Best Practices for Working with Second Language Writers

Feb 11 2008

Best Practices for Working with Second Language Writers

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  • Highlights from the CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Writers
    • Many second language writers are highly literate in their first language. Others have never learned to write in their first language (although the first statement is much more representative of Elon’s second language writers).
    • Second language writers might be international students, refugees, or naturalized or native-born U.S. citizens.
    • Although linguistic differences might be most obvious, second language writers also are navigating cultural and educational differences.
  • Prioritize Feedback
    • Higher Order Concerns over Lower Order Concerns
      Since second language writers are negotiating linguistic, cultural, and educational differences – in addition to learning to respond to rhetorical situations and developing their own sophisticated writing processes – they need feedback on higher order concerns (development, organization, integrating research, etc.), just like their native-speaking peers.
    • One or Two Lower Order Concerns at a Time
      If lower order concerns are distracting, prioritize your feedback (in the context of the student’s writing) rather than marking everything. What’s most distracting to readers or most interferes with intended meaning? Focus on that error for this assignment and save comments on other lower order concerns for the next assignment. It also often helps students if you reference specific sections or entries in a reliable handbook that they can refer to as they are reading your feedback and editing their future writing.
  • Talk with Jessie for additional ideas tailored to your student’s needs
    Working with second language writers is my area of expertise. It’s what first drew me to English Studies, and I continue to work with colleagues on national and international, interdisciplinary projects in support of second language writers (and learning more about second language writing). I’m happy to visit with you about strategies specific to your class and students.


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