Poxig is ill

Poxig was not feeling well. Ever since he went to Er. Seljuk’s tree house, he felt ill. Fortunately, there was a bed where Poxig could recover. He knew that he had to write a letter, but he did not know how. Er. Seljuk was supposed to teach him. The emissary was convinced that Poxig was a hypochondriac.

“I’ve had a doctor come by and examine you, and there’s nothing wrong!” noted the scholar.

“My head aches, and my feet hurt, and I can’t get out of bed,” said Poxig. “At least, not today.”

“We really should get started with your letter to the king…” Seljuk noted, almost as if to himself.

“Well, it can’t happen today, because I’m sick…. Maybe tomorrow,” Poxig said while moaning.

“Take some my herbal medicine,” said Er. Seljuk. “We’ll start in the morning if you’re feeling better.”

“I feel like my head is a swarm of angry bees,” replied Poxig.

That night it was almost impossible to sleep. The clockwork owl was hooting outside, and Poxig was suffering from insomnia. He knew that he was close to his goal. But sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Poxig could not bear to lift his hand to put pen to paper, but he knew that he had to. It was a race against time, and there was no certainty that his letter would reach the king. Yet, if he didn’t get up nothing would happen.

“Time is not your ally,” said Seljuk, “The king’s next audience is soon.”

Poxig couldn’t help but believe that Releven had put this burden upon him in order to test his will. If he were to write to the king, he would need to make the most assiduous efforts to get his attention. The king had not stepped outside his chamber in 20 years. This did not inspire Poxig’s confidence that he would get an audience with the king.

However, he remembered the Latin phrase from his time with Jongleur: “Qui annuit manu fortissimum est.” He who winks has the strongest hand. He would need to play his strongest hand if ever he could reach his goal of becoming the guardian of the orb.

pox

“Je l’ecris pour votre bonheur!” 

-Andrew

ESL & Composition Pedagogy

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All of these sources have to do with English as a Second Language (ESL) learners in the classroom. Many of our composition students will be approaching English as a Second Language, with a fairly developed L1. For these students, the teacher needs to be prepared with the recent theory on L2 instruction and focus on form. Not all of the sources are written for the purpose of FYC, but many of them have overlapping themes and ideas that dovetail, because all composition teachers are also language teachers to some extent.

  1. Bachman, Lyle F. and Adrian S. Palmer. Language Testing in Practice. Oxford University Press, 1996, pp.317-324.

This has relevance because of testing practices in the classrooms. It is primarily concerned with finding the correct Target Language Use (TLU), and writing reliable tests that accurately measure the construct that you are testing for. This is the reason we principally write rubrics in order to grade our assessments. We want to make sure that we are measuring the correct TLU. Recently, Georgia State University | Perimeter College nixed the ESL language test in favor of giving the regular entrance test to all students. Predictably, the enrollment went down.

-> We need to make sure that our TLU is correct in First Year Composition (FYC). <-

2. Wardhaugh, Ronald. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Publishing, 2006, pp.26-57.

Wardhaugh wrote a rather exhaustive study of the relatively new field of sociolinguistics. In the work, he makes a distinction between a dialect and a patois. A dialect has a rule-governed grammar that can be codified. A patois may be spoken but have no literary output. Generally, a dialect is higher prestige, but a patois less so.

-> Dialects of English such as African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) should be treated as such. It is not bad grammar <-

3. Kachru, Braj B. and Cecil L. Nelson. “World Englishes” Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching. Edited by Sandra L. McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger. Cambridge UP, 1996, pp.71-102.

English as a language has more teachers that do not speak it as a mother tongue than teachers for whom English is a native language. Thus, there are many World Englishes that have developed, where English is used as a lingua franca, or a language that helps cross linguistic boundaries. Kachru’s circles have become de rigeur in the field of ESL. He saw three primary circles. The inner circle includes countries where English is the primary language, the outer circle is where English is a secondary language used in government and law, and the expanding circle is where the influence of English is felt in a country that speaks a different language.

circles

-> FYC teachers should be aware that students may come from the  outer circle or expanding circle.<-

4. Selinker, Larry. “Interlanguage.” IRAL – International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, vol. 10, no. 1-4, pp. 209-232.

