Friday, December 5, 2008

ER One Pager

Dane Della Rossa
CO 301 D – 5 December 2008

The Effects and Issues Involved with Teaching Standard English to Non-native English Speakers

Many problems arise while trying to teach English to students, specifically Standard English. Some of the questions I wanted to research were: How do native languages and home discourse communities cause problems when teaching Standard English to students? How do teachers identify these tensions? How do teachers show students how to code switch? How do teachers then successfully teach Standard English to students?


The first group of students I focused on were international students in the CSU Intensive English Program. The second group is fifth grade suburban students at DeVinny Elementary School in Lakewood, CO. The third student group was seventh grade students at Spring View Middle School.


I gathered fieldnotes while volunteering at the IEP. I also interviewed Patrice Henningsen, 5th grade teacher at DeVinny, and Patty Onorato, 7th grade teacher at Spring View Middle School.


I found that Students at the IEP were more open to learning Standard English because they have no prior background in English to interfere with their learning. They had a great attitude towards being in the program as well because they want to learn in order to make living in the US easier.
I also found that non-native English speaking students cling together because they feel isolated. To help them integrate, pairing students who are strong in English and students who aren’t as strong help them both to expand on their learning.


Every student is unique, and the ways in which we can look to reaching students on an individual level, is identifying the uniqueness in their own language as well. As we identified, sometimes it’s not that a student can’t speak the language; it’s the fact that there are many barriers keeping the student from learning. The students who simply do not have the desire to learn Standard English need the special attention from the teacher. They need to see the positive side of learning Standard English in order for them to believe in it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

24 october 2008 Warm up: Code switching and censorship questions

When facing a diverse classroom, there will most indefinitely be a multitude of discourses. diversity is a broad topic, and therefore cannot be subjectified simply to stereotypes; rather than defining the differing backgrounds by race, a teacher needs to understand the detailed backgrounds of the students. In teaching the students, a teacher must find the commonalities in the different discourses that students bring. If it seems that there aren't any, then topics that are transcendent across many discourses should be used to have students see the ways in which they can move between discourses. They can see the differences in their own discourses, but also appreciate the ability to strengthen a secondary discourse. Students can set aside many of their personal differences when they are able to work together in a common secondary discourse that provides unity, but does not alienate their primary discourse; made up of pride and belonging especially in a diverse community.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Language Investigation #3

Everyone remembers the five paragraph essay. It works in all cases of primary and secondary education; it’s in fact, what they expect. College goes two ways with this one. It’s ok in early composition classes, but hardly perfect for upper division English classes. It’s a great foundation, and is helpful in learning how to write. The problem is there isn’t as much room to expand. College is about expanding your thoughts, and in turn, expanding the length of papers. Research papers are very important. Many papers are research papers in college, even when you are writing about text. Usually outsides sources are a necessity in essays. In primary and secondary school, the emphasis on what kind of sources is considered academic. Also, the introduction of an essay should be expanded. High School students are smart enough to comprehend building an introduction and conclusion that sound intelligent. Also, it’s hard to write a five paragraph essay in a paper that is twenty pages. Personally, I felt like I was a decent writer coming out of high school, which is why I chose English for a major. My freshman comp classes were especially easy to get A’s on papers. After transferring schools, and diving full bore into upper division English classes, I quickly realized the shortcomings of early writing education. There was not enough emphasis on tense fluidity; there was also not enough instruction on how to make a paper flow. Transitions are still something I have a hard time with. Transition sentences in college are not as important as they were when we were going to school earlier. Transitions are just more complex now. How does one easily, and in a sophisticated manner, change from one idea to another without sounding like a ninth grader – it shouldn’t be a surprise because we were ninth graders when we learned it. Schools are getting better, but there is still a problem with schools collaborating. Learning to write better is a task to be learned in college, but by the time college rolls around, you are already expected to be able to write well. I’m not saying students aren’t prepared, but there is a huge gap between a B paper, and an A paper at the collegiate level. How is that attained?

