Teaching Grammar as a Resource for Writers . Dr. Jan Frodesen Director, English as a Second Language Department of Linguistics UC-Santa Barbara [email protected] Outline of presentation. The role of grammar in teaching composition Prevailing attitudes about grammar
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Grammar is a piano I play by ear.
All I know about grammar is its
First we will briefly look at:
Then we will consider:
“In composition studies, grammar is unquestionably unfashionable. It is frequently associated with ‘low-skills’ courses that stigmatize and alienate poor writers while reproducing their status as disenfranchized. This association emerges naturally from teaching methods that present grammar as a fix-it approach to weak writing, rather than, as Martha Kolln describes it, ‘a rhetorical tool that all writers should understand and control’.”
Laura Micciche, “Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar”
Spoken by a veteran college writing
Remarks reported by Terry Santos (2005):
“I’ll never teach grammar in my writing classes: I don’t want to be accused of malpractice.”
“I’m glad I never learned formal grammar; now I’ll never be tempted to teach it.”
“Teachers only teach grammar in a writing class because it’s easy and makes them feel like they’re doing something.”
A centipede was happy quite,
until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This raised his doubts to such a pitch
He fell distracted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run
(Author unknown, cited by Richard Feynman in
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Perseus Books, 1999)
As evidenced by discussions in both L1 and L2 composition literature (including journals for K-12 ), teachers, researchers and curriculum developers are advocating new (and improved!) approaches to grammatical focus other than traditional grammar.
We draw on our language resources to make choices about expressing meaning.
Descriptions of academic writing as decontextualized, explicit, complex often interpreted as cognitive issues.
Instead, we need to consider the linguistic issues: Different language for different genres/purposes, many of them unfamilar to our students
From a case study for Environmental
Science and Management
'SO YOU'RE THE Mexican who doesn't speak good Spanish," the Univision Radio producer sneered as we discussed whether I should appear on his show. Wow. My "¡Ask a Mexican!" celebrity star is no brighter than gaffer level, yet rumors and whispers about my personal life already buzz around town.From My Sinful Spanish Syntax By Gustavo ArellanoAugust 28, 2006
X results in Y instead of Therefore…
Therefore, Henry lacked a respect for his father.
Revised: Henry’s belief that his father was weak
resulted in a lack of respect for him.
this, this belief
the beliefs of many writing teachers regarding the role of grammar in writing
such beliefs; such a response
(Schleppegrell, 2004, p. 59)
‘the company words keep’ (J.R. Firth)
‘the ways words combine in predictable ways’
(Holten & Mikesell, forthcoming)
Television does not find happiness,
but serves more as a time out.
He criticizes that cars would create more
accidents and deaths in the nation.
Invention and necessities help develop each other through history.
Student written examples
from Holten & Mikesell (forthcoming)
From The Hurried Child (para. 3 in handout)
This idea of childhood as a distinct phrase preceding adult life became inextricably interwoven with the modern concepts of universal education and the small nuclear family (mother, father, children – not the extended family of the earlier eras) in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the heyday of the original Industrial Revolution.
“Given” information or themesummarizes the ideas in the previous paragraph, so this information is known to the reader. Note the use of reference word this.
Consider the information flow of this passage from a research paper:
[A] sweat lodge is made of long saplings, which are stuck into the ground and bent inward to form an igloo-shape. These supports are covered with blankets. [The] diameteris about six-feet. In the center is a hole in the ground. Rocks are heated until they are hot outside the hut.
Stance: This refers to the interpersonal relationships that writers have with readers and their texts.
We take positions in relation to what we are writing about, and we position ourselves in relation to others who hold points of view on the topic. To persuade others, we need to show competence and to express our views in a way that is convincing. We do this with language among other things.
perhaps, possibly, suggest
It is clearly showing that these buyers usually lack confidence.
Probably, they can learn the importance of confidence.
Hyland and Milton (1997)
Hyland and Milton note that little attention is paid to these important linguistic devices in writers’ handbooks, style guides and most ESL textbooks.
Focus on grammar as a resource means that students will gain better understanding of the interrelationships of the aforementioned areas. Writers need to draw on a variety of features that characterize different registers.
Example: Appeals to shared knowledge such as “Of course, we all know…” used frequently by philosophy, marketing, sociology but not sciences such as physics or biology.
