Archive for the ‘Basic Writing’ Category

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Advice for New Teachers— and the Rest of Us

posted: 5.25.15 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

For a crowd-sourced blog post for “Beyond the Basics, ” I invited participants on the Council on Basic Writing Facebook page to respond to the following question: What one piece of advice would you offer to new teachers of Basic Writing? Why?

The responses clustered around three main themes:

  • Create classroom community
  • Draw on compelling pedagogy
  • Offer compassion, empathy, and transparency [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Susan Naomi Bernstein, Teaching Advice
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Becoming a Better Writer: Advice from Students

posted: 5.11.15 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

“You need to take this class because you’ll be a better writer at the end of the year. And at the end of the year, being a better writer will mean more to you than it does now.” – Stretch Writing Cohort 2014-15

 Advice for new first-year college writers often can focus more on neat and complete products rather than on the process itself. For instance, these 10 Ways to Ruin a College Paper seem appropriate for preparing a final product, but such tips do not account for the messiness that often accompanies a writer’s first efforts at composing. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Susan Naomi Bernstein, Writing Process
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Writing Review: A Kinesthetic Group Activity in Seven Steps

posted: 4.13.15 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

As the end of the term draws near for many of us, we may wish to provide a writing process review for students. We could rehash textbook pages or websites that offer basic information about writing processes, as well as written products and genres of academic writing. But spring has sprung for many of us, and summer looms and attention drifts. How can we offer students opportunities to remember what they have learned about writing—and putting their learning into practice?

A kinesthetic approach to review can help. In kinesthetic learning, students turn away from laptop and tablet screens and use whole-body movement to rehearse significant concepts. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Basic Writing, Learning Styles, Susan Naomi Bernstein, Writing Process
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Selma and "Selma": Writing Assignments

posted: 1.20.15 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

For the past several years, I have assigned readings by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in my basic writing courses. When I have been required to use specific textbooks, I try to choose texts that offer Dr. King’s work in the readings. When I can choose my own texts or have been able to use supplemental texts, I have linked to multimedia texts at the King Papers Project at Stanford University, the King Center Digital Archive, and American Rhetoric: Top 100 Speeches. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Basic Writing, Susan Naomi Bernstein
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Nothing Is Fixed: For Ferguson

posted: 12.8.14 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

As a white woman with a vivid childhood memory of the uprisings that followed Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, how could I make sense of the Ferguson grand jury verdict— in and out of class?

At the time of the announcement, our classes had dispersed for the Thanksgiving holiday. I had already assigned the term’s final writing project and was deeply ensconced in catching up with grading students’ essays. When we reconvened for the last week of classes after the holiday, all attention would be focused on completing the coursework. Yet the work of the course, as an introduction to academic writing, would remain deeply intertwined with all of our lives. [read more]

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Trauma in the Classroom

posted: 11.24.14 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

Guest blogger Abby Nance has an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and is an instructor at Gardner-Webb University. This is her seventh year teaching in the first year writing program. Her research explores the relationship between trauma and writing in the college classroom.

Last year at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, I spoke about the role of trauma in the writing lives of first-year college students. Whenever I talk about trauma, toxic stress, or mental health with other writing instructors, I feel deeply aware of my own students and the stories of abuse, neglect, violence, and anxiety that they hint at or explore outright in their own writing. If statistics can provide a baseline or a map, then many of our students are entering our classrooms with histories of trauma. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Guest Bloggers, Student Success, Teaching Advice
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Beyond the Basics: Questions and Reflections

posted: 6.11.12 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

Recently I had occasion to look at my undergraduate transcripts, and there I saw my scores from the ACT test, the high-stakes test that many US Midwestern high school students take in place of the SAT.  Although I had forgotten the exact numbers, I knew that the scores had been far from exemplary.  Yet there they stood on the transcript in sharp relief: a math score of 10 and a composite score of 17 (out of 36; a writing test was not included the year I took the ACT).  With a deep shock of recognition, I realized how different my life could have been if my education had been circumscribed by those numbers. Indeed, the numbers do not tell the entire story.

In those days, basic math was not a graduation requirement at my small undergraduate liberal arts college. Instead, students fulfilled a general education requirement in quantitative literacy. To meet this requirement, I took introductory science courses in geology, biology, and experimental psychology—the same courses taken by students who would major in those fields. My lack of adequate math background was a hardship, yet I was used to overcompensating for such difficulties and managed to squeak by and benefit from participating in difficult coursework.

