Bad Ideas about Writing and Envisioning Possibilities

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The title Bad Ideas About Writing by Ball and Loewe was enough to pique my interest into reading these selections first. The three articles all have a similar format of telling the audience what the idea is (the bad idea) and then explaining what the idea should be (the good idea). Each of the articles has a main focus whether it be changing our mindsets toward failure, the curriculum and instruction for first year composition, and the need to read while completing writing instruction. As an English teacher, I feel like these ideas and teaching concepts are already implemented, however the more I thought about the topics I allowed my brain to venture into the other disciplines and to silently filter through the complaints from students over the past 10 plus years of instruction. 

            They just assign the work and tell us to do. 

            They don’t show us how to read. 

            They just tell us to take notes and I don’t even know what I’m reading. 

            Miss there is no rubric. 

            He didn’t give me a prompt. 

            She just gave me an F and told me that this wasn’t what she asked for. 

            I didn’t get any feedback. How am I supposed to know what to correct? 

            Why don’t other teachers give us rubrics? 

“Failure is Not an Option” is a short article about the necessity of literacy as well as the fixed mindset that people have about being good writers verse being bad writers. I am guilty of having doubts about my own writing, needing to start over and feeling defeated, and until recently, believing that writing is solely a linear process. The text talks about discovering your internal writer and ideas by accident or even failure. This is a concept that people don’t really talk about in school, unless you are in a masters writing program, and it is a debilitating fear that needs to be overcome in order for people to be okay with failing in order to learn and grow. The line from the text that had the greatest impact on me was, “We aren’t born pen in hand, fully primed to write sonnets or political treaties as soon as we get a grip on those fine motor skills. Writing is learned slowly, over a long period of time, and with much difficulty, and anybody who says otherwise is lying or delusional or both” (Carr 78). This line reminded me of the drafts and scribblings I have seen from Shakespeare, Poe, or Wilson and the lifelong journey they took in trying to perfect their craft. This line brought me peace and understanding of the process of writing. 

“Reading is Not Essential to Writing Instruction” just sounds foolish. How can one write about something without having read or learned about it? The article brings up the topic of needed to have sustained and meaningful encounters with texts to be able to prepare for conversations about genre, style, purpose, and audience. Without the mentor texts and examples, it is difficult, nearly impossible for the average or struggling read to come up with a format and style of their own. The text drove home the point that reading skills and strategies needed to in taught directly and then writing skills and strategies can be taught. This article does focus on the need that students have for direct instruction. These skills are not taught by accident, or just by assigning more work, but the skills need to be broken down, step by step in order for people to see growth in their skills as readers first and then writers. Reading supports our growth as readers, writers, and thinkers. 

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“First-Year Composition Prepares Students for Academic Writing” should be titled teaching people how to communicate effectively while quoting facts and not heavily loaded opinions. The text brings to mind the presidential debates on television and the “style of uncivil, boorish argumentation in which pundits unabashedly bend, distort, or even make up facts to advance their positions” rather than focusing on having a sound argument with clear and valid claims and counterarguments. This article reinforces the need or reading and finding good sources (CRAAP checking sources) to use in argumentation (Branson 21). Author, Tyler Branson, is encouraging teacher of first year comp to encourage teachers to teach students how to think, fact check sources, and encourage “civil discourse.” Like Elbow and Bean, Branson also encourages educators to focus on higher order issues such as argument, analysis, audience, purpose and context, while putting minor issues of grammar and spelling further down the list of importance. 

Hugo selected a piece that I found rather difficult to understand titled, “Envisioning possibilities: visualizing as enquiry in literacy skills” by Smith, Hall, and Sousanis. The abstract alone appeared to be way over my head as well as out of the normal mode of thinking for me as a storyteller or writer. My brain is hardwired for words and speech and does not translate to images or nonlinear patterns of writing development. I read this article and I have sat with it for a while, but I will need to reread it to fully grasp the author’s purpose. Despite the difficulty with this text, I am extremely excited to see what Hugo will share with us during his presentation. 

Topics of interest:

Multimodality 

Engaging the audience through the use of visuals 

Connecting words and images 

Encouraging students to use sounds, images, and diverse modes of delivery for  

The role of imagination in education

Comics/Graphic novels  

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