Retrospective- Multimodal Literacy

The NCTE statement was very interesting for me personally to consider after this class in regards to my own interests in children’s language learning especially because there is always a question of fairness and disability in trying to accommodate all kinds of different cultures and populations of people. Perhaps most importantly to me is the teaching aspect when it comes to teaching kids in new ways that do not merely fit the test but rather allow them to learn and grow within their education. I think this idea has been covered in a variety of the readings that we have done, especially ones looking at “fixing” the writing process or prose of unskilled or new writers. I also really like the idea presented in the NCTE statement that different modes of expression should be incorporated into the curriculum because this allows for a variety of ways for kids and students to become engaged in their work and also to create a learning environment that stresses the importance of adaptability and creativity.

I also think the idea of collaboration is very important not only to me and my own personal interests but also in regards to the articles discussed and the projects undergone in this course. I think it is very important for students to learn how to collaborate and work together and that idea fits very nicely with the multimodal platform. I think for me this is where one of the largest themes from the course emerges is the importance of understanding and using multimodal processes and voices to better understand ideas and concepts within English. I think an interesting topic to look at would be the use of multimodal elements within the classrooms now, especially with younger children using iPads and other forms of multimodal learning to better understand concepts we all learned via traditional learning methods. However, I also think the ethical issues and problems that have come up over the quarter surrounding online publishing and ownership in regards to writing and the problems we face with sometimes trying to accurately represent our ideas in non-written or multimodal platforms is also an issue that is very pervasive across our readings.

I think ultimately for me one of the biggest themes that emerges is the importance and also the problems that are associated with teaching English to a variety of different populations of students and across multimodal platforms. I think it would be interesting to look into further the ways in which contemporary classrooms are incorporating multimodal teaching and mediums, such as iPad, to teach younger students important ideas and concepts.


Reversing Notions of Disability and Accommodation- Dunn and De Mers

While at first I was a little confused about what this article was discussing in terms of universal design, once it defined the term and provided examples I understood that the major point of universal design is all about accessibility to the widest audience of people. Based off of the first few pages in this article it seemed to me that Dunn and De Mers were trying to stress the importance of using the internet and the further technological advancements that we now have available to make everything more easily understandable. I definitely think the internet provides this opportunity with a plethora of information available on any number of topics. If I want to better understand anxiety and depression, when Frank Ocean’s birthday is or what the physics of Star Wars are the internet has the answer available somewhere easily accessible to everyone and also easily understood by even the lowest common denominator.

However, this article also addressed other important ideas that have come out of the age of the internet. I especially liked the idea of using different mediums or approaches to analyzing and understanding different materials such as having students take on a specific argument/approach to debate in class to better understand an idea or using pictures or other methods for conveying their thoughts. This is exactly what we are doing with our blogs in this class is exploring the different ways available to us to convey our ideas and thoughts through means other than just words written on a blog, something that can be very beneficial for better understanding material.

The article also mentions sketching-to-learn which is very similar to the other reading we did by Prior and Shipka by discussing the merits of drawing out your ideas and process. While I find this idea very interesting and probably very helpful for some, I still am not sure it would help me with better understanding my writing process or my ideas merely because I do not like drawing. However, I do really like using outlines and diagrams sometimes to better understand ideas so I find a lot of merit in those means of sketching-to-learn. Overall this article stressed the importance of universal design to utilizing the internet and means available to everyone to make writing more accessible to everyone, something that was summarized well in this quote from the article.

To design writing pedagogies informed by principles of universal design, we need to think of writing not only as product and process, but as a broad set of invention activities.

Myers- Remembering the Sentence

Right off the bat I could tell that this essay was going to be very different from most of the other readings we have done for class. Myers very early on references Chomsky and other prominent linguists and cognitive psychologists, a lot of whom I have studied or heard about before because this is my area of specialty within psychology is language learning (612). I really enjoyed the beginning of this article because it discussed a lot of the important concepts that have been studied in other research fields outside of English but that relate to language processes and development and specifically in this case to the importance and development of sentence structures. I found the discussion on chunking and the importance of pre-set phrases and strings of words that always go together to be very interesting in relation to spoken and written language because it definitely makes it easier for children to learn language that way and it also is easier to retrieve from our brains when they go together and have a strong association rather than single words (613). I especially liked Myers’ connection of chunking in regards to written language and how utilizing some of these “new” or linguistic methods in English teaching can substantially help second language writers because it associates certain words going together, especially unusual words that are not common in speech but are essential in writing (615).

For me personally I use the same few transition words over and over again because of so much practice in that area with school that then I get repetitive and have to change them to a word I am less comfortable using, which is always harder to come up with and sometimes I use the synonym function in Word or look up other words that would be appropriate in my formal writing. I definitely think that these types of exercises that Myers discusses could be helpful in learning how to write better sentences because it would allow writers to practice words and phrases that they do not commonly say in their everyday speech but that are very helpful when writing to make your prose sound more sophisticated.

