During the WAW Standing Group meeting, our breakout group discussed:
The textbook: Language Diversity and Academic Writing by Samantha Looker-Koenigs
- We recognized the diversity of scholars in the textbook as important. Some of us shared that our first attempts creating a WAW reading list for our students included mostly white men. More diversity of authors read in the classroom is needed.
- The book includes excerpts rather than full articles because 1) Bedford had constraints about lengths, both for the textbook as a whole and for individual readings, and 2) because this allowed more readings to be included.
- This discussion began with a list of possible readings to use to frame the literacy narrative, especially one that addresses issues of language diversity. I, unfortunately, did not catch all of those readings. The two I did catch were Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” and Alcoff’s “The Problem of Speaking for Others.
- The latter reading is useful for moving away from issues of “linguistic tourism” in the class.
- This idea of “linguistic tourism” framed some anxiety around asking students to engage in a literacy narrative that asks students to focus on their diverse language practices. Geoff mentioned hearing of an assignment where students were required to code-mesh, which included asking white students to use AAE. We all recognized this as a problem.
- We discussed framing code-meshing for students using Canagarajah or Ashanti Young. In thinking about WAW approaches to language diversity, we discussed the necessity of helping students think about how academic writing already involves a meshing of codes, but that’s it important to recognize the difference in stakes for different language users.
- It was shared by multiple people that literacy narratives often feel performative, with students engaging in transformation narratives articulating what they think the teacher wants to hear. Nick shared borrowing the “Theory of Writing” from Yancey et al.’s “Teaching for Transfer” curriculum as something students begin on the first day of class and repeatedly return to throughout the semester. This theory of writing asks students to explain what previous experiences informed their ideas about writing, so students engage in some of the same moves as a literacy narrative but in a more critical manner.
Approaches to Assignment Sequencing
- Several approaches to structuring the course were discussed:
- The way the textbook moves through thinking about issues of language and identity to academic writing.
- Working backwards from that: starting with readings and discussion on the ways in which ideas of “good writing” are not stable but context-dependent. Once students recognize this, then moving to destabilize their notions of standard language.
- Linking discussions of language diversity with discussions of the rhetorical situations. Students can begin by thinking about what type of language is appropriate for a text message and what type of language is appropriate for an assignment, and why.
- Working towards discussions of language by beginning with discussions of nonverbal language (i.e. graffiti, body language, etc.) to think about how communication within culture and how those communicative norms change. This can then move to official signs (i.e. stop signs), as codes that are written for us, before moving to language as traditionally conceived. John Swales’ article on discourse is useful framing for this.
- Beginning with a “language autobiography” rather than a “literacy narrative.” The first week of class is ungraded reflection where students talk about themselves as writers. Students then read the Thaiss and Zawacki article in the text book and think about how some of the things they’ve been taught to do in writing are indicative of the larger moves discussed here.