Language for Interacting With Others

Reflections on pp.109-124 of chapter 4 (Language for Interacting With Others) in Beverly Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion (2015)

This chapter covers the interpersonal function of language; “how language is used to foster social interaction, to create and maintain relationships, to develop and project a personal identity, to express opinions and engage with the views of others.” (p.109). Our roles, position and therefore language changes depending on the relationship that we pronounce ourselves in.

The language for interacting with others is dependent on the pattern of interaction. The pattern is affected about the roles we have with whom we’re talking with. The speech functions in verbal language are divided into four: questions, statements, commands and offers.  When asking questions, we are asking for information , enquiring about something or probing something. A question that asks for a yes or no answer, will naturally limit the interaction and is also called a closed-question, to avoid this, it is better to asked wh- questions (Who?, When?, Where? or Why?), as they require or provoke more lengthy answers. Statements are used to provide information and make remarks (p.112). Commands are used to get things done; either requesting information or asking for goods or services, they vary from instructions, to invitations, suggestions and advice. Finally offers are given when interacting to provide the service or good asked for. “Offers can take a number of different grammatical forms – or they might jus take the form of a physical response, such as passing someone a toll that has been requested. E.g. Here you are. or Do you want some cake?” (p.113). Thus, besides the offers, the key elements in the structure of speech functions are the subject of the verb and the auxiliary part of the verb group (p.114). Derewianka gives examples of the structures of the different speech functions:

The structure of statements

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.01.03

(p.114)

The structure of questionsScreen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.01.12

(p.114)

The structure of commandsscreen-shot-2017-05-30-at-01-01-27.png

(p. 116)

Our speech roles are also very affected by our usages of pronouns, and the terms of address we use as a resource to establish and maintain the relations in terms of power, status and so forth (p. 118). Whether you address someone as Mr./Mrs. or a nickname changes the power dynamic and interpersonal relationship within the language.

Another way to stimulate interaction is to talk about feelings and app onions to express attitudes, if nothing else, this will usually get the reader or listener to wake up and feel the need to interact or respond. Derewianka divides the different kinds of emotions into 3 categories:

  • Matters of the heart
  • Pursuing goals
  • Social wellbeing

We can use both nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs to describe our emotions.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.15.39.png

(p.123)

Emotions are also used to express opinions about something and the quality thereof. This can be regarding their composition e.g., elegant, complex, or not well developed, their social value e.g., significant or valid, and the reaction they provoke in us e.g., terrifying or fascinating! (Using exclamation marks is also a function to express in which way we want something to be received as they signify certainty, excitement or seriousness). Expressions of attitudes can, of course, be both explicit or implicit, depending on our language use and purpose of the message or emotions involved.

Literature:

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

Advertisements

Writing Genres in English

Reflections on excerpts (genres; 1-5 & ads; 22-28) of Susanne Christensens books City of Dreams (2010) and Ads (2011) from the Close-Up series

This reflection will differ from the previous ones, it is not a cheat sheet nor a resumé of the texts, but rather a review combined with discussion of Christensen’s texts. This is not just a pun since the texts are about writing genres, but a sincere interest in the topic of genres and teacher resources. During my internship I experienced, English teachers (including myself) often take for granted, that the students have been taught how to write certain genres in their Danish (or other L1) classes – as I met students in the 7th grade, that had no idea what the difference was between fiction and nonfiction, or how to write a short story or a review.

The excerpt of Christensen’s books covers essays, diary entries, formal & informal letters, film reviews, news articles and work-sheets for writing your own advertisement, how to write a letter, how to write an essay, how to write a diary entry, how to write a short story, how to write a news article, and how to write a poem.

I am initially fond of things that seem concrete and to-the-point, thus I’m happy to see that each section only takes up one page each, creating a sort of encyclopaedia feel from the get-go – leaving me with no fear of getting lost in the text. Each section has its own title, a brief definition, followed by a guidelines and then a written example or photo – very pleasing to the eye and the mind – though making me wonder why this is written for teachers and not directly to students, as it is very direct and easy to understand. I did stumble over the fact (and the page), that there was guidelines of how to write a diary entry, thinking that a diary is the last place you need to regulate to someone else’s expectations or limitations for that matter. But I found it, in that specific section, that Christisen merely states “what people often do” and uses phrases like “you can do (…) but it is not compulsory”. A less but exciting fear about seeing the guidelines of how to write a poem, was immediately put to sleep, as the first sentence states “It is very hard to define what a poem is. Poems can have countless forms. They can be short or as long as a book. They can rhyme but dont’t have to.” Besides from those two no-longer-existing scares, I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when adults don’t know how to write a formal letter (read: email), a job application or especially – in group work – AN ACADEMIC REPORT! There is obviously a need for both young and old learners to become more exposed to our structural and linguistic rules of certain genres. The human brain is wired for patterns, rules, and logic – and as it so happens to be with most of the things we learn, as soon as we get it, we start understanding why and how it’s useful. Information and knowledge makes previously unknown topics interesting to us.

