Six Samples of Laura's Tutoring with Rhetorical Analyses Appended.
Two Atypical Examples (Normalizing the OWL Users)
One of the things we emphasize to the tutors and the students is that the DSU OWL is not an editing service. Exactly what do we mean by that? One thing it can mean is that if a student sends a text and writes "I would like you to edit it for me," the student may get a fairly terse rejection as in the example below:
(The tutor's comments have been bolded for easier reading.)
From "Andrew XXXX"
Subject:Re: room description
Date:Mon, 6 Feb 1995 10:11:15
The OWL cannot edit your paper for you. Do you have specific questions about your paper? Other people have asked about their topic sentence, their similes or grammatical structures.
This is an assignment for writing developement on describing my room, I would like you to edit it for me.
My room is a clean, comfortable, friendly room. My room is in the basement of my house on the east side of Sioux Falls. When I walk into my basement it is on the opposite side of the stairway across from the living room. My room rarely has close on the floor or dust on the shelves, because my mom cleans it daily. I smell a sent of pledge in the air, evidence that my mom has cleaned.
When I walk into my room the first thing I see is my dresser. My dresser is straight across the room on the east wall. My dresser is
Obviously, Laura could have informed the student that "close" and "sent" are the wrong homonyms, but instead, she gave Andrew a hint about how he might get a better response the next time: ask a specific question or questions about the text. If nothing else, such "normalizing" of the OWL users might teach students to realize that the areas where they need the most help have names like "punctuation" and "grammar," which may, in turn, help them focus on those areas in their future efforts.
In addition to being told not to try to use the OWL as an editing service, students are told they must send their messages as plain ASCII text mail messages and not as attachments. Below we have an example of Laura going beyond the call of duty and answering a user's query which came as an attachment, without actually going through the full hassle that an attachment can cause an online tutor. Apparently what she did was print out the attached file and then write a paragraph of commentary while referring to the printed original.
Susan, Your paper was very good. A point for future papers, OWL cannot accept attached files. A message about this should have reached you on Feb. 6 at 10:36.
There were only a few grammatical errors in your paper. First, busy is a good adjective but you should not repeat it. The one in the beginning and the two in the conclusion will be sufficient. In your second sentence, it would be less wordy and flow better if you take out "when walking into" and replace it with "of". You do not need the comma in sentence four. In the fifth sentence, wall needs to be plural because you are talking about east and south walls. You need to define valances in the sixth sentence because many people in your audience will not know what they are. Your ninth sentence is a run-on. To fix it you can put a semi-colan after room or make two setences. In your eleventh sentence, you have a comma error in your progression; the comma needs to precede the and. Your fourteenth sentence is a run-on. Also, the directions are not capatilized in the
One thing which becomes apparent is that Laura's spelling is not perfect. (Although our user-friendly email interface does have a spell check feature, it is weak and somewhat cumbersome to use.) Consequently, Laura has "semi-colan" and "capatilized." Such problems, though not major, could potentially hurt Laura's ethos if Susan realizes that the person helping her is not a great speller.
This raises an issue of the tutor's credibility. Our guess is that the credibility of online tutors is maximized by their invisibility. For example, non-traditional aged students will not experience the doubt they might feel when approaching a student "mentor" many years their junior. The tutor's credibility will probably remain high until he or she provides textual evidence of fallibility. In many cases, especially when the client is a "Basic" writer, the student user will not know grammar or punctuation well enough to doubt the tutor, but spelling errors may afford a quick route to undermining credibility.
Early Basic Writing
What follows is a typical early effort by Laura upon a particularly problem-riddled paper. The assignment, given during the third week of the semester, asked the students to write a description of their rooms, employing all of their senses and incorporating a simile. Following the sample, we discuss the following salient features of Laura's response to Allen's paper: the introductory paragraph, the use of asterisks and all capitals for corrections, the absence of quotation marks to designate references to words (as opposed to references to the things the words signify), the volume of commentary, and the multiple misidentifications of run-ons.
