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!

What is Writing about Writing?

This post comes from a September 2014 conversation on the WPA list about WAW pedagogies. With her permission, we have excerpted Elizabeth Wardle’s response here. Addressing the question, “What is Writing about Writing?”, she writes:

[…]

I’ll start by saying what I *don’t* mean.

I don’t mean the textbook I wrote with Doug.
I don’t mean a particular curriculum.
I don’t mean a particular method, or set of activities, or set of readings.
I don’t mean first-year writing that uses either our textbook or a particular curriculum.

What I *do* mean is a basic philosophical approach to teaching writing that assumes that declarative and procedural knowledge about writing cannot be separated in a useful way in a writing class. I do mean a basic belief that we as a field have studied writing and thus have declarative knowledge that can help writers of all kinds if we share that knowledge explicitly, and encourage students to explore their own questions and concerns about writing as active, empowered rhetors.

[…]

At base, all of us who are making an argument that “there is declarative knowledge about writing that should inform writing classes” are  really just saying that we are a discipline and we know useful things that can help our students (and colleagues and policy makers). HOW you use that declarative knowledge, what you do with it in your particular context, varies so, so widely–as it should.

The methods and curricula and textbooks are not the philosophy. They are all simply ways to try to enact the philosophy, and we’ll be forever trying to figure out more effective and creative ways.

Either we are a discipline or we aren’t. And if we are, let’s act like it.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Wardle
Professor & Department Chair
Department of Writing & Rhetoric
University of Central Florida

**

(excerpted from her 9.4.14 post to the thread “WAW: What’s different and the pleasures of the text (was thematic and multi)”

Downs, “Teaching first-year writers to use texts: Scholarly readings in Writing-about-Writing in First-Year Comp”

Downs’ article provides great suggestions for helping students navigate scholarly articles.

Downs, Doug. “Teaching First-year Writers to Use Texts: Scholarly Readings in Writing-about-writing in First-year Comp.” Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy (2010): 19-50.

Textbooks

Below, from newest to oldest, are some textbooks that instructors might be interested in. Please write with other suggestions!

Readers

Texts by a Single Author(s)

Essay Collections

Other

  • In 2011, Betsy Sargent created this list of possible primary and supplemental textbooks for a University of Alberta FYC course, WRS 101: Exploring Writing

WAW Newsletter 2.1 (Spring 2012)

The first full issue of the newsletter. Includes two peer-reviewed articles:

  • “Introducing WAW: Grounding Negotiation in Assessment,” by Derek Risse, Jeff Pruchnik, Joseph Paszek, David MacKinder, Adrienne Jankens, Jared Grogan, and Gwen Gorzelsky
  • “Establishing Programmatic Support: A Writing About Writing Approach Proposal,” by Laurie Pinkert

Issue Masthead

  • Editor: I. Moriah McCracken
  • Associate Editor: Vanessa Borman
  • Advisory Board: Elizabeth Wardle, Doug Downs, Barbara Bird, David Slomp
  • Editorial Board: Betsy Sargent
  • Reviewers: Jasara Hines, Trent M. Kays, Sheila Kennedy, Steven Lessner, Benjamin Miller, Christy Wenger

WAW Newsletter 1.1 (Spring 2011)

The inaugural introduction to the newsletter and its call for submissions. Includes descriptions of the four sections of the newsletter: Open Essays, Trends & Insights, Reviews & Considerations, and Students’ Corner. Also included are the mission statement of WAW SIG and the 2011-2012 Steering Committee members and their roles.

Issue Masthead

  • Editor: I. Moriah McCracken
  • Associate Editor: Vanessa Borman
  • Advisory Board: Elizabeth Wardle, Doug Downs, Barbara Bird, David Slomp
  • Editorial Board: Betsy Sargent