Finding our Voice-In Our Writing and In Our Comments

“Response to Student Writing”
By Nancy Sommers

“Check your commas and semi-colons and think more about what you are thinking about” (151).

I actually L.O.L.ed when I read this quote, referencing one teacher’s command to his student. I found it hysterical that we are continuing to see these types of comments on students papers and expecting high quality revisions from our students in return.

In this article, Sommers begins by stating that “teaching writing, responding to and commenting on student writing” consumes most of our time as teachers. She later states that to defend teachers, most of us have not had proper training in responding to drafts to help students revise their ideas. I completely agree with this claim. When I think back to my training in undergrad, we were trained on pre-writing strategies, as well as the traditional structure of a five paragraph essay. I was not trained in the workshop model with conferencing, until I was exposed to professional development my school brought in, along with my training through attending Teacher’s College Summer Institute. Sommers makes the argument that we have been conditioned to write generic, rubber-stamped comments on student papers, which makes it difficult for the student to assess which needs should be addressed first. The student also falls under the assumption that their ideas are already there, meaning the the meaning they want to convey is already there and they only need to “clean up” their paper, such as focusing on grammar. In reality, most students need to strengthen and develop their ideas but are not given the instruction needed to do so.

I believe that students need to be trained to discuss their writing, and as a teacher at the middle school level, this is a constant struggle for them. When asking students to discuss their work, occasionally they are able to do so, but when I leave them to revise, they immediately turn to me and ask, “Wait, what do you want me to write?” They do not have any control over their writing and need to learn to take ownership over their ideas.

I found the study conducted regarding the program “Writer’s Workbench” where computers will comment on student papers. I wonder if students are more inclined to listen to a computer, because they are so programmed to use technology that they value those comments more than their teachers? If that is the case, I am worried about what our world will come to and what that says about the need for teachers in a technological world. From personal experience, I missed a few days of school due to an illness, but was able to create interactive presentations for the students, where the directions were posted, assignments were completed, and all was shared through Google Classroom. I was able to interact by commenting on the students slides, grading their assignments, and offering help all without leaving my bed. Now we have programs that grade and comment for us as well? Makes me wonder if this will undervalue teachers even more than we are undervalued now?

The article continues to discuss the idea that students are confused by teacher’s comments, but there is also confusion between process and product. Do we care more about how the student gets there or what the final paper is? This year I began to tell my students their final draft is really a “deadline” draft and that writing is never fully finished.

I also felt that this article critiqued teachers practice, but forgot about the students. Speaking again with a middle school background, teachers aren’t perfect, but neither are our kids. It’s time to put the learning back on the students and less about teacher’s comments to get the students there. Gone are the days were you assign a project or homework and the students simply come in with it done. Now we need to hold their hands. Students expect to just “find” the answers in a text or in writing, rather than coming up with their own answers and their own ideas. No amount of questioning from me as the teacher is going to make them any less lazy. If revision is a “sense of discovery”, our students need to be the ones to do the discovering.


“Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries”
By Peter Elbow

I enjoyed that Elbow begins by stating the story of voice, referencing the Greek philosophers. I agree with Aristotle’s claim refusing the either/or conflict regarding voice, essentially that “It helps to be trustworthy; but, if you’re skilled, you can fake it” (169). When we have control over our voice and our ideas, we are able to manipulate them, and in essence, manipulate our point.
Elbow brings up substantial points that voice is alive and thriving in both politics and through the Internet, whether it’s email, social media, or blogs. As a teacher, if I were to have students analyze voice in each of these media, my students would grasp the concept. They could identify their own voice in their writing outside of the classroom, as well as distinguish how they write from someone else. However, when it comes to writing in the classroom, I fear identifying voice is a lost cause.
I also appreciate Elbow’s claim that readers hear voice in text, using the example of saying “hello” different ways to create meaning. However, I immediately thought about voice in writing, which Elbow proceeds to explain. Elbow explains that this is challenging, which as a teacher struggling with this, I appreciate. He offers the idea of having students continuously read their writing aloud in order to develop or better hear their voice. It is possible, that they best way to teach voice in writing is to analyze it in reading extensively. If students can’t identify voice, and examples of it, then they can’t begin to identify and use their own voice. I find that students are able to find their voice more in the creative writing pieces we do, and less in the academic. In order to better teach this, I believe that finding academic essays to read in order to develop voice. However, if voice can mislead readers, how do we use it? How do I teach students to pay attention to voice and “push it away” at the same time? Do we teach them that there is a time and a place for paying attention to voice and pushing it away? Ultimately, the question this article left me with was is voice more helpful or harmful?


In addition to this week’s reading, I was mulling over some ideas for my Genius Hour writing project. One idea I had was to get permission from my principal to videotape students and ask them “Why they write?”. I pride myself in cultivating a classroom environment of readers, but would like to cultivate one of writers as well. I was considering exploring what makes students write and how to foster their engagement. I was also tossing around some other ideas and answering a more focused question of: What can I learn about myself through writing? Or how does writing help us deal with issues? I bought a few books for my library that deal with teenagers suffering from OCD. I feel that I have some OCD tendencies but have shied away from reading these novels in case they trigger my OCD. I then thought about writing poetry or a novel from this perspective. I would possibly explore how reading about them or writing about real issues to me would help to overcome them?

The Voice Controversy — Blog Post #5

It's interesting to me how, no matter which classes I take in a semester, topics tend to tie together in unexpected ways. For example, I'm working on a presentation on Voice in Creative Writing, and the first article we are reading this week is "Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries" by Peter Elbow.

Personally, I appreciate a strong sense of natural, authorial voice in writing. For example, if I were to be given a passage by David Sedaris, without knowing that he wrote it, I'd probably be able to guess, because Sedaris has a distinct voice. It is my opinion that this kind of voice gives flavor to an author's work. However,  I had never considered the negative reactions to voice-- "it's misleading," "sincerity is not a useful goal for writing" (1)-- nor had I considered that the voice debate goes as far back in history as Plato and Aristotle. Recently, the discussion has quieted down quite a bit, which is also interesting. Have we tired of the debate? Elbow certainly doesn't want this to happen.

In terms of recent discussions regarding voice, Elbow examines Theodore Baird's approach in his classroom in the mid 1900s, which had a significant impact on many who came into contact with it-- including many great thinkers in the field. Baird's approach focused on the importance of voice, however did not see it as reflective of the author behind the pen. They define "self" in writing as being "continually made and re-made by language" (3). Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this approach because it reminds me very much of New Criticism which I have very mixed feelings about, because I don't think it gives enough credence to the presence and experience of an author entering into his or her own text.

Even though we don't acknowledge it now as much as we used to, voice is still very much alive in our modern world, perhaps even more so now than ever before. Voice has become all the more important in this new digital age, when a text message can be interpreted in many different ways. Ever heard of the many different ways to read the sentence, "I never said I stole her money"? The voice behind writing becomes all the more important as the world of "text" takes over.

I like the difference that Elbow highlights between "text" and "voice," establishing text as literal words on the page, just the words, without any external meaning attached to them-- rather like numbers in a math problem. Voice, on the other hand, is less like the mathematical equation of text, and is instead likened to the personal handwriting of each individual person-- warmer and unique. In my opinion, this is establishing voice as the soul of the piece.

It takes time for a writer to establish and become comfortable with his or her voice, in fact, it is a lifelong process. In the classroom setting, it becomes the teacher's job to gently guide students into finding their own voice in the midst of handing out assignments on strict deadlines-- much easier said than done. I agree with Elbow that an understanding of voice can come through reading and understanding that voices of authors they enjoy, and then using those examples to try to better understand their own. I know this certainly worked for me.

Interestingly, Elbow, also mentions some of the cons of voice in writing, for example, in some instances it may be best to overlook voice, in order to find meaning in a work. For example, one might not enjoy a certain writer because of the voice in his or her work, but that does not mean that he or she does not have something important to offer. A teacher might not automatically connect with a student's voice, but the student might just have an entirely different style. There are instances in which looking beyond voice, although hard, can be greatly beneficial. I enjoyed Elbow's article because I think he offered a fair perspective both for and against voice in writing. No matter which side you fall on, the discussion is far from over.

Our next article,  "Responding to Student Writing" by Nancy Sommers, doesn't quite tie in with the first, but it does tie back to a topic we have discussed in extensively in class, that is, the most effctive ways of responding to student writing. Despite a teacher's best efforts, a student may simply not connect with their teaching approach because teaching is not one-size fits-all. For this reason, it is important to be prepared to have different strategies for dealing with different kinds of students.

Responding to student writing takes a long time-- Sommers estimates about 20 to 40 minutes per student, which adds up greatly considering the amount of students and periods one teacher has total. This is a lot of time to dedicate to an effort which may or may not be appreciated by the students, and it's hard to say whether or not it is. As we have discussed in previous classes, some students respond well and some don't care at all, which can be incredibly discouraging to the teacher trying his or her best.

As I read through this piece I felt a strong sense of déjà vu, and I found out why pretty early on, as Sommers cites Lil Brannon and Cyril Knoblauch as other thinkers in the field. Brannon and Knoblauch wrote the article I covered last week, "On Student's Rights to Their Own Texts," which covers similar ideas of placing emphasis on the student's work. A major conclusion that Sommers comes to is that often a teacher's comments on a paper are much like that of a computer, "arbitrary and idiosyncratic" (3) which, as has been concluded, can draw the student's attention away from their own purposes in writing. Commanding students to "expand" and to think more about certain parts of their writing may be done with good intentions, but it may also defeat the purpose of what the student is trying to convey.

I certainly think that teacher comments can be nitpicky. Sommers talks about students becoming frustrated because the comments on their papers seem like they could have been copied and pasted from one to the other, especially in cases when something like "be specific," "be precise" is said over and over. However, in some cases, comments like this are totally warranted, and I think it all depends on the relationship that is built between teacher and student which makes all the difference. If the student knows that the teacher cares and is on his or her team, they're going to be more likely to question a comment, rather than be discouraged.

In regard to our final project, I'm excited about our spin on Genius Hour and passion projects! Genius Hour was birthed by Google, one of the current most powerful companies in the world, and I think it's an incredibly empowering exercise. The original idea is that for one hour, once a week, students are allowed to take class time and work on their personal "passion projects," which they will present at the end of the year Passion projects are cool because they give students the ability to learn and work on a project that is important to them, outside of a class syllabus. I think that these passion projects will be a great way of workshopping our individual ideas, and will serve as a way for all of us to gather together and collaborate on all of our different ideas. The unifying strand that runs throughout all of our work will be the hashtag #WhyIWrite, which is a big question for anyone involved in our field.

Personally, I began writing because it gave me a voice in ways that my own voice failed me. I was a painfully shy child who struggled to speak to anyone about something as simple as the weather, let alone about serious matters. However, even though I couldn't speak up, I could write. In time, teachers noticed that I wrote well, and encouraged me to write more, and on different subjects. Through positive responses to my writing, I learned that I did have something to say and it gave me the courage to speak up. Now, I write because it allows me to think through complex ideas and outline theories, and come up with my own new concepts that I would love to introduce to the world of literature. Now, I write for the sake of research.

For my passion project, I like the idea of compiling a few lesson plans that incorporate theories and techniques we have learned about in class, in order to come up with a curriculum that might help other students to love writing. I would especially appreciate our group time for this effort, because of all the teachers in class who could advise me in the practicality of my plans. I like this idea because it could turn #WhyIWrite into #WhyWeWrite.

The Voice Controversy — Blog Post #5

It's interesting to me how, no matter which classes I take in a semester, topics tend to tie together in unexpected ways. For example, I'm working on a presentation on Voice in Creative Writing, and the first article we are reading this week is "Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries" by Peter Elbow.

Personally, I appreciate a strong sense of natural, authorial voice in writing. For example, if I were to be given a passage by David Sedaris, without knowing that he wrote it, I'd probably be able to guess, because Sedaris has a distinct voice. It is my opinion that this kind of voice gives flavor to an author's work. However,  I had never considered the negative reactions to voice-- "it's misleading," "sincerity is not a useful goal for writing" (1)-- nor had I considered that the voice debate goes as far back in history as Plato and Aristotle. Recently, the discussion has quieted down quite a bit, which is also interesting. Have we tired of the debate? Elbow certainly doesn't want this to happen.

In terms of recent discussions regarding voice, Elbow examines Theodore Baird's approach in his classroom in the mid 1900s, which had a significant impact on many who came into contact with it-- including many great thinkers in the field. Baird's approach focused on the importance of voice, however did not see it as reflective of the author behind the pen. They define "self" in writing as being "continually made and re-made by language" (3). Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this approach because it reminds me very much of New Criticism which I have very mixed feelings about, because I don't think it gives enough credence to the presence and experience of an author entering into his or her own text.

Even though we don't acknowledge it now as much as we used to, voice is still very much alive in our modern world, perhaps even more so now than ever before. Voice has become all the more important in this new digital age, when a text message can be interpreted in many different ways. Ever heard of the many different ways to read the sentence, "I never said I stole her money"? The voice behind writing becomes all the more important as the world of "text" takes over.

I like the difference that Elbow highlights between "text" and "voice," establishing text as literal words on the page, just the words, without any external meaning attached to them-- rather like numbers in a math problem. Voice, on the other hand, is less like the mathematical equation of text, and is instead likened to the personal handwriting of each individual person-- warmer and unique. In my opinion, this is establishing voice as the soul of the piece.

It takes time for a writer to establish and become comfortable with his or her voice, in fact, it is a lifelong process. In the classroom setting, it becomes the teacher's job to gently guide students into finding their own voice in the midst of handing out assignments on strict deadlines-- much easier said than done. I agree with Elbow that an understanding of voice can come through reading and understanding that voices of authors they enjoy, and then using those examples to try to better understand their own. I know this certainly worked for me.

Interestingly, Elbow, also mentions some of the cons of voice in writing, for example, in some instances it may be best to overlook voice, in order to find meaning in a work. For example, one might not enjoy a certain writer because of the voice in his or her work, but that does not mean that he or she does not have something important to offer. A teacher might not automatically connect with a student's voice, but the student might just have an entirely different style. There are instances in which looking beyond voice, although hard, can be greatly beneficial. I enjoyed Elbow's article because I think he offered a fair perspective both for and against voice in writing. No matter which side you fall on, the discussion is far from over.

Our next article,  "Responding to Student Writing" by Nancy Sommers, doesn't quite tie in with the first, but it does tie back to a topic we have discussed in extensively in class, that is, the most effctive ways of responding to student writing. Despite a teacher's best efforts, a student may simply not connect with their teaching approach because teaching is not one-size fits-all. For this reason, it is important to be prepared to have different strategies for dealing with different kinds of students.

Responding to student writing takes a long time-- Sommers estimates about 20 to 40 minutes per student, which adds up greatly considering the amount of students and periods one teacher has total. This is a lot of time to dedicate to an effort which may or may not be appreciated by the students, and it's hard to say whether or not it is. As we have discussed in previous classes, some students respond well and some don't care at all, which can be incredibly discouraging to the teacher trying his or her best.

As I read through this piece I felt a strong sense of déjà vu, and I found out why pretty early on, as Sommers cites Lil Brannon and Cyril Knoblauch as other thinkers in the field. Brannon and Knoblauch wrote the article I covered last week, "On Student's Rights to Their Own Texts," which covers similar ideas of placing emphasis on the student's work. A major conclusion that Sommers comes to is that often a teacher's comments on a paper are much like that of a computer, "arbitrary and idiosyncratic" (3) which, as has been concluded, can draw the student's attention away from their own purposes in writing. Commanding students to "expand" and to think more about certain parts of their writing may be done with good intentions, but it may also defeat the purpose of what the student is trying to convey.

I certainly think that teacher comments can be nitpicky. Sommers talks about students becoming frustrated because the comments on their papers seem like they could have been copied and pasted from one to the other, especially in cases when something like "be specific," "be precise" is said over and over. However, in some cases, comments like this are totally warranted, and I think it all depends on the relationship that is built between teacher and student which makes all the difference. If the student knows that the teacher cares and is on his or her team, they're going to be more likely to question a comment, rather than be discouraged.

In regard to our final project, I'm excited about our spin on Genius Hour and passion projects! Genius Hour was birthed by Google, one of the current most powerful companies in the world, and I think it's an incredibly empowering exercise. The original idea is that for one hour, once a week, students are allowed to take class time and work on their personal "passion projects," which they will present at the end of the year Passion projects are cool because they give students the ability to learn and work on a project that is important to them, outside of a class syllabus. I think that these passion projects will be a great way of workshopping our individual ideas, and will serve as a way for all of us to gather together and collaborate on all of our different ideas. The unifying strand that runs throughout all of our work will be the hashtag #WhyIWrite, which is a big question for anyone involved in our field.

Personally, I began writing because it gave me a voice in ways that my own voice failed me. I was a painfully shy child who struggled to speak to anyone about something as simple as the weather, let alone about serious matters. However, even though I couldn't speak up, I could write. In time, teachers noticed that I wrote well, and encouraged me to write more, and on different subjects. Through positive responses to my writing, I learned that I did have something to say and it gave me the courage to speak up. Now, I write because it allows me to think through complex ideas and outline theories, and come up with my own new concepts that I would love to introduce to the world of literature. Now, I write for the sake of research.

For my passion project, I like the idea of compiling a few lesson plans that incorporate theories and techniques we have learned about in class, in order to come up with a curriculum that might help other students to love writing. I would especially appreciate our group time for this effort, because of all the teachers in class who could advise me in the practicality of my plans. I like this idea because it could turn #WhyIWrite into #WhyWeWrite.

Making Students Better Writers

Before analyzing this week’s readings, I would like to share an anecdote from my classroom. One of my goals in my 8th grade French level 1 course this year is to improve my students’ written skills. Currently, they write very simple sentences that they have memorized. I am encouraging my classes to be more creative and truly express their ideas, even if it means making grammar mistakes or having to look up words in the dictionary. On Thursday, we worked through an example of interesting writing. First, I took a typical sentence that they would write. Then, my students helped me to transform it into a more complex paragraph. Finally, I asked them to write their own examples. A hand went up. “Madame, how many sentences?” Argh! This question went against everything I was trying to achieve. As soon as she asked that question, I immediately thought about our Writing Theory class discussions. Here is a real-life instance of a student writing only to appease the teacher without thinking about her own purpose or her own learning. She was certainly frustrated when I told her to give me good writing and not worry about counting sentences. Hopefully, we can change the mindset in our education system, one teacher and one student at a time.

This notion that (some) teachers do not give students an intrinsic reason to write is also evident in our first reading for this week. While interesting, Nancy Sommers’ article Responding to Student Writing did not present ideas that we have not already discussed in class through other readings. Sommers argues that teachers’ comments on students work rarely provide students with the motivation to revise. Instead, teachers focus too much on editing and provide vague comments that students struggle to understand. As a result, students do what the teacher wants and do not know how to better communicate their ideas.

I believe that there are two issues preventing teachers from giving more constructive feedback, both of which Sommers discusses in her article. First, time. As Sommers points out, “Most teachers estimate that it takes them at least 20 to 40 minutes to comment on an individual student paper, and those 20 to 40 minutes times 20 students per class” (148). Teachers spend their day teaching. The planning and grading all occur outside of the school day. A lack of time certainly prevents teachers from giving more detailed comments. However, teachers could use those 20 to 40 minutes more wisely. They could choose to write more effective comments instead of vague, generalized ones. Second, teachers are not trained in providing feedback. I have a teaching certificate, a master's degree and seven years of teaching experience. I do not recall ever discussing how to provide students with feedback until this course. Luckily, both of these problems are correctable if teachers are willing to change.

