All posts by pdennisart

Grounded Theory & Me!

Response to Migilaccio, Todd & Melzer, Dan. Using Grounded Theory in Writing Assessment. The WAC Journal Volume 22 (2011): 78-88

Grounded Theory in a general understanding involves the collection and analysis of data. The theory is considered “grounded” in the data collected, which in short translates the analysis and development of theories happens after collecting the data. This theory is considered towards qualitative theory, but can be used in different areas of research. 

To simplify it even more, the best way I can put it is the following: “Think of Grounded Theory that is “grounded” from raw data/information to create a new theory all your own! You gather the data and code it. Meaning you categorize it based on the levels of importance… (Dennis & Mentor 2020).”

I found the reading Using Grounded Theory in Writing Assessment very interesting because it made me look at my own research question and ponder on the idea of using Grounded Theory to approach my question. Delving into the article, Grounded Theory is used to approach writing assessment, which most students across all disciplines have struggling doing. The idea of writing itself can be daunting for both students and instructors; in the case for this article it is the sociology department faculty and students. 

Another aspect of the article that I found interesting was the way that Grounded Theory would benefit not just one discipline such as composition but for writing in all disciplines. “As a research methodology that emphasizes dialogue, context, and a relationship between analysis and theory building, grounded theory aligns… , constructivist trends in writing assessment, and it can be presented to departments across disciplines as an alternative to the more traditional, positivist approach of formulating a rubric, scoring essays, and writing up a report to gather dust in an administrator’s file cabinet (Migliaccio & Melzer, pgs 79-80 ).”  Quite honestly, I think many students who struggle to meet the criteria of writing assessment rubrics would benefit from the research and results from this theory. We are growing in age of writing becoming humanistic, instead of facts on facts.Grounded Theory all in sense, to my understanding is backtracking your steps in the data that you gather with something new and profound to aid to information to solve an issue.

The more I read and began to understand the “groundedness” of Grounded Theory, the more I began to evaluate how I have been already obtaining my own raw data with my past and current 2nd Grade students. From annotating their writing over the course of the school year, tracking their reading log amount/content, 1-on-1 conferences, and other supplement material I create to help them with their writing assessments/assignments.  

This reading helped me feel more confident in my own research question and what research methodology I would use to research my question, which is the following: What is the effectiveness of implementing a Digital Literacy designed learning tool (by me) into a control group within a 3rd ELA class?  To elaborate on that question, I was then asked by Dr. Nelson my purpose, data, and intentions on how I would answer my question: 

The question I proposed is important to me because working as a Reading Coach in an urban school, I see the issue a lot of my students face when it comes to writing. They need that extra in class support to understand the concept of the writing process and how to approach it. Unfortunately, it is not common to have in class support in all classrooms. I want to design eLearning content that focuses on the issues of writing that our students face today.

The data I would need to collect in order to answer this question is observing the students and how they process writing, some of their writing throughout the course of the year, and working with the students in a classroom setting. Working as a Reading Coach for 2nd Grade students, I already have and continue to gather this type of data as I work with the age group. My plan is to follow this same class to the next grade to use the e Learning content that I am designing based on the information I have and currently gaining while working with them. My next steps are to do more research on the usage of digital literacies tools within an ELA classroom setting and to also get started on the IRB process in order for me to come back next school year to work with them. 

Work Cited

.Stephanie. “Grounded Theory: Simple Definition and Examples.” Statistics How To, 22 Feb. 2019,

Migilaccio, Todd & Melzer, Dan. Using Grounded Theory in Writing Assessment. The WAC Journal Volume 22 (2011): 78-88

The following is a link to my presentation!

Hypertext Writing v. Linear-Writing

Summary of the Article

The basic understanding that I took away from this article is the idea of Linear Writing versus Hypertext Writing and what population of students most benefits from each technique. Hypertext is defined as being a non-linear way of presenting information. Students usually use this method to follow their own path when trying to give meaning to material assigned, rather than the order an author wants them to follow. As for Linear-Writing, then can be defined as  starts at the beginning and plows through to the end without going back to change or fix things. Using charts and analysis gathered from the case study of two male teachers and their groups of students, we are able to see the effective and productiveness of using each method.

My thoughts and rebuttals to the article

Fun video breaking down Hypertext!

