ELL Writing Sample Analysis Instruction of Students Thesis

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ELL Writing Sample Analysis

Instruction of students who are learning English as a second language (ELL) requires a distinct method of practice, lesson focus on the targeting of strengths and weaknesses. In compositional education for ELL students, this is particularly so. The account presented here describes briefly the role of the ELL instructor before proceeding to a practical demonstration of this role. Reviewing a writing sample by an ELL student called "Response to 'The Unwelcome Neighbor," the account here provides constructive criticism in the areas of grammar, syntax and composition. Hereafter, the account provides suggestions for corrective educational methods, heeding the advice provided by ELL instructional professional Linda Christensen (2003), whose article suggests minilessons and the active participation of students in expressing constructive writing rules.

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TOPIC: Thesis on ELL Writing Sample Analysis Instruction of Students Assignment

The English language is a difficult one to master, even for the native speaker. Its many rules and exceptions comprise a language that, in conversation and in writing, can be complex. To the student for whom English is a second language -- also known as ELL students -- speaking, reading and compositional writing in the American academic setting can be extremely daunting. Learning English, like any skill, improves with practice. For the ELL student, English mastery is an achievable goal, even though the learning process may be fraught with frustration. Therefore, it incumbent upon the instructor to approach students with patience and clarity. Likewise, it is necessary to select corrective and remediational methods that seize on the specific deficits evident in each individual student's orientation toward the language. Here, we examine the writing sample produced by an ELL student who have a firm grasp on the language but also has many apparent writing deficits resultant from learning needs in a number of grammatical, syntactic and compositional areas. The discussion will dissect the writing sample by reflecting on its local strengths and weaknesses and on its global strengths and weaknesses in order to devise a set of recommendations for instructional and corrective focus.

Before proceeding to this part of the discussion, it is appropriate to reflect briefly on the field of ELL instruction. The overarching goal of the ELL instructor is to help non-native speakers to draw equivalency in meaning between terms and ideas originating from two different languages. With regard to objects, ideas and principles, the symbols which constitute our words are specific to and different within the context of each language, even when the objects, ideas and principles are universally the same in meaning. For a student of a language which is foreign to her, comprehensive instruction is an absolutely essential tool for properly applying linguistic meanings to new words. Our research brings to the forefront such input strategies as the 1+1 approach. Here, the instructor starts first by building discussion and lesson on that which the student already knows (1). In this instance, it will be anticipated that students have built a very basic and simple framework for linguistic exchange. In each lesson context, the instructor will subsequently add a small amount of new or unknown input (+1). By introducing this input through a framework of already learned or understood terms, the instructor can improve the chances of comprehension with new information.

In defining suitable relationships between known and unknown input, it is important for the instructor to effectively utilize terms which attribute equivalence to source and target languages. Therefore, the teacher must first seek to achieve descriptive adequacy. According to linguistic expert James Manley, it can be said that a translated term is adequately descriptive if "it is comprehensible and directs our attention to the object under discussion." (Manley, 281) As we proceed to examine the writing sample provided by the ELL student, this is important as it helps to put the sample's many shortcomings into a more constructive context.

Strengths and weaknesses of the ELL's grammar and syntax (local[sentence] level):

This is important because it can provide a more comfortable setting in which the student can flourish. So remarks Christensen, who tells that "we start by telling them what they're doing right. Too many students are scarred by teachers' pens in the margins yelling, 'You're wrong. Wrong again. Ten points off for that comma splice. Where is the past tense?' Language arts teachers become accustomed to looking for errors as if we will be rewarded in some English teacher heaven for finding the most." (Christensen, 1)

This can cause the student to fear writing, Christensen warns. Therefore, at reviewing the mistake-riddled work by the ELL student here, we can at least indicate that it achieves 90% descriptive accuracy. The sentence structure in particular, though impacted by errors, were sufficient to convey meaning. A direct retelling of the initial story is largely accomplished. Sentences such as "in conclusion 'Unwelcome Neighbor' by Santhini Govindan is an interesting story" reveal a basic and fundamental understanding of English syntax. Subject and verb agreement are accurate and the sentence's descriptive intent is achieved.

This constitutes a block upon which to build as we attempt to point out some of the most pressing errors in the sample Again we refer to Christensen, who remarks that "in her book Errors and Expectations, Mina Shaughnessy wrote, 'The teacher must try to decipher the individual student's code, examining samples of his writing as a scientist might, searching for patterns or explanations, listening to what the student says about punctuation, and creating situations in the classroom that encourage all students to talk openly about what they don't understand." (Christensen, 2) Thus, in the case of the writing sample before us, it is appropriate to reflect on a number of the grammar and syntax errors which appear to suggest a pattern of deficient understanding. This way, we can hope to isolate specific stumbling blocks to achieving a more coherent ability to use the written medium.

There are a number of recurrent errors that do jump off the page as one proceeds though the response essay to "The Unwelcome Neighbor" by Santhini Govindan. As the ELL writer attempts to relay a summary of the story, she clearly struggles with the issue of subject-verb agreement. Often, this is one of the hardest areas of ELL writing and expression to grasp and master due to variations in tense and the necessary alteration of seemingly small details such as the use of or non-use of an's at the end of a word denoting plurality or singularity.

Examples of this error in the student's work are immediately apparent. In the introductory paragraph to the essay, the student writes "at the end of the story, Father Crow got plan from the Old Fox Wise and the plan work." Before addressing some of the other errors in this work that are indicative of the challenges facing the particular student, we will address the issue of subject verb agreement. Here, there is a clear difficulty in understanding the rules of past and present tense. The resolution of the proposed sentence should be that "the plan worked." In addition to failing to assign the proper tense, the student has neglected to adapt the verb to any tense at all. This suggests not just an uncertainty in terms of assigning tenses, but demonstrates that the ELL student still has not yet fully grasped the necessity of verb conjugation.

This is a perfectly common issue for students who are attempting to enter into a target language but have carried over some rules from their language of origin. Looking through her work, for instance, we can see that the student has run afoul of the uniquely English positioning of noun modifiers such as adjectives before nouns rather than after as in many Romantic languages. Clearly, with phrases such as 'snake black' and 'old fox wise,' the student is appealing to familiar rules rather than those upon which compositional English is predicated. So observes Christensen with respect to the issue of verb tenses. The author remarks of recurrent writing missteps that "sometimes the 'errors' are part of a student's home language. In that case, the 'correction' process needs to make it clear that the student isn't 'wrong,' but that each language has its own way of making plurals or using verb tenses. Students need to explicitly learn the differences between their home language and Standard English." (Christensen, 2-3) This is an idea to which we will return in "Suggestions" section. True to Christensens observation regarding such habits, this is a concern that emerges throughout our student's essay, such as where the student writes, "A snake black was moved into a hole of the banyan tree." With respect to the particular pattern under discussion here, this error shows the complexity of subject-verb agreement in the English language, especially where 'is', 'was', 'are' and 'to be' are concerned. Here, where the writer intended to state that the snake "had moved into a hole of the banyan tree," it is evident that there was some confusion on how to express the past-participle.

This points to a pattern that becomes problematic throughout the course of the essay, with… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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