Subject: Re:YOUR PAPER
Date:Fri, 10 Feb 1995 10:13:39
Your paper sounds interesting. Sandy Ellis [the client's Basic Composition instructor] has told me that you are not allowed to use the word you in your paper. I wrote by other grammatical problems. You need to put a simile in your paper. A simile is comparing two unlike objects with like or as. Here is an example: Her smile was as bright as spring sunshine. I hope that I helped.
Writing Development- 9:00
My den, which is located off the living room in our house in Humboldt, is a cozy and fasinating**spelling** room to be in. When you are entering my den,NEED A COMMA BECAUSE THIS IS A CLAUSE you enter it from our living room. You need to go down two stairs to get to the surface**SURFACE IS AN UNNEEDED WORD. SURFACE USUALLY MODIFIES WATER OR MOUNTAIN NOUNS** of the room. The steps and the floor are covered with a soft brown carpet that almost tickles your toes while you walk on it. Once you are in the room,NEED A COMMA BECAUSE OF CLAUSE as you look to the north wall thier**YOU NEED A DIFFERENT THEIR. THIS THEIR IS POSSESIVE. THERE IS MORE LOCATION** you will find a brown gun cabinet that is filled with Twelve**DOES NOT NEED TO BE CAPITALIZED** of are rifles that my dad and I use for hunting. Hanging on that same wall**NEED A COMMA BECAUSE THIS IS A RUN-ON** we have four of are**DO NOT NEED OF OUR BECAUSE IN THE NEXT PART OF THE SENTENCE YOU SAY WE HAVE KILLED** deer that we have killed which make this room not only kind of scary but also very different. The four deer are hanging on brown paneling which it**DO NOT NEED IT BECAUSE THE WHICH IS RIGHT AFTER PANELING** has all sorts of**ALL SORTS OF IS BAD GRAMMAR. MANY WOULD WORK VERY WELL** wild life printed on it. Below all of the deer heads**ON THE FLOOR NEEDS TO BE BEFORE BLEOW ALL OF THE DEER BECAUSE IT IS MODIFYING THE WRONG WORD. IF YOU LEAVE IT, IT SOUNDS LIKE THE DEER ARE ON THE FLOOR. YOU ALSO NEED A COMMA AFTER HEADS BECAUSE IT IS A RUN-ON** on the floor is a green couch I will admit it is a old couch but it's the most soft and comfortable couch I have ever sat or lain in.**THIS SENTENCE IS TOO WORDY. YOU CAN FIX IT BY SAYING . . .A GREEN, OLD, SOFT AND COMFORTABLE COUCH. THEN DROP ALL OF THE REST.** The couch is called a hide-a-bed. I once fell asleep in this couch like**LIKE IS AN EXTRA WORD THAT IS OK FOR SPEAKING BUT NOT FOR WRITING IN THIS CONTEXT** in two minutes.**WHY DID YOU FALL ASLEEP SO FAST? BECAUSE THE COUCH WAS COMFORTABLE? YOU NEED TO TELL YOUR AUDIENCE** As you look toward the east wall you will find the same colored paneling as**ON IS A BETTER WORD THAN AS** the north wall. At the top of the wall in sequence hang three pheasants. One roster**ROOSTER HAS TWO O'S** then a heand**IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE HEN?** a roster again.**THE WHOLE SENTENCE IS A FRAGMENT. YOU NEED TO ADD A VERB.** All of these creatures have their own beauty. Below them is a white rod that runs from the north to the south**NORTH AND SOUTH WALL?**. It is called a curtain rod. It holds a yellow curtain which covers are**ARE IS A VERB. YOU NEED THE POSSESSIVE VERB OUR** sliding glass doors that lead to the outside. It also holds a peice**THIS IS SPELLED PIECE** of stain glass that my Grandma gave my mom which makes this room special because my Grandma past away last year.**THIS IS A RUN-ON SENTENCE. YOU CAN CHANGE IT BY MAKING IT TWO SENTENCES. PASSED INSTEAD OF PAST. PAST MEANS SOMETHING A LONG TIME AGO** Sitting on the ground is a entertainment center which is made out of dark brown wood and it has a sliding door in the top left hand corner.**THIS IS A RUN-ON** It holds a colored television and a stereo. The stereo is unique because it has an eight-tracK player in it which they don't even make today. Now that I have explained all of the room to the best of my ability to you I will tell you about one more thing.**YOU DO NOT NEED THE PRECEDING SENTENCE** That is the ceiling.**YOU DO NOT NEED THIS SENTENCE IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE OTHER SENTENCE** The ceiling is made out of white plaster which also has some sparkles that are mixed in with it which makes the room very beautiful when the sun is reflecting off of them in the summer.**THE PRECEDING SENTENCE IS A RUN-ON** In the middle of the ceiling hangs a ceiling fan. The fan is made of a brown wood which has a gold border around of the tips. The fan has > three different stages. High, medium, and low.**THE PRECEDING SENTENCE IS A FRAGMENT. IS CAN BE EASILY FIXED BY REPLACING THE PERIOD AFTER STAGES WITH A COLAN AND THEN MAKING A LOWER-CASE H ON HIGH. Walking out of the room in the northwest corner you also will see a white cobbed- web**SPELLING ERROR** with a little black spider crawling around inside.