To be quite honest, I was (and still am) confused on the exact methodology that was used and how to understand the charts, grafts, and statistics behind this research. What I did really take away from this reading is the terms Hypertext, Linear, Non-Linear, and Hierarchy; which were outlined by Emily in her presentation. The way I attempt to cope with my understanding and new material being learned is putting it into practical use. When I think of Hypertext, I think of my blogs! When I am writing out my blogs, I tend to hypertext certain words, phrases, or sentences that I feel are of importance. I use this method for several reasons: 

  1. I think as a UX (user experience) designer. If something I am trying to say is not simplistic enough, I will hyperlink the text to send them to my source of information.
  2. I try to be as accurate with my information as much as possible, so I like to send people to the source of where I receive my information from.
  3. I just think it’s fun to give more information! I just hope that people are just as excited to learn about information as much as I am. 

As I touched upon in our class discussion for Emily’s presentation, being of the millennium generation, I understand both versions of education before and after shaving advanced technology. The old day of turnitin, we had a computer base the determined if information we used in our writing were of our original work or plagiarized. If Hypertext was introduced around that time of my undergraduate academic career, I would have had less drafts of my essays that needed to be. In my eyes, I see hypertext is almost like a form of works cited without physically making the page (but I am not knocking work cited pages because they are definitely needed!). But the point I am trying to make is Hypertext is a new tool that I believe is an essential part of the writing process. I see Hypertext to be another essential to students who just can not get it right the “traditional way”. I also found the statement Dr. Nelson madea saying that we have been using Hypertext all the while without even realising it. The notes on the footer of the articles and essay most college students would be reading contain more expanded knowledge on the content at hand. SO in reality the tool has always been there, just in a different setting. I also liked what Emily stated in her reaction paper, “Looking past the flaws throughout this experimental article, I agree with Braaksma, Rijlaarsdam, and van Bergh when it comes to teaching adolescents writers the advantages of hypertext writing. In the long run, this will help them succeed in their future writing assessments and expand their creative minds.” 

Information to back up my thoughts and rebuttals!

Once I was able to put into terms exactly Hypertext, I did my own bit of research. I found this article that talks about the benefits of teaching hypertext to our students.

“Computer-aided learning is deemed to support interest and learning success because of a learner’s (inter-)activity (e.g., [12]). Dale (2008) reported “the relative newness and coolness” of computers [7]. Since the iPod assignments in his study did not feel like work to the students, it was easier to motivate students and draw them into the instructional process.”

The article goes on to talk about the history of hypertext and purposes of creating it. Due to my straining from so much reading, I was only able to bring myself to reading this article in hope of more clarification.

Wrapping it up: Coming back full circle 

So in short, this article was both confusing and informative. My learning outcome were the following:

  • Define Hypertext and its uses
  • The usefulness of teaching it to young writers
  • The experimental study of Hypertext v. Linear-text in a classroom setting
  • Putting findings into practical use

Sidenote: I hope I did pretty descent for this first article!

Turing Theory into Practice: Giving Students a Voice!

 “The Human Voice is the most perfect instrument of all” –Arvo Pärt

The project theme for my Writing theory and practice course this semester has been the theory and ideas behind voice. From finding you voice as an identity, to apply voice to pedagogy practice; the power of voice is limitless. With that said, my contribution to the class project is turning theory into practice. Using the practical work as a Reading Coach for 2nd grade students, I was able to come up with simple, fun, and constructive way to help my students to take control of their learning and to find their voice in the young world of academia!

Learning goals book: month of december

With the help from two of my students, they were the first two to test out these new personally disguised books I made for an on going practice to help my students. These books are called Learning Goals Books. These books serve as another medium of communication between my students and I. In my current (and last year) classroom settings, the class ratio of teachers to students is 3:24. Even with that being the case, to target every students with specific needs (ESL, IEPs, and cultural difference, just to name a few) can make instruction time quite hard in an ELA class. Going off of my own observation, writing and speaking seems to be two of the main issues plaguing my students. Building a sound foundation for rhetoric and composition is intestinal for our young scholars to be successful in the rest of their academic journey. This book was produce by research that I gained as a current grad student, practical experience as a Reading Coach, and the creativity of the artist in me to help give my students their voice.

Cover of the book

These two students were very excited to be the ones to test out the books! Below is an audio recording of our interaction with introducing the books. To the right is my young scholar friends holding their books that designed!

Recording #1

Opening the books: Sticky notes to ms. p!

This is where the communication begins! Just before we dive into the sticky notes, you can hear in the audio the excitement and fun that my students had getting and decorating their new books. As shown above are the “sticky notes” that my students will use to communicate with me. Listen to the audio below for more in depth instructional time.

