Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Big Picture Intiative

           To be honest with you, every tutoring session I’ve had thus far began with a student who had a very specific goal in mind. Many of my tutoring sessions have been with ESL students who are aware that their writing needs some work. Each individual came in with specific desire (e.g. academic vocabulary work, sentence structure, fragment revision, etc.) but all of my tutees have been very open to the idea of addressing big picture issues in their writing. I have very little experience with ESL learners but my experiences with the ESL students at Weber have been overwhelmingly positive. They are all committed to improving their English writing and are dedicated to turning in the finest product they can.

            As far as expectations go, I have yet to encounter a situation in the Writing Center where the student seemed disappointed with the tutoring services I provided them. While the students initially have specific goals in mind, I find they respond positively to organizational or developmental suggestions. Now, in a theoretical sense, how would I respond to a student who rejected my attempts to address big picture issues?
            We have been taught in class to slowly and leisurely address students whose writing needs significant improvement. We have also been taught that, on occasion, a student asks for a specific form of help because they are unable to communicate what kind of help they are actually seeking. Should a student sit down with me and ask, “I need you to proofread my paper”, my trained response would be to let them know that I can’t proofread their paper in a traditional sense but that I can help them comb through their writing and identify mistakes that they can then return to at a later time (I will take the time to note that I am blantantly stealing this response from Matthew per our lecture discussion last class). Then I would begin to read her paper out loud and ask her what kinds of mistakes she can already see – if any at all. This would be a great way to segue into bigger picture topics.
            In reading the essay out loud, the tutee and myself would be able to identify issues present in her writing. If we notice her transitory sentences are choppy, we could discuss organization and topic transition. Should we stumble upon a paragraph that seems horribly unrelated or out of place, we can discuss the flow of her paragraphs and see if this ‘black sheep’ relates back to her thesis in any significant way. Lastly, referring back to the thesis would be a great way to transition into talking about the paper as an argumentative or cohesive unit. Does the thesis hold up throughout the entire essay? If not, how can we fix this? Does the thesis even exist? If not, how to we take the bulk of the paper and either locate or draft a thesis?
            While I have yet to encounter such a student, I would hope that my conversations with and observations of other tutors would aid me in transitioning to a big picture topic without offending or upsetting the tutee. I’m sure I will encounter a headstrong student who only wants a tunnel vision tutoring session but I believe I am prepared to express that we are not a ‘fix it shop’ – as Eric has said many times – and gently push them towards the services we do offer instead.  


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