The introductory paragraph of this example, like all of Laura's, begins with something positive about the writer's efforts. In this case, "your paper sounds interesting," is definitely faint praise by Laura's standards. Next Laura mentions that the instructor has "told me that you are not allowed to use the word you in your paper."
Laura's knowledge of the instructor's proscription of "you" and her awareness that Allen needs to put a simile in his paper stem from two factors: we encourage instructors to send the OWL a copy of their assignment, and the two instructors who do the majority of the Basic Composition instruction had some very specific requests which they communicated to the OWL tutors through the OWL directors.
The irony in the fact that Laura addresses the writer as "you" while reiterating the instructor's taboo upon the use of "you" is undoubtedly lost upon the student, and probably the tutor as well. However, it illustrates one of the central tensions in student-tutor-instructor relationship. Whether or not the initial "rule" was as absolute as it sounds when reiterated by Laura, something which may have begun as as a well intentioned (and possibly well explained) recommendation about avoiding the "universal you" in academic writing gets turned into a rule which bans the use of "you" in the entire paper.
Laura has a tendency to write both her commentary and her corrections as full, or nearly full sentences. (Glenda, the other high volume tutor we interviewed, said she writes in complete sentences all the time and thinks this is the way writing tutors should make comments.) Certainly the technology facilitates this sort of behavior since what used to be marginalia can now be inserted anywhere simply by making space for whatever one wants to write. There is, however, a limit to how far Laura will go in terms of conforming to standard written academic English conventions when commenting on texts. For example, she does not use quotation marks to identify when she is referring to a word.
The first correction is of the misspelled "fasinating," which she marks with a lower case "spelling" surrounded by double asterisks. In an interview Laura mentioned that she quickly realized that putting her comments in parentheses was insufficient because writers could mistake the tutor's parentheses for their own.
Her next correction involved the insertion of a comma after "den," followed by the words "NEED A COMMA BECAUSE THIS IS A CLAUSE," which Laura wrote in all capitals. In the interview Laura spoke about trying to give the basic writers grammar instruction without using grammar vocabulary. She also spoke of bringing it "down" to their level. Her explanation, "because this is a clause," is intended to provide the writer with some understanding of why a comma is desirable after "den." Arguably, "because this is a clause," is neither wholly accurate nor terribly helpful. On the other hand "because this is a significant introductory adverbial element," is not likely to be any more helpful than Laura's explanation. In the interview Laura expressed an awareness of the problem of communicating to basic writers who do not know the meaning of the standard terms for grammatical instruction. She also confessed that she does not feel very confident in using those terms herself. As an elementary education major, she is not required to take the course in grammar which English Education majors must take.
Her next correction involves the insertion of two sentences to justify the elimination of the word "surface" from the phrase "to get to the surface of the room." She inserted, in all capitals, between double asterisks: "SURFACE IS AN UNNEEDED WORD. SURFACE USUALLY MODIFIES WATER OR MOUNTAIN NOUNS." Here we see a case of Laura correctly identifying a problematic word choice, but her justification for the elimination of "surface," while novel, does not conform to the traditional categories of English grammar.
