Finally! Working with the student

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Determining patterns of errors

  1. Once you've got one or two categories of the most disruptive errors highlighted, look to see if there are any patterns within these types of errors. For example, you may notice that the student uses coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so) interchangeably with conjunctive adverbs (therefore, then, however, etc.). They aren't interchangeable in formal, edited American English, but explaining the difference to students is fairly easy. One entire sub-category of error might disappear with a two-minute explanation. Similarly, perhaps all the subject-verb agreement errors occur when the student is trying to avoid "he" or "she" as the subject of the sentence. By trying to avoid an apparently sexist usage, the student keeps shifting from "he" to "they," and the verbs don't always reflect a singular or plural subject. Giving the student 20 seconds of advice about changing the entire passage to plural forms (just use "they" throughout) may fix the problem.

Two notes: