Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beyond the Sentence

Here I am writing about Mina again. Perhaps I'll give you some variety next week (Dr. Cadle)!

Wow! That's a lot to swallow for one reading! Mina steps out of some of the practical and gives us some theory. I've chosen to comment on her writing as I enjoy the non-political tone that focuses solely on the education of the student. Of course, theory of education is always going to be somewhat political; but hers is not written in contradiction of anyone else's ideas. This chapter is where the spirit of writing is explored, not just the mechanics. Writing becomes an entire process with technicality and inspiration combined. She details an interesting idea of using charts to improve or elaborate on ideas! Who wuda thunk it? These charts are, in essence, "conceptual maps of where he is going or where he has been." (249)
Back to her spirit, I'd like to point out her unwavering belief in the student. She points out that the BW is actually quite capable of coming up with idea and purpose just as well as the experienced writer; he is just not able to bring it to completion. The only differences "lie in the style and extent of elaboration." (226) Even disorderly papers of basic wirters have their conventional logic, just expressed in non-academic models. (237) This is refreshing and, I believe, could possibly be the basis for any and all effective pedagogy-do away with all of the angry political rhetoric regarding the repressed minority and replace it with a fundamental belief in the student, whatever their class or race, and many of the same results can be achieved. (Yes, I'm expecting comments on that last statement and that's ok).

Work Cited:
Shaughnessey, Mina. Errors and Expectations. OUP:New York, 1977.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Shaughnessey's Elimination of Confusion

The more Shaughnessey I read the more I get the sense that the dark clouds of deciphering error are clearing away for me personally! I am beginning to see and feel some clarity, or at least some hope for clarity, with her sorting through of the basic writer's errors. My favorite author/theorist of the semester is now established; it's Shaughnessey. I'd been wading through all this theory of all these authors of how to deal with errors, cultural differences, "conflict and struggle" and so forth that I forgot what the class was really all about. I've found that if I stick to Shaughnessey's basics, I as a beginner in the field, am less confused! By "Shaughnessey's basics" I mean concrete definitions like syntax problems are "problems that keep a sentence from working or being understood" (47). I get that! She then gives many examples, drills, practices and suggestions, and just when we feel a little overwhelmed with absorbing all of this, she gives us a clear conclusion on page 89 to take away with us: "Pattern practice and sentence-combining exercises can increase the frequency of mature sentences". I like this style of telling her theory bluntly without too much fluff or highly academic sounding filler. In her approach to basic writing the goals become clear-to suggest some of the reasons behind these errors (158) and the priorities become pronounced-to consider ways of bringing errors under control (158) . She is eliminating confusion for the teacher, who then in turn can use her methods to eliminate confusion for the student.
This practical approach to errors is encouraging for me as a future teacher, one will be working in a classroom of real students who will have the same real problems Shaughnessey discusses. Not only do I need to be aware of the multicurality of a classroom and the different discourses the students will bring with them, I need to know how to approach it and be equipped with the right tools. Thanks Mina for providing these tools which will make my future teaching life a little easier!

Shaughnessey, Mina. Errors and Expectations. New York:Oxford University Press. 1977