Larry Selinker’s seminal paper in the field of Second Language Acquisition discusses the term that he coined: “interlanguage.” This describes the intermediary language between a student’s L1 and L2 that is usually fossilized, and therefore will never resemble a native speaker’s pronunciation. The argument of Selinker in the paper is that interlanguage forms are unavoidable. The goal of the ESL/EFL instructor is to minimize anxiety about speaking the L2, not to eliminate all non-standard forms.

L1 <—————————————————–(you are here)->X————————————->L2

-> ESL students in the FYC classroom may not be capable of perfect pronunciation or grammar. Think about your encounter with foreign language! <-

5. Schiffrin, Deborah. “Interactional Sociolinguistics.” Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching. Edited by Sandra L. McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger. Cambridge UP, 1996, pp.307-328.

The key subject of Schiffrin’s article is the work of two primary sociolinguists in the field John Gumperz and Irving Goffman. Gumperz defined the concept of social interaction in terms of sociolinguistics. One primary concept is that of face. It is defined by Gumperz as “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact.” Really, ESL students are trying to save face in the classroom by using nonstandard forms, especially AAVE.

-> Students who use AAVE are not trying to defy you as a teacher, but are trying to preserve their face<-

6. Fishman, Joshua. “The Impact of Nationalism on Language Planning: Some Comparisons between Early Twentieth-Century Europe and More Recent Years in South and Southeast Asia.” Can Language be Planned? Sociolinguistic Theory for Developing Nations. Edited by  Joan Rubin & Bjorn Jernudd Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2018.

Fishman’s article touches upon a number of concepts, some of which are not relevant to FYC. But his focus on “ethnic authenticity” is important to point out. Third world countries use this for language planning: they will teach the language that is “ethnically authentic.” If you don’t think that happens here in the U.S., see about California State congressman Ron Unz’s proposal to eliminate bilingual education in favor of ‘English only’ classrooms.

-> The reason why we may hyper-focus on certain grammar forms may be because of our idea of ethnic authenticity<-

7. Matsuda, Paul Kei. “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World: Second Language Writing in Composition Studies.” Exploring Composition Studies. Edited by Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda. Utah State UP, 2012, pp.36-51.

“Another possibility, which is more deeply rooted in the history of U.S. higher education in general, is the myth of linguistic homogeneity, in which the state of English monolingualism not only is considered an ideal goal but has already been taken for granted” (Matsuda, 37).

Discussing the history of U.S. higher education, Paul Kei Matsuda demonstrates a shift from parochial privileged education to mass education. Along with this development, one must grapple with the ‘myth of linguistic homogeneity,’ or the idea that there is but one standard form of English that we must teach. Composition classrooms are increasingly becoming multilingual, and teachers have to reflect this change in their pedagogical choices.

-> There might be more than one form of English that you wish to address in the FYC classroom<-

8. Larsen-Freeman, Diane. “Teaching Grammar.” Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language.  Edited by Marianne Celce-Murcia. Heinle & Heinle, 2001, pp. 251-266.

“If they knew all the rules that had ever been written about English but were not able to apply them, we would not be doing our job as teachers” (Larsen-Freeman 255).

FMU chart

I use this chart from Larsen-Freeman incessantly as an ESL teacher.

-> Helping students improve their linguistic repertoire is a central aspect of ESL and FYC respectively.<-

Going to meet the man

Poxig had reached an impasse. He had to reach the king’s attention and be granted a royal audience in the king’s chamber. But the only way that he could get there would be to see the royal envoy, the king’s messenger Er. Seljuk. He had to leave the messier mental space in order to see the man.

He walked up to the loft where the man lived. He saw a clockwork owl floating around overhead. “Whoot hoot hoot! Who are you? ” screeched the owl. Obviously, this was some sort of machine answering service. The loft was a sort of treehouse, and there was a rope up to a landing. Inside, hopefully, he would be able to meet the king’s envoy.

Poxig did not feel like talking to a machine, so he kept quiet. He ignored the unruly bird’s mechanical cries, and ascended the ladder rope that led to Er. Seljuk’s tree house.  He made it about halfway up, and then saw Seljuk peering down at him through the trap door.

“Who goes there? Why I haven’t seen elven folk since the religious wars! Who might you be?” said a surly old man.

