12.10 Response

I’m really glad we’re covering multilingualism and the composition classroom because this is something I don’t feel like I know much about. The readings made me think about two of my students at a different school. They are both ESL students and have been noticeably struggling with their grammar and, also, their ability to organize their ideas in high stakes writing assignments. I had been trying to work with one of them individually, meeting with her to talk about additional drafts, and allowing her to rewrite assignments because I know she wants to improve and practice her written English. On the last assignment, she said, “I’m not giving you this draft yet because it’s still all in Portuguese. I realized it’s easier for me to write it that way and then translate it.” She sounded very happy about this “discovery,” but I felt frustrated and disappointed in both of us. It was like she was giving up. While I thought I was providing helpful suggestions, comments I have and would give on another student’s draft, one who grew up speaking and writing English, I realize these suggestions might not have been right, or might not have been enough, for her particular situation. In any case, they certainly weren’t working well enough to keep her from writing a draft in Portuguese! But, I don’t really know where to find guidance on particular strategies for working with ESL students, so in this regard I feel somewhat helpless…

As usual, I liked the practical suggestions, such as departmental workshops on teaching ESL writing and listservs to discuss working with ESL students, found in Matsuda’s “Composition Studies and ESL Writing.” I would agree with Matsuda’s suggestion that composition departments try to incorporate second-language writing into their curricula. While I know we have the T sections at Baruch, I still hope we can talk about the other resources Baruch has to offer both faculty and students.

The Delpit and Canagarajah were also really interesting. I especially enjoyed reading the excerpts from Buthainah’s essay and seeing how Canagarajah and Buthainah identified and analyzed her rhetorical and aesthetic choices. I look forward to hearing the class’s thoughts on these articles.



12.3 Response

By the end of reading Gammarino, Hesse, and Moneyhun, I felt a bit like the student Moneyhun describes, who asks her parents (composition and creative writing) not to fight. All three authors seemed to be involved in a struggle I guess I don’t feel that much a part of. Who are these people saying that we can’t blur the line between creative writing and composition? That we can’t draw on one discipline when teaching the other? Maybe my feelings might have to do with my position, the fact that I am not full-time faculty or administration and thus am not privy to the departmental discussions and goings-on that these authors might be. Also, because I am an MFA who is teaching composition, that there is a link between creative writing and composition is obvious. Not to say that the two are the same, but there is crossover. I am certainly for incorporating creative assignments into a composition class and vice versa. And I think the institutions where I studied were for it, too. As an undergraduate I remember the two being linked: In my school’s mandatory composition class, we were asked to write autobiographical narratives and in what was essentially English 101, we were asked to write our own endings to a story we had read over the semester (both creative writing type activities). In my MFA program, along with our writing workshops, we were required to take literature classes and write analyses on the works we read (okay, perhaps this falls more into “English” than “Composition” but still, it was “academic writing” vs. “creative writing”). Furthermore, for our theses, we had to submit academic papers on a topic of our choosing, in addition to our partial creative manuscripts. So, in my career, I’ve felt that academic writing and creative writing have worked well together.

One thing I’d like to add that was not touched on in the articles: I believe that, in addition to helping students develop their own writing, the MFA workshop is built to produce teachers of writing. Any kind of writing. The whole format is essentially teaching practice. As a student responding to another classmates’ work, you are required to assess if the author is achieving his or her purpose, if the organization is working, if the sentences are clear, if something needs to be explained further or should be explained less or eliminated, and then you are asked to articulate those assessments both in writing and in front of a small group. You are also (if you want to be helpful and also not come across as an asshole) meant to express these comments in a polite and thoughtful way. It doesn’t hurt if you can determine what would and wouldn’t work best for certain classmates (just like certain, less confident students need more encouragement and other, overly confident students might do for a bit more criticism, so too, do writers). These are skills that we use all the time as composition teachers who talk about and grade student writing. Although this all has to do with the teachers of composition and not with the content of the courses, to me, this has been the greatest evidence of the partnership between creative writing and composition.


11.19 Response

I love all the practical suggestions found in this week’s reading! As I was thinking over which assignments I like best–the playlist assignment from the Anderson (in particular the imagining of Bill and Monica’s relationship through song); Arola, Sheppard, and Ball’s interview project on subculture; the JDD interview projects described by Rice–I realized that these assignments have stories at their centers. They are not just arguments, but narratives.