Recording #2


This next audio is just us sharing our sticky note response to the question; I am excited about learning:

Recording #3

The following recording is the second prompt on the sticky note that ask the following: I still need help with. This portion of the sticky note is where the students take control over what they want to target and gain more skills on.

Recording #4


The next audio is us mapping out how we are going obtain these goals! It was so cute watching my students fumble over their words because they did not know how to exactly say what they wanted. I was able to understand what they were trying to convey.

Recording #5
last remarks/back of book

This last recording is concluding remarks with reassuring the schedule of their books, how they will be used, and the reward for meeting their goals! I am very excited ot see what the last week of December brings for us!

Recording #6

continuing study

I am very excited and pleased that the books turned out this way. As I continually stated, this project will continue on for the rest of the school year to see where it takes the students. This tool is mainly mused towards my “targeted students” that I see are having trouble with certain things throughout the school year. There will be a different set of students each month, depending on their needs and areas that need improvement. Please checkout my last blog post: to see the research behind my little books! Thank you for stopping by and checking out my project, Namaste.

Giving our Students a Voice: Listening to our Learners

Just teaching at our students is not enough for them to gain a proper education. In my my now second year serving as a Reading Coach through AmeriCorps, I have been able to see my previous statement as a reality; for students that I had and currently have the pleasure to work with. The current population of students I serve are urban city students, who are first generation English speakers. My second grade students have humbled me to the idea that students have just as much say in their education as of a Teacher, Administration, or Superintend. The issue that comes into play is that who will actually listen to them?

During my first year as a Graduate Student, I have been able to put my theory from my courses into practice with my second graders. Through different creative exercises, discovery learning outcomes, and putting play into learning, I have a new understanding to what is best for my students. With that said, I have come to these and many other conclusion for my students by doing the following: Listening to them! No, I am not the perfect educator, but I am willing to hear their ideas and stories because they have so much to say! The following are three areas are were I see my students’ voice needs to be heard the most; Voice in their writing, the silenced dialogue, and ESL learners.

silenced dialogue


This snippet of the article kind of breaks down the forms of power and how it plays a role in education. I found the first three points more suited towards the classrooms.

  • (1)Issues of power are enacted in classrooms.
    • Power of teacher over students. Teachers ultimately choose the learning.
  • (2) There are codes or rules for participating in power
    • Linguistic forms, communicative strategies, and presentation self.
  • (3) The rules of the culture of power are are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power
    • The success in institutions – schools, workplaces, and etc – is predicated upon acquisition of the culture of those in power

“Many liberal educators hold that the primary goal for education is for children to become autonomous, to develop fully who they are in the classroom setting without having arbitrary, outside standards forced upon them.”

“The dilemma is not really in the debate over instructional methodology. but rather in communicating across cultures and in addressing the more fundamental issue of power, of whose voice gets to be heard in determining what is best for poor children and children of color.”

ESL Learners

ESL students are defined as the following; English as a second language (ESL): people who come to live in an English – speaking country, and do not speak English very well ( . With research on the topic of ESL students as an undergraduate, and my current experience as a Reading Coach, I’ve been able to have both the education and field experience with the ESL student population. In the aspect of learning English in an academic setting, ESL students may have a harder time understanding the “standard English” that is accepted into the world of academia. By trying to speak this academic English language, many issues may appear in their writing. Unfortunately, the academic system in most native – English speaking countries only see writing as a way of truly understanding English “correctly”. Even many native – English speaking student writers have trouble with writing and the process it takes to become a good writer. With that said, we as educator (on all platforms) must approach ESL students in a manner that both benefits them and their best interest to grow as writers. Now that I have made a clear understanding of the position where the ESL students stand, it is now appropriate to introduce the article. 

Most public schooling have approximately a class size of a 1:23 ratio of teacher to students. It is quite challenging for one teacher to address the specific needs of every student, especially if they have a slight extra baggage (disabilities, IEPs, ESL, etc.); this is where tutors come into play. As I stated previously, tutors’ roles are to aid with the writing process, to help students develop their writing. Unfortunately, even tutors must address the elephant into the room; tutors need help and pointers on how to work with ESL students. Unlike native – English speakers, ESL students have deeper rooted issues with their writing, that might even be a handful for tutors. This article is a breath of fresh air for tutors who have students that come from ESL backgrounds. The reading goes on to break down into 11 subcategories that tutors may face with their students and options to help their situation.

voice in writing

“Writers in fact depend on readers’ willingness to stay with a text, even a difficult one, without judging it prematurely on the basis of its apparent violation of their own perspectives or impressions of some subject.”

