Susan WM

The Smoke article reminds me of the difficulty of making policy and the assumptions we operate under. In spite of what I know about writing and how difficult it is to learn conventions, etc., I was still surprised to read about the difficulties of addressing the needs of ESL students who were educated in US high schools--culturally and socially "American," yet struggling with operating in English/academic English. What isn't said straight out is that providing quality ESL-trained teachers in a whole composition program is idealistic and economically unrealistic, especially if you consider not just one school, but the thousands of programs across the country presumably serving students whose first language is not English. Luckily, most do not come close to the 50% faced by Hunter.

Butch’s reading responses March 27, 2007

“Mainstreaming Writing: What Does This Mean for ESL Students?” by Trudy Smoke

I found that this article addresses a very timely issue with respect to the growing trend across the country to eliminate remedial courses from universities and four year colleges. It is not just a matter of if, but when such programs will all be eliminated. This was an effective chapter in addressing the problem of mainstreaming ESL students and its implication on their academic career. I feel that this article anticipates some of the problems that are being, and will be encountered, when remedial courses are removed from senior colleges and universities. In Smoke’s discussion on page 195 concerning the Puerto Rican student and the counselor’s interjection, I saw this as a means of “gate keeping” and saw many references to it throughout the chapter. Meanwhile, I agreed with Benno Schmidt’s about the removal of remedial classes in the CUNY system when he explains “. . . the proper institutions within CUNY, which should focus on remediation among the range of their academic responsibilities and mission, are the community colleges” (195). While I agree with Benno that remedial classes should be taken care of by community colleges, I also believe that this responsibility lies with high schools who should be the academic entity preparing students for writing in the academy. Smoke mentions one teacher who disagrees with mainstreaming ESL students and fears there will not be enough class time to attend to their special needs when compared to NSE. Silva also references this situation and writes mainstream English teachers “. . . will not have the time or expertise to deal with ESL students’ cultural, rhetorical, and linguistic differences to meet their special needs. ESL students might inadvertently be held to unrealistic standards” (208). This also goes back to the grading issue brought up earlier whereby ESL and NSE students could possibly create controversial grading situations. “. . . they are concerned that there might be grading issues down the line if faculty perceive that ESL students are being graded differently from native speakers of English” (206). I paid particularly attention to the author’s view of what the future might hold for this issue of mainstreaming ESL students and though it prudent to begin preparing for what could be the inevitable. “To some degree, we must respond to our needs with local, perhaps temporary, solutions, knowing that at anytime, changes must be imposed on our programs because of political and ideological shifts” (209).

“One Size Does Not Fit All: Response and Revision Issues for Immigrant Students” by Dana R. Ferris

I thought that this article highlights the complexity of teaching writing to L1 and L2 students and most importantly, it is recognizing the difference in learning on behalf of international and immigrant students. I thought it was an important distinction to make in light of so many international students recently enrolling at this university as well as the number of immigrant students that the nearby border with Mexico and Latin America produces. Both classification of students presents its own unique problems when teching them to write. I believe that this is the first time I have read about the problems encountered with NES students studying Spanish or any other foreign language required by academia, and I am glad it was addressed in this chapter. “This difference in perceptions and goals influences teachers’ response strategies and students’ willingness and ability to consider their teacher’s feedback carefully and to revise” (85).

Assessing the “effectiveness of commentary” is a challenging task for most teachers. Providing the right kind of feedback at the right moment in the right way is difficult, and, as Ferris points out, quoting Kusnick, it is not even certain what effect feedback has: “despite our widespread cultural belief that questioning is an essential part of teaching, educational research has never demonstrated that asking students questions enhances learning” (qtd. in Ferris, 95).

How do we determine the difference (assuming there is one) between revision-as-correction and revision-as-learning? When Ferris discusses teacher feedback, it sounds as if the main focus is on correction—grammar-focused or not—and the educational/pedagogical effect is of less importance. Ferris also builds much of the argument on the assumption that preparation (typically skills-oriented) leads to participation (e.g. the preparation of immigrant students study); it is true, as Ferris found, that skills-focused teaching actually teaches skills, but the bigger question is whether/how this contributes to learning. Ferris also fails to define exactly what “ineffective revision” (90) means—how would Ferris/we know what kind of revision has been productive/effective in the sense that it involved significant learning.

When we decide how, when, and why to provide feedback we can certainly benefit from Ferris’ practical and specific advice, but we will only be able to make good decisions if we have pedagogical as well as practical objectives in mind.


Melanie Mayer ENGL 5361 Reading Response March 27

From MBW Smoke “Mainstreaming Writing” and TDW Ferris “One Size Does Not Fit All”

I tiptoe into this subject of second language learners. The readings were informative and very different: Smoke’s article was more about the logistics of the ESL students and the structure of the program and class; Ferris provided considerations for teacher feedback specifically to the ESL students. As a writer, I know environment and feedback are important to me personally; therefore I must consider both carefully when teaching other writers.