At the risk of going a little off topic, this realization got me thinking about multimodality in creative writing (specifically, in fiction). Despite all the talk in the publishing industry about how the internet and accompanying technologies are changing how we write, publish, and read, we never discussed incorporating different modes (such as video, voice over, audio, pictures, links) into our writing in my MFA workshops. Nor did I encounter anyone who was very interested in creating fiction in any other way but by typing in a Word Document. Some of my classmates were and are working on multimodal projects outside of school. (For example, two classmates have a live reading series that is also recorded and put online. Additionally, the hosts often interview the readers and post these interviews as podcasts. Meanwhile, they maintain Instagram accounts displaying photos of the readings and interview sessions.) However, when it came to our fiction, we were all fairly traditional. Perhaps this was the nature of the school. Perhaps the nature of MFA programs in general.

If there are these interesting ways to create narrative, why aren’t we using them as fiction writers? Of course, there are some writers who are experimenting, but as a group, our form has remained fairly consistent. Are multimodal texts best suited for non-fiction? Or are we (fiction writers and readers) simply married to the traditional concept of a book? I will admit, I won’t feel like I am successful until/unless what I produce looks like a traditional book. I must write a novel, exclusively words, to feel like I am writer. But should I not feel this way?



Research-based Argumentative Essay

Below are the instructions for the research-based argumentative essay, which I’ve already assigned. (Lisa looked over my guidelines before I shared them with the students). However, I’m still open to any suggestions that don’t radically alter the assignment.


You will begin by choosing a topic we have discussed in class and formulating a research question about this topic. Your thesis will make an argument that answers your research question. You will prove that argument in the body of your essay.

(After I handed out these guidelines, we compiled a list of some of the topics we’ve covered. They included racial profiling, internet privacy, the relationship between an artist’s personal life and his or her work, male and female beauty standards, expectations of gender roles, the effect of social media on a person’s public and personal identity. The list was not exhaustive.)


Papers should be 6 to 8 pages in length, double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman.

You must incorporate evidence from at least 1 of the texts we have read in class and at least 4 other peer-reviewed, academic sources.

You must cite all your sources using in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Your citations should follow MLA guidelines. We will spend time on Tuesday, November 10 and Thursday, November 12 reviewing research methods; going over MLA guidelines; and discussing the best ways to summarize, paraphrase, and quote directly from others’ work. You will also create annotated bibliographies citing your 5 sources prior to the draft deadline.


Research paper proposals are due on Tuesday, November 10.

Annotated bibliographies are due on Tuesday, November 17. We will also have one-on-one meetings on this date, during which I will give you feedback on your proposals and answer any questions you may have.

First drafts are due on Tuesday, November 24. Please bring 3 hard copies to class.

Final drafts are due on Blackboard by 7:50 a.m. on Tuesday, December 1.



I often find myself leaving these weekly readings with the same question: “But how?” Miller writes:

“…we might say that we must understand that what resides at the core of the writing process is the experience of being wrong. This is always the case, whether we recognize it or not. […] How can learning happen, in other words, if being wrong is always presented as a defining characteristic only of beginners or, at higher levels, evidence that one doesn’t belong?”

I am with his assessment of the writing process and yet, I wonder, how we can make students feel comfortable being bold, inquisitive, and, yes, wrong, when they’ve spent most of their academic careers receiving grades and being told they either are or aren’t good enough (good enough to graduate, good enough to get into the school of their choice) based on their writing. How to begin to break an attitude toward writing that’s been formed through years of education? I remember what Tonianne shared last week about sitting down with each of her students to give them their essay grades and I think this is a great way to begin creating a safe environment, while also adhering to traditional evaluation methods (i.e. grades). It demonstrates a care about each student’s individual process and shows that you are not a resource, not simply someone who gives out grades. It also shows that you are open to having a real conversation with them (versus the usual format of standing in front of the classroom while they sit in their seats), which might allow them to express some bolder thoughts in their writing and in group discussions. I wonder what others have found to be useful in creating a more trusting relationship with the students (and between the students), so they can have the experience of being wrong.





10.29 Response

“Underlife and Writing Instruction” really made me curious about what my own students are saying when I notice them talking to each other in the middle of class. Often, as a way to politely call them out and also because I am genuinely concerned, I will pause the discussion and ask them if everything is okay, if there is something they want to bring up, or if they have a question. Almost always, the answer is no. I wonder how I might encourage them to share what they are talking about with the rest of the class. If their comments pertain to the discussion, as many of the observed side conversations do in “Underlife,” then I would be interested in hearing them (especially if the students having these side conversations were those who don’t contribute to class discussion). On the other hand, if students did reveal their side conversations to the group, would they cease to function as “underlife” activities and would the students then be deprived of the individuality they are trying to establish? In other words, how can we incorporate these underlife behaviors in class discussion? And should we?

