Saturday, February 3, 2007

dealing with utter incoherence in compositions

Here's a question for all the composition instructors out there: how do you begin to work with a student whose main problem is incoherence? By that, I mean sentences that sound like they came from spammers. For instance, here's a bit of spam I pulled from my WordPress spam filter: "mastery champion Caputo vilification Safeco Auto Insurance." Now imagine sentences in a composition that aren't too far from that. (Of course I won't post the student's sentences on my blog, but if you want to see an example so that you can offer suggestions, please email me.)

I think I'm seeing a complete lack of understanding the prompt. The student fixated on all the keywords in the prompt and proceeded to write sentences (?) containing the words (misused). I'm at a loss as to how to approach this, besides writing "this is incoherent" on the paper. Because really, will the student know what "incoherent" means? Even if the student does know, the student certainly won't know what to do about it. So, I'd like to offer suggestions but I have none.

I'm wondering if what I'm seeing is indicative of some sort of learning disability, but I'm not well-versed in how such things manifest themselves in writing.