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Showing posts from 2014
Who’s a Writer? “I’m not a writer.” These four words have regularly gone through my head throughout this whole journey as a COMP fellow at Nova Southeastern University. They first made an appearance when I was checking my e-mail one day in the summer. As I scrolled down a list of unread e-mails, one in particular caught my eye. The subject heading was “NSU Writing Fellows.” It described the program and asked if I wanted to become a peer tutor for the upcoming semester. This caught my attention because writing was something I never considered myself good at. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a mathematics person as opposed to writing. Despite thinking this, I replied to the e-mail and decided to take this opportunity to help myself grow as a writer. Walking into our first training session, I was nervous beyond belief. I looked around the room at the various new faces hoping they were just as nervous. Over the course of training, we went over essays and discussed what each of us w…

Salt Lake Teens Write Service Learning Reflection

Note: The following reflection also appears on my SLCC e-portfolio.

I chose the Salt Lake Teens Write (SLTW) program as my Service Learning project for English 1810, Mentoring Writers, Fall Semester 2014. SLTW is co-sponsored by the Salt Lake City Public Library and Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center (CWC) and is modeled after New York City’s Girls Write Now program. SLTW pairs an adult mentor who use writing in everyday life, for personal or professional purposes, with high school junior from an underrepresented group. The mentor-teen pairs work together from September through May, meeting for about an hour each to work together on whatever genre of writing they choose. Mentors are encouraged to write along with their teens, and SLTW publishes an anthology of teen and mentor writing at the culmination of the program. Mentors report online to SLTW after every writing session and group activity, and the program has a Facebook page to help keep participants informed a…

Student Writing Center Service Learning Project

Ever since my first semester at the Salt Lake Community College, I found myself enamored with the Writing Center. I so admired the tutors with all their writing skill and ability--mostly, though, I admired their confidence. I'd go to the Writing Center for help and advice on my writing assignments and end up fantasizing  that some day I would own what I knew about writing and feel that kind of sureness. Little did I know at the time that I would be a Writing Center tutor before leaving college.

The Mentoring Writers course covers so much information, I think my head might explode from all the information. I'm sure this feeling is intensified by my eagerness to be an immediate expert of all the information we're being presented with. I put this course off 'till my last semester, while I built up my confidence. In hindsight, I wonder if I would have benefited from taking it sooner. I never would have guessed I'd learn so much about my own writing proces…

Alex's Application: A Hybrid and Highly Customized Tutoring Experience

In late October I coached a 17-year-old friend, Alex, on writing his essays for the Common Application, an online admissions application used by more than 500 universities and colleges around the nation. Alex wanted to apply Early Decision to Brown University and had a Nov. 1 deadline.

I first met with Alex on Oct. 21. I'm a family friend, so we met at Alex's house, something I wouldn't do if I were mentoring a writer with whom I wasn't personally acquainted. I had recently attended a workshop about college scholarship application essays, hosted by the Salt Lake Teens Write program, so I had good information to share with Alex about what to do vs. what to avoid doing in writing his essays.

We began this first session by reviewing the requirements of the Common App and the 650-word Personal Essay. There were five writing prompts to choose from, and through conversation and questions, I helped Alex quickly eliminate three of the five prompts. More conversation and brain-…

Writing Center Myths

I posted this video because I agree with the first myth. I'm not sure if I understand the second one. Often, in my service learning, I have had a student come in and expect me to fix everything with the paper, then hold me accountable for the grade. I think this is a dangerous misconception of writing centers. So I learned to open a session saying that I am here to offer feedback and suggestions.

Language Teaching Methods: Non-Native English Speakers

Many of the same methods used for native English speakers also work for non-native speakers; after all, both are English language learners. It’s important in all writing sessions that some time is spent breaking the ice, getting to know each other and a bit about what the writer is working on. It’s essential that the tutor and writer make a plan, and that the writer has a chance to make their most pressing needs known from the get go. This is the stage when both parties can negotiate and clarify the terms pertaining to what they’ll spend the next 30 minutes collaborating on together. The tutor can find out what the writer already knows about the writing center and what he or she might need to know. It’s also the time when the tutor can question the writer about their assignment. Gillespie and Lerner, authors of The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring, suggest asking three questions:

1.    What is the assignment?
2.    What is your central point or main argument?
3.    What concerns you, or…

What did they teach me?

