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Thursday, December 29, 2011

some stuff to remember

as a writing teacher, i too often lose track of the "big picture." too often i get sidetracked from what the essential over-arching goals are for my class. hopefully, this semester, i can remember that it all comes down to what the students learned and what they are able to do.

if i can't speak directly to those outcomes, i am wasting everyone's time.


one of the most powerful things a strong writer does is ADAPT to his or her "communicative situation." (perhaps this is some version of "proper words in proper places.") all i know is that any discussion about what makes a certain writer effective must include the ability to adapt to the situation at hand. yes, i mean audience, but i also mean so much more than audience.

simply put, the key to effective writing is an ability to adapt to context, to the forces motivating the writer to speak.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

more notes

the process of writing is inductive. the presentation of writing is deductive.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Luanne Kowalke writes in Methods That Matter,

“To make sure that children become intelligent, insightful, educated human beings, we educators must help them become conscious of their own learning and thought process. Instead of teaching students what to think, we need to teach them how to think, and how to think for themselves" (234).

Friday, December 16, 2011

leading discussions

© Copyright 2009 by Heather Holleman

Leading Discussions
Heather Holleman
Penn State University

How to Lead a Discussion: Engage a Text, Launch a Question, Model Feedback
“Do not teach about a text. Teach your experience with a text.”

In any given class, you’ll be talking about writing. What sorts of things might you talk about?
How do you get a discussion going? Finally, what happens when you have to give feedback
(verbal or written)?

1. What to Do with a Text:
With any text, an essay, a short story, a textbook chapter, a sample essay, etc., you can ask students to do
four things. During class, students can report back what they experienced with the text.

1. Resonance, Resistance: Have students mark down places of resonance (what I like, what
seemed true and right, what I agree with) or resistance (what I dislike, what seemed wrong,
manipulative or deceptive, what I disagree with).
2. What question is this text asking me?: Have students think about questions that came to
mind as they read a text. What question does the text frame?
3. Places of great writing: Have students share what they thought was good writing.
4. Rhetorical appeals: How does this text “work” on me as a reader? Have students mark
places where they identified ethos, pathos, and logos.

2. How to Launch a Discussion Question:
Closed questions ask for one word answers without debate. Open questions invite multiple answers. If
students still don’t talk, have them write down their answers first.

Closed Open
1. Who is the author? What did you discover about the author?
2. Where did you see pathos? How did this text use appeals to emotion?
3. Did you like this text? What do you remember about this text?
4. Is this good writing? What did you learn that helps your writing?

To keep discussion going, try using this phrase:
Tell me more.

3. Giving Feedback in a Discussion
1. Celebrate strengths
2. Point out a growth area / common themes
3. Instruct how they might improve
4. Dialogue with students. Feedback is not a monologue.
5. Make a plan for development. What’s the student’s next step?

the process

great video below.
the process of revision is the process of rethinking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The value of redrafting and revising our writing is that we get the chance to listen as closely as possible to what we've said—and then make choices as a result of what we hear. But we'll never hear anything (that is, our work will never speak to us) if we haven't sincerely spoken in the first place.

You can't hear an echo—no matter how well positioned in the canyon—if you aren't willing to call out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

video, cool

the value of reading

the value of reading, of engaging closely with both texts and their authors, is that we see how and when they leave the descriptions and observations for us to complete, and when they know they must be as thoroughgoing as possible for the picture to emerge and complete itself.

this, this thing writers do, this degree of development, of sufficiency, of anticipation—it's where the art happens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

reflect, learning to

Learning to write is the most direct way of learning to reflect; it is not the content, but the process of the liberal arts. Nowhere does such critical and creative engagement happen with more intensity, both individually and socially, than in an open-topic, research-driven, process-oriented, small-group-centered, portfolio-assessed class of student writers.

--Toby Fulwiler "Teaching Writing as a Liberal Art: Ideas That Made A Difference"

Saturday, December 10, 2011


yes, all writing is rhetoric. but that doesn't mean audience is the first place to start
when teaching the craft of composition.

writing begins to take shape first through a conversation with self.
you have to listen closely to what you're trying to say.
because if you're not listening,
if you're not paying total attention,
why should anyone else?

forward, great leap

some hurried notes about writing (in no particular order and with a heavy emphasis on "notes")

it can't be taught. writing can't be taught. and i say this as a teacher of writing--
someone who earns a living teaching students to write in school.

yes, of course, people can be taught how to write. but Writing--
with all the rich and multiple meanings associated with phrasing it that way--cannot be taught.

do i mean voice? perhaps.
perhaps that's what can't be taught.
or maybe i mean a word close to voice, but not voice exactly.
i'm not sure.
i only mean this:
the great leap forward--the thing that can't be taught--is when we finally let go of "being wrong in words" and instead begin to look around with our writing, using our print to learn, explore, relax, create, share.
that's what can't be taught.
and it's the only thing we should be teaching:
by which, i's the thing we should finally free the students to learn.