Grammar is another part of growing up in Language that gets thrown to the wayside. Grammar rules are the most straight forward set of guidelines that apply to writing. As a young reader, you don’t look for grammar rules in reading. As I have read more in my adulthood, especially for classes, it’s easier to identify the depth of writing. Writers take a lot of time and require skill and knowledge to mold language and write sufficiently. Writing is a graphic representation of the spoken language. The division happens because often, there are no distinctions between spoken and written language. Writing the same way we speak does not cut it because speaking has become so relaxed and socialized that it doesn’t convey academic language the way writing is expected to. We were taught parts of speech, and ways in which sentences need to be formed in to have agreement, but we were not shown how to write within those boundaries. I didn’t ever write with the direct intention that the preposition comes before the infinitive. We would identify what direct, and indirect objects were. Teachers would give us worksheets to circle and label items. If I remember correctly though, this study of grammar did not stretch further than sixth grade for me. Students should still be learning, and not enter college being perfect scribes, but there is a direct correlation between the writing process and learning language. Language is pressed at a young age, but perhaps technicalities are pushed on kids that cannot use, and comprehend the rules of writing and language. This needs to be taught all the way up until graduation of high school. I don’t remember talking about grammar at all in high school. This is sad because many students, me included don’t know grammar as well as is required. I want to expand in writing, but find it hard if I don’t know how to expand because I don’t know the rules of writing at the higher academic tier. It also affects the ability to identify genius in texts without proper knowledge.

Warm-up - Chapters 5-6

1. What kinds of reading and writing did you see students doing in school? Why do you think Rose chose these assignments?

While working with the veterans, Rose both tried to pick texts that the vets might have an idea about, as well as a challenge. Shakespeare caused problems because of the difficult language. It did expand and help them to see potential in themselves. Even if they didn't like it, they appreciated what they learned. They also appreciated that Rose took the time to help expose them, and make them learn things they never had the chance to learn in the past. The poems were also effective. There is a large variety of poems at anyone's disposal, which makes variety a selling point for teaching. Especially the veterans, who have been through a lot could enjoy reading the poems that relate to them. Poems are also open to vast interpretation. No one has to feel "dumb" when explicating a poem because interpretation is up to the reader. This was good for the veterans. The veterans also got to write about themselves which helps in many ways to improve as writers, and express themselves.

3. What did you notice about the language schools used to refer to the students Rose featured in this chapter? How did this language mark students as “insiders” or “outsiders” to school? How do you think these labels might have influenced students’ literacy development later on?

When the little boy referred to being in the "dumb math group," it showed how students accept the labels that get put on them for being in certain classes. The labels that schools put on students causes them to react in different ways: it either foreces students to be "insiders" because they cover up the harse labeling by following along with the stereotypes and making jokes about themselves and the class to be accepted; They become outsiders," angry, and give up on school because no one has showed them any care or hope; It makes students "insiders" when they just go along with the label, and keep going in school thinking it's where they should be, or the best they are capable of.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Language Investigation #2

I have been in the Military now for over 3 years. The military is known for it's excessive use of acronyms. They abbreviate everything. Even the word Flight, which stands for a small group is sometimes written FLT. It's not even an acronym, but is a shortened word. I suppose it is to make things quicker, shorter and easily recognized. I've discovered with the Air Force that in my job specifically, there are more than one discourse community that mold together. There is the discourse community of Engineers, and the discourse community of F-16 avionics technicians. The way in which they mesh is through the language of aircraft. The language of engineers and my job is the same because we work on the same parts. All the parts on the F-16 have a name, and usually a conjunctive acronym.

FCR - stands for fire control radar
The fire control radar is a specific part, the radar in the nose of the aircraft; FCR is also the name for the radar system. Many different parts that make up the combined radar system:

DMT - dual mode transmitter
MLPRF - Modular low power radio frequency
PSP - programmable signal processor

There are tons of systems on the aircraft that have multiple integrated parts. We learn how the systems work in order to fix them and troubleshoot. This is done through classes and books that Engineers have written to explain how the part they made works. Through my career field and learning more about how the F-16 works, I am becoming more of a part of the F-16 engineer discourse community, and using their language in my everyday job.

