So long, farewell…28 April 2017

Goodness you guys…where has the time gone?!?!  It seems like just last week was the first day of class and here we are saying goodbye!   I’ll have to admit that after looking over the syllabus and attempting to complete the first few assignments, I was not too sure I’d last in this class.  But after having finished, I can honestly say this has been one of my top five favorite classes of all time and I am so glad I chose to stick it out.

I can’t really single anyone out because everyone in this class has been so encouraging, helpful, and most importantly respectful. Even when someone disagreed with something I said in a blog post or a comment on Facebook, the disagreements were handled in the most respectful way.  Sadly, this is not something I’m used to in daily “discussions” these days.  I will say a very sincere and specific THANK YOU to Dr. Woodworth for taking her own time on a Sunday to meet personally with me to offer suggestions and ideas and encouragement.  She took the time to listen to my goals for the program, and that meant a lot to me.  The majority of my professors have been the “take the class, get the grade, move on along” type.

While I became doubtful of my ability to teach while trying to get the hang of interpreting the readings and blogging about them, once I found my groove my confidence reappeared and I am more excited than ever to get into a classroom one day.  I know we had some fellow pirates to walk the plank early in the semester, but you that have stuck it out have become a little online learning family for me, and it has meant the world!  I know you will all be successful in your future or continuing teaching endeavors, and I know without a doubt great things will come from this group!

HAPPY SUMMER Y’ALL!!

Class Draft: 17 April 2017

This is the post I turned in for my reflection.  I *think* I have a good idea of what I’m doing for my paper, but the class syllabus is what I’m hung up on.  I’ve never had to do a syllabus as I’ve never taught a class, so I thought I’d share it for my post this week as I need all the feedback I can get!  So far I’ve only gotten the purpose, outcomes, and measuring outcomes.

Basic Writing 101

 

In this course, we will explore the process of reading, thinking, connecting, and writing with a focus on grammar and composition. The purpose being that the more one reads, the better writer one becomes.  After one learns to read to comprehend, the better one can think about and connect ideas to formulate writings that are effective in communicating the author’s thoughts and feelings.

Outcomes:

By the end of the semester, the student should be able to:

  • Brainstorm, free-write, outline, and journal.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of different writing styles and complete assignments using each: narrative, expository, analytical, descriptive, and argumentative.
  • Ability to write a clear and concise thesis statement
  • Ability to support the thesis statement through clear writing and related examples
  • Ability to show the writing process: outline, draft, final copy

Measuring Outcomes:

Along with other writing activities, the student will be required to practice brainstorming, free-writing, sentence construction, paragraph construction, and the organization of thoughts and ideas.  The student should be able to build on these skills each week to finally complete a major research paper on a topic of their choice.

Research Update: 12 April 2017

I have started to outline the way I want to take the project now that I’ve gotten a response to my email from her (yay!!).

First I will do a section with general background information on her: her teaching history, books and articles she has written, and just basic info. I’m wondering if there is anything specific anyone wants to know about her?

The second section will focus on her thoughts on Basic Writing. In 2001, she described Basic Writing as follows: “It signifies struggles for inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity; debates over standards and linguistic hegemony; the exploitation of faculty and staff on the academic margins; and the policies that opened and not threatened to close higher education’s doors to masses of people. It has played a key role not only in providing opportunities for research on adult literacy but also in illuminating the politics of writing in terms of race, class, ethnicity, and other social structures that would have remained invisible in the mostly white, middle-class classrooms that have traditionally constituted the ‘mainstream’ ” (Mutnick 183).

Third, I will obviously discuss Mina Shaughnessy and how Mutick was influenced by her and is carrying on her work, so to speak. “Like Mina Shaughnessy, I believe that most so-called basic writers are educable; but I also know the frustrations and disappointments of students and teachers attempting to cultivate skills in a few short years that more privileged members of our society develop over a lifetime” (Mutnick 71).

