Blow Ya Mind: Towards Creating a Lasting Impact in English Writing Studies

If I had to give you more, it’s only been a year 

Now, I’ve got my foot through the door, and I ain’t going nowhere 

It took a while to get me here, and I’m gonna take my time 

Don’t fight that good s$%t in your ear, now let me blow ya mind 

(Chorus of “Blow Ya Mind” by Eve, featuring Gwen Stefani) 

Your blog post for this week should be a description of your own personal goals for this project.  This is not an invitation to share your freewriting.  Rather, your blog post should be a more polished or cohesive narrative (or summary-description) of what you have learned from the freewriting.  In your blog reflection, please identify learning outcomes that matter the most to you.  What do you want to learn?  In addition, please describe a few project concepts that you have developed in order to realize the learning outcomes that are most meaningful to you.  In other words, please describe a few project concepts with as much detail as possible.  What do you want to make?  Why?   –

I think it is essential that we keep referring back to Dr. Zamora’s instructions when we approach our final project. This is supposed to be a cumulative experience of what we want to learn and contribute. 

I want to learn about how art intersects with our intellectual/emotional experiences of writing. I want to create a project that creates a lasting, aesthetic expression of what this program is about. I do not want to summarize the concepts that we have already learned, but rather synthesize them to fuel something that will both emotive, intellectual and artistic. 

Here are a few ideas that to which I have given serious consideration: 

(1) Creating a sharp, digital portfolio of photographs that are annotated by our personal reflections.

We could take pictures of objects, people, anything that is meaningful to us. Under those photos, we can express how education has motivated us or has hindered us (or both). We should be free to tell our own stories. Here is an example (obviously unedited in terms of background, font type and other stylistic elements): 

Shoes’ Blues:


You said I could not walk a mile in my shoes because they weren’t made for long distance. I walked anyway and broke the strap, but I didn’t stop. They dug into my bare feet, but I kept walking to the class you said was too advanced for me. 

You said I wouldn’t be able to reach the podiums because I would still be too short, I found a stack of books to anchor my steps, no one was the wiser. I spoke with confidence. My own definitive voice was heard, and you were shocked…Don’t expect me to drop the mic just yet.  

…To all the “yous” out there… my shoes have miles to walk before I sleep.

(2) How about casting our hands in plaster in a star shape (like an all-hands in, “go team” shape that players form before they break and go back to the field)? We could design key words on the hands. We could glue the formation to a piece of wood, then we’d mount it on the wall. My goal would be for it to remain in the English Department. 

(3) How about creating something similar to the collaborative poem that was done for the National Writing Project? We would each have to contribute short poetry/lyrical pieces that would form a cohesive whole and then weave them together into a whole by means of recording our voices and then stringing them together into one MP3 piece. The focus question could be: what have I learned that I didn’t know before this semester? Of course, we’d have to be careful that we don’t duplicate our answers.

(4) I love the idea of creating a quilt that echoes the sentiments of #3.

(5) Also incorporating the ideas above, it would be great to create a tree and hang personal leaves utilizing important quotes from readings as well as experiences we’ve had. Doing the leaves would not be hard. But building a tree is quite a task. I would like it to look like an actual small tree that resides in the English Department.

What my colleagues have said: 

  • I like the idea of confessions of a writer that Meagan talked about. 
  • I also like the idea of creating a writer’s journal in which we contribute concrete ideas to avoid writer’s block and also includes what we have learned. (Meagan again). This could give us the freedom to create multiple artistic expressions as well.
  • The idea of an open mic comedy routine is also great (Nives). It is my philosophy that tragedy plus time equals comedy (not my quote). We can tell stories of how we failed yet pulled ourselves up in educational circumstances. Humor is also a great way in which we can cast ourselves in our cultural backgrounds, which I believe never leave us. 
  • I like the idea of a play- However, if we do one, I don’t think we should do someone else’s play because I don’t see how this would reflect our unique learning and writing experience. We would have to collaborate to write a new piece. It would not have to be a traditional 5 act play. 

I look forward to everyone’s ideas! I want us to stretch our minds and collaborate effectively.  If anyone wants to add to my ideas to make them concrete, please feel free to do so. I also welcome all criticism, good and bad.

