Teaching Writing about Writing 4C15 SIG

Our CCCC 15 WAW SIG (gotta love acronyms) teaching group shared some really interesting ways to teach Writing about Writing.
We had a diverse group, from people teaching at a fully integrated WAW school to STEM WAW to WAW going rogue. Thanks to all of our participants. I walked away from the SIG with many, many great ideas!

Part of our discussion seemed to circle back on ways to get students “over the hump” of a difficult and rigorous writing curriculum. Here are some ideas we discussed:

  • Teach the literacy narrative first to ease them in.
  • Use children’s literacy TV shows to get them thinking about literacy (Reading Rainbow, Dora the Explorer)
  • Use the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (http://daln.osu.edu) as a resource.
  • Teach some reading strategies such as reading the first time very quickly for main ideas, reading headings and subheadings, skimming methods and data sections while concentrating on introductions and conclusions.
  • Understanding that this difficult materials is about treating students as adult/college level learners. We don’t “water down” anything for them.
  • Reminding them that they’ll be proud of their own hard work at the end of the semester.

We also discussed a variety of ways to think about WAW courses:
STEM WAW can focus on STEM genres, using a science accommodation assignment, reading Jeanne Fahnestock’s 1986 article, “Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts.”

Approach WAW thematically by deconstructing preconceived notions of writing that students bring with them.

  • What about a whole course on revision?
  • What if a first-year course focused on deconstructing the five paragraph essay? Think of White’s “Five Paragraph Theme Theme.”
  • How might we deconstruct the use of “I” in academic writing?
  • This could also be a course around one of our Threshold Concepts
  • Why not construct a course around major people in writing studies? Read and write about Donald Murray’s ideas and how they’ve changed over time. What other figures might work for this approach?

Please consider using this space to comment about other ideas or assignments that work for you!

One thought on “Teaching Writing about Writing 4C15 SIG”

  1. I like the final idea, of a research-sequence that asks students to trace the development of a writer/theorist over time; I’ve had that as an option in my classes, though not too many have taken me up on it. One potential pitfall to avoid is that the major figure (e.g. Donald Murray) can become merely fetishized as someone teachers value and students have to learn about due to some a priori significance. There are at least two ways around this: (1) frame the biography in terms of the student-writer’s own capacity for development and revision of ideas over time; (2) identify the major figures through existing bibliographic references in other texts students are reading, so that the biographical notes help the whole class become acclimated to the common knowledge of the discourse community. The latter case seems especially apt for an upper-level Writing Studies course.

    If people do take up this task, might I also suggest helping students to compose / curate the Wikipedia articles for these major figures in Rhet/Comp/Writing Studies? Many of them could use a lot more love and attention, and it’s a public forum for writing that sparks a lot of reflection on community standards etc…


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