My students seem to find real difficulty with pronouns and this has become really evident in a piece of work they have handed in this week, in which they have to tell the tale of a relationship. Choosing a couple they know, they have had to tell me the love story. It has been absolutely fascinating to read and they have really gone to town. The work has revealed, however, some really basic confusions about the choice of pronouns.
He kissed her passionately.
He kissed him passionately.
It is definitely not the same storyline.
To provide some remedial help, I have put together a page of Pronoun Revision exercises, collated from the web. Students, if you are reading this, please have a go at them. It will improve the quality of your writing no end, if you can nail this one.
For those of you who may remember my post on Googledocs recently, well, the deadline came and went and no one sent me a googledoc, so I thought we would give it a go, doing it the old way. The kids handed their essays in to me on the given date. All of them ? One student only didn’t hand his work in on time. One out of thirty-one is not a bad score.
So I am now marking it. But this is how I feel …
I CANNOT, I just cannot mark their work without getting them to correct it. Maybe others can, but I can’t. The hours that they have obviously put into this work merits more than a series of red scribblings, a few vb / md / gr / expr annotations and a mark / 20.
Two of my students came to Homework Club on Thursday lunchtime and they needed help understanding where they had gone wrong in an English test, done for another teacher in another class. These two motivated girls, who are doing well in my class, had obtained 6/20 and 8/20 respectively for a writing test. The subject ? They had watched a film in class and then had to write a follow-on of the film. Not surprisingly, they found it really hard and bang – the marks reflected that.
I was incensed, though I hid it from them out of professional loyalty. There’s a blogpost waiting to happen, I’d say !! To start with, it was a blatant case of mixed skills and seemed quite unfair to me, but there’s another blogpost too, for another day. Anyway …
These two girls, let’s call them Emma and Mary (not their real names !!), came to Homework Club to get feedback on where they went wrong and how they can improve. As it happens, they have also handed in a piece of work to me this week about love stories, so I was able to look at what they had done and compare.
Emma works incredibly hard, overdoses on the dictionary, it has to be said, and needs lots of practice. The pronouns pages are for her, amongst others. She has a tendency to translate her ideas directly from French which gives a pompous stilted style at times. Her 6/20 has half destoyed her and certainly has knocked her confidence. I am looking now at her love story essay.
By annotating it with colours – blue for verb problems, orange for vocab problems, green for a grammatical structure and purple for dictionary overload, I feel I have been able to show her precisely how she can improve on her work. When I return it to her on Monday morning, I know that she will go away and work on it, in an attempt to improve. She knows that for the moment it is worth about 13/20. Reassured by that, she will know that things can only get better. I know her work is going to improve enormously – and she will eventually upload onto her wikispace in her digital portfolio, a piece of work that is of good quality.
Mary is a similar case. Her work is shorter than Emma’s and more stilted. OK, I can handle that, and she will have her purple annotations to make her think about how to improve. Pronouns are not a problem for Mary. She needs to work on her tense structures. She basically uses the present tense throughout, This creates confusions in terms of communication and she will be able to work on this once the blue “verb” pen has highlighted the use of tenses to her.
When these kids come to Homework Club with their test papers and want help, it is exactly that – a cry for help. As their teachers, we are not there to tell them constantly what they are doing wrong. I firmly believe that we are there to show them how they can improve to enable them to do things right.
So, I agreed to remove my googledoc obligations for this one time, but I have proved to myself that it needs to come back. This experiment with my L class has proved that I want to keep on working in this, giving the kids a chance to improve on their work and not just spend my weekends covering their work with red pen. Not only do they not understand any better at the end of the exercise, they take a bit of a moral beating and then repeat the same mistakes again the next time. And I find it totally depressing for me too.
So, conclusion to this blogpost, I am going to continue colouring in my students’ work and hoping that this method will gradually convince the ones who are still not convinced.