Poxig demurred. He wasn’t used to meeting someone vertically. He much preferred horizontal relations in general. He sat beside the clockwork owl, who was now perched on a limb.

“I have to see you. Rumor has it that you have direct access to King Charles. I have to see him with an urgent request,” Poxig intimated.

“I serve the king. But no one has been able to access the king’s inner chamber since he was locked inside some 20 years ago,” replied Seljuk.

“I must see him. I have the sacred orb that belongs to the light warriors,” Poxig returned.

“Why should I listen to you?” asked Seljuk.

“I am the son of Realto, the chosen warrior of the Elven diamond!”

“So, you are the son of Realto. You do have his likeness.”

“Then, you can tell me how to get an audience with King Charles…”

“Not with the king, but I might be able to help you reach the king’s gaze, if you are the best letter writer.”

“Any way I can get there is the best.”

That night was a sultry one in Marginalia. They talked over the details of the letter that Poxig would write in his own hand. The night turned into day as the two acquaintances sealed what would become a lasting friendship. They shook hands and then agreed to meet in the evening to discuss the next step.

 

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A revision of history

When Poxig returned home, he was surprised to meet his former childhood companions, Smeedle and Popnose, who had not moved from their house upon the dale. Of course, everyone knows that it is impossible to return to being a child, but meeting his former friends actually got him closer to doing so. Perhaps he would attain his sense of wonder again.

He couldn’t believe his luck. He was sitting in the dale beside the old manse, and Smeedle came from behind the corner. He dusted off his tunic, for he had been riding his pony and had just tied it to a tree. The man, now fully grown, recognized his childhood friend instantly.

“Poxig, is it you?” asked Smeedle.

“How do you know me?” asked Poxig.

“You old plart! What are you doing here?”

“It can’t be! Smeedle?”

“Guilty as charged!”

“Well, sir! It has been a long time.”

“Certainly. Are you staying here for long?”

“Yes, while I await the king’s reply. I have since gone on a quest of expansive proportions. But you could say that I’ve been there and back again.”

“Ah, you don’t mean king Charles? You have very little possibility of seeing the king’s face. He has locked himself in a tower since you left 20 years ago.”

Poxig hadn’t counted on such a situation to arise. He remembered Marginalia as a quiet place that was ruled by the old sages. But that time had now passed, and the country had become as lawless as a horse caught in a firestorm. They chatted like this for some time, until it grew late. The subject of conversation varied from Popnose, who had married and had 8 children, to the imp infestation, which now had begun to terrify the denizens of the small village of Excelsior, to the misty weather, for which Marginalia had always been known.

Popnose trailed behind the two as they walked down the road from Excelsior. Poxig began to feel a sense of impending doom, as it was unlikely that his missive should reach the king’s view, and this idyll with his former friends seemed to continue into oblivion. Although it was impossible to retain all of this memory that he had had with his friends, he could relive his childhood to some extent, and likewise to learn the great wisdom of the ages, that you had to become childlike in order to be able to become a light warrior.

Poxig had to leave his friends behind. After the first passing words, he found that he had hardly anything to say to either one of them. They were too enmeshed in the hackneyed ideas of fatherhood and the doldrums surrounding them; they had no place for adventure in their hearts. They looked forward to a safe bed and plenty of food, and for Smeedle and Popnose, this was the pinnacle that they aspired to. Poxig went in search of another means to reach the king’s ear. He would have to find the king’s emissary Er. Seljuk.

Poxig &amp; SP

Poxig returns home

The dust had settled on the country road. Poxig was ambling down the road and thinking of his boyhood on these streets. Mom had long since passed away. But the mere approach of these prerequisite to glory irked him somewhat. He could no longer return to the past. Why should he try to become a child again? What was the point?

There was something in the child Gabriel that he had lost. What was Sir Binural talking about? Wasn’t it that sense of wonder? When we become adults, we no longer have awe at the mysteries of life. We think that science and philosophy explain it all. Poxig actually no longer believed in childish things, but more than that, he didn’t believe that the adventure was an end in itself.

