Showing posts from October, 2013

Bridging the Language Gap with TuPac

Walking into the Salt Lake Community Library was a surreal experience. Not only was it my first session ever as a quoted "Tutor", but the young man I was to tutor struggled with the English Language, being a Non-Native speaker from Thailand. Stressed over the task, we sat down at a lowly, somewhat hidden table in the southeast corner of the building. I had read up to that point 5 chapters on advise given to ESL tutors from the text ESL Writers , and regardless of all my adequate preparations, still felt inadequate to the task. Upon sitting down, I asked him, "So...what homework do you have that I can help you with?" Fall break was about to begin for him the following week, so his teachers didn't provide him much work to do over the weekend. He responded, "None!" almost over happily. I shrunk back into my chair while a single word sprinted to my mind: "Damn!" Now I knew I had to put my unorthodox plan to use in order to eat up the hour requi

Need Advice

I just met with a student who had a question I felt inadequate to answer. He's assigned to put together several essays he'd written throughout the semester about the American Dream into one larger research paper. He'd written short sections titled "Perseverance," "Resilience," and "Sacrifice" and wanted to know how to best respond to his instructor's instructions telling him to "put them all together." This paper is worth 20% of his grade and due by the end of the semester. How can he best do that? Or does he not need to do anything? He didn't have an assignment sheet and I was confused about how to "best put it all together." Thoughts? I advised him to talk to his instructor. Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill and just didn't have enough information to assist him without an assignment sheet.

Teaching Language to an ESL Student

Hello.  My name's Alex. I work as a Peer Tutor at the Salt Lake Community College Writing Center. This is a reflection about teaching language to people who didn't grow up speaking English. The following entry comes from an experience I had with a student and thoughts from an experienced tutor, Clint Johnson, who's worked at the Center for seven years. *** In a session with Clint Johnson, he talked to me about his thoughts on this. He shared a lot of good insight. I shared with him a concern that I didn’t know grammatical terms well enough and that I thought knowing them would help me improve as a tutor. He said, after reviewing a report I had written and brought in, I’ve known students who know grammatical terms and can remember what the symbols are but don’t know how to use them. I mean, you’ve written an excellent report that shows you know how to use grammar better than they do yet you have no idea what the definitions are. Knowing the rules is of limited

Mr. T, the bilingual

I observed a session in the Student Writing Center at Salt Lake Community College involving a bilingual student whom I will refer to as "T." This is partly because of confidentiality and partly because I can't remember his real name, let alone how to spell it. T informed the tutor I was observing that he was raised here in the U.S. but was taught both English and Vietnamese in his home. The paper he was working on was a rhetorical analysis for his English 1010 class, and he seemed very open to corrections and ideas. Because time was limited, the tutor asked if she could read his four-page paper silently to herself instead of having him read it aloud. T agreed and she began her reading, all the while making numerous notes on the paper and grammatical corrections where necessary. As I watched him during this process, I saw his eyes become wide and afraid, his body stiffened, and he had the general demeanor of someone about to be executed. He watched as the tutor wrote a

Take Turns: Thoughts on Respecting Writers

Pondering what it means to work with ESL students, I think back to a quote from a scholar (his name escapes me at the moment--feel free to provide it in the comments) that I heard early in my Mentoring Writers course, "Respect the writer." I suppose that is a simple way of putting it, but I think it conjures some important questions: What does it actually mean to respect someone, particularly someone of a different culture? How can one foster this kind of respect? Though I'm not sure whether or not I can adequately answer these questions, I think the solution lies somewhere between my knowledge and the writer's knowledge, somewhere at the end of a discussion. That is why I have come to understand the importance of developing a context with the writer, especially at the beginning of a session. After all, If I do not allow the writer to extend herself, then how can I engage her? And if I can't relate with her on any level, then how can I possibly help h

Rocky Start

This is my first year as a Writing Fellow.  During the first of the semester, my colleagues in the  writing center discussed strategies and procedures that can be utilized during sessions with writers.  Despite the amount of preparation I had, the anticipation of my first writing sessions still filled me with nerves.  The professor I fellow for gave me encouragement before I began. She said, ‘Remember, no matter what happens, you’ll give them something that they didn’t have before.’   Throughout my first day of group sessions, I noticed that none of my groups were full with the students who had scheduled to attend.  Group sessions turned into one-on-one sessions.  To make things worse, one session seemed to go completely wrong.  One of the students that I also have another class with started out the session by asking for notes I had taken in the other class.  When I playfully said, “How about we do that at the end as a reward for a good session?,” he became frustra

"Oh, So You Do Have a Strict Bone"

