Go Poetry (Victor)

I would like to begin this week’s response with the text I was least drawn to, that is, Lauer’s discussion of the terms “multimedia” and “multimodal.” I would be interested in seeing what my colleagues got out of this reading: I felt that, while Lauer did at some point distinguish between the two terms, the examples she provided only showed how interchangeable they usually are (depending, of course, on the context, as she stated). In other words, I still wonder: what’s at stake here? This feeling might come from the fact that the other two examples we looked at this week seemed particularly relevant to the current status of English departments. Banks’s address, I thought, was absolutely brilliant, not only because of what he said (which, admittedly has been said before), but because he said it so well. The address was the perfect formal example of the multimodality that these week’s reading encourage. Were we to have simply read the address, we surely would not have been impacted in the same way. That Banks was able to get his message across in such a candid, at times formal, at times purposely colloquial, but always clear way is proof that proper communication does not have to be dominated by high language. While I’ve tended to be hesitant of the marriage of what I used to call composition and creative writing, I am slowly beginning to think of ways in which these two disciplines might actually communicate with one another. This is a certainly a reform that needs to be thought through; nevertheless, I think that scholars like Banks are doing a wonderful job in defying common held assumptions about composition. Palmeri’s piece was also thought provoking (if not as engaging as Banks’s speech) in its revisiting of the Process Movement. This piece made me think of the ways in which poetry taught me to do many of the things that Palmeri supports: for instance, in his continuing call for teachers not to limit themselves to alphabetic texts, I thought of the ways in which poetry incorporates other arts in its development. Ekphrastic poems, for example, are a phenomenal way of showing students the ways in which painting or sculpture can be related to writing; synesthetic devices in poetry, too, shed light on the interconnection between the senses; poetry teaches us to pay attention to the sounds of the written word. Go poetry!


Low Stakes Writing and the Choices We Make When We Write

By now, my classes have heard the term ‘The Writing Process’ countless times per class. We have discussed together what this means, what it may look like, and what kind of labor it entails. These discussions are always framed with my expectations as the facilitator of this Process. While I have full confidence that my students could give a very accurate description of what this process looks like based on our classroom discussions, the culminate effect of the readings this week has made it clear to me that talking about what the writing process means is not something we have discussed or I have communicated effectively.


I found myself thinking about how many small moments of ‘writing’ I take for granted and overlook because writing has become a habitual part of my life. Each reading made me unpack the writing process and each time the parts were laid out before me I thought, “how simple …I really never thought of it this way.” The Flower and Hayes text, “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing” offered a reminder that the metaphysical aspects and metalinguistic awareness of the writing process can sometimes focus more on the end product and the development of that product rather than what kind of inner processes and growth that occurs in the individual writer. I think it would be great to introduce students to this idea particularly because as Elbow states, writing ‘feels’ like an inherently high stakes project for students (for everyone) and there are many habits related to conceptions of writing and the process of writing that have been intuited throughout a student’s schooling, maybe without much consideration. Breaking into these pre-conceived notions of what it means to write goes hand in hand with creating a place for students to become comfortable with just writing, which is why low stakes assignments can be important in this process.

I also think that asking students what they think happens at each stage to THEM- or to their ideas as they develop through writing may be a way to engage students with the idea that the goal-oriented writing that they are doing is a dynamic process. While the writing is changing, the ideas are changing, the author is changing, and perhaps the subject is changing. Being comfortable with this is the challenge and it doesn’t help that trying to describe this, as someone for whom writing has become a habitual act, is even more difficult.