To remember what it was like to be a child, that was the difficulty in itself. To not trivialize the struggles of the child to accept his parents’ authority, that was truly difficult. And so Poxig returned to Excelsior with trepidation, he truly did not know what to think. But in time, he would be able to seize upon his goal: to become worthy of the title of “light warrior.”

He would have to wait for Charles in order to get his reply. He had recently sent a letter and wanted to get his attention. The imps were about to attack the place, and he needed to get the item, which was the orb of light. He would then take it to the altar of the aura, where he would restore its light. But it was guarded by the horrible Lich fiend, which was the source of the earth’s rot.

He found his childhood home to be abandoned, and the area desolate and depopulated. He tried to imagine what it might have looked like in his memory, but could not recall those pleasant hours he spent as a boy going to and fro the nearby creek. There was nothing to recommend this place, whoever had once lived there was gone. He found out the difficult truth that it is all but impossible to return to your youth.

If anything could be gleaned from this, it was that the child’s wonder must become his own. He too must allow for the adventure of his circumstances to become greater than the irrecoverable past. He would wait on the King’s reply: therein, he would find the key to the ineffable Latin phrase ” Puer magnum est.”Poxig and Charles

 

Poxig nearing home

Now that he had left the Gorgola woods, Poxig was nearing the border of Marginalia. He had little to his name, having bartered it all away for food to a certain little gnome. But just when he thought he was out of the woods, he saw a familiar face.

“Hiyo!” said the gnome.

He knew instantly that it was Sir Binural, who had somehow found him in  his predicament. Sir Binural had a way of doing that to his general chagrin.

“Did you see the boy?” asked the gnome.

“I did,” replied Poxig.

“I see. And the boy?” asked Sir Binural.

“We seem to have connected on a basic level. But the boy led me out of the woods in the forest of Gorgola. I actually have no idea where he went, but I assume he went home.”

“Now that you’re nearing home, do you think that there is room for childlike love in your heart?” asked Sir Binural.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Poxig.

“You have to return to Excelsior, where you will remember what it was like to be a boy,” he said, sniffing loudly. “Then, the king of Marginalia will bestow on you the quest that you are searching for.”

“I am here to restore the orbs and find the source of the earth’s rot,” said Poxig.

“I know, but only King Charles can help you. You possess only one of these sacred orbs,” returned Sir Binural.

“Simply show me the way to castle Marginalia, and I will fulfill the destiny of my god Releven.”

“But you must first return home…” said the gnome.Poxig Nearing Home

 

Gabriel the helper

Gabriel was able to guide the elf out of the wilderness of the Gorgola forest. It was a two days’ journey, but he was able to make it because of his familiarity with the woods. In fact, Gabriel had mastered martial arts, and so it was easy to fight off the remnants of Garland’s imp army. They almost had run out of food, but just at the last moment, they found a blueberry bush.

Gabriel lifted his knife into the air. “Onward!” said he. Now, it wasn’t about the amethyst. Gabriel had embarked on a new adventure, and nothing was going to spoil the fun. He asked Poxig about elves and their habits. After all, he had never encountered an elf, nor one so well-traveled as Poxig of Excelsior.

“Do elves ever laugh? I’ve never seen you laugh once!” he commented.

“We do laugh, but we elves never smile unless we mean it. We think that it is fatuous to smile if you are not happy,” said Poxig.

Gabriel asked many more questions about elves.

“Do you guys actually help Santa Claus, or is that a myth perpetuated by the commercial syndicate?”

“Actually, I’m sorry, my friend. We’ve never heard of this man,” said Poxig.

“Why do you have pointy ears?” asked Gabriel. “Are you from outer space or something?”

“If you keep asking questions like that, you’re going to get in a lot of trouble, I’m afraid,” replied Poxig.

“Say! Since you have amethyst, you must have some other type of gem. Can I see your collection?” asked Gabriel.

“I make it my business not to show anyone my valuables. It’s a bad policy that can get you robbed,” said Poxig.

Gabriel could sense the elf’s irritation, and so he decided to walk in silence for a while. He realized that he had not told his parents that he was leaving, and they would probably be looking for him.

“I should go now. Gorgola ends here. You should travel this trail to head to Marginalia.”

“Thank you, young sir. Please accept this as a debt of gratitude,” Poxig added, and handed him a pocket knife.

