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Subject:

Re: Question regarding an excellent student who struggles with in-class, timed writing

From:

Saundra Y McGuire <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:06:43 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (83 lines)

Thanks so much got your informative response!

Sent from my iPhone

> On Nov 20, 2015, at 11:58 AM, Kim Ballard <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Hi Sandra,
> 
> I think it's likely that your student's language background could be causing her problems with the AP exam, but she may also be hampered by writing anxiety that is increased in timed situations. I'm sure you already know that you'll want to consider whether or not she is a non-native speaker of English (I assume she is) and whether her English (written and/or spoken, but especially written) still exhibits language transfer issues and whether her reading, ability to understand ideas from English lectures, and ability to take notes is complicating her success in the classes. 
> 
> But don't stop there. While I know little about meta-cognition approaches, I suggest a rhetorical approach that relies on genre theory might help. Likely, you'd be wise to help the student realize that different genres require different writing processes. It may be the case that no two writers have the same process, but it's likely the case that effective writers also adopt their writing processes to match the genre and writing situation. While Gloria is a multi-draft writer for some of her writing and may think she can only write via one process,  standardized timed writing tests (especially AP writing exams) won't allow her the luxury of multiple drafts. If she wants to improve on AP exams, it would be great if someone could work with her on the rhetorical strategies she needs to succeed on the particular genre and in the specific situation she is finding difficult.
> 
> For example, the AP genre likely demands 1) rapid invention (so she needs a quick way to develop her content-based ideas for AP History exams and a quick way to develop her logic for AP English exams). Then the readers of the AP genre likely demand 2) exhibition of ability to use particular writerly style moves (so she needs to write essays for these readers that have, for example, thesis sentences that don't rely on the list approach often used in simplistic 5-paragraph themes, topic sentences that move paragraph forward but do not sound "canned," a close that offers a "wrap-up," all written, for the most part, complex sentences) and 3) exhibition of knowledge that was gained in the particular AP class, which will differ, of course, between AP History and AP English. In many ways, it's fairly easy to figure out what the AP reader (what rhetoric would call the "audience") needs and wants in the essays, which is quite different from the struggle individuals sometimes go throu!
> gh to figure out what a particular unknown reader of a cover-letter, for example, wants or what a college professor who says "be creative" may want.  
> 
> You're wise to tell your student to practice being in the writing situation and working with the genre. I'd say she should likely do so three times a week (if not more) and to discuss her writing choices (What is she doing to start her thinking/invention? Why does she take so long to get her thoughts clear? ) and stylistic choices, if style and format are problems.
> 
> In addition, you might try having her write 3-minute free writings a la Peter Elbow, so the writer writes non-stop for X minutes (3 would be good for her) without worrying about the style issues or other concerns. The writer must keep writing, not looking back over text to rethink or edit. Such writing can help your student realize she can be more successful than she thinks on one draft writings.  For insight into this strategy, pick up Elbow's 1970ish "Writing Without Teachers" or try searching on the internet for Elbow free writing. Anyway, have the student initially write on topics that are about her life and show her how clear the writing will be. Then move into AP English and History topics. Honestly, once the student gets the hang of the free writing, she should write daily.
> 
> If her standard written English is a problem, focus first on helping her get complex ideas into complex sentences. You won't need to worry too much about proper punctuation to begin with, but when it's time to talk about such things, do so by talking about a strategic proofreading strategy that will let you take one issue or related issues at a time.
> 
> There are many more strategies to consider too, and you might also post the same question on writing center listservs you can find at http://writingcenters.org/ in the "Resources" link.
> 
> Best of luck. Persistent, supportive help will be a big boon to this student. My bet is she's frustrated and putting a lot of pressure on herself.
> 
> Kim
> 
> Kim Ballard
> Western Michigan University Writing Center, Director
> International Writing Centers Association, Treasurer
> WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, Editor
> 
> 
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Saundra Y McGuire" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 3:20:01 AM
> Subject: Question regarding an  excellent student who struggles with in-class, timed writing
> 
> Hello Listers,
> 
> I got this email from a high school teacher.  Any suggestion would be most welcome.  :)
> 
> I coordinate the writing center at a local high school where we have built a center modeled on university writing centers. One of my peer tutors recently came to me with this problem, and I wonder if you would have any insight as to how I could help her. Gloria is an intelligent, motivated student and an otherwise strong writer who since last year, when she took AP US History, has struggled with the in-class, timed writing assignments that are part of AP history and English classes. English is her second language-she was born and reared in Venezuela and moved to the US when she was in middle school-and she wonders if that situation is contributing to or the root cause of her inability to perform well in that particular setting. While we have discussed the different processes of writers-that no two writers necessarily share the same process-and the fact that she is a multi-draft writer, which does put her at a disadvantage in that setting (in-class, timed writing), I feel tha!
> t someone must have the answer to her problem. (I have suggested finding a list of past prompts and practicing timed writing outside of school once or twice a week.) Is there anything in your extensive work on metacognition (or some other realm with which I'm unfamiliar) that you think can help Gloria perform better in this setting?
> 
> Have a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving!
> Saundra
> 
> Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
> Author, Teach Students How to Learn (Info at http://tinyurl.com/ogfktwp)
> (Ret) Assistant Vice Chancellor & Professor of Chemistry
> Director Emerita, Center for Academic Success
> Louisiana State University
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
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