Friday, December 18, 2015

Talking the Talk

by Kamilah Cummings

For some time I have included what I dub a “Writer’s Circle” in my classes. In my mind I envision my students and me sitting cross-legged in a circle on a lush lawn in the center of a beautiful garden discussing our writing experiences as the warm sun beams down on us. Unfortunately, teaching evening classes in Lewis doesn’t afford me the opportunity to fully indulge my fantasy. However, regardless of the backdrop, I have been able to engage students in my “Writing Circle” in a way that has been beneficial to them and me.  

The “Writer’s Circle” is essentially an opportunity for students to discuss the highs, lows, and in-betweens of their experiences with the writing assignment from the previous week. It is in many ways an informal writing group. For me it enforces the learner-centered approach that I take to teaching. Although it originated in my writing classes, I have started incorporating it in other courses I teach. I usually allow time for this practice in the first 20 minutes of the class. 

In the first couple of weeks it is a slightly arduous task to get students to share. I think they are initially hesitant to participate because at the start of the term many of them are particularly self-conscious about not only how they seem themselves as writers but how others perceive them as well. In fact, most don’t start off seeing themselves as “writers” at all. Rather, they tend to see themselves as students completing writing assignments. However, when I assure them that the “Writer’s Circle” is a space to honestly share their writing experiences, the gates usually open. I also sometimes ask a simple leading question such as: What was easy or difficult about completing the assignment? 

Once the rhythm of the “Writer’s Circle” is established, it usually flows from week to week. Students share struggles with everything from generating ideas, researching and organizing ideas to writing the actual draft and time management. In addition to allowing them to share their experiences, it allows me the opportunity to review course material from the previous week and inquire about its application in a way that isn’t perceived as an inquisition. I am also able to answer questions that naturally arise or that students might be hesitant to ask for fear of how they might be perceived. 

The “Writer’s Circle” aids in not only releasing anxieties but also boosting students’ confidence when they see that others share similar if not the same issues with writing or even understanding assignments. When one student shares an area of particular difficulty, I ask who else had a similar experience. It can provide an opportunity for some healthy commiseration, as long as I keep the discussion on track.  A benefit for me is that I am able to identify trends related to assignments and make appropriate adjustments when necessary.  

In their research on writing groups, Gere and Abbott cite the findings of previous research on the multiple benefits of writing groups including that “teachers are freed from being sole authorities over writing” (363). Students learn from each other’s experiences in addition to my instruction, which helps to utilize the knowledge that adult students bring to the classroom. It also helps to boost their confidence when they see that they have something valuable to add that benefits their peers, especially in an area outside their particular expertise. Additionally, when relevant I add my own struggles with writing.  Students also share positive things that they discovered about themselves as writers while working on assignments. They often share helpful resources they’ve discovered in the process. 

Gere and Abbott also cite earlier research that suggests, “students develop a sense of community because of their work in writing groups. The exchanges that I often witness between students during the Writer’s Circle definitely enhance the supportive classroom community that I try to foster. Given the myriad anxieties and fears that non-traditional students, in particular, hold related to academic writing, creating a supportive environment for them to talk about and improve their writing is essential. 

Considering the time constraints that prevent many non-traditional students from taking advantage of formal writing groups offered by the Writing Center or even establishing their own writing groups, I have found that allowing this time in class provides some of the key benefits of writing groups. From their own research Gere and Abbott found that writing groups can, “enable students to become more conscious of themselves as writers” (378). Ultimately, that is the goal of the “Writer’s Circle.” Developing the confidence and awareness to see themselves as writers with all the highs, lows, and in-betweens that accompany that identity will hopefully better prepare students to meet the demands of our writing-intensive program.  

Works Cited

Ruggles, Anne Gere and D Robert Abbott. "Talking about Writing: The Language of Writing Groups." Research in the Teaching of English 19.4 (1985): 362-385.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Climate Talks and the Power of Words

See below for an excerpt from GlobalPost's Morning Chatter by Peter Gelling. His discussion of the recent climate talks in Paris showcases the power of words and the importance of word choice on a global scale.
It’s really hard to get the whole world to agree on anything. But at the Paris version of the climate talks, which have been going on for more than a week, a draft agreement is actually now on the table, which means decisions are being made.
To give you an idea of how complicated this gets, here’s a line from an earlier draft:
"[Each Party][All Parties] [recognizing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities] [shall][should][other] regularly [formulate] [prepare], [communicate] [submit], [maintain] [update] and [shall][should][other] [implement] [fulfil] [intended][nationally determined mitigation [commitments][contributions][actions]] [nationally determined mitigation commitments and/or contributions] [a nationally determined contribution with a mitigation component]," the beginning of one sentence read
The difference between words like “communicate” and “submit” or “formulate” and “prepare” are significant to some leaders. Basically, everyone is trying to collectively commit to specific levels of greenhouse gas reductions, while maintaining the most flexibility they can on those reductions.
For another resource regarding word choice, particularly in essays, check out the Purdue Owl.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wanted: Excellent student work for SNL's Writing Showcase

With Autumn Quarter grades in and Winter Quarter approaching fast, it's time to encourage your students with strong papers, ILPs, and/or APs to submit their work to SNL’s Writing Showcase! Students may submit up to three pieces of work (including essays, poems, stories, ILPs, APs, Capstone projects, and Digication e-portfolios) before the April 1, 2016 deadline.

Students will be invited to read selections from their submissions at the annual SNL Writing Showcase Live event on April 21, 2016. Outstanding submissions composed during the 2015-2016 year will also be recognized at the Spring Awards Luncheon.

Visit the Writing Showcase page on the Writing Guide for more information and entry form. Students may submit entries to and email with any questions.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"When More Is Less": Quality over quantity in writing

"Moderate but meaningful" correlations in a recent study suggest that a few well-developed writing assignments may be better for students' intellectual growth and personal satisfaction over time, especially when compared to more quantitative writing practices.
“Effective writing practices are associated much more strongly than the amount of writing with greater student learning and development,” the study says. “There are undoubtedly instances where there is no student writing or so little that more would be salutary. However, the important lesson from our study is that quality matters -- that in many situations it would be better to place more emphasis on the design and use of the assignments than on the number or size of them.”
Click here to read Inside Higher Ed's take on the study, which was conducted through a collaboration between the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Writing Center December Intersession and WQ 2016 Hours

The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) has announced its Writing Center hours at the Loop Campus during December Intersession.

Tuesdays: 10am-5pm
Wednesdays: 10am-5pm
Thursdays: 10am-5pm

The Writing Center will be open at both the Loop and Lincoln Park campuses beginning Week 2 of Winter Quarter 2016. Hours for both campuses are below.

Loop Campus Writing Center
(312) 362-6726

Monday: 9am-7pm
Tuesday: 9am-7pm
Wednesday: 9am-7pm
Thursday: 9am-7pm
Friday: 12pm-5pm
Saturday: 12pm-5pm
Sunday: Closed

Lincoln Park Campus Writing Center
(773) 325-4272

Monday: 9am-7pm
Tuesday: 9am-7pm
Wednesday: 9am-7pm
Thursday: 9am-7pm
Friday: Closed
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: 12pm-7pm

Click here for instructions on how to register and make an appointment. Be sure to select the correct campus from the drop-down box at the top of the WCOnline scheduler. Call either Writing Center with questions or concerns.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ballpoint Pen Dancing

By Nicholas Hayes

In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche extols the virtue of dancing in education: "being able to dance with the feet, with concepts, with words: do I still have to say that one has to be able to dance with the pen – that writing has to be learned?" (77). The beauty of his metaphor should not remove it from its physical implications. It is easy to reduce writing to a cerebral activity. But writing is also a physical endeavor whether we take a cursive waltz over a page with a ballpoint pen or whether we slam dance our way across a word processing document with our keyboards. The physicality of writing suggests some ways we could think about approaching it in our classrooms.

In her article "On Yoga and Teaching Writing", Megan Fulwiler describes attending a Yoga class and watching her instructor with a novice. She admires how the instructor "made only a few strategic adjustments and let him continue his practice." The novice's form was far from perfect, but Fulwiler suspects that if the instructor had tried to correct all of the problems the novice would feel discouraged not only by the class but by Yoga itself. She understands that Yoga is a lifelong process in which these corrections can happen over time as the novice actively pursues his journey. She encourages us to think of writing in the same way.  Fulwiler ultimately argues that writing and yoga: "Both require a commitment to practice rather than perfection; reward risk-taking rather than hesitation; flourish with timely but limited suggestions that encourage rather than frustrate; are active all-at-once activities that are learned by doing; and remain difficult no matter how long you’ve been doing them."