A pleasant “read” and a useful tool.

Literature:

Christensen, S. (2010): City of Dreams – Teacher Resources. Gyldendal
Christensen, S. (2011): Ads – Teacher Resources. Gyldendal

“Right then, write!”

Reflections on Susanne Jacobsen’s text Right then, write! published in Sproglæreren (april 2011)

Since the simple goals (Fælles Forenklede Mål) was adopted in 2009, it has become a task to all language teacher, not just Danish teachers, to work towards creating fluency and literacy within the students, thus Susanne Jacobsens article, speaks about how the language teachers should relate to this. This reflection will focus on the aspects of English as a subject in the Danish primary schools.

English has become a lingua franca on a global level, where only people with a decent understanding of the English language can orient themselves in the democratic debate within the global arena (p. 25). Thus, English is an indispensable source of knowledge and information and a weighty bildung factor (dannelsesfaktor). Meaning that not only are the students learning the language, but also about the language to understand the subject itself. One of the factors that Jacobsen highlights is scaffolding, as it is significantly important, when working on verbal communication and understanding of the language, which is highly context-dependent. When students are corporately working or they are interacting, the teacher can scaffold by offering the here-and-now vocabulary which is needed by the individual students – both previous to and during the task. Gibbon (2009) from the Australian genre-pedagogy states that the point is that, the gap between action and context-dependent language for some students is insurmountable, unless the scaffolded report is included (p.26). This means that group work, when learning a L2 language, is very important and highly beneficial for the students because they eventually will end up in a situation, where they have to discuss or bargain with group members, thus enabling them to test out their individual interlanguage hypotheses. Group work further fuels the sense of trust, which is an absolute necessary foundation for all language acquisition (Jacobsen og Olsen, 2011). The actual group work itself can then work as a type of scaffolding, that improves their language skills as they have to write later on – which is more complex, as writing often is a non-context dependant task. It is important, that the students learn to read and write nominalisations, i.e., words that are often constructed from verbs, but made into nouns, because it enables them to deal with abstract terms in an appropriate and complex language when writing. Jacobsen suggests sentence-matching games where the student has to compare a everyday language sentence with an abstract sentence with nominalisations, thus this allows students to find and realise, that persons and actions hide behind nominalisations (p.27).

The advanced level of communication in the English language, that the Danish students learn, is what gives the Danish school system points on the global scale (p.27), and Jacobsen adds, that if we don’t teach them this, we let down the students from a lower socio-economic background. It is the teacher’s task to create the contexts, in which the students can produce exactly the language, that fuels learning (Derewianka, 1990).

Literature:

Deriwianka, B, (1990): Rocks in the Head: Children and the Language of Geology, in: Carter, R. (red.): Knowledge about Language and the Curriculum. Hodder & Stoughton.

Jacobsen, S. (2011): Right then, write!. Sproglæreren

Jacobsen, S. & Olsen, M. (2011): Om klasseledelse og tryghed I engelsklærerens optic, in: Schmidt, M. (red): Klasseledelse og fag – at skabe klassekultur gennem fagdidaktiske valg, Dafolo

Feedback on Errors (or Lack Thereof)

Reflections on Feedback (chapter 11, pp.131-140) from Fremmedsprog i gymnasiet: teori, praksis og udsyn by Susana Silvia Fernández

“(…) Man skal kun give feedback, som er overskuelig og systematisk, og som kan bearbejdes af eleven, så det fremmer læring” (p.131) Fernández begins her text about feedback by stating the current (consult milestone 3 beneath) view on correcting errors. The opinions on whether to correct mistakes has swung like a pendulum between two extremes. There has been 3 milestones (read: notions/view points) on correcting errors:

  1. “Correct everything straight away” which is a very behaviouristic view on learning, that perceives learning as a repetition of good models/tools for acquiring appropriate (good) habits.
  2. “Correcting doesn’t work” which is opposite to the ladder and inspired by Noam Chomsky’s theory on language acquisition; attributes repetition and imitation of “a good model”, correcting errors has much less importance, than the student’s interlanguage-development and treating different errors. A view which is very much aligned with the one of Krashen (discussed in the earlier reflection on Teaching Grammar).
  3. “Correcting supports the student’s’ hypothesis creation” is the current view, that corrections should not be exhausting, but are necessary when done at the right time in the right way.