I have spent more than my fifteen required hours in the SLCC Writing Center. My time there was amazing, I mentioned that many were not native English speakers and that my mother language is not there's. They are learning the language I knew from birth. At first it was intimidating to work with these students because they are taking on something I already know, and might not fully understand me, but as my time progressed I learned that we are all the same. I may know more fluently my mother language but I am still learning about it. As an English major I am leaning more and more with every class I take. I pondered my time in the WC and thought, what did these ESL student's teach me?
          *Patience: Working with a non native speaker is not easy, you need to see this language from there perspective and sometimes you will go back to elementary learning with basic sentence structures and word placements.
          *Gratitude: You may feel a sense of pride coming from your ESL …

English, not their mother language.

I've been working in the SLCC (Salt Lake Community College), Writing Center for about a month now and I have only a few more hours and my fifteen will be complete. My experience there has been really good. As a tutor, most of the students I have helped have been where their mother language was not English. It's a lot harder than it looks to help a student who struggles with the language I've known from birth.

On one of my sessions I was helping a young woman who spoke and wrote fluent Arabic. Her notes for the assignment were written all in Arabic and I could see that she was very proud of her background. She came in wanting my help with the notes her professor wrote on her paper. Those notes consisted of, "You must be able to write fluently in English if you are to move on to the next class." With her notes all in her mother language, I could see why the professor would make that statement.

In a class discussion I was given the advice on what to say …

ESL Learners

ESL learners learn differently than we do. I realize that I'm just stating the obvious (for those of us that have worked with ESL writers). But underneath we are really all the same. Keeping that in mind has helped me immensely as I immersed myself in the writers that I was helping. I say was because my time at this particular library was cancelled due to funding for the program. While I hope that at some point to go back there, I'm moving forward to help others.
    So what have I learned from this time working almost exclusively with ESL students? First thing I found out was the most important is who they are, everybody is different which is what give us our identity. Grammar mistakes are something I tend to overlook; since my own grammar is not perfect. Even though they might not be native they will know what they need to have looked at and where their paper needs to be strengthened. Sometimes the problem is merely in the translation of the text.  Higher order of conce…

Respect for L2 Writers

I don't like to admit this, but I have a bachelor's degree in a foreign language. German, to be exact. The reason I don't like to admit it is that after four years of college study, including one study-abroad experience in Austria and one in Germany, I never became fluent in German; and after decades of not speaking or reading German, I've lost my L2 skills almost entirely.

The textbook ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors has made me think back to my own struggle to master a second language. Just for kicks, I found a website, www.learnoutlive.com, with "Immersive Stories For Language Learners," and spent about an hour working with a short story in German. I read the story twice, picking up the basic idea pretty accurately but missing some vocabulary and verb tenses. Then I read an English translation of the story and was gratified by how much of it I'd understood properly.

After reading the story and translation, I stayed on the website and wen…

Preserving the Writer's Voice

Original sentence by a Japanese L1/English L2 writer: It is said that in Japan to write own names well is to represent how intelligent people are.

Reformulation 1:  It is said in Japan that writing one’s name well represents how intelligent people are.

Reformulation 2:  It is said in Japan that writing one’s name well is a sign of intelligence.

Reformulation 3:  The Japanese say that writing one’s name well is a sign of intelligence.

The first and second reformulations preserve the writer’s voice by keeping the passive construction It is said in Japan. The Oregon State University video Writing Across Borders explains that one characteristic of Japanese writing is that writers state things less directly than is the custom in the U.S., and Japanese readers are expected to work harder than U.S. readers to follow the writer’s meaning. The passive construction seems to match the way a Japanese L1 writer might express herself in her native language. If I were the writer, I might favor the seco…

Writing Peer Review (Peer Critique) TOP 10 Mistakes

Teaching Kids About Revising (Writing Workshop Lesson)

What’s your advice?

Salt Lake Teens Write

I’m volunteering as a mentor in the Salt Lake Teens Write (SLTW) program administered by SLCC’s Community Writing Center (CWC). The SLTW Mentor Training Manual states that the program is “designed to motivate both teens and mentors to strengthen their writing skills for personal, academic and professional development.” Each mentor-teen pair is supposed to work on 7-10 projects, culminating in a writing portfolio for each teen, an anthology publication of all participants’ work, and a closing celebration that will include a public reading at the end of the school year. It's a nine-month commitment to a one-hour weekly mentoring session.
I’ve been assigned to work with a 16-year-old girl at the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center, which serves immigrants and refugees from all over the world. I’ve had an initial get-to-know-you meeting with my mentee and a few of the folks who run the Hser Ner Moo Center, but I have yet to start the actual mentoring.
I can see that a major challe…

The Breakroom S01E01 "The Mime"

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