Canagarajah “Understanding Critical Writing”
Carnagarajah’s breaks down his own definition of critical, which I think is important. I have learned from my theory class that many of the terms used in the academic field can have a variety of meanings. For example, basic writer is one that has been defined multiple times over the past several decades. When a scholar writes his own definition, I think it makes him look credible because in this case, it gives the reader an actual perspective as to why he/she think or see certain things one way and not the other. His next point is to answer the question: “how does the critical orientation redefine writing?” (212) and basically he summarizes it by stating that “the shift is from writing as an object to writing as an activity” (213). Overall, he seems to be explaining how the writer connects to the text or “word to the world” (211), which leads me to the beginning of the article, where he writes that “texts can open up new possibilities for writers and their communities-just as illiteracy or ineffective writing can deny avenues for advancement” (210). The statement reminds me of the importance of literacy, when I see commercials, flyers or any advertisement that seeks to teach a community about the importance of literacy. There have been many times when a person who holds a high position, whether in politics, writers, scholars, those whose parents read to them and then they took over and began reading on their own since they were young, which have lead to many more successes or simply having doors open up for them because of their literacy, the affect it had on them. Going back to the critical writing and its relation to one’s success in life, by that I mean having a career-salary and not minimum, hourly paying job, one can write from “individualistic to writing as social or from formal to writing as ideological” (212). As for the ESOL or ESL and EFL writers, he asks if “these students require a different teaching approach from those used for L1 students?” (251). He notes the negativity towards these students, when really even L1 students, which he refers to as “traditionally native” in English-monolinguals, also need some help with their writing skills. I don’t believe the question can be answered with a yes or no; there are so many things to consider before claiming using one type of teaching approach. One factor that comes to mind is how standardized tests label L1 students, another are several of the issues that the author presents, such as ethnocentricism, attitudes and others. I do agree that teachers should respect linguistic and cultural differences and multilingual writers can succeed in mastering writing by using their “background as a stepping-stone to master academic discourses” (219). I think the overall idea of this article is that teachers should be aware of their attitudes towards teaching their students how to succeed in the academic world, by bringing up certain issues when teaching a variety of students- ESL, EFL and L1. Of course, it is nothing new, the types of pedagogies, but teachers should also not forget their reason(s) for being public servants because as it is anyone in the teaching field is not in it for the money. Teaching does not take anyone to the million dollar salaries like AIG employees. I just wanted to end on a different note.
Matsuda “Cross Cultural Composition”
In relation to Canagarajah, this article focuses on many of the things he argues for and that is to have a cross-cultural composition course. The course is designed to “integrate U.S. and international students and is taught by an instructor who is prepared to address the needs of both groups of students…it is an alternative placement option that can provide an effective learning environment for ESL writers as well as a way of promoting international and intercultural understanding for both U.S. and international students” (24). Matsuda has a good idea, even better is that he states that this course would/could be an option, not mandatory. Even though TAMUCC is a small university, compared to others in Florida, New York or California, it is a diverse campus. It has been my experience to see what this author means by cross-cultural composition course. For example, this semester, one class is almost half American students and the other half International students, whereas the other half is mainly American students. The instances they have worked in a group, the first class, two Americans and one international student, they have learned a few more things about the international student and about themselves as Americans. It has changed, to some extent of course, a little bit about how and what they think about others who aren’t from this country. Matsuda suggests that it should be an instructor with experience; I think he is right to some extent. I think if anything as long as it’s someone who loves his/her job and is open to learning more about how teach a diverse group of students. The goal, which is the author’s second challenge, is “to provide educational opportunities in which students can prepare themselves for an increasingly internationalized world” (23). I see how many students don’t really see the big picture, even as seniors, the reasons for the core classes, which seem to be irrelevant to their major, seem like a waste of their time, and in reality, it’s supposed to help them become well-rounded people, if anything. At least that was my experience when I was a sophomore; one time, a sit-in professor asked the class if we knew the reasons for taking core classes, in the end, he told us just what I mentioned previously, to have knowledge about subjects that can/are relevant to education as a whole. As for Matsuda’s writing projects and activities, I like them because it gave students the opportunity to learn a variety of things, plus it was boring. I think I would have enjoyed it too. In the end, it can help students become open-minded about other cultures.
