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 Ann Sarrafzadeh 
Cheryl Mc Kenzie

Ann Sarrafzadeh


Mining Memory Banks

Ann Sarrafzadeh from California

Ann Sarrafzadeh is lecturer and academic advisor at Studies in American Language at San José State University, San Jose, California.

Many ESL students in the United States are enrolled in academic preparation programs and, thus, are in their late teens or early twenties. In every culture, this is an age of transition from youth to full adulthood and is often a time when students are looking back on childhood in a different way. Their childhood memories and their perspective on those memories can be great fodder for the production of wonderfully creative writing.

For this project, the students began in class by closing their eyes and trying to return to their childhood years in order to conjure up vivid memories. After visualizing for a few minutes, they began to tell each other what they remembered about those years and tried to describe a particular incident that stood out in their memories.

That evening they wrote in their journals about the incident, embellishing the verbal account as much as possible. The next day, they read the journal entry to a different partner and got feedback. The partner's job was to: ask additional questions to prompt the writer's memory; help the writer make sure that past tense verbs were used appropriately, focusing on the contrast between those things that were still true and needed present tense and those things that belonged specifically to the past; look for one or more elements of the five senses in the descriptions.

Two days later, students turned in a typed copy of their story following good formatting rules and making any necessary changes or additions. I then made my own comments about their work, using the editing abbreviations they've learned and asked them to revise their work again. The third draft produced some very good work, but some students were very motivated and revised yet again. The four stories you see here are the ones that I believed had the highest audience appeal, although there were others as well-written as these.

We have tried to talk about the importance of audience and have occasionally voted in class to see if there is consensus about which paper is the most interesting to read. Once students see that it's possible to please one's reader, they're hooked on the concept of writing for the audience.

Hwang Yuh (Albert) Chen

Seung-Hyun Park

Myeong (Kevin) Kim

Yu-Hsin (Maggie) Lin

All photos: Cheryl Mc Kenzie

View the project:
Childhood Memories

Contact Ann Sarrafzadeh:

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