Low Stakes Writing: Victor

(Sorry I can’t be there this week!) I particularly enjoyed Tarvers’ discussion of literary criticism and its relation to outdated as well as relevant composition theories being taught in classrooms today. As this brief piece clearly shows, the “problem of language” has, as of the last century, been at the center of theoretical discussions; as such (and, honestly, it never had occurred to me to include something so “deep” or “theoretical” in a composition class) it seems only fair to introduce composition students to some of these issues. Tightly related to this discussion is this week’s topic of low stakes writing. Once again, I was very pleasantly surprised when I read these articles and reflected on the possible advantages of this kind of writing. I am with Tobin, who, at the end of her essay, tries to strike a balance between process-driven and product-driven methodologies. While I am a strong proponent of (gently) imposing a certain structure onto students (if anything, one against which they can react—in this way, the professor can sometimes become a sort of devil’s advocate and thus achieve the same kind of student involvement that pure process-oriented ideologies strive for), I also believe that allowing students the liberty to explore their ideas and the very nature of language through writing that they know will not be graded or judged can be extremely beneficial. Elbow makes an excellent point in commenting on the sometimes-illegible quality of high-stakes pieces of writing compared to the (if simpler) comprehensibility of low-stakes assignments: this, I believe, far from establishing the superiority of low-stakes assignments, points to the division of styles that is so crucial for an understanding of language and that students often have trouble understanding unless they see it in their own writing. As Anson et al point out, writing must also be exploratory, and as this week’s readings show, low-stakes writing is a splendid way of allowing students to explore.


Victor’s Post!

A fundamental concept behind these week’s readings is that of motivation. Glenn and Goldthwaite speak of “alienation from research” and the duty that teachers have to make students come to the realization that we are all, in one way or another, researchers. We need only engage with a subject. It is with this engagement that the other readings pick up. The Meaningful Writing Project parts from the assumption that students will excel to the extent that the project they are working on is relevant to their lives. Sullivan, in fact, makes this the central argument of his essay, advocating for the importance of “intrinsic motivation.”


This discussion is fascinating, and it seems to me that behind each argument lies a much larger argument about what education should be. I agree with Sullivan about the need to shake things up in order to make English more interesting to students. But firstly, I think we must acknowledge that not all students can be equally invested in English studies (just as many of us, English students, are not particularly interested in math, another very valuable discipline). Thus, we cannot ignore the presence of temperamental tendencies.


Moreover, in Sullivan’s excessive championing of a creative approach to teaching English, I see the risk of conflating what the role of the artist and the role of the critic is. Drawing from my experience—as one inevitably must in these cases—I cannot but notice that it was in my composition and English classes that I learned to talk and write about texts, and it was in my creative writing classes that I had the opportunity to experiment with different, freer, modes of expression. Both equally valuable experiences; both possible responses to texts; but each its own discipline. The examples that Sullivan brings up in his paper are fascinating, of course, and they bring up new and exciting ways of grappling with texts (written or otherwise). I still believe that the expository, dialectical nature of essay writing makes it the clearest (though, granted, not always the most powerful) way to have these discussions. In the end, these are all things that students should be taught. We must only give each its due place in the curriculum.


Creative Non-Fiction Writing Assignment



I also modeled the first assignment for my class after Lisa’s first creative non-fiction assignment using the theme of community and language (which is the larger theme in our class). Before this assignment, the students have been working on low stakes responses to texts assigned for homework which I have to admit, they hate.

I think that the majority of the students in my class are finally excited about this assignment because instead of analyzing a text, they can be a bit more creative. In addition, they all do have amazing stories to tell about their identities and backgrounds and I hope this encourages them to investigate this through writing.  I will say that even after showing examples and going through the creative non-fiction texts we have read in class thus far, they are having some trouble understanding how they should weave personal narratives into piece that still has a “main idea” or purpose. They also, after briefly looking over some working drafts, are struggling to write with conviction. We have spent a great deal of time discussing how to do this but maybe I should alter my assignment in ways that will promote this conviction in their writing or perhaps scaffold the assignment in a way that would allow the students to figure out what possible topics would really interest them in writing.

In light of this realization, chapter 4 of the St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing is extremely helpful in that Glenn and Goldthwaite provide a number of ways to structure writing assignments that can help students figure out what to focus on in their own writing. I particularly liked the assignment that asks students to assess and define terms like analyze, explore, evaluate, entertain, describe.. etc. It honestly didn’t occur to me that they would be unfamiliar with these terms and it makes sense that if I am asking them to utilize these methods in their writing and they don’t fully know what it means it can be frustrating or confusing for them. This is definitely something I want to use to structure future writing assignments or rhetorical responses.