A lot of folks fear what they do not understand or have experience with, and that may be the reason “teachers with less experience dealing with ESL students favored placing the students into specially designed classes” (Smoke 205). It was interesting that those who had experience thought they were more successful mainstreamed. I wonder if some teachers who aren’t confident in their ability to teach basic writers do the same thing: suggest that basic writers belong in separate classes, for the wrong reasons? A student needs a properly trained teacher, for sure. But at the college level, I question having separate, different, credit bearing English classes for ESL such as described by the author – it’s either a degree or it’s not, right? I see a dilemma here. “ESL” does not mean “basic,” yet the choices for these students include a mainstreamed basic writing class, a regular freshman comp class, or a separate ESL freshman comp class – and if separate, would the requirements be different? Would that serve the students best in achieving the rest of their academic and business goals? Would it really even matter? Or does the teacher quality and course content have more impact than the structure in which they are presented? I would agree with Silva (the four options guy) that the structure selected should depend in part on institution location, personnel, and situation.

Teacher feedback is something I can more relate to; even though this was ESL specific, there are many similarities in the Ferris article and my own experience. In fact, I am finding that a lot of the strategies suggested in ESL readings are actually doable with all students and all students deserve the same consideration. Error correction, using grammatical terminology with which students may be unfamiliar, asking questions about rhetorical choices –all are things teachers tend to take for granted students understand, and they don’t. When they don’t, they just ignore the suggestions or delete whatever had the comment on it. My students also have trouble reading my handwriting, which is a definite obstacle to revision! I do not agree that we need to ask students if they would like comments in the margin, at the end, oral, written. Students have to get used to all types of feedback and differences in teacher methods and expectations to really be “empowered” (95). Coddling (which is very different from showing compassion) them does not empower them, ESL or otherwise.

Structure and feedback are so important to basic writers. These articles remind us that the same thing won’t work in every situation, and we must not take our responsibilities to any of our students lightly. Our feedback can help a writer grow, or kill what enthusiasm for writing was present. And so I tiptoe, to avoid being the proverbial bull, only wrecking things more valuable than china. --mm

Elva's Response Mainstreaming Writing: What Does This Mean for ESL Students? By Trudy Smoke. One Size Does Not Fit All: Response and Revision Issues for Immigrant Students by Dana R. Ferris.

After reading this article, this reminded me about these two International students from Egypt who was in the Del Mar Developmental class. It was a brother and sister who did not want to be placed in the ESL classes. They wanted to be in the mainstream of the English 305 and 306. They were struggling but determined. In the class, the students were learning the structure of a sentence or called the mastery of a sentence.

In this quote “poor writers in English but good writers in their L1 (first language)… (194), this reminded of Dong’s article “they were already successful writers in their native languages (TDW 375). Just because they do not know how to write in English does not mean they do not know how to write in their language. I take this back; they might not be successful writer but basic writers. Like Dong says writing across languages it creates barriers. It is a struggle to write in another language.

I like the title “One Size Does Not Fit All…..” and about teacher’s feedback. How can one size fit all? We are all different and have different needs. How important is the feedback? That feedback needs to be positive in order to gain confidence especially international and immigrant students if learning English. According to Ferris, “…positive effects on student revision when the feedback is thoughtful and focuses primarily on student ideas, when students are motivated to revise, and when they respect their teachers’ efforts on their behalf” (90). I agree with this quote. This positive effects gives the student self esteem on their writing. I wish more teachers care about the students’ writing. I think this goes along the Harman and Tarone’s article, do not correct grammar errors on the first draft (383). These immigrant students are looking for confidence “saying you can write.”

This article stresses the importance of revision. How beginner writers do not see the importance? One of previous article, the title something beginner writers and experienced writers, how the beginner writer could not seen revision a part of the writing process. I see a lot of students who write their paper the night before and they turn it in the next day. How can that be the final, finished product?


I found Smoke's argument it a bit problematic in that ESL students don't really belong in a remedial course. Now I believe that any institution of education should strive to best educate all individuals, but I can already predict the doom of that. If basic writing courses are already highly contentious, how much more ESL classes? In his article, Smoke already suggests that policymakers discourage and make almost impossible this enterprise: "We could claim that no matter what the scores were on the FSATs?, we had courses to help students become successful in the college. But things changed" (198). This change clearly makes obvious that ESL students, and all minorities for that reason, are not wanted in higher education.

I found the whole mainstreaming debate interesting, too, and how mainstreaming ESL students was beneficial for native and nonnative speakers of English. Speaking from my own experience with teaching, having international students in my writing classes produced an understanding and an appreciation for other cultures. Our discussions were also that much more interesting. I didn't see having ESL students in a regualar course problematic in any way. On the contrary, like Smoke describes, I think my ESL students were challenged in a positive way.However, I understand that my experiences are not universal.

