Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Summarization, Verbalization & Sentence Templates

Many times students want me to make sure they have completed their assignment correctly and that they have satisfied every last requirement. However, I do not really want this responsibility to rest only on me and I do not want the students to feel that they are free from this obligation. The best way I have found to help them decide if they have met each requirement is to read the paper and have them sum up the primary topic in one or two words in the margins. Once this has been done for each paragraph, they can look back at the words we have underlined in the assignment description and see what may be missing, what needs to be developed in more detail, and what they have done well. It takes more time for them to complete this task than it does for me, but it gives them a strategy to use when they do not have time to visit the writing center and helps make them more independent writers.

Another method I use when tutoring, similar to Eladio, is having students verbalize what they are struggling to write. Although it is probably common sense for us, many beginning writers have not thought of this strategy. When they are drawing blanks I tell them that when I have been working on a passage for too long with unsatisfactory results, I pretend that someone is in the room and I am explaining my ideas to them as if they are completely unfamiliar with the topic. This always makes my writing sound more natural and understandable. Then the student tries this strategy and the light bulb turns on. They usually seem so surprised that they have not thought of this trick and relieved that something finally works

For some students, this strategy gets them closer to what they are trying to write but they still seem unsure and lack confidence when it comes to getting anything down on paper. In this case, I pull out a handout that I keep in my folder with sentence templates from They Say, I Say. Using this sheet makes it so that I can give students ideas about how to articulate their thoughts, show them how to adapt certain phrases for their writing purposes, and prevents me from handing them all the answers. Tutees really like these templates because it gives them a pattern to work from. Students who are new to college and have not fully developed their writing skills just want to know what to write and how to do it. Although these templates are just a sampling of ways to write, they are a starting point that the students are more than happy to have. And, as we discussed in class, these templates help them to convey the “so what” factor and shows them a way to complicate and add depth to their work.


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