Retrospective

I’ve learned a lot this quarter in Engl16. Mainly because, as a student, I never worried about Freshmen Year Composition classes and how to teach them. All I ever thought about was how to complete them. The readings we’ve done in class have exposed a lot of the debates currently going on about the FYC, as well as about composing, and teaching composing in general. But throughout all the readings, I think the most important part, at least the part I was most interested in, was the debate on what is a normal ‘process’. Harris talked a lot about this in his book, as did some other authors like Perl and Flower. I won’t go into it too much here just because I wrote extensively on it for the Harris and His Sources assignment, which you can read by going to the link at the top of this page.

I think every reading we did in class was helpful in understanding the overall scope of teaching writing, even if I didn’t understand them at first. They helped me to understand all the different aspects that must be considered when teachers are creating course plans. The readings also showed me that I actually have opinions on what is the best way to teach, something I had never thought of before. I had never really been exposed to multimodal work before, and it’s something I still somewhat struggle with. Yet, I wouldn’t have ever considered it an option without the readings in class and the assignments we did here.

I also got a lot out of the blogging aspect of this class. The blogging that was necessary made sure I was doing the readings, and I’ve been known to fall behind on them before. I liked being able to discuss my own point of view and draw parallels to my life before having a larger discussion in class. It gave me time to just write and reflect, without have my opinion changed or diluted slightly by hearing other points of view.

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Reversing Notions of Disability and Accommodation by Dunn and De Mers

This article was very similar to the one by Jody Shipka. It also discussed the use of universal design concepts to allow for greater multi-modal choices and to stimulate the intellectual process. I thought the introduction gave a great analysis of the overall idea of the authors, “writing involves many complex intellectual processes that can be stimulated through activities beyond the act of physically writing. Drafting, rethinking, and revising a text sometimes involves synthesizing material and analyzing it. While writing itself has been used successfully as an invention strategy to help people do those intellectual tasks, writing-as-a-mode-of-learning does not work equally well for all people.”

Writing, as stated in the above quote, is not an equally beneficial action for all people. Rather, some have natural talents, while others struggle. But this does not mean there should be any “dumbing down” especially for people who have other mental or physical restrictions. The authors continue, “In contrast, a writing pedagogy based on universal design concepts would offer more flexible, multi-modal choices in how that synthesis, analysis, and rhetorical judgment might take place. For example, a visual talent such as sketching can be used as an invention strategy to create and revise a text. Speech, drama, movement, listening and social skills can all contribute to the re-conceptualizations of ideas that helps writers re-think, reshape, and revise their work.” I thought this idea was much easier to understand here, than in the last article by Shipka. It made sense that the writing pedagogy based on universal design should be allowed in certain areas as a equal substitute for verbal works.

Each person is different. We have different skills and knowledge. I, personally, cannot make or draw anything. I’m amazingly un artistic and I struggle to communicate through picture or motions when my schoolwork demands that of me. However, I am competent at writing. I would choose expressing myself verbally over anything. But, that does not mean everyone is like me. And so everyone, even if they are mentally or physically disabled, should have the option of expressing themselves in what they believe is the best medium. In the end, we are all communicating, we are just each doing it in our own ways.

A Multimodal Task-based Framework for Composing by Jody Shipka

To say this article was challenging for me to read and understand was an understatement. I struggled to understand the ideas associated with visual communication.  The author wrote, “At a time when many within composition studies have begun questioning the field’s “single, exclusive and intensive focus on written language” (Kress 85), and its exclusion of the wide variety of sign systems and technologies students routinely engage, we might also begin asking how the purposeful uptake, transformation, incorporation, combination, juxtaposition, and even three-dimensional layering of words and visuals-as well as textures, sounds, scents, and even tastes-provide us with still other ways of imagining the work students might produce for the composition course” (Shipka 278). But it’s almost too difficult to wrap my head around. The mixing of three dimensional layers into what is typically a two dimensional verbal medium was boggling.

In one example the author discussed a portfolio that a student turned in that was a large gift bag with eleven different gift boxes in it. The different works the girl had done during the semester had been re purposed into tokens that were then circulated and shared secretly. Though I do understand the point of all of it, I can never see myself doing it. It falls within the context of art, but some people are more verbally inclined than visually. Maybe, in fact, it would do better to separate this form of writing to a different classification. It really asks the question whether this is writing, or if it needs to be considered visual art. It’s just hard to me to really classify something like this as purely writing.

So what is really considered writing and what is art? Do they intersect? Does each have it’s own requirements? Many of these are questions I’ve never encountered, but this article has begged me to ask them. And, rather than come up with definite answers, I find myself even more confused.

