October 18, 2008

Conventions in the ESL Classroom

At the end of each 6-traits online class I ask participants to revisit their weekly reflective journal and assemble a refection that covers the full span of the class. In this excerpt, Tim D. synthesizes his insights about Grammar and English. ~ Dennis

When I was teaching at a middle school in Asia the administration decided it would be a great idea to break up "English" into two categories: Grammar and English. While I was teaching short stories and poetry in my room the teacher next door had these thick text books full of sentence diagrams and editing worksheets. What really struck me about this is that the grammar portion was never utilized when the students wrote for my class. They knew how to do the diagrams and edit sentences but when it came to their own writing it was still full of errors.

I didn't handle this very well and took to marking up papers with red ink. The truth is most of these students had only been speaking English for a couple years. Their parents had pulled them out of the local school and plopped them into a sub standard "American" school. Not only were we dealing with middle school students, but we were dealing with second language learners as well. Honestly I think listening to American music and watching American movies was as helpful as anything. It allowed them to "hear" English.

Spandel offers a lot of very interesting ideas in this lesson. The ones that struck me were teaching the editing marks in the beginning and then having them use them on progressively more difficult work. Instead of using worksheets she suggests using others' work. This is brilliant. Especially if its done in front of the class because it allows students to see things that they might not have caught on their own. Finding errors in everyday samples like newspaper, ads, and mailings is also a great idea because it teaches them to look for those things. (I would suggest the Dunn County News as a great resource for this…)

Comments: This lesson really solidified in me that I need to combine teaching conventions with other material because it allows me to point out examples within good writing instead of using arbitrary examples that the students aren't familiar with. Actually, reading the posts by the other teachers was very enlightening on how they weave grammar into their programs.


debrennersmith said...

I approach Grammar Instruction using Jeff Anderson's inquiry approach. He won my heart when he said, "DOL is studying error!" I went to www.Stenhouse.com and bought every book he published there. Then I googled his name and kept spending money! I think I have caught up and have read close to everything he has written. I have a link on my blog to his and also have described his process on my blog. www.debrennersmith.com

wiredinstructor said...

Thanks for the lead on Jeff Anderson! I went to the Stenhouse site and found this podcast:

Here's the set up from the site:

"In this audio podcast recorded at the NCTE conference in Nashville, Jeff Anderson describes the classroom experiences that led to his book Mechanically Inclined and tells us about his next book on using mentor texts to teach craft, mechanics, grammar, and editing skills."

I'll use this for the conventions section of my class! Thanks! ~ Dennis