* * * * *
Brand, Alice G. and Jack L. Powell. "Emotions and the Writing Process: A Description of Apprentice Writers." Journal of Educational Research 79 (1986): 280-285.
In their study, Brand and Powell attempt to measure the emotional changes felt by student writers during the writing process. To do so, they use two models of the "Brand Emotions Scale for Writers" (BESW), one of which (the T form) measures generalized feelings during the writing process while the other (the S form) gauges a writers’ emotions at specified points during the writing process (280-281). The 87 college students who participated in the study filled out the various forms throughout the writing process. Brand and Powell found that "positive emotions" (such as happiness, excitement, inspiration, satisfaction, and relief) grow stronger as a person writes, while "negative passive" emotions (like boredom, depression, confusion, and shame) weaken. "Negative active" emotions (anger, frustration, anxiety) on the other hand, tend to stay the same or only slightly decrease from the beginning to the end of the writing process. The researchers also compared the emotions of skilled and unskilled writers. They found that unskilled writers feel fewer positive emotions at the start of the writing process and more negative passive emotions during the entirety of the procedure than skilled writers do.
I became interested in Brand’s hypotheses after reading "The Why of Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process." Finally, there was a researcher who did not simply view writing as the impersonal step-by-step process described by Flower and Hayes. I am a firm believer that emotions have the power to both drive and hinder writing. Unfortunately, while I felt that Brand and Powell explained the "hows" of emotions in writing, they did not explore the causes of the emotional changes felt by the student writers. I wish they had asked their study participants not only the emotions they felt but the reasoning behind those emotions. While Brand and Powell do hypothesize why the student writers experienced certain feelings, they have no quantitative or quantitative analyses to back up their statements.
In addition, while I found the comparison between skilled and unskilled writers to be interesting, I am uncertain of the validity of the distinction. Brand and Powell garnered their subjects from about five different classes that presumably were taught by five different professors. The "instructor-rated" writing skill was based upon the grade given by the professor to the writing sample. We all know how objective grading can be, especially from one professor to another (even when the professors use rubrics). How can Brand and Powell be certain that an "A" writing sample from a student in one professor’s class is not equivalent to a "C" writing sample from the class of another instructor? I am also skeptical of the "self-rated" writing skill measurements. People do not tend to rate themselves accurately. In my experience, I tend to rate my writing (and other) skills lower than others do.
While studying the roles of emotions in writing is an extremely valuable and important practice, it is somewhat difficult to quantify accurately. Had Brand and Powell conducted the research today, they could have used current medical techniques to measure brain activity. I tend to believe, however, that a person is unable to write naturally while hooked up to various brain-activity monitors. Still, such biological studies are a much more reliable way of measuring emotional changes than are the BESW surveys used by the researchers in 1986. -Johanna Goldberg September 14, 2002
Chia-Hui. “Early Literacy Instruction: Research Applications in the
Classrooms.” ERIC Digest. Vol.
166. December 2001.
In Chia-Hui Lin’s article, she offers some suggestions on how
teachers can best begin the reading and writing education of preschool and
kindergarten students. Lin
explains the importance of such information by pointing out that the early
years of education are crucial to children’s future literacy.
The first step toward achieving literacy, according to Lin, is the
awareness of phonics. Teachers,
she says, should drill children on the sound or sounds each letter makes.
The students must be familiar with the letters’ functions before they
can read blends of letters. To
achieve this goal, teachers should talk about why they use each letter when
they write on the blackboard (1).
augment the language skills required for reading, Lin emphasizes the
importance of inviting, well lit “library corners,” in which students can
read independently. This
introduces them to written language, instead of just the spoken language
comprehension skills they gain from hearing their teachers read stories.
In older grades, such areas should contain a variety of reading
materials, from novels to newspaper articles, in order to broaden the
children’s exposure to information (3).
recommends that teachers vary their methods of literacy instruction.
Sneaking education into games, songs and puzzles may work very well for
some children, but others need explicit instruction in how to interpret and
use letters of the alphabet (3). Teachers must also employ variety in the
subject matter of stories they read and of reading and writing assignments, so
that each child has an opportunity to use literacy to explore topics that
appeal to him or her (3).
Lin points out, are not the only thing teachers must consider when teaching
literacy. Students also need help
in learning to comprehend what they read.
Therefore, teachers should read aloud to them and facilitate
discussions about the stories. Students
should also read in small groups, and discuss the material with each other
Besides offering tips for teachers, Lin also makes suggestions for parents to encourage literacy in their children. Interaction between parents and children, she states, is vital. Singing songs, reading stories and even conducting conversations all awaken children’s verbal abilities early in life (1-2). Children also benefit from living in households in which books and writing materials are readily available (2).
Lin raises some useful points in “Early Literacy Instruction.” Seeing the way she breaks down the stages of learning to read and write- recognizing and naming letters, learning their sounds, writing them, blending them to form words, and comprehending the meanings of sentences- helps me to grasp the fact that writing takes a variety of skills. This understanding may help me as a writing tutor to pinpoint the reasons for a student’s difficulty with a paper.
Everything I know about
children and education supports Lin’s points.
She is obviously correct about the importance of children’s phonic
fact that I know what sounds A and B make is in no small part due to Bert and
Ernie’s repetition of those sounds on Sesame Street.
The simple understanding that letters make sounds quickly brings about
more sophisticated literary activities, as I recently witnessed.
This summer, while playing school with my six-year-old neighbor, Elena,
who had just finished kindergarten, I jokingly told her that my name was
Banana. Elena concentrated for a
minute or two on the magnetic letters in front of her.
I assumed that she was posting a random combination of letters, perhaps
starting with B, on the magnetic blackboard.
Soon, Elena asked me to look at what she’d written.
To my amazement, the board bore the letters BANANA.
Elena had begun to transfer her knowledge of phonics to writing.
The “library corners” Lin advocates for classrooms are beneficial on multiple levels. Children all learn at different paces; one teacher may be simultaneously responsible for the education of a gifted child, several children with learning disabilities, a bilingual child or two, and a dozen whose learning rates fall somewhere near the average. Teaching at a level appropriate to all these children is virtually impossible. Providing a place for them to read independently lets them get some practice at their own paces. Ideally, the teacher should devote time to reading one-on-one with each student, but in a casual, free reading environment, children can obtain help from another source-- their peers. Vicki taught a classmate to read Green Eggs and Ham. I’ve seen first-graders argue over the opportunity to help each other spell words. Children can and do teach each other.
Lin also makes a good point about providing a variety of reading materials. This certainly helps to expand children’s knowledge—where else but a well-stocked library would a Jewish schoolgirl like myself have found a biography of Mother Teresa? It also makes reading more appealing to those children who have an aversion to it. For some children, reading may become fun when they can read about baseball, or dinosaurs, or ancient China. For the same reason, teachers should allow students to write about topics that interest them, thus showing them a value of literacy that they can understand.
Variety in teaching style is also important. Some students are auditory learners, others learn best visually. If a teacher were to limit herself to lecturing or to writing on the blackboard, half the students would have a difficult time grasping the material. This is one reason why, in addition to having students read on their own, teachers should read aloud to them. Another reason is that if children don’t have listening skills, they need to gain them in order to succeed in lecture-based upper grades. In my fieldwork as an elementary education major, I occasionally see teachers read stories aloud without showing the students the pictures. This forces the students to focus on the words themselves in order to understand the story. Discussing the stories among themselves afterwards accustoms the children to listening to others’ ideas.
A hope I have for Lin’s article is that it finds its way into the hands of parents. Parents’ impact on children’s literacy can be even stronger than teachers’ impact because it starts earlier in life and encompasses a longer period of time. Unfortunately, the average parent is unlikely to read the ERIC Digest. I wish Lin suggested in her article that teachers offer advice to parents on how to encourage literacy in their children.
Meanwhile, reading it as a future tutor has been useful to me. One can apply the advice of “Early Literacy Instruction: Research Applications in the Classrooms” to any educational setting. While its specific advice pertains mainly to elementary students, the issues it addresses send an important message: students have a variety of needs, and it’s the job of teachers and tutors to meet them. -Shoshana Flax September 14, 2002
Dowds, Barbara Noel and Deborah Hess. “Families of Children with Learning Disabilities: A Potential Teaching Resource.” Intervention in School and Clinic 32 (1996): 17-21.
Dowds and Hess discuss the role that parents can take in the education of children with learning disabilities. They highlight one case study of a 7 year old girl whose intelligence tested as “highly superior” but whose reading level tested below her grade level. The child went to see a reading specialist once a week, who recommended to the child’s mother that reading out loud at home would also be beneficial to the child’s reading development. The mother was asked to help make reading fun for the child by reading books she enjoyed and helping her with words she did not know. As the child’s reading improved, the special educator began to focus on her writing skills. Again, the child’s mother was given some suggestions by the specialist on how to help the child learn more quickly. When the child was tested three years later, her intelligence still was “highly superior,” but this time her reading and writing level proved to be one above her grade level.
Dowds and Hess caution that it is “impossible to know how much” of the work with her mother helped the child, but they find it very possible that this individualized program “facilitated her academic progress” (20). They note that home-tutoring programs might be hard to implement because of parents who for whatever reason may be unwilling to help and educators who may not want parents to help. They comment that “most parents nonetheless care very deeply about their children and want to help them do well” (20), and they feel that in general parental involvement is beneficial. Part of the US Congress Goals 2000: Educate America Act is actually to increase parental involvement in their children’s education (21). The authors note that a parent has major influence in a child’s live, and can make learning pleasant and attractive to a child who is having trouble learning just at school.
This is very important to looking at how people write and learned to
write. Students who are
encouraged to read and write at home as well as in school have a double
support system in which they can feel successful and comfortable
manipulating the written word. They
receive much more individualized feedback which allows them to more fully
understand the process of writing and also feel as if they can ask for help
if it is needed. This
implements a feeling of pleasure and success surrounding writing that the
child can take with them through their lives as writers.
For students who come to a college writing center, this is probably
not particularly useful information, since parents are generally no longer
involved in the students’ education.
It is possible, however, to substitute the role of the actual student
for the parent. The writing
tutor can find general helpful tools for the student to do outside of their
sessions and class in order to help them to improve more rapidly and
effectively. A student who has
a lot of trouble putting words on paper might be asked to keep a journal,
for example, simply to help stimulate the flow of writing.
Melina Gallo’s study looks into an unusual approach in the teaching of English as a second language to adults, for she shows how photography can be a means to lead each student towards confidence in communicating to the English speaking world. During a 26 week span, Gallo gave each of her 23 students a camera, instructed to take pictures that represented their lives, and then share them with the group. Her study shows that her "autodocumentary" approach creates opportunities for the students to employ and become comfortable with English, both in and outside of the classroom (paragraph 5). The tie between each photograph and the impetus to utilize their English skills begins with conversations among the students within the classroom, as they discuss their lives and common circumstances. Eventually, as the students become more comfortable with talking amongst themselves, many also branch out to talking to English-speaking coworkers while using their photographs as a conversational tool. Verbal discourse also transformed into written, as each student wrote and published several passages on the class website. Some were even confident enough in their proficiency to effect change in their workplaces by asking their bosses for improvement in their work environment.
Reading the results of such a period really is inspiring, especially when it seems that without the pictures that each student created, much less might have occurred. Although Gallo attempts to portray her experience as an empirical study, inevitably it seems to be more of a retrospective of a teacher’s experience, which doesn’t weaken the effects that she reports. In some passages a non-empirical approach is her strength, for it is easier to identify and relate the students’ experiences to a broader population. What is of such importance within the application of this method is that it shows yet another unique way to motivate people to verbalize, communicate, and want to write in a way that is meaningful to them.
Although the actual method can’t be utilized in every circumstance in which a person must write, this study does provide a tool in creating movement from ideas and images to language, and from language to writing with a purpose. Each photograph made the students feel as though their experiences and ideas mattered. As a peer tutor, one can definitely see that some sort of visual stimulus can help in making the connection between ideas and translating them into words. Of course, for the most part, a tutor can’t expect anyone who comes for help to document their personal experiences using photographs, yet asking about pictures that the student may have come across during research could help to facilitate discussion during brainstorming. Also, if the student is visiting during an early point in his research, and they seem to have a creative side, this approach may prove to be quite helpful throughout their project. The most important message from this study is that the creation of, or exposure to, visual images can inspire communication both verbally and through the written word.
The need for a writer to feel that they have a meaningful tie to what they write is of utmost importance. Beginning as early as elementary school people can be helped throughout the writing process, as shown with Michael and his drawing during the composing process within Graves’ article. Gilmartin and Turk both highlighted a similar them in that it is often necessary to utilize creative ways to get students brainstorming and writing, and the use of visual images is yet another unique way to do so. The emotional value that Brand emphasized within writing, as well as the tie between memories and verbalization is definitely evident within Gallo’s study due to the impetus that spurred action due to the class photographs. Also Koundakjian’s emphasis on verbalization of personal stories in informal language comes alive within Gallo’s study, thereby showing the power of making whatever one writes one’s own.--Christine Bunting, 9/15/02
Barron, Nancy, and Grimm, Nancy.
“Addressing Racial Diversity in a Writing Center: Stories and
Lessons from Two Beginners.” The Writing Center Journal 22.2 (2002): 55-83.
In this essay on racial diversity issues in writing centers, Barron (a
Mexican-American) and Grimm (a Caucasian) discuss the conflicts that
surround our present educational system, which requires writing that
matches “the institutionalized image of the typical student,” and the
way writing centers have become places that not only teach students to
write, but that teach all students of all races and backgrounds to
“write ‘white’” (59). Writing
center directors Grimm and Barron share their attempts to create a helpful
work center that acknowledges and respects differences in race even on a
liberal arts campus “that pretends to be colorblind” (58).
Before attempting to make changes within the policies of the writing
center, Grimm and Barron assigned their staff members with three texts:
Takaki’s A Different Mirror, Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told
Me, and Spring’s Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality.
Instead of making the “white middle class coaches” aware of
“the different experiences and memories that students of color bring to
literacy education” and “more cautious about the assumptions they
brought to tutoring sessions when working with students of color,” the
readings made the tutors defensive, and they refused to admit to any sort
of “systemic domination and injustice”(62-63).
Slowly, and with the help of several other texts (Fox’s When
Race Breaks Out, Tatum’s “Talking about Race, Learning about
Racism: The Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the
Classroom”) Grimm and Barron worked with their students on issues such
as colorblindness, equal opportunity, and denial, or “keeping the lid on
Pandora’s Box”(64). They
conclude that if the “writing center training does not directly engage
these beliefs, they are strong enough to undermine the best of
I believe this is a particularly interesting subject because I am aware of
how prevalent race issues are at an almost all white college, and how easy
it is for students and teachers to dismiss them.
Goucher is a decidedly liberal college, and we would all like to
pretend that we are enlightened enough to have risen above such seemingly
old issues. In truth, Goucher
is still segregated in many ways, and I was fascinated by this article’s
attempt to “show the mainstream students how a commitment to productive
diversity can benefit them”(69).
However, Grimm and Barron did a poor job of expressing their attempt to
remedy the issues. While they
did point out several major issues (a black woman refuses to post
anonymously on issues of race because she is afraid that those reading
will immediately identify her, for example) their description of the race
relationship training they put their tutors through was unclear, and
ending result even more so. I
hoped that in reading “Addressing Racial Diversity in a Writing
Center” I would learn a few ways to cope with an extremely important
matter, but I was disappointed: in finishing I was even more certain that
racial diversity was a problem in writing, and even less certain of the
appropriate way to deal with it.
Sarah Raz, September 14, 2002
Eyoh, Luke. "African Musical Rhythm and Poetic Imagination: A Phono Stylistic Interpretation of Clark-Bekederemo’s 'Return of the Fishermen.'" Research in African Literature. 32 No 2 (Summer 2001): 105-118
Eyoh discusses "udje" poetry, a form of expression traditional to the people of Urhobo, Nigeria, focusing on the work of Clark Bekederemo, particularly his poem "Return of the Fishermen." Eyoh's discussion is musical in focus and terminology. He draws comparisons between music and structured language, discussing how musical elements such as intonation, rhyme, and rhythm can be applied to poetic language as well. He notes that poetry has been defined as a group of words that is “pleasing to the ear” (107), a definition that could be applied as easily to vocal or instrumental music. He notes as well, however, that each culture has its own definition of what is pleasing. African music, and the culture-specific music of each African nation, is literally worlds apart from Western music; it has its own set of rules and its own definitions of "pleasing" sounds, and these definitions help to shape the nature of African poetry.
Eyoh goes on to draw specific comparisons between African music and poetry, using the poem “Return of the Fishermen" as an example. His focus is on rhythm, although he acknowledges the potential of interpretations based on melody as well. He justifies this emphasis by noting that rhythm is of primary importance in many aspects of African culture. In "Return of the Fishermen," this rhythm is expressed mainly through alliteration. Stress patterns combined with repeated sounds create rapid African rhythms, as in the memorable phrase, "Dabble, dabble, dip paddle blades." Eyoh not only analyzes the words of this poem; he actually sets the poem to music, inserting a row of musical symbols under each line to demonstrate their typically African polymetric (many-metered) or, in Eyoh's words, "labyrinthine," rhythm (117).
Since there seem to be clear connections between language and music, a study of the composing process may benefit greatly from consideration of musical elements. If these connections exist, understanding and using them must be enriching to both areas of experience. Understanding the relationship between language and music may make writing, and teaching writing, easier and more fulfilling. Furthermore, it is impossible to gain a complete understanding of any topic without exploring it entirely; if writing and music are interrelated, we will never fully understand one without the other.--Shuli Bloomenstiel, 9/15/02
Kaufman, James C. “Dissecting the Golden Goose: Components of Studying Creative Writers.” Creativity Research Journal 14:1, 27-40.
This article presents an empirical review of the psychological components of creative writers based on a model of creativity developed by Sternberg and Lubart that proposes six variables involved in and of significant influence to the cognitive and emotional processes of creative writing. Kaufman begins with a discussion of the issues and questions commonly approached by past research into the substance and dynamics of creativity. He points out that creative writing has usually been studied in every context except its own, that is, from the perspectives of sociology, education, the political and health sciences, but not literature. Research into creativity has also tended to distance itself from the individual premise of the creator; there are many theoretical explanations as to the successful production of a poem or a work of fiction, but little attention has been given to the question of how the creative writer functions as he does. Kaufman then presents several models of creativity that have been proposed and employed in previous studies, such as studies on the interrelation of intelligence and creativity, intelligence and personality, and neurological activity involved in creative tasks. Those studies have tended to rely on physiological method and assessment, and although they may provide valuable insight into the biological side of creativity, Kaufman leans toward research models that have directed more focus on into the cognitive and emotional components of writers. One such model was developed by Csikszentmihalyi, who studied creativity as an interaction involving the components of domain, field and person, in which domain is “a set of symbolic rules and procedures” (Csikszentmihalyi qtd. in Kaufman 28), the field is “comprised of the people in charge of the domain—teachers, editors, critics… [and] the person is the individual who produces a creative idea or product that is accepted by the field into the domain” (Kaufman 29). Amabile suggested another model of creativity that focused on the components of task motivation, domain-relevant skills and creativity-relevant skills. This model allows for the study of variables such as intelligence, knowledge, motivation and personality. Runco and Albert expanded on this model and studied creativity within four distinct foci: personality and family, motivation and personal histories, ecology and culture, and pragmatics and cognitive processes. After considering the strengths and weaknesses of each model, Kaufman settles on the Sternberg and Lubart model as the theoretical framework for his findings, ascertaining that their model “encompasses nearly all the key components raised by the earlier theories” (29). The six elements involved in the Sternberg-Lubart model include motivation, intelligence, personality, knowledge, thinking styles and environment, and they provide the context in which Kaufman examines and evaluates the findings of various research studies on creativity and creative process. Through the presentation and analysis of several studies within each element relating to creative writing (and sometimes the larger scope of creativity in general), Kaufman comes to the following summarized conclusions: that intrinsic motivation is more important to the creative writing process than extrinsic motivation; that verbal intelligence is highly correlated to creative writing, but insufficient as a single condition; that the personalities of creative writers seem particularly prone to instability and impulsivity; that their thinking styles tend to be more intuitive than sensory; and that experience in the domain of writing outweighs the influences of surrounding environmental factors.
Kaufman’s observations on creative writing are certainly applicable to our further study and understanding of it, particularly in exploring the psychology of the creative individual and the closely linked cognitive and imaginative energies involved in writing. There are two theoretical issues raised in this article in particular that I think may warrant more attention in the effort to further develop our understanding of creative writing; the first has to do with the much-mythologized relationship between creativity and psycho-emotional instability or illness. Kaufman suggests that “[p]erhaps the phenomenon is one of causality: Creative writers may not necessarily be unstable; perhaps being unstable is a factor that may help produce creative output” (32). How does instability facilitate and seemingly encourage creative process and development? The second point of interest, concerning knowledge, is raised by Minsky cited in Kaufman; Kaufman states, “Minsky (1997) theorized that a great deal of our knowledge is geared toward avoiding negative experiences—and yet it is these very negative experiences that may result in creativity” (35). How do “negative experiences” induced by an absence of knowledge actually foster creativity? How may dependence on traditional knowledge inhibit creative innovation? Adrienne Casalena, September 15, 2002
Myers, Sharon. “Teaching Writing as a Process and Teaching Sentence-Level Syntax: Reformulation as ESL Composition Feedback.” Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language – Educational Journal. Vol. 2 No. 4. A-2. June 1997.
Myers recognizes that the process of composition was investigated as a cognitive and social process, the very things that Emig and Flower & Hayes have been researching in our readings. These social scientists also considered the implications that race, class, sex, and gender have on writing – specifically on the writing process – and tried to apply that to the way they teach writing, and the way they teach how to write. Myers, however, suggests that teachers and tutors of ESL have to teach the writing process differently in order to make their students successful. This change is not because non-native-English-speaking students have less of a capacity for writing than do native-English-speaking students, or do not know how to write, but they have different needs about the process of how to write in a foreign language. Most of these students in ESL classes because do not have enough knowledge of English vocabulary or syntax to write fluidly, but that does not mean that they cannot generate meaning. “Figuring out what to say is not so much a problem as how to say it in English,” she says. (Myers also observes, from her own work with ESL students in a college context, that many international students are more mature than natively-American freshmen, a theory about which I am ambivalent.)
ESL students express specific needs for instruction in vocabulary and grammar because there has been strong evidence that native-English- and -professors react negatively to poor sentence structure or vocabulary usage in the writings of these students. Most college-level English-speaking students, however, worry less and are instructed less on the essential dryness of grammar. Many people seem to believe that it is “obstructive to students’ efforts to write” to focus entirely on mechanics – as long as students are native English speakers and have already been taught the basics of syntax at an earlier age. International students, on the other hand, find their grammar and spelling being the subjects of close scrutiny, presumably because professors are not certain that they have been carefully trained in these elements.
That dichotomy does not suggest that ESL students should not worry about the mechanics of writing. Myers says that it is important for ESL students to develop some degree of automaticity in the use of articles, verb tenses, subject/verb agreement, spelling, and other “surface” features. Thus, one of the most important things in tutoring or teaching an ESL student is to teach the syntactic features that are so automatic to native-English-speakers but not to non-native-English-speakers. Myers includes two examples of how to revise an essay for correctness in grammar as well as meaning, using simple symbols (such as ^ for “add something” and | for “separate something”) that we all probably learned in third-grade language arts. The point of helping ESL students revise their essays in this way is not to “dumb them down,” or make them feel stupid, but to make the process of revising elementary. ESL students need to learn how to write things in English before they can begin to write them eloquently in English.