Lexical learning drives grammatical learning (620)

Myers stresses that writers need to practice lexical learning such as chunking and sentence parsing and such in order to perfect and improve their grammar, an idea that I found very interesting and also seemed to relate to the content over grammar debate that we have read about in some of our readings before. Myers’ argument seems to stress that if you worked individually up with sentences and words than the grammar would fall into place along with the other improvements. Overall this essay seems aimed at teachers and making their lives easier by following the proposed methods, which while they seem very formulaic, also seem as if they could be very helpful for the right audience, such as second language writers. Myers’ essay does also seem to contradict some of the ideas about voice that we have been reading about because it is following some very formulaic templates and steps to improving your writing, which would seem to not encourage an authentic voice. However, this essay was much more science-based and backed up by fields of research then other articles or ideas presented in our readings, and thus lends itself more credibility for the reasoning behind the proposed ideas and strategies to improving sentence writing.

Shaughnessy – Errors and Expectations

After beginning the reading of the introduction to Errors and Expectations I began to understand how Harris and other critics of Shaughnessy think her view is controversial because she seems to take a racially charged position on basic writers and uses some questionable language in her assessment of “natives” or kids not ready for college academia which right off of the bat did not make me want to read more. However, once I continued reading her essay I began to see that her stance was not as radical or as ridiculous sounding as Harris and others have made it out to be. It seems as though Shaughnessy’s argument was distorted slightly in Harris because while her book was on error and how to help teachers deal with basic writers’ errors, specifically grammar and syntax, she also states that the proportion of time she spends talking about errors should not be in proportion to the time a teacher spends teaching students how to avoid errors, a conception overlooked on Harris’ part (391). It does not seem a fair evaluation of her essay to say that she is only focused on error and takes a “grammar police” stance on writing with BW when she also seems to be saying that error is merely a stepping stone for BW.

I also found it interesting to think about correcting errors as a stepping stone to allowing students to convey their ideas more clearly rather than as an external reason by the teachers or society or academia because they want everyone to right in proper English. Shaughnessy argues and points out in her introduction that for a lot of the BW’s they struggle and spend a lot of time hating writing and worrying over the grammar and smaller errors and thus if those were combated against first then the writers would be better prepared to focus on their content and convey all of the ideas that they have more clearly and less stressing for them. I think that Shaughnessy’s introduction provided a very different and interesting look into what she thinks is the importance behind errors and focusing on some of that in her book and in the classroom of BW’s because some of her points and emphasizes differed greatly from the critics and discussion in Harris.

Harris Ch. 4- The Debate over Error

‘Saying something correctly, and saying it well, are two entirely different Thangs’ (110)

I really enjoyed Harris’ chapter on error because it has added to a lot of our other readings discussing voice and the role of the teacher in English to shape students writings into “academic” language or to let them express themselves how they want. As I have before, I agreed strongly with Harris in this chapter that while errors and proper grammar are important to teach in an English course, teachers need to move past the “fetishizing of correctness and instead focus on the more substantive, difficult and rhetorical,” meaning that rather than focusing attention on minute details as Shaughnessy does in her book, teachers need to help with content above all else (109). The quote above from Smitherman really emphasizes this same idea by illustrating that while something can be “correct” in proper academic English, the more important idea that teachers should be focusing on for their students is how to write well and how to convey their ideas in a clear and concise manner that makes sense to the audience they are trying to address.

However, I also thought that another very important point that Harris brings up in this chapter is that while error still needs to be a focus in teaching writing because it is significant to allowing students to convey their thoughts accurately and clear to their readers, more importantly we have to remember that not all errors are created equal (116). Williams argues in his 1981 article on error that we don’t notice problems that we aren’t looking for and the reason we find so many mistakes in student writing is that people are looking for those errors and expect them (116). Williams believes that we should focus our attention on the mistakes that really count, meaning those that “seriously impugn a writer’s authority,” and errors that impede the reader from understanding clearly the message of the writer. I agree completely with Williams and Harris on this point that not all errors are equal and that rather than focusing on intense guidelines and grammar rules (Shaughnessy), teachers should instead focus on teaching students to convey their points however they want but in a clear and understandable manner that may, or may not, align with “standard English” guidelines.

Prior and Shipka- Drawing Illuminates the Writing Process?

“It is especially about the ways we not only come to inhabit made-worlds, but constantly make our worlds—the ways we select from, (re)structure, fiddle with, and transform the material and social worlds we inhabit.”

This quote at first struck me the most because I felt that it was a great way of describing the complexities associated with the writing process and the different ways that individuals all shape and change their worlds both in the writing sense and in the social sense and how one can influence the other. Reading on I was very interested in the new approaches of this study and article compared to some of the other articles we have read about process. However, all I could think at first is how much I would hate to be in this kind of study! I do not like drawing and have zero artistic inclination for that and would just get frustrated trying to accurately depict my process. However, the second drawing assignment seems especially interesting to me because then you are asking people to represent their writing process symbolically through the drawing which is a very new way to think about something that is usually verbal or written but not visually conveyed. I really liked this new approach to the writing process as a way to facilitate further discussion with their participants, despite my lack of desire to actually ever draw or use this method for myself.

