Archives for posts with tag: Writing

So a couple of weeks ago, I happened across an article in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes talking about concordancing in L2 writing classes.

(Well, what actually happened is that my school has a Journal Committee where they read and review academic journals and I attended, pretty ostensibly so that I would have something to blog about use to improve my teaching)

In any case, they had this discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of getting students to conduct corpora-based research in the classroom, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Basically, the article states that corpora are (of course) powerful research tools, but when overused students can get bored with them (which definitely corroborates my own experience as a student).

However, I was surprised and excited to learn that with the right amount of training, students themselves see corpora work as quite useful and some even preferred it to reference and grammar books (Yoon, 2011).

According to the article, corpora work has been shown to foster learner autonomy, which is something that I am interested in incorporating in my classroom. So far, my experience in this region is that these community college students are a lot like baby birds–they want the knowledge chewed up for them and spat directly into their mouths.

With the right motivation, however, this is a tool that I could incorporate into my teaching arsenal to foster a more autonomous and independent working environment.

The article named several ways to apply corpora-based study in the classroom. One use was that it allowed writing students to compare their work with that of experts in the field, thus allowing them develop their own measure of the appropriate voice and style for whatever genre they’re studying at the time. It is also a great tool to get students to notice their mistakes, and can be used to build vocabulary (Yoon, 2011). The study even suggested that students could compile their own corpora of their writing work, which I also thought could be a tool learners could use to measure their progress as well as a source of pride in what they have accomplished up to that point.

Of course it also helps students to begin recognizing collocations and chunks–those tricky little things for which I as a teacher have no better explanation for them than “memorization” and “it comes with more exposure to English.”

I am big on having students look at outside, natural uses of English to make connections with what we’re learning, but I teach grammar. Last quarter, I had students find and present examples of whatever grammar point we were learning that week via sources like Instagram and Twitter–fun and fresh for them, getting them to connect grammar outside of the classroom for me.

I’m not sure I want to lose that element–it was a fun way for me to see what the students were into, and it was a sneaky way of getting students to think about English would it being super painful. However, I know that incorporating corpora work in the grammar classroom–especially for students at my level–could be an exciting way to get students to recognize patterns for some of the grammar points they struggle with (third person s, “dummy do” and present perfect all come to mind).

I think I will incorporate mild corpora-based research into the upcoming semester’s classwork, and then compare this batch of students’ mistakes on quizzes to the last batch. I’m excited to see what I find!


Concordancing in L2 writing class: An overview of research and issues. Choongil Yoon. Journal of English for Academic Purposes. Vol. 10, 2011 (130-139)



so it goes. I guess in my line of work, things are hard to predict.

Today I taught two classes, one writing and one grammar. These are a part of my practicum, so they are not my classes, but my mentor lets me plan them and execute them and pretty much only jumps in if I’m drowning.


Tonight was my first night teaching again after a two-week hiatus due to both a family emergency and break between sessions, and I was mostly excited but also a bit nervous.

I was excited because I was teaching conjunctions and I felt like I planned this lesson to a T. I studied it and I had this nifty train car metaphor and I had conjunction junction and this lesson was gonna be IT, how I bounced back after a somewhat shaky first session (in my eyes).

I was nervous because I was also teaching a writing class and I had spent so much time and energy on the conjunction junction that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do for the writing class.


As the saying goes, you can never be too rich or too thin. Or predict which classes are going to go well and which will have you looking/feeling/sounding lost.

In the writing class, I introduced the Objective Report by examining (deconstructing, I’d like to think ^^) an article on the New York Sugary Drink ban.

And that did have some issues, but they weren’t due to my teaching (mostly). They were just normal issues of, like, vocabulary and some students still finding their sea legs after moving up a level.

As opposed to my beautiful, well-studied conjunction junction which got stopped in its tracks. At one point, I literally said “OK I can see this is not working. Ignore what I just said and let’s just do this.” And then I proceeded to have them do some exercises out of their blue Azar book.

It seems that in my preparation for the lesson, I got too meta. I was too far above the material–I lost that balance of how to present it in their terms.

And I understood it so well that I didn’t know how not to understand it, so I was having a hard time even understanding their questions.

Which prompted my mentor to remark that she understood, and that it comes with working more with the class and getting a feel for them,

and that “you can’t understand the material TO them.”


This week I wanted to look into something that has been pecking at my brain for a little while now, regarding the teaching of composition, and that is in looking for a balance. We learn so many theories regarding writing and its purpose, and in First Year Composition (FYC) students to understand writing and its purpose. Combined with my Descriptive Grammararian/Non-Privileged Dialect/TESOL linguistic background, I sometimes find myself in a rabbit hole and I finally find myself thinking “…but where do I draw the line?” as in, where do I draw the line between living and letting linguistically live and teaching how to produce cohesive, impressive, readable text? I chose this article in an attempt to understand…

Marcus, M. (1964). Dilemmas of the college composition teacher: As humanist and technician. The Journal of Higher Education35(9), 481-487. Retrieved from,&searchText=teaching&searchText=humanist&list=hide&searchUri=/action/doBasicSearch?Query=teaching+composition%2C+humanist&gw=jtx&acc=on&prq=humanist%2C+composition&Search=Search&hp=25&wc=on&prevSearch=&item=13&ttl=5141&returnArticleService=showFullText

I was a bit apprehensive about this article because of its publication date—it was published in 1964, and in my program it has been kind of drilled that we want to be cognizant of publication dates in research, and that we want to be choosing more recently published articles (>15 years). In this case, however, I thought that the article’s timeframe could be a strength because it was published in the timeframe when the dialogue between Current Traditional Rhetoric, Classical Rhetoric and Expressivism was unfolding.

About three pages into a lofty description of the composition teacher as someone who probably does not want to be a composition teacher and is most likely ill-prepared to teach composition, I think I stumbled upon the answer that I was seeking, which is that the composition teacher struggles to convey to students that “he is criticizing the logic, detail, clarity and consistency of their presentations, and not their intrinsic ideas…and to point out the difference between fact and opinion, and between rant and grounded opinion” (Marcus, 1964).

Marcus’s main argument, however, lies in the difficulty of conveying the point above in the current language environment and in relation to students’ fixed (and sometimes contradictory) values/beliefs. Although here “current” is 1960s, the supporting points made in the article remain relevant. Marcus points out the difficulty of learning how to write with honesty and clarity when inflated, untruthful language is so rampant. He uses advertising as a supporting point, with the example that his baby’s “meat jars” are labeled “‘our most precious product'” (Marcus, 1964).

Regarding students’ sometimes contradictory values and beliefs (for example that everyone is moral, but expediency is valued over morality), Marcus points out that it may be sometimes difficult to find a framework within which to criticize students’ detail, reasoning, clarity and themes (Marcus 1964). Critiquing from outside this framework may alienate the teacher from the students; criticizing from within may reinforce these views.

Although I think that this article was written with a somewhat condescending tone toward students, I nonetheless found it to be interesting and valuable. Marcus points out that it is our duty to analyze the misuse of language and the underlying desire for power without presenting our analysis as the final truth. He effectively details the complex negotiating process involved in teaching composition. This article provided me with the answer I was looking for, so I would definitely recommend it.