Other exercises in developing students’ comfort level with written English include writing short journal assignments on self-selected topics, point/counterpoint essays, and short papers on impromptu topics. All of these assignments are geared toward enabling ESL students to write out their feelings and opinions, but in English – their non-native language. Since format is unfamiliar to them, but content is not, the idea is that they are better able to focus on the task of writing in English.
Obviously, the subject of this article is not so applicable to Goucher College as it is to other colleges and universities where there is a higher influx of non-native-English-speaking college freshmen. (Nancy Myers hails from Berkeley.) I do not know many international students here at Goucher, and the few I have met are not people who seek help with their writing in a non-native language. I think the theories presented in this article are important, though, because they remind us that not everyone writes the same way we have all learned to write in our very American educations. We assume that the things students need help on are clarifying their theses, developing their arguments, perhaps finding more research to support their topics, but there are also people for whom just creating the correct sentence structure is a real challenge. These can include learning-disabled students or young writers, not just people whose first language is not English.
When helping ESL students with their writing, you have to teach them differently than you would a native-English-speaking person. This is not a popular opinion because people want to say that all students are equal, that separating them into those categories singles them out or is unfair or politically incorrect. But we have honours and non-honours classes; many public schools still have special education systems. Recognizing that students who speak different native languages have to be taught differently is as essential as recognizing that two individual students have to be taught differently.
I came upon this piece and found it interesting because I lived at boarding school my junior year of high school and ended up dorming with five other teenagers, all of whom were ESL students. When one of our Japanese students came over in September, basically the only English word she knew was “chocolate.” It is difficult to teach not just the nuances of written English but also spoken English; many native Asians have a tendency to use the “so” modifier for every adjective: “She is so nice person; that is so good book.” While I felt that some of the ideas presented in this article were a little elementary, they also remind us of the reality of teaching people who have very different bases in education. Sometimes you have to be reminded of things you already know before you can be successful.--Elizabeth Fields 09/15/02
Schreiner, Steven. “A Portrait of the Student Writer: Re-evaluating Emig and the Process Movement.” College Composition and Communication, Feb 1997, Vol 48 Number 1: 86-104.
This article, Steven Schreiner, a writing professor, analyzes and questions the conclusions that Janet Emig made in her famous study The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. He first describes her study. She took eight sixteen-and seventeen-year old high school students and gained insight to the process of composing by studying protocols and their recollections. She sought writing in both the “ ‘extensive’ or expository, and ‘reflexive’ or expressive” (89) modes. One student, Lynn became the main subject of the study. She is “an above average student, with high scores on college boards and on literary awareness tests, who attends a high school with a ‘proud academic tradition’” (90). Furthermore, her background in writing is strong, her parents have strongly encouraged writing as she has grown up, she is able to make literary references easily, and her English is both automatic and correct. In her study, Emig referred back to the testimonies of “model” writers as a comparison to Lynn and the other student. The “model” writers she used were established literary, mostly modernist, authors.
Emig found that Lynn was a strong writer in the extensive mode, but that this was the only mode she was capable of writing in. Even when specifically asked to write reflexively, the writing would turn out in the extensive mode. Emig concluded that Lynn had a fear of expressing feeling; self-involvement, engagement with emotion, and personal subjects in writing were too risky. Emig blamed her, and other’s, inability on the school’s curriculum. Because emotionally difficult subjects take more time to write, she said, the school stuck to the general time-efficient, impersonal essays, which are easier to teach and nail down. Emig criticizes that Lynn never shows signs of experiencing writer’s block, that she can begin and finish writing in one sitting, and that she only writes one draft. She believes that because Lynn’s process differs from those of the full-blown authors, it is flawed and wrong. Finally, Emig concluded that Lynn certainly has the potential for good, reflexive writing, but that she was hindered by school training. Furthermore, that goes for the majority of twelfth graders, who Lynn exemplified.
There are many aspects that Schreiner finds disturbing about Emig’s study and her conclusions. Most significant were her constant comparisons to the behaviors of master writers. The assumptions she drew from these comparisons about Lynn, and then all student writers, were unfair, ill founded, and shallow. Also, Emig focuses only on the negatives of Lynn’s education and neglects to honor what school has taught Lynn. For example, Emig recognizes sophistication in Lynn’s writing, her facility with the language, her confidence when she writes, and her appreciation for literature, which has influenced her ability to write enormously, but fails to see that these are all qualities she was inherited through her schooling. Yes, Schreiner admits, school was the same place where she may have been conditioned to write impersonally and without emotion, but it is only right to also give credit where it is due. Lastly, Schreiner points out Lynn’s extraordinarily privileged background that Emig takes for granted.
While I am capable of understanding Emig’s frustration with curriculums that do not value the expression of emotion through writing and that limit students to one impersonal mode of writing, her narrow-mindedness in her study is equally unnerving. I certainly would not have liked to have been dissected as Lynn was, compared to famous authors, and then used as an example of all students of my age. On a different note, Schreiner alludes to the importance in the development of a writer of being read to early on and exposed to literature as a child grows. I can certainly vouch for this; its power is unparalleled by any other experience in my life.
The definition of a writer is changing, fortunately for all of us. Diversity in the process of writing is now understood and accepted. Schreiner writes, “Earlier, however, many writing students were limited by an exclusive definition of the writer and writing, and the democratic instincts of composition itself were compromised by an unchallenged view of the real writer at the center of the process movement” (102). Flower, Hayes, and Brand would all agree that the vital process of composing is a most individual and personal process, molded by experiences, not to be compared with the processes of others, and not one process better than another.--Ambler Mauger, September 15, 2002
Tower, Cathy. “It’s a Snake, You Guys!”: The
Power of Text Characteristics on Children’s Responses to Information
Books. Research in The
Teaching of English. 27 No 1 (August 2002): 55-86.
The study done for this article explored the different ways in which pre-school children respond to different genres of reading material. Playing off of the imagination of children, Shine and Roser explored the verbal responses of children to readings of fantasy, realistic, poetic, and informational books. They wanted to see if children would add character descriptions and storylines not mentioned in the text in their comments. The conclusion showed that children incorporated narrative elements in discussions of all four types of books. Cathy Tower then took this same idea and focused solely on the response of children to information books.
In an information book the main purpose is primarily to inform, subjects are topically organized, and it contains photographs featuring different aspects of the subject. There are no specific characters in the text and does not contain an overall plot. Tower showed, however, that pre-school children naturally try to connect the information they are learning within the context of a story. One way this point is shown is that children tended to focus on events mentioned in each book used in the study. Tower explained one reason for this is that the children were able to used the pictures in an information book to separate one event from another. In general knowledge books, the children were able to apply events from their personal life as examples. When the children were familiar with the topic being read about, they were more interested in the material and thus more likely respond. The ability to use text characteristics plays “an important role in children’s developing knowledge about books.”
One might think that all of this is common sense. Children are wonderful storytellers, so of course they will take every opportunity to develop a new story. However, with studies such as this one and the data they produce, one might wonder why schools are not making more use of the material. In many classrooms, historical, science, and even mathematical facts are taught through storytelling. But many teachers have not made this step. Tower’s study shows that children naturally look for the characteristic text, even in an information book, so drawing on this talent teachers would be able to share more knowledge with the children. Anyone planning to work with young children in an informal or formal education setting should read this article to better understand the ways children process information.-- Aileen Heiman. September 15, 2002
Hohn, Donovan. “‘The Me Experience’: Composing
as a Man.” Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and
Teaching (1999): 285-99.
In “The Me Experience”: Composing as a Man”, Donovan Hohn
reflects on his struggle as a male, white, young-adult writer within the
field of composition’s increasing focus on process, audience, and
personal identity at Oberlin College. Hohn opens this article by examining
his own gender-oriented, cultural responses to essentialized politics of
difference in the composition literature of prominent feminists. He
describes his psychological training in individualism as a boy reading
adventure novels which he claims perpetuate the myth of the “self-made
man”, unaffected by origin, society, community or audience. He then
demonstrates the correlation between those tales of toil and glory and the
masculine perception of academic accomplishment, which for Hohn involved
the desire to win approval from an all-knowing intellectual authority.
Hohn explores its effect on writing by deconstructing several of his own
analytical essays in which he used a detached, passive voice to access
masculine privilege, dismissing minority perspectives as inconsequential.
Upon encountering and recognizing the benefits of a feminized approach to
composition, Hohn describes himself beginning to relinquish his previous
objectivity in favor of agency, taking into consideration both his own
identity and the identity of his audience. He ends the article with a
description of his experience tutoring another male student from his
acquired standpoint in feminized composition.
I chose to read this particular article after our conversation in class last week about the potential differences between male and female writers. In our discussion of Donald H. Graves “An Examination of the Writing Processes of Seven-Year –Old Children” we seemed unable to ascertain the distinctions between male and female writers beyond the second grade. Few of us had any exposure to the written content and/or the composition processes of men our age and those who did had not perceived that young girls’ inclination toward community and boys’ preference for adventure continue into adulthood. Donovan Hohn, however, reveals the considerable strife that young men undergo when, having learned to “(surrender) their own significance to narratives of the self-made man” (293) are then asked by feminist writers and professors to claim their voices as agency. This request encouraging men to “resist their own sense of self in order to access the benefits of a “femenized” composition pedagogy” (288) is one that, not having read this article, I never would have considered to challenge masculine identity. I probably would have approached male tutees with a feminized perspective of composition, expecting them to respond to it in the same way as a woman.
One aspect of “The Me Experience” that I found particularly inspiring was Hohn’s autobiographical description of the use of academic assignments to reconstruct his sense of cultural identity, which he labels “the rewriting of the body” (293). Through the process of writing literary essays at Oberlin Hohn redefined and continues to redefine his conception of himself as a male, white, young-adult writer. The lesson for me lies in learning to view writing as an opportunity for growth and development; a lesson which I as a tutor can foster in the composition processes of others while applying it to my own.--Becka Garonzik, September 15, 2002
Johnson, T.R. “School Sucks” The Journal of the Conference on College Composition and Communication National Council of Teachers of English. Volume 52 Number 4 (June 2001) 620-650
The essay begins with familiar and seemingly harmless school yard rhymes such as, “No more chalkboards! No more chairs! Throw the teachers down the stairs!” Johnson recognizes that although very few students lean toward maxims set by groups like the “Trench Coat Mafia” almost all harbor aggression toward school and its authorities. He wants to investigate the “School sucks” attitude affects the composing process.
Johnson does so by looking into the pleasure of writing in order to see what ruins it. He likens Georgias method of healing through chants to students writing persuasive papers. He concludes that in order to do this one must first take pleasure in the action. He looks to the origin of writing and discovers that it began with a drive for pleasure, often creating sensational works. It is the current deviation from this “renegade” writing to professional prose that has considerably changed students’ attitudes.
Using Helene Cixous’s “ecriture feminine” as an example, Johnson demonstrates the widening gap between renegade and intuitional writings. Cixous’s excerpt is full of passion and vitality but lacks many elements of classroom writing. He goes on to explain that renegade writing is viewed as “antagonistic, combative, and even apocalyptic”. He sees the marking of student texts as an embarrassing procedure for students that will ultimately link writing with pain and suffering. Johnson cites David Bartholomae’s respected textbook, “Ways of Reading” as a reference of how writing is now viewed as a decidedly non-pleasurable experience. He sees Bartholomae’s ideas as turning writers into machines. Johnson studies this dynamic between pleasure and pain to better understand the role of sub-cultures. He infers that these groups have been influenced by “the demonizing tones of dominant discourses – decided to play the role assigned them to the hilt”.
In the next sections of his essay Johnson examines the fact that by late adolescence most students are writing in the renegade style. He believes they are actually seeking focus and structure. He views renegade rhetoric as offering protection against confining institutions, thus it meets with authority in disruptive manners.
Johnson feels there should be a balance between the freedom and emotion in renegade writing and the structure and conciseness of academic writing. He suggests humorous learning games that incorporate critical thinking with a release of tension and emotion.
Johnson concludes the article by stating that many students have become masochists where writing is concerned. Since most institutions seek to turn writers into machines, that is construct their work in a static mechanical manner, writing completed in school will often cause pain. Thus, if students do take pleasure in writing, it is only because teachers have turned them into masochists. He refers to J. Elspeth Stucky, author of “The Violence of Literacy” and her argument that in today’s world receiving an education has become an experience of being confined and learning to like it. Johnson believes that students see the process of writing as a necessary pain, one that allows for the masochistic pleasure in completion. Students therefore begin to despise revision and strive to create a work that does not need to be rewritten. This follows with the masochistic desire for closure. Johnson comments on the often heard question from students when presented an open ended assignment, “Can you please tell us what you really want?” He views these goals of perfection and conformity to the cause of writers block. Students get so involved in the idea of creating the exactly right response that they undermine themselves. He then goes so far as to liken writer’s block to the masochistic experience of being in chains. That through becoming trapped within a vision of the ideal, students cannot write with a natural flow or rhythm. Oftentimes, this results in a poorly composed essay that receives a bad grade, thus making students hate school more than ever.
Johnson is amazed that more do not lash out at the system in the manner of Columbine. He believes that those students are seeking security from the torment brought by school in a prison cell or grave.
I think this article brings up many interesting points. I agree with Johnson’s general ideas on renegade writing versus academic writing. I think it is important to have a balance between emotion and structure. This follows with my feelings on the cognitive process of writing. Emotion and feeling is ingrained in the writing process and to remove it will only cause pain and confusion. I also see his point on writer’s block. I have often found myself so concerned with the perfection of a final product that I feel nothing I can write will possibly be good enough.
However, in my opinion, Johnson becomes a bit overly dramatic in his ideas. I really see very little connection between harmless school rhymes and laughter at authorities and tragedies such as Columbine. I think he has gone a bit far in his hypothesis that a hatred of writing can cause such actions. I found his view of writing as a masochistic pleasure rather odd and much generalized. He ignores all of the students in college who have gone through school and still love to write. However, I would like to read more about these theories, and perhaps gain a better understanding of where he is coming from with them, since on a smaller scale they do provide valuable insights to those students who do despise writing. Since I will be working in the writing center, I think this information could assist in my ability to connect with those types of students.--Alice Murphy, September 15, 2002
Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Composing as a Woman." Landmark Essays on Writing Process. Ed. Sondra Perl. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press, 1994. 177-189.
In her article "Composing as a Woman," Elizabeth A. Flynn takes the position that although, as a relativly new field, composition studies are welcoming to women, what it truly means to compose a peice of writing as a woman has yet to be defined. She begins by describing the field: what it is, how it works, and to what extent women have been involved so far. Composition studies, she believes, "expose the limitations of previous product-oriented approaches" and "replace the figure of the authoritative father with an image of a nurturing mother" (177-178) in doing so. She proceeds to emphasize the role of the self in writing, citing James Britton as arguing that "writing for the self is the matrix out of which all forms of wiritng develop"(178).
Flynn then goes on to discuss the underlying similarities between composition and feminist studies. "After all," she explains, "feminist researchers and scholars and composition specialists are usually in the same department and sometimes teach the same courses"(178). She describes several feminist/composition specialists who have integrated their interest in women into their courses, for example, using journals in a writing course the goal of which is to "empower women"(178). However, she goes on to state, there is still too much of a divide between the two, there has yet to be a "serious and systematic"(179) engagement between the two fields. Flynn defines feminist studies as an inquiry into the theory that males and females differ due to a long instated dominance of males in our society-- "difference is erased in a desire to universalize," she explains, "men become the standard against which women are judged"(179). The goal of feminist research is not only to uncover the source of male dominance, but also to erase its negative effects. A feminist approach to composition studies, Flynn claims, would attempt to expose "difference and dominance in written language"(180).
Following this section is a section entitled "Gender Differences in Social and Psychological Development," in which Flynn explores and summarizes the works of Nancy Chodorow, Carol Gilligan, and the group of Mary Belenky, Blythe Clinchy, Nancy Goldberger and Jill Tarule. Their works, summarized shortly, "suggest that women and men have different conceptions of self and different modes of interaction with others as a result of their different experiences"(180). Flynn goes into an in-depth analysis of these psychologists findings, with special attention to the experiences that shape women's growth.
In the following section, four student essays describing learning experience are analyzed. Two of the students are female, and two are male, and the papers are from an introductory course at Michigan Tech. The two female essays, written by students refered to as Kim and Kathy, describe experiences that are defined by feelings of relationship and solidarity with others: Kim's essay is about a balloon ride she took with several girlfriends, and Kathy's is about herself and a group of other exchange students who were forced to work together while lost on the German subway. These essays are analyzed using the themes discussed in the previous section about women's psychology, with special focus on the fact that these women chose to discuss personal experiences involving others, and especially oriented around their relationships to the others involved. The men's essays differ in that while they also share experiences in which they felt they grew or learned as people, these experiences are solitary ones. Jim describes the cross-country flight he had to complete in order to earn his pilot's lisence, and Joe describes the intense swimming practice he used to do to please his father, and how he later regretted quitting the team and losing his ethic of hard work. In conclusion, Flynn summarizes that the female essays are stories of "interaction, or connection, or of frustrated connection," while the males wrote stories of "achievement, of separation, or of frustrated achievement" (182).
Flynn ends the article with a discussion of a college course that included some feminist literature and some gender-sensitive literature in which students "began to suspect that males and females read differently...that they talk among themselves differently than they do in mixed company"(187). Flynn asserts that this discovery is an important one, because it suggests that too often women are reading as men, and "that they have to be encouraged to defend against this form of alienation"(188). She ends the essay by describing the uniqueness of the female experience, and asserts her conviction that "we must encourage our women students to write from the power of that experience"(188).--Katelyn Dix, September 15, 2002
Chang, Grace. "Contextualizing the Debates: A Historical View of Expository Writing".Working With Student Writers. Podis, A. Leonard, Podis M. JoAnne. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 1999.
The article explores the history of expository writing at Oberlin College. It looks at the records ofthe College’s Annual Reports and compares notes through time as the attitudes toward expository writing changed from the early nineteen-hundreds to the present. It also addresses the groundless idea that college level writing should be sufficiently taught at the high school level. Using actual Annual Reports from Oberlin College Chang traces the concrete changes in curriculum from when the English department taught literature and the Rhetoric Department taught essay writing. She also exhibits the metamorphosis of attitudes toward essay writing, or expository writing, which changed according to societal and academic perspectives. She follows the history of expository writing from early in the College’s history up to the present state of Oberlin’s Expository Writing Program.
When the student body of the college consisted of "the wealthy gentry and would-be theologians" (332) the curriculum "was defined in opposition to the market place; pre-professionalism was openly scorned, and students were not trained for a vocation" (332). After the Industrial Revolution the sciences gained prominence and the humanities soon followed suit. Education became more specialized and was less based on its previous form: the "Classical humanist ‘liberal studies’ (332). The Rhetoric and English departments melded and the skill of composition helped the study of English literature survive the emphasis on professionalization. In 1901 an Annual Report shows the contempt literature professors have toward their obligation to teach composition, arguing that it takes away from the study of literature. In 1918, composition is again valued.
The fluctuation of emphasis on the utility of composition unfailingly continues. Oberlin’s Expository Writing Program took five years from its inception in 1984 to establish two FTE (full-time equivalent) staff. Chang’s theory is that expository writing and composition have been developed and studied over time and should now receive "the full professional consideration and support that they deserve" (336). The article is derived from Chang’s personal study and values. It is an attractive argument that she makes, considering the current struggle for the teaching of composition in colleges today. Noting that composition was a little examined subject until the values of society changed during the Industrial Revolution, the values toward writing have continued to change but remain locked in the issue of specificity. We have seen in all that we have read thus far, from "An Examination of the Writing Process of Seven-Year-Old-Children", Read Graves, to "The Why of Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process", Alice G. Brand, that writing is being studied through an increasingly specific lens. Understanding why the study of writing has become important helps us keep in mind why it is still important to date. It is also useful to know that the arguments for and against teaching composition are not new. The emphasis on writing instruction needs continued support.--Talley English, September 15, 2002
Smutny, Joan Franklin. "Creative
Strategies for Teaching Language Arts to Gifted Students (K-8)."
ERIC Digest E612.
written an article with a few suggestions for k-8 language arts teachers.
She had idea for how to challenge a gifted student in class who may be
working below their level because of a lack-of-challenge. Her ideas- free
verse poetry, using images to jump off and create, changing well known
stories and putting yourself in a historical view point are good ideas.
She provides the teacher with examples and guiding questions. But I
don’t think she’s going to help many gifted children.
while challenging for kindergarteners or first graders would be jokes to
children in middle school, or even 3 and 4th grade. I wonder
how many kids in k-8 she has worked with if she thinks the same things
will work for 5 years olds as for 12 year olds. I also feel that she
limits teacher by saying these things are for “gifted children”. These
ideas are more creative than typical language arts curriculum, but should
all children be able to try more creative things that filling in the verbs
in their grammar books? After a child can write and read, they can do
these activities, they don’t have to be “gifted”. As soon as they
can talk they can explore the fractured fairy tales ideas, as it is
presented as a conversation between teacher and the students. It could
even be done by groups of students who then present their changes story to
Her ideas, as
they are presented could be very useful for more advanced (I don’t say
gifted because a lot of what you know in k-2 is from what your parents
could teach you and how they raised you, not your own mind necessarily),
younger classes perhaps k-2nd grade, almost all 3-5th
grades and then more basic 6-8th grades. For the older grades
the language would need to be modified, so they students wouldn’t feel
spoken down to.
I think of
her suggestions not a challenge or treat for gifted kids, but just as a
simple alternative to “sit down and write”. Using an image could be
helpful to anyone who is more visual. Perhaps that is a tool that we, as
tutors can use- asking people to move from an image, to their ideas. I
know one person who wrote a paper about photographs as a way of talking
about the hardships of migrant farmers. For some, something as concrete as
an image can help center writing a lot.
The “putting yourself in history” can also help a lot. I had to write first person journals while studying ancient Egypt and that helped me relate to it much more. I wonder if college students would be adverse to thinking about how things like industrial revolution or whatever would have effected their lives, and if they would do it, would it help those boring history papers?--Matisse Michalski, September 15, 2002
Joan Franklin. “Creative
Strategies for Teaching Language Arts to Gifted Students (K-8).”
ERIC Digest. 612.
Of all the problems children can experience in school, most people
don’t consider too much intelligence a major one.
The fact is, however, that gifted students in grade-level language
arts classes may be short-changed. Without
the opportunity to exercise their creativity, they may lose it, and even
think it is not worth using. Some
may become bored with school and disillusioned with school and stop trying
to achieve. In her article,
“Creative Strategies for Teaching Language Arts to Gifted Students
(K-8),” Joan Franklin Smutny offers some suggestions for counteracting
these potential problems by challenging particularly creative young minds
within the context of a grade-level classroom.
One suggestion Smutny makes is for teachers to have students write
free verse poetry. She advises teachers to use a picture as a starting
point from which students can generate ideas (1-2).
Smutny also proposes writing “fractured fairy tales” by making
changes in familiar stories, then discussing the tales with the class
(2-3). In addition, Smutny
advises allowing children to use their creativity in studying history or
biographies, by writing biographical or historical fiction sketches from
an unusual point of view (3-4).
I am so glad Smutny wrote this article!
In the special education class I took last semester for my
elementary education major, I learned about the range of students I will
someday have to teach at the same time- some very slow learners, some
gifted, others in the middle of the spectrum.
Naturally, I worry about how I will teach so that all of them
benefit. Smutny raises the
point that in creative thinking, at least, there are no levels, and
creative projects can help students to learn nearly any subject.