Of course for many of us who have been reading our entire lives, see no fault in this true assumption. But unfortunately, we do not see in the case of our young beautiful writers. We do not see them having the capability to have this type of authority. This writing stigma is built upon the relationship we have between them as student and teacher (I am currently very guilty of this with my 2nd Graders).

“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.”

Due to teachers feeling that they have this intellectual and experienced authority over the students writing, we try to have a say so over what type of voice the student is trying to have inn their writing. We come in with having the best intentions, but it fall shorts when we let this authority ego take over.

Sticky note to ms. p!

My proposed project for theme of voice in writing and education, I am giving my students the chance to voice their opinions and input on how they want to shape their education.

I created this replica of a “sticky note” that my students are accustomed to me using when I give them feedback on their writing. For each month I will give my students theses weekly personal learning outcomes they want to meet so that I could address them. At the beginning of each week, the students will take 5 minutes to fill out the sticky note so that we can work on these goals for the week. For my project, I will share so completed books on my blog!

further reading

Elbow, Peter. RECONSIDERATIONS : Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries. 2007,

Harris, Muriel, and Tony Silva. “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 4, 1993, p. 525., doi:10.2307/358388.

Delpit, Lisa. “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 58, no. 3, 1988, pp. 280–299., doi:10.17763/haer.58.3.c43481778r528qw4.

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:

Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options

Greeting all! We are at the point in the semester where I am presenting the designated reading for the week, rather than just blogging about. So intead of my usual blog, I will be leaving my REACTION PAPER and presentation so that you all (my classmates) can view it in preparation for tomorrows class!


Reaction Paper:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

When jumping into this article, I was just mind blown of what I was about dive deep into… But first, I would like you to take the time out to listen to one of my favorite revolutionary artist Jermaine Cole, better know as J. Cole. **Click on link under his picture***. After reading this article, I was moved to come back to one of his older songs, High 4 Hours, recorded in 2017. Please do not be fooled by the title of the song, but be moved by meanings in his lyrics. I am telling you, he is truly an amazing, poetic, and well spoken artist!

I am going to be complete honest, I was a little confused and intimidated when I first began to read this article. There were a lot of powerful words being thrown around and I did not know exactly how to place them (that truly made me nervous). As I went to read through it again, I was able to make connection as to what Freire wanted me to take away from this reading. I was then able to connect the J. Cole song to his words and it all made since! As I said before, I am still trying to gain the true grasp of this reading, so I decided to take another pace on how to approach this article. So with further a due, lets dissect this!

“This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well (Freier)”

When reading this statement, I could not help but think of another inspirational speaker; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like many of us know, he was the voice (this word voice is always there) for one the most know pacifistic movements. He believed that we should not over throw and hate our oppressor, but help free not just us but themselves from their own darkness.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. With this quote, this verse from J. Cole’s song High 4 Hours says something just as similar to Dr. King

“Look at the power, but you know what power does to man
Corruption always leads us to the same shit again
So when you talk about revolution dawg, I hear just what you saying What good is taking over, when we know what you gon’ do
The only real revolution happens right inside of you (J. Cole 2017).”

The next statement that I found interesting to look deeper into is the following: “But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or ‘sub-oppressors’.”

When reading this statement, I could not helped but be reminded by the constantly oppressed ethnicity I just so happened to belong, African American. Fun fact, during my undergrad studies as an English major, the majority of my education was based on identity and finding out more about my people. I was fully aware of the slavery and racism that most blacks faced in the United States, but until I got to college, I was oblivious to what underlining impact issues that they faced. The statement above took me back to look at some of my old academic writing that ties into a snippet of what this article is trying to convey.