In response to the non-word "thier," Laura wrote **YOU NEED A DIFFERENT THEIR. THIS THEIR IS POSSESIVE. THERE IS MORE LOCATION**. Even without the added difficulty of all capital letters, "there is more location" is not easy to decode. If Laura used quotation marks to designate words, as opposed to their referents, the sentence would be easier to decode for any reader familiar with that convention. Again, many Basic Composition students are probably unfamiliar with the use of quotation marks to indicate a shift in the level of signification, so the extra effort of putting words in quotation marks could be wasted upon that audience. On the other hand, by being consistent with standard academic practice, it could help educate the basic writers about that special use of quotation marks.
One of the things Laura suggested during the interview was a uniform marking process to eliminate the possibility of diverse practices confusing the tutees.
In response to the very interesting sentence, "Hanging on that same wall we have four of are deer that we have killed which make this room not only kind of scary but also very different," Laura make two comments, the first of which asserts after wall:**NEED A COMMA BECAUSE THIS IS A RUN-ON**. After "are" which should have been "our," Laura wrote **DO NOT NEED OF OUR BECAUSE IN THE NEXT PART OF THE SENTENCE YOU SAY WE HAVE KILLED**. Again, quotation marks could make her meaning clearer to certain readers, but there is a directness in her message which is not likely to be lost on the Basic writer.
In response to the phrase "all sorts of wild life printed on it," Laura inserted **ALL SORTS OF IS BAD GRAMMAR. MANY WOULD WORK VERY WELL**. Clearly the phrase "all sorts of" is neither bad grammar nor is Laura's recommended "many" an appropriate substitute for the original. She probably objected to either the colloquial sound or the vagueness of "all sorts of," but if the paneling did indeed display a considerable variety of types, then "all sorts of wildlife" is clearly preferable to "many."
Finally, we'd like to point out one more good bit of instruction before moving on to another example.
When Allen wrote, "Below all of the deer heads on the floor is a green couch. . . ," Laura inserted the following: **ON THE FLOOR NEEDS TO BE BEFORE BLEOW ALL OF THE DEER BECAUSE IT IS MODIFYING THE WRONG WORD. IF YOU LEAVE IT, IT SOUNDS LIKE THE DEER ARE ON THE FLOOR.
Despite the spelling error ("bleow"), the suggestion and its justification display a simplicity which is almost elegant in the way it suggests a change, names the problem (this time consistent with conventional grammatical usage, though weakened somewhat by the vague referent "it") and then gives a reason for change by clearly stating the misunderstanding which is likely to result from the original word order. Laura went on to say: YOU ALSO NEED A COMMA AFTER HEADS BECAUSE IT IS A RUN-ON** Again she mis-identifies an error (failure to separate a significant introductory adverbial phrase from the main clause) as a "run-on," and this time misses a real run-on, in that the sentence continues as:" . . .a green couch I will admit it is a old couch it's the most soft and comfortable couch I have ever sat or lain in." She also neglected to address "a old" and "most soft."
Given that in addition to her 60 word introductory paragraph, Laura does make 28 insertions into the text, the fact that she does not "catch" every problem in this error-riddled 500 word theme is quite understandable. The issues she addressed were categorized and counted as follows:
Word Choice 4
Mechanics (e.g. capitalization) 4
Stylistics (e.g. wordiness) 2
Rhetoric (e.g. reader's need for more or less information) 2
If one were to divide these issues between surface and substance, they might be classified as 26 surface issues and two substantive ones.
Late Basic Writing
This next example is similar to the first in that it is the same assignment, but it is written by an author with many fewer problems. It was also done a year later, so the tutoring reflects the effect of about 150 responses by Laura which intervened between the two samples.