Reactive: Responding to diagnosed errors, responding to
students’ questions and requests for information
Proactive: Anticipating needs, providing instruction and
practice that addresses specific task demands, develops
fluency, provides a range of structures for expressing
stance, making connections, etc.
(e.g., Graf & Berkestein’s I Say, They Say)
Using Corpus-Based References to Guide Editing and Revision in L2 Writing
explanation where needed (e.g. what
a noun phrase is if students don’t know).
For learners the language is not real or authentic until they have learned to realize or authenticate it.
Cited in Seidelhofer,
Controversies in Applied Linguistics,
Oxford, p. 80
The following offer more suggestions for types of text analysis: noticing and explaining grammatical and lexical features in assigned readings.
Example: “Engagement” features in “A Law for Bad Humans”
Students identify imperatives, rhetorical questions, 1st person for author, 2nd person you to address readers
The following task created by Margi Wald uses sample student writing on Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundary and the ICAS Academic Literacy competencies report.
One of the ways that writers link key ideas in a text is through lexical chains, repeating words/phrases and using words/phrases that have similar meanings. Look at the sample student essay. Focus on the opening sentences of each paragraph. Scan the previous paragraph to find words the student echoes in the opening sentences to the next paragraph by changing the word form. Highlight the words in both paragraphs. Notice also the strong verbs and abstract nouns the writer uses and how these verbs and nouns help the writer create cohesion. The first two are done for you.
Theassumptions professors make include a student'sability to think critically, "exhibit curiosity,” and “ask provocative questions” when they read (13).
Opening to par 3:
The pressure to engage in competitive sports
is one of the most obvious pressures on contemporary
children to grow fast. (From The Hurried Child)
This is a noticing task based on The Hurried Child excerpt.
Some sentences that begin paragraphs have long noun phrases that summarize previous information. To see how these structures function as sentence subjects, for each of the following sentences: 1) Find the verb; underline it. 2) Find the head noun of the subject; draw a box around it. 3) Put brackets around the entire noun phrase that is the subject; include all the prepositional phrases and other modifiers. You should be able to replace the entire phrase with it or they. The first two have been done examples.
1. [Today’s |pressures|on middle-class children to growup fast] beginin early childhood.
(They begin in early childhood.)
2. [The |trend|toward early academic pressure] was further supported by the civil rights movement.
(It was supported…)
3. One consequence of all this concern for the early years was the demise of the “readiness” concept.
4. But the emphasis on early intervention and early stimulation (even of infants) made the concept of readiness appear dated and old-fashioned.
In almost all cases, such tasks will involve a focus on both grammar and lexicon.
Building Knowledge of Word Collocations
These phrases are taken from The Hurried Child. What prepositions occur with the phrases? Skim the passage if necessary. Write the prepositions in the blanks.
Pelleg countered Perlstein’s perspective on college life today. (substitute disagree)
Rodriguez states that the new technology is the cause for the lack of literacy today.
Focus on sentence themes: As mentioned earlier, the beginning of a sentence, and often the subject, expresses the theme of the sentence. Student writers sometimes “bury” their themes in other places, such as embedded “that-clauses” or prepositional phrases. Revision tasks can help them highlight themes.
Original: I think, without distractions, when a person is limited to what they have, then that’s when their true abilities shows.
Revised: Getting rid of distractionscan allow a person to draw on his or her true abilities.
Original: Rodriguez mentions the idea that teenagers that sit behind the bar are able to comprehend the importance of literacy.
Revised: The importance of literacyis understood by people in prison.
Example: This article is written by Richard Rodriguez. He wrote about our current literacy status.
Revised: This article by Richard Rodriguez discussed our current literacy status.
(Another task courtesy of Margi Wald)
The following are some sentences from Sydney Harris’ “What True Education Should Do.” For each one, write a second sentence with a reference form + summary word. Remember for each, write a sentence that “makes sense” with what Harris is saying in her article. The first one is done for you.
1.b. Your sentence: She feels such concerns do not focus on what’s important – how to get the student to generate more information on his or her own.
2b. Your Sentence:
“Grammar as a weapon: Bad, Grammar as a resource: Good!”
Grammar is power!
Help students develop their
knowledge of it as an instrument
they can “play by ear”