Lastly, I will delve into the information she provided me in her email about her current interests/thoughts of basic writing. She stated that she is currently studying James Gee and his thoughts that “literacy acquisition leads to mastery while instruction must necessarily focus mostly on metacognitive knowledge. In other words, the more one reads and writes, the better one gets on a continuum with no end” (Mutnick).

I’d like some feedback on the organization I’ve chosen and also just in general for the pros and cons anyone case see from this basic “outline”.

Works Cited

Mutnick, Deborah. “The Strategic Value of Basic Writing.” Journal of Basic Writing, vol.   19, no. 1, 2000, pp. 69-83.

Mutnick, Deborah. “Basic Writing.” Plunkett, Amy. 6 April 2017. Email.

Tate, Gary, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick. eds. A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. NewYork: Oxford UP, 2001.

Where I Stand: 6 April 2017

The subject of my author study is Deborah Mutnick, and I am a little overwhelmed at just how much is out there on her and her works. I am still doing research and trying to wade through all of the information to determine the direction my project will be going.  I did find her email address and jumped out on a limb and emailed a request for an interview, or even just a statement from her on her current thoughts on Basic Writing and curriculums, or basically just any thoughts or information she would have the time to graciously share with me.  (If I hear back from her I might have a Junior High fan girl moment!)

I do know that I will give a bit of background on her:  her published works, her awards, and her thoughts on Basic Writing as a whole.  I will obviously be mentioning Mina Shaughnessy and Mutnick’s thoughts on her and her work in the field of Basic Writing.  I also will probably have a section on her disagreements with Bartholomae and Petrosky because of their exclusion of the “race, class, and gender inequities that pervade higher education” in their discussions of Basic Writing (Otte and Mlynarczyk, 32). This information shows that Mutnick not only knows the importance of knowing the background of Basic Writing students and using it to help them learn in a way that is comfortable to them, but also how she understands that the socioeconomic environment that these students come from is directly related to their level of learning.  This directly allies her with Mina Shaughnessy’s definition of Basic Writers as “those that had been left so far behind the others in their formal education that they appeared to have little chance of catching up, as if they had come…through different schools, where even modest standards of high-school literacy had not been met” (2).

Some sources I have so far are: Errors and Expectations, A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, Basic Writing, “More Talk About ‘Basic Writers’: a Category of Rhetorical Value for Teachers” found in the Spring 2010 Journal of Basic Writing, “The Strategic Value of Basic Writing: An Analysis of the Current Movement” found in the Spring 2000 Journal of Basic Writing, and Deborah Mutnick’s Faculty Bio.

Random Ramblings: 28 March 2017

My choice of topics this week is somewhat of a continuation of my reflection from last week.  I discussed my frustration with the assignment of coming up with a syllabus for the three classes.  It was fun, but frustrating.  The frustration came in when I was working on the descriptions on the purpose for the assignments.  That is an important part of teaching, to me.  I feel like students are more likely to put real effort into an assignment if they know the purpose of it, how and why it will help them succeed.  But it was hard!  So at this point I obviously started questioning myself and my abilities as an instructor.  If I can’t meet my expectations in coming up with an informative and effective syllabus for a class that doesn’t even exist yet, how can I successfully teach real students?!

But, as I have learned in the past, there is a lesson in everything. That frustration I was feeling allowed me to relate to the frustrations that students in Basic Writing, or really any class, must feel when they are attempting to complete an assignment but don’t even know where to begin!  I think that being able to relate to students is an important part of teaching as well.  Obviously as the instructor, I have to provide some type of discipline and order to a class, but sometimes it’s important to be able to realize when a student, or the class as a whole, is really struggling with something.  Being able to relate on that level helps an instructor to relax the rules a little when need be.  To throw the plans for the day out the window and come up with something new to help the students find a direction, or just simply decompress for a bit.