Poetry writing can be a particularly useful tool for teaching on every student’s level at the same time. By using a picture as a jumping-off point, the teacher provides a topic for those students who wouldn’t otherwise know where to start, which I have seen to be a real problem in my own experience. Even children who have much to say orally often think they “don’t have anything to write about.” This past summer, I supervised the newspaper elective at the camp where I was a counselor. It was rare for a camper to decide for him- or herself what to write about for the camp newspaper, and I constantly had to make the seemingly obvious suggestions, “You can write about your favorite things to do at camp, your friends, the trip last week, the kickball game you were talking about before…” Using Smutny’s suggestion helps get the brainstorming phase going, and if a child has creative gifts, he or she can take it far.
I also like the fact that Smutny specifies free verse poetry. While rhyming is fun, it doesn’t fulfill the objective of the project- to let students apply their vocabularies. Misty may be the perfect word to describe a picture of London, but if a child must write a rhyming poem and can’t think of a rhyme, he or she loses the opportunity to practice using the word. Writing free verse poetry also brings to light a simple truth of which children may not be aware: poetry does not have to rhyme. The students could get the same exercise in vocabulary application simply by writing descriptive phrases. This way, however, they can feel that the sentence fragments they produce form something with an impressive name- a poem.
The “fractured fairy tales” idea sounds like a lot of fun (so much so that I forgive Smutny for stealing directly from Rocky and Bullwinkle). Through writing and discussing slightly altered fairy tales, students get a chance to analyze literature. By examining the effects of changes on a story, they can see what factors of the story are important, and which leave the story’s outcome the same. Having Cinderella wear gold slippers instead of glass may seem interesting to some children, but it wouldn’t have any effect on the story. Putting straps on the slippers so they can’t fall off, however, would have a much more noticeable affect on the ending, and on poor Cinderella.
I particularly like the idea of having students take the points of view of people involved in biographies and/or history. My own experience illustrates that even reading historical fiction helps children to empathize with people from other eras. In elementary school, I enjoyed reading the American Girls book series, which relates history through the experiences of nine- and ten-year-old girls. The stories of Felicity helped me to understand the Revolutionary War era, Kirsten explained nineteenth-century immigration, Addie taught me about slavery, and Samantha about the Victorian time period. All of them made me into a well-rounded little student of American history. As sometimes happens with fictional characters, I got along particularly well with Molly of the World War II years. I was proud that wearing braids made me resemble this friend of mine. Even more valuably, Molly’s life sparked conversations with my grandmother about her 1940s childhood, and thus I learned that the conventions I read about were realities just a few generations earlier. For students to be able to write such stories, they should read them first, and hopefully experience some of the same effects I did. I imagine that writing historical fiction, though, would have an even more profound effect. It’s easy to become attached to and empathize with a character one creates oneself, and to care about a character is to care about the setting and situations of his or her life.
I haven’t focused solely on the benefit of these strategies can provide for gifted children because I feel that they can be just as helpful to others. Being denied the use of one’s creativity in the classroom can be stifling and discouraging for people at all intelligence levels. When I realized in high school that my English classes valued no student writing other than essays, I felt like my creativity was worthless. This feeling must be as or more potent for creative young children with teachers whose English lessons focus exclusively on grammar and reading skills. Projects such as those assigned by Smutny are necessary to assuage it.
As a writing tutor, I hope I can make writing more fun and meaningful for my tutees by helping them to find their creative voices. The current educational system, though, makes me nervous. I feel that less traditional ways of expressing oneself and learning are valid, and Smutny agrees with me, but what if professors don’t? -Shoshana Flax, September 19, 2002
Bock, Marjorie and Susan De La Paz. “Stop and Dare: A Persuasive Writing
Strategy.” Intervention in School and Clinic 36 (2001): 234-244.
This article is about an approach to teaching students how to write
an effective persuasive essay that the authors developed called STOP and
DARE. Each letter in the
words stop and dare stands for a different step that each student should
take when writing a persuasive essay.
Stop stands for suspend judgment, take a side, organize ideas and
plan more as you write. Dare
stands for “develop your topic sentence, add supporting ideas, reject
arguments for the other side and end with a conclusion” (Bock).
The authors created this process because they “wanted
to teach students […] an approach to writing
that emphasized both reflection and planning” (Bock).
Students are assessed on their progress in writing based on their
mastery of the STOP and DARE skills.
The authors suggest evaluation by means of a “short written or
oral test to assess whether they know from memory the strategy steps,” a
comparison of “student work before and after teaching
the strategy” and a determination of “whether students use the
strategy independently” (Bock). The
authors give suggestions in the article for how teachers can implement
this strategy into their curriculum and use it effectively.
This is a very structured process that is an attempt to teach
students how to write effectively. As
a writing tutor, I can definitely draw upon some of these tools and this
process to show someone one method for writing this type of essay, but I
know that I will not lay it out to them in these very definitive steps as
the “right way” to create “good writing.”
These two authors make the assumption that every student who is
writing this type of essay will do better with this type of very
structured prewriting, and as many other researchers have concluded, this
is not the case. While their
ideas can be used as useful strategies and tools to teach developing
student writers, those students should not be evaluated on whether or not
they can memorize the distinct steps of the process.
These authors include in their directions to teachers the need to involve the students in the learning of this writing process. They suggest that teachers show examples of good and poor essays and then have the students discuss which is which. They also suggest that teachers meet individually with students to discuss their progress and unique writing problems. These are both very good recommendations on the part of the authors because they make the structure a little less static and allow for some individual thought and ability to be utilized while writing.--Vicki
Daniell, Beth. "Narratives of Literacy: Connecting Composition to Culture." CCC 50 (1999): 393-409.
Written over 10 years following Lester Faigely’s article, Competing Theories of Process, Beth Daniell replies to Faigely’s support of the social and historical outlook in the conclusion of his article. Daniell also advocates the idea that culture, society, and various political pressures do carry weight in the composing process and in defining literacy. Her proposal is that various narratives, especially narratives of personal writing experience within a specific community, reveal how various political and ethical movements influence the idea of literacy. Daniell identifies three main topics which support her thesis, these examine the "relationship of theory and ideology, the ethical question of research, and the problematics of separating the spiritual from academic study" (394).
In criticizing the "great leap narrative" ideas which were rampant during the 1970s and 80s, Daniell advocates the idea of "little narratives" (396). The "little narrative" shows literacy within the context of the culture in which someone writes, as opposed to the approach of the "great leap narrative," that portrays writing as an extremely individual process that lies outside the effects of the culture surrounding the writer. Daniell goes on to show that through ethnographic and Marxist examinations of literacy within specific communities, literacy is revealed to be a tool for empowerment, as well as something whose definition varies greatly depending on its use within that specific community (397-401). As yet another way to support her point of view, Daniell uses the work of Street’s Literacy in Theory and Practice to show that all research inevitably takes a ideological approach and can never be a truly objective approach to any subject. Lastly, Daniell uses Freire’s support of "a spiritual perspective on the teaching of literacy" to show that the "intellectual distancing" within present teaching methods does not provide the room for growth that literacy needs to flourish within a society (402).
While reading what seemed to morph into a historical study of the past 13 years of research within composition, what I found most interesting within Daniell’s article were the implications of her overview. First of all, the idea that writing and composition is highly political while not a new concept, it is a big claim in this day in age when many people, especially within the academic community, attempt to remain objective within their writing so that their viewpoint can carry more weight. The idea that each piece carries a cultural and political background promotes more equality within the writing community, for within this view no one can rightly claim to have an objective solution to a problem. Secondly, Daniell makes it clear that writing and the discourse that results from it is not held solely within the classroom, instead it encompasses most of our everyday lives. This is clearly a message that people should understand, so that they realize the value and necessity of being able to communicate well within such an influential discourse.
As writing tutors we should pass this message onto those that we tutor, that their voices do matter and that even the "Intellectual-as-God" mentality that most in the intellectual community advocate is also saturated with a cultural bias (Shambelan). This means that all writers, whether a first-year student or a tenured professor, should feel entitled to embrace and communicate their personal outlook using their own unique voice. This relates to several of our prior readings and discussions which all center around the idea that writers need to make what they write something personal so that it matters to them.
Another message to glean from Daniell and Faigely’s writings is that students come from various cultural and social backgrounds, and therefore as tutors, we must realize that they will associate various definitions when thinking of writing and the idea of what literacy means to them personally. Despite the fact that Daniell fails to mention the cognitive model of writing, I think that it would be interesting to see whether Daniell would find Flower and Hayes’ model to be too individualistic in their portrayal of the writing process. Also, although Elbow does acknowledge that the composition process could very well be influenced by culture, I also wonder if Daniell would see Elbow’s ignoring the audience during the beginning of the writing process as a weakness. This concern comes from the fact that Daniell takes such a strong stance in maintaining the importance of a writer’s culture within the process. Then again, Elbow’s acknowledgement of audience during revision might be enough for Daniell. One other curiosity that I have, which Daniell failed to mention is how much she feels that writing and emotions are dictated by processes of the body. With all of her talk of the influence of groups within society upon a writer, I’m curious to see where she feels that the body’s impulses (sensory, memory, etc.). And with all of these variables, both social and natural, that seem to be out of the writer’s control to at least some extent, my concern is where the creative element that is solely the writer’s comes into play.--Christine Bunting, 9/22/02
Mphahlele, Es’kia. “Educating The Imagination.” College English. v. 55. Number 2. February 1993.
This article is an edited version of an address Mphahlele gave at the November 1990 NCTE convention in Atlanta. In this article Mphahlele emphasizes the importance of the imagination, and its power to reach past the ugly realities of racism, debilitating education, and the breakdown of South African culture, literature, and cultural history due to apartheid. Based on his own childhood, education, and travel worldwide, Mphahlele discusses his innate connection with imagination, how it is fed by his life’s experiences, and how it enables him to gain perspective on the hardships he endured and the hardships that exist continually worldwide, but especially in South Africa.
I didn’t expect to read about racism and a child growing up in the savannah of South Africa and his early education via nature and his own absorbing imagination. I expected an article about classrooms, children in suburban settings, and teachers. What this article means to me is that imagination translates into survival. Imagination is the reason we are attracted to learning and education in the first place. Song, poetry, writing; putting the imagination to work- this is what interests children be they seven years old from Read Grave’s “An Examination of the Writing Processes of Seven-Year-Old-Children, or leaving adolescence like Elizabeth Schambelan struggling with persona in “Defining a Persona Within the Boundaries of Academic Discourse”, or Mphahlele “guzzling chunks of printed matter ripe, raw, and rotten” (182). I connect Mphahlele’s power and scope of the imagination to a quote from Lester Faigley’s article “Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal”: “If the teaching of writing is to reach disciplinary status, it will be achieved through recognition that writing processes are, as Stanley Fish says of linguistic knowledge, ‘contextual rather than abstract, local rather than general, dynamic rather then invariant’” (Faigley 50). Imagination is the impetus for creative craft which draws from the context of a person’s experiences, and their localized perceptions. Imagination draws from its own dynamic growth and appetite to inspire the mind.--C. Talley English 9.22.02
Monica L. "Caught Between Skin Color and Dialect: A Non-Essentialist
View of Black English." Working
with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching. Eds.
Leonard A. Podis & JoAnne M. Podis. New York, NY: Peter Lang
Publishing Co, 1999. 271-283.
article, written by a graduate student with a passion and skill for
writing, focuses on the concept of "black English,"-- in her
nine year old niece's words, "English that black people
speak"(271)-- in our society, and the problems that arise from our
definition and belief in the existence of such an English. The article is
more poignent because it is based largely on Anthony's personal
experiences as a black American who grew up in a predominantly white
suburban neighborhood without ever using this "black English" in
her household or in her daily interactions with peers.
order to fully understand Anthony’s article, we have to understand what
is meant by “black English” in the first place. Anthony herself never
really defines this term, aside from saying that it is the speech
(although it is not confined to verbal language) commonly associated with
black Americans, especially those in urban areas. What is most unfortunate
about the use of this term is that it implies that “normal” English is
white English, and thereby propagates the detrimental notion that
normalcy in this country is equated with whiteness. As Anthony quotes to
us from a journal entry of her own, “…it is ‘standard’ English.
That does not necessarily make it ‘white.’ To call it so only shows
[that one] has bought…into the bigoted tenet that ‘standard’ and
‘correct’ are synonymous with ‘white’”(272). This passage begins
the first section of Anthony’s paper, entitled “No, S/He
Mustn’t!”(a reference to an essay she is responding to), in which she
begins her summary of her own experience by saying “even though I was
aware of the existence of black English, it never occurred to me that
people might expect me to use it”(273). Her first experience with this
expectation occurred when she entered college and attended an orientation
for minority students, in which she felt so uncomfortable with her
“white girl voice”(274) that she began an attempt at making herself
seem “more black,”(274), but only ended up appearing more
uncomfortable with herself.
in this section, Anthony includes some reflection on negative stereotypes
and what they mean to her—how difficult it has been to prove to others
that “although I am a black woman, I am also an individual and I don’t
have to define myself by my race”(275). She then goes on to explain how
the notion of black English has extended into this concept that others
have held of who she is supposed to be and how she is supposed to sound,
citing several examples of occurrences in which people have seemed almost
offended that they could not identify her as black when talking to her
over the telephone. She then proceeds to a section entitled “Las Tres
Amigas,” which focuses on the conversations between herself and two
friends, Michelle and Sonya, surrounding the concept of black English.
is what Anthony defines as a “code-switcher”(277): someone who is able
to use different dialects (here “black” and “white” English) in
different situations depending on what seems at the time appropriate.
Sonya is at the other end of the spectrum from Anthony, using “black
English” almost exclusively to the point that she has been asked to
participate in speech therapy by her professors. The conversations these
three women have surrounding their personal methods of communication
become rather intense, as all three seem to believe that they are in the
right, and that the other two are assimilating or making poor choices.
“Sonya,” Anthony writes, “was constantly accusing me of ‘trying to
be white,’ and I kept getting angry and defensive”(278). While
Michelle can identify with both girls, she is also made uncomfortable by
the pressure she feels from them to choose one dialect or another. Sonya,
while she comes off as very proud, is confronting major issues surrounding
her way of speaking, and Anthony especially feels that Sonya has made a
dangerous choice in choosing not to adapt a more standard English.
point of the paper that resonates the most with me comes toward the end of
this (the final) section, in which Anthony confesses that “[black
English] still sounds unrefined to my ears. I can only imagine how it
sounds to the average uninformed white American”(281). What is so
profound about this statement is that it brings up the real issue
here—in this country, in this culture, we are trained to view any
dialect by the standard as incorrect, as a sign of ignorance or
backwardness. We truly are, as Anthony says, uninformed as to the real
situation: people use speech as a part of their personal identification;
how we talk to one another is an enormous part of how we present ourselves
to the world. And yet, if the world that we are presenting ourselves to is
one that is largely uninformed, how are we to clarify ourselves? Should we
really even have to?
Anthony’s essay is unique in its thoughtfulness and reflection on these issues, and she clearly has a commitment to understanding and rectifying the problems in our culture with “standard” being identified as “white.” This is something that I feel a great passion for as well, and I feel that papers like this one are enormously important in challenging misunderstandings and exposing the truth.--Katelyn Dix, 9/22/02
McAlistar, Kara M., Nickola W. Nelson, and Christine M. Bahr. "Perceptions of Students with Language and Learning Disabilities about Writing Process Instruction" Learning Disabilities Research and Practice 14 (1999): 159-172.
Kara McAlistar, Nickola Nelson, and Christine Bahr completed a writing program with seven learning and/or language disabled children, ranging in age from nine to fourteen. During the course of the semester-long program, the students were introduced to the concepts of "author groups" (where peer feedback was given), planning and organizing, writing, and revising and editing. The participants were then interviewed about their feelings toward each of the four concepts using the scale "really don’t like," "sort of don’t like," "sort of like," and "really like." The majority of the students liked working with author groups, did not like the point of planning and organizing, enjoyed writing, and saw editing as something used to fix grammar and spelling rather than content.
I found the students’ responses to pre-writing to be quite interesting. They did not understand the reasoning behind planning. Most of the students found it to be a waste of time, for if they already knew about what they were going to write about, what was the point of pre-writing? One student went so far as to say, "‘[I] really don’t like it [making webs], because I already have a web up here [points to head]; then it’s lost in your head when you write it on paper’" (167). The ten-year-old girl who made this statement has figured out the restrictions of pre-writing and has made the same argument against the process as the people in our class who are almost twice her age. The children in the class wrote original short stories during the entire semester. If professional writers create short stories without using story webs or outlines and the creative writers in our class create short stories without using story webs or outlines, why should elementary and middle school students be taught to write short stories using story webs and outlines? As one student stated, "It [planning] wastes my time of writing" (170). Granted, this child is not the greatest at communicating his or her ideas, but he or she does have a good point. Planning is not as important as writing when one is creating a short story. The class instructors, however, did not see the logic behind this student’s opinion, instead deciding that, "These results seem indicative of the need for a greater amount of instruction about specific strategies for planning and organizing stories" (170). The researchers presented no data to support the idea that pre-writing helps children with learning and language disabilities. Instead, they seemed to be playing into the old concept that for one to write effectively, one simply must create a story web and/or an outline.
The age range of the children who participated in the study was rather odd. Jeremy, the fourteen-year-old, seemed to be the most cynical and negative participant in the study, and I can understand why. Why should a fourteen-year-old be happy working in the same "author group" as (and thereby getting feedback from) a nine-year-old? The study would have made more sense had seven children who were all around the same age taken part in it.
None of the students seemed to understand the purpose of editing beyond checking for grammatical and spelling errors. Those students who did understand the more content-oriented ideas behind editing saw the process as a way to improve the audience’s connection to a piece of writing. Had all of the students grasped the concept of audience awareness, they probably would not have enjoyed writing as much as they did. They appeared to be writing stories to express their ideas, ideas that they enjoyed coming up with on their own. Writing to please an audience can serve to demoralize a writer; it can take the zest and enthusiasm out of a writer’s work, causing the boring, more intellectual voice to take over.--Johanna Goldberg, 9/22/02
Irene. “Perspectives on the
Directive/Non-Directive Continuum in the
The results of the study give a limited perspective because it was
only one college’s writing center taken into account, and I assume many
of the consultants were trained by
Although by no means would I consider this study one providing
concrete empirical evidence, there are several ideas from the article that
are useful in considering.
It is important to note that
Jones, Casey. “The Relationship Between Writing Centers and Improvement in Writing Ability: an Assessment of the Literature.” Education. 122.1. (2001): 2-20.
Through close examination of many studies done on writing centers, Casey Jones attempts to resolve whether or not writing centers are actually beneficial to the tutees. He claims that fair studies questioning “Does student participation in writing center activities generate improvements in student writing ability?”(3) are almost impossible to come by, due to differences in location, circumstance, “student background, academic ability, and the like”(7). Jones argues that all good writing tutors customize their sessions to fit the needs of the tutee, and “given that writing center instruction is ‘customized to fit a concrete situation involving unique individuals…the very process…resists all save the most superficial generalizations”(8). Despite all this, he finally concludes that “the research reviewed indicates that both tutor and tutee benefit from the non-hierarchical, complementary relationship that enables both partners to refine and expand their writing and communication skills”(17).
Jones, however, after assessing a large number of studies, points out that the majority of the conclusions determine that students who visit the writing center are better off than those who do not in a number of ways. He cites Doris Sutton and Daniel Arnold, who, in 1974, divided a class of English composition students into two groups. One half of the class was given extra instruction at a writing center, while the other half received only the classroom lessons. When Sutton and Arnold compared the grade point average of the two sections at the conclusion of the year, they “reported that the students receiving writing instruction in the writing center had accumulated significantly higher grade point averages than their ‘control’ group counterparts”(9). In 1980 Helen Naugie performed a study in which she reported that “after establishment of a writing lab featuring individualized instruction, there was a marked reduction in the failure rate for students at a Georgia community college on a state-mandated proficiency exam in composition”(9). In 1985 Carol David and Thomas Bubloz found that when a group of students who failed an English class were required to attend meetings at the writing center, “there was a “significant improvement in grammar skills”(9), and in 1992, Bertha Taylor-Escoffery claimed that her research revealed “that writing center experience generated measurable reductions in student writing anxiety and statistically significant improvements in student attitudes toward writing”(12).
Only briefly does Jones mention two failed studies. He cites James Bennett’s 1998 study, in which Bennett claimed that the grades given to students after writing center tutorials were somewhat better, “but not at a statistically significant level”(10), than those given before the writing center lessons. Also, in 1988, David Roberts compared students in a classroom of “conventional instruction”(10) with another group involved in courses at a writing center. He determined that “the variance did not meet the study’s criteria for statistical significance”(10).
The question of whether or not writing centers can be proved effective is extremely interesting. It seems that the answer is obvious: if students do better on their papers after attending the writing center than before the visit, it should be deduced that the tutors at the center are doing their job well, and the tutee’s visit has been beneficial. But what if the tutee was feeling more motivated on the particular day of the visit, and would have improved her scores anyway? Or if an alternate professor graded the papers, and awarded higher grades than usual? Is it possible to gauge the successfulness of a writing center? I believe that it is not. I also believe, like Jones, that the studies, however inaccurate they may be, point to the helpful nature of writing centers, and, as long as students consider them useful, writing centers are not only valid, but valuable as well.--Sarah Raz, September 22, 2002
Stafford, William. “A Way of Writing.” Fields Of Writing: Readings Across the Disciplines. Ed. Nancy R. Comley et al. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984. 615-617.
Welcome to the writing of William Stafford, or should I say, to his world. He is, as Peter Elbow would describe, “an expert at total absorption” in his own world when he writes. Here is how he does it: “I get a pen and paper, take a glance out the window (often it is dark out there), and wait. It is like fishing. But I do not wait very long, for there is always a nibble—and this is where receptivity comes in. To get started I will accept anything that occurs to me. Something always occurs, of course, to any of us. We can’t help from thinking” (615-616). And once he is started he goes and goes, stumbling and tumbling down the side of an unexplored mountain, spiraling down a never-ending slide, wildly running through a maze at full speed. With every turn he makes a discovery. There is no censor between where his mind takes him and what he writes; it all goes. “I am following a process that leads so wildly and originally into new territory that no judgment can at the moment be made about values, significance, and so on…Now I am headlong to discover. Any distraction may harm the creating” (616). The creations he speaks of are ideas, connections, and “things” that would not have occurred to him had he not started to say them. “A result of this free way of writing is that I am not writing for others…there is scope for individuality, and elation, and discovery” (617). And that is what makes him a writer: he has found a process that will bring about discovery and satisfaction.
Stafford’s article ties in so many of the aspects of writing we have been studying in the past several weeks. The “process-rather-than-substance” theme is prevalent throughout, paralleling the thoughts of Flowers and Hayes. His writing is exploratory, an act of self-discovery. He writes for the audience of himself, as Elbow describes. He writes of the facility of writing once the skills of the language are second nature. When Stafford sits down to write there is a sense of boldness, and there is no trace of fear of where his writing will take him. If anything, there is only excitement. His inspiration comes from his imagination, his well of experience. He speaks of the richness of language, and the beauty of stringing words together that perfectly say what one means. Stafford owns what every writer needs: trust in where his thoughts will go, and confidence in himself.