Although I am working on improving my students written skills in French, I do not teach about voice. Therefore, I did not personally connect with Peter Elbow’s Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries. As a teacher, I want clear answers for what is considered best practice. Elbow’s thesis of embracing a both/and thinking about voice was confusing to me. Should I teach and encourage voice or not? A contradictory stance is not only difficult for a teacher to instruct but also hard for students to understand. I look forward to decompacting this article more through our class discussion on Monday. 

Finally, what do these readings mean for my Genius Hour project? My goal of my passion project is to directly connect our class readings and discussions to improve my students’ writing skills. As a final project for this course, I would like to create lesson plans with materials that will instruct my students in ways to become better writers. The anecdote that I started this blog with is one example of how this course is positively impacting my instruction. Through my passion project, I hope to create more learning experiences for my students that will give them an opportunity to hone their writing skills in French. I have decided to focus on my 8th grade students instead of my 7th grade courses. My 8th graders are at a proficiency level where they can begin to create with the language. I want to push them even further to expand their abilities. I am excited to embark on my first experience with Genius Hour. I hope that my project is not only successful but also that I learn how to implement a Genius Hour into my own classroom. 

Making Students Better Writers

Before analyzing this week’s readings, I would like to share an anecdote from my classroom. One of my goals in my 8th grade French level 1 course this year is to improve my students’ written skills. Currently, they write very simple sentences that they have memorized. I am encouraging my classes to be more creative and truly express their ideas, even if it means making grammar mistakes or having to look up words in the dictionary. On Thursday, we worked through an example of interesting writing. First, I took a typical sentence that they would write. Then, my students helped me to transform it into a more complex paragraph. Finally, I asked them to write their own examples. A hand went up. “Madame, how many sentences?” Argh! This question went against everything I was trying to achieve. As soon as she asked that question, I immediately thought about our Writing Theory class discussions. Here is a real-life instance of a student writing only to appease the teacher without thinking about her own purpose or her own learning. She was certainly frustrated when I told her to give me good writing and not worry about counting sentences. Hopefully, we can change the mindset in our education system, one teacher and one student at a time.

This notion that (some) teachers do not give students an intrinsic reason to write is also evident in our first reading for this week. While interesting, Nancy Sommers’ article Responding to Student Writing did not present ideas that we have not already discussed in class through other readings. Sommers argues that teachers’ comments on students work rarely provide students with the motivation to revise. Instead, teachers focus too much on editing and provide vague comments that students struggle to understand. As a result, students do what the teacher wants and do not know how to better communicate their ideas.

I believe that there are two issues preventing teachers from giving more constructive feedback, both of which Sommers discusses in her article. First, time. As Sommers points out, “Most teachers estimate that it takes them at least 20 to 40 minutes to comment on an individual student paper, and those 20 to 40 minutes times 20 students per class” (148). Teachers spend their day teaching. The planning and grading all occur outside of the school day. A lack of time certainly prevents teachers from giving more detailed comments. However, teachers could use those 20 to 40 minutes more wisely. They could choose to write more effective comments instead of vague, generalized ones. Second, teachers are not trained in providing feedback. I have a teaching certificate, a master's degree and seven years of teaching experience. I do not recall ever discussing how to provide students with feedback until this course. Luckily, both of these problems are correctable if teachers are willing to change.

Although I am working on improving my students written skills in French, I do not teach about voice. Therefore, I did not personally connect with Peter Elbow’s Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries. As a teacher, I want clear answers for what is considered best practice. Elbow’s thesis of embracing a both/and thinking about voice was confusing to me. Should I teach and encourage voice or not? A contradictory stance is not only difficult for a teacher to instruct but also hard for students to understand. I look forward to decompacting this article more through our class discussion on Monday. 

Finally, what do these readings mean for my Genius Hour project? My goal of my passion project is to directly connect our class readings and discussions to improve my students’ writing skills. As a final project for this course, I would like to create lesson plans with materials that will instruct my students in ways to become better writers. The anecdote that I started this blog with is one example of how this course is positively impacting my instruction. Through my passion project, I hope to create more learning experiences for my students that will give them an opportunity to hone their writing skills in French. I have decided to focus on my 8th grade students instead of my 7th grade courses. My 8th graders are at a proficiency level where they can begin to create with the language. I want to push them even further to expand their abilities. I am excited to embark on my first experience with Genius Hour. I hope that my project is not only successful but also that I learn how to implement a Genius Hour into my own classroom. 

#WhyIWrite inspiration via a Genius Hour collaboration….

This week’s texts were not as explicitly “paired”.  The Fulkerson article presented an overview of influential writing theories and methodologies to emerge in the past few decades (i.e. critical/culture studies, expressionism, process & post process methodologies).  On the other hand, the Brannon & Knoblach’s article asked us to think further about the Student’s Right to Their Own Texts.  Still, Marissa’s presentation was effective in linking the efforts of these different researchers while prompting us to think about more current influences in writing pedagogy.  It should be noted that both articles are somewhat dated.  Despite this, the pairing of these two articles did capture the diversity of concerns for writing researchers in the 21st century.   imagesWhile Fulkerson approached his theoretical overview from the perspective of the college composition class, Brannon and Knoblach looked at writing from an earlier developmental lens.  Marissa’s three discussion prompts helped us find a bridge to these two readings:

#1. Do you think that Critical/Cultural Studies(CCS) classes are effective ways of teaching writing to students? Why, or why not?