“Another form of this racism that appeared in the book was not towards Jacobs herself, but towards the other slaves around her. “I admit that the black man is inferior. But what is it that makes him so? It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South, and the scarcely less cruel human bloodhounds of the north, who enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. They do the work (Jacobs p. 49).” When a person is put in fear that if they are willing to learn then they are willing to die he will want to stay ignorant in order to live. Commonly known through history, it was forbidden for any slave to learn how to read or write. Such acts of trying to educate themselves left options of being whipped, being sold off, or being killed. This “peculiar institution” left slaves naturally feeling as though they were born to be less capable than the white man, leaving them ignorant, and the white man with more power (Patricia Dennis 2017). “

I found this next statement very interesting because it makes the oppressed take a step back from themselves and their actions towards each other. When oppressed people feel compelled to keep their thought, anger, feeling, and all other factors towards their own kind; how can they ever feel truly empowered to face those who made them this way?” When I look at this quote, it reminds me of the African American Theory I studied as an undergrad. The African American theory address many aspects as to what makes it a theory; one aspect I vividly remember was internal racism. From as far as slavery, all the way to present time, this is still an issue with most people of color. Instead trying to crawl out of the barrel, we look as to why we need to keep others in the barrel down. Instead of fighting the hate outside, many fail to face their own inner issues caused be oppressor.

To end off this article, I would like to leave this quote from the text to thing about:

“If the goal of the oppressed is to become fully human, they will not achieve their goal by merely reversing the terms of the contradiction, by simply changing poles.”

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children

This article really was a great follow up read to the first article in my blog. The best part about this article is that I was able to put myself within, as being both a student and educator of color. It was very hard to NOT want to write about everything in this article, so I was able to break it down to six quotes/points I found most interesting.

“My charge here is not to determine the best instructed methodology; I believe that the actual practice of good teachers of all colors typically incorporates a range of pedagogical orientations.”

Wow! This statement has so much truth behind it! No good teachers sticks to one approach when teaching any student. With each school year, there are new set of students, and with each new set of students, the are different strutted minds to teach. With that, a particular methodology is always the best but the amount of effort educators put into finding different and exciting ways to engage ALL students. I wish many of my primary teachers would have taken a gander at this article! I also want you to remember the above statement later down the line throughout the discussion topics in my post.

The culture of power

This snippet of the article kind of breaks down the forms of power and how it plays a role in education. I found the first three points more suited towards the classrooms.

  • (1)Issues of power are enacted in classrooms.
    • Power of teacher over students. Teachers ultimately choose the learning.
  • (2) There are codes or rules for participating in power
    • Linguistic forms, communicative strategies, and presentation self.
  • (3) The rules of the culture of power are are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power
    • The success in institutions – schools, workplaces, and etc – is predicated upon acquisition of the culture of those in power

Tying my experience into the mix is that above points are true. The culture of power is something that is established in certain classrooms, with certain teachers, in certain circumstances. For example, being educated in Newark was not the most greatest places to get a decent education, but I was fortunate. The primary school I went to had teachers that looked just like me and was able to take grab of that power of culture and shape it into something to help the school grows. But that was not the case for many other schools in Newark.

“Many liberal educators hold that the primary goal for education is for children to become autonomous, to develop fully who they are in the classroom setting without having arbitrary, outside standards forced upon them.”

Is that what we all as educators want for our students? Not only do students have normal academic pressure on their back, but even more standards thrown on them. SAT, ACT, NJ ASK, HESPA.. these are just a few outside standard test I had to face as a high school student, I can’t imagine what the standards are now. These rules and standards are set on these students to become something other themselves. Speaking for the perspective of colored student, we were told to leave our “ghetto ways” at the door to get into academic formation. What does that even mean? Do I need to put on cape on intellect to fit the personality of education atmosphere?

“They (Black parents) want to assurance that school provides their children with discourse patterns, interaction styles, and written language codes that will allow them success in the real world.”

12 hours shifts, 4 hours of sleep, making ends meet… just so that their child can receive an education that will help them survive and hopefully thrive in society. The first person I thought of in this statement is my mom. The person I just described in the beginning of this passage is my mother. While writing this post, I was on the phone with my boyfriend describing to him how I do not really remember my mom staying home a lot or seeing her as often as I do now. Looking back at it now, I get it. She worked so hard so that I can have better opportunities in this world that will judge my knowledge off the color of my school. Though she could not always be at the PTA or parent conference meetings, she prayed that my teachers would see fit that my mind did not go to waste. That’s what any parent would hope for their child.

“The dilemma is not really in the debate over instructional methodology. but rather in communicating across cultures and in addressing the more fundamental issue of power, of whose voice gets to be heard in determining what is best for poor children and children of color.”

Coincidentally enough, that above statement (which is close to the end of the article) sounds a lot like the first statement in talked about in this article. But instead of focusing on the teaching approach itself, it concentrates more on the voice and understating for the students. Food for thought I wanted to leave behind in this post.

Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries

Jumping right into this article, I dearly beloved Peter Elbow gives us a little background in the history of voice paying a major role in writing. Fun fact: In the 1960’s, a surge of enthusiasm for getting voice into writing was a major thing! But with enthusiastic, there is always bound the nay Sayers, or in this case the critics. So it become a tug of war with what our students genuinely need in their writings.

As I always like to say, history seems to always repeats itself. Way before this had became a topic of discussion, it brings us back to the Greeks!

This conflict about voice in our field echoes a much older conflict about the self in language. The Greek sophists offered, in effect, to help craft any voice for any speech to help win any argument or law case—no matter what kind of self. Plato, in reaction, argued that the power of language derived, to some real extent, from the nature of the rhetor’s self: only a good rhetor can create really good words. To learn to speak or write better, we need also to work on being better persons.

With that said… lets jump into this article!

The Current Situation

As previously talked about in the beginning of my blog, voice in writing has been going on over the centuries, but most recently it has hit a dead wall. People do not take the topic of voice in writing too seriously, and the fact that has been discredited in journals and books goes to show the fact in unfortunately true. But there is hope! It lives in the writing, thoughts, and feels of our students within the classroom. I found this statement in the article both intresting and inspiring.:

“[Jane Danielewicz quotes a comment by one of her students: “I turned down your suggestion for revising just because I thought it took away some of my personal voice in some places” (personal conversation)].”

This quote reminds me of my own doubts when it comes to my writing. I find my own voice to abrasive or unnecessary, so I began to write in passive voice. Fortunately, the more I write, the more I am encouraged to use my true voice within my writings.

As the article continues, voice also plays a role in:

  • Politics
  • Internet (via email)

Even with voice being so vital both in and outside the classrooms, we are ignoring the topic with the writing field? The article goes on to say how critics tend to get tired of a topic that is not in hot discussion. How ironic is that? Topics such as digital media (my growing love!), public wiring, service learning, and even World Englishes (another one of my growing loves!) are more entertaining to argue about.


Within this part of the article, we try to understand what is compressible in this argument of voice. Elbow goes on to refer to Aristotle’s position on voice:

“He’s not saying that rhetors should find a halfway position where they are a little bit good and natural and a little bit clever at disguising. Being only somewhat good and somewhat clever is a formula for mediocrity. My both/and reading of the crux passage is consistent with the kind of thinking that Aristotle uses in various places in his work. He often deals with tricky issues by saying, “in one sense, X; but, in another sense, Y.” That is, he often implies that we can understand a complex topic well only if we can look at it first through one lens and then through a contrary lens.”

As much as I could understand about this portion of the articles, when it comes to voice.

NCte: On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response

Now that we got some enlightenment from Elbow, now we hope into the next article backs up Elbow’s article on that importance and relationship of voice in young writers. In the first two pages, we start of by addressing the voice in writing when it comes to experienced writers. The fact the we assume they know as much about the topic they are writing about as we know, or even better. We give them a chance to get their point across we retain their voice of authority.

“Writers in fact depend on readers’ willingness to stay with a text, even a difficult one, without judging it prematurely on the basis of its apparent violation of their own perspectives or impressions of some subject.”

Of course for many of us who have been reading our entire lives, see no fault in this true assumption. But unfortunately, we do not see in the case of our young beautiful writers. We do not see them having the capability to have this type of authority. This writing stigma is built upon the relationship we have between them as student and teacher (I am currently very guilty of this with my 2nd Graders).

“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.”

Due to teachers feeling that they have this intellectual and experienced authority over the students writing, we try to have a say so over what type of voice the student is trying to have inn their writing. We come in with having the best intentions, but it fall shorts when we let this authority ego take over.

The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist)

Within the reading for this weeks class to get prepared for the next presentations, we are taking a look into the role of Formulaic Writing. For those of my readers who are not sure about what exactly is Formulaic Writing is, I will gladly provide a definition. I pulled this definition for this term from another fellow blogger (I will leave the link below!).

Formulaic writing removes agency from student writers.Because formulaic writing holds the control over what, where, when, and how students write, students easily lose agency over the formation of their own ideas. ” – (This was also an interesting read and would recommend you to check it out!).