Johns “Opening Our Doors…”
The readings for this week are so relevant seem as if these authors sat at a table and discussed which sections they were going to cover. So in this reading, we have Johns making his own definition of socialiterate approach or (SA), which is “based on the contention that texts are social; important written and spoken discourses are situated within specific contexts and produced and read by individuals whose values reflect those of the communities to which they belong” (26). As I had mentioned previous, when a scholar gives the reader an insight on what certain terms mean to him, I am able to better understand his argument. Again, we see that Johns, like Mufasa and Carna, advocate for teachers to be experienced and to write a variety of assignments which will help students understand the “social construction of texts” and allow students to bring their own “texts from their first language and cultures to discuss the nature and purposes of these texts in light of the social environment in which they have been produced” (26). By engaging the students into the community, it is easy to understand the importance of SA in a classroom. Johns inclusion of instructors bringing their own examples and expanding learning experiences also adds to SA approach. This reading differs slightly because Johns breaks down the actual goals when applying the SA approach. It seems that the goals can be very helpful to a student’s learning because as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, students become aware of other cultures, while learning what it means to be literate on several levels, on different genres, and practicing writing, expanding their writing, and revising strategies. I found very interesting the conclusion of this article, although from the things I have learned about how universities work, politics, it did not surprise me. I am referring to Johns’ student, who wrote to the recent university president about his complaints, or things that the college should improve. At first I didn’t see the connection as to why Johns asked students to be daring and write to a particular audience, but I realized that if students learn the importance of literacy; maybe at one point in the semester they read something about someone who made a difference by being advocates, or writing letters, to people who are in charge, in this case the president of the university, not Killebrew, by the way. I just thought I’d throw that in, so the point is that the more socialiterate a person is the more they can achieve, not only in their academic studies, but beyond.
Understanding Critical Writing – Canagarajah
One of the central tenets of all three of these articles (whether implicit or explicit) was the idea of helping students understand audience and purpose by understanding texts within their social contexts. The articles all seem to agree that this is the most beneficial approach to helping ESL students, in particular, because inherent in being bilingual, multilingual, or multidialectal is a sense of uncertainty when it comes to writing with an audience and particular purpose in mind. Cultural differences between the first and second languages or dialects can obviously confuse or disorient a person trying to maneuver from the dominant language’s structure and purpose to that of an entirely different one.
While there are some things I find to be lacking in a strictly critical pedagogical approach to teaching, I think this notion of helping students write for audience and purpose is extremely important. More and more, it seems as though students may be missing this somewhere along the way. Writing for academia is truly quite different than writing in “business professional” style, just as at times, form is more important than content and vice versa. Knowing when to turn on and off certain tones, forms, styles, etc. is vital to “good writing.”
Canagarajah makes a great point against essentializing ESL students into one conglomerate group, something that is not possible in today’s world when “hybridity that characterizes communities and individuals in the postcolonial world complicates some of the easy distinctions teachers are used to making about ESOL students” (216). He advocates a “difference-as-resource” perspective in which ESOL students are encouraged to use their backgrounds (as opposed to avoiding them) to rely on existing skills that can be transferred over and help with construction of texts in English. What this means for teachers of writing is to examine their own ideological assumptions and try to come from as bias-free a position as possible so as to respect the multifarious backgrounds and positions of the students. In doing so, the class can more fairly examine the values and subversive messages in texts they read and texts they construct. I would like to see the classroom exercises that Canagarajah uses in this approach, though perhaps it’s more of an overall theoretical approach to the same assignments that other critical pedagogists are already using.