Turning toward Dirk’s “‘I Hope It’s Just Attendance,'” I was somewhat liberated by the conclusion that it might be best not grade participation. As Dirk found in her study, participation is difficult to quantify, and therefore, because professors have a hard time qualifying it, students also have a difficult time knowing how participation is graded.  I’m in favor of doing what I can to create a high-control environment for my students and so wouldn’t be against eliminating the participation grade if it helped with that. Also, I will admit, as a student who rarely spoke up in college, I would have been relieved to find that participation was not a part of my grade. Professionally, I would love to see all of my students participate and I do fundamentally believe contributing to the class discussion is an important part of learning. However, I cannot help but personally identify with those students who are too shy to speak up. Furthermore, participation being a part of my grade certainly never encouraged me to talk more. While I earned good marks on essays and exams, I was so nervous to speak, I often accepted a lower final grade just to avoid talking in class. If the grade isn’t motivating students and might in fact be harming them, then why do we keep the participation grade except out of our own fear that eliminating it will make talkative students quiet? Perhaps scoring participation has more of a symbolic purpose than a functional one. Putting it on the syllabus, in the grading section, is a signal to the students that the course is one that is discussion based. I’m curious to hear where others stand on this… I’d also be interested to know how we all do score student’s participation. On the other hand, I will say I’m all for grading attendance and lateness. These are easy to quantify and I believe being present and on time are good skills for both our professional and personal lives.




10.22 Response

I found the Micciche article very encouraging. She was successful in getting me excited about grammar and the possibilities of language! One of the things I appreciated most was that Micciche offers so many examples from her own lessons. I’m always on the look-out for texts or activities I can try out in my classroom. In particular, I found the list of readings where writers write on the relationship between language and identity (hooks, Orwell, Lakoff, Baldwin ) very useful. I will likely assign one or more of these selections in future semesters, and possibly even later this semester. I think these readings are important because they show students how to write about language. Often we ask students to analyze word choice, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. for a final assignment, and while we do have them practice through class discussions and low stakes writing exercises, we (or I) sometimes neglect to ever give them an example of how “professionals” would analyze language. It’s always informative to see a model of how to write whatever it is you are being asked to write. Additionally, I think these texts could be empowering to the students.

I did question how capable my students would be of writing analyses as thorough as those Micciche’s students wrote in their “commmonplace books.” I noticed that she was instructing sophomore-level students (at least that was what I understood from her notes), so that, in part, explains why they would be more comfortable in analyzing grammar/ language than I perceive some of my students to be at this time. For example, I know I’m still trying to get some of my students to understand what it means to write about an author’s “diction.” Some continue to write about the content of the language, rather than focus on the type of language being used. What other building blocks could we use to get students to a point where they are able to have complex discussion on an author’s use o grammar? I wonder, what would Micciche have assigned to a freshman-level class? Would she still use the commonplace books and simply have different expectations? Would there be more scaffolding to build up to these books? I’m curious to learn of other low stakes grammar assignments we could incorporate into our classes.


10.15 Response

I also enjoyed following Edward and Susan’s research process in”Googlepedia.” The chapter made me think that it might be helpful to ask my students to record their own research processes and then have a class discussion where they reflect on what they did and how helpful or not helpful certain resources were. For me, the reading also emphasized how important it is for us to show our students what resources are available to them through the library. Once Edward and Susan used the databases with McClure, they seemed fairly open to using them in the future. I know in the past I’ve been guilty of assuming students know how to use these tools when in reality they may never have even tried researching through the library’s web portal. The article reminded me how it important it is to guide students through library sources.

I found the Reflective Annotated Bibliography Tip Sheet extremely helpful. In particular, I appreciated how McBeth showed where the various parts of the reflective annotated bibliography fit into a paragraph of an essay. I think seeing how the bibliography transfers into a complete paragraph would help students see the value in the assignment.


