Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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Writing is a Public Act: Take One

posted: 3.15.13 by archived

Over the past several years, I’ve added a new section to my course syllabus or User’s Manual called “Writing is a Public Act.” In The Paperless Writing Class, all writing is public. As in most writing classes, I ask students to share formal papers in small groups and occasionally I ask individual students to allow me to discuss their writing with the entire class (they can, of course, decline). Nothing revolutionary here.

I also reserve the right to share students’ low-stakes, write-to-learn writing with the class at any point in the semester. This second bit, about sharing informal or write-to-learn writing is, to my way of thinking, the more innovative and perhaps risky practice, so I offer students an “out,” if they want it, by letting them know that if this policy absolutely creates a problem for them they can talk to me about it and we can find a solution. No one seems to care, though. They’re either too busy to give this policy much thought or too accustomed, already, to seeing their words, even their tentative, unpolished words, hanging out there in public, online.

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Categories: Michael Michaud
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Is It Time to Rethink Forbidden Topics?

posted: 3.15.13 by Donna Winchell

Do you have a list of “forbidden” topics? Are there topics that you tell your students not to write about? If you have been around as long as I have, you probably do, or did at some point. Is it because you reached the point where you couldn’t read one more paper about abortion, gun control, euthanasia, the electoral college, legalization of marijuana, or anything about religion? Have I mentioned some of the topics on your “hit list”?

Why do we tell our students not to write on these topics if not to avoid reading one more paper like others we have read before? Are we trying to avoid getting a paper recycled from an earlier semester? Do these topics lead to bad essays?

Think, though, about how much these issues are still in the news. For our traditional students, who have come of age in the early twenty-first century, these are not “old news.” They have not heard all of the old arguments. Rather, they are working their way through the pros and cons of some of these issues as they watch, listen to, or read the news each day. They have grown up in a world where school shootings are more common than we would like to think. Many of them have just graduated from schools that had uniformed school resource officers. It’s not a big step to picture those officers armed, so the recent debates over gun control are real for them in a way they might not be for their parents’ generation.

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Categories: Donna Winchell
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Writing to make something happen in the world

posted: 3.14.13 by Andrea Lunsford

I have talked (and written) a lot about one particular finding from the five-year longitudinal study of writing I and colleagues conducted at Stanford. (In fact, we are still analyzing data from that Study and will be for some time to come.)  As the years of the Study went by, I asked participants to tell me what they thought “good writing” was.  At first, they offered fairly instrumental definitions:  good writing is what gets a good grade; it’s good if it captures what I am trying to say; etc.  But sometime during the second year of the Study, some students started to define writing in terms of its work in the world.

In other words, for them, good writing is performative—it performs work and especially work that is good.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this finding as I’ve traveled the country this winter.  In place after place, I’ve seen students and teachers doing this kind of writing, seen the effects of it in their schools and local communities.  At a recent meeting in Texas, I encountered two colleagues who were embodying what my students told me.  One is a librarian—and have I said that librarians are my ongoing heroes?  They have been on the front lines in the struggle for free access to information, for community access to technology, for the right to privacy, and so much more.  This particular librarian told me about a grant she had written, one that allowed her library to provide after-school sessions for adolescents.  “With adolescents,” she said, “I find that they are resistant to traditional print writing and reading.  But are they ever excited about multimedia and digital writing/reading.”  So she had done some writing to make something happen, and with the grant she secured she is engaging these young people in constructing multimedia and digital texts, using tools available in the library.  So far, she says, so good:  attendance at the sessions has been steady—and is now increasing as some of the students bring their friends along.  Making something happen in the world. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford
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e-Pages: How?

posted: 3.13.13 by Barclay Barrios

So before we even got to discussing our reading from Emerging’s e-Pages in class, I ran into my first challenge: how do you cite an online selection in a print anthology?

I’ve almost gotten the hang of the new MLA format for citations (emphasis on almost) but this is an entirely different beast—a truly hybrid one.  The question was tricky enough for me to run it by my editor who, in turn, ran it by one of Bedford’s handbooks editors, who finally suggested that it be cited with respect to its original format (thus, a short web piece would be cited as a short web piece, a video as a video, and so on).

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It’s a Deep Subject

posted: 3.13.13 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Your intrepid co-bloggers have, for about the past year, and especially the past couple months, been consumed with revising Writing about Writing for its second edition. This past week we finished its new material, and the 2e is much closer to our ideal book.

I thought I’d talk here about why that would be—what’s the difference between an ideal and what can actually be written? Why don’t the two simply correspond? Why don’t we “get it right the first time”? Or at least the second time? Several reasons:

1. We’re trying to hit a moving target. Every time we teach a WAW class, we learn more about how to do it well. Every new teacher using a WAW approach brings new considerations and ideas. We happen on approaches, readings, or ideas that make us happier. (For example, we’re learning now about threshold concepts, which the second edition is built to account for.)

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Categories: Douglas Downs
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WAW: A Mentor's Take

posted: 8.8.12 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs


I returned in mid-July from the Council of Writing Program Administrators summer conference, where for the third time in five years, an undergraduate from my department presented. The following week, this student, Angie Ford, was invited to present at CCCC—my fifth undergraduate to do so. These students have all been outstanding in their own right; that’s a given. But it’s no coincidence that every single one of their projects emerged from a WAW course of some sort.

These successes have me thinking about the role that WAW plays in opening our field to students before graduate school. Completely unremarkable in almost any other academic field, but in our field, most scholars are still recruited during graduate school rather than before it. Of course, the increasing number of writing majors around the country will soon be felt; a major, after all, should essentially be WAW writ large. What I’m thinking about here, though, is what Angie presented on at WPA: invitational feedback loops in WAW courses. [read more]

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Categories: Douglas Downs
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Habits of Mind: Persistence

posted: 7.6.12 by archived

In my plan for re-focusing my comp class, I’ve saved for last the one that’s hardest for me to grapple with and also most crucial (in some ways) for my students’ success. In many of the classes I’ve taught, between 20 and 30% of the students either disappear without officially withdrawing or continue to come to class without turning in any (or many) assignments. I look back at the report I’ve cited earlier (“Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing”) to copy out the definition of persistence: “the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.” Many of these students had the ability to pass the class, but something gets in the way of their completing the work of the course, or sometimes of even starting it.

I’d like to be able to poll them to find out why this is so. In particularly bad semesters I sometimes ask students to write an anonymous page about how they assess their progress in the class and, if they’re not happy with how they’ve been doing, what’s been going on to interfere. Pens fly, and the mood seems to be one of eager confession. Generally the resulting pages speak of difficulties balancing schoolwork and the rest of life (my students often work at least twenty hours a week, and many have family obligations as well) or of chronic problems with procrastination.  In my more insecure moments I worry that it’s something about me or how I’ve taught the class, that I haven’t designed assignments that are sufficiently engaging, or that assignments are too difficult for students to approach. [read more]

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Categories: Holly Pappas
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Being a Writer

posted: 6.22.12 by archived

When I ask my students at the beginning of each semester to tell me and the rest of the class a little bit about their history as a writer, I anticipate the objection that sometimes comes: But I’m not a writer. I insist that they are writers and have been for fifteen years or more. As evidence I show a letter written by my daughter when she was (I’m guessing) four and a half:

I can’t decipher much of this letter to Santa Claus except its salutation, its closing, and the line I’m sure says, “Say hello to the elves for me,” but it most definitely shows an awareness of audience, purpose, and genre. [read more]

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Categories: Holly Pappas, Uncategorized
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Turning the Composition Classroom into Comic-Con

posted: 2.2.12 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander



Each year in our Culture, Art, and Technology core curriculum, students read graphic novels… and they write them. As if having over two hundred students compose their own original comic books in conjunction with a traditional academic research project weren’t ambitious enough, UC San Diego Ethnic Studies Professor Wayne Yang also requires first-year writing students to organize their own version of San Diego’s famous annual Comic-Con with booths, costumes, and souvenirs to promote the graphic novels the students have created.

The final product/performance was impressive. On the day of the event, the exhibition space floor was filled with students handing out commemorative swag that ranged from traditional t-shirts to customized condoms. Given the national debate about waning student engagement in college courses, it was striking for me as a writing program administrator to see how enthusiastic Yang’s students were about participating. Check out the CAT Comic-Con Flickr page to see some of the scenes from the day. [read more]

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Timeline Tools for the Writing Classroom

posted: 1.24.12 by Traci Gardner

Jay Dolmage’s recent post Favorite Week One Activity: Revisiting the Timeline (and his previous post on timelines) inspired me to share my notes on timeline tools this week. I’ve used timelines in the classroom to discuss what I’ll call simple historical events. Biographical details from an author’s life, publication dates of different texts, and the progression of plot events in a story all lend themselves to timelines.

I didn’t see the wide potential for timelines in the writing classroom, however, until I began gathering ways to use the Timeline on the ReadWriteThink site. After reading about how elementary and middle-level teachers used timelines regularly in the classroom, I realized the many options for similar tools. Students can use timelines to

  • map progress on a project
  • show any linear process
  • plot historical or biographical events
  • organize their own literacy narratives
  • create a research log (like mapping an I-Search project)
  • arrange notes for a draft in a sort of visual outline
  • plan steps in a group project or research project
  • build a narrative from photos or key statements
  • organize a portfolio of notes, drafts, and polished text
  • make infographics

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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