To: "Ryan XXXX"
Subject: Re: DESCRIPTION PAPER
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 13:09:01
You have an interesting paper. I would just like to make a few comments about it. You seem to have problems with run-ons. Once you have written a paper, reread the paper. When you get to a sentence with a comma in it, read the part of the sentence before the comma and then the part of the sentnece after the comma. If each sentence makes sense on its own, it is probably a run-on. I explained how to correct some of the run-ons and then I just marked the rest. I made other comments throughout the body of your paper.
Again Laura begins with her faintest praise, "You have an interesting paper." After that she provides an assessment of Ryan's problem and a clearly expressed method by which he might identify and solve this problem when it occurs in his writing. Unlike the early efforts where Laura was identifying legitimate compound sentences with comma and coordinating conjunctions as "run-ons," all of the sentences which Laura identifies here as run-ons are indeed problematic. Most teachers would probably call them comma splices, reserving the term "run-on" or "fused sentence" for ones without a comma joining two independent clauses rather than the one in which a comma is used but is inadequate to the task of joining the two.
Ryan's paper asks more specific questions than Allen's did, and in return, Ryan gets some suggestions for improving certain specific areas.
Please read these questions and apply them to my paper.
1) Does the topic sentence tell the kind of room, the location and an opinion of the room?YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE IS CONFUSING BECAUSE OF THE USE OF THE WORD HOME TWICE. ANOTHER DESCRIPTOR BESIDES HOME WOULD HELP. WHAT MAKES IT FEEL LIKE HOME? THE COMFORTABLENESS OR ETC.?
2)Are there any fragments, comma splices or run- on sentences?I MARKED THOSE IN THE BODY OF YOUR PAPER.
3) Are there reference to sight, sound, smell, and touch? YOU REFERECES TO SIGHT AND TOUCH ARE PRETTY GOOD BUT YOU NEED MORE DESCRIPTORS USING SOUND AND SMELL. SOUND: DO YOU HAVE A CLOCK TICKING OR A COMPUTER BEEPING? SMELL: DO THE SHEETS SMELL OF LAUNDRY DETERGENT?
4) Are transitions used correctly? Are there enough transitions?
5) Is the description logical? IT WAS LOGICAL EXCEPT WHEN YOU BEGAN TALKING ABOUT THE WALLS. THERE MAY BE ANOTHER WAY TO WRITE THAT PART OF THE PAPER. IT WAS SOMEWHAT CONFUSING.
Ryan XXXX 9:00 Basic Comp.
Home Sweet Home
When I enter my bedroom at home, it feels like home. This room makes me feel comfortable because *Explain fit in.* I fit in. *The following sentence is a run-on. You can make it into two sentence by putting a period after me and capitalizing It.*My room seems to be the perfect size for me, it isn't real big, but it isn't exactly small either. My room seems to have something about it that makes me feel good and that's *Instead of and that's, which would sound better.*why I like it. *The following sentence is a run-on. You can make it two sentences by putting a period where the comma is.*I have a queen sized waterbed that takes up a lot of space, it has a black and multi-colored comforter on it. *This is a run-on also.*My desk and dresser are built into the wall, they have a white and tan counter top to them. *Run-on*Just above my desk are my shelves, I have a lot of little things on these wood shelves. There are some books, a few pictures and a lot of memoribilia. *Run- on*Along the other wall is a window, its a small one, but big enough to crawl through when I was younger and wanted to sneak out. *Run-on*This wall also has a picture on it, and the head of my bed rests against this wall. *Run-on*The next wall is kind of bare, it has a few pictures on it, and sports banners hanging down for the top of the wall, but that is about it. *Run-On*The other wall has my closet, it isn't very big either, but it gets the job done. Next to my closet is a doorway that leads to my very own bathroom. In my bathroom is a sink, a toilet and another dresser. The floor in here is a white tile that is very cold in the morning. *Run-On*There is another doorway in my bathroom, this door leads into the shower room. *Run-On.*I share the shower room with my two sisters, they have a bathroom that also leads into the shower room. Lets go back to my bedroom. *Run-On*I have a ceiling fan and light hanging from the ceiling, and I also have a lamp that sits on the head of my bed. There is soft, white carpet on the floor that feels good when I get out of bed in the morning. I really like my bedroom because it's mine. My bedroom is a place I can call my own and it's a place that describes the kind of person I am!