Introduction by M. Shaughnessy

In the introduction to Mina Shaughnessy’s book, Errors and Expectations, she outlines her reasoning and goals for writing the book. She begins by addressing the crisis towards the end of the 60’s with the City University of New York allowed all city residents with high school diplomas to be admitted to one of the 18 universities. From this came her desire to write the book which would help the teachers being faced with the new students with various literary abilities. She believes the book, though it may have some errors itself, will help the teacher address the difficulties that they will face when teaching basic writing. The quote that struck me most was in the section “Some Views on Error.” Shaughnessy writes, “By the time he reaches college, the BW student both resents and resists his vulnerability as a writer. He is aware that he leaves a trail of errors behind him when we writes. He can usually think of little else while he is writing. But he doesn’t know what to do about it. Writing puts him on a line, and he doesn’t want to be there” (Shaughnessy 391). I thought this was a good representation of the fear a basic writer just entering college might feel. I thought how she brought up the association of “good writing” and “correct writing” was also interesting. Since, to me, they don’t always need to go hand in hand. To me, good writing depends much more on content than grammar. It’s in the ability to write clear and engaging sentences that captivate readers and prove a point. It is not that much about the correct placement of all elements of grammar, after all that’s what revisions and peer editors are for. I think the pressure that many students feel to learn perfect grammar starting in early school can hinder them later in life as they approach writing. Grammar, often, is boring and confusing, and for those not particularly destined to be writers, it feels unnecessary. These feelings can often dissuade students from writing, which is likely what we saw in earlier readings when teachers expressed that they didn’t want to teach basic writing because their students “didn’t want to be there.” Frankly, they probably were drawing up feelings of past English teachings and remembering how hard it was. Teachers, as we discussed in class tomorrow, should focus on associating “good writing” with strong content and clarity, not grammatically perfect writing. By doing this, students may lose some of their apprehension towards the subject and instead focus on expressing themselves, rather than focusing on where exactly they’ve committed a comma splice.

Accepting the Error

In Chapter 4, Harris discusses the different methods that are debated about errors, and the different approaches to them. Some believe that the trick is to continually revise the papers and essays, while others work to teach students to become more efficient writers in the first drafts.

One particular argument that drew my attention was by Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy’s approach was different than many others. Rouse points out, “Shaughnessy does not even seem to notice how many of the students whose work she cites change what they actually have to say in the process of trying to write more correct sentences. Coupled with this is her nearly complete lack of interest in revision. Almost all of the student writings Shaughnessy analyzes are timed first drafts; her goal in teachings was not to have students go back to edit and revise what they had written but to write new impromptu pieces with fewer mistakes in them” (Harris 109). Shaughnessy also talks a lot about wanting writing to be more inclusive, for all students to be able to be involved in the process and able to become sufficient. I think her method of writing to eliminate errors was very interesting. It certainly took on the ideas of “practice makes perfect.” I found it interesting because it seems like it is rarely utilized. Though students continue to write essays and papers repeatedly, they often are after the multiple revisions of another singular paper. However, I think there is a necessity to combine this method, presented by Shaughnessy, with the act of revising first drafts as well.

It’s imperative to learn from mistakes, however, but by continuing to write only new drafts there is some inability to do this. I think there is a lot of merit in the idea of new impromptu drafts, then students are able to practice the abilities they learned through revisions. I still believe that continual writing helps for students to become stronger in the overall medium.

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Chronotopic Lamination

In the article by Paul Prior and Jody Shipka, the authors explore the different processes of writing through studying various academic writers and their habits. They term it “tracing the contours for literate activity.” The quote that stood out to me the most was a quote by the authors of a different author, in fact.

It was:  John-Steiner concludes: “Sustained, productive work requires more than mind for sheltering thought. It requires a well-organized and well-selected workspace” (pp. 73-74). I think this quote sums up much of the argument that was made in the article as well as somewhat agrees with my own thoughts. I think that people often have certain writing processes that have conditioned them to produce certain results. However, I think what is key to note is that a well-organized work space has completely different specifications for each person. Some people may be naturally organized, so their work space takes the form of tidiness. They also may need quiet, so they choose a library or other private work space. This was found to be the most popular process for writing, but I still think it’s important to note it doesn’t work for everyone. Others may need noise, or more chaos. It doesn’t mean they works any less well, yet the personal component is large when finding the correct space. I think by studying different writers, over a variety of different ages, it showed that there is some variance and it’s true that there isn’t one method for everyone.