So to revert back to this article, there were a lot of interesting point that deemed important to address in the reading. The first point I would like to talk about is the opening statement made by Wiley in his article:

All Eyes on Me …
  • High School teachers concerns and prepping High school seniors for college course
    • What teacher wouldn’t want their student to exceed? The issue with this is that we as educator can have all the passion in the world to get our student to their highest peek of education, but aren’t we only human too?
    • Most teachers are up against:
      • Scarce resources (We buy our own material!)
      • Building in disrepair (On Friday of last week, I literally had an electrician interrupt the class to ask me about a light bulb in the hallway!)
      • Classrooms are over crowded (Every other week there is about 1-3 new students arriving in my class … I am up to 52 students now!)

Factoring in all of these issues, no including any outside personal issues, this is the stress level of your everyday educator; which brings me to the point of this article. Teachers are so burnout to this point that they look for the most convenient and easy way to teach. When looking at Writing teachers, this is where the five paragraph essay, and many others like it, format is born and taught! There is not to say that this format does not have its benefits, but we are in the same way hindering our students in the process of creativity and unique in writing; which many college professor are actually looking for in essays.

My one experience of how I was brutally tore away from this particular format was during my first writing composition course as an undergrad. My professor literally made all of us as a class go through the five paragraph essay process. After the class, and my professor included, made us do this task… she instructed us to rip the essay up and throw it in the garbage! That is how I was broken away from the rut of the five paragraph essay. But unfortunately, not everyone will have a professor like that, so what do we do next?

The Jane Schaffer Approach teaching Writing

As displayed above, here is a format sample of Jane Schaffer’s essay outline. Unlike the regular five paragraph format, Schaffer gives us a more advanced structure to teaching formulaic essays. This essay also goes alongside of pre-writing activities, diagrams, and graphic organizers. Even though this is still considered a Formulaic approach, but its a different breath of fresh air. The benefit for students: Learning how to separate fact from opinion.

Criticism of Formulaic Writing (page. 5)
Within this part of the article, Wiely goes on to address the issues and concerns to teaching students writing.

  • Traditional text book advice about forming essays are sending the wrong message about what writing is.
    • Too much focused on the product and not the process of discovery!
  • To develop as writers, students to build their repertoire of strategies for dealing with writing.
    • The same way we were not born speaking, is the same mind set we need to have towards in their own writing voice. We must not teach them what to say, but how to find their own voice!
  • Wiely goes on to put Scaffer’s approach into two categories:
    • Goal: Gives a formula to produce a well content essay.
    • Contrast: Real writers know what is needed, you can not contain them into a writing format bubble.

I also came across this interesting quote from Bruce Piere:

“We send students a perversely minded message when we emphasize that all-importance of structure and then structure can’t be very important.”

Teachers should try to focus on voice and opinion in writing. We are showing the above statement through teaching the formulaic format but want them to think out of the box… that is quite contradicting.

Using Formats as Strategies but Resisting the Formulaic

Now that we are coming to an end of this very insightful, I would like to point out Wiley suggestions and strategist to using this Formulaic format in an impact way without becoming writing robots.

  • Format writing = less messiness
    • Even though this format is frowned upon for creativity, it does serve its purpose as being like an idea organizer!
  • Students also need:
  • Procedural Knowledge: Answers the question of how to accomplish a particular task.
  • Conditional Knowledge: Answers the question of when to make a particular choice.

When applied to writing, all three factors are needed!

High Stakes and Low Stakes in Assigning and Responding to Writing

In this article, we will be taking a gander at pros, cons, and everything else around Low and High stakes Writing Assignments.

Assigning Writing

The first thing we are going to do is actually define what these terms me (I hate difficult language that interrupts my reading!)

  • High Stakes Writing Assignments: is graded for both content and mechanics. It usually requires us to consider a more formal audience as well. In school, high stakes writing is the essay that must conform to the teacher’s guidelines and can count for 20% or more of your grade!
  • Low Stakes Writing Assignments:  Frequent, informal assignments that make students spend time regularly reflecting in. written language on what they are learning from discussions, readings, lectures, and their own thinking.

Between these terms, there is a common theme as proposed by Elbow… both students and teachers can learn from each assessment! An example of High Stakes writing assignment Are assignments essay questions on a writing assessment, writing reports, etc. Some example of low stakes writing assignments would be prewriting, simple prompt questions, “DO NOW”, etc.

Another valid point that was brought up in the article was that:

  • Students can understand or know a piece of information but can’t articulate through writing. These students have the fear of not being to write, or not having the skills in general. This fear and stigma that is placed upon these students’ fears can be portrayed as “lazy writers”.

We should honor nonverbal knowing, inviting students to use low stakes writing to fumble and fish for words of what they sense and intuit but cannot yet clearly say.”

