Position Statements and How They Relate to FYC Courses

I found the position statements to be incredibly interesting. Maybe it is because I tend to not think solely about grammar (mostly because it overwhelms me), but I really enjoyed the position statement on the teaching of grammar (NCTE 1985) . Before grad school, I never really thought about the reason why english speakers write in a certain way. I just unconsciously made these decisions. I can’t really remember a time in elementary school where we broke down basic grammar rules, and if we did, I didn’t really retain them. This is probably because they were taught as isolated rules, not concepts. In PRWR 6000, we approach grammar in a practical way that focuses on what specific sentences are saying based on the grammar rules. I have always been a hands-on learner, so this is probably why this works best for me…but it makes me think about how writing is taught in FYC courses. Do we focus on grammar, or do we assume that students enter college with these foundations of understanding? Did they retain these rules if they weren’t properly paired with theory, discussion, and practice? Maybe we (instructors) will never really know if students fully understand the rhetorical choices they are making if we don’t require a reflection or explanation. 

Another position statement that I would like to be conscious of is regarding the teaching of writing (NCTE 2016). This is especially important because most of the cohort will be facilitating FYC courses next year. This new crop of students is equip with digital knowledge that needs to be addressed in the classroom. One way that instructors can connect with students is by understanding the type of content that they will be interacting with daily, and catering instruction to that medium. For example, adding multimodal components into the classroom setting that could be found on social media…like memes. Ex:

Example of Meme

Using these techniques to engage with students helps create a level of trust and understanding that the content that is being taught and reinforced in applicable in their daily life. Maybe it is to write an email to a professor, maybe it is to make a viral meme…regardless, they will have the skills necessary to communicate in the professional and social world. 

A position statement that could be helpful in the classroom setting regards reading and reading instruction (NCTE 2004). When we take into account that learning is a continual process, it is easy to see how the instruction of thoughtful and purposeful reading and comprehension does not stop in grade school. Each student brings a different understanding to a reading, and it is important for instructors to take this into account when assigning readings and grading responses. As we learned in the threshold concepts, reading and writing takes place in a larger conversation where knowledge is taken in and informed by previously gained knowledge. It is easy in a FYC course to forget that not everyone entering the classroom is on the same reading or comprehension level, and that students come from many different backgrounds and stages of life. As instructors continue to understand and adapt to student learning and behaviors, classrooms will continue to be important spaces where progressive thinking and learning take place.

(Links to each position statement are provided on the general description of the statement)

How Do We Add These Concepts to FYC Courses?

It is interesting to think of the writing process this in-depth. Before reading this text, I never really thought about my writing under the scope of cognition and metacognition, let alone knew how to identify when I was utilizing which concept. Additionally, this chapter raised a few other questions that seemed important for writers to think about. In section 5.0, Dryer asked an important question: “Why do writers interrupt higher-order attempts to shape meaning to correct lower-order issues of spelling and punctuation, and why does it matter?”(72). I thought about this quote in two ways. Firstly, thinking about why we write what we write (metacognition) is important to understanding our cognitive writing behavior. On the other hand, maybe it is the question of “why does it matter” is a more important one to ponder. Inexperienced writers may look at rules or ways of thinking as facts, rather than things that can be questioned. It is through this metacognition, think about writing and what we employ when writing, that writers are able to achieve an important part of the writing process—reflection (sections 5.2 and 5.4 also speak to this idea of reflection, revision, and metacognition. So why does this matter? Why should we think deeply about our writing process? The video linked below reflects on metacognition, what it is, and why it is important in the learning process.

The video touched on something that I think is really important— this reflection does not have to be the end of the metacognition cycle, sometimes it can start the cycle over again. (If you want a slightly chaotic example, think about this as a positive feedback loop.) Similarly, reflection doesn’t have to happen at the end of the writing process, but throughout the process as a way to assess writing, and possibly kickstart ideas (cognition). It can be a little confusing to think of these topics as separate, but I believe that understanding the differences in these terms can help shape people into better readers and writers. 