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Questions for Writing Peer

1. Do you believe your writing depends on your audience?

2. How might you change your tone between a peer and a teacher?

3. What kind of writing do you find the most challenging?

4. Do you like the 5 paragraph essay or do you tend to branch out?

5. Where do you typically write?

6. Can you easily change locations and still produce the same results?

7. Do you revise your work after you write? If so, how many times?

8. Do you like to have peers edit your work as well? Have you ever been to the Writing HUB on campus?

9. Do you ever write for fun? Or do you have a diary?

10. Do you try to be concise in your words or is there often more flowery vocabulary used?

Decisions and Revisions: The importance of comfort

In this article, Carol Berkenkotter studied the writing habits of Donald Murray and then changed his surroundings and methods to find results. The first stage of the project, from June 15th to August 15th, involved Murray turning on a tape recorder in his study, where he would let it run all day. He would often think aloud, and as a result Berkenkotter collected over 120 hours of tape. She then changed the situation. In the second stage, Berkenkotter gave Murray a prompt of sort. She gave him a specified audience, subject, and then purpose. He then was given one hour to think aloud. Finally, came the third stage. In it Berkenkotter visited Murray at his house and observed him thinking aloud as he revised, she then followed with questions. This protocol was repeated for a two-day period.

I found the results to be rather predictable. Berkenkotter writes, “how the writer functions when working in there setting to which he or she is accustomed differs considerably from how that writer will function in an unfamiliar setting,given an unfamiliar task, and constrained by a time period over which he or she has no control” (Berkenkotter 167). Though this study gave proof to the hypothesis, it was what I would’ve expected. There’s an established level of comfort that exists, people thrive in repetitive action. Studying Murray at his home would obviously show he had a heightened ability to function. Everything is familiar and he falls into routine. However, the challenge comes when faced with something new.

I think the world is full of these challenges that want us to take ourselves out of the comfort zone. Through different experiences and challenges we become better and more adept at skills. School can sometimes be seen as this challenge. Often classes seek to pose new problems to students so that they can adapt better and understand different situations. However, when something is your direct craft, like writing and editing for Murray, a repetitiveness sets in. I think he will ultimately benefit from the different stages, and could use this kind of exploration of routine to make himself an overall better writer.

Perceptions of Others’ Writing

I feel like many of the students I know have similar writing styles. Much of it which is driven by laziness. It seems to happen every week, everyone all of a sudden flooding into the library to complete that assignment they’ll claim they “forgot” about. It’s almost a condition of being in college. Even the people who plan out what they may do ahead of time, still seem to end up in this eventually downward spiral. On certain day’s there’s either too much to do, or, alternatively, to747 student_library_1392235c-thumb-460x288-97145o much to watch. The writing, thus, takes a rather haphazard process. Student’s open their computers, finally open Word, and then the material they need to write on explodes over the desk or into multiple tabs as they go back and forth from tab to screen or from page to screen just trying to get something good enough down to leave again. I don’t think this supports the idea of focusing on a process rather than a product because this process isn’t that enviable. And yet, a product emerges. I think it’s more important to help students create a good product, because, especially in college, the process will be ignored anyway.

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Progress in the “Process”

frustration“The aim of teaching thus becomes to coach students toward either an emotional and intellectual maturity or an expert-level performance. What gets lost in this concern for development toward a known ideal are the actual concerns and perspectives students bring with them to their writing” (Harris 76).

In this quote, Harris is addressing the problem that has arisen when teachers have reverted to the current-traditional approach of teaching writing and “focusing on the surface correctness of student texts, so that writing was reduced to an empty tinkering with verbal forms” (Harris 76). This quote stood out to me the most because I think this is a danger that many teachers currently face when instructing an English course, as any level.

When teaching, there’s always the danger that a teachers voice and instruction will override and cover the voice of the student. This has been shown in previous readings when we’ve talked about the merits of instruction by teachers. Sometimes by giving too much of an outline, teachers run the risk of explaining exactly what they want and run the risk of eliminating creative thought or even just free thought. And yet, this chapter seemed to take it back to even more of a basic level. Instead of just giving too many guidelines, what about too much instruction on the grammar and technicalities of writing. It made me wonder what is the correct way to write then. Is a misspelled and disorganized essay with tons of original thought valued higher than a more polished piece of prose within limitations? I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to find some sort of balance to both find something to grade students on but also not grade harshly enough to discourage innovation and self expression.

I think the separation, later in the chapter, of writing as reflexive and extensive was somewhat necessary. Reflexive being writing that is “personal, imaginative, and artistic” (Harris 79), while extensive writing “carries out the business of the world, gets things done” (Harris 79). It’s helpful for teachers to say to the students if they prefer one over the other per assignment. Thus, there’s structure, without overbearing form. However, I still think the classification takes away some of the relevance of reflexive writing anywhere outside school, when, in the real world, you must revert only to extensive to get everything done. But again, maybe that’s just the values of the world today. Maybe there has been importance subtracted from the ideas of imaginative writing.