Learning Outcomes: What do I wanna learn from this course

Your blog post for this week should be a description of your own personal goals for this project.  This is not an invitation to share your freewriting.  Rather, your blog post should be a more polished or cohesive narrative (or summary-description) of what you have learned from the freewriting.  In your blog reflection, please identify learning outcomes that matter the most to you.  What do you want to learn?  In addition, please describe a few project concepts that you have developed in order to realize the learning outcomes that are most meaningful to you.  In other words, please describe a few project concepts with as much detail as possible.  What do you want to make?  Why?

The passage above are instruction for this week’s blog post. Now that my class and I have gone through all the scholarly articles and presentations within our cohort, there is just one final thing to do… PROJECT time. To refresh my readers for the goal of this course, I am using this blog platform for. It is to introduce incoming grad students within the M.A. in English Writing Studies program into theory behind the pedagogy of writing. This class has been nothing short of amazing! But this blog is not a class reflection blog, it is of my own personal and development blog.

To jump into the question Dr. Zamora has presented to the class, my learning outcome that are most meaningful to me is to use all my new resources and knowledge from this course (alongside my other courses) to apply to both my filed of work and future academic path. Unfortunately, during our freewrite time in class I was only able to produce obituary ideas that was just something to get down on to paper. When Dr. Zamora proposed these questions, I was a bit upset and confused. Throughout all my academic training, I was always TOLD what to do, not what do I want to do. So this question had me quite stuck in my thoughts. Not until I finished presenting my own presentation that I was able to give the appropriate answer to Dr. Zamora proposed question.

In reality, my fellow academics are the ones I need to thank for helping me come to what learn outcomes the matters to me the most from this course. I will not say this classmate’s name (she is an AMAZING poet!), but her comments about my presentation stood out to me the most. My poet friend told me, “I can easily see you with your PhD!”, and I thought to myself, “Is the woman really serious!?” So throughout this entire week I have been pondering on that comment she made to me. With that said, I began my research in possible PhD programs that I feel would be a fit for me and I for it.

So what is the point of this narrative you may ask? The answer is this: My learning outcomes that matter the most to me is producing work that I can potentially be apart of a scholarly journal, conference, or applied to real life field work. My first semester as a grad student has shown me that everything I have learned always makes a full circle to connect to my potential academic and real life career goals.

With that said, some projects that have come to me are the following:

  • Creative piece surrounded around the idea of the writing process (alongside a piece of academic writing
  • Addressing the issues of the RED PEN affect (of course art is going to be implemented!)

Also, here is another possible confrence that this project could be submitted for:

Blog #11: Concept for Final Class Project

This has been an excellent class for a multitude of reasons:  Dr. Zamora studied and organized a collection of theorists who predominantly advocated for the development of student voice within the context of a non-authoritarian learning environment.  What was exceptional about this learning experience is that we, as the students, had the opportunity to experience the empowerment that the theorists, we were reading, espoused; because, our professor and facilitator seamlessly integrated these ideologies and applied them to the creation of our learning environment.  Thus, we had the rare opportunity to understand many of the pedagogical theories we were reading about on both an intellectual and visceral level. Having transformed within the context of this teaching style, I am convinced that I would feel fulfilled emulating it, if given the opportunity to act as a facilitator with a class.

The authors we read offered theoretical explanations, research to justify their viewpoints, recommended resources and practical advice on practices and methods that can be integrated into ones teaching style.  The theoretical dimension of the readings gave us a window into “why” a given approach has value ; however, after having gained an understanding of “the why”, I believe I would benefit in the future by having an organized collection of segments referring to practices and methods or “the how”. Regarding the final project, I would like to leave this class with a manual of direct excerpts from authors we read, VERBATUM, pertaining to applicable practices.  I think as a class we can achieve this in three weeks.

Week One: Choose unit headings and break into groups under those headings. Assign one or two articles to each group member. Each group should open a google doc. and share the link before the end of class.  Also, a works cited page should be created and shared with the whole class.

HW for Week One: Cut excerpts from the articles assigned to you and paste them in your shared google doc. VERBATUM. (If you are unable to convert the PDF file to a format that allows for a cut and paste option, please retype the passage(s) as written by the author) Cite author in text and on works cited page.

Week Two: Each group should get together and organize the authors quotations, pertaining to applicable practices, in an order that is cohesive or makes thematic sense.

HW for Week Two:  Write brief transition statements between each authors recommendation’s or each conceptual shift. (I say conceptual shift because some authors, such as Peter Elbow, recommend methods and practices that relate to the development of contrasting skill sets).

Transitions: Although, there may be some benefit in briefly referring to the pedagogical reasoning behind the method or practice, my conceptualization of this project has a predominant focus on concrete applications and not the theory and research that stands apart from the directly tangible dimensions of pedagogy.  In other words, once the project is finished, we will all have a manual of practices we can apply to evaluation or teaching practices.

Week Three:  The class should synthesis each of the individual units (or google docs) into one cohesive piece.  Then we can proof-read it as a class. (Swapping units is an option at the stage of proofreading to allow each group to benefit from a new set of eyes.)

In trying to present a somewhat concise description of this concept, my communication may have come across as vague.  To avoid a lack of clarity, I will provide an example below.  Dr. Zamora has already given us a framework upon which we can build this project, because of the way she organized the reading roster.

ENG 5020 Reading Roster, Fall 2019

Perspectives on the Field of Writing Studies

Rhetoric and Composition by Janice M. Lauer 

Composition at the Turn of the 21st Century by Richard Fulkerson

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key.” College Composition and Communication. 56.2 (2004), 297-328.


Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries by Peter Elbow

Brannon, Lil and C.H. Knoblauch. “On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.” College Composition and Communication. 33.2 (1982), 157-166.

National Writing Project. (2018). Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum. Available at

Mutilingual contexts

Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World by Paul Kei Matsuda

Tutoring ESL Students:  Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva

Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued.” College Composition and Communication. 57.4 (2006), 586-619.

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2005). A pedagogy of multiliteracies designing social futures. In Multiliteracies: Lit Learning (pp. 19-46). Routledge. Available at:

Rubrics & Assessment

Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria by John Bean

Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century by Kathleen B. Yancey

Looking Back as We Look Forward:  Historicizing Writing Assessment by Kathleen B. Yancey

Formulaic Writing & Process

Wiley, Mark. “The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist).” The English Journal. 90.1 (2000), 61-67.

Teaching Writing as Process Not Product by Donald Murray

Garcia, A. (2016). How Remix Culture Informs Student Writing and Creativity. School Library Journal. Retrieved at

Nelson, Jennie. “Reading Classrooms as Text: Exploring Student Writers’ Interpretive Practices.” College Composition and Communication. 46.3 (1995), 411-429.


Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers

Witte, S. (2013). Preaching What We Practice. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction (JoCI), 6(2). Chapter available at:


Writing Comments on Student Papers by John Bean

Sommers, Nancy. “Responding to Student Writing.” College Composition and Communication. 33.2 (1982), 148-156.

Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment by Peter Elbow

Straub, Richard. “The Concept of Control in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of ‘Directive’ and ‘Facilitative’ Commentary.” College Composition and Communication. 47.2 (1996), 223-251.

Ferlazzo, L. (2018, November 3). Giving Students Writing Feedback: Do This Not That . Retrieved at: 

Elbow, Peter. (2002). High stakes and low stakes in assigning and responding to writing. Dialogue on writing: Rethinking ESL, basic writing, and first-year composition, 289-298


Hartwell, Patrick. “Grammar, Grammers, and the Teaching of Grammers.” College English. 47.2 (1985), 105-127.

Grammar Alive! A Guide For Teachers by Brock Haussamen et al.

The Erasure of the Sentence by Robert Connors

Writing & Identity

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire

Delpit, Lisa D. The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children, Harvard Educational Review; Aug 1988; 58, 3; Research Library

pg. 280

Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Michelle Gibson, Matha Marinara, and Deborah Meem

Purdy, James and Joyce Walker. “Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers.” Pedagogy. 13.1 (2012), 9-41.