It is important to emphasize this in a classroom. In 5.4, Taczak pointed out that reflection can be difficult for readers to accomplish if they are not used to the practice. And, as the video mentions, this could be difficult because metacognition (and reflection) can happen naturally and can sometimes be undetectable. This could discourage some writers if they have never been aware of this step in the writing process. In grad school, we spend a lot of time having conversations were we reflect on what we are learning and how we can implement this in our own FYC classes. I believe reflective aspects can (especially) help inexperienced writers understand concepts. If they are able to identify what they are doing in their writing and why they are doing it, they will probably have a better understanding of what to implement in the future. It is always important to know what ‘works’ in writing, and if FYC writers are able to understand this concept earlier, they will be able to take this skill into their other disciplines and majors. What do you guys think—how should we approach reflection in FYC courses?

Works Cited:

  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.

Failing Together–Why I love Workshops

I really enjoyed the concept that was covered in this week’s reading if Naming What We Know. Maybe I enjoyed it because it speaks directly to my uncertainty, mentions that we are never finished learning writing in the same way that we will never stop working towards being an adult. And maybe I like this because I feel like if you have to say you are an amazing writer, you probably aren’t, and if you have to say that you’re an adult, you probably aren’t. In 4.0, Rose wrote, “Thus, a writer never becomes a perfect writer who already knows how to write anything and everything” (59). This feels intertwined (like almost everything does) with my work in the writing center. We are not working to make a perfect paper or a perfect writer—they don’t exist. We are just trying to progress. It is this idea of progress, that we strive for. It is what we write for. In 4.1, Bazerman and Tinberg spoke to my love of objective writing when they claimed: “They [the writing] now have been externalized into an independent artifact that can be examined, revised, or otherwise worked on by the writer, collaborators, or other people” (61). This sort of objective separation from you, the author, and your work helps remind me that revisions are not personal. I am not “killing my darlings”, I am just revising my sentences to be more effective. It is not a hand that is being cut off, but unnecessary lines in a poem—things I don’t need to say in writing. Another interesting concept that quelled my anxieties surrounding writing was the topic of failure addressed in 4.2, with Brooke and Carr writing: “Often, the writing we encounter has been heavily revised and edited and is sometimes the result of a great deal of failure” (62). This resonated with me because I, like some writers who come into the writing center, look at their first draft as their final draft— failure is not an option. Now, looking back, I realize that without failure, without unbiased workshops, and without the desire to learn, I never would have progressed. I suppose this is why I am working towards becoming a professor—I want to tell younger me that I am not worthless if my first draft isn’t anything close to my final draft. Sometimes, I absentmindedly forget about this and get so upset that my poems can not go viral (like Sabrina Benaim on Youtube), that I am not Billy Collins and will not make money from poetry. However, I am sure Billy Collins, an incredibly accomplished poet, doesn’t just wake up in the morning, churn out a book of poetry before breakfast, while sitting by the ocean, and dubs it a best seller. Ex:

…or maybe he does?

He has editors, mentors, friends, family, peers, and publishers to run his poems through before he even considers placing it into a collection. If he can have outside help, why can’t I? I can. This is where my fascination with workshop courses comes into play, and why I want to incorporate this into my FYC courses. I want to facilitate the idea that failing is fine, in fact, it is good. Maybe you need to fail and revise a million times before you land on your final draft—maybe we all do.

Works Cited:

  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.

