Author Archives: Kim

Literacy Narrative Reflective Manifesto From My 1121 Class

So lovely to see everyone today! As promised, here’s the in-class “Reflective Manifesto” of my 1121 class’s literacy narrative reflections and standards for our classroom’s discourse community. It was a fun (and hopefully helpful) cap on the Literacy Narrative assignment and transition into the genre awareness/discourse community assignment. The below are responses from students in my class (after group discussions), in primarily their own words.

I’m also attaching (at the end of this post) my handouts on Rhetorical Analysis and Mentor Texts (which were tremendously inspired by/stolen from/adapted from Carrie’s explanations and handouts/info for students). Sorry to conflate the two topics, but this is everything swirling around my head this week, and god only knows what will be happening there tomorrow or next week.

Literacy Narrative Reflections From ENG 1121, Writing Across Situations:

1.  What best practices do we have to offer other writers coming into college?

    1. Making sure you don’t repeat a claim – in an argument-based essay
    2. Make an outline! (before writing)
    3. Proofreading – read it over to make sure you have no mistakes
    4. Brainstorm by just writing whatever comes into your mind, if you think too hard you might stop yourself, just let them flow!
    5. To make sure that you don’t have any run-on sentences and fragments, add commas or break it up into two sentences
    6. Ask for suggestions from your partners – fellow readers – get feedback on what others think

2.  What understanding of literacy and our own writing process can we offer to this discourse community of our classroom?

    1. Use of technology as a form of literacy – necessary in the 21st century for communicating and work
    2. Our pieces of writing come together better when we are interested in the topic, we write more freely – power of choice – when you choose your topic, you pick something that you’re interested in. It should come out more easily more freely
    3. Being able to explain what you’re writing about is important – not just writing it, but understanding the concept of what you’re trying to say. Can get a different perspective

3.  What literacy goals do we have for the rest of the semester and the rest of college?

    1. Challenging myself to write more, personal writing, and writing in general – to work on making my writing more engaging
    2. Refining my writing skills with group review – helpful to have others point out mistakes or things you don’t think of
    3. Completing the essay by explaining the idea of the essay to answer the question, communicate clearly, and really address the issue at hand
    4. Manage your time to spend the right amount of time/emphasis on each paragraph, make sure the ideas flow
    5. Improve our diction – choice of words, appropriateness of words
    6. Improve to our voice and personas as writers

4.  What are our standards for our discourse community and the genre conventions in our classroom?

    1. Writing essays for this audience
    2. Communicating – posting in the blog, talking in groups in class, being respectful
    3. Peer Review! A whole genre in this class
    4. Giving each other critiques – analyzing writing and our own writing with the same process
    5. Showing up to Pearl 504B between 11:30-12:45 on Tuesdays and Thursdays
    6. Adhering to the Assignment Guidelines – page count, appropriateness of subject
    7. Typed printed out double-spaced work
    8. Turning in assignments on time!
    9. Shared classroom language: literacy, rhetoric, metacognition, ethos, pathos, and logos – way of thinking – rhetorical appeals, discourse community – people way to have a language in common, code switching, multiple literacies
Rhetorical Analysis Handout
mentor text handout

Berlin and his Happy Medium of Social-Epistemic Rhetoric

So I’m getting this crazy feeling of deja vu, and maybe it’s because it’s late and I’m tired and I’ve been reading too many things and commenting on them, or maybe it’s because I may have once read this exact same Berlin article a little over a decade ago during my teaching pedagogy class at Emerson…. but this feels like a familiar Goldilocks argument:

Cognitive Rhetoric is too pseudo-scientific and normative and minimizes any variation in thinking, learning, and writing processes, which is unacceptable if we see our students as varied learners who are situated in a cultural setting….

Expressionism is too focused on the individual, and minimizes the impact of disempowering social structures and puts a false agency on students, pressuring them to emerge as triumphant by eschewing disempowering institutions (I liked the bit where he notes that “this rhetoric also is easily co-opted by the agencies of corporate capitalism, appropriated and distorted in the service of the mystifications of bourgeois individualism”…. which I think is a gigantic issue that corporations have exploited in marketing to millennials… but anyway)….

And then, ta da! Social-epistemic rhetoric, which rolls so easily off the tongue, is the happy medium. Embracing the dialectic of self as situated between the individual and the social! Perfect!

My favorite part is when Berlin acknowledges (or perhaps, concedes), that “social-epistemic rhetoric attempts to place the question of ideology at the center of the teaching of writing… It is obvious that I find this alternative the most worthy of emulation in the classroom, all the while admitting that it is the least formulaic and the most difficult to carry out.”

