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Responding to our students' writing

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Alternative ideas for giving feedback and evaluating EFL or ESL students on their writing

Alternative ideas for giving feedback and evaluating EFL or ESL students on their writing

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  • 1. Responding to our students’ writing: What’s good for us and for them? Dr. JoEllen M. Simpson, Ph.D.
  • 2. Why is writing important at all levels of language development?
    • Writing is important because it allows students to practice language
    Writing practice should NOT be grammar practice The first level of responding to student essays must be to talk about WHAT the students wrote
  • 3.
    • “ To respond to technique alone is not only bad pedagogy. It’s bad manners.”
    Robertson, M. (1986). Staffroom interchange: “Is anybody listening?” Responding to student writing. College Composition and Communication, 37, 1, 87-91.
  • 4. Grammar correction in writing assignments has no effect on students
  • 5.
    • “ The depressing trouble is, we have scarcely a shred of empirical evidence to show that students typically even comprehend our responses to their writing, let alone use them purposefully to modify their practice.“
    Knoblauch, C.H. & Brannon, L. (1981). Teacher commentary on student writing. Freshman English News, 10, 1-4.
  • 6.
    • “ For all practical purposes, commenting on student essays might just be an exercise in futility. Either students do not read the comments or they read them and do not attempt to implement suggestions and correct errors.”
    Marzano, R.J. & Arthur, S. (1977). Teacher comments on student essays: It doesn’t matter what you say. Study at the University of Colorado, Denver. ERIC Document 147 864.
  • 7.
    • “ The literature abounds with proof of the futility of marking errors in both native and non-native student writing.”
    Leki, I. (1991). The preferences of ESL students for error correction in college-level writing classes. Foreign Language Annals, 24, 3, 203-218.
  • 8. Negative Effects
    • Lower motivation
    • Faltering confidence
    • Lower fluency
    • Less complexity
  • 9. Teacher as Mentor vs. Judge
    • Mentors show students how to do things
    Mentors comment on content Mentors encourage Mentors explain how to become better writers by giving positive and constructive feedback
  • 10. How should we respond?
    • Give an emotional reaction to what has been written
    “ How exciting that must have been!” Mirror the student’s attitudes about the topic “ I can imagine that you must have been very worried.” Give an experience of your own that parallels what the student has written “ That reminds me of when I…”
  • 11. Other alternatives for giving feedback
    • Dialogue responses
    Checklists Personal interviews
  • 12. Subject-verb agreement Plural adjectives Verb form Verb tense Conclusion Supporting ideas Topic sentence Main idea Essay 5 Essay 4 Essay 3 Essay 2 Essay 1
  • 13. What about structural feedback?
    • Editing vs. revising
    If the structural problems do not interfere with the message, they do not need to be addressed. Language teachers are notoriously inconsistent when marking errors, which causes a lot of confusion for students.
  • 14. In summary
    • Bad responses :
    • negative, excessive, only focused on grammar, cryptic, or only identifying the errors
  • 15.
    • Conduct personal conferences
    Ways to give good responses First read the writing sample without using a pen Look for strengths and comment on them Help students see what to do next Allow peer evaluations
  • 16.
    • If you MUST check grammar, use clear editing symbols and be consistent with error correction.
  • 17. JoEllen M. Simpson
    • [email_address]
    Copyright 2003: JoEllen M. Simpson