“Wow! Gee willakers! Thanks for this!” Gabriel could not help but smile.

“Bye!” and suddenly he disappeared into the woods.

Poxig finally understood the Latin phrase from Sir Binural: “Puer magnum est.”

Gabe1234

Poxig and the boy

Poxig encountered the worst that the woods of Gorgola had to offer. He had eaten some bad blueberries, and nausea had overtaken his senses. As for the gnome, he was nowhere to be found. But straight through the underbrush, Poxig observed an amazing sight. A young boy was there, dressed as a pretend knight.

“You there, boy!” Poxig yelled. “What’s your name?”

“I am Gabriel,” the boy replied. “And who might you be?”

“I am Poxig the elf from Marginalia,” he said. “I have been travelling for many days with no relief in sight. Do you know these woods?”

“I do!” Gabriel replied. “I was born here, and I have been wandering these woods my whole life.”

“Can you show me the way to Marginalia?” Poxig asked.

“Of course! But you have to give me something in return,” said the boy.

“Name anything!” Poxig said out of desperation.

“You must bring me an amethyst for my rock collection,” he said.

Poxig had no amethyst to speak of. But he took out a purple bauble from his belt, one that he had acquired from a gift shop in Eyrrf, which was made of glass.

“Here is the amethyst that you desire,” Poxig said.

The boy could not contain his excitement. “Give it here!” he said.

Poxig had fooled the boy. If it had not been for the gnomic pronouncement, he would not have trusted Gabriel. The boy merrily showed him the trail that would lead him back to Marginalia. Poxig could only think of the Latin phrase he had heard from Sir Binural: mirabile dictu. 

“What does that mean?” asked Gabriel.

“Wonderful to relate…” replied the relieved elf.

Poxig &amp; Gabriel

The reform movement

I am beginning to be influenced by a major change in ESL at this point. It is the switch to communicative language approach which is put forth by sociolinguist Dell Hymes. The weirdest thing about this is that the reform movement is simply about what we as ESL teachers should have been doing all along. That is, get students to respond to input in the classroom.

I have instituted a number of ideas for communicative language teaching CLT:

  1. Long wait times. Allow there to be uncomfortable silences.
  2. Constantly stop to ask if there are questions.
  3. Give the students a checklist of questions to ask
  4. Stop getting in the way of student input: shut up and allow them to speak.
  5. Minimize Teacher Talk Time (TTT)
  6. Maximize Student Talk Time (STT)

Get the student’s attention without being overtly officious. The minute that you lose the temper, that is the moment that CLT breaks down. I have been trying to institute these in my ESL classroom with varying success. Sometimes, there is just no output. In that case, I revert to TTT. But more often than not, I try to implement these CLT objectives.

I got so many yawns with the top-down approach. When it is all about what I know, the students tend to tune out. But when I try a bottom-up format, suddenly they are more engaged than they ever were.

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Into the woods

The woods looked like satin sheets of green, and the way became more obscure. The gnome had ceased his chanting, but now troubled him with silence. He would only accompany Poxig as far as the river Hedron. Suddenly, Sir Binural erupted in poetic muse:

“It is the river of time’s forgotten pleasures;

A veritable stream of Lethe.

The Lotos-Eaters live there,

Betwixt the shades of the earth’s bosom.”

Suddenly, Poxig remembered that it was at Hedron that he had parted ways with Lakfi. That meant that he could follow the river North to get out of the woods and back to Eyrrf. But he was no closer to his goal of Marginalia.

Now he was trapped in a forested maze that continued into eternity. His hopes of returning to Marginalia seemed less and less probable. He would have to venture alone into the terrible wood in  order to get the sacred orb to the king.

The forested maze was not a panacea. It was a terrible mass of confusing pathways that led nowhere. But Poxig felt that he could see some sunlight peeking through the trees. He could see some optimism because the river Hedron meant he was halfway to his destination.

“Won’t you lead me through the dark wood?” asked Poxig to Sir Binural.

“Tempus fugit,” said the miniature sprite.

Poxig thought that he was trapped near the river Hedron, and it might be his only escape route after he parted ways with the elderly gnome. But he remembered the glint of sunlight that would lead him west when the sun set, and he was convinced that he would reach Marginalia unharmed.

forest scene