I think that trying to find a balance between keeping some sort of order and being able to veer off course when necessary is probably going to be the hardest part for me.  I like order, I like balance, and I do not like when plans change!  I’m a big believer in the whole “if you fail to plan you plan to fail” thing. But, I also want so badly to be an effective teacher of writing and I know this will sometimes mean changing courses when something I’m trying in the classroom isn’t working.  I’ve asked before, but I’ll ask again:  How do those of you that already teach strike that balance?  Do you plan for changes?  Do you leave room in the syllabus for changing things up if something isn’t working for the majority of the class?  Or, do you stick to the syllabus and keep plugging ahead hoping that something will eventually click?

That last choice sounds harsh, but unfortunately I’ve had instructors that seem to live by that one and it’s hard as a student to know that the majority of the class isn’t getting something, but nothing’s being done to change that.  Then again, I don’t have any teaching experience so maybe that approach comes from years of trying and not getting results from anything you’ve tried, which has to be completely frustrating.  I guess there’s no easy answer to any of my questions, but I’ll keep trying to find them.

Putting my money where my mouth is : 22 March 2017

 

This post is where I put my money where my mouth is in terms of “accountable talk”.  On a few of my comments on the last assignment, I stressed the importance of teachers being held accountable for their students understanding of not just the assignments, but WHY the assignments are important. The “syllabi” below for three BW classes are just a rough draft, but know I understand how hard it is to explain not only an assignment, but why the assignment is crucial for the students writing development.  I did enjoy the thought process behind coming up with classes that will benefit BW students, and will definitely be using this as a starting point for future classes!

 

Basic Writing 101

 

In this course, we will explore the process of reading, thinking, connecting, and writing.

 

The first week, there will be a free writing assignment, the purpose of which is to analyze the student’s writing level and knowledge of basic grammar, punctuation, structure rules, etc.  Once these points have been analyzed, they will be used for assigning small work groups. Students will be grouped with others of similar skill levels so that progress can be gauged on the level on which they start.

 

Reading and comprehension essays will be assigned each week.  I will assign a reading each week from the assigned text, which is yet to be determined.  The text will focus on reading and comprehension skills and will include exercises of varying difficulty.  Groups may be assigned different readings depending on the average skill level of the members.

 

The purpose of these exercises will be for the student to read and comprehend the position of the author, and then offer their agreement or disagreement.  This will allow the instructor to track the student’s reading and comprehension abilities throughout the semester.

 

I came up with this idea when reading Fleming’s thoughts on the importance of textbook readers.  He was touting the importance of composition textbooks, but I think that reading comprehension is a major issue that needs to be addressed in Basic Writing.  I will, of course, be including composition lessons throughout the semester in class, so I think this will be a well rounded approach to teaching as many important Basic Writing skills in conjunction with each other as opposed to separately in units.  I was also obviously influenced by Shaughnessy’s thoughts on knowing the students’ individual skill levels and working with them, thus the grouping according to skill level.

 

After the students have gotten more comfortable with reading and comprehending, we will begin focusing on the effectiveness of their writing as now that they have (hopefully) become comfortable in their abilities to comprehend what they are reading, they should be ready to begin working on effectively communicating their thoughts.

 

Basic Writing 102: Prerequisite is a passing (preferably at least a score of 80 or above) grade in BW 101

 

The focus of this class will be Writing and Research, and will build on skills learned in BW101. In this class, we will use the reading and comprehension skills learned in 101 to complete a Research Paper.  We will discuss the types of scholarly sources that are appropriate for use in a Research Paper.

 

Inspired by Haller’s emphasis on the importance of the collaboration between librarians and faculty, and also for library instruction, the first (at least) two weeks of class will consist meeting in the library with librarians and/or library assistants to be instructed on the use of the reference section.  This will include how to search for books/journals on specific topics and how to locate them.

 

As stated in Erik Drake’s piece, resources have moved to the digital environment. Students will also be instructed on how to use the online resources to find appropriate sources that are on topic.

