the outside—is not as important as accuracy,” Reid
said. Often, grammar errors which do not obscure meaning are
temporarily ignored by TESOL instructors; whereas, the same
mistakes in punctuation or article use are considered grievous
outside the English as a Second Language classroom.
Reid espoused the position that before teachers launch into
extensive grammar instruction, they should examine the cost-benefit
Through a prioritization of errors, teachers can avoid expending
class time for learner difficulties best resolved individually
over a period of months or even years. Reid’s advice: “Nongrievous
errors should not contaminate the content.”
Meanwhile, instructors still need to prepare students for what
is expected in academic discourse as well as what is demanded
beyond the academic setting. Reid advised: “Get students
comfortable with the kinds of writing tasks they are going to
use.” In order for them to become better writers, Reid
has had her own students study the requirements of a targeted
genre or discipline, not perform the more traditional literary
analysis of famous works.
Ultimately, the responsibility of becoming a better writer
of English lies with the student. Reid recommended that instructors
aid in the identification of individuals’ difficulties
and suggest avenues for improvement. For example, Reid advised
teachers to have students use grammar Web sites for drills in
article or preposition use instead of using valuable class time.
Much of what Reid shared came as no surprise to the audience.
Teachers of composition continually strive to balance the students’ needs
for fluency and grammatical accuracy. And most, as Reid emphasized, “Teach
what they need.”