It is difficult to carry out an interrogation of the ideologies that put our students at a disadvantage with the world! But it is also rewarding to get underneath the power of corporate marketing and systemic inequality. And yes. It is DIFFICULT.

Thanks for clearing that up, Berlin! Anyway, I enjoyed reading this but also felt frustrated. How to take from this best practices for actually having productive conversations with students about ideologies, and becoming more active social agents?

Right now we are deep into discourse communities, and just starting to unpack the idea that if you convince an audience of your point or argument, perhaps you can inspire an action response from them… how do I work explicit understandings of ideology into that? Or is the issue just for comp instructors to be aware of how all rhetorical teaching is shot through with ideology, like the idea of “correct = Standard written English”?

Interesting, and problematic, and it’s now far past my bedtime. Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

 

Multiple Literacies, Communities, and Code Switching — Oh My!

Hello, colleagues! Reflecting on the first two weeks of this new approach to ENG 1121, I think that as a class we have covered a lot of ground in creating awareness about how multiple literacies play a huge role in how my students address writing assignments. I’m also getting some ideas about how we can continuously and explicitly talk about the writing process in general, in terms of drafting, reflecting on a draft, reviewing, planning revisions, and reflecting on a revision. It’s been a wild ride so far!

I want to echo others’ feelings about being in unchartered territory. While I have taught Literacy Narratives before, the idea of showing up ready to define terms and make explicit our goals of transfer for the students has really framed this assignment in a new light for me. The first day, we defined “rhetoric” and “literacy” as a group, and it was seriously a revelation. KEY TERMS!!!! I think in my college experiences, professors just talked in their fancy words and it all sailed over my head until I started making connections on my own. But it doesn’t have to be that way!! A few students have even volunteered on their own that different communities require different literacies and I feel like we are laying all this good groundwork for discourse communities in the next unit.

One thing I found quite interesting was that our discussion of Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” the first week quickly turned into small-group conversations about students having to translate for parents or speak a whole different type of English among friends or in school. I learned that many of my students are really connecting to the idea of multiple literacies in their own lives as bilingual speakers of English. This example really hit home for them.

This was deepened when we looked at Vershawn Ashanti Young’s “‘Nah We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching,” and could really explicitly target the idea of code switching as problematic in the academy when it turns into translation and replacement rather than expansion of literacies. As a class, we agreed that audience really matters so much in this idea, because some of our students could pronounce and translate the “Spanglish” examples in the text while others (including me) could not. So I told my students that if they want to incorporate different literacies into their writing in our class, the first consideration was audience and clarity, and that they could decide whether or not such inclusions would need some kind of context or explanation. I was surprised at where this went, and I think it set some good ground rules about trust and inclusion as we move forward as writers and readers together.

I am hopeful that students will use our “model texts” as guides when drafting to foreground their experiences into narratives that continue to draw on and deepen this awareness. But so far, I would say that we are on track! (But I am really missing that extra time that the lab hour provided in ENG 1101!!)

Students are drafting their narratives and Peer Reviewing each other’s work this week… and I have many questions for others about how Open Lab is going!!!!

Re: Open Lab, on the one hand, it’s so amazing to have a digital archive of the drafts being turned in. On the other, I think it was an uphill battle for students at first to figure out how to login and post, and I kind of wish I had computer lab access to get everyone squared away during a class period. Not sure how you guys are using Open Lab or dealing with tech issues so far? I like the idea of updating it more often with what’s happening next, but have set up my site to be more static since I wasn’t initially sure about posting on it all the time.

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

Encouraging Students to Imagine with Shipka

Cognizant that the student work featured above may seem strange, especially when the norm for student work is equated with linear, argumentative, thesis-driven print texts that are passed forward in class and geared primarily, if not exclusively, to an audience of one (the instructor), I would suggest that the rhetorical, material, methodological, and technological choices students made while engineering these complex rhetorical events merit serious and sustained attention. Based on the kind, quality, and scope of work I have witnessed students producing for the past seven years, I am moved to argue, with George’s claim in mind, that students have a much richer imagination for what might be accomplished in the course than our journals have yet even begun to imagine, let alone to address. (282)

I admit it readily enough: I am often afraid of technology. So while I love multi-genre work and in theory embrace assignments focused on transfer, visual rhetoric, multimodal forms, media, and digital or audio components, sometimes I get nervous. What if my students want to translate their argument into a podcast and I don’t have the first idea of how to help them? What if they are as nervous as I am about the idea of a translation or original argument created in a multimodal, digital, audio, or interactive media format, such as a text-based video game or a video essay?