 

Throughout the semester, students will be required to complete smaller assignments that will build up to the final Research Paper.  These assignments will include finding appropriate sources, completing an annotated bibliography, completing an outline, etc.  Students will be assigned a peer review partner to trade assignments with to discuss concerns and provide feedback and suggestions for improvement prior to turning in the assignments for a grade.

 

 

Basic Writing 103: Prerequisite is a combined B average in BWs 101 and 102

 

This course will continue to build on the skills learned in 101 and 102. Students will be left more to themselves in terms of the assignments, which will be three large papers. Leaving the students more freedom to pick their topics, do more research on their own, and write larger chunks of their papers at one time will allow the instructor to more accurately gauge the students’ progress in reading and comprehending, research skills, and effective writing.

 

Obviously the instructor will be available for assistance, but it will be more guidance based as opposed to just giving answers to specific questions. Comments on drafts will be those of the thought provoking nature, and students will be expected to have a more thorough knowledge in regards to grammar and structure.

 

By nature of this course, students should build their skills in analysis and constructing arguments.  By the third assignment, students should be able to research, read and comprehend from their sources, and construct clear and concise arguments.  The third assignment will be presented to the class.

The One Where I Face Reality:8 March 2017

So I have spent a good deal of time these last few weeks espousing the importance of reading in addition to writing in regards to learning.  But something in the first few pages of this week’s reading, in addition to something I am currently experiencing in my classes this semester, might have changed my outlook, or at least my plan of action, in respect to how I would go about pairing the two.  That something is this:

“Using any number of techniques (online responses, dialogue journals, quizzes, and the like), Nilson advocates making students’ work with readings count no less than 20% of their course grade.  The result of non-performance is significant if students so not complete reading-related tasks, to the likelihood of “reading compliance” is much greater” (73).

In my lofty ambitions of becoming a teacher, I thought that it would be so easy to get my MLA, head straight to the classroom and know right from the get go how to best benefits my (future) students.  Not so.  There has to be a method, and teachers have to know what formula to use in order to obtain the highest percentage of success.  How gullible of me to proclaim at the beginning of the semester that teachers have to get to know their students one on one and then make plans for each individual student so that everyone learns and succeeds and goes on to bigger and better things!  It’s admirable, but that’s just not realistic after a certain point.  No, I’m not giving up, but I’m focusing on a greater plan in order to be the most good I can be.

The set-up of this class falls right in line with the suggestions made by Nilson.  We have readings and then spend the rest of the week blogging about our individual thoughts on the readings and in great, respectful discussions about all those thoughts.  To be totally honest with all of you, I was <thisclose> to dropping the class when I first read the syllabus and saw the types of assignments we would be doing.  I am SO GLAD that I didn’t though.  I’ve learned more from this class than most of the classes I’ve taken!  And I don’t proclaim to be psychic, but I’m fairly certain based on the other comments and conversations I’ve witnessed either in the Facebook group or in the blog comments that the majority of the class feels the same way!

Now, let’s take a look at another class I’m taking this semester wherein the end goal is to write a research paper.  Homework is reading and an assignment and that’s it.  No discussions, no communication with anyone else in the class.  We were assigned peer partners but mine has apparently fallen off the face of the earth because I have heard not a peep about the last two assignments I sent to be proofed (as per the homework assignments) so I hope he’s OK.  I guess.  There is no good balance between the readings and the assignments.  To be quite honest, I have not read a single one from start to finish. I look at the assignment for the week and complete it and move it.  Now, I know that a research writing class is going to have less participation than others, but I also know that I have learned nothing new, and I certainly won’t be taking anything from this class with me.  Other than the knowledge I have written a ten page paper on something I am interested in.  I have an undergrad in English.  I know how to write a research paper and certainly feel that this is a waste of my time.

What I am trying to get here is that in terms of the connection of reading and writing, there must be a “meet in the middle” in order to give all students what they need from a class so they can take something with them from every single one. Perhaps there is a formula to follow, but maybe each student has his or her own version of the formula.  Maybe this is the realistic solution to teaching each student on his or her own level and still staying sane.