Author Topic: Two diametrically opposed views on teaching good English writing  (Read 6225 times)

Joe Carillo

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Let’s listen to two diametrically opposed views on correcting writing errors in English composition—one from a Belmont, Boston-based English teacher who believes in ruthlessly correcting them and not worrying about the writer’s feelings, and the other from a U.S. newspaper language columnist who cautions against hypercorrection and advocates gentler, less severe ways of promoting the writing of good English prose.

The Belmont-based English teacher, Jeffrey Miner, is dismayed that some of his fellow teachers seem to advocate only partial attention to errors. “At every level I correct students’ errors,” he says. “I let them know ahead of time that I will focus not only on what they say but how they say it. Form is integral to content. Ideas that are well-written are accessible to understanding.”

Read “Best way to teach writing? Let those corrections mount,” Jeffrey Miner’s rejoinder to an Op-Ed article in the Boston Globe now!

On the other hand, Jan Freeman, who writes the language column “The Word” in the Boston Globe, argues that the zero-tolerance approach to correcting writing betrays a misunderstanding of language learning as well as a dim view of human nature. “Toddlers don’t need to be rudely corrected whenever they brave a new construction,” she says. “(Eventually,) ‘The dog runned away’ will become ‘ran away,’ the ‘mouses’ will turn into ‘mice,’ and they’ll end up talking like their friends and families.”

Read Jan Freeman’s “Redlined: Correction isn’t the most important thing” in the Boston Globe now!

I would like to thank Forum member Ben Sanchez for bringing the second article to my attention.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 01:15:29 PM by Joe Carillo »

JM Nepomuceno

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Re: Two diametrically opposed views on teaching good English writing
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2010, 02:13:34 AM »
Jan Freeman wrote:

If even good students are writing worse today — and it may be so — my (unscholarly) guess is that it’s lack of exposure to models, not lack of correction, that ails them. If you don’t read much — not only great books, but even everyday competent exposition — you won’t get the rhythm of long-form language into your bones. And without that, writing will be a struggle.

Understanding the real causes of the deterioration in the proficiency level of students in writing in English requires checking out the learning methods applied in the Public School System.  Unless there had been very drastic changes implemented that had not been properly publicized, both the use of models and feedback are the two (2) basic methods for learning, not just for any language but virtually for any skill desired to be learned properly and applied consistently by the students.

Modeling and providing feedback (both "positive" and "negative" are the "active" modes of teaching / training / education.  "Leaving it all to the students to realize the mistakes / errors committed, and hoping for the best" is a "passive" mode, that borders on the realm of irrationality.

"Positive feedback" is supposed to "reinforce" learning of the student, i.e., encourage the student to continue doing what had been done correctly.  "Negative feedback" is supposed to have only one simple objective / goal, and that is:  "for the student to stop doing what had been done incorrectly".

The concerns raised by Jan Freeman involve the "manner" or "style" of "providing negative feedback". The use of any "abusive" or "rude" language by any teacher in providing "negative feedback" is anathema.  The proper "manner" or "style" of "providing negative feedback" involves two (2) basic steps:

1)  Pin-pointing / identifying the "mistake / error" that had been committed; AND

2)  "Modeling" or "showing the correct application / usage".