• Teaching Reflections

    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/.

  • Teaching Reflections

    Interactive Compositional Classrooms

    Active Learning

    One of the courses I am taking this semester focuses on compositional pedagogy in high school and college settings. As I prepare to enter an English 1101 classroom next fall as part of my graduate-level training, I am beginning to strengthen and hone in on my philosophical approach. Each week consists of required readings and analysis of those readings to include “takeaways.” As a student, sometimes it seems like an over-abundance of information while searching for the needle in a haystack, so to speak, or rather, the fundamental components of classroom pedagogy that resonate in some way with one’s perceived educational platform. However, that moment when you read something that seems to vibrate on a frequency so profound that you want to shout with excitement, is, well, EXCITING!

    Discovering Your Frequency

    Chris M. Anson’s discussion found in chapter one of First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice is one such piece for me. Anson discusses a pedagogical approach known as WAW (Writing About Writing – see video below), which defines and addresses writing as a process. Following the WAW approach, the focus is less about the ability to write and more “ . . . on thinking about the thinking that writing involves . . .” Anson further states, “Developing ‘mindfulness’ and meta-cognitive awareness becomes one of the most important aims . . .” (5).

    Wardle and Downs (WAW)

    Any many of you know, last semester involved studying Adler-Kassner and Wardle’s threshold concepts from Naming What We Know, specifically, threshold concept five: Writing is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity. As I read through Anson’s excerpt, I found myself shaking my head, yes! over and over. Anson structures his classroom to feature “extensive, low-stakes and reflective writings” (6). This process of giving students many opportunities to participate in “low-stakes” writing is something I most definitely want to incorporate in the classroom. I feel as though “de-stigmatizing” the process of writing is essential for students to become comfortable with approaching writing as a process —not something that is easy for those that enjoy writing but a process that writers of all levels can use to develop the skill.

    I believe just about every college student has experienced the “PowerPoint lecture” classroom design that seems to go on for eternity. No matter how awake you may feel or how artistically designed the presentation may be, the lights dim, and the eyes get heavy. The advancement of classroom technology and the emergence of digital course discussion boards demand a change in how the class time is structured. When I read Anson’s “course delivery reversal” (CDR) (10) design, I wanted to jump up and down. Instead of professors spending the entire class period lecturing in front of the students, Anson takes an interactive approach. Presentations can be posted to the online digital boards, and students then have the opportunity to engage, discuss, and learn through interactive projects. My goal is to incorporate this same type of pedagogy in my English composition classroom. Since writing is known to be a social and rhetorical activity, the more time students spend conversing, the more enhanced the process of writing will become. Below is a video where Anson discusses the importance of this concept in regards to interaction between teachers and students in the field of writing.

    Chris Anson – 2013 CCCC Convention Interview

    Works Cited

    Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth Wardle, editors. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Utah State University Press, 2016.

    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.

    “Chris Anson – 2013 CCCC Convention Interview.” YouTube, uploaded by NCTEvideo, 19 March 2013, youtube.com/watch?v=Bd12JROKWJ4.

    Clker-Free-Vector-Images. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/vectors/teachers-meeting-books-reading-23820/.

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

    Geralt. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/banner-header-person-silhouette-997373/.

    “Meet the Authors of Writing About Writing.” YouTube, uploaded by Macmillan Learning, 1 November 2014, youtube.com/watch?v=UDyPE2IMD68.