Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Have You Scheduled Your Writing Center Presentation?

Dear Faculty Member:

The Center for Writing-based Learning would like to remind you to schedule your informational presentations for Summer Quarter 2010 at the Loop and Suburban Campuses.  Presentations are a great way to get your students excited about utilizing the Writing Center’s services at your campus.

Presentations are about fifteen minutes in length and will include a demonstration of our online scheduling service as well as a quick tour of the resources available to students on our website.  A writing center consultant who works at your campus will deliver the presentation and take any questions from both the students and you.  Furthermore, the consultant can also lead a discussion about how the Writing Center can aid your students as they tackle work specifically for your course.

Finally, please note that Writing Groups begin this Saturday—June 26—at the Naperville, Oak Forest, and O’Hare campuses at 10 am, an invaluable resource for students who live in the suburbs.  Meeting on Saturdays throughout the term, these groups allow students to work on their writing in an atmosphere that promotes the sort of collaborative and active learning valued by SNL.  Most importantly, the groups allow students to practice reading and responding to the texts of others, allowing them to develop critical reading skills that they can utilize when assessing their own texts.  Also, our Lincoln Park and Loop Writing Centers are open, and students are welcome to schedule one-on-one and online appointments.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to email me (tmcnamar@depaul.edu) or consult the Writing Group page on the Writing Center website (depaul.edu/writing).  Please encourage your students to use our services!

Thank you for your continued support,
Tom McNamara

Lecturer, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse
Writing Groups Coordinator, UCWbL
802 W. Belden
Chicago, IL 60614

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writing Workshop is for all SNL students – from talented writers about to graduate to struggling writers just starting at SNL

Rita Leganski

Writing Workshop isn’t always about remediation. In my spring 2010 class, I had a student who was completing her degree with Creative Writing as a Focus area, and who wished to concentrate on her advanced project, a series of short stories. She was a talented writer, but had not taken any formal writing courses. She had completed two stories prior to the start of the quarter, which we used as her writing samples, and I centered my instruction on various literary techniques. Class instruction consisted of discussion of readings and exercises in the following texts:  The Elements of Style (Strunk & White); Sin and Syntax (Constance Hale); and, What If? (Bernays and Painter).

We workshopped those first two pieces in terms of point of view, connotation, abstract vs. concrete, structure, and style. She then made several revisions and applied what she’d learned in the writing of two new stories. Of particular note was her application of ethos and pathos as well as employment of a motif that joined all of the stories together.

This student’s workshopping efforts culminated in the production of four different short stories that showed how the lives of the various protagonists had been affected by the same event. Collectively, the stories comprised an opus titled "Olam Ha-Ba: A Story in Four Voices," for which she won an Award for Excellence and was selected to speak at Naperville’s Scholars’ Night.

I had another student who was at the beginning of her academic career. She had not decided on a Focus area yet, but felt it would be some facet of business. Prior to Writing Workshop, she had taken Critical Thinking and we used her final paper from that class to practice revising. It was clear that she was quite accomplished at critical thinking, transition, proving a thesis statement, organization, and correct grammar; however, it was also clear that she showed an inclination toward clutter, as seen in sentences that were sometimes 40+ words long and so heavy that they lacked meaning.

Classroom instruction included using the prompt: “What am I trying to say?” and discussing the Hacker online exercises, various handouts regarding clutter, and a careful examination of an example of one of E.B. White’s revision process. Concision became our goal. We concentrated on identifying redundancy and metadiscourse, and by the end of the course, she was producing clear, concise, coherent sentences. The following examples show how she revised the same paragraph from draft 1 to draft 3. Draft 1 includes a 43-word sentence.

Draft 1:
"This essay ties to our course segment on morality. It intends to send the reader into thought about recognizing these tragic events of human rights should they occur in the future under different cuircumstances, and have an understanding of the challenges that exist which may tempt us to turn a blind eye. We will never know if there could have been any intervention that would have been successful is [sic] saving the majority of the six-million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. And we don t know for sure if we can prevent a like event in the future. But we can commit to being more observant in general, and acknowledge some retrospective learnings, as well as potential missed opportunities of the past..."