In Peter Elbow’s article there was a beautiful quote by William Stafford that really spoke to me. In it, Stafford writes, “When I’m writing, the satisfactions in the process of writing are my satisfactions in dealing with the language, in being surprised by phrasings that occur to me, in finding that this miraculous kind of convergent focus begins to happen. That’s my satisfaction, and to think about an audience would be a distraction” (Elbow 257). Just in those few lines, he said so much about writing that I see little glimpses of too every once in awhile. He alluded to those moments of exhilaration when writing, to writing for oneself, and to seeing the work take shape, all just in that one quote. So, I quickly sought out a piece by William Stafford and came across his famous “A Way of Writing,” in which, line after line, he describes how he writes in such a telling and beautiful way. I have virtually every line of my copy of the article underlined, and stars and exclamation points have marked up the margins. This is an article I will keep close at hand so that every time I feel like I am unable to write, I will come back to it and his words will never cease to inspire me…--Ambler Mauger, September 22, 2002
Gary A. and Steve Graham. “The
Effectiveness of a Highly Explicit, Teacher-Directed Strategy Instruction
Routine: Changing the Writing Performance of Students with Learning
Disabilities.” Journal of Learning Disabilities 35 no4 290-305 Jl/Ag
article explored the different methods teachers can use to help improve
the writing styles and processes for learning disabled students.
In previous studies, researchers found that students with learning
disabilities tended to work directly from memory for writing assignments.
They did not plan ahead and use strategic techniques such as
outlining or pre-writing. Researchers,
Troia and Graham, used this information as a catalyst to study what types
of writing strategies would most help these students.
They compared process-writing instruction versus planning
strategies, to determine if learning how to plan would improve writing
research was conducted with twenty 4th and 5th
graders, all of whom had been diagnosed with some form of learning
disability, but did not suffer from sensory, motor, or emotional ailments.
These students were randomly assigned to one of two conditions and
then split into groups of two. Over
several months instruction was conducted in these study pairs in a quiet
room in the school. The
process writing treatment focused on discussion of drafts and re-writing-
the overall process of creating a written assignment, while the strategy
treatment consisted of learning new techniques that would help students
think about their writing before the process even began.
One example of this strategy was the incorporation of the
Self-Regulated Strategy Development Model.
Instructors demonstrated how setting goals and monitoring one’s
personal progress toward that goal could be used to help produce strong
writing. Instructors were
able to teach these new techniques by using three simple steps.
First they needed to model how to use the technique for the
student. Then they needed to
identify uses for planning, explaining how the new information could be
applied to everyday use. Finally,
the instructor needed to assign homework that would allow the student to
practice his/her new skill. Through
these steps and the strategy techniques themselves, the students in the
Planning Strategies treatment group improved their overall scores on the
did not find it surprising that learning how to plan would help improve
students’ writing skills. All
of our readings for class seem to indicate that same fact, but it is
interesting that planning does not come naturally to students with
learning disabilities. Flower
and Hayes seemed to indicate that planning was a natural cognitive
process, and perhaps this lack of ability to think ahead helps lead to the
development of learning disabilities. This article and the studies
presented within it contain vital information for anyone planning to work
with special needs or learning disabled children.
All tutors, however, can learn that modeling is a useful technique
in helping students understand new skills.
Often it is hard for anyone to understand the purpose of a new
strategy, until he/she can see someone else perform the skill step by
step. Modeling is an
important tool in teaching, no matter what the lesson.
I also found the use of acronyms as a planning and memory tool
intriguing. Just a few simple
words can help students with learning disabilities focus on their planning
and alleviate the chances of missing a step.
Some examples of these mnemonics are: STOP & LIST- Stop, Think
of Purpose and List Ideas and Sequence Them: to help students remember how
to outline. SPACE- Setting,
Problems, Actions, Consequences, Emotions- these are five simple words to
help students writing a fictional story.
DARE- Develop a position, Add supporting arguments, Report and
Refute the opposing side, End the paper with a strong conclusion- the
steps to writing a strong opinion paper.
I think these simple acronyms provide structure for planning, while
at the same time not inhibiting creativity.
While this article focused on steps to improve writing skills in
children with learning disabilities, many of the skills and lessons
demonstrated are helpful in all forms of writing instruction.--Aileen
Sansevere, Samantha. “On the Use of ‘I’ in Academic Writing.” Working with Student Writers. Podis, JoAnne M. and Leonard A. Podis. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999. 251-260.
Samantha Sansevere addresses a somewhat neglected topic in her essay “On the Use of ‘I’ in Academic Writing.” Sansevere begins by presenting several general arguments for and against the use of “I” in formal writing. One argument claims that mature writing avoids the personal; another claims that personal writing is stronger. However, Sansevere goes on to show that these arguments fail to address far deeper and more significant issues relating to the use of “I.”
One issue Sansevere addresses is that of objectivity. Sansevere points out that no writing can be truly objective, because no two persons’ perceptions can be completely alike. All writing, therefore, must be subjective. Sansevere asserts that if all writing is subjective, there can be no reason to pretend it is not; there can be no reason to omit the personal voice from an academic paper.
Sansevere offers other reasons for including the “I” in academic writing. Using “I” can eliminate wordiness, create a connection to readers, and make writing more interesting and individual. However, Sansevere’s most important reason for including the “I” has to do with personal development. Sansevere points out that voice is linked to identity; a person’s spoken and written voice is an intrinsic part of his/her personality. Eliminating the “I” from one’s voice amounts to eliminating one’s identity from one’s writing as well as speaking. This identity connection is particularly important to student writers, who are still developing their voices and identities concurrently. Leaving out the personal “I” prevents a student writer from exploring his/her personality and developing his/her unique viewpoint and style. Leaving out the personal “I” also prevents the student writer from feeling a sense of ownership over his/her own work. Sansevere warns that a writer who is never allowed to insert “I” into her writing may “lose herself in academia” (257).
I never realized how crucial that “I” is until I read Sansevere’s essay. The elimination of the personal “I” is far more than an idiosyncrasy of the academic writing community—it is an attack against a writer’s very identity. In light of this knowledge, traditional practices regarding the use of the personal voice in academic writing may need to be re-evaluated. In addition, this connection between voice and identity is critical for a writing tutor. When a student writer asks us whether or not to use “I” in a paper, what should we say?
Note: My first instinct was to avoid using that “I” in the last paragraph. Upon considering the article on which this annotation is based, I decided that would be a bit silly.--Shulamit Blumensteil, 9/23/02
Gersten, Russell, and Scott Baker and Lana Edwards. “Teaching Expressive Writing to Students With Learning Disabilities.” Educational Resource Information Center/Office of Special Education Programs Digest. #E590. December 1999.
In 1989, Graham and Harris defined “expressive writing” as “writing for the purpose of displaying knowledge or supporting self-expression.” One of the problems of working with students who have learning disabilities, however, is that often the disability clouds the student’s knowledge and/or talent, so it is hard to judge whether they don’t know something or whether they are simply unable to express it. And many students with learning disabilities are often so frustrated with the curriculum that by the time they get to the age where they can self-express, they don’t want to. Gersten, Baker, and Edwards investigate what kinds of instructional interventions can improve the quality of these students’ written products as well as their self-efficacy, the sense of being able to write.
The multifaceted interventions studied all had three consistent components in common: adhering to a basic framework of planning, writing, and revision; explicitly teaching critical steps in the writing process; and providing feedback guided by the information explicitly taught. “Teaching students to write requires showing them how to develop and organize what they want to say and guiding them in the process of getting it down on paper,” the article states. It also stresses that these steps are part of a recursive and not a linear process. These all sound like very basic things, the things we are talking about in class, but it is very different to teach students who have learning disabilities. In this case, each step was taught with examples and memory aids such as flashcards and mnemonic devices. Rather than assuming the students would later be able to replicate the steps on their own, the teaching process assumed that they wouldn’t.
Next was the step of teaching text structure, and how to write for different occasions, using numerous explicit models and prompts. The goal is to make text structures visible to students. Finally, they provide feedback on the overall piece of writing. This review helps develop dialogue and bond between student and teacher, as well as helping the student develop “reader sensitivity” to his or her own work, which is something that many students, learning-disabled or not, lack.
Gersten and Baker found that “when asked to write about complex ideas, students with learning disabilities often showed conceptual performance beyond that which would be expected on the basis of their performance on lower-level skills such as capitalization, punctuation and spelling.” Also, they have cited research that shows that students who dictate their thoughts to a scribe can produce longer, better compositions.
Teachers and professors often have trouble helping learning-disabled students, particularly students who have made it to college in spite of a learning disability, because they have found very specific methods that work for them. It’s probably a safe bet that there are few students who would be at an institution like Goucher without being aware of a learning disability, but because Goucher is such a writing-focused school, the environment might bring the disability into the open. One of the important things to remember is that disabled students are still just as intelligent in many ways and do not need to be babied. The article points out that they do need to have things presented differently, perhaps more clearly, a presumption that bothered me in a visceral way. Even though I understand that there are people who need that support, it seems rude to assume that learning-disabled students would be the ones who need it.
Gersten, Baker, and Edwards are very fair about applying most of the same concepts we have discussed to learning-disabled students. We talk about how writing is not a linear process, and how it is important to “talk back” at the end of an essay to see if it flows, and they suggest doing the same thing with students who have disabilities. Also, they point out ways that a disability might not hinder a student, such as the example of dictating one’s thoughts to a scribe. Perhaps this means that most students with learning disabilities have mechanical disabilities and not cognitive ones; it is not the process of producing ideas and making connections that gives them difficulty, but the act of composing it in coherent written words.--elizabeth fields 09.22.02
Monica L. “Caught Between Skin Color and Dialect: A Non-Essentialist View of
Black English.” Working With Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching
In her article “Caught Between Skin Color and Dialect: A
Non-Essentialist View of Black English” Monica L. Anthony confronts prevailing
essentialist assumptions of Black English and its implications concerning race,
stereotyping, and cultural and individual identity. Anthony begins by pointing
out that the term “Black English” is too often interpreted as “English
that black people speak,” (271), and that even linguistic literature fails to
differentiate between African Americans of diverse dialectical origins. She
contends that not only do not all black people speak Black English but that most
white people do not use what is considered to be standard English. Although
language is socially determined and Anthony was raised in a community where
primarily standard English was spoken, people expect her as an African American
woman to speak Black English. Anthony describes her experience interacting in a
predominately Black English-speaking community for the first time in college and
attempting to transform her “white girl voice” to become “more black”
(274) so that she would fit in socially.
also negotiates her own critical perception of Black English which stems partly
from her view of standard English as “correct and deviations (as)
incorrect.” While Anthony distinguishes “incorrect” from “inferior”
(275) she further explains that because society associates Black English with
negative stereotypical images of black women that continued use of Black English
perpetuates these images. In the final segment of her article, Anthony shares
several dialogues between herself and two of her close friends in which they
discuss Black English and its impact upon their lives. One of Anthony’s
friends, Michelle, is a code switcher, meaning that she uses standard English in
the public sphere and Black English in her private circles. Sonya, Anthony’s
other friend who uses Black English almost exclusively, has been advised to take
speech therapy so that she can develop standard English in preparation for her
master’s orals in psychology. In their discussion, which quickly evolves into
a heated argument, “las tres amigas” (277) examine societal pressures to
adopt and utilize either Black English or standard English in certain settings,
particularly in academia. They also debate whether or not Anthony should be
willing to accept if not appreciate Black English as an aspect of black culture
even though “white America” (281) propagates negative stereotypes related to
Black English. Anthony ultimately concludes that society’s expectation that
African Americans either should speak or should not speak Black English “all
boils down to racism,” (282), in which people hear skin color and see dialect.
Mike Rose, “Rigid Rules,
Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of
Writer’s Block." Landmark Essays on Writing Process ed.Sondra
In his article Mike Rose discusses results and conclusions from a study
he conducted on UCLA undergraduates regarding writer’s block.
He interviewed ten students who represented a fair mix of the community.
They ranged from lower-middle-class to upper-middle-class high schools,
third-world and Caucasian origins, biology to fine arts majors, C+ to A- grade
point averages, and enthusiastic to nonchalant attitudes toward school.
All ten of them were capable of good writing, but five suffered from
writer’s block while the other five were able to compose with ease.
Rose conducted between one and three interviews with each student, and
read notes, drafts, and completed papers to guide his questions.
Rose wished to discover if the cause of writer’s block was emotionally
based, (that is embedded in fear of evaluation, anxiety, etc) part of the
cognitive process or a melding of the two.
He discovered that the five students suffering from writer’s block were
all holding fast to styles of writing which hindered their composing process.
The other five also utilized rules within the writing process, however,
they were much less rigid and inflexible, therefore allowing ideas to flow.
In the article, Rose breaks down the basic steps of problem solving.
The first is the introductory period where a problem is presented; he
notes that all theorists believe that during this stage some aspects of the
problem become more important than others.
It is also stated that theorists believe that some amount of stress or
conflict actually trigger problem solving.
The second phase is the processing period, during which the writer,
through a series of information-processing, decides upon a solution to the
problem. Many theorists believe
that past learning and experience has an important impact on the quality of the
solution. The solution period
occurs at completion when closure is achieved.
The next section defines types of rules.
Rose quotes Robert M. Gagne for a definition of the word and its
implication, “an inferred capability that enables the individual to respond to
a class of stimulus situations with a class of performances…rules are probably
the major organizing factor, and quite possibly the primary one, in intellectual
functioning”. Rose then
breaks rules down into algorithms and heuristics. Algorithms are concrete rules that will always generate a
specific answer when used. Many
mathematical rules are algorithms. However,
the in everyday life the world is not precise enough to apply algorithms,
instead, we often look to heuristics. These are guidelines that allow for flexibility, but will not
always produce a predictable or correct answer.
Rose acknowledges that everyone, in some form, plans. He cites Miller, Galanter, and Pribram’s plan in
problem-solving behavior known as TOTE. The
first T stands for a test that will correspond with a possible solution to the
problem. The O represents the word
operate, which is used to see if the comparison between solution and goal shows
that the given solution will result in completion. The second T is for further testing. Finally if the tests prove correct then the person moves on
to E and exits. Rose states that
plans are formed from a series of rules – both heuristic and algorithmic.
Rose examines writing as a problem-solving process and focuses on what
occurs when the process is halted through writer’s block.
He opposes Flower and Hayes in that he believes more rules and plans
often create this block, due to their inflexibility or inappropriateness.
During the following section, Rose discusses some of the students he
studied. The first was told many
times that a good essay must attract a reader’s attention immediately, and
that until this is achieved there is no reason to continue.
However, she was never told exactly what the audience was seeking, or
what would grab their attention. She
also abides by the rule that if a sentence is not grammatically correct it is
not useful, and therefore she is prohibited from exercises like free writing.
Both the rules restrict her composing process.
The second student, Laurel, produced papers that were weeks overdue.
Some sections were well written but most of the prose appeared rushed.
He also noted that in one essay there was a paragraph that had little to
do with the rest of the paper. Laurel’s
response was that she knew it didn’t fit, but believed it was necessary to
round out the paper. She had been
taught throughout high school and college that, “You must always make three or
more points in an essay. If the
essay has less, then it’s not strong”.
Martha, a biology major, refuses to begin writing until she has had two
days to produce an incredibly complex outline.
Rose states that these more closely resemble a complex DNA structure than
a static traditional outline. However,
these outlines often lead to problems. Martha
finds that she can never include all elements of the outline into a compact
Mikes problem was also rooted in the planning stage.
He correctly believes that in order to solve a problem one must first
come up with a strategy. The
trouble occurs with the fact that once he forms a plan it is written in stone.
When it does not fit an assignment he tries to unsuccessfully mold it.
Rose concludes that his approach is much too mechanical.
Sylvia’s problem stems from having too many rules in turn she suffers
from great anxiety in trying to decide which to use.
She puts incredible weight on the first paragraph, and will spend five
hours making it perfect before moving on. Sylvia
also has difficulty with meshing rules together. For instance, she believes that adequate transitions result
in a flow of writing and that evidence creates substance. However, she will often follow one to the extreme, excluding
Rose then switches his attention to the non-blockers. He found that the rules these students adhered to were much
less rigid, for instance “try to keep the audience in mind”.
They believe that rules are there to help writing, and when they go
against what the writer has deemed as logical they should be rejected.
The plans that non-blockers follow often appear almost too broad or fluid
to be of use. The only firm rules
that these students follow are ones similar to, “When stuck, write”,
otherwise they work with easily modified or discarded rules.
At the end of this section Rose makes an interesting suggestion for
further research, he wonders if the lack of precision is actually hiding
habitually enacted sub-routines.
Rose concludes his article with a clear analysis of his findings.
Many of the rules blockers followed were in no way “wrong”, such as
creating a solid opening paragraph. The
problem arose when students turned this rule into an algorithm rather than a
heuristic. By doing so the are not allowing for flexible access to the
As with all problem solving, students use their backgrounds to create
solutions. However, occasionally
this will cause them to misinterpret the task.
A clear example is Martha’s need for full coverage and detail.
Rose then addresses Mike’s problem with planning.
He infers that his plans are not actually plans, that they represent a
“closed system” type of thinking and become “static cognitive
blueprints”. Rose believes that
writing requires open exploratory thinking.
Rose states that the difficulties found by blockers are made stronger by
the fact that they’re often isolated from any type of feedback.
He suggests discussing papers with professors in order to step outside
your own self imposed rules and goals.
The article concludes by proclaiming that dysfunctional rules can easily be replaced by functional ones and that students can be trained to know which rules apply to certain situations. Inflexible plans, such as Mike’s, are solved by pointing out their obvious dysfunction.
I found this article to be very informative.
I think it is interesting that often times the writers that appear to
have really tried in writing classes, to follow every rule and please teachers
are the ones that tended to suffer from writer’s block and often produce work
of poor quality. Rose’s
conclusions appeared to very reasonable. Since
writing is such a complex process it would follow that rules need to be flexible
enough to work around it. I think
that writing is taught much too rigidly in schools.
Everyone has suffered through the five paragraph essay, even though a
different structure may have produced a more complete paper.
Teachers need to profess that rules are there for help and guidance and
should be used accordingly. When
rules are presented as dogma it will inevitably create stress and anxiety which
will only further impede the writer’s progress.—Alice Murphy, 9-15-02
Gail S. “Writing Invention:
Sometimes an Anti Social Act, or the Relationship of Anger and the
Impulse To Write.”
Anger is a very strong controversial emotion ingrained in humanity.
Corso defines anger and the importance of its role in the composing
process by relying on several sources including Flower, Brand and Perl.
Her main focus is that anger is either very stimulating or detrimental
to the writing process. When
anger is the motivating source of writing there are two opposing paths that it
leads to – either creativity and problem-solving,
or writer’s block. When a
person broods on angry energy without expressing it any form, the writing
process is disrupted and the writer’s frustration continues to build.
On the other hand, if anger is channeled correctly, it can lead to
invention and successful writing. Corso
does not give an explanation of how or why anger motivates a person’s
writing to tend toward creativity or frustration, but she stresses the
importance of social aspect of writing and the guidance of the teacher (or
tutors in our case.)
Anger is a very strong controversial emotion ingrained in humanity.
Corso defines anger and the importance of its role in the composing
process by relying on several sources including Flower, Brand and Perl.
Her main focus is that anger is either very stimulating or detrimental
to the writing process. When
anger is the motivating source of writing there are two opposing paths that it
leads to – either creativity and problem-solving,
or writer’s block. When a
person broods on angry energy without expressing it any form, the writing
process is disrupted and the writer’s frustration continues to build.
On the other hand, if anger is channeled correctly, it can lead to
invention and successful writing. Corso
does not give an explanation of how or why anger motivates a person’s
writing to tend toward creativity or frustration, but she stresses the
importance of social aspect of writing and the guidance of the teacher (or
tutors in our case.)
Because society views anger as a “bad” emotion only motivating
destructive actions, its power to lead to problem-solving and creativity is
commonly overlooked. Any major
social change is a result of a groups’ anger at injustices; if anger leads
to advances in society can it not also lead to productivity in writing?
Corso poses many similar questions in her article and demonstrates that
many authoritative sources acknowledge that anger is a powerful motivation for
She points out that emotion’s influence on writing is usually
ignored, especially in the academic domain.
Students are taught to be distanced from academic writing so they
separate their writing from the emotion that has potential to improve their
writing, but Corso also points out that anger can lead to inappropriate
rebellious writing. The balance
between emotionally dry writing and overly emotional yet ineffectual writing
is found in communication between the teacher and the student.
Corso encourages communication in the classroom, not just about factual
information but students’ feelings toward issues. She stresses the
importance of discussion between the teacher and students about their writing
and helping the students channel emotions in the writing process.
To do this Corso claims the teacher must recognize influence of emotion
on cognition and perception.
This article was very relevant to the readings we had this week.
It addressed issues brought up in all of them.
Corso shows how deeply interconnected cognition and emotion are in the
writing process as it relates to anger. She
describes anger as “a state of heightened activation or arousal of the
autonomic nervous system… that is fueled by our cognitive
interpretations,” quoted from Gorkin’s
article “The Four Faces of Anger.” As
tutors it will be important to recognize that emotions affect the way people
think and a strong emotion toward a particular subject has the potential to
motivate creative problem-solving. How exactly to help a tutee focus their
emotions in writing or become motivated about a subject that there is no
emotional response to are difficult questions that I wished Corso had
concepts she stresses that are relevant to tutoring are the importance of
communication in education and giving writers the awareness that they can
write in their own voice. Through
Corso’s article I can see helping tutees
discover the social importance in what they have to write and finding an angle
they are emotionally stimulated to write about while following the codes of
writing established by academia can lead to productive and successful writing,
but exactly how to engage this process remains unanswered.
Anger as a motivating tool for writing is a very real concept for me.
As I expressed in my “How I Write” essay I rarely write outside of
assigned writing projects. The
one exception to this is the rare occasions I am really angry about something.
When this happens I actually find myself writing, in a way I do not
really have a choice in these situations.
Writing is the only way I can feel productive when there is a real
injustice that is bothering me so much to cause anger. Writing alleviates
anger as it is transferred from my mind to the paper.
This brings up a completely new issue.
Can writing and emotions be blended in a classroom setting to encourage
communication between students about issues that provoke anger in their own
lives? The article, lacking of
any empirical study, leaves me with more questions than answers, but at least
raises important issues that should be questioned.--Leah Rybolt,
Shang, H.F; A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ON ALTERNATIVE
APPROACHES TO LITERACY INSTRUCTION; International Journal of Lifelong
Education, 02601370, Jul2000, Vol. 19, Issue 4
the four “alternative approaches” to teaching English and reviews each in a
manner very similar to last week’s reading from Faigley. He points at the
change in goals of literacy instruction in the US due to waves of non-English
speaking immigrants and even second generation citizens that do not hear or see
English in their homes.
The four methods he looks at are the natural approach, the whole language
approach, a leaner-centered approach and a participatory approach. Each is set
up differently, and focuses on teach language, usually to those who have little
or no exposure to it, in its entirety. Each incorporated the learners own
experiences and values more than a traditional approach, but requires the
learners to be more actively involved in their education. None of these methods
would work for kids who don’t want to learn, or who are not interested in
their own education.
In the end he concludes that the best programs are learner focused, but
can incorporate ideas from the other methods of learning. He also believes that
educators, no matter how good their methods and programs are, should not remain
set in their ways or ever devalue their students.
I liked that he valued the teacher-student relationship, I agree that if
a student is more connected to their teacher, they will be more invested in
their education. I learned the most from teachers I liked, and wanted to have
like me. Shang's advice to get to know students, to show an interest in their
lives and even in their first language and the customs that are part of their
lives was different. Many teachers think that they should limit students
speaking in their first languages if they want them to learn a new one. People
must feel like they can express themselves, and that they will be understood, or
else they will pull away from the teacher, and the learning.
