Category Archives: 1101 Unit 1-Lit Narrative

Response to “Navigating Genres” by Kerry Dirk

I found this essay really interesting and I’m glad that I read it. Some of it I’d already considered – as I noted in the text, one activity I often do in class is to have students write a letter to a professor, a text to a friend, and the opening of a cover letter for a job—just to get them thinking about how they naturally write in different ways according to whatever context they’re in. It’s a fun assignment and the students (and I) usually end up laughing when they read some of the texts to their friends. I honestly hadn’t thought of those situations as “genres” though I completely understand that they are.

To be honest, until very recently I’d thought of genre as “horror, sci-fi, romance…” ugh. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it—but I must. I’m excited about the idea of teaching genre awareness in ENG 1101 because I think it’ll be really helpful for my students. As I said, I think I was doing it in some ways without realizing it. But naming it—so that they can name it themselves and be even more aware of it—can only be helpful to them, and to their writing.

I wrote this at the end of the essay, and it’s actually how I feel about the article as a whole: “These suggestions are all excellent – they’re all things that I’m sure we as instructors do instinctively, but spelling them out like this will be great for students who may not do them automatically.”

Blog Post: Michael Neiman

Hello Everyone,

I have been teaching at NYC College of Technology since Fall 2015. I am a teacher, writer, artist, and activist. I have been a passionate educator ever since I first entered the classroom as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi back in 2002. Back in Malawi, I was in a class that had no textbooks, no resources, no electricity and often it was over 110 degrees F. Kind of odd, today, when for the past four semesters all City Tech courses require internet, computers and online resources. Yet, with climate change, it is still incredibly hot!

I look forward to continue helping City Tech students gain the skills they need to succeed as students, as future innovators, and merely to learn the practical knowledge that reading and writing can benefit them, in the struggles that our economic and professional world require of them, to thrive.



Language & Genre – Dirk Response

I introduce both the 1101 and 1121 Writing courses to my students on the first day of class with a reading (transcribed lecture on The Guardian) by Neil Gaiman, about reading and imagination. It is for the most part concerning fictional writing; but in class, we think about how his arguments about the function of fictional writing applies to other forms of writing as well – whether they be literature, news, articles, etc. In part, this first reading is designed to get my students thinking about the function of writing and reading not only within the conventions of a Writing/Literature course, but also within the conventions of whatever field they eventually go into, major in, or have a career in. I have not overtly taught about genre awareness in 1101, but this is one way which I have. But I think it would certainly be helpful to pair the Gaiman reading with Dirk as well. Unconsciously conforming to and adopting the conventions for different genres are of course an instinctive part of being human, but to articulate and consciously recognize genre would certainly enable students to become more conscious writers and thinkers.

Dirk’s point about genre having the “power to help or hurt human interaction, to ease communication or to deceive, to enable someone to speak or to discourage someone from saying something different” reminded me a lot of Toni Morrison’s 1993 lecture “When Language Dies.” She says something very similar about language. This is also our current focus in class for part 3 of the syllabus: Language. We discuss what are the different forms of language that take shape, and how they are used, in what ways do they inhibit/prohibit, can they become forms of power. So this made me consider what ways are genre itself a form of language? Or how are they different/is there a difference?

One aspect this made me think of also is how can genres become a form of constraint in and of themselves, or reflect patterns of hierarchies? For example, how conventions of genre may inhibit goals, such as in the “professional” or, as a peer wrote, in the corporate world. How does the formality or the conventions of “professionalism” in the corporate and capitalist social spaces inhibit those who inhabit them? – particularly for those who may not necessarily be at the top of the hierarchy or decision-making.

“Navigating Genres” and Lowering The Stakes Of Writing

I first assigned Dirk’s article “Navigating Genres” to a class I was teaching at another institution called “Writing Across The Disciplines.” The goal of the class was to have students explore and research how writing varies based on the field they are planning on going into, so recognizing each discipline-specific style of writing as a type of “genre,” as Dirk describes them, worked well. But I realized when I started using the model syllabus this semester for my 1121 course at City Tech that there was a lot of overlap between Dirk’s ideas on genre and discourse communities, the main similarity being that we write and communicate differently in different contexts, and through this we can start to conceptualize concepts like audience and purpose.  Through this overlap, I can see the benefits of assigning an article like Dirk’s to a composition course, and how it might work to compliment concepts like discourse communities. 


