reading written accent: a working session on responding to second language writers january 20 th...

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  • Reading Written Accent: A Working Session on Responding to Second Language Writers January 20 th 2010
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  • 1.What do we already know about reading and responding to NES writers that we can apply to second language writers? 2.What is different about responding to second language writers? What do we need to be more aware of? 3.How do we read and evaluate second language writing fairly as compared to that of native speakers of English? 4.When and to what extent is responding to second language errors helpful? What are the best practices for doing so? Questions Central to Today's Discussion
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  • One Note: While some of our discussion today is pertinent to all second language writers, the main focus will be on international and immigrant students. Generation 1.5 students (students who were either born in the United States to immigrant parents or who came to the U.S. before or during their early teens) have different needs, which would require a somewhat different focus.
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  • 1)What do you look for when you read writing done by native English speakers? What do you value most? Ideas: Creative and Critical Thinking Development of a significant central idea. Main and supporting ideas are fully explored. Claims are supported by evidence. Sources are used appropriately and in meaningful ways. There is an awareness of a real audience (thinking from multiple perspectives, providing context for discussion, etc) Tone and Voice are appropriate to academic writing (ex. Not angry) Organization facilitates the reading Sentence fluency doesn't distract from the reading
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  • 2) What do you already know about surface error and native English speaking (NES) writers? How and to what extent do you respond to error? What else do you know? 1)There is a logic to student error. There are patterns, and there is often a thought process behind error. 1)As student write about more complicated ideas, we often see an increase in surface error as well. 1)Focusing too much attention on error often encourages students not to take risks. 1)Most errors don't impede meaning very much. 1)Errors that carry race or class markers are often more commonly viewed more negatively than other types of errors.
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  • 3) Now that we've discussed NES writers, consider how working with second language writers compares. Similarities: Second language writers have many of the same difficulties as NES writers, including developing ideas, thinking about their audience, and communicating effectively in writing. Like NES writers, errors increase with the difficulty of the writing assignment. Our main focus should remain on the same global values (interesting thinking, idea development, etc.) that we focus on with NES writers. As with NES writers, the majority of second language writing errors don't detract from meaning.
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  • Differences: Second language writers who grew up in other countries and in other school systems often have very different understandings of what is valued in writing. Here are a few examples.
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  • Organization and Directness: Ever since Robert Kaplan pointed out how culture often influences the way writers present ideas, this has been one of the most intensely researched (and debated) topics in second language writing. Teachers do not need to try to familiarize themselves with all the literature on the subject. What is valuable, however, is to recognize how culturally determined our own notions of organization are. U.S. writers (particularly academic writers) have an amazing patience and even desire for explicitness. During their educations, American students are routinely taught that it is better to be too repetitive than too subtle (think about the 5 paragraph theme for an example). This is a rather strange preference if one just thinks about reading for interest. As one international student told me in an interview, I just don't understand the useful[ness] of a thesis. If I give my point at the beginning, why does the person want to read? Another international student complained to me that she thought Americans just repeated so many times their main point. It gets so tiring.
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