It was nice to have someone come out and say that most alternative methods will not work for people who are not interested or motivated. In some ESL classes that I have seen, especially in middle school the kids ignore the English and just use their own. They have no interest in expanding their vocabularies or becoming good writers in a language they don’t care for. But I do think that if more programs used these alternatives, letting the students be more invested in what they were learning from the beginning, more kids would care. And they would be able to learn so much more, without having to let go of who they are, and the language and customs they come from.--Matisse Michalski, 9/29/02
Hochhauser, Mark. Writing
for Staff, Employees, Patients, and Family Members, “Hospital Topics.”
Winter98, Vol76. Ebsco
Host. Julia Rogers Library, Goucher College 24, September, 2002
In Mark Hochhauser’s article, Writing for Staff, Employees, Patients, and Family Members, he pays tribute to the audience of written works. From research Hochhauser concludes that many Americans cannot read on higher educational levels, so expecting them to read, and actually understand, prestigious, academic text is unfair. Instead of drawing his conclusions and ending the article, he goes on to suggest solutions to the problem. Through techniques like “dumbing down” the text and assessing works with writing programs, the writer may successfully deliver complex ideas in a way in which the intended audience can understand and appreciate.
First, Hochhauser provides the reader with statistics to prove that there is a problem that needs to be addressed by any and all writers. He states, “About 25 percent of Americans have less than a high school diploma, 30 percent are high school graduates, 25 percent have some college or an associates degree, 13 percent have a bachelors degree and 7 percent have a graduate degree,” (Hochhauser, 1). Not only do the previous statistics show the lack of education and explain why the majority of the population struggles with reading, he adds more disturbing evidence to why the audience needs to be considered in writing. Through research, Hochhauser came across a study done to test the actual reading ability of people. He found that “although the patients averaged 12.5 years of education, their reading vocabulary was at grade 11.3 and their reading comprehension at grade 10.5,” (Hochhauser, 2). In other words, the level of education someone completed may not run parallel with his or her “true” reading level.
Next, Hochhauser distinguishes the differences between good and bad readers and how the reader’s reading ability affects comprehension of texts. He simply lists the obvious characteristics of good readers as he writes, “Good readers get help with unusual words,” “are persistent” and “understand the context of the writing,” (Hochhauser, 2). He contrasts these ideas with the observations that “poor readers often skip over unusual words and tire easily” and “poor readers miss the context…and are often unable to connect what they read to their own lives,” (Hochhauser, 2). Since not all readers classify under the good category, Hochhauser questions the fairness of making the “bad readers” tackle tough text, like health plans, and end up with well-thought out decisions. More than likely, the reader does not understand what he or she just read. According to Hochhauser, since health plans and other academic writings are written on higher educational levels, only 45 percent of the country is capable of comprehending and possibly making life-altering decisions (unless there are readers that found a way to master tough text without formal education).
Lastly, Hochhauser offers suggestions to strengthen written works and still allow the audience to understand the information. He proposes using a technique called “dumbing down” the text. By “dumbing down” he simply means writing the work using words and sentence structure from the English language that most people will understand. For those whom believe using this technique lessens the writer’s intelligence, he recommends another technique. He writes it is as easy as, “Giv[ing] group participants your written materials and a highlighter to identify those sections that they have a hard time understanding,” (Hochhauser, 3). By simply asking the person revising the work if there is any part of the paper that they do not understand, the writer avoids creating a text that the audience will struggle with. Following the previous methods should ensure a written work that the audience should understand, and maybe even, enjoy.
Hochhauser’s article relates to class, as the importance of audience is the main focus in the article and we discuss audience on many occasions. Unlike Peter Elbow’s article, Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An argument for Ignoring Audience, Hochhauser encourages writers to not only consider the intended audience but also the reading level. Hochhauser thinks writing on the level of the reader produces a better work of writing that can be understood and appreciated by the reader. Elbow may argue that focusing on the audience and choosing simpler word choice and sentence structure may in fact weaken the written piece.
Although I totally agree with his argument, at times I thought he took it a little too far. I do think it is important to recognize that not all people are educated on the same level so some texts, like healthcare plans, need to be universal for the sake of half of the country. Unfortunately, replacing words like discontinue (the supposed complicated word) with stop (the simple term) seems a little elementary. Of course that statement holds biasness as it comes from an educated person. The same idea can be brought into the classrooms at Goucher. Professors could easily find simple works to articulate the lesson in the same way, if not better, than an academic text. However, the texts would not be accepted as scholarly and the professors may then be accused of not enhancing our knowledge and giving us greater critical thinking skills, which is the reason for receiving a higher education in the first place. Making two different versions of written works, one for the educated and one for the less educated, is ludicrous but having one elite work is unfair. So what is the solution?--Sidney R. Saunders, 10/9/02
Carmen. Authentic Writing
Assessment. “ERIC Digest.” (2002): 1-3. Ebsco Host. Julia Rogers Library,
Goucher College 17, September, 2002
In Carmen Chapman’s article, Authentic Writing Assessment, he explores the idea of writing being used as a form of assessment for students in checking their understanding of a concept. Using writing to assess a student’s development can be universal in all disciplines. He states, “if mathematics instructors have students write explanations for their procedures for solving problems, the instructors can evaluate the students’ ability to perform the task without relying solely on the correct—or incorrect—numerical answer to measure achievement,” (Chapman, 1). With the students writing out their thought process when solving a math problem, the instructor sees exactly where the student went wrong and can offer specific aid instead of just marking the response incorrect and taking off points.
Chapman goes on to present a format for the writing assessment. The concept that the student tries to explain must be constructed in an essay that includes or excludes previous knowledge and excersises, “planning, outlining, or even revising,” (Chapman, 1). Resembling an English paper, the essay must have the following components: “Focus,” “Elaboration,” “Organization” and “Conventions,” (Chapman, 2). The components cover the normal essay writing criteria: a main ides, supporting details, transitions and correct grammar usage. The only difference in writing assessment and essay writing lies in the grading. Instead of receiving a grade, the instructor simply scores the writing on a scale where “writing at the lower end of the scale is describes as “not being developed” rather than being “poor” or “weak”,” (Chapman, 2). Instead of discouraging the student with a final grade, deeming the work as “weak” offers more hope for improvement in the students eyes, and may even increase his or her thirst for improvement.
Although the writing assessment process spread to many other academic disciplines, it still held the same characteristics of the robotic five-paragraph essay. The technique asks for the same components and even has the requirements in order to be successful. The idea has its positives and negatives. For example, lets consider a math test. For the students whom understand the concept but make silly addition mistakes, written assessment will be a benefit. However, every math class has a student that can get the right answer every time but cannot explain it, nonetheless articulate it through writing. Nothing can be taken away from the concept as no idea is perfect nor does it accommodate everyone.
I would have liked to see some results or statistics showing the effectiveness of the assessment. I also wonder if the assessment serves as practice for essay writing, and if so, is there an improvement in the students’ English essay writing due to the constant writing assessment practice. My last question concerns the long-term effects of using this form of testing. I remember doing a form of writing assessment in science and math, and I wonder if that form of testing finalized my very structured, machine-like style of writing. If so, I would not recommend using writing assessment too often, because the habit is too hard to break (something that I am struggling with right now)!--Sidney Saunders, 10/9/02
Wechsler, Robert. “America’s Woeful Devaluation of Literary Translation.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 2 Oct. 1998: B4.
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
–Robert Frost (1)
Robert Wechsler, an editor of literary translations and author of Performing Without a Stage: The Art of Literary Translation, poses the following vital questions in his article: “Why is it that, although translation is so clearly the best way for young writers to focus on form, so few creative-writing programs offer seminars on translation? Why is there so little discussion by academics of the quality and prejudices of the translations they teach, so few comparisons of multiple translations? Why, when they do publish literature by professional writers in other languages, do university presses often sign up graduate students or people who are not fully proficient in English to do those translations?” (3)
Allow me to back up some. Being a translator is a very misleading profession. He or she can be compared with an actor, dancer, or musician in that he or she is bound to the author, as they are bound to the playwright, the choreographer, and composer, respectively (1). The difference lies, however, in the extent to which interpretation is allowed in each profession. The translator is “praised primarily for not being seen,” (1) for the production of a perfectly flawless work, defined by as little discrepancy as possible between the original and the translation. “He [or she] [sic] is a performer without a stage, an artist whose performance looks just like the original, nothing but ink on a page” (1). It is here that the root of the problem lies. How is a reader to judge the value of a translation when proof of the success of his or her work lays in our not being able to notice its trace? How are we to tell between work that is intrusive and distorting, from that which is accurate and consistent with true meaning, and all the various levels of interpretation in between? The readers are the sufferers: “we are hampered not only by ignorance, but also by prejudice” (1). Beggars, however, cannot be choosers, and since the majority of the world’s poets wrote in a language other than English, (2) we take what we can get. We trade a little bit of cultural literary richness for a great deal of meaning and culture left behind in translation.
Wechsler raises the question of how far a translator’s fidelity to the original text should stretch. On one hand, he or she can translate literally, virtually word-for word. This may, however, leave gaping holes that a foreign reader may be simply incapable of understanding. But on the other hand, the translator’s task may be to translate meaning and culture through the work. Should experimentation and interpretation be part of the job? Certainly accountability is always a major factor in translating.
Language is defined, in part, by its literary works. Constant allusions are made in English to Fitzgerald, for example, to Robert Frost, Hawthorn, Poe, Kipling, and Alice Walker. There is so much meaning and so many connotations attached to these works—so much culture. Even the best translation would insufficiently translate everything that American literature symbolizes to Americans. To an American, The Great Gatsby means the American dream, money, immorality, the shallowness of the upper class, the 1920s; to a Frenchman, however, it is not much more than a good book that somehow had a great influence over American society. Alejandra, a Puerto Rican friend of mine, has spoken with me about the wonder of reading Pablo Neruda’s poetry in Spanish, a pleasure that simply cannot be translated over into English. I personally equate this with my love for the poetry of Jacques Prévert. No translation can do its beauty and eloquence justice. It is obvious that it is only when one has the fortune of being bilingual and bicultural can one see how horrendously appalling translations really are. Dangerous, disheartening, and scary are other appropriate adjectives that describe this dilemma.Globalization seems to have permeated our attitudes and our lives in more ways that we can know. It is a dangerous trend in the world of literature. Cultures are eroding; languages are being lost. A coincidence? Not hardly. Language is central to culture, so it should be no surprise that in a world that is submissively accepting English as the international language, letting it take over society after society, and where it is taken for granted that “everyone knows English,” indifference has become the new fad (2). This indifference is on the part of the writer, for failing when writing to account for a translator and an international audience, like foreign writers have had to learn to do. The products are self-absorbed, exclusively American works. The readers are also at fault in this trend. Their lack of interest, and hence lack of demand, for the literary translations of literature from across cultures plays significantly in this. And finally, publishers are to blame also for their lopsided emphasis on translations of works that “appeal to political, ethnic, and gender interests” (2) only, rather than a plethora of contemporary foreign writing. What is the outcome for Americans? While other nations show interest in the translations of foreign literature and enjoy a richness of culture, Americans are suffering from radical egoism and a serious deprivation of culture and outside influence. Wechsler concludes, writing, “Our own literature will be less vital, less varied, and more inward looking. And we won’t be any the wiser” (3).--Ambler Mauger, 10/10/02
Bell, Madison Smartt. Narrative Design. “Unconscious Mind.” W.W. Norton & Company, New York, N.Y. 1997.
Madison’s chapter titled “Unconscious Mind” from his book Narrative Design discusses the paradox of teaching creative writing. One of the difficulties of teaching creative writing is because it is so new. The novel “found its feet” in the nineteenth century, and the modern short story “is mainly a twentieth-century phenomenon” (3). The Iowa Model of workshops is one of the oldest and most used. The rumor is that Iowa has an institutional style- that is Iowa writers write like Iowa writers. Madison taught at Iowa and found this not to be the case; the real problem was students gravitating toward group-consensus, that is trying to please everybody with their work and ending up with moderate, mediocre writing. The creative mind is likened to a black box that no one but the writer can open or know what’s inside. The workshop is “craft-driven” but the “black box” is left alone. Madison discusses the relationship, and symbiotic relationship, of craft and structure, and the creative or unconscious mind, in the rest of the chapter. Using the analogy of learning to play the guitar up to the point of improvising, and an infant learning to speak, Madison explains the importance of form. “Ultimately, form is where it’s at” (18). He includes an anecdote of Gordon Lish’s speech at a writers’s conference where from four images written on the back of business cards, Lish improvises a two hour story- it was recorded and later transcribed as a novel. The point is again about form. “He knew how he was going to do it, but not just what he was going to do. In that limited sense, he was free” (20). The analogy to musical improvisation is furthered in that skills have been learned consciously and deployed unconsciously (21). The argument in the chapter is that form is the basis for good writing, and creativity works around form to create fiction writing. “The form of a work is its skeleton, if not its heart. There is the articulating armature, and if it is absent, or if too much is wrong with it, no quantity of fine writing will bring the work to life-- the story will not stand or walk or live” (22).
Madison’s chapter relates directly to our discussions about of what academic writing consists, and what the tutor can do to help students get the most out of their papers. Our arguments circle around form and sustenance, and we often don’t know which to emphasize more. This chapter ties the two together inseparably. This chapter does something that surprises me. I’m a creative writer by nature, and Madison’s essay tells me that form is the heart of my work. I had the heart located in the wrong part of my creative body. The creative unconscious mind- the secret and secretive black box- attaches to form, and the two create a living work. The idea might surprise academic writers too who assume, like I did, that creative writing centers on “creativity”, and form gets tossed out the window. Now the two genres look like they are more similar than ever. Why not then, teach creative writing as if it were academic, and academic writing as if it were creative? The first happens already as Madison explained: the creative workshop, whether poetry or fiction, is “craft-driven”. Academic writing isn’t workshopped generally, except perhaps one-on- one in a Writing Center. Why not then teach academic writing as a creative pursuit, and leave the “black box” of academic structure well enough alone. This is assuming two things: one, that the creative writer has a black box of creativity, and the academic writer has a black box of academic structure. Creative writers are taught with the assumption that they can use creativity in their work. Why not teach academic writers to the point that they can stop looking so hard at the structure of their work, and just create on top of that structure, letting their work come alive?--C. Talley English 10/12/02
Barnes, Julian E. “Wanted:
Readers.” 9 September 2002. U.S News and World Report. Vol. 133, Issue
While high school students’ average math scores on the SAT rose 15 points in the last decade, the verbal mean rose only 4 points, and was at its worst this year since 1995 (1). Barnes’ article blames a cultural “dumbing-down,” but unlike many people who complain about the ignorance of today’s youth, it faults the education system rather than those it attempts to educate. Some of those quoted in the article blame the diminishing role of reading in the everyday lives of Americans (1). Others say today’s students need the copious grammar drills of years past (1-2). Barnes’ only conclusion is that “educators should re-examine what and how they’re teaching (1-2).”
So what exactly is the problem, and what can the education system do about it? Obviously, the way young people learn reading and writing skills has changed in the past few decades. Some still read on their own, but in most households, reading is no longer the central feature of entertainment that it once was. Reading and writing are still very much present in English classrooms, but other media are edging them out to a small degree. Barnes cites an anecdote about a sixteen-year-old high school student. For her summer reading project, the student would have preferred to write an essay about Lyndon Johnson. Her teacher insisted that she turn in an individual paragraph accompanied by pictures from the Internet. While searching for the pictures might have value as an exercise in research skills, such high-tech assignments do take away from time that students in generations past would have spent reading or writing.
So many skills are important; where should English classes’ focus be? In my opinion, it doesn’t need to be in just one area, as it often is, particularly in high school. When I entered high school, I was upset that English classes focused almost exclusively on reading from the literary canon and writing analytical essays. Middle school had led me to expect more variety. In my middle school English classes, we did read books and write essays about them. We also spent a great deal of time on grammar drills, and some on learning to research. Yet somehow, there was time to learn about poetry by making our own “poetry portfolios,” and to improve our comprehension of Greek mythology by writing stories from the gods’ points of view. These interdisciplinary assignments gave us opportunities to learn several things at once, and even enjoy the process. Maybe teachers at all levels should combine the things they need to teach by using such creative methods of teaching.
A significant factor in education in recent years is standardized testing. I do understand their purpose; it’s important to make sure that everyone learns the same things, if they’re important things. Still, I think administrators and therefore teachers and students place too much emphasis on them; the motivation behind most of my high school teachers’ lessons and my classmates’ and my questions was the content of the almighty Regents. Easier than to eliminate these exams or to keep people from focusing on them would be to change what is on them. After all, as the common complaint goes, a test score demonstrates only one thing—how good a student is at meeting the standards of a particular test. When mechanics are a significant portion of a test’s score, it’s understandable for teachers and students to find themselves caring intensely about mechanics. The essay portions recently added to the SAT and ACT are a step in the right direction, and I imagine that they’ve made some difference in lesson plans. I just hope the graders of these essays places more emphasis on content than on whether paragraphs are indented or words spelled correctly. (Public folder postings tend to inexplicably un-indent my writing; does that change its quality? I’m afraid teachers who would think it does.)---Shoshana Flax, October 12, 2002
This article is written by a fiction novel writer who explores the importance of emotional investment in writing. Early on she makes the observation that as she composed “a sentence or paragraph, [she] felt the emotion [her]self” (20). She believes that her own emotions will “make [her] reader feel” as well, which in turn will keep them more engaged in her writing (20). She uses examples from her novel and others to demonstrate how emotion improves writing by contrasting those passages with rewritten examples void of emotion. She specifically suggests methods to include emotions in characterization, setting and dialogue to improve writing. No matter the method, she claims that “ultimately it’s the writer’s own emotions that set the tone of a scene or piece of fiction” (23). She makes a strong correlation between a writer’s emotions and both the effectiveness and quality of a work of fiction.
She does warn that some emotions must be handled with care in writing, because the reader does not want to be confronted too strongly with certain types of emotion. She says that “the stronger the emotion, the more you need to restrain your passion in describing it” (24). This concept can be applied to academic writing as well, because a writer who feels very strongly about a certain topic can sometimes get carried away with that emotion in their paper, which can make the other content suffer. She also suggests that if an emotion that you are trying to recreate in your writing does not come from your direct experience, you might “assume a new role and experience a new set of emotions” (24). This too can be applied to academic writing because oftentimes students do not feel any emotions about their topics, so they might be able to assume an emotion that will help to improve their writing.
The study of emotional investment in writing can be directly applied to tutoring students, although in this case it is addressed in terms of fiction writing. These specific tips could come in handy for a student who comes to the writing center with a piece of fiction, but it also has more direct applications to academic writing. The basic assertion that emotion on the side of the writer helps writing is very helpful for students who are used to mechanically reproducing what they think they are supposed to for a teacher. If a tutor feels that a student is not emotionally invested in their work, they can spend some time talking to the student about the chosen topic of the paper to see if they can get them more interested or excited about what they wrote. They might even go as far to suggest a change of topic that elicits more excitement from the writer. When reading over a friends’ paper, I find that my enthusiasm for a topic or part of a paper is contagious for the writer, who can then see the fun parts about what they composed. Getting excited about a thesis or how a point is proved can show a writer how smart their thinking is and helps them be proud of their writing. Ultimately, I think that having some sort of fun and joy in writing improves both the writer’s enjoyment and the overall content of the paper.
Emotional awareness is also important for a tutor to understand when
reading a paper that is too emotionally invested.
A student who has written a paper that is a little too close to his/her
emotions may lack some basic information and structure of a more academic paper.
A tutor can help that student find a way to include their emotional
involvement but also distance themselves for the important parts of the paper.
I helped a friend with just such a paper, and we found that putting his
most personal emotional statements and comments in his introduction and
conclusion helped him to feel that he was still invested in the paper personally
without letting his strong feelings overtake the important content and academic
prose. A tutor can show a student
what parts of a paper are hard to read because of either a lack of interest or
too much interest, because sometimes it is hard to make these distinctions when
one is writing. --
Mastergeorge, Ann M., "Guided Participation in
Sociocultural Learning: Intervention and Apprenticeship." Topics in
Language Disorders, Nov2001, Vol. 22 Issue 1, p74, 14p
Mastergeorge’s point in this article is to change the
thinking about intervention approaches, and to get teachers and parents
to include sociocultural activities. Sociocultural activities are things that
are imbedded in the culture and/or society like shopping, getting your hair cut
or driving. She divides the framework
of cultural activities in three major areas: apprenticeship and
intervention, intervention and qualitative documentation of intervention in
cultural activities, and the efficacy of apprenticeship in clinical intervention
approaches. She describes the
intervention practices as a way to help development in
a context of society, relating intervention practices to everyday routine
activities, and describing intervention practices as apprenticeships are
Vygostskyian perspective, the best learning and development happens when a child
is problem solving with the help of a more experienced adult who can shape the
context of the problem. This idea
is picked up in her theory of apprenticeships. These are close relationships
where one or two children work closely with a teacher or older student. This
relationship or training is also held by parents or older siblings. Mastergeorge
encourages teachers and parent to be teaching their children in a “real”
context for example, adding up the cost of items while shopping, instead of just
adding random numbers. For younger children this is especially important as they
have trouble understanding theoretical or abstracts.
She recommends that all learning is done in the context of the culture
that the child is part of, and that
the cultural and social forces at work should be taken into account. People
learn best when they can SEE the effect of what they are learning, especially
students who are still concrete operational.
I agree with her points and I do wish that all parents had the desire to help their children learn while taking them on errand or just around the house, doing things like cooking. I wish all teachers had the time or resources to spend time working closely with a few students. She proves that this learning is very good, the problem is she doesn’t set a very good way to start using is. I thought by the need she would have some recommendations to teachers, but beyond asserting that they should teach in a more sociocultural way, she does not. I thought I good idea would be to have mentoring program in the school- older students could work one on one with younger students one or twice a week. The older students would learn a little about how to teach and communicate as well as develop a sense of worth and belonging while the younger students would get that one on one attention that would help their learning.--Matisse Michalski, 10/13/02
Peyton, Joy, and JoAnn Crandall. "Philosophies and Approaches in Adult ESL Literacy Instruction." Eric Digest. 1995. Goucher College. October 9 2002. <http://www.cal.org/ncle/DIGESTS>
This article is quite helpful in that it provides information regarding the past thirty years of adult ESL education and what methods of five specific theories are widely in use today. What becomes apparent is that teaching ESL has now become centered on participatory student-centered learning that incorporates a student’s wider social reality into the classroom setting. The article proceeds chronologically to exhibit five of the most recent patterns in ESL teaching. The first approach, championed by Paulo Freire, revolves around showing students how language can become a tool to free themselves from their present social condition. Language is only valuable in so far as it can show people how to work towards greater goals within the overall society. The next theory that is examined is the theory that language must be kept whole (not divided into rules or lists) in order to teach a language fully. This theory most commonly has students writing for each other, and thereby creating a discussion based upon their common interests. Such an approach is often involved in family or workplace centered programs. An offshoot of this method is a new trend in ESL education, publishing of ESL students’ work whom have become proficient within English. This method has been proven to be beneficial to readers by giving them role models and for writers, who see value within their creations. The last method of interest is known as "competency based education" and it’s main theory centers upon a checklist of sorts, that rates students based on whether they can perform certain survival skills, and in more advanced studies academic and work-related tasks as well.
