San Jose City College

    A Message for Instructors

In any group of writing instructors, one can find varying opinions about treatment of English language learners' errors in the essays they write. The only constants in the discussion are agreement on the frequent occurrence of errors and disagreement that ranges from whether correcting grammatical errors is useful at all to how and to what extent to call attention to them.

If asked, English Language learners recognize their deficits in writing and want instructors to "correct my grammar." With many, it's the first thing they ask for when they conference with an instructor. At this point, it is necessary for the instructor to know the stage of writing the paper represents. Does the student need a "talk through" of the topic and purpose of the essay for the sake of clarification, planning, and organization? At this stage, very little--if any-- attention to grammar is useful.

At an intermediate stage of the writing process [a decent attempt but not a final draft of a paragraph or essay], attention to grammar becomes more important and the student needs to understand that content and form are closely related. Grammar errors not only are distracting but also affect meaning and the reader's ease of comprehension and reading pleasure. More importantly, mistakes in writing tend to reflect poorly on the student's true intellectual ability. Failure to achieve a high degree of grammatical accuracy may also hinder future academic and professional advancement.

To aid students in their pursuit of grammatical accuracy, clarity, and fluency, it is useful for instructors to have a consistent way of talking about grammar as students advance up the curriculum. This website is an attempt to facilitate that discussion by categorizing rhetorical, syntactical, grammatical, and lexical errors. It recommends a system for treating error based mainly on Treatment of Error in Second Language Student Writing by Dana Ferris (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005.) The categories of error with explanations, examples, and practice activities; references to additional practice activities within our own ESL Lab software programs; and links for further practice form a corpus of grammatical knowledge that can benefit any writer attempting English composition. This site may also help instructors with intuitive knowledge of the language to better explain the complexities of grammar when they encounter errors in writing and students' queries for help. Whether an instructor indirectly corrects by using error codes or simply notates the location of error on a student paper, students can be helped in the editing process through consistent and accurate grammatical explanation and practice. Throughout the course of any semester, it may greatly benefit many students if instructors introduce this system of codes, use them judiciously for a while, and then gradually transition into error location, leaving the student both to identify and correct their errors, revising their papers very soon after they are returned. This site will aid instructors and students in this process.

San Jose Writes

ESL Program@San Jose City College
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