Hello!                 I am a first-year Writing Fellow at Nova Southeastern University. In our writing center, each writing fellow works with a specific professor and composition class, assisting first-year composition students. As fellows, we are required to meet regularly with the professor and with students in and out of class. During my first week as a writing fellow, I met with the professor I would be working with in order to discuss my role as a tutor and what to expect on my first day. She gave me advice on how to talk with the students and how I should present myself to the class; she told me to “Make sure you establish your authority.” At the time, I thought that was an odd suggestion, so I pushed it aside and ignored it until this week’s sessions gave me insight as to why my professor gave me that advice.                 During my sixth week as a tutor, I had multiple students miss our scheduled sessions together, without warning or legitimate excuses. As many tutors

The Text, the Whole Text, and Nothing but the Text

As someone who is learning a second language (Spanish), I know how paper-crumpling frustrating it can be to grasp syntax and style (I still don't understand why adjectives come after the nouns). So whenever a student comes into the writing center asking for help with grammar, my reaction is empathetic, and we generally jump right in with the way words fit together. But over the course of about forty sessions, I've come to the realization that talking about grammar is almost pointless. In fact, it's counter-productive. You sit there, marking up their essay with improper articles, run-on sentences, etc., and before you know it there's a legion of red ink-stains marching across the student's paper. Rather than a nesting ground for creativity, the piece has become a bloody battlefield for the instigation of proper grammar usage. There's no way the student will be able to remember everything you talked about, nor will you have time to discuss higher orders of conce

My Favorite Response to Second Language Writers

We’ve been learning a lot in class and in our readings about Non-Native Speaking students and how they all have different needs regarding compositional know-how. Their needs can be influenced by their educational history, their exposure to the English language and American writing practices, and even by their current academic goals and situations. Because of all these variables, I would say that the best way to respond to a second language writer is to try and discern what their specific needs are. Try to discern what they are most confused about, or most off-base from. A NNS writer may come to a session wanting to focus on the grammar of their rhetorical analysis essay, but that may only be because they were unaware that they didn’t actually know how to conduct a rhetorical analysis essay. I think that as tutors, it’s our responsibility to inform the writer when they are missing something, especially when it’s something that could have a big impact on their grade. With the as

Getting started

I survived my first week as a Writing Fellow!   At our institution, Nova Southeastern University, writing fellows are embedded tutors who work with selected composition courses.   My first scheduled day to meet with students was somewhat nerve-racking.   I had been through the fellow-education workshops and scripted what I was going to say when the students entered the room but I still didn’t know what to expect.   I arrived to the writing center early and watched the clock tick.   I was thinking about every situation we had talked about and trained for and basically, the worst case scenario.   As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my first group of students, I couldn’t help but feel a bit excited, as well. My first student entered the room looking very timid, which helped me to take control of the situation.   I realized that the students were going to be more nervous than me considering they were just being introduced to the program. Once my entire group of three arrived, I inst

Writing Fellow v. Tutor v. Moderator: A (Short) Tale of Titles

Hello PeerCentered!             I am a second-year Writing Fellow at Nova Southeastern University. Our Writing Fellows are embedded tutors who provide course-based writing assistance to first-year composition students both in and out-of-class. At times, describing what we do within the class can be difficult for students—especially first-year students—to understand. As a Writing Fellow for a Basic Writing class, I recently encountered this problem. Mid-September, I sat down for my weekly meeting with the professor of the Basic Writing class I work with. She asked how my out-of-class sessions with students were going, to which I replied “Pretty good!” I had just finished my first week of group meetings, which mostly involved discussing ideas with students since they were in the prewriting stages of an assignment. I was getting to know my students, and they were getting to know me as their Writing Fellow. Yeah, you know, things are going well , I thought—that is, until the prof

ESL methods, or just methods?

Tutoring an ESL student isn’t much different from tutoring a native English speaker. Or is it? It is easy to generalize when working with ESL students and it is even easier to be over assuming. Some may struggle with particular concepts of the English language, but it is safe to say that the methods on teaching these students are very similar to teaching rules of the language to an NES (native English speaker) student. Many ESL students seem to struggle with usage of proper tense, prepositions or determiners, and it seems as if the main struggles for NES writing center visitors pertain mostly to coherence and cohesion. Regardless of native language, you never can tell what a writer’s follies (if any) will be until reading their writing.             A method that seems to hold effective for tutoring ESL students is to explain your suggestions while making notes. Often times the writer seems flustered when I am making suggestions, and it seems as if they have a hard time concentra

Reflecting a Case Study in Tutoring

Today I tutored someone (we'll call them Ishmael) who was writing a Rhetorical Analysis of an argument. Right off the bat I knew there was trouble with Ishmael's situation. His final draft was due tomorrow, and he only had the first half of his introduction written. My first inclination was to go over his introduction with him to make sure it looked good. I thought about it though. I asked what I could help him with. He was concerned about the second half of his introduction, and he was lost. We looked at the rubric together and I found that he needed to briefly state why the author's writing was clear and persuasive. I asked him what his answer to that question was: he really didn't know. I tried to make my questions more specific and direct, to try and extract his comprehension of the article's rhetorical strategies and unleash his confidence, but to no avail. It turns out the article he was analyzing was like five single-spaced pages long, so I decided to see if