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Writing Center: Chapter 5: Avoiding Appropriation

A guide to information to help you research and write more effectively.

Summary of Chapter 5

Nathaniel Stickman
Chapter Summary of ESL Writers by Bruce and Rafoth, Second Edition
Chapter 5: “Avoiding Appropriation” by Severino
            Teaching or tutoring writing, especially to L2 (second language) writers, can often fall into appropriation. This means that, though the paper still reflects the writer’s experience, it does so in a way that takes the majority of control of the writing from the student. Some argue for this as the strategy of reformulation, reducing the number of L2 features and increasing the number of native language features, for students to notice the differences and learn from them. The problem with this lies in the writing being changed to such a degree as to leave a sense of the paper having been taken from the writer.
            Most often, appropriation in L2 writing stems from language control, when teachers and tutors adjust the student’s writing to meet the ideal of an American paper. And many L2 students want to get as close as they can to this ideal American writing held by their teachers. What separates such cases from language and content control and appropriation is the student’s desire for this ideal, the student’s understanding of the changes being made, and the student’s participation in these changes.
To avoid appropriation:
·         Address expressed needs; communicate about how to communicate.
·         Ask the writer to participate in reformulation decisions; helps the writer learn more about the language.
·         Avoid misrepresenting the student’s language level; ESL students of an intermediate level shouldn’t have advanced papers after a few visits to the writing center.
·         Accord the ESL writer authority; appreciate the achievements of ESL students.
·         Word on higher-order before lower-order concerns.
·         Select particular passages to work on; prioritize revisions.
·         Use speaking-to-writing strategies; use the student’s direct spoken language; outside-in approach.
·         Explain the recommended changes.
·         Try to access language learning; wherein the student learns more about the language.
·         Consider the type of writing; purpose, genre, and type of writing. The first three of these hold the most importance for application.
Key points:
·         In appropriation, it’s the writer’s experience, but in the teachers/tutor’s voice.
·         Appropriation is often driven by the teacher’s tutor’s language ideals.
·         Many ESL students want learn this ideal, but it’s important to maintain a balance.
·         Not appropriation if the student wants the changes, understand them, and participates in them.
·         Engage the writer in a meta-discussion—communication about communication.
·         Address the needs expressed by the student.
·         Get the student to participate in the revision processes.
·         Don’t misrepresent the student, especially making the paper more advanced than the student’s level of proficiency.
·         Focus on helping the writer, through the processes of revision, learn more about the language and writing in it.
Question to consider:
·         What if the writer wishes to retain the non-native attributes of his or her paper, when the teacher is opposed?
·         How and/or to what extent does the tutor help the writer gain a better understanding of American culture and/or history for a paper that requires him or her to write on such?