[conclusion of Stahlke et al. article at top of this page]
Carol J. Falk
Moorhead, MN 56560
Phone: (218) 299-3720
As I was using Sentence Combining exercises in my freshman composition class, I discovered that some students' difficulties resulted from their failure to recognize simple subjects and verbs or sentence fragments or other basic structures and problems. During the last few months of my sabbatical in l983-84, I studied computer programming and began exploring ways of using the personal computer to teach those English skills which we can expect a few students in each class at our college to lack. I am not attempting to provide a complete handbook on disk. During the summer months, I designed a computerized system of remedial-level tutorials and wrote several of the programs.
Currently in use are the following:
1) An introductory program which briefly explains the tutorial, records the student's name whether the student is working, alone or with someone else (and records a partner's name), and asks each student to identify his or her instructor from a list on the screen.
2) The Main Menu program
3) One program on recognizing sentence fragments in their various forms (sentence structures are color-coded and identified in response to students' answers)
4) Two programs on distinguishing confusing words (accept, except, etc.). As students demonstrate accurate use of a set of words, that set disappears from the exercise.
5) A Progress Test on sentence fragments
6) A separate, menu-driven report program which collates information on students' use from all disks in use, sorts the information by students' names and by instructor, and prints either one combined report or a separate report for each faculty member. Currently the report includes date, instructor's name, student's name, programs used, and elapsed time spent on each program. It also signifies whether or not the students completed each exercise and whether they worked independently or in pairs.
When completed, the system will include a diagnostic test to determine each student's weak areas. The tutorial will then identify for the student those areas requiring improvement and make those programs available to the student. There will also be a progress test for each area; information on each session will be stored in disk files for later analysis.
Thus far the programs are designed to be usable without previous computer experience; they also allow students to work alone or in pairs. Because they are primarily intended for remedial-level students who may not be highly motivated, the programs provide attractive screen layouts; offer help at any time (screens of explanation, definitions, and examples); use graphics to provide instant shifts between "screen pages" of help materials and the tutorial; give students opportunities to verify their entries; allow students to change programs or exit the system at any time; protect students from accidentally exiting a program; and, except for entering students' names, require only single key entries. Students are given appropriate messages, depending on their level of achievement, including certificates of achievement (on the screen) or are rewarded by short interludes of computer-generated thoughts for the day, etc.
Information about the students' sessions is recorded on disk for later retrieval and analysis. Since I have discovered that students readily adapt to relatively simple word-processing programs and since by next year all of my students will be using a word-processing program, I expect to require more extensive entries by students.
I have begun to write code for a series of tutorials on sentence combining and on paragraph structure, for a broader range of students:
1) exercises using model sentences
Students will be given a) model sentences illustrating various sentence structures (appositives, participles, absolutes, relative clauses, etc.) at various locations in a sentence and b) sets of information (assigned on a random basis) to be combined into a sentence of that same pattern. Students will be able to edit their responses, and the program will check responses in some detail. Students will be given the option of printing their responses.
2) exercises using cued structures
The student will be given a set of basic sentences and told which sentences to transform into which structures. Editing and checking capabilities will be similar to 1) above.
3) exercises in structuring paragraphs in coordinate, subordinate, and combined patterns
The programs, written in BASIC for IBM-PC DOS 2.1, require a graphics card and color Monitor. They also run on a Compaq, but the color coding is lost on its monochrome monitor. They may operate on other IBM compatibles. The diskette is self-booting, and a speed-up routine prints screens quickly.
At Concordia College, students presently have open access to ten IBM-PC's in the library. Students check out the diskettes for use within the library as they would any other materials placed on reserve.