Teacher-Writers: Then, Now, and Next

General Commentary on Writing Process

Bad Ideas About Writing Edited by Cheryl Ball and Drew Lowe

Hunt, B. (2013, December 11). We never use pen & paper [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Popova, M (2014, December 2). Lynda Barry’s Illustrated Field Guide to Keeping a Visual Diary and Cultivating a Capacity for Creative Observation [Blog post: Brainpickings] Retrieved from

Writing as Making/Making as Writing by Connected Learning TV

Fister, Barabara. “Why the ‘Research Paper’ Isn’t Working.” Inside Higher Ed. April 12, 2011 (web).

Jaxon, Kim. “One Approach to Guiding Peer Response.”National Writing Project. March 26, 2009. (web).

During the first week, the class can agree to keep these unit headings or to organize the articles we have read under different headings.

For clarity, I have placed some examples of quotes that pertain to the practical, applicable and concrete aspects of a theory:

Unit Heading: Feedback

the distinction between high and low stakes… here I am emphasizing a continuum with many intermediate points. Just as important, it is also a continuum from the least responding to the most responding.

Zero response (lowest stakes). When I am clear and honest with students about the fact that I need to require more writing from them than I can comment on, I help them fairly quickly get over any feelings of deprivation or resentment. Most students come to appreciate the chance to write with the knowledge that they will be heard but will not have to deal with my response. In fact, many teachers require some low stakes writing that they don’t even read. Students can appreciate and benefit from the freedom of this private writing. (See Sargent and Elbow, Chapters Four and Eleven, respectively, on ways to deal with private writing.)

Minimal, nonverbal, noncritical response. We can note effective or strong or correct passages by simply putting a straight line underneath particular words or phrases or alongside longer sections. (Teachers often use check marks in the margin for this purpose, but I find straight lines are more specific markers.) I can respond in this way virtually as quickly as I can read. Almost every student needs some encouragement, and some students on some occasions need lots. Even in very poor pieces of writing, certain parts are always better than others; students benefit from having them pointed out. To find strong points, even in weak writing, is a skill that will help us improve student learning and writing.

Supportive response—no criticism. There are usually things that students do well that are hard to point to with simple straight lines (for example, “You chose a good approach to your topic,” or, “You write with a clear and lively voice.”) Whether we call it praise or positive reinforcement, the fact remains that this kind of response does the most good with the least effort. That is, we are most likely to cause learning and least likely to do harm if the message of 10 WRITING TO LEARN our response is, in effect, “Please do more of this thing you are already doing here.” We are least likely to cause learning and most likely to do harm if we give the message that is all too often implied in critical feedback: “Start doing something you’ve never done before.”

Descriptive or observational response. An example of this response: “You begin with an anecdote from your own experience; then show us how it throws light on your academic topic. Then you make your case—which really rests on a process of definition—showing what fits and what is excluded.” One of the hardest things for student writers is simply to see their own text, to understand the logical and rhetorical strategies they have used. Neutral and noncritical observations can be very effective because students don’t need to resist them.

Minimal, nonverbal critical response. Just as quickly as we can read and put in straight lines, we can also put wavy or wiggly lines underneath words or alongside passages that are unclear or problematic or wrong. It’s remarkable what a strong sense of our readerly presence and response we can give to students when we note five or six phrases or passages per page with straight and wiggly lines: they get a felt sense of what is working and not working for us.

Critical response, diagnosis, advice (highest stakes). This is our meat and potatoes—what we tend to assume is our main job. Obviously, we often need to give critical response to help with learning and to explain the basis of poor grades. But my premise here is that the higher we go on the continuum, the more we need to ask the crucial pragmatic questions: Is this comment worth it? How much response do I need? How much criticism will be useful? What is the likelihood of my effort doing good or harm? (Elbow, 2002)