Although we, like Fulwiler's colleagues, might worry about the state of student writing, we should avoid turning our classrooms into operating theaters in which we try to correct every perceived orthopedic problem. What if instead we imagined our classrooms as studios for vigorous, rigorous work? As in the past, we invite students to look at the forms we model and ask them to try these forms for themselves, adjusting them when only absolutely necessary. In my class, I do try to model. I use the projector and screen to let students see me compose and edit in the same way that Yoga or Tai-Chi instructors might use a mirror to let students see their movements.

When talking about the process of invention, I will brainstorm while typing at the lectern. The projector revealing my thoughts (and the invariable typos) that come from generating ideas will be there for everyone to see. When it is time to revise again using the projector, we will move, break, rebuild and delete passages. We discuss the movements and why they are being made. Students are encouraged to make suggestions. Once the movements have been modeled, students are then encouraged to do their own work.

My friend and writing partner Terri Griffith has told me that she thinks of her classrooms as a path. Everyone in the room is on this path, instructors are just a little further ahead. And to not entirely lose the dance metaphor, Terri has returned to ballet after decades of not practicing. I think of her happiness in relearning and remembering skills she was once fluent with, and I hope we can perhaps kindle or re-kindle a lifelong engagement with writing as I watch my students' fingers slam dance across a keyboard or waltz with a ball point pen.

Works Cited

Fulwiler, Megan. "On Yoga and Teaching Writing." The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols/ The Anti-Christ. 1968. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Penguin, 1990. Print.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Summary of the SNL Faculty CCW Presentations

From left: Kathryn Wozniak, Michelle Navarre Cleary, Steffanie Triller Fry, and Kamilah Cummings
On October 17, four SNL faculty members presented at the Conference on Community Writing in Boulder, CO. As part of the SNL Writing Team's overall theme "Teaching in Situ": Sustaining Post-Traditional Student Voices In & Out of the Chicago Writing Classroom, Kamilah Cummings presented on the topic of linguistic diversity. In her presentation titled, "Listening to be Heard: Embracing Multilingualism and Empowering Post-Traditional Learners," she drew from research and her own experiences to share strategies for supporting these learners in the writing classroom. Ultimately, the purpose of her presentation was to encourage faculty to explore their own perceptions and awareness of linguistic diversity to help create a more inclusive learning experience where students themselves can be sensitized to different language varieties as well as feel empowered to navigate their own linguistic identities.

In "Engaging Faculty in Community-Based Writing: Strategies and Challenges," Michelle Navarre Cleary acknowledged the advantages we have at DePaul because we can link community-based learning directly to the university and our college’s mission, because of the support of the Stean’s Center, and because the scholarship of teaching and learning is valued in our context. For many at this conference, these advantages were only dreamed of. She then led a discussion of ways to help faculty imagine opportunities for community-based learning, including taking faculty on field trips to potential community-based sites, inviting community-based educators to talk with faculty, and co-teaching with community activists.

In Steffanie Triller Fry's presentation, "Write Where You Are: Not Where I Want You To Go," she discussed the ways that using place-as-prompt can situate adult students as experts, position them to create new knowledge with their writing, and invite them to write for an authentic audience and purpose. She used the example of her place-based Advanced Elective course "Write Where You Are: Writing About the Places We Live," and discussed examples from students who have created new knowledge about the world they live in by starting with place as prompt. Click here to view her Prezi.

In "Digital Storytelling and the New Public Square," Kathryn Wozniak discussed the affordances of Web 2.0 and the storytelling process for adult learners to explore change and social justice in their settings, while also exploring their narrative identity and personal transformation. The combination of social media, web design, graphic design, and documentary tools give adult learners the opportunity to tell stories that bring together their often compartmentalized aspects of their experience and identity, and engage in a dialogue with others in a way that is both accessible and dynamic.

