From the Writing Program’s Spring Symposium — “Supporting Multilingual Student Experience in the Classroom”

In January of this year, the Writing Program held a symposium that explored how issues of diversity intersect with the first-year writing classroom. The symposium began with a talk from Professor Haivan Hoang entitled “Why Diversity Matters in FWY?” Our instructors then participated in a series of roundtables that focused on language, teacher identity, access/technology, discussion strategies, and issues of disabilities. As a way to continue the conversations that we started at the symposium, we will bring to you an overview of each roundtable’s discussion. This week we are featuring the discussion led by Jenny Krichevsky for the roundtable “Supporting Multilingual Student Experience in the Writing Classroom.” Please add your own thoughts and questions.
Roundtable: Supporting Multilingual Student Experience in the Writing Classroom
Leader: Jenny Krichevsky

Overview of Discussion
In order to begin examining the ways we as teachers can support students in our classroom, we can first see that language difference is not a “special issue,” but rather an inherent aspect of teaching language and literacy. We can see language as a way to address the power dynamic of certain relationships to English and value the different ways our students have come to know English as native and non-native speakers. As teachers, we can understand that language acquisition is a long term, complex process and, as a result, we need to set our priorities for the semester. We also want to understand the external factors impacting our students’ linguistic experiences in the academy, and in addition, explore the ways our students are going to be read and listened to — or not — because of their bodies or other identity markers and the values and predispositions of their readers, listeners, evaluators.

This leads us to a larger question: What are our responsibilities as writing teachers with respect to preparing our students to write in the academy?

The roundtable participants identified the following “best practices” as ways to think about how we could structure activities to support all writers in our classes:

• learn students’ language repertoires and goals for the course
• set manageable goals for each student and yourself as an instructor
• encourage students to identify specific strengths
• use supplemental materials (PowerPoint, handouts) that iterate activity instructions and goals
• slow down instruction, and also talk and write at the same time (or use powerpoint)
• assume and give more: more time, more patience, more flexibility
• create threads for individual students; balance with course/group goals
• have whole-class conversations about the kinds of feedback that are useful
• have students drive peer response vs. teacher-led goals

Peer response can be difficult to manage within the classroom. For a range of reasons—students reading and composing times can vary. Below are suggestions developed by this roundtable to facilitate peer response:

  • Planning Peer Response:
    blind review — lead with strengths of essay
    more reflective writing that interacts with feedback — think about both receiving feedback and giving feedback
  • How to account for extra time?
    linking up peer responders online, to give them access before and after class for more time
    audio-record the essay for responders
    break up peer response into section (e.g., introduction)
    early in semester, give students a weekend to do peer response — build in time to read all materials

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *