Philosophical Thoughts

Journal Prewriting for Academic Success

Writing about Writing

This week’s reading focuses on rhetorical situations and the types of activities that could be implemented in the first-year composition classroom to aid students in making real-world connections. Reading through the components of Aristotle’s primary modes of analysis (ethos, pathos, logos), the concept of prewriting caught my eye — it is something that I strongly identify with in my own writing process and something that I discuss with students that visit the campus writing center for tutoring sessions. As I mentioned in last week’s post, writing about writing (WAW) is a theory of pedagogy that I intend to incorporate in my classroom next fall. Put simply, teaching the methods and modes of the writing process itself will be my main focus.

According to Lunsford et al., “ . . . prewrite by assessing your writing (that is, rhetorical) situation, asking ourselves questions such as the following: Who is my audience? What does the audience expect of me? What do I already know about this subject? What must I find out? How can I best arrange my information and ideas? How much time do I have? How long should the composition be?” (90). The simple questions that many writers ask themselves as they begin to compose are rhetorical in nature, even though, often students and writers don’t consider them as part of a “prewriting” process. When many students hear “prewriting” (myself included during my undergraduate years), they think of “outlining.” Prewriting can consist of many different tactics and styles to include freewriting, focused freewriting, dance boxes (which is a type of word association technique), keyword blast, etc. As Lunsford et al. further states, “Encourage your students to respond to these questions by ‘thinking with a pencil in hand,’ jotting down ideas in their writing logs” (90 – 91).

Writing Journal

Sometimes it only takes ONE keyword to bring forth a whole slue or landslide of ideas. In this case, it took me two words — writing logs — in the quote mentioned above to realize another practice I want to implement in my composition classroom next fall: writing journals. Since my primary pedagogy will be student-centered and revolve around the WAW concept, I want to implement processes that will aid students in being and feeling more successful in their writing, not only for this class but for many courses and professions in the future. By designing the curriculum to include processes, such as a writing journal, and freewriting activities, such as freewriting/brainstorming, my hope is students will become accustomed to a formalized process that will aid them in writing assignments yet to come. In other words, the primary methods behind a completed essay are the practices I want to strengthen and highlight for students. Below is a short video that describes the process of keeping a writing journal:

Journaling for Success

As I mentioned above, part of the goal in teaching a process-oriented approach for English Composition is to not only prepare students for future academic essays and assignments but to also prepare them for writing in professional careers. Douglas Hesse references four separate types of “domain” writing when determining how to structure a course: academic (genres of the academy with a particular emphasis on . . . thesis and support), civic (writing to influence opinions and decisions in public realms), vocational (genres used to transact work in business and professional settings), and aesthetic (writing to create engaging artifacts from memoirs to poems to literary essays). While Hesse acknowledges a thorough submersion of the four types of writing mentioned would be difficult at best in a fifteen-week course (49-50), I feel as though exposing students to the different genres of writing is of equal importance. Academic emersion is a given since students will compose narratives, research papers, and essays throughout their college years. Civic writing is something students may or may not be exposed to depending upon their specific degree of choice. By utilizing an argumentative essay assignment to incorporate the use of rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos, kairos) with topics involving civic discourse, students will have the opportunity to experience two distinctly different genre writing styles into one essay assignment; in other words, students will have the chance to multi-task in the composition classroom.

In summary, this week’s readings brought forth a lot of “brainstorming” and “direct focus” for me in regards to considering not only how to implement writing about writing strategies into the course but also how to also expose students to various genres of writing without having to assign an overabundance of assignments. By strategically pairing process and content, my hopes are to prepare students for writing beyond my classroom.

Works Cited

Anson, Chris M. “Writing, Language, and Literacy.” First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice, edited by Coxwell-Teague, Deborah and Ronald F. Lunsford, Parlor Press, 2014, pp. 3-19.

Coxwell-Teague, Deborah, and Ronald F. Lunsford, editors. First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Parlor Press, 2014.

“Essay Writing for University: Starting a Journal.” YouTube, uploaded by Wendy Davis, 5 December 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSb6qZXeqcA.

Gerd, Altmann. Pixabay, 2020, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/puzzle-planning-strategy-process-1686918/.

Hesse, Douglas. “Occasions, Sources, and Strategies.” First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice, edited by Coxwell-Teague, Deborah and Ronald F. Lunsford, Parlor Press, 2014, pp. 49-66.

Lunsford, Andrea, Jeanne Law Bohannon, Alyssa O’Brien, and Lisa Dresdner. Teaching with Lunsford Handbooks. 3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s: 2019.

Pexels. Pixabay, 2020, https://pixabay.com/photos/arm-hand-desk-notebook-pen-1284248/.

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