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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Letting the Student Practice

One of the things we emphasize here at The Studio is equipping the students in our consultations with tools to help them be able to apply what they've learned in the consultation to other papers they have to write. To achieve that end, we try to get the student involved during the consultation. We have them practice what we've gone over. Finding ways to let the student practice in my consultations takes practice, pun intended. However, letting the student practice has many benefits, two of which are that you know that the student understand what you are saying and that the student can apply what she/he has learned to other essays.

Take, for example, a student with an essay that has no thesis statement. You explain to the student what a thesis statement is and why it's important. The student is nodding politely the whole time, replying with an emphatic nod whenever you ask "Do you understand?" How do you know for sure that the student actually understands what you're saying, and isn't just saying yes so that you won't think he/she is stupid? One thing I like to do is pull out a sheet of paper and a pen, and ask the student to craft a thesis statement. If the student looks uncomfortable with me around, I walk away for a couple minutes. Then I take a look at the finished product, and we talk about whether or not it does its job as a thesis statement. The student walks away with a firm idea of how to write a thesis statement, and you are satisfied that you were able to teach someone an important writing skill.

Giving the student time to practice is perhaps one of the most important things you can do in a consultation, but for me it's also one of the easiest steps to forget. I won't deny that in a recent consultation I had I completely forgot to make the time. However, here at The Studio we are provided with an extra incentive to make sure we make that time--students are asked to fill out a brief anonymous survey about their consultant, and one of the questions they are asked is if they had the chance to practice during the consultation.

3 comments:

  1. I always enjoy a good pun.
    I've been trying to think of ways to check for understanding here at the SLCC Student Writing Center,and I like the idea of letting the student take the time they need to work out a solution on their own. I think at times it's too easy to micro-manage and hold the writer's hand through the whole experience, but obviously that isn't always the best way to help anyone learn. Here's to letting writers (ourselves included) flail about for a while. It builds character.

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  2. Allowing the student to practice is definately an important step to remember during sessions. I too try to make a point to allow the writer to have some practice time during the session, but sometimes we do forget.
    Something that I have found that helps to insure that the writier gets practice is: to explain the issue the student doesn't understand, let's say... semicolons, and then show them some examples, on scrap paper, of the proper use of a semicolon. I then show them an example in their writing.
    At this point, I'll have them practice the skill as we read through the paper and identify areas where a run-on is taking place and a semicolon could be used.
    It's an awesome feeling when a student exclaims, "Hey, I'm getting the hang of this," as we move through the paper. Their happiness at understanding something that they hadn't before coming into the SWC is what I love about the Student Writing Center.

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  3. The process of drafting a paper is extremely important to a student and I believe that allowing the student to be actively engaged and involved with the creative process is truely beneficial to them. The whole shaking his/her head as a way to mask their confusion happens all the time and by just asking them to take the initiative and give an example of what you are talking about, of giving them space to work through what they'd not understand away from the tutor/teacher is great.
    I know that with me I like to be able to be on my own a little and not just have a tutor hovering over me. By giving the student a little space to say what's on their mind is key. Writing is the manifestaion of thoughts and ideas anyway, and so just letting your student have that time is so important.

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