I also really liked the descriptions of unique writing assignments that a lot of the participants mentioned. I have had some of these types of assignments in high school and in college and while I always hated how much work they were at first, I ultimately learned more and ended up liking the assignment more in the end because it was more rewarding and usually helped me understand the concepts of the course in a better, new and individual way of my own thinking. While the in-depth descriptions of the different writers processes and the ways that their assignments line up with their drawings and process as a whole, it is hard for me to see the ultimate goal of these types of studies because they usually just indicate the many different ways that people approach the writing process rather than pointing out similarities. However, I did think that Prior and Shipka concluded their study nicely by stating that ultimately what they have seen through these kinds of studies of different peoples writing processes is that “writing in these cases then emerges as complex dispersed activity that is, across time and space, both intensely private and intensely social and collaborative,” an idea that I wholeheartedly can agree with.

Researching a Writing Peer

Questions about the writing process:

1. What genre do you most like writing for and which do you least like writing for?

– Creative writing specifically short stories most liked, lab reports least liked

2. Where do you usually like to write? What time? Whats the setting like when you write?

– The library, distracted in room

3. Do you spend time pre-writing and if so what does that entail?

– Kinda, for big papers make outlines or type out what you want to say. But if have less time then just write without pre-writing

4. When and how do you edit your writing?

– Most in head as writing and then go through at the end to make sure it makes sense

5. Do you seek assistance from professors or peers in your writing process? Why or why not?

– Depends on the class, procrastination. Hard papers then ask professor, peers only for small sections if it makes sense

6. What helps you the most with your writing process?

– Not having a lot time forces to think about it as you are writing

7. How do you consider audience when writing a paper? Does it differ depending on the subject?

– Usually assume its the professor unless specified otherwise, think about it a lot when have to consider other audiences

8. What strategies did you learn in CTW that have helped your writing process the most?

– Making connections to things that you want to talk about so you are interested in your writing, makes it a lot more fun

9. What is the difference between editing and revision to you when it comes to your writing?

– Revising is when you radically restructure your paper but editing is just minor details (grammar and punctuation), mostly last minute edits in reality but big papers have more revision

10. Have you ever actively thought about your writing process or do you try to change it ever?

– Try to change by giving self more time to write things, need more time to make things better, more drafting and taking breaks between writing it and turning it in

11. Breaks or how do you deal with writers block?

Editing and Revision- The Planning Process of an Experienced Writer

Upon first reading this article by Carol Berkenkotter, I was surprised to find that the author and others in the writing process community were drawing upon ideas that seem rooted in cognitive psychology. As Berkenkotter is describing the importance of this article and her study on one published writer (Murray), she says that the procedure that they follow in order to get into the writers thoughts and planning procedures is to “separate the dancer from the dance, the subject from the process” (157). This reminded me of a concept in psychology called stream of consciousness in which you are instructed to just speak your mind and not sensor your thoughts or words and just say whatever comes out. While I thought this was an interesting concept and innovative way to study the process of writing in an experienced writer, the transcripts and some of the details provided later on were not as impressive to me.

While this article mentioned a lot of readings we have recently done, especially the chapter from Harris regarding process, mentioning Emig and Flower, I especially liked the emphasis Berkenkotter and Murray himself placed on the idea of not just revising but re-conceiving of the “gist” or macro-structure of the ideas and thoughts expressed in a work as much more important to the process of writing than the minor details (163). This reminded me of my own personal approach to writing in which I plan beforehand and then I write it all out without doing an editing or revising while writing, then giving myself some time before rereading it for editing of minor details and having others read it for the macro-structure. I think that more detail should be placed on these macro-structure, gist elements in a writing rather than the micro details of a word or phrasing, something that I think sometimes gets lost in a structured English course, especially a composition course.

The Process vs. Product Debate

After being in school for many years of my life I have witnessed many different ways in which other students approach their writing process. I think college can be an especially telling time about people’s different strategies for writing papers and the different emphases they place on the process of writing the paper versus just producing an end product to be graded. My roommates over the past four years provide a great example of the many different ways that people approach this writing process. My freshman year roommate definitely focused more on product versus process, she would procrastinate and wait until last minute and then write the entirety of her assignment in a few hours at the library late at night, worrying not at all about the process of writing but focusing on finishing the product to be turned in.

However, my sophomore and current roommates take very different approaches to the writing process. They both would plan weeks in advance for an assignment that is due, creating outlines and numerous drafts even when it was not required of them because while they wanted their end product to be good to get a good grade, they believed that the process that went into that end product took time and energy and was ultimately more important and more helpful to them creating this successful product. I do think that despite the differences in process that students have with their writing, ultimately most students are most focused and concerned about their end product because grades are the ultimate importance.