One engineer who works for a company that makes radars, may not know what an ARC-210 radio is, or it's capabilities, but someone who knows what UHF frequencies are can most likely work on any UHF radio despite the manufacturer because all UHF radios operate in the Ultra High frequency band.

There are millions of terms used for daily tasks in my job. The military also has tons of terms that are specific to members of that discourse community. A person in the military may not be familiar with the language of my job, but we share the language of the Air Force discourse community. Every Air Force member would know what retreat is - when the flag is lowered at the end of each duty day, or a PHA - yearly physical health assesment.

It's very interesting to me, and until now never thought about the ways in which very specific, discourse communities interract, or overlap.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9.3.08 Warm Up

The patterns I saw were largely memories of trips; memories of certain family members at a specific time in life; or special things that individual people said. Sometimes it was simply one word that envoked a certain emotion among a small child, or silly names that families place on certain buildings or animals.

language patterns among family are important. If certain language patterns can be recognized at a small age, memories can more easily be retrieved. Language and remembering as a young person helps to reassure a member of a family or society that there is a place for them; that other people would remember the contributions to the associated language, and that everyone can feel connected.

Being an "insider" in terms of language relates to the power of a discourse community. An insider is someone who is equal according to the language restrictions of the discourse community they wish to be a part of. Anyone that falls outside that community is because they do not meet the standards, or are not educated in the same way or sufficiently to keep up/remain in the group. We grow up having to understand how to weave in and out of different discourse communities, but also utilizing the different language demands of each.

As a teacher it is important for us to also teach students ways of moving betweent the discourse communties that we grow up in, so that students can learn and be privy on the "academic" standards of American society and standard English.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My family language

My family is Italian, large, and loud. We don’t all speak Italian, but my uncle and grandfather do. Some Italian words make it into our everyday interactions, but many words and phrases are just ways we keep each other in check. We are a spread out group among the mid western states, but we have such strong heritage and always put family first. My uncle Darryl is the most ridiculous of all of us. He is forty-five years old, but acts like a twenty year old. We have a cabin in Montana that we all meet at every summer. We all joke a ton, and tell stories about my aunts and uncles growing up in Montana when we are all sitting around the fire. We reminisce about plug-in cans. When my uncles and dad were younger, they attached a lamp cord to two beer cans, held on, and plugged it in to see how long they could hold on. There were many boy–ish incidents that we chat about involving my dad and his brothers.
Montana is my favorite place on earth though. My uncle is my mentor and one of my heroes, but he also spearheads all of the hazing that goes on among my family while we are in Montana.
I have lots of young girl cousins. They are high school/college age now, and my uncle is very quick to tease any prospective male companions that they dare to bring to the cabin. He calls them all biff; It is an old school term that refers to a “meat head” jock type guy. It’s all in good fun, we all get a pretty big kick out of it.

We play a lot of card games as well. We play a family game called 31; it costs a dollar to play. My little 5 year old cousin and knows how to play; we even make her pay. It’s not so bad for her though because she has won a ton of money off of all of us.

Like I said, we are a very loyal and strong family, but we love to play games. We have many phrases that come up in card play that are specific to my family:

“Porka miseria” – means miserable pig; Said by a player when they draw a poor card.

“It cost’s nothing to pay attention” is said when we are waiting for someone to play their

hand, but they are oblivious that their turn is up.

“Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Good Bye…” our farewell song when a

member gets kicked out of the game.

“Sensuous” – the first person to get kicked out of the game is called sensuous. It stands

for “since you was up”…you have to serve the remaining players with drinks

Rule #1 – even my 5 year old cousin knows Rule #1: never rat out your family.

It seems harsh to outsiders, but I have never felt more a part of something than I do with my family when we are in Montana. The antics are what bring us together and create memories. I’m glad to have a sense of humor, but I still feel protected, and loved. I wait all year for the week I get to go there, and those that visit usually leave with a few laughs.