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Strategies and Opportunities to Assist Generation 1.5 Students in Improving Their Writing

  • Provide clear, written instructions for assignments along with a grading rubric
  • Grading Rubric: Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, whether or not they are generation 1.5, native ppeakers, or other non-native speakers of English. Everyone. Having a grading rubric that explains as much as possible what and how a writing assignment is being graded provides the student with the opportunity to play to their own strengths and to minimize their weaknesses. If I am the student and I know that I tend to have a good flow of ideas,for instance, but not to provide a lot of examples, having a rubric as a guideline will help direct my research, and let me know what is expected of me. What this grading rubric will contain will absolutely vary based on the instructor, his or her expectations, the writing program criteria, and the nature of the assignment.
  • Written Instructions: One complaint that generation 1.5 students may have is the lack of clear instructions (Riazantseva 186). These provide a source for clarification for students, or a good reference if they simply need a reminder as to what the assignment entails. If there is some part of the written instructions they don’t understand, there is a good probability that there is some part of the assignment that they don’t fully understand either. Sometimes the discrepancies in understanding can be definitional. In other words, I may define a particular term one way, while it is understood another way by the student.Either way, the written instructions are a way to provide students with clear, concise information, as well as to begin a dialogue that will increase the students understanding of their instructors expectations.
  • Writing Samples: This is a great opportunity for the instructor to clarify what they expect of the students, and how they are grading. Grading is always somewhat subjective, but this rubric provides a standardizing effect. Providing samples of the quality of work expected, and perhaps examples of errors, is a chance to have a dialogue with the students and to create consensus. This also allows students a low pressure way to self identify issues that they may be facing in writing, which helps them to think more critically about the process of writing in general, and their own writing in specific.
  • Getting Past the Resistance

According to Riazantseva article, “I ain’t changing anything”: A case-study of successful generation 1.5 immigrant college students’ writing,” generation 1.5 students did not respond constructively when faced with primarily negative feedback. She states,”In reaction to the instructors’ negative comments on their writing, the study participants either dismissed these comments as baseless or maintained that the instructors “misunderstood” their points or did not explain the assignments well enough.” Students can be resistant to feedback, and take it as a personal attack. Couch the criticism with praise. Stop the problem before it starts – make sure that expectations are clear. The problem with students dismissing their instructor’s criticism as baseless is that they then won’t incorporate the suggestions that they are given or make the effort to improve their writing. In short, they will not improve their writing. Getting past the resistance means creating a sense that the process is valid and fair – and avoiding the red pen mentality. Don’t mark a paper up just to show what’s wrong with it, and don’t give shallow compliments, just to be able to say something negative afterwards. See the students writing as a work in progress. The assignment isn’t really the end goal. It is a marker in the process of developing a better writer. So read the paper for opportunity – opportunity for improvement, opportunity to show the writer what questions the reader of the paper may have or what might not be clear to a reader, opportunity for further research, and opportunity to identify what specific areas of writing this student can focus on to make themselves a better writer.

  • Learn About Students’ Knowledge & Strategies in Their Writing

According to Crosby, “Understanding the strategic knowledge generation 1.5 learners use to overcome the difficulties they can face with academic reading and writing tasks is important because it can help college writing instructors have a better understanding of our students as academic readers and writers, and what their particular academic literacy needs are” (Roberge 106).

  • Cross-Cultural Composition Course

In Susan Miller-Cochran’s aricle titled Beyond ‘ESL Writing’: Teaching Cross-Cultural Composition at a Community College, she demonstrates the idea of a cross-cultural composition course. Miller-Cochran states that by having such a course, it eliminates Generation 1.5 students from having to choose between an ESL course and a mainstream course. “A cross-cultural composition course gives students a placement option that departs from the problematic binary of mainstreamed and ‘segregated’ classes (Matsuda and Silva 247) that is often the norm on college and university campuses.”

Miller-Cochran writes about her experience in piloting a cross-cultural composition course, cautioning that although it can be a positive experience, instructors will not only be familiar with teaching both ESL and traditional composition courses, but they will also need to keep in mind that “developing a cross-cultural course will not automatically erase the concerns that arise from political, social, cultural, and language differences in a linguistically diverse classroom” (Miller-Chochran).

  • How can one-on-one feedback (such as in a Writing Center) be helpful?

Rebennack, whose dissertation suggests ways in which writing Center tutors can give the most effective feedback to non-native English speakers, suggests that “[While] speakers of English may be very familiar with peer response and peer editing groups, ELLs may need the conventions of such groups explicitly explained to them. Similarly, native speakers of English may need to be directed to focus on content and organization with ELLs (rather than focusing exclusively on grammar issues). Moreover, when looking at local issues (e.g., grammar) in an ELL’s text, focus should be put on identifying patterns” (Rebennack).

According to Williams, Writing Center tutors should be sensitive to all writers, especially Generation 1.5 students, as she states: “It is important for tutors to recognize features of interaction that may be linked to revision (or lack thereof). As has been frequently noted, active participation by the writer is an essential step in successful revision and should be encouraged. In addition, tutors should be sensitive to writers’ responses to their suggestions. Minimal response may well be a signal of resistance or lack of understanding. Writers must, of course, be free to reject tutor advice, but tutors need to be aware of the reduced cues that may signal resistance rather than acknowledgment. Also clear from the findings is the effect of making a written record of plans for revision. Doing so significantly increases the chance of follow through” (Williams).

  • Create an Open Respectful Forum

If a students’ point of view is wrong or offensive, treat that separately. In general, however, the instructor must strive to maintain an open attitude towards new or foreign ideas.Show students how to make their argument more effectively, don’t tell them what to argue for. However, if there are any off limit topics – which there should be few if any - make sure students are aware of this at the beginning of the course or the beginning of the assignment. It is always good to remember that many great innovations began as the most laughable ideas. Foster creativity and acceptance, and challenge students to move themselves along the spectrum of creative thinkers, researchers and writers. They know their point of view – they should share it so that others can know it as well. Conversely, have they considered any other points of view?

Examples of Classroom Activities

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Page last modified on December 19, 2012, at 01:51 AM