Reading Classrooms as Text: Exploring Student Writers’ Interpretive Practices
After reading this article by Jennie Nelson, it seemed as a refresher from our last lecturer’s group discussion. We dove into the wonderful world of grading students’ papers and how as educators can improve that approach to better the future generations to come.
Nelson further explains how students already know how the classroom operates. Referring back to Nives and mine’s presentation last week, student’s figured out how to “beat the system” (when it comes to writing papers).
Nelson also explains how these students have been long-time members in the school culture who already know what to aspect when it comes to their writing assignments. Also, as students begin to interpret the writing assignments given to them in class,
“they must integrate the new ways of thinking and writing they are being asked to learn with the already familiar discourses that they bring with them.”Nelson (413)
However, there are teachers that never give clear instructions on what is expected in their paper. Nelson, gives us the explain of Kate who writes a paper for one of her classes, but when she gets that paper back the teacher writes, “NO GRADE!! This essay is often confusing, unclear, and sometimes just downright wrong. Come see me.” (415). After meeting with her teacher, he explains to her that she has a serious problem with academic writing and that she should seek out help in the their tutoring center. Kate compared her paper to another students paper who received a passing grade an the views were similar, it was explained that he wrote more like a “textbook” then Kate did.
I have had teachers like Kate’s before where they gave zero direction in any of the papers they assigned and the rest of the class and I had to fend for ourselves as if we were apart of the Hunger Games.
Eventually, my peers and I worked together to figure out exactly what she was looking for in our papers and it worked out in our favor. But their are teachers who do not give their students any sort of direction and they are wondering around confused on what to write something they have no idea how to tackle it.
How Remix Culture Informs Student Writing & Creativity
As I read this week’s readings the subject of revising caught my interest. I asked myself what will become of the process of writing if students put more of their attention on cleaning their writing and less attention on rethinking and being creative. To further understand Nancy Sommers conducted research using two groups: the student writers and the experienced writers, “there titles were based on the amount of experience they have had in writing.” According to the student writers, “When revising, they primarily ask themselves: “Can I find a better word or phrase? Or more impressive, not so clichéd, or less hum-drum? Sommers refers to this theory as, “thesaurus philosophy of writing; a harvest of lexical substitutions.” This made me think about the great writers of the 1800’s. My mind traveled back in time and I envisioned some great writers from the past. I pictured them typing their novels on a typewriters: The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe, published 1849, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass, published 1845, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, published 1813, The Time Machine, by H.G.Wells, published 1895, and W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, published 1903, and many more. All of these novels are phenomenal and have become classics that are used for academic and leisurely reading. I wonder how many times did the authors revise their ideas. And just think their revisions were made without whiteout, without a backspace key, without cut and paste and without the delete key. I wonder if they had not made those revisions back in the 1800’s, would we have these novels in our libraries today. I’m sure that the task of writing using a typewriter was taxing. However, they worked through it and as a result they produced valuable pieces of literature.
As I continued my reading I wondered, what was their motivation? I think it had to be their desire to be creative. I’m sure that the writers of the 1800’s put much time and labor into revising the creative process of their writing. Unlike, the student writers of today; they do not see the need to revise their ideas. Sommers, ”The student writer does not practice revision as an activity that can develop ideas.” Therefore, they lack creativity. Revising is so much more than checking the vocabulary. Revising is an opportunity to emerge creativity into the writing. Experience writers seek form and shape to express their perspectives. Experience writers will check the mechanics of writing in the later process of writing, while in the beginning of the writing they will focus on the development of their main idea. This theory that revision is more than checking vocabulary is expressed in a video by “Excelsior Online Writing Lab, Importance of Revision”, https://owl.excelsior.edu/esl-wow/revising-your-work/importance-of-revision/ Sommers, “Revision means seeing again, looking at everything with fresh eyes. It is a sense of writing as discovery – a repeated process of beginning over again, starting our new.” I agree with Sommers as she stated that,” writing is like a seed.” So again, what will happen to the writings of student writers that only clean their writings? What happens when the author does not revise the writing as a whole? Should the possibility of current day authors creating literary master pieces a matter of concern?
When it comes to writing a paper do you revise your paper yourself, or would you rather have someone revise your work? Personally, when it comes to my writings I like to revise my work myself then have someone revise it to receive feedback on my work from another persons point of view.
Reading “The Role of Revising in Writing & Remix/ Creativity” by Nancy Soomers
Sommers, talks about student writers and adult writers. Bringing two representatives of writings first Gordon Rohman he speaks about prewriting to writing to rewriting and second James Britton bases theory of writing call (following Jakoboson). Personally speaking being a student in the classroom we’re taught to always brainstorm write down everything your thinking of on paper which ties into prewriting to writing to rewriting. As Britton theory of writing were also taught to learn how to structure a paper.
Reading the “Five parts of discourse“
* Inventio- Discovering
*Elocutio- Expressing speech
*Memoria- arguments of a discourse
*Pronuntiatio- the way in which a word is pronounced
These are the five steps to structuring and organzing how to begin your paper and revise it as well.
“Revision Strategies of Student Writers” The Stand Five Paragraph Essay Outline Format should be a go-to in the elementary level up unto high school this is teaching a student how to structure their writings with expressing how they feel. From writing, reviewing, redoing, marketing out, slashing and throwing out yet, every paper needs correction. Quoting from the text on pg. 380 “Most of the students I studied did not use the terms revision or rewriting” stated Sommers stating. Usually, just writing about what the assignment or topic is on without going back and checking their work based on a college level.
Although for experienced writers they use revising to push their argument of what they’re writing about stating on pg.384 “One writer explained,”I have learned from experience that I need to keep writing a first draft untilI figure out what I want to say. Then in a second draft, I begin to see the structure of an argument and how all the various sub-arguments which are buried beneath the surface of all those sentences are related.”
Constructive Revision as a Mode of Improving the Writer Self
Revision is a necessary part of life. However, it need not be a tedious chore that induces fear or a sense of tedium. As writers develop (an ongoing life process), they can better understand revision as vital tool for self-discovery. Multiple drafts lead to new thoughts and ideas that can break ground with creativity and writers can help readers feelthe unfiltered pulse of our beautiful, yet chaotic communities.
In her article, Nancy Sommers explains that students do what has been traditionally modeled for them in classroom speech, a mode of communication that cannot be revised (378). Students primarily make lexical changes because it spares time and they perceive what they are working with to be an already finished product (Sommers 381-82). This reminds me of teaching writing as product, rather than a process, the latter of which requires a deeper, guidedexploration of ideas (Lauer 112).
Sommers contrasts the revision methods of professional writers (journalists, academics, editors and the like) with those of student writers (380). The former draft in a free-form manner, often writing to figure out what they want to say (384). As French literary theorist Roland Barthes describes in Sommers (1980), “writing develops from a seed, not a line.” This is a very organic approach that promotes writing as a mode of discovery and rediscovery. His comment is reminiscent of the “rhizomatic spread of theory,” which marked a social turn in pedagogy in the 1980s (Lauer 121).
Sommers piece leads to certain questions. How do we get students to break out of a linear mode of writing when drafting? Traditional guidance is needed, but how much and at what stage should it be abandoned? Will free-writing assist in creating better writers?
We still need to reach students at their levels; however, I find that is very damaging to think that they are simply incapable of excellent drafting and schoolwork. However, the chances of success are greater when teachers have opportunities to create positive learning experiences for younger students. Students will rise to the levels of expectation that teachers set for them. Although I referenced this piece in the penultimate page of my Nelson Power Point, I think that Jessica Lander’s TED talk entitled “Rising to High Expectations” is extremely inspiring from the standpoint of teachers getting adolescents to expect more of themselves by modeling positive behavior and speaking their language, rather than professing aloft from ivory towers. Lander taught inner-city students to appreciate Shakespeare by unconventional means and this is precisely what is needed in the classroom. If we want our students to take risks, we must be willing to dive first, no matter how daunting it may seem to present new ideas to school administrators. Also, teachers need to feel uncomfortable (even initially looking like fools) if we want students to learn rather than simply fill desk spaces. I am reminded of Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poet’s Society and Edward James Olmos’s character in Stand and Deliver.
Nelson’s piece dovetails well with that of Sommers. There is no doubt that students are highly adaptable observers of the classroom as text. Their sneakered feet move with sophisticated savviness that is fed directly into their active brains. In one sense, it is essential for students to learn the proverbial rules of the road; however, getting stuck in the pursuit of a good grade can be harmful, as shown in the case studies that she presented. I think that teachers should be direct in setting expectations for assignments yet allow their students to explore learning and drafting in creative ways. What are some of the ways that this can be accomplished?
Kate’s instructor’s writing guidelines were awfully vague and justifiably a cause for headache-inducing confusion (Nelson 414). How could he have done a better job in communicating the objectives of the assignment? How would you feel if you received the harsh, judgmental remarks that he penned on Kate’s initial draft? How many drafts should be allowed for a student and how should the procedures for drafting be organized (i.e. should journaling be utilized)?
Moreover, Nelson describes the problem of students being given too much guidance in the performance of assignments. This resulted in students fabricating data, yet still receiving average grades; students who actually did the required sociology fieldwork did not fare as well (420). How can a proper balance be struck? The concept of gaming the system is something that students undoubtedly engage in; however, this impedes their true development and creates cynicism, as it did with Kate and Brian. The pursuit of a top mark can become a vicious cycle that sacrifices true learning. How can teachers get their students to stop gaming, continue to take cues from the classroom, yet develop novel ideas that surprise them and their teachers? This is something that Helen did successfully.
Drafting like learning, always evolves. As a professional writer remarked, it is difficult to determine when the work is done and may be “abandoned” (Nelson 384). This is such a beautifully evocative image. New thoughts and ideas are sparked by a writer’s final piece. Other writers become inspired and the traditions of writing and storytelling can continue in a robust and stimulating manner. As demonstrated by the assigned articles, writing should never remain static.
If the writing process, including the vital step of drafting, does not grow, it withers on the vine and produces no further sustenance. How do you write to discover yourself?
Barthes, Roland. Writing in Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology, Translated by Annette
Lavers, Hill and Wang, 1968, p. 20.
Dead Poet’s Society. Directed by Peter Weir, Touchstone Pictures and Silver Screen Partners IV,
Lander, Jessica. “Rising to High Expectations.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDxBeaconStreet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elav44kQYUo, accessed 5 October 2019.
Lauer, J.M. (2006). Rhetoric and Composition. In English Studies: An Introduction to the
Discipline(s). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English
Nelson, J. (1995). Reading Classroom as Text: Exploring Student Writers’ Interpretative
Practices. College Composition and Communication, 46(3), 411-429.
Sommers, N. (1980). Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.
College Composition and Communication, 31(4), 378-388
Stand and Deliver. Directed by Ramon Menendez, Warner Brothers, 1988
This week’s reading discussed how writing and speech are connected but the revision process is what distinguishes written text from speech because the spoken word cannot be revised. I found myself to be a mix of both the student and experienced writers that I read about. I’ve gotten to a place where during my revision process I like to focus on my main idea and argument while also being conscientious about my word choice and diction. Working with my students I use workshop time when students meet me with me one-on-one to help them develop and push their ideas. Then I use peer review time to have students focus on each other’s word choices and grammar. This reading reminds me of a previous one where the author stated that things such as grammar and word choice are trivial when revising because oftentimes if one focuses on developing their ideas then the grammar and words that were just fixed will oftentimes be erased anyway. And while I appreciate the concentration being placed on developing ideas and revising a writing piece as a whole, I still have to question does grammar and word choice need to be corrected, and if so when during the process should this be addressed? This week’s readings also discussed the importance of teachers being able to read classrooms as a text in the same ways that students do this. The idea of students learning to “work the system” and just give the teacher what they want rather than actually digging deep into their own research, analysis, and development of their ideas.
I love the idea of remixing and being able to take something old and mix with something new to create something both fantastic and creative. Reading about remixing music was right up my alley! I know a lot or remixed songs that I love more than original, and this really speaks to how a remix could be so much more than just a copy of the original piece with a few new additives. The article also reminded me of a time during my undergrad studies where my professor had my class remix a poem and I swear it was one of the best things I’d done in my studies up until that point. The article says to make the remixes more than just a surface level activity but I question how to push students past the point of just safely relying on the original work and really add something new and innovative of their own.