In Ferris's article, I was completely educated on the fact that commentary can be interpreted differently and the different ways that ESL and immigrant students respond to comments. Overall, I do believe that when instructing, correcting, or commenting, oral feedback must accompany written feedback.

The Ferris article was very frustrating. It seems that in the end, it all comes down to individual context and reflecting and reorganizing the way that you evaluate and give feedback. The whole article is just one conflicting idea after another (or more of the same conflicting ideas over and over). Either students "take teacher feedback very seriously and value it highly" (93), or they "ignore and avoid the suggestions given in teacher commentary" (90). Either immigrant students are can use teacher feedback in order to improve their papers, or the feedback and subsequent revision makes their writing worse. They talk about students being able to use indirect error feedback, but then explain that this is not the whole of the issue - that this must be coupled with additional instruction.

I also don't understand why the article believes that students are not capable of critical thinking. Why would they be less likely to be critical thinkers than the English speaking students? Isn't it more likely that they can think just as critically, but that they lack the ability to express their thinking in English? Why is it that comments (in an ESL class) would be written in English instead of in their primary language? Wouldn't that help if they were having trouble understanding teacher feedback? And how can these things be implemented in a class that does not contain all ESL students, but rather two or three?

Heather Dorn

As I was reading "Adapting the Writing Process" I started to think about what was really meant by teacher comments. It seems that even though the article seems to be dealing specifically with ESL studetns, I think that the article does bring up an excellent point about trying to figure out what our students know, and how it actually affects them. However, it would seem that there is very little evidence to support either side of this issue. What effect to comments have on students? Doesn't this vary by the student, and what history they have had with teacher commentary? If students are only seeing comments a means to "error correction" then they are only writing for the teacher, which many of them do anyway, but it seems that more needs to be done in terms of writing devleopment. Are writers stimulated to correct their own errors?

Also, the idea of mainstreaming always comes up against so many factors. What is the operative way for a class to operate? How doe ESL students feel in classes of this sort, and how do regualr students feel? Can the division ever be met? It seems like in many cases, this would still feel like two separate english classes, and does that really benefit either group of students.

<<<<<<< -Erica Rangel

Maybe I am using it as a cop out (as I have been accused of by some) but I again stress that everything depends on the local context and departmental and university goals and direction. Smoke and Ferris bring to the forefront the issues in teaching ESL students. As SWM stated, when looking at Smoke’s context, she has a larger population of ESL students in the system and unfortunately those students were required, because of their designation as either ESL by means of true speakers of other languages with a need for English instruction and those who were educated in the US with some exposure to English composition. I do agree that tensions exist here. Who is really to say that just because someone is educated in the US that they have any firmer grasp on SAE than internationally educated (see Ferris on this point)? I know of many students who have been well trained international and have better writing skills than US educated. So, to distinguish between groups in this fashion is arbitrary to a certain extent. Furthermore, I would be interested to see what the demographics at our community college are (regarding ESL). I know for certain that Del Mar has an ESL 1301. These students seem to benefit from the skills/drills and grammar and mechanics tools employed in this class. They seem to write as well as many of the Non-ESl? students; I believe it benefits them because they may have already been oriented to learning a language through its grammar rules and seek this sort of instruction. Conversely, at our university, I have also worked with mainstreamed ESL students…some of them have been very challenging—for, I am not a grammarian., nor can I effectively explain the rules well enough for an ESL student who desires such. That said, however, these students also seem to flourish. One specific example is a student who was enrolled in the English Language Institute over the summer. This student spent three hours a day 5 days a week in our writing center. At first, the sessions had little to do with writing and more to do with explaining the meanings and connotations of words and phrases and pronunciation. I covered very little grammar with this student but modeled writing for her once we got to that point. We spent weeks and weeks revising and working together. Today, almost a year later, she is a successful freshman writer. She made an A in 1301 and is doing as well in 1302—she is no longer THEA liable. Her writing has grown and began to take the SAE shape. So I can see the merit of both types of instruction. What I think is sort of scary is that politics determined whether students were mainstreamed into the university once they passed the 3 exams or remained in basic writing classes at the community college. I don’t know the solution, but this troubles me. It is as if education (maybe I am very late realizing this) has very little to do with student needs. In regard to Ferris, again I go back to the idea that it’s is a case by case situation and not everything that works well for one student will work well for another. He argues that there is a difference between L1 and L2 needs and expectations of feedback. I wholeheartedly agree! There is also a difference between immigrant and international student needs and expectations. Again, I go to my WC consultations. At the community college, DAILY I deal with the challenges that immigrant writers face. Often times they are not even college students, but community students who need help to write an application letter or resume. In some instances they even need help reading. As our center is open to the community, we see many different types of L2 type students and the immigrant populations are sometime the hardest to try to help because I have no formal training in how to teach these types. I do not know what they have learned and the details of their native language. It makes it hard for me to relate and to break down English for them because I am not familiar with their language structure. I think these types of students would benefit from an ESL English course. In contrast, I also work with international students, many of whom have had formal grammar training and know some of the complexities of the English language. They have used the form before and are in the midst of refining their writing. These students have little trouble other than articles, verb tense and etc. I can do that... I don’t think that these student’s need ESL English courses and, mainstreaming would be better for them. They have had formal exposure previously. I can give typical feedback for these students because they know the conventions—for immigrant students and community members it is harder. Not only are some, not all, of them not familiar with writing in English, but some are not familiar with writing in their own language---this poses a huge challenge. I do not really do not know how to respond without dashing their dreams. I cannot bear to mark up a page of something that took three days to write. Another example from the community college is that a ‘community” student came in and wanted me to help her study for THEA so that she may gain entrance to the community college. She spoke little English besides “yes” and “No”; she was to take the test in 6 weeks. I did some research and found that the best that I could do is to get her writing first so I could see what was going on. She could read English (which was a plus) so I gave her prompts every day like “What was your favorite Holiday in Korea?” “What is your favorite meal to prepare.” Etc. Daily she brought in her writing in her journal. I was confounded how to help her. It was a grammar thing, a language thing, I was at a loss. I asked my supervisor and she said to teach grammar. I busted out and ESL grammar workbook and tried working with her using that. She was confused, I was frustrated. I went back to the writing and tried modeling. Her sentences became more and more standard. We then began to look very simply at the parts of speech and how they were used in the context of her writing. About week three my supervisor asked how it was going and I told her what I was doing—she started taking the student because she said that the student must know grammar. After a week of visits with my sup., the student stopped coming. I am not sure whether she had really been able to effectively teach everything the student needed to know and all of the sudden could write for the THEA, or maybe she just gave up because of the grammar lessons. I am not sure…and I am not sure which the best approach is. I cannot truly say because I am not trained in this area. As Ferris discusses, the immigrant student writer benefited most, (I believe) from the immediate feedback that she received as we wrote together. She modeled the SAE and seemed to be growing. I cannot tell you the type of feedback she got from the grammar instruction—but she quit coming. >>>>>>>