As a relative newcomer to the world of ESL, I found this article to be a great introduction to how ESL teaching has progressed in the past thirty years. It was also good to see that the approach within the ESL classroom is so global and student-centered. Teaching English as a tool to use and promote people socially, both within their workplace and in general, is ideal as both a way to empower and motivate students. It was good to read that this is actually the direction in which the ESL teaching community is moving. Another empowering element within several of these theories is the latitude that students have been given within the classroom, to guide discussions, write for their peers, and to bring their life experience into the class dynamic. This was especially true regarding the student publications, and Freirean approaches. I also think that this can even be seen in the competency-based programs, for the abilities of the students determine the movement of the class curriculum.
The ideas surrounding such student-centered and participatory learning within ESL can be found throughout the world of compositional theories, especially when they take on the sociological twist that this article had. Alice Brand’s work regarding emotion and writing can be seen within these theories, as students can empathize with others regarding the obstacles that they share, both within the study of English and also as immigrants. Also using Freire’s model, teaching English as a tool for social empowerment most definitely builds emotional strength and an alliance within a group of students learning English as a second language. Teaching English as a second language can also be viewed on a scientific and cognitive level, as Fred Genesee did, and his study came to show that adults do require different methods when being taught a language (as opposed to children, whose neural pathways form more quickly). I believe that Genessee would advocate most of the methods explored within the article because the techniques add more meaning to the words and language being studied, which in turn helps in creating the necessary neural connections to learn the language. Finally, Peter Elbow’s idea of writing for an audience for which one feels comfortable definitely comes through in this piece. By having students write for their peers and in discussing amongst themselves the greater world, the students embody Elbow’s philosophy that the best and most fluent writing comes when one is writing for someone with whom they feel comfortable. So it goes, that when students are shown the tools to empower themselves via language and an exchange they are more likely to succeed within the English speaking community.--Christine Bunting, 10/13/02
Nancy. “Between The Drafts.” Landmark
Essays on Writing Process. Ed. Sandra Perl. Hermagoras Press; 1994 (217-224)
essay examines the different types of languages we use in writing.
Through reflection on her own personal writing, she is able to
demonstrate the power that “authority” has over writing and the specific use
of language it demands. Using her
childhood German lessons as an example of “teaching language out of the
context of life,” Sommers is able to demonstrate the important role that
language plays in daily life and personal communication.
While her parents were both German, she learned the language by listening
to records, not in discourse with her family.
Though it had not occurred to growing up, she realized that it was
another example of the division between academic and personal language.
choice of language in writing can change the entire tone of a piece of work.
Sommers speaks in this essay about what happens “between the drafts.”
As a researcher and speaker on the process of revision, she feels that
the writer’s ability to change their language- to not be “locked in original
statements”- is “how [they] locate themselves within a discourse tradition
by developing a persona- a fictionalized self. (220)” The decisions writers
make between the first and second drafts are what bring the writer into his/her
work. She noted that this choice is
inhibited by the academic authority.
the works of other writers, such as Foucalt and Bartholomae, Sommers commented
that the influence of such authors undermine the ability of each individual
writer to recognize his/her own personal authority.
She hopes that as writers begin to speak in their own voices, the time
between the drafts will be spent changing language to create a more
individualized piece of work. She
knows that many of her colleagues see this process as an “either/or
proposition.” Either we, as
students, write in an academic language or personal, there can be no combination
of the two. I would, however,
challenge, that some of the best academic writings are those that combine theory
and practice, the general and the personal.
writer should read this essay. I
found it by accident while flipping through the book, and what I discovered was
the inspiration I had been looking for. Revision
is not just about fixing mistakes and editing a paper for smoother read. It is about finding a personal voice in your work.
Sommers goes further to state that the struggle between academic and
personal authority is the thrill of writing and learning- “between submission
and independence…we must discover how to define ourselves (224)”
The time we spend “between the drafts” is a treasure hunt for our
personal authority, and to be a good writer, one must find that balance between
authorities and truly find the gold.--Aileen
D. Heiman, October 12, 2002
Larsen, Richard B. “Three Syns.” Journal of Teaching Writing 5 (1982): 307-314
In this article, Richard Larsen describes how he reaches across the disciplines in order to teach writing through the use of the “three syns:” synapsis, synesthesia, and synergy. Larsen sees synapsis, the “transmittal of electrochemical impulses from nerve to nerve,” as an analogy for transitional sentences, which bridge a gap from paragraph to paragraph (308). Using both science and composition, Larsen asks his students to “think of themselves as lab technicians tracking down the exact point at which synapsis is occurring or should occur to make the system of a paragraph (or set of between or among paragraphs) optimally flow” (308). He also creates “syns” from the works of famous writers by deleting the transitions from passages, and asking his students to either fill in the correct transitions from a provided list or to create their own transitions for the given reading. This activity allows students to become more aware of the process required to create transitional sentences, and of the importance of such a process. Thus, the students are learning about writing while associating the process to scientific discovery.
Larsen continues to administer his belief in the importance of cross-disciplinary teaching through his synesthetic writing activity. Larsen defines synesthesia as “the ways in which the five senses can and do interrelate;” he incorporates the idea into teaching writing composition through the use of paintings by Seurat, David, Bosch, Van Gogh, Breugel, and Mondrian. He asks his students to think of the paintings in regards to the writing process. For example, the Seurat painting (“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” to see it click here) is made up of individual dots of color used to form the whole; likewise, every piece of writing is made up of individual words, used to create a composition. He ends the lesson by showing three Mondrian paintings, shown in reverse chronological order (“Rhythm of Straight Lines”, “Horizontal Tree,” and “Landscape with Farmhouse,” a more realistic painting which I could not find a picture of on the internet). These paintings illustrate “how frustrating it can be to readers to be offered spare generalities rather than the sensual texture of reality” (311). The students then have to complete a writing assignment about why this painting is titled “Arrangement in Black and White, No 1” and why it is good enough to hang in the Louvre. Through art, Lerner’s students supplement their writing skills.
The idea of synergy allows Larsen to bring ideas from math and psychology into the writing composition class. Math sets are used as examples of organization techniques; concepts from introductory psychology explain the concept of audience awareness.
I found this article to be a breath of fresh air after reading Bartholomae’s article, as Larsen, unlike Bartholomae, is striving to make writing fun and different for his students. He willingly experiments his teaching methods, which, I would imagine, surprise his students and make them more interested in the course. At the same time, I wonder if his lessons are a tad too basic for his students at Francis Marion College. I am quite curious to know if his experiments truly work (he says that they do, but gives no concrete proof). I would like to think, however, that adding elements of science, math, psychology, and art to writing could excite students interested in those fields who were not previously interested in writing.
I have never before juxtaposed elements of painting to the elements of writing, and found the analogies presented by Larsen connecting the two disciplines to be interesting (though I still want to know exactly how that lesson helped his students to write). I wish that more teachers were ready and willing to teach composition in alternative ways, ways that allow students to view the writing process differently. Simply hearing the same old lessons about organization, thesis statements, transitional sentences, and mechanics can get tedious. While such lessons are necessary, to a point, there is no reason why teachers should not also introduce new and intriguing ways of looking at writing.
I was hoping that this article would be about the condition called synesthesia, which causes people to associate different, seemingly unrelated, senses to one another (for example, a person could associate colors with letters and/or with musical notes). I am curious to find out if synesthesia can help a person to write, if it can allow them to see the flow of a paper through the colors associated with different letters. Since this article was the only one that appeared when I searched for the topic, however, I do not know if I will be able to find this out.--Johanna Goldberg, October 13, 2002
Langland, Elizabeth. “Collaborating across Disciplines: ‘It’s a Small World After All.’” PMLA, Volume 117, Number 5, October 2002. pp1236-1241.
In her essay Collaborating across Disciplines: ‘It’s a Small World After All,’ Elizabeth Langland, dean of University of California, argues that, in today’s world, a collaboration between the English and foreign language departments is necessary. She writes, “As we enter the twenty-first century, the world is hungry for the kinds of knowledge that language and literature disciplines possess individually, collectively, and collaboratively”(1237). Langland claims that in the wake of September 11th the study of foreign languages has become even more important, it “gives students intimate knowledge of alternative ways of organizing experience and understanding both the world and their place in it”(1238).
Because Langland is a dean, her motives for creating more interdisciplinary majors are complicated. Although she is interested in an academic sense, her proposals are to do with financial issues as well. “If the departments and programs for which I have responsibility flourish with engaged and active faculties and interested and enthusiastic students, then I can secure more resources in the forms of dollars and faculty lines on which to build for the future”(1236), she states. Writing from a dean’s standpoint, she argues that all deans “want to make good investments based on compelling visions for the future of the academy”(1237). Langland believes that a major combining foreign languages with English is an excellent way to reach those “compelling visions.”
Langland shares some statistics that suggest the public’s opinion of the importance of foreign language studies. According to a poll sponsored by Gallup and National Geographic in 2001, “‘85 percent of the public said it [the ability to speak another language] was very or somewhat important…in 1988, only 65 percent of the population thought knowing a foreign language was important’”(1238). Langland is frustrated, then, because despite this data, students rarely advance further than their first year of language study, “much less develop real competence in a foreign language”(1238).
Langland suggests, “rigorous area studies majors” in order to remedy students’ lack of interest in foreign languages. Her goal is to create a major in “European studies;” requiring classes that discuss concepts such as Europe’s ideological formation and what it means to identify oneself as European. Langland is especially interested in the recent institution of the euro, and how the new currency affects the study of French, German, and Russian, all programs which are declining in enrollment.
Collaborating Across Disciplines raised some essential points regarding the necessity of being familiar with a foreign language in a world that, in many senses. has become so small. I did find her fascination with European studies a little impractical, she seemed to be too emotionally involved—“I feel a responsibility to help my European languages thrive again”(1240). It seems to me that, at the moment, more Americans need to become acquainted with languages of the Far East, Eurasia, as well as Mexican and South American Spanish. However, there is no doubt that extensive foreign languages studies should become a key requirement in all major curriculums.--Sarah Raz, October 14, 2002
In her article, “Collaborating across Disciplines: ‘It’s a Small World After All’”, Elizabeth Langland, dean of the University of California, discusses the possibilities and reasons for a link between foreign language and English departments, and the necessity for stronger humanities programs in the educational system.
She begins by stating that the global economy has effectively created a smaller world by creating a “one-size-fits-all capitalism”. While at the same time, the emergence of small nation-states have narrowed the wholeness the popular children’s song connotes.
Langland firmly believes that the twenty-first century will show a reassurance of humanities as an important part of the academic community. She cites an article written by Niall Ferguson that appeared on December 2nd in the New York Times Magazine. Ferguson explains that in his opinion there are four major trends shaping the 21st century. They are globalization of terrorism, the coming of a second huge energy crisis, the formalization of American imperialism, and the fragmentation of the multicultural polity. Langland found this interesting, because with the exception of the energy crisis, the multitude of students trained in the hard sciences will be unable to alleviate these problems. She also stresses the fact that universities which emphasis local economic growth and workforce development will not have the capacity to address the “paradox of economic integration shadowed by political disintegration”.
The article then focuses on the significance of a growing tension between globalism and localism, which she refers to as “glocalism”. She views this type of tension as showing a need for the knowledge provided by language and literature – individually, collectively, and collaboratively. In the wake of alarming acts of terrorism, recognizing differences and seeing the local in the global as well as the global in local is extremely important. Langland regards the study of foreign languages, cultures, and literature as an integral part of the student’s ability to understand the world and their place in it.
The author cites the fact that the majority of the population believes that the ability to speak a foreign language is important – 85%. This is far higher than a 1988 poll in which only 65% of the population thought this. However, there is a large gap between theory and practice. Most foreign language students never make it past the first painful year of study, and very few achieve fluency. Langland believes that foreign language departments have not fully convinced themselves, much less students, that they have the ability to offer knowledge which will assist them in handling some of the most difficult problems we will face during this century.
She raises many relevant questions as to the importance of foreign language study and its place within the context of humanities departments. I would like to list some of them, because I found some to be very intriguing.
n What does the emergence of the euro as an economic, political, and symbolic reality mean for the way we have organized the study of European languages, literatures, and cultures?
n What does it mean the English is rapidly becoming the global language? What are the politics of English as global language?
n From Thomas Babington Macaullay’s “Minute on Indian Education” – How might the experiences of England as a world empire in the nineteenth century enable us to understand America at the dawn of the twenty-first century?
Langland supports the idea of a European studies major. Students would investigate the questions above as well as others relating to the culture of Europe, the growth of a world economy, and America’s place in all of this (which relates to the study of languages and English). She wants to see collaboration between foreign language and English departments.
Langland then refers to a second article the Times Magazine, this one written by Michiko Kakutani, who argues that students on today’s campuses are unwilling to debate and are simply accepting differing views without challenging or questioning them. Amanda Anderson agrees, feeling that there is a kind of “over-tactfulness”, which is discouraging discussion and disagreement.
I realize this article has little, ok nothing, to do with the writing process. However, I think it brings up the importance of language as a means for communication which is just what writing is. In many of my responses I have placed emphasis on the idea that writers need to feel attached to their subject in some way. This article shows the deep connection that language and humanities has with the current world condition, and how its study is significant to everyone. Langland speaks of placing the study of language within the context of the global economy etc, I think this relates to the article we read regarding language learning. I believe this because; the previous article discussed the need for language study to emphasize communication and to apply to the student on a personal level. Langland’s idea of integrating subjects would provide this.
I was not surprised by the statistics provided regarding people who find competence in a foreign language important as compared to the number who actually achieve fluency. I personally think learning another language in today’s world is very important, but will most likely back out of my difficult Russian classes. However, she raises a good point in her questions on English as an international language and the European Union. I believe that many students see English as being the only “important” language, and simply consider themselves lucky to have been born in America so they don’t have a need to learn a second language.
Out of curiosity I checked the requirements for the European Studies
major at Goucher. They include many
courses that Langland would approve of, including foreign language competency,
history, art, and English. I had
briefly considered choosing this as a major last year.
However, I shied away from it for the very reason Langland describes.
I was not convinced of the importance of such a subject.
Although I recognized that such knowledge would be useful I couldn’t
pinpoint what I would do with it. My
stepfather might have put it best when he said he didn’t want me to study
“cocktail party b.s”. I think
universities need to stress the importance of such courses of study, and the
role they will play in the coming decades.--Ambler Mauger, 10/14/02
Sanacore, Joseph. "Student Diversity and Learning Needs." ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication, Indiana University, ERIC Digest, ED 412527. 19 May 1997.
Sanacore analyzes the different learning needs, and methods of meeting these needs, for differently-abled students in one classroom, though I am most interested in his analysis of how the special education teacher can better reach all students. He begins by stating that reaching out to "a diversity of learners requires substantial support," which everyone probably agrees with if the idea is put into his head. Unfortunately, Sanacore notes, it is difficult to acquire all the support ideal for a teaching situation because of budget cuts, state funding, etc. "Clearly, at-risk learners are more likely to be successful when classroom and learning center teachers provide them with congruent goals, resources, strategies, and skills," says Sanacore, citing examples of how a mainstream classroom might discuss the central theme of a book, while the special-education classroom may complete workbook exercises unrelated to the theme. Students get mixed messages about what is most important for them to know.
Special education teachers also have to serve as team teachers, and Sanacore makes reference to one such case when middle-school science and special education teachers taught jointly and increased the "social and academic growth of themselves and their students." He also cites a description of how that sort of program worked at a high school in New Hampshire. There are also many such situations in public high schools, where special educators sit in a mainstream classroom with the student and offer individualized support to the student but do not teach the class. One of the failings of special education today, though, is that most elementary special ed. teachers have an aide in their classrooms (depending on whether they have emotionally disturbed children, and what the state bylaws say about how many such children they can have alone in a room), but are not integrated into "regular" classrooms. If all special ed. children could be in a regular classroom, there would be no need for special ed. teachers, is the attitude in many states that are now moving toward mainstreaming. In these states, there is a distinct trend to diagnosing students with emotional disorders so they can be contained in a closed classroom and all the other kids are put back into "regular" classrooms, so as to do away with the special education program. Unfortunately, LD and ED problems often coexist in children. The existence of the "regular" classroom is used as a weapon: "If you don't sit down and do your work, I'll send you back to Mrs. Fill-in-the-blank-with-the-name-of-the-kid's-regular-teacher!" Special ed. kids already know that the kids in their homerooms are smarter, and they don't want to have to sit through that.
Sanacore also discusses the helpfulness of volunteers, paraprofessionals, and aides in the classroom. Obviously, there are the usual benefits, such as reinforcing lessons, acting as role models, and serving as resources during field trips, but they can be most helpful as the "extra set of hands." "Volunteers and aides can make valuable contributions to the classroom context, and their support is vitally needed to accommodate the diversity of learning needs which has increased markedly in recent years," he says. In a special ed. classroom, where kids are burdened with not just a variety of disabilities but also emotional disturbances, the variety of ways in which children learn, and ways in which they need help, is often greater than in a regular classroom, even a mainstreamed regular classroom. I have tutored and volunteered often both in homework clubs as well as actual classrooms, and one of the hardest things is accommodating each child's needs. Most children (at least in the age group with which I am most familiar) need a one-on-one tutor. They need someone to sit right there with them, put a finger under the line of words, help them read the labels on the crayons, and remind them that when there's more on the floor, you go next door and borrow (two-digit subtraction). And at the same time, they don't. Teachers give kids a worksheet that has 20 problems, all exactly the same. They don't need a tutor to sit there and help them do the same thing each time, because they know how to do it. But they want the reinforcement of knowing that an "adult" is there if they mess up. And they also want someone to just sit with them - which goes right back to the emotional support needs; many LD kids don't get it at home, and they find that support at school.
Other resources may also help students to be successful. Sanacore says, "Disabled learners, in particular, may benefit from adaptive hardware, such as seating devices, switches, electronic communication aids, and computers that scan printed materials and read the text aloud. Although appropriate instructional resources can facilitate learning in heterogeneous classrooms, a problematic economy has caused school administrators to allocate budgets for the basic curricula." Computers have become prominent in almost all schools (Apple would be out of business if it weren't for the el. ed. market), and if a district can't afford them, often someone donates them. In addition to being a novelty to special ed. students, they also take away the strain of paperwork on teachers and act as another scheduled activity, similar to art or music or time in the homeroom.
So if there are all these resources out there to help special ed. teachers (and students, by extension), then why aren't kids progressing? Most educators are aware of how their students feel, and of how the administration feels about these kids consistently pulling down their statewide assessment scores. (I think it's utterly asinine that they're passing laws to incur more statewide testing while simultaneously mainstreaming everywhere they can, but that's another story.) Are there just more kids who have learning disabilities now, or more kids being diagnosed with them? Are we finding that there really are more disabilities and disturbances than there were fifty years ago, or are we making them up to diagnose each and every problem presented on the psychiatrist's couch? I read in the Carlisle Patriot-News, out of Carlisle, PA, that now they want to create a series of disorders called "relational disorders," that would describe someone's inability to relate to a certain person, or a certain type of person, such as in a dysfunctional marriage. Just wait until they start explaining that people can't go to work because they have relational disorders with their bosses. Are fewer people going into special ed., or are they doing research instead of teaching? If that's true, then what can we do that would attract more people to teach - schools certainly can't offer more money, and it's often a very thankless job, especially in the inner-city. How can teachers help the number of kids who are perpetually getting diagnosed and dropped into their classrooms, when they can't even teach the ones they have now? Will these kids ever be able to mainstream? I know you're not supposed to ask questions you can't answer, but this isn't a paper and I wonder if there are any answers. A logical response to the last question would be NO.--elisabeth fields 10.14.02
Hohn, Donovan. "'The Me Experience': Composing as a Man." Working With Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching. Ed.s Leonard A. and JoAnne M. Podis. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999. 285-299.
Donovan Hohn's article on "Composing as a Man" is written partially in response to Elizabeth Flynn's popular article titled "Composing as a Woman." Flynn, in her article, analyzes some of the differences between male and female writing samples, using studies by feminist psychologists such as Carol Gilligan and Nancy Chodrow as reference points. Hohn seems to agree with Flynn's findings and conclusions about male and female roles, but here the focus is on the male perspective rather than the female.
Hohn has struggled with the roles imposed upon him in society as a man from a young age. "Masculinity," he writes, "in our society and many others, is often a particularly tenuous possession"(285). He takes a feminist viewpoint of our society as detrementally patriarchal, and explains through his own experiences that "the two related criteria we boys most often use to evaluate each other [are] atletic and sexual prowess"(286), and that for someone defecient in these areas, difficulty and humiliation can both occur. He explains using Flynn's work as well as this concept that traditional "masculine identification processes tend to deny relationship"(287).
In the second section of his article, entitled "Toward Self-Conciousness," Hohn further describes his experiences in writing as a man. "I grow angry at the story of myself that I find there,"(288) he writes of Flynn's research, and he takes this anger as the starting point towards more self-aware and relationship-aware writing. He goes back, again, to his own experiences-- "In my high school writing, I started doing well only when I succesfully began to imitate a voice of detatched authority"(289)-- to explain to the reader how simple it is to fall into these patterns of relationship-denial and self-denial. Hohn quotes one of his own papers from this era in his writing to demonstrate the sort of "detached authority" he has described, and analyzes what this writing really means and how different it is from how he actually felt towards his subject. The rest of this section is spent exploring feminism from a male perspective, and exploring how the use of the self in writing is affected by gender ("the possible significations of our bodies" create "meanings we must either work with or work against"(293)).
The final section of this article is, in my opinion, the most interesting. In this section, Hohn explores an experience he had tutoring a peer, Steve, who in many ways was the embodiment of the "self-made man"(293) idealized by our society. "He expressed his belief in an authentic, completely individual identity, thereby asserting his autonomy from the opinions of others,"(293) Hohn explains, and it is clear that this belief system stood in the way of Steve's learning and writing processes. The title of the article comes from one of Steve's papers, in which he wrote that it was not the college experience that matters to him, since it is "entirely" up to him whether or not he learns, but "the me experience"(294). Steve's belief in himself as a "self-made man" led him not only towards unimpassioned writing, but towards egocentric writing, as Hohn demonstrates by quoting from a paper that Steve wrote on violence in the media. Several conversations between Steve and Hohn are also quoted, but the story of their tutoring relationship seems incomplete-- it doesn't seem that Steve came away from this experience having changed his thinking or writing style in the least. However, Steve's story does work as a powerful example of how the male ideals enforced in our society affect the writing process.
Although I found this article to be a bit convoluted, I was fascinated by the ideas the Hohn raised in it. Being as I have, of course, no personal experience of what it is like to be a man in our society, I cannot say whether I believe these ideas to be right or wrong, but many of them do ring true based on what I have seen and heard. I think it is important, if not to teaching at least to tutoring, that we do keep in mind that gender roles are strict and deeply ingrained in our society, and that in no area of life are we ever truly free of them. Gender does affect how we read, how we write, and how we interact with others, perhaps, as this article shows, more deeply than many of us have imagined.--Katelyn Dix, 10/14/02
Jeannie and Cheung Chung, Man. “Mastery
or mystery? Therapeutic
writing: a review of the
Journal of Guidance & Counselling.
29 (Aug 2001): 277-91
Chung and Wright provide a broad overview of previous research and
perspectives on writing therapy. They
focus on two contrasting approaches of studying the possible therapeutic value
found in writing. On one side of
the continuum of studies is the humanities approach on the other side is the
scientific approach. The first is
focused on exploring the psychological benefits of writing in a personalized
manner while the other focuses on “measuring, explaining, predicting, and
analyzing” (278) the benefits of writing.
Studies on this aspect of composition are convincing because there is a
balance of information from both perspectives.
There is scientific proof, but the issue is not dehumanized.