As Dirk states in the piece, one of her goals is to take genre “often quite theoretical in the field of rhetoric and composition” and make it “a bit more tangible.”  It is this process of simplifying something typically understood as abstract that could benefit students in composition courses. The biggest takeaway for students from Dirk’s ideas on genre might be a “lowering of the stakes” when engaging with the daunting essay writing process.  Partnered with raising genre awareness is a heightened awareness of the fact that we are all writing all the time. When one is able to recognize that, the act of writing on demand becomes less intimidating, as one realizes they are going through the writing process in different ways everyday. With this awareness that we are all writing all the time across genres, students can begin to pay attention to how they already “orient” themselves towards the expectations of genres via text messages, tweets and even asking their roommates to do the dishes. Dirk illustrates this (in terms that I think would resonate with students) when she says “Because you know how these genres function as social actions, you can quite accurately predict how they will function rhetorically: Your joke should generate a laugh, your email should elicit a response, and your updated Facebook status should generate comments from your online friends.” The writing process in a composition class, then, is transformed from some “foreign and weird task that your professor just wants you to do” into a different version, or genre, of what you already know how to do on some level. In this way, students can begin to view themselves as active writers, rather than “non-writers required to take a writing class.” 


Furthermore, genre awareness lowers the stakes by letting you know that people have done what you are doing before, and therefore you can look to these previous examples as formulas for success. Dirk quotes Amy Devitt saying, “Genres develop because they respond appropriately to situations that writers encounter repeatedly….once we recognize a recurring situation, a situation that we or others have responded to in the past, our response to that situation can be guided by past responses.” When I’ve taught this reading in the past, the metaphor I use to explain this is building a car. Because writing does not produce “material results,” it can sometimes feel as though there are no directions or instruction manuals that you can follow, in the same way as if you were building a vehicle. Raising genre awareness allows students to see that there are sets of directions available to them when it comes to writing. Once the directions existed to build a car, it would be insane to try and start from scratch! Similarly, students can begin to realize that they do not have to enter the writing process blindly, but can rather identify the genre in which their writing and locate successful “directions” left behind by previous writers.

Dirk creates a likeable, breezy tone here, and seems flexible and easily amused. I’ll bet that if she’s in the classroom, her students like her. She uses many engaging examples throughout—a ransom note, the Onion—and models for us the kind of language and ideas that work well with students.

My favorite part, for personal reasons, was when she called out that essay writing formula (the standard Baker keyhole, basically) drilled into students in many high schools. When it is really adhered to, it results in lockstep writing, and it seems actively to prevent personal expression. As she says about it, “But looking back, what resulted from such formulas was not very good; actually, it was quite bad.” I taught high school English back in my twenties, and the way we were supposed to prepare students for the Regents looked exactly like the bad writing that Kirk describes. I always felt that the tactic was based on the fear that if we tried to communicate something more elemental about writing, the students would be neither prepared for the Regents, nor would they be able to create the more original type of writing. Not teaching them to cling to the formula might leave them drowning. Dirk throws out that idea summarily!

I like this way of looking at genre and rhetoric. The widening of rhetorical ideas in the classroom seems especially helpful as a way to connect with the students, and by teaching them what is essentially a form of careful reading, we can help our students to be more effective, thoughtful, and alert in all their communications. I feel like my students will relate to this because of its practical implications, but I like it too because of its artistic ones.

Dirk includes a quote about the “homely discourses” that we’re involved in every day, and grounding what we do in the idea that genre is ubiquitous feels like an effective approach. Teaching genre awareness feels like a sharpening of the approach to teaching ENG 1101.

Katelyn Connor Blog Post 1

I really enjoyed the article “Navigating Genre” by Kerry Dirk. As my colleague already mentioned, Dirk takes a wide approach to looking at genre and how it affects communication. I think it’s crucial to look at genre and writing in this way early in the semester. It’s important for students to think about what we talk about when we talk about writing, structure, expectations, and so many more aspects of interaction when we write.

I enjoyed thinking about Dirk’s article in the context of Writing in the Workplace, which is the course I teach for City Tech. What are some of the expectations that we bring into the workplace? How does workplace location affect the way we respond to certain situations? Are they correct?

I love looking at how young professionals and students-turning-professionals view their workplace, specifically in comparison to their classroom or their home. In the context of the pandemic, for many it’s all the same location, but vastly different communication spaces.

I’m also excited to discuss how malleable a genre can be as well. Again, when looking at the workplace environment and expectations for communication, I like to ask the question “what genres can be broken?” or “what SHOULD be broken?” I think these questions are even more important when we look at how certain companies reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement and their call to be better. In order for many companies to do this, they had to break their own rules about what we can and cannot talk about when it comes to work and race. Additionally, how authentically do they allow their employees to engage at work, and how does that change the rhetoric?