Because I was enrolled in general education and not remediation, I vividly remember my own experiences of strengths-based overcompensation. I understood that writing skills were my strength, and I practiced thick description in writing lab reports. If the college had a learning center at that time, it was not on my radar screen. However, I did understand how to ask for help, though asking was never an easy or a pleasant task. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing
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Basically, Writing about Writing Builds Confidence and Skills in Struggling Students

posted: 8.18.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Adele RichardsonToday we welcome guest blogger Adele Richardson, an instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida. After a ten year professional writing career, she went back to school for an MA in Literature. She has taught FY writing since 2007.

I’ve been a banner carrier for the writing-about-writing curriculum since 2008. Since then, I’ve helped pilot the curriculum change here at UCF, spoken at conferences, taught teacher training classes, and delicately—yet firmly—pointed out to the naysayers the errors of their ways.

However, I can’t deny that one of the problems I’ve experienced with the WAW curriculum is that sometimes incoming freshmen, who are not being all they could be academically, flounder with it. High school, for whatever reasons, simply does not prepare everyone equally for the rigors of college.

To help combat this issue, I spent the spring of 2011 designing a basic WAW course that I tried out in a six-week summer semester.  And, boy, did I have fun!

Here’s what happened: I divided the course into three parts. In part one, students read and wrote about reading. My theory is that you can’t really write much of anything for college if you don’t know what you’ve read. In part two, we read and wrote about writing, and in part three, students put all their new skills together for an I-Search project. I had students write in class nearly every day about what they personally took away from the readings, or how they could use what was discussed in the world outside our classroom. Our “major” papers began as short (two to three pages) literacy histories and advice papers, but ended with a five- to six-page research paper. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Writing about Writing
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Many Roads to Writing

posted: 7.11.11 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

ferrAfter my last post “Crooked Seams,” Joanna Howard, Rochelle Spencer, and Brenda Tuberville posted thoughtful stories of their experiences as both students and teachers thinking outside the box of the standard curriculum.  Joanna and Rochelle asked me to describe the many roads that students take to writing.

I try to imagine writing as a love affair waiting to happen—and that unfolds through travel across time.  So rather than focus too extensively on roadblocks or potholes, I instead offer the signposts I discover again and again with students as we travel down the feeder roads and the superhighways, the unpaved streets and treacherous mountain paths that bring us all, through our various meanderings, close to writing.

  1. I reserve judgment, as I read the first paper, on infelicities of grammar and organization, or “deviation” from the standards, norms, or course outcomes. Instead I read mindfully and inquisitively, not as if I were the leader of an inquisition. That is, I read against the grain, as students are often required to do.  I read to find out what already is present in the texts – the strengths—and then address what’s missing. In my comments for revision, I encourage students to take note of their strengths, to reconsider audience, and to aim to create the missing pieces from their compositions. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Developmental
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Writing Challenges: From Developmental to Transformational

posted: 1.18.11 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

In this season of changes and resolutions, as a new year begins and as we observe Martin Luther King’s eighty-second birthday, I find myself in the middle of a flurry of writing projects, from book manuscripts to articles, to my first blog post for Bits. As I wrestle with this writing, I recall the writing challenges faced by the students enrolled in my developmental writing courses. As teacher and students working together, all of us had potential as writers, and all of us struggled with writing as well. We may have doubted our capacity to endure our struggles or our ability to achieve any measure of success (and especially those measures of success required by the institution). At the same time, many of us also were engaged in surviving as writers within the limited time and space that we had to devote to writing.

We are not all developmental writers, however. As teachers, whatever our varied histories, we are not now labeled by post-secondary institutions as “developmental,” “basic” or “remedial” writers. But our students, if they are enrolled in our developmental writing courses, do carry these labels, and often the unfortunate stereotypes and consequences that are attached. The reasons for these stereotypes and consequences often meet at intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, language of origin, or other categories that identify students as different from “regular” students (an issue I take up in my work-in-progress, “Writing Through ADHD”).

Yet students labeled “developmental” can be as capable as any other student of achieving long-term academic success. Many of the students enrolled in my courses attended schools that did not have the economic and material resources to offer adequate preparation for college writing. They often needed access to multiple and intensive experiences with writing over time to learn and grow through the writing process. Developmental writing became a catalyst for some students to discover not only their potential as writers, but also a passion for writing to persuade and communicate with readers beyond the classroom. Some of these lessons we learned through reading works by Martin Luther King, and discussing and writing about King’s persistence and resilience through often insurmountable difficulties. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Developmental
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