#2. Discuss the differences between the dominant tradition of composition and current cultural studies/expressivism/CCS.

#3. Do you think that Brannon and Knoblauch’s model is realistically possible to apply in a traditional classroom setting? And if not overall, how could certain elements be utilized?
Some of us reflected on how we learned to write in classes wherein the instructional emphasis was placed on close reading and interpretation of text (a CCS model), rather than any formal writing instruction.  We also talked about how some learned to write with (or despite) a heavy emphasis on formulaic writing process orientation.  We also spoke of the importance of student’s ability to bring their own self-driven interest into their writing efforts (i.e student choice for topic).   We concluded that the writer seems to emerge in the interstices of all of these specific methodological approaches.  Each methodology might contribute to one part of an overall understanding of writing along the way, but it is the accumulation of a variety of learning approaches that ultimately supports the development of an evolved writer.  We also talked about the difference between adjusting to each new classroom expectation – sometimes done in the name of what the teacher is looking for (a limited experience) verses adjusting to a new writing methodology as a course of personal learning accumulation (perhaps a more cohesive developmental understanding of what can happen when a student is introduced to different approaches over the course of an academic career).  Thanks again everyone for another rich discussion.
In the second part of class you made some real progress on the identification of your final group project. After jotting down some ideas on the white board together, it seems you selected the notion of the genius hour as an anchor concept for your collaboration:

You will pair this passion project “infrastructure” with an umbrella question:  #WhyIWrite.  …..Why do you write? UnknownThursday October 20, 2016 is National Day on Writing, and the #WhyIWrite hashtag will certainly be “on fire”.  By building out your individual responses to this broader inquiry, you will each add a component to this special collaborative effort to answer this question.

For next week:

-Read Nancy Sommer’s Responding to Student Writing and Peter Elbow’s  Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries.  Richonda will present her thoughts and prompt our discussion of these two works by seminal writing theorists.

-Blog your reflection on this week’s reading.  In addition, please include a short paragraph at the close of your blog which indicates your early thoughts on your own “passion project” in response to the prompt #WhyIWrite.

-Check out the #WhyIWrite hashtag on twitter since it will be full of inspiration, especially this week for National Day on Writing.

-Please tweet your early passion project ideas to both our #WritingTheory and the #WhyIWrite hashtag.

See you next week for further learning and brainstorming,

Dr. Zamora

Blog 4: Thinking about Students Rights to Their Own Texts

Thinking about Students Rights to Their Own Texts
By Andaiye Hall
My favorite reading this week was Student's Rights to Their Own Texts. The other article on the other hand I found to be a little bit dry in my opinion. It was hard to keep engaged while reading it. The Student's Rights to Their Own Texts article stated that: "When reading a textbook, for instance, we assume that its writer knows at least as much about the book's subject as we do, and ideally even more. When we read a newspaper article, we take for granted that the writer has collected all the relevant facts and presented them honestly. In either case, 'authority' derives partly from what we know about the writer (for instance, professional credentials or public recognition) and partly from what we see in the writer's discourse (the probity of its reasoning, the skill of its construction, its use of references that we may recognize)." (157) I thought to myself that writer's authority is given so often to published authors without question. Students hardly get any sense that they can actually know what they are talking about when they actually do. When I took Introduction to Journalism, I learned that sometimes unawares newspapers may publish false stories or even flamboyantly edited versions of the real ones. Not only does that individual author end up in trouble but it also messes with the newspapers reputations. I also recalled that Oprah had endorsed a memoir a couple years ago and it turned out the man who wrote the book was lying about some of the details. The book was A Million Little Pieces and it was written by James Frey. He published it as completely true when it was actually fabricated significantly. Yet, a student can't actually know what they are talking about.

I personally think of the popularity of an author before I buy books. I am a dedicated fan to certain authors but sometimes I do try out random authors I never heard about before. The authors stated that "As readers, we see this harder material as a problem of interpretation, not a shortcoming of the composer." (157) This has definitely been true for me. I loved reading books by Charles Dickens and when I was in 10th grade I knew I had to read that dreaded huge book A Tale of Two Cities that started off with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." So many times I just put the book down because I believed that the beginning was absolutely boring in comparison to his Oliver Twist book. As difficult as I found that book to get through, I just kept in mind Dickens is one of the best authors in literary history and I must not be reading it right so keep trying.

The authors state, "When we consider how writing is taught, however, this normal and dynamic connection between a writer's authority and the quality of a reader's attention is altered because of the peculiar relationship between teacher and student."(158) This struck a nerve in me because I knew exactly what he was talking about. Instead of a teacher accepting that the student is in fact a writer with authority, they instead approach student's pieces as miniature drafts in dire need of fixing and sometimes nonsensical in nature.

The authors further state: "Student writers, then, are put into the awkward position of having to accommodate, not only the personal intentions that guide their choice-making, but also the teacher-reader's expectations about how the assignment should be completed. The teacher's role, it is supposed, is to tell the writers how to do a better job than they could do alone, thereby in effect appropriating the writers' texts." (158) Students often have to surrender what they would like to write and how they want to express it (aka their authority) for the sake of a better grade.