This statement from the text hit home for me because it reminded me of one of my most promising students from last school year. She was one of my ESL students that used all tools around her to develop her ELA skills. When I would work 1 – on – 1 with her to develop her writing, we would use sticky notes to write down all her ideas (low stakes) before we would do the writing assignment (high stakes). For the rest of the year, she would continue to use my sticky notes to develop her writing skills.

Importance of Low Stakes Writing

There is always a big to do when it comes to High Stakes Writing; due to us wanting to push our student’s skills, trying to satisfy a curriculum, or major test taking. We as educator need to take a step back and look at the importance of Low Stakes Writing. These types of writings help students develop with the agonizing feeling of judgement for us scary writing teachers. The are also many different forms of Low Stakes Writing:

  • Speech can be both used as a Low Stakes and used in an evaluating setting.
  • Writing can be informally: Kept secret, be revised before seen.

Special Benefits of Low Stakes Writing

  • Help students involve themselves in the subject matter: They are taking control of their own learning!
  • Livelier, clearer, and more natural writing: You would be surprised how good of a writer a student can be when they are not under pressure!
  • Improves the quality of High Stakes Writing: Practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Gives teachers a better view of how students understand the course: Low Stakes does not just benefit students, but teachers as well.
  • Forces students to keep up with the assigned readings: Our blogs… Ha!

To wrap up my lovely blog, I am going to share some other points I found valid to add on and sparks some interesting discussions! Please leave comments on your thoughts!

Responding to Writing

  • Unclear comments from teachers on students’ essays: Please refer to one of my older blogs “Responding to Students Writers” for more in depth conversation about the matter.

Continuum Between High and Low Stakes Responding

  • Zero response (low stakes): Students appreciate to be heard without dealing with a response
  • Minimal, nonverbal, noncritical response: Straight lines under phrases, checks in margins… In my case, colorful sharpie markers!
  • Critical Response, diagnosis, advice (high stakes): Asking crucial pragmatic questions: “Is this comment worth it?’“How much response do I need?”

Another little I would like to add as special treat for my fellow first year gradmates!

Stories of Experience: Margaret D.

Being a graduate student within the M.A. in English Writing Studies program, I have been exposed to a lot of interesting topics throughout my first semester. The most interesting topic that caught my eye was withing my Writing Theories & Practice course, where we discuss many different topics surrounding around the theory of the practice of writing. Under is the following assignments that this blog and more like it to come, is dedicated to:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful TED talk entitled The danger of a single story

The Equity Unbound community welcomes you to join us in reflecting on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful TED talk entitled The danger of a single story. Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

TED talk:

There is great importance of telling and sharing more than one story. Regardless of what that story is, sharing the experiences of others throughout different life times is how we will learn and grow as a society. Besides my work as an educator, I also spending my weekends working at a nursing home. Within this nursing home are many of individuals who are well into their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s! Many of them are originally from different parts of the world. I want to be able to tell their stories (with consent) to generations of knowledge seekers! This will be called The Danger of a Single Story: Stories of Experience with the Twitter hashtag #storiesofexperience. So with great excitement here is the first interview of one of my residents Margaret:


The story of Margaret D.

Home Country: Tasmania, Australia
Age: 93 years old

PD: Hi Ms. Margaret! So I am going to ask you a couple of questions. When and where were you born?

MD: I was born in Tasmania, February 4th, 1926. Make sure you can hear me! My accent might get in the way! That was before the Great Depression, that was very important during that time. It made you who you are, you know love? 

PD: What type of work did you do?

MD: When I got married to my husband, I did not work. During the time you are more focused on your children and your home. Before I got married, during the war in the early 40s, I was supposed to go to college to become a school teacher. But instead of me going to college, I made parshots for the war. Fro four years I did that. During those 4 years, I met my husband, he was an AMerican soldier.

PD: How was your experience traveling from the Land down under to America?

MD: I was aboard that ship for 16 days, from Sydney/26 to California. Let me tell you, it was something! It was a Military ship, not a cruise ship love. When we use to watch movies, we sit on the hatchers, Do you know what that is?

PD: No I don’t.

MD: Well it too much to explain, only people who travel on a ship or a soldier would know about it. This was a long time ago love! 

PD: Thank you so much Ms. Margaret! I will be back next Saturday with some more questions.

MD: Well love, I hope you understood it! It’s not too much I can remember… I’m 93 years old!