When we say «meaning matters» we mean that we must really give priority to the message a person is trying to convey. It makes a big difference when we first offer genuine feedback on our student’s productions before observing grammatical mistakes.
Focusing on form first, may present the serious risk of losing the genuine motivational desire to communicate that most human beings have. When we value ideas, we pave the way for the student to correct their errors meaningfully because they really want to get their message through.
- If a student has written a text and we understand what he or she means (even though the student has made many mistakes) then we can say: «Your text is fine, I understand your point and agree or disagree with you. I would also add so and so…….. and finally I will say it needs some editing that will include some grammar corrections and organization to make it more understandable and clear to the readers».
- If a student has written a text that is hard to understand we can say: «I don’t really understand what you mean, could you clarify this or that? What is the problem you are presenting? Did you mean so and so? We are giving the student the chance to first discuss what he or she intends to communicate.
- If a young student is having difficulty writing a text, we must offer possibilities, without suggesting the idea. It must be «their idea». Scaffolding tools can be used to help them convey their message. For example: suggest them to make a drawing or a cartoon with their idea, then label with own words and finally write the text. Also, you may give a starting clue or a specific structure to help them come up with an idea.
Meaning matters to all of us, think about it and give your students a chance to express their ideas !!!!!