The language hypothesis relies on the importance on interaction and output, in which the student through hypotheses can test themselves and continuously adapt their hypothesis as it is a process that changes as they learn something new (p.132). Errors then, are systematic incorrect hypotheses, that can happen for an inter- or intra linguistic reason, whereas mistakes are random mistake in the student’s output, that can often be self regulated (p.132). One way as a teacher to coach the student towards adapting their hypotheses, is through correcting errors i.e. corrective feedback, which is used as a tool for when the errors occur, because they indicate of the students interlanguage development, thus corrective feedback allows the student to adapt their hypotheses. Summative feedback is highly relevant in end-product situations like exams, but formative feedback is constantly relevant, as it further helps the student to become better in their weak arenas, thus helping them to become better (p.133). The formative feedback can be divided into impact and explicit. The explicit feedback directly points to the error and often the right answer, whereas implicit naturally is more subtle. Implicit feedback can be e.g., underlining errors, using abbreviations for different types of mistakes (WC=word choice, PP=prepositions), providing the right tense as a response when whilst communicating verbally, giving a metalinguistic explanation, etc…

Finally Fernández talks about collaborative language learning as a great tool for interlanguage development, where students receive feedback from their peers.

Literature:

Fernández et al. (2014): Fremmedsprog i gymnasiet: teori, praksis og udsyn. Samfundslitteratur

The Development of Young Writers

Reflections on Scaffolding Young Writers, Chapter 1; The Development of Young Writers, by Linda Dorn & Carla Soffos

Writing, the action, has both a social and a cognitive side. “Writing is by nature a social process. Writing represents the means by which a message can be communicated to someone else.” (p.2) Children uses inquirers such as “What does this say?” as foundation for learning how to write. Children that come from homes of writing environments before they start school. have already acquired critical understanding for learning about the writing process (p. 2). Healy (1994, p.2) talks about the cognitive side of writing, and describes that for a child to start the writing process, the child must understand and pull together ideas (feelings, emotions and images) or knowledge from their own memories, desired to be communicated. “Language becomes a tool for consolidating bigger ideas into original statements while choosing the best words and placing them in the correct order.” (p.2), which is a complex process driven by a personal need to express a message. The more meaningful and personal the idea is for the child, the easier it will be for the child to use its transcription skill. Scaffolding the child at appropriate points is a tool of mediation, that then helps the child’s ability to orchestrate the social, cognitive, and mechanicals sides of writing, thus writing is a learned skill, shaped through practice and constructive feedback, which further helps the child to become a self-regulated writer (Harries & Graham:1999). Writing itself is a very complex process, which you have to recognise, when teaching young learners, after having identified ideas and words for expressing them, the writer then has to read, revise the text by e.g., deleting unnecessary words, sections or rearrings sentences, and paragraphs, to clarify concepts. Thus the next level of complexity is added as the writer has to consider the receiver’s (read: reader or audience) need and experience of the text and, their knowledge of the given idea, concept or information. During the act of writing, the writer will develop and apply strategies of organising, monitoring and revising the specific message to the particular audience (p. 3). According to Healy (1994, p.3) developing a well-orchestrated writing process depends on the interrelatedness of the following three aspects; comprehension of ideas, expressive language and facility with mechanics. It is the teacher’s role to strive to create a balance between the child’s composing and transcribing skills, yet the ultimate goal of teaching is to promote an orchestration process, which happens at the intersection where old knowledge meets new knowledge i.e., if the child has too many new things to learn, this can interfere with the orchestration process (p. 4). There are specific benchmark behaviours along a continuum of writing control with young writers, and the primary grades are critical times for shaping orchestration. Therefore the teacher must recognise the behaviours that indicate how students are becoming writers, and to promote this process, teachers can ask four simple questions:

  • What is easy for the writer to do?
  • What is hard for the writer to do?
  • What does the teacher expect the writer to do?
  • What does the teacher expect to do for the writer?

Levels of writing competence

The emergent writer

Greatest challenge occurs with transcribing the message. Here teacher can guide the child to learn to use simple resources to assist problem-solving efforts. Risk-taking behaviours are the basis for early monitoring, searching and self-correcting actions, which are the foundation for successful writing. As the emergent writer practise reading behaviours, it allows them to make logical and realistic predictions for the upcoming words and phrases (p. 7).

The early writer:

Here the writer has begun to think about the length of their stories, and it is common for the writer to evaluate their words with comments such as “Look at how many pages I wrote!” (p. 8). The early writer will move from chronological accounts to more focussed pieces, that sustains the theme throughout. The teacher can introduce the early writer to new resources, including writing forms and checklists, serving as self-help guides to promote independent thinking. It is important, that the child must possess the knowledge and skills to use these resources in productive ways (p. 9)

The transitional writer:

The transcribing skills of young writers are faster and more automatic, thus the control frees their attention to focus more actively on the craft of writing (p. 9).

In conclusion, to develop independent writers, the teacher must consider both the cognitive and social sides to learning by being attuned to what the child already knows.

Literature:

Dorn, L. J. & Soffos, C. (2001): Scaffolding Young Writers: A Writer’s Workshop Approach. Stenhouse Publishers