Writing Center at College of San Mateo - Faculty Resources: How to Help Generation 1.5 Students Improve Their Writing
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Writing Center

Faculty Resources: How to Help Generation 1.5 Students Improve Their Writing

Who are they?

The term "Generation 1.5" refers to the children of immigrants to the United States who are foreign born and come to the U.S. at an early age. They can be partially foreign educated and partially U.S. educated or entirely U.S. educated. They may be native language (L1) dominant or English dominant, but usually speak the native language at home. The term has expanded to include many students who have similar educational and circumstantial characteristics, such as:
  • "In-migrants" from U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico
  • "Parachute kids" who come alone to the U.S. to live with extended family members and attend K-12 schools
  • "Native-born non-native speakers"--U.S. born students from linguistics enclave communities
  • "Transnationals" who have experienced complex patterns of back and forth migration
  • Speakers of "Other Englishes" (Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong)
  • Immigrant students from English-medium schools abroad
The outcome of these situations is that their education may have been interrupted, leaving gaps or unpracticed academic skills. They may have been moved around or placed in various tracts (ESL or remedial). Many times their oral skills are highly developed and native-like, and they are "great talkers," but their writing is not academically proficient.

The traditional path of upward mobility for these immigrant families has changed due to economic conditions in the U.S. High paying industrial jobs have disappeared and children are forced to take a college bound path regardless of academic interest or language proficiency.

What does their writing look like? What are the characteristics of their writing?

Samples from student essays:
  • "The misconception of my identity may best be originated from my seeming 'standard' English accent." (Sentence focus)
  • "To me, learning how to speak English, and get adjust to a new language community is especially difficult..." (Complex verbs)
  • "Age helps me acquired the standard English accent early on..." (Complex verbs)
  • "I was in a community that I once belonged to and now, I'm not." (Verb switch)
  • "Everyone has different ways depend on how they learn it from, and on my point of view, I think it's TV and movies cause watching TV is what everyone does every day." (Verb form, wrong preposition, shortened form, run together sentence, clarity)

How can we help?

Awareness - Exposure - Usage
  • Raise students' awareness of dialect differences and differences in oral and written texts.
  • If their papers are lacking in supporting evidence, back up to "idea generators" (thought provoking questions or sentence frames - see below*).
  • Teach and model proofreading strategies. (Take a line or paragraph and show how you would do it.)
  • Teach the use of references. (Have books handy or use computer.)
  • Ask students about their own rules and instincts.
  • Teach grammatical rules of thumb.
  • Show differences between conversational and academic writing.
Notes: No matter how advanced the concepts and level of sentence structure and overall eloquence, the 1.5 writers, like ESL writers, have problems with common usage, articles, prepositions, tense, and complex verbs (more than one word).

Sometimes tutors may need to "back up" to the instructional stage to restructure original writing.

"Idea generators" can be academic language on board, (or paper) and the teacher has the student come up with different wording for the phrase.

  • "What is a more formal or academic way to say this?"
  • "Why is it important that every student think about this topic?"
  • "People may think that this topic doesn't affect them; however, it actually does because _____________."
  • Although many advocates of ________ have claimed _________, the evidence clearly indicates that ___________."