Finding Your Identity in Writing

Something that always used to stick out to me was the idea ‘write what you know’. There were multiple instances in this chapter that made me reflect on that statement and what it means to me and my writing journey. Firstly, I enjoyed the idea that your identity as a writer is shaped by what you know, as well as by the rhetorical situation that you are writing for. As stated in section 3.0, ideologies are formed from outside factors (I think of this like culture) and therefore, will be ever-present in your writing– echoing earlier concepts about writing being a social act. Lunsford also briefly speaks to this in concept in 3.3. Additionally, 3.2 mentioned a concept that I latched onto— the idea that identity in writing is inherently unique because of the combinations of past experiences, knowledge, and conversations that make up someone’s ideology and perspective. Whenever I think of identity, I remember a course I took my sophomore year of college. The professor made it clear to the class on the first day that everyone’s name is important because it adds to their identity. We then made maps of our identity that (on a surface level) made each of us think about how we define ourselves and the qualities and events that helped shape us. It is when students enact this inner creativity that voice is found, and as mentioned in the text, identity (and voice) can vary depending on the situation. It is in finding your identity that you can discover (through writing, maybe) what your beliefs are. Some authors play heavily into their identity with political or social stances in their work. Toni Morrison, a wonderful example of owning your identity in your writing said: 

“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” 

Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993

Toni Morrison was incredibly well-loved because she spoke not only her truth, but other’s truths, and was undeniably strong in her identity.

When I read this quote, I think back to the idea of ‘writing what you know’—a concept I became familiar with in regards to screenplays and scriptwriting. You don’t have to tell the truth, but you can show the truth, your truth, through a story. This is were the creativity of writing comes into play— molding your ideas, identity, morals, and story to form a writing that tells a truth. Maybe it isn’t the whole truth, or your truth, but it can be a truth. It might be that this truth you stumble upon is a result of your identity (or self) taking a different form to fit the rhetorical needs of the task at hand. Think of George Lucas, who was a small town boy with big dreams, turning his experiences and identity into a character to create Luke Skywalker and Star Wars! It isn’t a real story, but at its core, it tells a real truth.

All this to say– write what you know. Write from the bottom of your identity.

Works Cited:

  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.

Poetry and Form

In this chapter of Naming What We know, this quote about context, forms, and reader’s assumptions on page 35 stood out to me: “Writing, as well, addresses social situations and audiences organized in social groups and does so through recognizable forms associated with those situations and social groups.”

When asked about genre and writing, it is easy to gloss over and list out terms: poetry, non-fiction, historical non-fiction, young adult, romance…etc. However, it becomes slightly more confusing when you wonder about where those genres come from, and what role they play in a work’s intended message, as talked about in section 2.0 in “Naming What We Know”. For example, liked bellow is a poem by Zachary Schomburg titled “The Fire Cycle”. We can review and dissect the poem using the second concept (pages 35-47) covered in “Naming What We Know”. 

A video of Zachary Schomburg reading The Fire Cycle.

A full text of this poem can be found on the Poetry Foundation website.

Without stating this, would you have known that this video was a poem? It is possible that you could have from the rhythm and short form; however, what makes this poem, a poem? (and say, not a short story?) Each genre comes with connotations and specific rhetoric that shape its meaning, and along with input and context from readers, a genre is formed. These genres have various characteristics that tie them together, and are easy to identify when held side by side. It is the genre, the context of the genre, and the context of the subject that form the meaning of the work. For example, knowing that this was a poem already put the content into a different perspective—the writer is trying to say something deeper with a poem. This alerts the viewer that there are particular hints and clues in the writing that convey a different message (possibly) than the one that is explicitly being told. Additionally, it is important for the reader to understand the context of the subject of the poem, to assist in “meaning-making”. For example, at the beginning of the clip, the author says that this is a love poem. How does this change your view of the poem? I chose a poetry clip because I thought this was a good example of writing as a performative act, and as a multi-modal act, which are covered in sections 2.4 and 2.5 of “Naming What We Know”. Spoken word poetry, in this instance, is being preformed on a stage and recorded to be viewed all over the word and at various times. This is also multi-modal due to the visual component of the performance, making the writing both an auditory and a visual medium that can be consumed by viewers. 