Some of the examples that Shipka brings up remind me that I shouldn’t worry, because offering students room to imagine how how they might best bring a complex idea to their audience might far surpass my own imagination. I’m now certain that no one under the age of 25 has any kind of anxiety about using digital or mobile technologies, so if my students don’t yet know how to produce a podcast on their phones, they will surely find a way to do so. It’s impressive to see what is possible for multimodal assignments, and also raises the question for me of how to best frame them, when there is a lot of choice — such as a choice of both topic AND genre — involved.

What Counts as “Evidence” in Kynard

It was largely through working with Elva that I began to question more rigorously the nature of the research paper in terms of what counts as “evidence.” The type of data that Elva was collecting and her attempt to write it up should not have been a new endeavor for her. She was in fact focusing in the social sciences and was well into her major. None of what she described as her previous research papers, however, seemed to fall outside of the typical library-go-fetch process. (135)

In the Kynard reading, I kept thinking about how often, when our students go and find “sources” for their research paper (sometimes an artificially determined number, for the sake of “sufficient rigor”), they come back with some of the weirdest things. I recall reading papers and thinking not just “How on earth did you find this source?” but also “Why on earth did you think that this source would be a good context, commentary, or voice to enter into a conversation with as you built your argument?”

And it makes me agree that we should introduce research as early as possible, but also its motivations– relevant research can help writers build credibility, understand the nature of a situation or problem, and insert their own original ideas into that gap between others’ voices. But it takes a lot of gathering and analysis and reading and fact-finding and synthesis of sources to effectively deploy sources as the log cabin-like foundation that we stand atop to make a coherent and interesting new argument. So how can we not only help students consult other texts, voices, and sources whenever they approach writing, but also use them effectively? I also have a feeling that primary research — whether ethnography, interviews, observations, or site visits — can also be very empowering in this way for students, since it puts them more in touch with what the research is for, and they are interpreting their own sensory experiences to find meaning.

“The Research Paper” as a Genre without a Discipline in Dirk

Given that it is likely students will be asked to write such papers during their tenure in college, how might we best prepare them for writing a paper that changes across disciplinary contexts despite its common generic name? I believe that treatment of a research paper as an isolated utterance within a composition classroom is problematic in that such papers fail to encourage transfer.

Here’s my problem with teaching “the Research Paper” that Dirk calls “an isolated utterance within a composition classroom”: it lives outside of any academic discipline. In biology, there are lab reports, or researched studies, or literature reviews; in literature, there might be a researched work of literary criticism commenting on a single text; in anthropology, there are ethnographic studies; in sociology, there are widespread studies involving surveys and statistical analysis. But in no discipline besides college First-Year Writing is there a disembodied “academic style” research paper, on either a topic of the student or instructor’s choosing. For that matter, which citation style should you use? Should you use MLA if you are writing about history, and APA if you are writing about education or psychology?

I guess the problem that I think Dirk is identifying is an assignment that has taken on artificiality because it has ceased to belong in a specific situation outside of the composition classroom. When students can define the framework that they want to use in order to make a researched argument, making choices about audience, form, rhetorical approach, sources, investigational primary research tactics, and other questions of agency, then the researched argument will again be a living, breathing genre with a purpose and an audience and as Dirk suggests, “situate their research writing as part of… an activity system.”

Key Terms! What a Concept, Taczak and Robertson

I really jammed out with this reading, both because I love reflection as a writer and enjoy teaching thoughtful active re-envisioning of writing in my classes. I have experimented both with “revision plans” — a reflection after receiving peer and instructor feedback but before undertaking revision — and “revision reflections” on final (revised) drafts of assignments, and think there is value in both. But now this four-part framework really drives it home for me in terms of thinking and talking more explicitly about reflection:

“as a 360-degree, reiterative approach to give students a series of opportunities to make decisions and create some understanding of their writing as a means of engaging in reflective practice as a four-part schema: (1) look backward to recall previous knowledge… (2) look inward to review the current writing situation they are working in; (3) look forward to project how their current knowledge about writing connects to other possible academic writing situations; and (4) look outward to theorize how the role of their current identities as reflective writing practitioners connects to larger academic writing situations.”

This is all driven home for me by T & R’s recommendation to explicitly define and use reflection as a key termpractice reflection in the classroom, and encourage students to develop a theory of writing. Key terms!?! I know I define terms for my students, but I think I was raised through the osmosis style of education — bat a big term around long enough and finally you’ll look it up and try it out and start using it yourself. So yeah, making reflection something you define, practice explicitly, and encourage students to talk about in terms of looking backward/outward/inward/forward is a great way to encourage them to think explicitly about writing choices.