An overwhelming amount of studies and ideas of different people were
discussed in the article. Unfortunately it did not go in depth about any one
of them. It did, however, provide
a general sense of the potential therapeutic value of writing in many forms.
Two organizations are mentioned as related to the humanities
perspective or paradigm as it is labeled in the article.
The National Association for Poetry Therapy located in the
There were a few general ideas about writing as therapy that were
consistent in all the literature discussed.
Writing empowers people because they have control over the content and
direction that writing takes. Different
studies showed writing about traumatic events could be beneficial physically
and mentally. As opposed to
talking about such events, writing allows the writer to disclose information
at his or her own pace and gives the choice to make it public or private.
The process of writing also allows people to discover their feelings by
thoroughly articulating them in the written language. People can analyze their
own reactions by reading what they write.
Writing taps into many different resources of the brain and is closely
connected with emotion; so it naturally helps people expand their
understanding of themselves.
The use of humanistic and scientific literature to explore writing is
important to get a more complete understanding of such a complex process.
The articles we read are usually clearly on either side of the
continuum between the humanistic and scientific perspective.
When reading them separately personal reflections versus factual
analysis can seem very
distant. This article reinforced
the idea of how closely they are related.
One cannot survive without the other and they both enhance people’s
understanding of a subject. Although
some people are more attracted to the hard facts and others to personal
experiences one needs to know the facts to understand the why of personal
experience and needs to know about the experiences to understand how the facts
are applicable in real life.
The article left me with many questions about writing therapy and where
it is actually being applied today. I
got the sense that writing has the potential to powerfully affect and change
the writer. An important point in
this article is that writing can be therapeutic whether or not it is part of a
therapy program. With this in
mind, I wonder why educators have not tried to apply the potential of writing
to help a person’s psychological health to the way writing is taught.
So often writing for educational purposes can lead to feelings of
inadequacy, anxiety, or just boredom in students.
Could this be the intense focus of having to write for someone else,
the way someone else wants students to write?
It would be wonderful if all writing assignments could be approached
with an excitement because of the knowledge that discovery and expression of a
person’s inner self could take place through written words. This might be
overly idealistic especially when considering writing a chemistry lab report. But
I wonder if there is a way to more deliberately incorporate positive values of
writing into the education system. I
think exploring the aspect of writing that are associated with it’s
therapeutic value such as personal control and commitment would enhance
writing curriculum for all ages.--Leah
Kushner, Eva. "‘Sire, the People are Hungry!’ ‘Let them have Symbols!’: Literacy and Linguistic Studies in the 20th and 21st Centuries." Diogenes 47 (1999): 49-54.In "‘Sire, the People are Hungry!’ ‘Let them have Symbols!’: Literary and Linguistic Studies in the 20th and 21st Centuries" Eva Kushner examines a society’s responsibility to "cultivate" formative symbols for the next generation. She begins by delineating the value of symbols as the bridge between our concepts and feelings and our tangible, material surroundings; symbols simultaneously provide a point of reference for the abstract and endow the concrete with meaning. Kushner refers to the unifying and exclusionary nature of symbols, particularly that of language as one of the most complex forms of symbolism inherent to a society. She emphasizes the need to study the languages of other societies in order to avoid the realization of that fated biblical metaphor, the Tower of Babel. She also warns against the totalitarian occupation of English, mentioning the connection between linguistic, ideological, and economic and political manipulation.
In promoting linguistic study, Kushner delves into the subject of translation, analyzing its theoretical basis. While acknowledging the contextualized nature of meaning in language, which depends upon the language’s society of origin, Kushner supports the recent outlook, which celebrates the changes in meaning that occur across translation. She quotes Anne Brisset, claiming that these changes in meaning reveal the culturally embedded meanings of language, of which the society of origin is often unaware. Moreover, Kushner maintains that as a text becomes familiar to a new culture it adopts new symbolic meanings that, rather than detracting from its value, often elaborate on the initial meaning, making the text that much more complex and engaging. She draws similar conclusions regarding the historicity of language, that is, the extent to which meaning of language is determined by the time period in which it was composed. Professors of linguistics have oscilated between historicity and structuralism in their approach to teaching literary texts, ultimately spawning a adapted version of historicity that validates meaning’s potential for evolution. Structural linguistics, meanwhile, is an identity and author based approach to analyzing text based on the theory that "the poem offers a new meaning…to the words it contains," (53). Building on her description of structuralism, Kushner emphasizes the "encounter" (54) that takes place between writer and reader, asserting that each reader inevitably brings new meaning to a text through his or her own interpretation of it.
I foresee "‘Sire, the People are Hungry!’" being highly instrumental to a study of cultural symbolism within language, not only because of the multiple linguistic theories that Kushner presents but also because she incorporates the names of related studies. Her article can act as a guide to further research of cultural symbolism within language and as a means of analyzing literary texts, exploring the realization of various theories through direct application. More importantly, Kushner’s argument against a "crystallization of meaning" (54) serves as a strong reminder that language and cultures are not static immutable institutions but dynamic representations of life itself. Language and culture themselves are forms of living poetry that, for their elusiveness, are "better fitted to grasp truth" (54). As a testament to her assertion, beneath the article’s conclusion the reader finds this phrase: "(translated from the French by Helen McPhail)."--Becka Garonzik, 10/17/02
Cohen, Andrew D. and Amanda Brooks-Carson. "Research on Direct versus Translated Writing: Students’ Strategies and Their Results." The Modern Language Journal 85 (2001): 169-188.
In their article, Andrew D. Cohen and Amanda Brooks Carson, after summarizing studies of the past, explain their research, which explores the differences between direct writing in French and translation from English (or Spanish) into French by intermediate learners of the language. Thirty-nine students at the University of Miami participated in the study, twenty-five of whom were native English speakers, 10 of whom were Spanish-English bilinguals, and 4 of whom were native speakers of other languages. These students, in response to writing prompts, wrote one essay directly in French and another in English (or, in the case of eight students, in Spanish), which was then translated into French. No dictionaries were allowed, but, before the direct essay was written, the students discussed the prompt in French with a partner. After the direct writing exercise, the students completed a checklist to show the degree to which they used the French language in planning and writing the short essay. After writing the translated essay, two checklists were given, one about the students’ tactics when writing in their dominant language, and one about the process of translation. After the writing sessions, the students completed an open-ended reaction sheet. A month later, as a follow up, the students were asked to complete another "strategy checklist," this one asking them to rate themselves, on a scale of one to five, on the extent to which they used certain skills.
After rating the essays and compiling the research, Cohen and Brooks-Carson found that one-third of the students did better on the translated essay, two-thirds on the direct essay, and one student did equally well on both assignments. They also found that even when writing in the "direct" mode, students were thinking partially in English, even those students who were Spanish-English bilinguals. In fact, the Spanish-speaking students reported that they thought more in English than in Spanish. The students who reported that they barely or never thought in English while writing the essay received higher scores. The grammar ratings of the two writing modes were "not significantly different" (181). In addition, students who did not simplify their grammar while writing in their first language tended to score higher on the translated essay.
I was not surprised that, for the most part, the students scored higher when writing directly in French, as such writing avoids the word-for-word translation of English expressions. I am curious, however, about the strategies of the students who did better on the translated assignment. I was also not surprised that, when writing in a foreign language, students do not tend to think in that language. When doing my Spanish homework last night (cuando hice mi tarea para español anoche, a direct translation that is not direct, grammatically), I paid special attention to how I was completing the assignment. I found that I was thinking of the ideas for my sentences (I had to write six sentences combining vocabulary words) in English and then composing them in Spanish. When I was stuck on a word, however, I returned to English and made use of my Spanish-English dictionary.
I was surprised that the bilingual students in the study thought in English more often than in Spanish when writing the essays. The researchers hypothesize two possible explanations for this occurrence. Since the students are learning French with English as the explaining language, they may be associating the two languages with one another. In addition, as the students attend an English-speaking university, they may feel the need to be English-dominant, thereby resisting thinking in Spanish. I was wondering, after reading this, whether Ambler thinks more in French or in English at school. Sorry to put you on the spot, Ambler, but do you plan papers in English for English classes? Have you ever taken a language other than French or English? If so, do you conduct mental translations using English or French? I would be interested in looking at more research about bilingual students learning third languages. And, like the authors of this article, I would like to see this same type of research completed focusing on different languages. In addition, I am curious as to when during the course of learning a second or third language a student begins to think in the new language. When does fluency begin?--Johanna Goldberg, October 20, 2002
Emig, Janet. “Hand, Eye, Brain: Some ‘Basics’ in the Writing Process.” Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Ed. Charles R. Cooper and Lee Odell. Urbana: NCTE, 1978
In her article, Janet Emig highlights various aspects of writing by concentrating in turn on the parts of the body to which they correspond—the hand, the eye, and the brain (hence the title). Her focus makes the reader think about aspects of the writing process that, in general, occur naturally when one sits down to write, without involving any conscious decisions.
The hand, for instance, makes writing into a physical act, forcing people to decide which thoughts to record and to go through the process of writing them (60-61). It also slows down the process, giving the writer time to think about what he or she is writing and “allow(ing) the unexpected to take over” (61). Emig attributes a similar physicality to the eye’s role in the writing process, and also cites its importance in revision, as without vision, revision is impossible (65-67). (Case in point: the connection between the words vision and revision didn’t occur to me until I began the previous sentence and looked at what I’d written.) The brain’s involvement in the writing process is fairly obvious—we have to think in order to write—but Emig is more specific than that about the brain’s function. The left hemisphere must perform logical thought, and the right hemisphere is for “holistic mentation” (67). Each part of the brain is necessary to perform its allocated tasks, and when any area has a defect, the person is unable to complete that area’s piece of the thinking puzzle.
Well, I’m a human with all these parts, so I can serve as a case study for each of their functions. I’ll start, as Emig does, with the hand. The role of my hands in my writing has changed significantly over the course of my education. In elementary school, when I had to handwrite everything, writing was a major occupational-therapy-requiring struggle. My writing was usually briefer than it should have been because the physical act of writing each letter was an unpleasant experience. Then computers came into my life. Typing was a slow process at first, but once I was familiar with the locations of the keys, it was much, much easier than writing by hand. By now, I practically think with my fingers—if I’m typing one word and another happens to enter my head, my fingers automatically type that word without my consciously telling them to. Typing comes so naturally that choosing my words is less intimidating, as I know it will be easy to change them.
Even though, physically, I can do most of my typing without seeing, I learned recently how important vision is to my writing. An unfortunate incident involving a contact lens and a long fingernail rendered my left eye unusable for three days. My use of my right eye was limited because, as I learned quickly, the muscles in both eyes are connected, and each eye feels the other’s movement. (Owwwwwwwwww…painful memory.) These three days conveniently fell near the end of last semester, as paper deadlines approached. I discovered during that time that writing papers without vision was not an option; I found myself constantly squinting at the computer screen with my right eye to see what I was writing, a move that my left eye regretted. (Luckily, my eye healed fast enough that I was able to do my work on time.)
For some, the eyes are more important than they are for others. I fall into this category, being more of a visual than an auditory learner. While I’m used to speaking in English and can picture words written out in my head, I need my eyes to help me retrieve the Spanish I haven’t used in classes in nearly a year. When I hear Spanish spoken, I can only pick out an occasional word, but when I see it written in front of me, the sentences make sense.
It’s harder for me to analyze the brain’s role in my writing, since I’ve been lucky enough never to have to do without the functions of any part of my brain. Of course, my brain is connected to my use of my hands, eyes, and everything else; it is my brain, not my eyes, that makes me a visual learner. I find it odd to talk about the brain’s role in isolation. The brain’s role is to work with the rest of the body. I can just assume, from Emig’s examples (68-69) and my prior knowledge, that any problem with the brain’s workings would change the way a person lives in ways that scientists can’t even predict. As far as its role in the writing process is concerned, the brain is probably more important than the hand or the eye. Technology such as tape recorders and Braillers can compensate somewhat for deficiency in those areas, but I doubt that anything could replace the control center that is the brain.--Shoshana Flax, November 2, 2002
Applebee, Arthur N. “Rethinking Curriculum in the English Language Arts.” English Journal 86 (1997): 25.
In this article, Arthur Applebee discusses problems with academic curriculums and makes suggestions for the improvement of English curriculums in primary and secondary education. He describes his idea of curriculums as being able to “incorporate significant content while focusing on the thoughtful and engaging activities that give such content meaning and significance” (26). This means that classes would teach both specific content and issues/ideas in order to encompass the whole range of learning. Applebee wants to see “curriculum development as a matter of constructing domains for conversations into which we want our students to enter” (27). This will in turn move “toward helping students participate in a set of living conversations” (28). This form of teaching and learning which he advocates is a form of active and collaborative learning which views the teacher as a tool to help students learn to think and learn themselves.
Applebee and his research team studied different effective and respected classes and teachers to see how their curriculums worked and were successful. They conducted interviews with the teachers and students; studied lesson plans; and observed classes in action (26). They identified four major principles that should be considered in order to create meaningful and successful conversations: quality, quantity, relatedness and manner. Quality refers to the notion that “contributions to a curricular conversation need to be clear and accurate” (29). He notes that quality is relative to “the conversation in which the material is embedded,” which can help in the selection of texts in an English classroom (29). Quantity means that teachers select enough text to generate discussions but not too much as to overwhelm the students. Relatedness “within the curricular domain makes cumulative conversation possible,” allowing students to see connections between the readings and writing that they are doing so that they can further comprehend and understand the material (30). Manner references the way in which a teacher presents the materials, and Applebee states that students must be “guided by others” in order to develop the knowledge to participate on their own (30). Teachers can thus be seen as guides to learning how to think and learn on one’s own.
The conclusions drawn from this article are all consistent with my best experiences with English classes. The ones that I took the most from were the ones in which a teacher taught me to think about literature and writing in a critical way on my own. There is nothing more satisfying than coming up with a widely held opinion about literature through your own thinking and internal processes, without a teacher telling you that this is the way that it is. This description of teaching and education fits nicely with the concepts of collaborative learning, as this teaching model views teachers as a way to gain access to the information through one’s own intelligence and thinking. Peer tutors, in this manner, are also serving as a “domain for conversation” for writers to come up with ideas and skills to write successfully on their own (30). Applebee stresses successful English education as being both collaborative and active on the part of the students, which is very important for students to be able to learn to do this kind of thinking and work by themselves. Applebee’s article was particularly satisfying because he offers a form of solution to the problem of English education to improve our schooling and learning instead of simply criticizing it.
--Vicki Moorman, 11/3/02
Peter Smagorinsky and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen.
"Idiocultural Diversity in Small Groups: The Role of the Relational
Framework in Collaborative Learning." Vygotskian Perspectives on
Literacy Research. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.
time observing and recording group interactions in O’Donnell-Allen’s more
interactive high school English class. More specifically he observed two
different groups as they worked on a project based in Hamlet, and noted the way
the interactions and group dynamics shaped the work the groups did.
The project was a
“body biography” where the groups were to pick a central character from the
play and draw a representation on them on an outline of a body, including both
physical and symbolic images from the play as well as text. There were very
clear guidelines and expectations but the assignment seemed fairly open-ended. I
thought it was a very interesting project, and a lot more fun than writing a
paper or something about the character and their motivations.
The two groups
looked at were similar in that they did not contain any friends, as all members
seemed to have few, if any, friends in the class. But the people in them were
very different. Group one contained only girls, and the other contained only one
girl, and the four boys, one of whom did not pass the class and one who received
the lowest grade in the class. The dynamics were very, very different in the
groups. Group one interacted by offering ideas and suggestions with disclaimers
and self-effacing comments and were reassured and encouraged by each other.
Group two spent much more time talking about things off subject and the
conversation was dominated by one of the male students who insulted the other
members of the groups, especially the lone girl. In the end, that girl ended up
taking the project home to finish it, and did most of the work.
It was interesting
to see group interactions from a very removed point of view. I have not gone
group project work since 6th grade, and I had never been in a group
like group two, so it was very interesting to me. It also explored the idea of
one of teachers greatest fears about collaboration- the idea that one person
will end up doing all the work. The way O’Donnell-Allen ran her classroom, it
seems that these projects and group collaboration were common and that she knew
how to observe the different groups and their dynamics without intruding. She
also had the advantage of a “block schedule”, where so has the class of a
longer amount of time ever other day, allowing for the group work to be done
during class time.
The thing that
stuck me most from the article was the chart of types of comments made. The fact
that group one made 8 off-task remarks and group 2 made 315 was very
interesting, and went along with the fact they made only 4 inclusionary or
courteous comments whereas group one made 31 of those. Group one spent their
time, and their dialogue doing and creating their body biography, where group
two did not finish in the allotted time and made one student finish it at home.
The idea of the disfunctionality of group two when compared to group one, or even my own ideas of group work, would make these kinds of projects unappealing. O’Donnell-Allen is still committed to her collaborative projects though, and works on different ways to have the students create better dynamics themselves.--Matisse Michalski, 11/3/02
Runciman, Lex. "Fun?" Landmark Essays on Writing Process. Perl, Sandra ed. California: Hermagoras Press, 1994. 199-205.
Fu, Danling. "Unlock their Lonely Hearts" Trends and Issues in English Language Arts. 1999 Edition. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English.
In examining how best to support middle school students who are learning English as a second language, Mr. Fu also illuminates the perspective of these young immigrants, their hopes, and how to assist them in achieving the future that they yearn for. First person depictions of life as an immigrant learning English, and also as a ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher make up much of the article, as a way to argue for more engaging activities for students to draw a clear relationship between their lives and learning English. Several students’ writings are also taken as textual examples of how students communicate their emotions, and the various stages of writing that students transition through, as they become increasingly proficient in English.
One example of student writing comes within the opening of the article, as one girl communicates within a somewhat awkward but noticeably persistent tone that she feels isolated in America due to her inability to communicate with the many english-speakers that she sees on a daily basis. This is just one of several moving accounts throughout the article that illustrate a persistent desire to learn English as a way to communicate within the strange world in which they presently find themselves. Worksheets are shown to be an inferior method of teaching, for they maintain the students’ role as non-participants within the classroom. More active forms of teaching that allows participation then follow, such as puppetry and group work, as a viable alternative. Thus teaching can push students to use English outside the classroom, once they become confident within their ability to actively utilize it within their classroom and among their peers.
After reading the article, I not only felt that I had learned concrete ways to address dilemmas that had concerned me regarding ESL, but there was also the sense that the author really knew and identified with his students. This is a point that may seem insignificant, but in reality it reveals that the arguments made within the article come from a very real and heartfelt source, which made the characterization of students and the issues that they face that much more believable. Also, the first person experience on two levels, both as a teacher and as an immigrant, allowed for an intimate perspective regarding what it means to learn English as a second language within America as a student.
This article also speaks beyond the world of ESL, for it also is able to articulate the difficulties of learning a language, how language is tied to the greater lives of students, and that the link between verbal and written communication is essential. All of these variables should go into a teacher’s or tutor’s methodology when attempting to interest students in the world of writing, as a way to show how their perspective and voice is a valuable part of the world. As a concrete tie to this general characterization of making writing approachable, for ESL students especially, tutors could involve their native language within the writing process as an element within pre-writing. For example, students could use their first language as a means to communicate their thoughts and feelings, and then utilize this writing as a familiar bridge into the somewhat alien English speaking and writing world. Tutors and teachers should also understand that many ESL students may have an increased awareness of their difficulties and handicaps in writing English, for they also understand the high stakes depending upon their mastery of English.
In a telling way, the voices of the students that come through their writing exhibit the power of emotion within writing which Ms. Brand writes of, for each sentence speaks to the hopes and also of the past of each writer. This also leads to Bielski’s point regarding education, which becomes so apparent in ESL teaching, that each student must be understood in terms of their past and also within the constraints of their community. This is not to say that they should continue to be limited in such a manner, but that teaching should be structured to push them with their background in mind. In pushing them, the emphasis should be upon cultivating their voice within the classroom, so that they feel confident in utilizing English, and this point correlates well with Brufee’s connection between discussion and writing, which is really just an internalized (and subsequently re-externalized) form of conversation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Peter Elbow’s emphasis that the best writing occurs when the writer feels that they are writing for a sympathetic audience comes into play in the context of ESL teaching. In sum, all classes could follow the recommendations made for ESL in this specific context, challenge students based upon their individual characteristics and present abilities, give students opportunities to participate and communicate their interests, and success will follow.--Christine Bunting, 11/3/02
Murray, Donald M.
“All Writing Is Autobiography.” Landmark Essays on Writing
Process. Ed. Sondra Perl. Hermagoras Press: 1994.
“All writing, in many different ways, is autobiographical,” writes Donald Murray in his essay, “All Writing Is Autobiography,” (208). As a published writer in genres ranging from textbooks to poetry writing, he claims that each of his work holds “his truth.” To further explore the thesis, Murray includes excerpts of his own writing in the essay. In a poem, At 64, Talking Without Words, he writes about distinct feelings, smells, and sights from childhood memories. Then, he discusses the word “truth.” He states,
“What is autobiographical in this poem? I was 64 when I wrote it. The childhood memories were real once I remembered them by writing. I realized I was mirrored by daughters when the line arrived on the page. My other daughter would have been 32 on the day the poem was written. Haven’t you all had the experience of reaching for the phone and hearing it ring?”
He reveals that parts of his poem are mere facts, like being sixty-four when writing the piece, or things that he observed and experienced but did not realize their “truth” until revising, like reaching for the phone and being surprised by it ringing.
After telling the reader that all writing represents the author, Murray goes on to explain how and why. He mentions his life experiences with war, the death of a child and being raised in a Christian atmosphere. Since the same themes appear throughout his writing, he safely concludes that people write based on their experiences and interests; that the same passions a writer feels inside his or her heart, beams through the written material. And because every writer has significant passions, it is only natural to include them in the works—creating a writing style. Murray even refers to writing as being “therapy” as he admits, “Writing autobiography is my way of making meaning of the life I have led am leading and may lead,” (210). He believes that including personal experience only relieves the writer of whatever thoughts, emotions, and passions that are built up inside (positive and negative) and/or distinguishes one writer from the next.
Bringing the article full circle, Murray relates his thesis to student writing by encouraging students to attempt including themselves in academic writing. He basically reminds the reader that even textbooks are written from someone’s point of view (“their truth”), so there is little harm in adding “truth” to a college essay. He then offers advice to teachers when he states, “I do not think we should make our students write on many different subjects, but that they write and rewrite in pursuit of those few subjects which obsess them,” (214). Through allowing students to invent works based around their passions, they create a unique language and style that will produce better papers because the students will actually care about the paper. This is different from professors forcing students to cover many topics, resulting in borrowed language and thoughtless ideas.
“All Writing Is Autobiography” truly relates to our class as we struggle to find ways in which students can own their essays. Many of us admit to quickly losing motivation due to a paper topic and as a result, stretch ideas regurgitated from class discussions and notes into five pages. Others, like myself, refuse to write anything without including a little bit of themselves. Although I always find a “passion” to focus on in my writing, I wonder if my classes provide enough space for me to be creative or if I truly take the liberty upon myself. I highly doubt it’s the latter, because how would I include myself in a biology lab?
He also uses the metaphor of the writing process being one of his oil paintings. Whenever Murray is in the process of producing a new work, he writes and rewrites-- each time discovering a new layer. I found the metaphor as good advice and a great argument for the need of revision. Unlike the many scholars who have labeled using revision as being a good writer, Murray simply shares his experience. He shows that as the writer continuously re-exams the work, they will find deeper passions and a numerous amount of ways in which to construct the piece. Maybe his way of addressing revision (and college essay writing) did not offend me and that is why I am so fond of it, but whatever the case, the essay seemed more inspirational to young writers and may be an easy way for professors to get the desired results from their students!--Sidney Saunders, 11/3/02
Landmark Essays on Writing Process.