Cross-Cultural Composition – Matsuda and Silva
Matsuda expounds on the idea of audience and purpose by offering a course model built entirely around cross-cultural dynamics and approach to composition. There were some things about it that I thought were great ideas, but I did think it cast the course in terms of what benefits the ESL writers to the near exclusion of the effects on the non-ESL writers. While they did provide some examples of some of the non-ESL students talking about what they got out of the course, I felt that some of the assignments strayed off of the topic of writing and were intended more for examining cultural issues and creating contact zones and working through cultural differences. I am not sure that I believe that that specifically leads to “good writing” in and of itself. It most definitely leads to helping students get a more global perspective, but I have to reiterate that I’m not sure that’s the function of the writing classroom. Teaching writing is hard enough by itself and is already difficult to achieve within two semesters. It feels like we might be trying to cram too much into the span of writing class. Some of the assignments they proposed were creative and interesting, while others seemed superfluous. The cultural profile was a neat idea…the nonverbal communication assignment was a bit far from the task of writing for my taste.
Another problem I see with this approach is their mandate that teachers must be trained in working with both NES and ESL writers. Their ideal situation was for two instructors to teach together. I have no problem with either of these ideas, but I don’t think this will ever pass muster with administrations whose focus is on the bottom line ($$$). That being said, I agree that ESL students are given short shrift in writing classes and that neither mainstreaming nor segregating these writers within traditional classrooms probably addresses their specific needs and situations. Out of all the models we have seen, I tend to like the Studio Model from Lalicker's article and wonder if a cross-cultural or socioliterate approach could be oriented toward a studio section of established freshman comp courses in which ESL writers who were having trouble exclusive to their multilingual backgrounds could be given this added focus without completely reorganizing all FYC courses into this cross-cultural model. Just a thought. And what do I know? I haven't taught yet.
Opening Our Doors – Johns
I had never heard of the socioliterate approach, but I really enjoyed this article. Johns takes on the Expressivists and illustrates why that approach is detrimental and neglectful of all students, but particularly ESL students who need even more help understanding the social nature of texts and how both readers and writers are informed by divergent social identities. Johns states that the “analysis, of both text-external and text-internal features, assists students in understanding that no text is autonomous and that the various textual elements are influenced by social and personal factors” (286). Thus, SA helps students “free themselves of their sometimes limited theories of pedagogical and other genres, to analyze and value the genres from their first cultures, to approach all texts as socially constructed, and to reflect on their experiences with text processing” (287).
I think this is one of the things that bothers me most about Expressivist approach—it tends not to cover a multitude of situations in which to write. Students are not exposed to a variety of situational possibilities and are therefore only given one dimension of writing that ignores audience. Johns proposes that there is no one “writing process” and that students need to be told such. She says that students should be taught that “individual processing of texts is complex and strategies may differ considerably from task to task” (288-289). I couldn’t agree more. I felt that the exercises that Johns used in her basic writing course (composed of all language minority students) were more useful and pertinent to the purpose of writing, covering the social nature of reading and of text construction while staying on the task of writing.
Understanding Critical Writing: Canagarajah
"Is it proper to encourage and facilitate the use of a language that is tainted with a history of global domination, colonizing other languages and communities with its values?"(220)
I never really thought about language embodying certain ideals. I have heard the phrase "language of the oppressor" before, but I thought that had to do with the people who spoke the language, not the language in and of itself. I guess this means that I am a Universalist. I really like the idea of language as a medium. That reminds me of artistic mediums; acrylics, oils, charcoal.
I would be very interested to see how English represents the imperialist ideal. Passing English Only Legislation and promoting "standard" English can be viewed as imperialist, but the act of speaking/writing in the language seems to be that of necessity. I can only write in one language. I do not think I am trying to oppress anyone.