It’s like the Reflection Hokey Pokey.

T & R says, “this approach allows them to theorize about their own writing overall, and it allows them to evolve not just as writers but also as thinkers about writing.” If our students can become active thinkers about writing, then I think we are getting closer.

Neal’s Cautionary Tale of Formulaic Reflective Cover Letters

Here is a moment that I found helpful in the Neal text:

  • What are the relationships between reflective writing and other artifacts within a portfolio?
  • What — if any — value remains in guiding students into specific reflective writing activities, either for teaching and learning or for the purposes of writing assessment?

In addressing these questions, my intent is to reaffirm the important relationship between reflective writing and portfolio artifacts–though not in limited, formulaic cover letters, but rather as integrated learning tools for students to make evident tacit decisions they make as writers.

Reading Neal right after the Taczak and Robertson reflection reading, I was thinking a lot about active reflection as a framing device for students understanding the narrative of their work throughout a given semester, and the idea that reflection not become a rote thing that you slap on top of a finished revision, but more of a conversation about the writing process that empowers the student writer. Also, how can reflection — and portfolios as final assignments — offer our students agency over their writing decisions, and choices about how and what they choose to highlight as the most important facets of their journey as writers?

In final reflections, I often ask students to reflect on one theme that they find interesting about their own work, whether it is the narrative of their development over the semester’s assignments, their strengths and weaknesses as a writer, or what changed for them in their writing practice. I have found that having a focusing dominant theme, macro-question, or unifying idea in their reflection letter (or essay, they don’t have to address it to me) has led to more interesting and ultimately successful rhetorical explorations of their progress and journey as writers. The thing that surprised me most when I recently did this assignment was the freedom and power in many of the students’ voices–especially students who had struggled to express themselves confidently in an academic tone. Maybe we need to hand the reins to students in their final reflections, and ask them, what about this whole writing process is interesting and exciting to you?

Uncoupling “Genre” from “Form” – Devitt

Once our attention shifts to the origins of genres, it also shifts away from their formal features… Historical changes in generic forms argue against equating genre with form; note the formal changes in what we call a poem, for example, or in the familiar letter. The forms may change but the generic label stays the same… More importantly, equating genre with form is tenable only within the container model of meaning. By integrating form and content within situation and context, recent work in genre theory makes genre an essential player in the making of meaning.  (575)

The above debate — and really, Devitt’s argument throughout “Generalizing about Genre” — reminds me of when I realized the differences in the way that academic literary critics and writers talked about writing. The former loved to categorize literary artifacts, creating ever-more specific taxonomies of truth as expressed in a particular historical moment, aesthetic tradition, or shelf on a library. The latter, instead, was focused on writing as a functional, alive exercise — how to create writing, as craft, with techniques that were leveraged like carpenters building a house.

Thinking about the origin of genre or genre as a response to a situation and context really makes it a much more active, alive thing, full of transformations and evolutions and fluidity and dynamic qualities. While it is still important to know where to find the book in the library, it’s nice to see genre given a kind of agency as a cause in rhetoric, rather than simply the static (or even dead) effect of rhetorical actions.

Rhetorical Analysis as Means of Inspiring Revision – Graff

Jake’s work on this assignment involved a great deal of rewriting, as noted when he said, “I learned how to rewrite at so many different levels.” During rewriting, his style changed less than the content. The writing style–one that felt very natural to him–and the choice of topic made it worthwhile for him to rewrite. He said that, before this essay, he had “never rewritten anything, like changing ideas and stuff.”   (381)

I really enjoy this quote, and it’s quite a pleasure to re-read the Graff piece, since I think it speaks to so many things that we try to do in the classroom all the time. I would LOVE for my students to start their revisions at the macro level, and think about their “ideas and stuff”– the stuff being structure, logic, use of sources, voice, assumptions, and approach into a topic. I did a poll with some of my students last term (after 3 rounds of peer review) about which revision strategies they attempt, and when. While some of them said that they questioned things like their thesis statement and structure at the beginning of the process — or reviewed my and their peers’ comments — several other students noted that they start with sentence-level line edits, and then maybe work their way up to revising bigger ideas…. “if I have time.”

This makes me think that perhaps descriptive outlining in peer review and other types of scaffolded writing and drafting described by Graff might encourage students to “change their ideas” when they revise. Also, I’m intrigued by the idea that Jake had his rhetorical model to use as a model of genre output — to mimic, understand, and play with the same types of rhetorical moves to serve his own purposes. So Graff’s analysis assignment also had a genre production or transfer component, which sounds like it was really satisfying to the students. And motivated really meaningful revisions!