My favorite part of Dirk’s article was when he fully admitted that being a writing instructor isn’t about knowing everything. In fact, when you accept that you don’t know most things, it brings about opportunities for students to have authority over their own writing and gain confidence for future communication. I’m excited to learn how to “write along” with students and to remove that boundary of authority to get the students to engage the most authentically with their own work.

For next week!

Hi everyone!

Just a reminder that Jackie’s great post about breakout rooms, as well as some other resources, are HERE on the FYW website.

So, next week, our meeting will be asynchronous.  It will be a bit of a two-parter.  We will have a reading (on Perusall) and then a blog post, here on this site.  Instructions for joining Perusall and posting on OpenLab are below, should you need a refresher.  The reading and blog post should be done by Thursday, March 4 at 11:59 pm:

The reading, as we discussed in last week’s meeting is “Navigating Genres”  by Kerry Dirk.  This is a reading assigned to students in the 1101 curriculum, and is a seminal text explaining genre theory.  For the reading portion of our assignment, we’ll just comment where we are interested, confused, take umbrage, etc… I’d also like us to converse with each other– that is, you can comment on each other’s comments, either just by commenting below, or by using the @ sign (aka @carriehall)

Then, here on OpenLab, write a blog post (I’m guesstimating about 300 words here, but that’s up to you) in which you reflect upon the Dirk article: How do you feel about it? What did you learn from it?  How do you think your students might feel about it?  How do you feel about teaching genre awareness in 1101?

You will need to check a category to post.  Use category: 1101 Unit 1

Part two: 

Sometime between March 4 and March 10 (apologies– this previously said March 11.  We will meet March 10!), when we meet again on Zoom, please do 2 things:

  1. Read people’s OpenLab blog posts.  You can comment if you want!
  2. Read and annotate the (very short) article from Bad Ideas About Writing on Perusall) entitled “Research Starts with a Thesis Statement.”

To join our Perusall site (if you haven’t already,) go to and join.  It will ask you for a course code to join.  Ours is: HALL-G6ZRH.  You will find the readings under “assignments.” 

To post a blog post on this site, you must first have joined this site. This requires that you are a member of Open Lab and that you have joined this site (click “join this site” under the image on the project profile page).  HERE is some help regarding posting on Open Lab.

Note: I will send you an email with a link to our zoom recording from last week.  I don’t want to post it publicly.

Kieran Reichert FINAL 1101 Unit 1

Essay #1: Literacy Narrative

In this unit, we have read several examples of literacy narratives. In “Mother Tongue,” we read about the titular mother’s “broken English” and how that, along with several pivotal educational experiences, made Amy Tan the writer she is. In “All Writing is Autobiography,” Donald Murray talked about the different parts of himself he brings into his different writing projects. These were both literacy narratives, which are stories writers tell about their relationship to reading and writing.

In this unit’s writing assignment, you will write a response to the question “What is literacy?” in a way that is personal, meaningful, and considered. The question does not ask “what is the definition of literacy?” but rather “what does literacy mean to you?” In this essay, you will relate experiences or events that have been important in shaping the kind of writer and reader you have become, or experiences that illuminate the role of literacy in your life. The purpose of the assignment is to explore this experience in order to gain insight into who you are as a writer and reader, and to examine the role literacy plays into your life. In the end, you will have linked your participation in this class to the rest of your experiences with writing in your life.

In preparation for this assignment, you have read two examples of literacy narratives — Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” and Donald Murray’s “All Writing is Autobiography” — you will read a third sample student literacy narrative. Look to them for guidance.

If you feel stuck, think and write about the following prompts:

  • What is your current attitude toward reading/writing?
  • What are your beliefs about yourself as a reader/writer?
  • What happened in the past to make you have that attitude or those beliefs?
  • What experiences were most significant?

Also, consider the following areas of experience you might explore:

  • your family’s attitude toward reading/writing
  • your own reading/writing experiences in and out of school
  • what you remember about learning to read/write
  • what successes or failures you have had connected to reading/writing
  • a particular book that had an impact on you
  • your reading/writing strengths
  • your reading/writing weaknesses.

Your essays will be >750 words (approx. 4 pages) in length, double-spaced in a normal 12-pt font (Cambria, Baskerville, Garamond, Times, etc.), with 1” margins all around. You should write your name and course details in the header, and page numbers in the footer. Your paper should have a title, an introduction ending in a thesis statement (an answer to the central question of the prompt), several body paragraphs that utilize the Point + Illustration + Explanation model we discussed in class, and a succinct conclusion.

Given the nature of this essay, you should draw from personal experience, and you may use the first-person “I” when doing so. You will bring in two printed copies to our peer review session in class and turn in a final draft electronically and physically by the beginning of class on __________.

Please feel free to stop by my office hours or shoot me an email with any questions.