Monday, May 19, 2008

Archive: Teacher Comments on Compositions

The purpose of this blog is to summarize articles on teaching English/language arts, from kindergarten through college, published in English education journals from the past.

Topic: “Be Specific”

Title: “Specificity in Context: Some Difficulties for the Inexperienced Writer.” College Composition and Communication 37 (1986), 195-203. Reviewed in College Composition and Communication (October 1987), 331.

Summary: “Calls into question the generalized advice to students to ‘be specific,’ noting that the amount of specific detail needed at any point is relative to purpose and audience….”

Comment: So many of our comments on compositions mean nothing to the students: “Awkward” or “Awk.”; “confusing”; “Please clarify”; “Be specific.” Ask the students to explain your comments. What will they do because of the comments? The ineffectiveness of teacher comments on writing is one reason that I use the ten-minute essays in which I actually do on the students’ papers what I expect the students to do. It’s called modeling, showing them how to revise, how to edit, how to clarify, how to smooth expression, how to correct grammatical problems. I’m forced to show students what I tell them to do and in that way students learn how to do what I did, and, as a result, will understand my comments in the future. RayS.

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