Cross-Cultural Composition: Matsuda & Silva
I think an interesting question posed in this article is that of creating ESL specific classrooms versus the integration of ESL students into a regular comp classroom. As a teacher, it would be nice to be a little more prepared to deal with the complexities of teaching ESL students. Most of them are hard workers, they have to be, but sometimes that is not enough to succeed within the classroom. There is not much room for error, especially in a large lecture class with timed essay exams.
I like the idea that James brought up about the learning opportunities that having foreign students within the class provides. Our school was too small to have more than a few exchange students, but it would have made things more interesting. Unfortunately, one of the things that I notice within my two seminar classes is the fact that neither one of my ESL students speaks. I know they have good idea because I see that in their writing, but even their writing does not really reveal much. I hate to call on them specifically because I do not want to make their discomfort obvious to the class, but at the same time, I do not feel that they are really involving themselves in discussion.
Opening Our Doors: Johns
This is kind of rough for me right now, I apologize. I’ve been really sick the past couple days and I’ve got enough medicine in me to keep the fever away, but not enough to make my brain work right. I’m trying my best to still get things done though.
This article was pretty hard for me to deal with because it really felt like a huge rehashing of everything we’ve ever heard before about critical thinking/writing/anything but tied to ESL learners. She discusses the whole “we’re colonizing students by having them speak English” thing that I’ve heard a million times before, and shows the argument from “third world scholars,” but I’m really having a hard time tying all of this together into one cohesive notion of what exactly she is trying to say. This was maybe to philosophical to me, but I’m not sure how much of that was the cough medicine clouding up my brain.
Mastuda and Silva
I liked the fact that this article showed actual research tied to a class that was actually being taught. Because of this, I felt like it dealt a lot less with theory that looks good on paper and more with theory as it was actually applied. The student responses really gave insight into how the students perceived the effectiveness of the class, but a lot of this just kind of seemed like common sense stuff to me. The only part that really jumped out was the two student responses about blaming themselves for communication problems within the classroom, but even that’s kind of common sense. I thought the style of the different assignments was pretty cool though. Obviously, in a class that is mixed equally between ESL and NES students, it’s going to be necessary to change the style of the assignments, but I thought it was cool how they focused on assignments that revolve around the students getting to better understand cultures and communities around themselves. This is the one idea that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me so much. I would have probably just focused more on the writing and helping the students get to know the differences in colloquialisms and what not as it applied to SAE.
I really liked the idea of having students subscribe to a current events magazine as part of the text requirement for a class. Johns discusses having his students subscribe to Newsweek so that they could focus on letters to the editor, responses, and current event articles each week or month. In all fairness, a magazine subscription would cost less than a textbook generally would, and would give a lot of material to work with which would be especially relevant in a class like freshman comp that’s focusing on genre/audience/rhetoric and tends to deal with current event type research projects. Also, as Johns shows, his students felt like they got a lot out of writing to the editor because they felt like they were actually writing for real world applications, and that it was empowering them, and this empowerment is one of the qualities that we are trying to bestow on students of freshman composition. I found it strange that they didn’t have a writing center at the college Johns was teaching at, especially if they had such a large number of ESL or L2 learners.
The Cross-cultural composition class sounded interesting to me, but it also sounded pretty familiar, especially in the assignment sequences. The “Cultural Profile” sounded like our literacy autobiography. The “Nonverbal Communication” project sounded pretty cool, but when Matsuda writes that one of the reasons for this project was to provide students “with an opportunity to experience the complexity of co-authorship and to reflect on the subject position of the author/researcher,” which I thought was pretty thoroughly covered in the first year program with our student groups (251). Again, though I liked this essay, and I agree with Matsuda that separating ESL writers from NES can be detrimental to their learning as it deprives them from the all-important “contact zones” where the student is faced with issues of social class and difference that helps them gain an understanding of the world, I think it would be mighty difficult to find teachers that are both willing and able to teach both groups. Matsuda recognizes this, and outlines the methods to get there, but it might be much more difficult to do in practice.