By our tally, in the body of his paper, Ryan received one comment on word choice, one of a rhetorical nature (Laura's request for an explanation of "fit in") and eleven regarding punctuation.
Late Example from Composition
The next two examples are also later efforts, but these come from a Composition student, not a Basic writer. There are far fewer errors to correct and the author requests a different type of assistance. She specifically asks for help discovering weaknesses in her argument. In response, Laura wrote the following:
X-cs: From: Self
In this example, there were few errors to correct. Laura once asked for more details, once pointed out an unnecessary word, once pointed out a typo, once pointed out a missing word, and once suggested replacing "your" with the more appropriate "our." The introductory paragraph responds to the question about weaknesses in the argument and whether the reasoning makes sense by saying the argument is a little unclear and that Laura was unsure about the writer's stance. We agree that the author's stance is somewhat vague, and the suggestions to make the reasoning more explicit is good, but a better recommendation might have been to explicitly assert the clearest version of her thesis that she could as early as possible.
Subject: Re: Help Request
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 13:24:57
You have a wonderful paper. I made a few grammtical changes in the body of your paper. Your argument is a little unclear. After reading it, I was unsure about your stance. You may want to have a few forceful sentences of your own and then use your wonderful citations as support. You reasoning makes sense but it is implied. You need to tell the reader what your reasoning is and then use the FDA example. If you have any questions, please just e-mail me back. I hope that I helped.
Dear OWL Staff:
I'd appreciate your reviewing my essay for Eng101, Composition (Internet Version). I feel my grammar and punctuation are fairly good. I'd like your comments on whether my argument has weaknesses I should work on and if my reasoning makes sense. Thank you in advance. I must turn this final essay in by 5:00 Fri. 2/9, so would appreciate your comments back by 3:30 Thurs. 2/8.
FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC AND OUR CHILDREN
With my television remote in hand, I flipped through the channels stopping with half-hearted interest on the "American Music Awards." The upcoming entertainment was a group performing one of today's most popular rock-and-roll songs. In fact, it was nominated as one of the top three *WHAT? SONG OR GROUP?* up for award. As I watched and listened, my increased*INCREASED IS EXTRA IN THIS SENSE.* attention was drawn to the fact that words of the song were obviously missing as the performer sang. Repeatedly, there were short silent spots between words. No, the performer did not have a stutter; but certain words of his lyrics were being restricted.
Obviously, I missed the beginning of the program, but I highly doubt that there would have been a parental advisory warning at the start of the show. Rather the network chose to edit out the offensive words from the lyrics. As Tipper Gore succumbed to the fact that industry cannot be expected to solve the hazards that today's music may cause our children, she emphasized that we as parents should show our appreciation and recognize their efforts (50). Here would be a perfect opportunity to show an active parental role in support of a network's approach to addressing the issue of offensive language in music.
We as parents should not sit on the fringe and allow the young, impressionable minds of our children to be marred by unintentional exposure to sexually explicit or vulgar music. Many children can be drawn in by the oftentimes charismatic personality of these performers. Their alluring performances coupled with obtrusive lyrics can create a dangerous lure for juveniles. If we need a purpose to get involved, then let that purpose be our children.
Some of you may say the editing out of a performer's song lyrics is wrong and that it is censorship. You may feel that the parental advisory labels on music today are a violation of our basic rights of expression protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. That notion isn't correct. For example, the effort being made to enforce the labelling of sexually explicit or violent music will not forbid its purchase. Rather, it will give parents and children a means by which they can judge the value of the music they may be purchasing. Until a child is of legal age, a parent has the right to prohibit his/her child from being exposed to potentially harming material, whether it be drugs, toxic fumes, fire arms, or music. An excellent analogy made by Donald Thomson was the comparison of parent advisory labels on music to the Food and Drug Administration's labels placed on food products (Homework #7). As consumers today, we demand to know what we are purchasing for our own welfare. The reasoning for the consumer information displayed on a can of tomato sauce is very similar to the reasoning behind parent advisory labels. We want to be an educated public. We want to base decisions that affect our lives, and those of our children, on accurate information.
