We began the week talking about ways of reading language difference: assimilationist, accommodationist, and separatist. Assimilationist tutors try to make writers’ texts look like L1 writing. Separatist tutors treat the L2 text as an equally privileged discourse. Accomodationist tutors fall somewhere in between, finding a middle ground between L2 writing and L1 writing. The text also says that talk with ESL writers should focus on the assignment and the process and more time should be spent on prewriting.
The ESL Workshop, in addition to providing some great resources and strategies, states grammar goals for student and tutor. Student grammar goals include acknowledging self editing, recognizing frequent errors, and correcting them. Tutor goals should include teaching self editing, identifying frequent errors, knowing the six major error types and being able to refer students to resources. The chart of grammar errors tells tutors to focus on verb tense and form, word form, and awkward phrasing. One liberating thing about the Workshop it that it tells tutors that it is okay to explicitly tell students about minor errors.
I especially enjoyed the post about directive and nondirective tutoring. It addressed issues with nondirective tutoring that I had been grappling with. Lisa DelPit is a personal favorite, and her ideas about explicit teaching of grammar types that are not a part of students’ home languages has informed much of my teaching. Corbett explained that it is more how you address this explicit-type tutoring that matters. Of course you shouldn’t talk in circles instead of giving students information that they need. However, nondirective techniques should lead up to that point. He also brought up something that had been drilled into me in the TESOL curriculum, that overwhelming students with comments is not helpful. I think this is applicable to all students, but especially students who are actively in the process of gaining language. Imagine if someone tried to teach you all the rules of Spanish at once!
Overall, the theme of the week to me has been to let students direct the conversation. I think that with ESL students it is often important to have a conversation about their goals not just for the assignment but for learning English. Do they want to be fluent? To keep a writing “accent”? Do they want to focus their learning of reading, writing, speaking, or listening? What are their major concerns? Their goals for their language? All of these things will affect the stance you take as a tutor.