In relation to “Understanding Critical Writing,” I think there is the ever present notion that we should treat all forms of text as not “innocent or indisputable but to negotiate for independent expression by reframing them in suitable ways” (222). I think that quote, in a nutshell, is the point of the composition classroom: to question every text, and to know that all writing has some form of argument, and that in order to argue against or for that, one has to know how to argue. This is essentially the basis of “appropriating the discourse,” taking something that isn’t necessarily your style, adapting it, and using it to your advantage, where “multilingual students have to question the dominant knowledge constructs in the academy, in addition to critically engaging the knowledge traditions they bring from their local communities” (222). This is why I’m torn on this issue: on the one hand, if we separate out ESL students from NES (Nintendo!) students, they can get better individualized instruction in language areas that they legitimately need help in, but they miss that all-important aspect of college that everyone else gets right out of the gate: interacting with people who didn’t grow up the same way you did, who have different values, beliefs, and backgrounds.
The article lays out the basis for critical writing as socially orientated instead of autonomous. Some of the major issues associated with this ideology include the socio-economical “constraints” and “resources” by which many writers are bound. The author sets up the argument that in critical writing pedagogy and instruction “normative” approaches require a second look. For far too long language has been a catalyst for inequality, and in a postcolonial or postmodern world, these attitudes about writing and language need to be reexamined and inequalities questioned and changed. The suggestion for another approach is a “relativistic orientation,” which redefines the “dominant conceptions” about language and writing. This approach values the diversity that individual students possess and seeks to incorporate differences as a valuable asset, not as a “deficit” to the student’s progress. This approach also does not support a “conversion” of students, but, rather, a “crossing” due to the fact that conversion devalues students’ by requiring students to make a choice between their first language or culture and the dominant one. Finally, the author reiterates that critical writing involves “questioning” of those beliefs about knowledge that we have held as truths for so long. I totally understand what the author is saying and I think if it empowers the student it can only be a good thing. I think students will be less intimidated and may actually be able to benefit not only in the short-term but with a strong sense of self they will also benefit in the long-term. Teaching students to use and value themselves and what they have as an asset sounds better than requiring them to leave behind all that they know already.
Johns Johns basically addresses some of the issues which need to be addressed in critical writing pedagogy. She discusses some of the problem areas for students such as the misunderstanding of or “annoyance” at writing prompts, and a pass/fail timed exit exam which hinders students. She sets up several goals and options that students and teachers may benefit from in the classroom such as varying the reading and writing purposes and audiences. I believe this approach can inspire and empower students by the context in which the assignments are set because it makes sense in the current way that we teach writing. However, I did not like the wording about students “emulating” the writing found in Newsweek because it seems like that goes back to a more autonomous approach. But, this is a more real-world attitude toward critical writing.
Matsuda/Silva The authors posit an alternative approach to mainstreaming students which is supposed to make the student feel more comfortable in their classroom environment. From my limited experience, I have seen one ESL student who seems uncomfortable speaking in class, in fact, she rarely comes to class. It might benefit some students who would feel more comfortable paired up, but mainstreaming is supposed to be beneficial also, so I really don’t know. This article is based on experience not research, but it is not necessarily a new approach. SDSU has been successfully using this for awhile, which is validating of the approach. The projects sound interesting, and the idea has positive potential compared to a basic remedial class approach.
John L. - Reading response!!!
In the interests of being shorter and sweeter:
There are three different approaches to teaching basic writing that were described in these readings: the socioliterate approach (Johns), the cross-cultural approach (Matsuda/Silva), and the critical approach (Canagrarajah). The critical pedagogy tries to have students interface with the meaning of the text and not merely mimic the dominant discourse. The socioliterate approach has the students approach writing from their own cultural backgrounds. And the cross-cultural approach tries to integrate classrooms with ESL and NES students.