Draft 2:
"This essay ties to our course segment on morality. Individually and within society as a whole, we should have learned enough to recognize and intervene if another Holocaust were to occur. By reviweing the past and noting the direction of our future, we can hopefully understand the challenges that may tempt us to turn a blind eye."

Draft 3:
"We should have learned enough not only to recognize but to inervene if another Holocaust were to occur. By reviewing the past and noting the direction of our future, we can identify the challenges that may tempt us to turn a blind eye."

It is of particular note that she applied the listing and freewriting techniques to refining her choice of a Focus area, and has gone from Communications to Telecommunications in the process. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Information about Service Learning from Steffanie Triller

In May, writing instructor Steffanie Triller attended the Community College National Center for Community Engagement’s annual national conference: Formulas for Success in Service Learning and Civic Engagement. Steffanie attended the conference as a recipient of a Community-based learning grant from the School for New Learning. She emerged from the desert (the conference was held in Scottsdale, AZ) with some tips for developing service learning (SL) courses:

·         Making SL Reciprocal using the “Non-Zero Sum” principle. The main idea of this principle is that working for reciprocity in a SL experience results in a non-zero sum. When a sum is non-zero, everyone benefits from the experience. “Ideal” community-based service learning experiences benefit all stakeholders involved. Some tips for developing reciprocity in your SL courses include:
o      “Think like a second grader” (no boundaries!) in the planning process of a course; this allows you to explore more possibilities when you develop your course
o      Involve all stakeholders in all conversations; (stakeholders=anyone who will benefit from this work. Think big.) 
o      Request a needs-assessment from all stakeholders;
o      Record deliverables to institutionalize service learning; (Broward College puts podcasts on the web where students/community partners record reflections on successful experiences.)
o      Plan on partnering with a community-based organization for at least three years to maximize meaningful service;
o      Connect service learning experiences to the learning outcomes of your course;
o      Develop protocols for SL in your classroom.

·         Suggested Protocols for SL. In one session, participants brainstormed and the facilitator shared successful protocols for SL courses. I think they’re pretty good, so I’ll share a few:
o      Service should be meaningful.
o      Reflection time should be provided.
o      Curriculum and duration of project should be clearly established and disseminated to the students and the community partner.
o      All involved have the right to a voice.
o      Diversity and pluralism should be equally valued. (Diversity values difference; plurality retains it as we work together).
o      Partnerships must be reciprocal.
o      Education is really co-education, facilitated by the teacher and the community-based learning site.
o      Developing a SL class is an integrated process.

·         Creating a SL Writing Experience.
o      SL instructors should ask themselves three questions before developing a class:
§       Who do we want to help?
§       What is their goal?
§       What do they need to do?
o      Once we decide what we want to accomplish, we need to connect with coordinators in community organizations and schools who are prepared to run a sustainable service experience.
o      Start small with the right people.
o      Do not do grammar instruction. The goal is to give students a voice.
o      Have an outcome. In this case it was writing with intercultural growth and transformation.
o      This advice went into the award-winning “Chandler Writes” program in Chandler, AZ. College students entered high school and grade school classrooms for four sessions. In the first session they tutored students; in two subsequent sessions they wrote together as equals with students. In a final session, the college students presented the grade/high school students’ work.
o      This is a beautiful model of literacy for any writing instructor wanting to incorporate SL into the classroom.
o      This model is based on the methodology and work of Thomas Deans, who has written two excellent texts: Writing Partnerships and Because We Live Here.

Research by the American Association of Community Colleges has shown that SL participation is a predictor of increased student learning outcomes. The more students do, the more they can learn. If you are interested in developing a community-based service learning course, Steffanie is more than happy to talk with you. 312-362-7631 or striller@depaul.edu