10.8 Response

In analyzing an example of a student paper where a teacher has made both interlinear comments and marginal comments, Nancy Sommers writes:
In commenting on this draft, the teacher has shown the student how to edit the sentences, but then commands the student to expand the paragraph in order to make it more interesting to a reader. The interlinear comments and the marginal comments represent two separate tasks for this student; the interlinear comments encourage the student to see the text as a fixed piece, frozen in time, that just needs some editing. The marginal comments, however, suggest that the meaning of the text is not fixed, but rather that the student still needs to develop the meaning by doing some more research.
Reading this passage was a sort of “ah ha!” moment for me, although, not, at first, as a teacher. Rather, this passage brought greater understanding to an experience I’d sometimes had as a student in early undergraduate creative writing courses. I recall trying to rewrite a short story and feeling paralyzed because I was unsure whether to start by addressing the comments on my individual sentences or the suggestions the teacher had made about plot and character. Where was I meant to start first? What was more important? Was I meant to keep the individual sentences that were marked while I attended to the larger issues of revision? In addition, I didn’t want to destroy what parts of my story I knew were working in order to fix what wasn’t, and this made me hesitant to make changes, adding to my sense of paralysis (a student concern Sommers also mentions in “Responding to Student Writing”) . Sommers’ breakdown of the example articulated exactly what my problem was: the teacher was asking that I both edit and develop at the same time. This passage was an important reminder to look back on my own history as a student and to try to avoid some of the mistakes my past teachers made. It may be obvious, but I think sometimes, especially when we’re sitting down to mark papers, we can forget about what bothered us most when we were receiving feedback. These experiences can be a great resource.
Switching to the G&G chapter “Evaluating Student Essays”…One idea that sounds very helpful to me is that of grading seminars. However, as G&G rather lightly note, “they can be difficult to organize.” I feel like the idea of time is often left out of these “how to” articles. While I am, of course, concerned with learning how to be an effective and thoughtful grader, I’d also be interested to hear if anyone wants to share personal tips/tricks for managing time and stress when grading a big stack (or stacks) of papers and balancing other responsibilities.


10.1 Response

Adam Banks encourages us to take risks and be messy. Indeed, risky and messy is often how I feel when thinking about incorporating multimodal activities and assignments into my classroom. Questions that cross my mind when I do ask students to consider, for instance, music and video clips as texts, when I think about asking them to tell their own personal narratives in forms other than an essay, such as through Instagram or in a video (as I will ask them to do for their final project) are : Am I being rigorous enough? Am I meeting the goals of this course? Am I teaching what the college wants me to be teaching? On the other side of it, I also wonder: Are these activities “different” enough? Am I pushing things far enough? Or am I still staying too close to the traditional? In other words, I sometimes feel that the idea of bringing multimodal texts and activities into my courses makes me unsure.

We are fortunate to read about multimodal writing and discuss a variety of pedagogical approaches in this practicum, and we have each other as support, but what about instructors who don’t and won’t have a home base like this? How do we change the way our classrooms look, when the people who are meant to be changing things are sometimes out there, operating solo. Often as a new adjunct, a sample syllabus might be all you get as a resource, and as these syllabi are from past semesters, they often don’t stray much from standard assignments (at least in my experience). I suppose my concerns center around practicality: How can new (and experienced) instructors learn about multimodal learning and composing and be encouraged to incorporate multimodal techniques?  Where would an adjunct who wants to stray from alphabetic texts, who was on his or her own, turn for inspiration and guidance? I know I for one am often interested in implementing a pedagogical strategy into my classroom and then find myself at a loss for models. What could an administration/department do to help instructors interested in this endeavor? At what point, or rather points, should we begin this transformation?


9.24 Response

After I completed the reading, I found myself thinking a lot about the Flower and Hayes article. On the one hand, I love the mathematical, almost obsessive way they break down the process of writing. The side of me who was, for a very brief moment, a declared math major, was excited to see Flower and Hayes try to capture all the intricacies of writing in a flow chart. On the other hand, the creative writer in me was shaking my head in frustration. The components and steps they describe do make sense as they define them and yet, what do they mean for an actual writer? Do some writers think about their own composing processes in these terms while they are working? (I’m certainly not thinking of “explore and consolidate” or “sub-goals” as I work. Although when I reflect on, say, the way I’ve been writing my novel, I do see that I can categorize some of what I’ve done in these terms, even if Flower and Hayes claim that doing this “after-the-fact” introspection is often inaccurate…) If we do start to think of our processes in the language of Flower and Hayes, how would that help us become better writers?

To phrase my question in terms that relate directly to this course: How can we use what Flower and Hayes outline to help students who are struggling with their writing? How can we diagnose what stages poor writers are failing to include in their own processes? For example, how do we know that students are spending too much time on top-level goals or too much time on low-level goals? How do they know what they are doing? Once we identify which important segments of the composing process they are skipping or spending too much time on, what can we do to address these issues?

It seems that asking students to write protocols of the writing of their essays, like the protocol excerpted in this article, is a good starting point. Since the theme of the week is low stakes writing, I ask: what low stakes writing assignments would reflect the findings of Flower and Hayes?