Our educated and active involvement can make a different*DIFFERENCE*. We as parents may not be the primary players in advocating the need for educating consumers, but we can certainly be productive secondary supporters. Tipper Gore gives sound*WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "GIVES SOUND"?* when she says "Some parents may want to write to the record companies. Others can give their support to groups like the Parent Teacher Association, which have endorsed the labeling idea. All of us can use our purchasing power. We have more power than we think, and we must use it. For the sake of our children. . ." (52).
Today's world is not so big that our seemingly small efforts cannot be heard. Communications and technology available to us make spreading our concerns and our appreciations possible. We need to be committed to building a better tomorrow for your*USE OUR INSTEAD OF YOUR* children. One way of ensuring that is by getting involved today.
Thomson, Donald. "Labeling Music." English 101, Composition (Internet Version), 1996, Homework #7.
Gore, Tipper. "Curbing the Sexploitation Industry." _Reading and Writing Short Arguments_ by William Vesterman. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994. 50-52.
Second Composition Example
The example which follows was also made at the end of Laura's fifth semester as an OWL tutor. The author is a student in an Internet version of Composition and the original text is relatively free of errors.
X-cs: From: Self
To: Becky XXXX
Subject: Re: Critique Please
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 12:51:22
Becky, You have a wonderful paper. I made a few comments in the body of your paper. As far as pulling it together, I think the best thing to do would be to do a brief overview of your main points and then a strong sentence of what you believe and why you believe it. I think it would be interesting to add any research you found on school districts who have implimented multi-cultural literature into the curriculum.
I hope that I helped.
Laura's introductory paragraph again begins with praise and offers some fairly general advice. In the interview Laura said she enjoyed working with the argumentative papers in composition because she was able to think up counter arguments instead of simply addressing the correction of errors. In her comments in the text, Laura once asks for more details, but does not provide any significant counter argument. Despite the opportunity to engage in what the author asks for, i.e. assessment of the "strength of the argument, emotion, logic, and organization/arrangement," Laura sticks mostly to editing surface features.
By our count, her comments tally up as follows:
This time the ratio of surface to substance seems to run about 9 to 1 in the textual commentary. The introductory paragraph primarily addresses substantive issues but in a fairly superficial manner.
Dear Owl Tutor:
Would you please critique my draft essay for English 101 via the Internet. It is suppose to be a 4-page essay in final format. At this point, I'm about 1 page short yet. I would like you to review my essay so far for strength of agrument, emotion, logic, and organization/arrangement. I want to do a summary which draws the audience back to the intro and makes them feel like I've brought the agrument to a completion (and add more information in the central portion as you see needed). If you notice any grammatical or punctuation correction, please mention that too.
My internet address is XXXX
Life Without Literature
Not every student will be a scholar, a doctor, or the president of the United States. Nor will every student have a love for math, the arts, or reading. To the disappoint*ment* of some and the satisfication of others, we must admit that what our children do with their lives is truly their own decision. There are many things that can affect the choices they make though, *this would be more effective if you replaced the comma and with just a semi-colon* and opportunity is one of them. *What type of opportunities? Who gives the opportuntities? A brief overview here would be helpful to the reader.* As we start our young people out on their journey through life, giving them opportunity can make a difference. A love for literature can make a difference. Literature will help remove the blind spots along the way. We all have blind spots--be it a blind spot to prejudice, a blind spot to expectations, or simply the inability to see what the world might have to offer. We don't want our children to have blind spots in their vision. Those blind spots can put up road blocks to opportunity.
