After the first “big” grading session

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I just want to make note of some problems/concerns after my first grading session of the semester:

  • My biggest concern: Students don’t write well for audience, but write well for themselves. When I say this, I mean they will drop in an idea that as the writer they understand well, but just leave the audience hanging. I have had them read about the importance of writing for audience and also discussed it with them. Perhaps we need more in class practice in writing for different audiences to bring this home more. Transition work could also be added to this and in so doing “kill two birds with one stone,” hopefully.
  • Wordiness. Big, ugly wordiness. I know I have a problem with wordiness in my own writing (gotta use up that page!) and as a result I’m always looking for it in the writing of others. I probably notice it far more than I should. But the in class activities on eliminating wordiness are soon approaching and this is a good thing.
  • Awkward sentences and other grammar errors. These things I am lumping into the category “I wrote this the day before and didn’t get enough time to proofread.” We can also call this category “I wrote this at the last minute and had no time to proofread.” We could even call it “I don’t proofread because it isn’t really necessary, is it?”
  • Point of view. Oh my goodness. I had some switch from first person to second person in the same sentence. Ah, the troubles with point of view. And the last essay I graded had so many point of view switches I had problems understanding what the writer even meant to say in some parts. (But the way the student used the genre was innovative, really. So it wasn’t all terrible, you know. I like to point out the good even with the bad.)

There were other errors, but those above were the ones I found repeated and errors I know I need to address in class and have them think and write about/on.

But let’s talk about the good, too:

  • Students understood the assignment overall, even to the point some experimented with genre and forms, which I thought was interesting. These examples of experimentation with form were well done. For example, a couple students saved their reflections on the genres for the end. One student built her genre memo around a specific class she would teach (she had the genres the teacher, herself, would use and the genres the students would perform.) Other students had reflection interwoven with description creating a nice flow to their document. (And a good showing of integrating knowledge and ideas, I think.)
  • Students demonstrated understanding of tone. Most documents sounded professional and included diction relevant to the field. With that being said, students knew their majors inside and out, which they should all understand at this point.
  • To follow with the above, many students (though not all) have been writing in genres relevant to their field in their major coursework. This makes me think that far too often us English professors/instructors feel that students aren’t writing enough is a bunch of hooey. Sure, not all students are writing enough or perhaps not all students are taking that writing seriously, but there is WAC/WID going on and sometimes where you would least expect it.
  • Cohesion. Most students understood that the genres had to relate to a specific career field or other way besides just in how “they are all in my major.” Though this was part of the assignment, students pulled it off well and in ways I didn’t always expect them to.
  • Citation. Most of the students know and understand citation, whether it is APA or MLA. I have a lot of APA citation going on, so I’m reminding myself of it all the time now. I haven’t seen Chicago Style yet, but I think the Chicago students are just using the MLA because I didn’t specifically mention using Chicago style in the class.

It is different working with juniors and seniors than with freshmen, for sure. It is nice to see students understanding citation and the importance of cohesive writing. It is also cool to see students experiment with genre a little bit, especially with the first assignment, and pulling it off well. And audience is something that is often struggled with. It is far easier to write for oneself than to write for others and it is hard to get students out of that thinking of “I am the writer” and leaving it at that. We need to remind them that “Yes, you are the writer, but who is the audience?”

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