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


TW said...

I agree that Shaughnessy has been the most practical of the authors we've read. I guess she's earned her reputation.

Gabe Isackson said...

Most applicable with her examples too.