Concrete Suggestions

• For high stakes assignments, it can be very helpful to require a draft a week or more before the final version. Teachers handle drafts in a wide variety of ways depending on their circumstances and styles. At the very least, we can just collect drafts and not comment—simply checking that they are done— thus forcing students to carry their thinking through two steps. Of course, if our circumstances make it feasible, it is good to give comments on a draft. When we comment on a draft, our response becomes almost automatically low stakes, even if critical: we can write suggestions for revising rather than just an autopsy. (Notice in Chapter Six how Herrington describes the production of an essay that has very high stakes but one that students work up to along a path of lower stakes drafts and comments on those drafts.) It is probably worth cutting back on the amount of responding on some assignments for the sake of giving students at least one experience of feedback on a draft aimed at a revision. If we can only do this once, it’s better to do it in the first half of 12 WRITING TO LEARN the semester—with the goal that students can internalize some of our responses when they work on later high stakes assignments. But commenting on drafts may be more feasible than some teachers think: if we give good responses on a draft, we can make do with just a quick verdict on the revision (perhaps using the kind of grid that I suggest in Chapter Eleven).

• Even when we are commenting on a final version, we can frame our comments in a forward looking way: instead of saying, “Here’s what didn’t work,” we can say, “Here’s what to work on in future papers.”

• I find it easier to comment on important assignments if I get students to turn in a short reflective cover letter or piece of process writing with the assignment itself. I invite something informal, even handwritten. I ask them to tell me what they see as their main points, how they went about writing and what happened, which parts they are most and least satisfied with, and what questions they have for me as a reader. Reading the cover letter usually helps me decide what to say in my comment. Often I can agree with much of what the student has said, and sometimes I can be more positive about the essay than the student was. Students may have difficulty at first with this self-reflective writing, but it promotes a skill worth working on. It gives them practice in trying to see their own thinking more clearly. (Herrington gives good examples in Chapter Six of cover letters for a mid-process draft and a final draft.)

• I find commenting much easier if I read the whole piece before making any comments except for straight and wiggly lines. I save lots of time by reminding myself that students can seldom benefit from criticism of more than two or three problems. Therefore, the most crucial decision in commenting is which problems to focus on, and I can’t make that decision till I read the whole paper through. Most of my bad commenting comes from jumping in with marginal comments as I am reading: I am more likely to waste my time on something that turns out to be a minor issue, or make some passing remark that the student misunderstands, or say something that’s actually wrong (“You obviously don’t understand x,” when later on it’s clear that she does understand x), or get caught up in a little spasm of unhelpful irritation. If I settle for just making straight and wiggly lines, these serve me as a map when I glance back over the paper after I have read the whole thing and I am trying to decide what are the few main things I need to say. (In Chapter Nine, Chris Anson points out an exception: when we put our comments on a tape cassette, we may want to tell the story of our reactions as we are actually in the process of reading. Yet Anson also points out that even for this kind of responding he sometimes does better by waiting till he has read the whole piece.)

• As Hodges points out in Chapter Seven, when we return papers to students with our comments attached, it’s a great help sometimes to ask students to take five minutes right then and write us a short note telling what they heard us saying and how they are reacting to it. This helps us learn when we are unclear or when students misinterpret our words or react in ways we don’t expect. HIGH STAKES AND LOW STAKES IN WRITING 13

• If we are writing comments where the stakes aren’t too high, we can save time by waiting till we have two pieces in hand, read them together, and write only one comment on both. The comparison is often pedagogically useful. (“Notice how much clearer your point was on this paper compared to that one [or how much more carefully you argued]. What helped you?”)

• Though it sometimes costs me a few more words, I try to avoid an impersonal “God/truth voice” in my comments. Almost anything that we might say in response to a piece of writing is going to be affected by our own point of view. Even the main ideas in our discipline are arguable. If we are willing to say, “Unconvincing for me,” instead of “Unconvincing,” students are more likely to pause, listen, and think—instead of just resisting, or else unthinkingly giving in to authority. Besides, magisterial shorthand words like “Awk” are often extremely unclear. I have been trying to learn to write more accurate translations like, “I stumbled here,” or, “I’m lost,” or, “Wording feels unprofessional,” or, “Too slangy for my ear,” or, “Can you be less roundabout?” I sum up this chapter with that useful dictum “At least do no harm.” Think how much good we do in assigning lots of writing, especially lots of low stakes writing. But this approach is only feasible when we realize that we can get by with far less response and criticism than we usually assume. (Elbow, 2002)