I think that is the end of my rant.


Anne Ries

"Sometimes 'the only similarity [ESL Students] share is that they are not native speakers of English ' (39). ESL students in higher education can range in age from 17 to 80. They may have been in the United States for 7 days or 7 years, and in some cases were born and have lived entirely in the United States...etc" (194).

I took a second language acquisition as an undergrad. While I do not remember much more from that class than watching the Genie movie; I specifically never remember reading about the diversity in ESL classrooms. I find this ironic because when I observed an ESL class at Del Mar, I was shocked at the amount of diversity in the class. There was a 60 year old couple from Russia, 19 year olds from Vietnam, China, and Japan, 28 year old Mexican immigrants…etc. I wondered even back then how a teacher could accomplish melding together all of these experiences into one classroom and be able to meet the needs of each student. When I asked the teacher about this, she said the language difference was better for the students because they had to communicate in English with each other, because they couldn’t talk to each other in their native languages. She said she specifically separated the students who spoke the same language so they could not digress in class back to their L1.

But still, I have heard a lot of 1301/2 teachers talk about difficulties with having a lot of nontrad students mixed with traditional students. The age difference multiplies itself. I would think some of the same problems would occur in the ESL classroom. I would think further that those problems would multiply with language learning frustration. How do teachers deal with this? Also – how do teachers deal with students with PhDs? in their L1 mixed with students who are not literate in the L1?

“Unfortunately, most discussions of teachers feedback strategies and accompanying teaching materials overlook immigrant ESL students’ lack of knowledge of formal grammar terminology” (87).

I found this interesting, and so frustratingly obvious. Of course if students were taught in an immersion setting they wouldn’t know what a hypothesis or a thesis statement is. But I can understand where teachers would have a problem with this. So then when do ESL students get taught these things? I’ll talk more about this in class.



I had a few questions about the article. It says that International students are sometimes not responsive to the remarks that instructors put on their papers or it might depend upon the way the response was worded. But immigrant students respond much like American students. So at what point do we consider an International student an Immigrant student? aren't immigrant students also international students? I mean, how much of our schooling do international students have to experience before they become "immigrant" students?

The other problem I had with Ferris is more a question of how to handle the situation in practice rather than in theory. Presumably, I'll have international as well as immigrant students in the future, and I know that throughout the semester I'll get to know them pretty well. I guess I'm wondering whether I'll be able to learn enough about each of them to know what kind of feedback they need. The students I have now are not very forthcoming about what they need help with, so it is difficult to assess their needs with regards to writing.


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