The authors also stated that, "Teachers are distracted from offering the best kind of assistance-that is, helping writers achieve their own purposes-while insisting on ideas, strategies, or formal constraints that are often not pertinent to a writer's own goals." (159) I wish this "best kind of assistance" was more popular in all institutions. From the author I was also able to state the following conclusions: Teachers should consult a writer on what they mean to say as stated in their papers. Teacher's ego needs to be reduced so that they can accept that the student could be write. When multiple drafts are given they need to be focused on the aspect of revising. They should let student's openly explain what they meant when they were writing.

I now end this part with an awesome quote from the article:
"Writers know what they intended to communicate. Readers know what a text has actually said to them. If writers and readers can exchange information about intention and effect, they can negotiate ways to bring actual effect as closely in line with a desired intention as possible."(162)




Blog 4: Thinking about Students Rights to Their Own Texts

Thinking about Students Rights to Their Own Texts
By Andaiye Hall
My favorite reading this week was Student's Rights to Their Own Texts. The other article on the other hand I found to be a little bit dry in my opinion. It was hard to keep engaged while reading it. The Student's Rights to Their Own Texts article stated that: "When reading a textbook, for instance, we assume that its writer knows at least as much about the book's subject as we do, and ideally even more. When we read a newspaper article, we take for granted that the writer has collected all the relevant facts and presented them honestly. In either case, 'authority' derives partly from what we know about the writer (for instance, professional credentials or public recognition) and partly from what we see in the writer's discourse (the probity of its reasoning, the skill of its construction, its use of references that we may recognize)." (157) I thought to myself that writer's authority is given so often to published authors without question. Students hardly get any sense that they can actually know what they are talking about when they actually do. When I took Introduction to Journalism, I learned that sometimes unawares newspapers may publish false stories or even flamboyantly edited versions of the real ones. Not only does that individual author end up in trouble but it also messes with the newspapers reputations. I also recalled that Oprah had endorsed a memoir a couple years ago and it turned out the man who wrote the book was lying about some of the details. The book was A Million Little Pieces and it was written by James Frey. He published it as completely true when it was actually fabricated significantly. Yet, a student can't actually know what they are talking about.

I personally think of the popularity of an author before I buy books. I am a dedicated fan to certain authors but sometimes I do try out random authors I never heard about before. The authors stated that "As readers, we see this harder material as a problem of interpretation, not a shortcoming of the composer." (157) This has definitely been true for me. I loved reading books by Charles Dickens and when I was in 10th grade I knew I had to read that dreaded huge book A Tale of Two Cities that started off with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." So many times I just put the book down because I believed that the beginning was absolutely boring in comparison to his Oliver Twist book. As difficult as I found that book to get through, I just kept in mind Dickens is one of the best authors in literary history and I must not be reading it right so keep trying.

The authors state, "When we consider how writing is taught, however, this normal and dynamic connection between a writer's authority and the quality of a reader's attention is altered because of the peculiar relationship between teacher and student."(158) This struck a nerve in me because I knew exactly what he was talking about. Instead of a teacher accepting that the student is in fact a writer with authority, they instead approach student's pieces as miniature drafts in dire need of fixing and sometimes nonsensical in nature.

The authors further state: "Student writers, then, are put into the awkward position of having to accommodate, not only the personal intentions that guide their choice-making, but also the teacher-reader's expectations about how the assignment should be completed. The teacher's role, it is supposed, is to tell the writers how to do a better job than they could do alone, thereby in effect appropriating the writers' texts." (158) Students often have to surrender what they would like to write and how they want to express it (aka their authority) for the sake of a better grade.

The authors also stated that, "Teachers are distracted from offering the best kind of assistance-that is, helping writers achieve their own purposes-while insisting on ideas, strategies, or formal constraints that are often not pertinent to a writer's own goals." (159) I wish this "best kind of assistance" was more popular in all institutions. From the author I was also able to state the following conclusions: Teachers should consult a writer on what they mean to say as stated in their papers. Teacher's ego needs to be reduced so that they can accept that the student could be write. When multiple drafts are given they need to be focused on the aspect of revising. They should let student's openly explain what they meant when they were writing.

I now end this part with an awesome quote from the article:
"Writers know what they intended to communicate. Readers know what a text has actually said to them. If writers and readers can exchange information about intention and effect, they can negotiate ways to bring actual effect as closely in line with a desired intention as possible."(162)




Blog 3: Responding to Student’s Papers

Blog 3: Responding to Student's Papers
I personally thought this was the best set of readings of my semester so far. I was truly engaged to the core especially with Response to Writing by Richard Beach and Tom Friedrich. I had a lot of side notes on the readings so I had to pick and choose what to mention here.

