Friday, January 25, 2013

Teaching Writing Theory

It's Still Cold
I am having more fun than I thought in teaching my Writing Theory class.  Great group of grad students from a mix of disciplines. Smart, listening, reading and writing and critically thinking students.  More than you could hope for. 

My friend V is going to Skype with us next week. She's going to talk about language and recorded and digitized archives and cultural property and who owns what and where these types of artifacts should be kept and curated.  It's very exciting and I'm lucky to know someone who knows a lot about language and linguistics- which are both part of teaching writing. Hopefully, the week after that, my friend K will Skype with us too.  She has unique and extremely productive methods of teaching writing to at-risk kids.  Her students have passed their end of year writing tests with an average rate of 100%.  So yeah, effective.  And fun.  Ask her sometime about "salmagundi". 

This class has been productive too.  In and around talking about chapters from the theory book, we are also discussing relevant articles from Kinneavey, Vygotsky, Csikszentmihalyi, Bruner, Parker Palmer (yay!) and one of my favorite teaching writing mentors, Baines.  Sometimes we go off-book too.  Everyone knows that this happens in seminar and that usually it's a good thing.  I'm glad my students take the initiative in this. 

Yesterday, we talked about possible topics for a research article we are writing for the class.  I wrote with my students like a good writing teacher should, and came up with several papers I'd like to write:
How can I incorporate more writing center into my classroom? What are some "out of the box" techniques I have used as a writing teacher?
How can I incorporate more visual rhetoric into my teaching of writing?
What happens when I offend my students?
What do I do when my students are underprepared for the rigors of college or writing?
How can I design an awesome curriculum to meet department objectives?
Who are my students? How do I find that out?
How much is too much to share with students?
How can I encourage more creative and engaging "flow" activities with my students?
How can I engage freshman writers?
How can I get freshmen to care about writing?
How can I get graduate students to care about teaching writing?

Good topics, right?

Yeah, my students blew those out of the water.

I won't share their topics publicly because it would feel like a betrayal, and besides, their stories are not mine to tell. 

But they are good.  Really good. 

As we discussed approaches to these topics, I realized the ten minutes I had grudgingly devoted to topic selection discussion was woefully inadequate.  Besides, these people were "in the zone", and the creativity was rather palpable in the air. Carpe Diem- we would talk about the chapters another day.

I have also noticed a spark in my own creative process.  I wrote a short article detailing my five favorite books on teaching writing and sent it off for publication.  That's pretty cool.  I feel most alive and most effective when I learn and do while teaching and doing.

It's been a good week.


  1. Just thought I would let you know these blogs give me a window into your classroom that informs and inspires me. They are the swift kick I needed to get back on track with my own writing.