Ed. Sondra Perl.
California: Herogoras Press, 1994. 199-205.
Lex Runciman, in his article “Fun?”, addresses the
ways in which writing is viewed by many students and professors in the academic
world. Runciman discovers that most
studies concerning writing (Linda Flower’s and John Hayes’s, to name a few)
have concentrated on “writing as a process and by that we generally mean a
series of problems to be solved”(201). “Fun?”
denies that “The notion of writing …[is] a problem-solving process”(202),
and insists that an essay is not always “the starting point for a wide variety
Runciman points out that we generally equate pleasure
writing with creative writing. He
writes: “When we do acknowledge pleasure or satisfaction arising from the
writing process, we tend to assign it to literary writers whom many of us still
view as, by definition, loftier that we are”(201).
It is true that there are testimonies by Updike, James Michener, and Anne
Sexton in which the writers profess their love of the writing process (201), and
most of us are aware that “at least some writers (the famously literary, at
least) do find writing satisfying, even fun”(201).
However, Runciman and Shulamit (who also annotated this essay) insist
that technical writing can be enjoyable as well.
The reason that we don’t usually associate pleasure
with technical writing is, Runciman writes, “that [pleasure is] squishy,
it’s difficult to predict, and talking about it seems vaguely unprofessional.
Because the notion of enjoyment is not readily recognizable as scientific
we concentrate on other writing issues: “the literacy wars…large class
sizes…the good grammar war”(202). In
the midst of all these wars we forget the pleasure of “tackling” (204) a
large assignment, discovering accurate phrasing, and, most of all, the
fulfillment inherent in creation.
I have always found it difficult to enjoy technical writing.
I enjoy research and discussions in regard to my topic, but I dislike
being forced to write essays, and am frequently frustrated by the fact that many
professors view “creativity as a conscious, goal-directed activity in which
problem definition plays a crucial role”(202).
Runciman’s claim that the academic writing process doesn’t
necessarily have to be a process of drudgery was heartening, and led me to
believe that I will at some point be able to savor the range of large and small
rewards which attend to [my own] writing and thinking”(205).--Sarah Raz,
November 4, 2002
Bernadette. “An Approach for
Applying Cultural Study Theory to Technical Writing Research.” Technical
Communication Quarterly. Winter98, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p53, 21p
relationship between writing and culture is more complex than simply stating
that a culture produces writing pertinent to that specific group of people.
To truly understand the system structure underlying the writing process,
we must study the system underlying culture.
In this essay, Longo examines the types of study needed to apply cultural
studies theory to the practice of technical writing.
The patterns she lays out demonstrate the unique partnership between
writing and culture.
power and knowledge systems within a culture lay the foundation and ground rules
for the types of writing practice allowed within that society.
A clear example of this is that, “Once every text had to take account
of the theologians and the authorities, so today every text is written against a
back-drop of science and the authority of truth with a small t…(2)”
Understanding that technical writing practices will change as the authority
within a culture changes can help us as writers to understand the changes in the
writing process. Longo points out
that technical writing is the main mechanism used in scientific study and
therefore the writing controls the institutions.
symbiotic relationship between writing and culture is apparent in the
dissemination of information. “Institutions
often enable things to function, inaugurate new modes of knowledge, initiate
productive associations, offer assistance and support, provide useful
information, create helpful social ties, simplify large-scale problems, protect
the vulnerable, and enrich the community. (3)” The types of writing practices
used by these institutions are a reflection of “cultural agents” within
society. In many cases writing is
simply a regurgitation of information, while in others it is an analysis of that
information. The notion of academic
discourse that we have focused on throughout the semester is a demonstration of
how the rules of a culture determine the appropriate method of writing.
Longo emphasizes that the establishment of systems of power also play a
role in the practice of technical writing.
We are then back to the thought of the place that authority has in
found this article important to the understanding of the writing process not
just because of its demonstration of the relationship between writing and
culture, but what we can infer about the development of writing over time.
If writing and culture are intertwined to such a degree, then every time
we have a cultural shift, the system of writing should follow suit.
I am then left with questions regarding the process that a culture goes
through to establish or shift to a new form of writing?
We know that an “authority” of some sort determines the rules or
standards for the technical writing process, but how is that authority
established? It seems in many ways
that the technical writing process is as arbitrary a development as any other
Writing is used, according to Longo, as a method of
“knowledge legitimation” for a culture.
If we cannot have a record of what the culture’s core knowledge is,
then there is no way to measure standards of knowledge.
The need for a central literacy in culture, a language and method of
communication that “everyone” can follow and adhere to, is most likely the
main reason behind the connection between culture and language.
It is therefore difficult to criticize the authority in the writing
community without criticizing the power system that exists throughout all
culture.--Aileen Heiman, 11/4/02
Samantha Sansevere, "On the Use of 'I' in Academic Writing." Leonard Podis and JoAnne Podis, eds. Working With Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 1999.
In her article, Samantha Sansevere, discusses the use of the personal pronoun “I” in scholarly writing. She is greatly opposed to leaving personal voice out of academic writing. She feels that by employing the use of the personal voice, writing becomes more “welcoming” and that not developing a writing identity “will adversely affect the writer’s growth as an individual, a student, and a writer” (252).
Sansevere actually believes that objectivity in writing is a myth. She uses the general definition that objective writing contains no slants or motives. However, she points out that experience in itself and interpretation is subjective; hence, how can anything ever be truly objective? Each person will re-tell a story in a different way, and she asks why pretend that it is any other way. Since all writing is a type of expression why hide the individual behind the words?
Sansevere is an advocate of cultivating a strong personal voice. She feels that in every piece of writing there is a clear, unique, identifiable character. Using herself as an example, Sansevere discusses the fact that as a philosophy major, philosophical discourse has become part of her, and appears in many of her papers. She expands by saying that when friends read one of works they respond with, “I can see you saying this.” No two people can write in exactly the same way.
She feels that voice and personality are inseparable, I really liked the following illustrative example, “A voice is the reason we can distinguish between one poem about lust and 300 other poems about lust. Not any one of these hypothetical poems will sound the same” (255). Sansevere explains that if you removed personality from everyday life, things would become quite boring; voice and writing are analogous to this. She mentions that text books are one of the few pieces of literature that contain little or no voice. They are simply words devoid of emotion, and that is rather dull.
The article goes on to state that students must be given the freedom to explore their personal voice through writing. She understands that voice is something that requires development, and without the option of including it in texts, it will remain silenced and immature. When people write in the first person they automatically are given a sense of accomplishment. They are the ones arguing, defending, and giving opinions; not some bizarre nonexistent third person entity.
She also offers the more practical side of using first person while writing. This is conciseness. The sentence “It seems to be that case that” is much wordier than “I have found that”. This style of writing also provides a direct readership connection. A reader can much more easily relate to a single person than to a sterile word grouping.
I also found a connection to Bruffee’s article on the relationship between conversation and writing. Sansevere points out that “I” is used all the time when speaking, and that without it speech would sound ridiculous. Thus, why conform to an entirely new set of standards when writing?
I agreed with what most of Sansevere had to say. I have always found it ridiculous to insert “one” or “the reader” when it was actually myself the whole time. Honestly, it sounds like a failed attempt at pretension, and to me, seems silly. I too believe that personal voice is extremely important in writing, without it, we all give the impression of being computerized. Or as she put it, sounding like text books, which is definitely not what I go for in my writing.
I completely related to her statement of being able to “hear someone” through their writing. The following is stretching her idea a bit, but I thought it was relevant. This past weekend a friend of mine from Russia sent me a piece of poetry he had written. At first glance, it would seem that much of it is slightly awkward. However, when I reread it thinking about his speech patterns, inflections, and accent the entire piece made perfect sense and was actually written quite well. As previously stated, this is a bit far to the left on what she was speaking about, however I feel it clearly demonstrates the idea of personal voice through writing.
I completely agree with her thoughts on empowering the writer through using “I” and developing a strong voice. By directly connecting the author with the text it gives them a reason to write well. Suddenly the text is personal and a direct reflection of whom you are. I have said many times during these responses that I feel emotion and writing are strongly related, and by using the personal pronoun it gives the writer a motive to become emotionally attached.
I feel that professors and teachers of writing should encourage the development of personal voice in academic writing. For as our voice becomes stronger so does our writing.--Alice Murphy, 11/3/02
Langland, Elizabeth. “Collaborating across Disciplines: ‘It’s a Small World After All.’” PMLA, Volume 117, Number 5, October 2002. pp1236-1241.
In her article, Elizabeth Langland, Dean at UC Davis, argues for more collaboration between departments in universities as a way of reflecting and keeping up with a world that is becoming smaller and smaller. Globalization, the global economy, and capitalization are all factors that are making this world so small, where cultures are merging, lifestyles are overlapping, information on any topic is readily accessible, and where people from all corners of the earth are increasingly coming into contact with each other. Universities have made a move in the other direction, “away from basic research and liberal education towards applied research and vocational training” (1237). Universities have become “vehicles for economic growth and workforce development,” (1237) furthering political disintegration and thus doing a major disservice to society as a whole. A push for the specialization and narrowing of an education should not be what an education is about, Langland argues, and particularly in the wake of the events of and after September 11th. More than ever, we need universities to have a curriculum that stresses the importance of a well-rounded education that gives its students “intimate knowledge of alternative ways of organizing experience and understanding both the world and their place in it. And once students have been intimately exposed to difference in one context, they have a readier sympathy for and can more readily extrapolate the multiplicity of differences that structure our world” (1238). Today, this sort of teaching that leads to tolerance is imperative.
Langland provides significant data showing that the public overwhelmingly (85 percent in 2001) agrees that learning a foreign language is vital in today’s world. Yet what these people say is clearly not reflected by the way they act, by the ever-decreasing enrollments in foreign language classes. Langland proposes that the addition of more studies programs, like European or Caribbean studies, would boost students’ enthusiasm, give meaning and show the significance of language studies, and reinforce collaboration across disciplines. Such studies would be broad and bring together many different languages and cultures; such a program would undoubtedly attract interest by students. Langland writes that educators should impede the homogenization that globalization supports, celebrate cultural diversity, and promote social and political integration. She even alludes to a new educational paradigm shift that has been expedited especially since September 11th that pushes for more collaboration across disciplines.
Not surprisingly, I wholeheartedly agree that a call for more cross-disciplinary work, for the integration into every course of certain issues that will make students into global citizens, for a push towards a liberal arts education, and for an emphasis on the learning of a foreign language and the study of different cultures are all necessary and vital today. I believe the reason, however, that there is a disinterest and lack of enthusiasm in foreign language classes is because if the curriculum of these classes. The focus and emphasis on grammar in every single one of these classes is one major deterrent. Why not integrate the study of culture into these classes, politics, history, and learn the language through those means? Where does writing come in? Why not from the start incorporate writing as in English? If writing in English leads to discovery, so should writing in another language, no? These are questions Sarah, Becka, and I seek to address in our project. Whatever answers we come up with, revision of foreign language curriculums must take place if the goals Langland and others have set are going to be realized.--Alice Murphy, 11/3/02
Swerdlow, Joel L. “The Power of Writing”. National Geographic. 196 no2. p. 110-33 Ag 1999.
Swerdlow’s fascinating article traces the power of writing by giving examples from history and also by slowly revealing the amazing story of Wei Jingsheng of China, who was arrested in 1979 for “writing essays arguing for democracy” (1). The results of Wei’s story are given piece by piece nestled in among analysis of why writing has power and how writing was developed, and also how it shapes culture. In prison, Wei was forbidden to write. After months of requesting paper and pen, a pen was smuggled to him by guard or a prisoner. Wei hid the pen and wrote letters on toilet paper to his family. After two years in solitary confinement, Wei’s guards realized they couldn’t stop him from writing, and authorized him to write one letter a month to his family. He also wrote to the Chinese government telling them that they threatened their own goal of national cohesion by suppressing freedom (3). Wei was released in 1993 when China was competing to host the 2000 Olympic games. China was not chosen, and Wei was re-arrested and prevented from writing again. A brave woman, Tong Yi, transcribed Wei’s letters onto computer disks, although for doing this she was sentenced to two and a half years in a labor camp where she was sometimes beaten. Upon leaving the labor camp, she was allowed to leave China. In 1997 a book of Wei’s letters, The Courage to Stand Alone, is published in the USA. The end of Wei’s story is hopeful. In 1997 Wei is released due to international pressure, and comes to the USA to be employed by Columbia University in the Center for the Study of Human Rights. “Writing,” Wei says, “kept me alive. I sometimes thought about a letter for a week before writing anything. It’s something that you must do even if you do not have the leisure of being in prison. To write, you must work methodically, forming your thoughts and prompting other people to think as they read. Writing requires work at both ends. That’s what makes it special” (5). Swerdlow explores the power of writing through other examples such as the history of alphabets from Egyptians, Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. He looks at how alphabets can be a thing of national identity. In Azerbaijan, a letter resembling an upside down e is reminiscent of the country’s history. Stalin forced Azerbaijan to adopt the Cyrillic script in order to break ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan in the 1930’s. Swerdlow questions the uses of writing. He takes us to the Haida Nation, on the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the coast of British Columbia, which uses no written language. “A story includes the telling and the listening” Guujaaw says; he is a leader of the Haida Nation. But the oral traditions of the Haida Nation are dying out, and so Haida children preserve the stories they know by writing them down as part of their schooling. The power of writing, as expressed in Swerdlow’s article, seems to be a power inherent in people to cause change and affect others. We must remember that writing requires work at both ends, and that a story includes the telling and the listening.
For tutors, the power of writing can be communicated to students and peers by remembering that what is written is also read. Someone will listen to what is written, and what is written has the power to create change in readers’ thinking and feeling. Wei said that writing kept him alive, and although we are (hopefully) not in prison, we can allow our writing to make us live, or feel more alive. We can delve deep into our own ideas and write them out. We form our thoughts and prompt others to think (5). Swerdlow says “From its beginning as recordkeeper to its transformation into one of humanity’s most potent forms of artistic and political expression, writing reveals the power of innovation” (1). Last class we discussed whether a new idea is possible. I don’t know the answer to that, but a new change is possible in one who has not yet changed. Writing has a long history, and only something that has a power to it can be sustained in a culture and useful to a culture for so long.--C. Talley English, 11/3/02
Mike. “Student Management
Teams: Redesigning Course
Contexts to Empower Writers.”
Mutschelknaus explores one way of empowering students in the classroom,
student management teams. Labeled
SMTs, these groups of students help promote communication between a teacher
and students by changing the traditional power structure of the classroom.
Mutschelknaus based his concept of SMTs on the ideas of
Edward Nuhfer. Nuhfer
discusses using student managers as a way for students to be more involved in
their own learning process. The
teams communicate frustrations and concerns of the students to the teacher so
he or she can improve the class. Nuhfer
based his ideas on Edward Demig’s theories for management to produce the
best quality. Demig lists 14 key
points for effective management which Nuhfer transformed to apply to
education. These points emphasize
students being proactive in shaping their learning experience in three ways.
They emphasize the point that the teacher and students work together to
learn, inform the teacher what material the class needs to focus on, and how
the class structure can be changed to provide the optimal learning
Mutschelknaus actually used SMTs in three of his classes, a
multi-cultural literature class for ESL students, an introductory writing
class for adult students, and a freshmen composition class. He
used his first-hand experience to observe SMTs’ effect, in different
learning situations. There were
three student managers for each class, two elected by the students and one by
the teacher. Mutschelknaus gave
the teams an issue to focus on that he felt could improve his teaching.
The SMTs could use this issue as a starting point in their observations
and discussions with the rest of the class.
They met with the other students once a week to record struggles
students were facing and how they thought the class could be improved.
These comments were shared with the teacher once every two weeks.
Mutschelknaus found the SMTs to be most effective in the ESL class and
least effective in the freshman composition class.
These results were closely related to the motivation of the students.
The freshman were “forced to volunteer for the project,” while the
ESL students shared crucial cultural issues with the SMTs that would not
normally be brought directly to the teacher.
This varying impact reinforces the idea that the success of a class
depends on the teacher and students taking on the responsibility of
collaborating to produce the most productive learning environment.
For collaboration in any form to be successful and provide an optimum
learning experience everyone involved must be committed to collaborating.
This involves taking on the responsibility of contributing and
responding to others contributions. Collaboration between teachers and
students changes the traditional power structure of the classroom to provide
an optimal learning environment. Changing the conception that education is
about an all-knowing teacher transferring his or her knowledge into the empty
minds of students is essential to continuing as Bruffee
states it the “conversation of mankind.”
It’s important to recognize and be open to the idea that learning
does not have happen in isolated compartments or within a set power structure.
Mutshelknaus writes that through
collaboration with the SMT in his ESL class he learned about diverse cultures
of students in the class and the students were able to share concerns with the
SMT that they would not have directly expressed to him otherwise.
Here the teacher learned from the students about something not directly
related to the content of the class but closely related to the people in the
class. As individuals from
different perspectives and backgrounds students and teachers can aid each
other in learning if a means of equality in communication is established.
SMTs are just one tactic to open a communication between teachers and
students that is not possible in the traditional power structure of the
classroom. Hopefully new ideas
similar to this are being explored and maybe one day students in any class
will be able to freely communicate with professors about topics such as the
ones that the ESL students could not have expressed without the SMT.
I applaud Mutschelknaus on his effort to collaborate with students, but
I was disappointed he limited this collaboration to only topics that affected
the content of the class. He had
a huge resource of students that could have given him feedback about the SMTs
and even contribute to designing them, especially in classes where the idea
did not really work. I am really
interested to know the students’ perspective of the effectiveness of the
SMTs. Collaboration is important
to the learning process because it does not work unless everyone involved does
their part. This encourages
students to find value in the ideas they have to offer and claim a place in
learning process for themselves and others.--Leah
Webber, Mark Joel. "The Role of Culture in a Competence-Based Syllabus." Theory Into Practice Vol. 26 Issue 4(1987): 251-8.
In "The Role of Culture in a Competence-Based Syllabus", Mark Joel Webber "proposes a corrective" to cultural instruction in second language classrooms by enumerating the shortcomings of outdated presentations of culture; by gesticulating about recent paradigm shifts in theories of language, culture, and other related fields; and by ultimately stressing that theory and practice collaborate in order to introduce a holistic presentation of culture into second language classrooms. Webber begins by distinguishing five inter-related features of a self-perpetuating minimalist presentation of culture. These features include fact-focused material; culture characterized as background information; a lack of systematic presentation; emphasis of ‘surface culture’ and ‘high culture’; and exotic objectification of culture rather than accessible integration.
Webber confronts this minimalist presentation of culture by demonstrating the transfusion that exists between aesthetic and anthropological designations of culture, pointing to culture’s temporal dimension. He also imparts Robinson’s four classes of cultural understanding: ‘behaviorist’; ‘functionalist’; ‘cognitive’; and ‘symbolic’, along with her theory that contemporary cultural presentations need to be supplemented with cognitive and symbolic cultural dynamics. Webber then cites three main incentives to support such a presentation of culture, which he refers to as communicative competence, including the fact that this type of presentation motivates students and insights their curiosity; that communicative competence allows students to interact directly with the target culture; and that this cultural presentation causes students to reflect upon their own personal and cultural identity.
Webber goes into the most depth in regard to this last incentive, reflection on personal and cultural identity. He refers to Robinson’s findings again, elaborating on her theory that in a second language classroom students require culturally resonant material from which to infer the distinct significance of the culturally foreign. The conflict and struggle involved in this process parallels Min-zhan Lu’s experience as a young women gaining political, social, and personal awareness in China, portrayed in her autobiographical essay "From Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle". Just as she advocates harnessing and utilizing the challenge of integrating divisive discourses, Webber urges language professors to emphasize the relationships between cultures, thereby enabling students to develop critical competence negotiating tension.
"The Role of Culture in a Competence-Based Syllabus" also concurs with the Eva Kushner’s "‘Sire, the People are Hungry!’ ‘Let them have Symbols!’: Literary and Linguistic Studies in the 20th and 21st Centuries" which promotes translation as a method to reveal to a society cultural ‘givens’ in its language. Webber’s article, in that vein, seems to be suggesting that cultural ‘translation’ reveals similar givens in an individual’s cultural identity. However, these correlations between language and culture and between individual and society are to be expected.
For the purposes of our collaborative research I will say that Webber’s article makes the overwhelming obvious but often neglected point that practice should strive to reflect constructive theory in the field of second language instruction. He has succeeded in the respect that I intend to read Robinson in the hopes of incorporating her research into our pending project.--Becka Garonzik, 11/9/02
Fuchs, Donald, and Lynn S. “Researchers and Teachers Working Together to Adapt Instruction for Diverse Learners.” Learning Disabilities Research & Practice - Volume 13, Number 13, 1998, p. 126-137.
In the interest of time (because this is already so late) and also for relevancy purposes (because I think I know what I’m doing for the collaborative project), I think this AB will probably gloss over the less important stuff and focus more on the things that actually might impact our research. The Fuchs team focuses on several aspects of the joining of research and practice, especially questioning, what causes the gap between research and practice? Fuchs and Fuchs say that “researchers have only themselves to blame for the gap between research and practice,” and that the hierarchy between researchers and teachers is what puts teachers at the disadvantage. This viewpoint is reflective of the general consensus about the research/teaching discrepancy ever since the new paradigm shifts in many areas. For example, until the 1980’s, research was considered only as a lower alternative for those who couldn’t get a university appointment in math, science, or computer science.
Teaching, say Fuchs and Fuchs, is taking a different turn based on research, and one of the new kinds of teaching is practical knowledge. It is informal, personal, situated, and often idiosyncratic; it is based on the teachers’ own experiences; it is taught in a non-linear or visual manner; and it is frequently taught through stories. Implicit is the notion of teachers-as-inquirers: active, self-directed, constructing their own understandings of who they are and what they do. This new theory is beneficial on two levels: it recognizes that students learn in different ways and teachers should try to reach many of those different ways (which of course makes sense, but is terribly hard to put into practice); and also that some students (particularly special ed. or learning disabled students) might need to be taught in a different way, in context of the world. Otherwise what they are learning is going to be just like what they’re learning in every other boring class and they still won’t understand it. This “practical” knowledge and its active strategies of teaching are one of the best ways to reach all kinds of learners.
The basis of the Fuchs’ study is to prove that “educational researchers can conduct quality research in conjunction with teachers, and that they can produce innovations that teachers, students, and parents value.” They wanted to increase teachers’ active involvement in class instruction, and developed a theory/activity known as the PALS-M and CBM to encourage teachers to build their own games and activities. Basically that sounds like a good idea and an effective one. Most people I’ve talked to are accepting of the idea that they need to change or add classroom strategies, that it is better to have kids out of their seats working or talking or interacting or doing lab reports. The consistent problem is a question of how to accomplish these goals. How do we incorporate these things in a classroom that is already on a schedule? How do we prove that they’re worth the time, money, investment, equipment? The article addresses these concerns as well, emphasizing the need for additional formal evaluation and reports to those in charge of the curriculum.
The debate about new strategies of learning comes down to not so much a discrepancy between research and practice (researchers and teachers seem to agree that active learning strategies are good) but more a way of translating that research into practice. The problem is that it creates a catch-22. If teachers are never given the opportunity to implement new theories of learning, then research slowly dies out when it is untested.--elisabeth fields 11.11.02