In "Why Literature Matters" Tim Gillespie recognizes the important*ance* of literature in curriculum for its cultivation of imagination and empathy. He states that President Clinton used the line, "Children can't be expected to live a life they can't imagine." Gillespie says, "We rightly worry about that many youngsters' lives are circumscribed by poverty, discrimination, low expectations, cultural insularity, and other conditions that may render them unable to see beyond the limits of their immediate horizons" (61). We can bring our children out of themselves through literature. The need is, now more than ever, for a diverse choice of reading and a multiculturalistic curriculum in our contemporary English classrooms. As Paula Rothenberg points out, "The traditional curriculum teaches all of us to see the world through the eyes of privileged, white, European males and to adopt their interests and perspectives as our own" (96). Our children need a wider vision, without blind spots, in order to fully appreciate what life has to offer. Haven't we always hoped for our children,*don't need this comma* and their children, a better world than we have? This is the argument I offer for the reform (updating) of traditional literature in our school curriculums. There is a trend that is accelerating and being shaped by a philosophy called multiculturalism. In recent decades, many changes have been occurring in the content of reading and literature programs. Schools and teachers are updating and broadening their curriculums and literature programs. All students should be able to see the multiethnic and multiracial nature of this country *don't put in parenthses*(and the world) in the literature they are asked to read.
Isn't literature a wonderful opportunity? It offers our children a belief, a hope, a possibilty to change oneself or improve the world around them. This opportunity implies economic benefits as well. Tim Gillespie relates literature to life when he states, ". . .its capacity to stimulate the imagination, to offer different perspectives and wider worlds that the young reader can wander at leisure and experience in safety, without pressure or judgment. We read ourselves imaginatively into other lives and expand the pages of our own" (62). *This is a run-on starting with and.* Good news and bad news may be coming with this new trend, and concerns are being raised as these changes in specific selections and cultural content are surfacing. There may be complicated issues in a multicultural based curriculum. But, we must encourage our schools and professionals to give critical attention to this growing trend. We must offer our young people the opportunity to appreciate and absorb the experiences of the classic literature anthologies as well as make room for literary works that acknowledge the existence of all multicultural groups. A multicultural curriculum will foster the development of mutual respect in students. As Sandra Stotsky, as research associate in the Department of Language and Literacy, Graduate School of Education at Harvard University explains, "Literature teachers and literature programs need to live up to the original promise of multiculturalism: to teach our students to understand and appreciate one another's ethnic heritage as well as their common heritage as Americans" (612). By changing literature to cover so many different groups and countries, are we lessening the students' sense of their own identity? There are probably some of you who will feel this way.*I'm not sure of the appropriateness of you in this paper. I would change it to people because not all reader's like to be affronted with the you.* But, rather I advocate that this change in literature collections will teach students to respect one another's cultural backgrounds, including their own as Americans. Another issue you may be questioning is whether the effects these diverse works might suggest will cause reverse cultural stereotyping, or what you might hear referred to as "white guilt." Sandra Stotsky feels that teachers are being urged to help students think through the crucial differences between compassion and guilt. She says, "Otherwise, uncritical study of the literature of white guilt is likely to prevent the development of that sense of shared citizenship and mutual empathy that a multethnic nation requires" (611). The positive interactions portrayed in works like William Blinn's _Brian's Song_, which focuses on the friendship between two football players, one black and one white, is only one piece of fine literary work that can realistically portray American life. So how can we characterizes quality literature? I think we can judge literature but what it attempts to combat*instead of dashes use a colong*--boredom, generalization and stereotyping, cynicism, lack of understanding, blind spots. We can also judge it for what it attempts to employ*use a colon instead of dashes*--empathy, discomfort at pat answers, exploration of human concerns.
We were all students at one time. We all had to make decisions along the way. Did you have any blind spots? If you had the opportunity, would you have done anything different? Classical literature may have offered you a way of learning that met your world's demands. Today's world requires us to experience and participate in much larger terms and much earlier on. (I need to pull together my summary here.)
Gillespie, Tim. "Why Literature Matters." _The Education Digest_ Sept. 1995: 61-64.
Rothenberg, Paula. "Critics of Attempts to Democratize the Curriculum are Waging a Campaign to Misrepresent the Work of Responsible Professors." _Reading and Writing Short Arguments_ by William Vesterman. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994. 94-97.
Stotsky, Sandra. "Changes in America's Secondary School Literature Programs." _Phi Delta Kappan_ April 1995: 605-613.