Classroom Practice

Victor Villanueva believes that when it comes to teaching writing, "a conceptual understanding provides the way for creating one's own gimmicks" (Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. Urbana: NCTE, 1993, 117).  In that spirit, the Writing Program encourages faculty teaching WRI 1000 and 1100 to head to the Composition Theory section of the website, because it provides the foundation for much of what follows here.

There are many on-line publications with regular columns on the teaching of writing.  See The Chronicle of Higher Education's Scholars Talk Writing series, and also the Chronicle's Vitae webpage, which has many columns offering advice for writers.  Though aimed at professors writing, much of the advice can be tailored to the first-year composition classroom.  Inside Higher Ed has many blogs that publish writing advice.  See also Faculty Focus.

The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and Faculty Focus publish pieces by writing teachers outside "Composition" proper.  For practical pieces by Composition scholars, see the "What Works for Me" series in Teaching English in the Two-Year College, the "From the Classroom" section of Pedagogy, and "Composing With" in Composition Studies.

And finally, the following thoughts come from David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky's Resources for Teaching Ways of Reading (Boston: Bedford, 2011, 6):

Tell students there are no quick-and-easy methods to read or write for these courses.  They will need to reread the texts assigned and revisit their own writing multiple times to do well in WRI 1000 and 1100.

Discuss writing with students before they do any of the writing assignments.  Use examples from past students’ papers to demonstrate such things as note-taking, drafting, revising, and editing.

Copy and distribute students’ papers for class discussion.  Use complete papers and parts of papers to demonstrate students’ work on such matters as interpretation, critical commentary, text references, paraphrase, and risk-taking.

Encourage students to take notes from the texts and record their thoughts, other students’ comments, class discussions, and their responses to your comments on their papers.  Note taking is a skill they need to learn and be reminded to practice.

Accept students’ drafts as drafts.  Allow them the opportunity to use drafts and revisions to think through the problems involved in an assignment.

Respond to students’ writing in stages.  Respond first to their completion of the task, then to what they have to say and how they use (or don’t use) the text at hand, then to editorial matters.

Write comments on student papers that push them back into the data/text.  Your commentary should address their thinking, challenging the quick and hasty conclusions they will be drawn to.

Limit the number of comments you write on student papers.  Pick two or three things to focus on, and avoid mixing comments for revision with editorial suggestions.

Teach students to edit their own papers.  Show them how to use a rule and a red pencil and to read line by line through their final revisions.