On a more separate note, I like the thought that everything is multi-modal and uses this for “meaning-making”. I specifically like this in the lens of poetry, because the viewer makes meaning for the poem, which in turn, brings the poem to life. “The Fire Cycle” doesn’t contain much meaning without viewers and readers attributing meaning to it, because the poem doesn’t contain plot, or frankly, even full and complete sentences. 

Side note to back up my previous point: if you pull up fire cycle in Google, it doesn’t have a meaning, but within Schomburg’s text, it has a meaning that connects to the poem. 

The poem in its entirety, though, in a physical sense, takes on its own form to depict the meaning. The text is one, long, running block of words. This form of poem is meant to be overwhelming to the reader, without leaving any breaks for the reader (or poet) to breathe. This creates another layer of meaning to the love poem, with Schomburg showing the reader that this love that is captured in the poem is overwhelming, heavy, and urgent. 

Works Cited:

  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.
  • Bem, Greg. “08-18-09 – Zachary Schomburg – Fire Cycle.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Aug. 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR-azNV884w.

Understanding Writing and the Way We Think

As I was reading this first concept, I immediately had trouble connecting the smaller meta concepts to each other and the larger concept of the selection. For example, I didn’t start making clear connections until meta-concept 1.5 in Naming What We Know stated: “In this way writing is very useful for mediation of cognitive processes–thinking” (pg. 27). This connected to concept 1.1 when it explained how writing is a way that authors and readers understand, develop, and come-to knowledge about various subjects (pg. 19). This concept, 1.1, is one that I really enjoyed thinking and learning about. It is easy to think that when someone is writing, they are simply writing what they know. However, as I have found in my experience, I usually don’t know what I am meaning to say in my writing until I have already written it. Maybe this is just the way my brain works– not knowing what or how to feel until I have felt it. I see this in my verbal communication as well. It is possible that since verbal communication is a natural process, as stated in concept 1.6, that I attempt to make writing more of a natural process by mimicking my verbal process. Although, I don’t think I do this consciously, and do agree with the text that I am never fully converting the meaning that I intend in writing because it is missing the key indicators (like tone and gesture) that are inherent to verbal communication (pg. 29).

The words, “Together, we create!” on a brick wall.

The picture above captures the sentiment of one of the concepts in Naming What We Know, that seemed prevalent throughout the meta-concepts explained in concept 1– writing is not a solo act, but an act that includes involvement from the author, audience (and/or reader), and text. A quote under the concept 1.0 captures this idea very well: “…and writers are always connected to other people.” (pg. 17). I really connected to this quote because it aligns with my personal view of writing as a collaborative activity. Even if the writer (whoever it may be) in in a space alone while they are writing, they are not without the influences and feedback of others. I enjoy thinking of writing this way in a classroom setting because it gives a more tangible example of a way that writing connects students and teachers. It also leans into the idea that people can be (and are) shaped by their experiences and environment. I like introducing this idea to the concept of writing because it can be a way to show students that everyone has their own unique experiences and perspectives, but we can all be connected by overarching cultural experiences. Which, could be a way to say– everyone is a writer because everyone has something to say. It makes me wonder though: what if someone doesn’t have anything unique to say? Would they still be a writer? Or is the fact that each individual is hard-wired differently lend itself to subtle unique qualities, making points that individuals write inherently unique? Here is a quote from Savi Sharma that I feel aligns with my current beliefs about writers. (see my previous post to read a more fleshed-out musing about what it means to be a writer). I believe my major struggle with the reading stemmed from the fact that these concepts were so unclear and theoretical. Even though examples were provided, I feel as though some of them can only be examined on a case-to-case basis. These concepts have proven themselves to be incredibly thought-provoking for me, and they are probably ideas that I will grapple with throughout my entire career and life as a writer.

References Used:

  • “Quote about Writing on Brick Wall.” Max Pixel, https://www.maxpixel.net/Wall-Quotes-Writing-Airbrushed-Paint-Excerpts-2608205.
  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.