I agree that "A primary purpose for responding to students' writing is to help students improve the quality of their writing."(222) Student's truly get to benefit from and grow from comments that teachers give them. The article also stated that, "Focusing on final-draft errors only encouraged students to attend to matters of sentence structure and mechanics."(222) In college, I have had a tendency to only fix errors on a paper that were mentioned in the notes on the paper and not actually do much else. It makes me seems like the comments are the most important things and there is nothing else wrong with the paper.
"Consistent with the "process" model then in favor, teachers shifted away from  simply giving editing feedback to responding to students development of ideas and drafts."(223) I agree that this is the better way to improve students writing process. Students don't just need feedback they actually need constructive feedback.

"Students may interpret a teacher's feedback as reflecting a negative perception of themselves as writers."(224) This has personally happened to me. When I have misinterpreted what a professor means by the comments on my papers, it makes me not want to look back at my paper for a good while. I feel like giving up. I've always been worried about my professor's giving negative feedback about something I write because of their own biases. I have started to wonder how would I react if I myself as a teacher were in their shoes.

When I read the statement that "Teachers can also provide feedback by taping comments on casettes or digital tapes" (225), I disagreed. I think that's very outdated at this time. I think the best way to give feedback to students is through Google Docs or in one on one conferences. I do take into consideration that teachers have time constraints and they may find somethings very inconvenient to do.

I loved the Writing Comments on Students' Papers article. I could relate with the students experiences that Bean described. It is interesting to see that what I have been suspected could definitely be true. Bean stated, "We become harsh or sarcastic. We let our irritation show on the page. Sometimes we do not treat students' work in progress with the same sensitivity that we bring to our colleagues' work."(317) I do not appreciate when professors don't consider the student's feelings when they are leaving comments because personally what I write is my baby. I gave birth to my writing and it came from the core of my being. I am guilty of what Bean states: "Often, however, students are bewildered by our comments, and they sometimes read into them a tone and a meaning entirely different from our intentions." (318) I think maybe a part of me thinks that if my writing is good then I should have no comments on my paper. Overall, Bean was able to examine why teachers comment the way they do and how students react. He gave solutions to help solve the problem. At first when I read the sentence "If you comment on drafts, you'll probably need to do so at least a week before students are to submit their finished," (321) I was astonished. I'm not sure if he was talking about a draft's due date or a final paper due date. I think a student should have comments on their paper way in advance before its due primarily mid semester. I do not like when I have to rush to correct things because the due date is right around the corner. I like to have plenty of time to reflect and rethink my points.

Blog 3: Responding to Student’s Papers

Blog 3: Responding to Student's Papers
I personally thought this was the best set of readings of my semester so far. I was truly engaged to the core especially with Response to Writing by Richard Beach and Tom Friedrich. I had a lot of side notes on the readings so I had to pick and choose what to mention here.

I agree that "A primary purpose for responding to students' writing is to help students improve the quality of their writing."(222) Student's truly get to benefit from and grow from comments that teachers give them. The article also stated that, "Focusing on final-draft errors only encouraged students to attend to matters of sentence structure and mechanics."(222) In college, I have had a tendency to only fix errors on a paper that were mentioned in the notes on the paper and not actually do much else. It makes me seems like the comments are the most important things and there is nothing else wrong with the paper.
"Consistent with the "process" model then in favor, teachers shifted away from  simply giving editing feedback to responding to students development of ideas and drafts."(223) I agree that this is the better way to improve students writing process. Students don't just need feedback they actually need constructive feedback.

"Students may interpret a teacher's feedback as reflecting a negative perception of themselves as writers."(224) This has personally happened to me. When I have misinterpreted what a professor means by the comments on my papers, it makes me not want to look back at my paper for a good while. I feel like giving up. I've always been worried about my professor's giving negative feedback about something I write because of their own biases. I have started to wonder how would I react if I myself as a teacher were in their shoes.

When I read the statement that "Teachers can also provide feedback by taping comments on casettes or digital tapes" (225), I disagreed. I think that's very outdated at this time. I think the best way to give feedback to students is through Google Docs or in one on one conferences. I do take into consideration that teachers have time constraints and they may find somethings very inconvenient to do.

I loved the Writing Comments on Students' Papers article. I could relate with the students experiences that Bean described. It is interesting to see that what I have been suspected could definitely be true. Bean stated, "We become harsh or sarcastic. We let our irritation show on the page. Sometimes we do not treat students' work in progress with the same sensitivity that we bring to our colleagues' work."(317) I do not appreciate when professors don't consider the student's feelings when they are leaving comments because personally what I write is my baby. I gave birth to my writing and it came from the core of my being. I am guilty of what Bean states: "Often, however, students are bewildered by our comments, and they sometimes read into them a tone and a meaning entirely different from our intentions." (318) I think maybe a part of me thinks that if my writing is good then I should have no comments on my paper. Overall, Bean was able to examine why teachers comment the way they do and how students react. He gave solutions to help solve the problem. At first when I read the sentence "If you comment on drafts, you'll probably need to do so at least a week before students are to submit their finished," (321) I was astonished. I'm not sure if he was talking about a draft's due date or a final paper due date. I think a student should have comments on their paper way in advance before its due primarily mid semester. I do not like when I have to rush to correct things because the due date is right around the corner. I like to have plenty of time to reflect and rethink my points.