Monday, July 23, 2007

weblog activity

I originally wanted to post about my fluency exercises, a regular event in EAP2WW, where my students are filling up their class weblog with interesting things to read, along with the folk tales that is this term's weblog promotion.

But before that, I took a look around, and found some unusual things. First, GE students have interesting posts and interesting links, to different places. GE is always so direct! I love that in a group of people. Second, Dave, our most consistent and most town-oriented blogger in Carbondale, has gone so far as to mention me and my various blogs, in an overview of what's left after a prominent blogger has announced he's leaving. Plenty is left! You don't have to smoke on the bus to get a good tour.

Here is what is up with the fluency exercises. I noticed, in my high-level writing classes, that there was a severe weakness in the area of general confidence, general fluency, ability to think and write together, at once, to use writing as a meaningful medium for everyday communication....we're talking here about a population that is gifted in the oral realm, able to pick up words and use them immediately; quick studies in the area of oral acquisition, yet virtually unable to complete the process of getting thoughts down in writing to use them to communicate- so tied up, in fact, that they tend to copy and paste from other sources in desperation. So, the fluency exercises were a response to this.

Now, we haven't backed down on the serious side of the class, which is the essays one can read in their personal weblogs, linked on the template to the left. Not everyone has all three that should be up by now; all are about population; but, you can see that we also do our best on the classic, five-or-more paragraph essays; we produce. We iron out grammar; we work on just expressing straight meaning. In some cases fluency is just getting in the habit of using capital letters, checking spelling, putting punctuation in the right place. This is not a habit yet for some of our writers...and, sometimes I think that should be the first priority, if they want their writing to be taken seriously in the realms where they'll be using it.

In the course of making interesting assignments, I figure that a side-benefit is that a number of people will read these short snippets- and I have evidence that they do. That addresses another general weakness of the program...I figure that if you lower the price (8 sentences never killed anyone), raise the reward (reading what a friend says is always better than reading what a stranger says) and make the content more interesting, they'll have an attractive element to them. It doesn't have to be formal, or organized, to be good for them.

That's the goal. I want them to speak; I want to listen. I'd like to hear them say whatever they can; whatever they want to. It's fun to read; you learn a lot.

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