For more information about any of these presentations, please contact

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Civic Writing: London - An opportunity for undergrads!

Do you have undergraduate students who may be interested in studying abroad in London this summer? Tell them about Civic Writing: London, a course sponsored by Syracuse University but open to all undergrads that will take place from May 19 through June 17, 2016.

From Steve Parks at Syracuse University:

Civic Writing: London will invite students to become involved in an international community writing project based in London, but linked to Paris and Milan. The goal of the project is to save over 40 years of self-published working class writing produced from the 1970’s to the 2010’s. Using their own words, edited by themselves, these writers documented how the working class responded to the collapse of traditional industries, the global immigration which enriched their communities, and came to recognize of the importance of issues such as race, gender, and disability. Indeed, their work has been called one of the most important writing projects of the 20th century. And at the height of their production, over 1,000,000 books circulated through underground channels across the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States.

Yet, the economic crises of 2008 wrecked havoc on this network. And until last year, many of these publications were scattered across the continents, left moldering in basements and attics.

Students in this course will be part of the effort to save and archive these publications. Working with archivists and community writers, they will help to build an archive of this work at London Metropolitan University. They will meet and work with some of the London based writing groups that were part of this international writing/publishing community. And they will help plan a writing festival which will help bring back together many of these writers from across the UK. Finally, in the spirit of those writers, students will work collaboratively to produce their own book of writing to circulate in the USA and UK. Through readings, practices, and partnerships, then, this will give students an international experience as well as a network of international writers and scholars. 

Please consider passing this information along to your studentsundergrads interested in the Civic Writing: London course can contact Steve Parks or Jess Pauszek with questions. Click here for the course website. Completed applications are due February 20, 2016.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Final Autumn Quarter Boot Camp this Saturday - O'Hare Campus

Invite your undergrad and grad students to the final Autumn Quarter SNL Writing/Incomplete Boot Camp this Saturday, November 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at DePaul's O'Hare campus! Walk-ins are welcome, but students may also register by emailing Click on the image below for more information.

Students should bring a flash drive, their copy of the incomplete contract if needed, and all prior assignment preparationincluding research material, assignment instructions, and assignment writing format (APA/MLA).

Writing Center AQ Finals Week Hours

The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) has announced its Autumn Quarter finals week schedule for both the Lincoln Park and Loop locations:

Wednesday, November 18th: 10am - 5pm
Thursday, November 19th: 10am - 5pm
Friday, November 20th: 10am - 5pm


Loop Campus Writing Center
(312) 362-6726
25 E. Jackson
Lewis Center 1600
Chicago, IL 60604

Lincoln Park Campus Writing Center
(773) 325-4272
2320 N. Kenmore
SAC 212
Chicago, IL 60614

The UCWbL will close on Saturday, November 21st. Winter hours will be posted after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Click here for instructions on how to register and make an appointment. Be sure to select the correct finals week schedule from the drop-down box at the top of the WCOnline scheduler. Appointments are filling up quickly, but there is a waitlist option in the top left corner of each day's schedule. Call either Writing Center with questions or concerns.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Writing in the Disciplines: The Genre of Blogging

Last week on Bedford Bits, a blog dedicated to ideas for teaching composition, guest-blogger and SNL professor Amanda Gaddam unpacked a popular project for the blog's Multimodal Mondays feature. Her post, A Low-Stakes Assignment for Understanding Blogs as Genre, features a step-by-step guide to said assignment along with samples of student work.

Click on the link above to read Amanda's blog about this wonderful WID assignment!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Case for WAG at SNL

by Steffanie Triller Fry

According to the WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum)Clearinghouse, the basic principles of WAC encourage the entire academic community to take responsibility for student writing. These principles encourage writing that crosses departments, subjects, and disciplines, encourage continuous writing instruction during students’ time in college, and explain that students learn by writing; moreover, in order to learn the conventions of any academic discipline, the basic principles claim that students must practice writing in that discipline (“Basic principles of WAC”).
            This winter, the SNL Writing Program will pilot a revised version of its Writing Workshop course that invites students to write in the disciplines, (a practice known in rhetoric and composition circles as WID) or, to add another acronym to our SNL catalogue, to “Write Across the Grid” (WAG).
            Students who elect the Writing Workshop course will now have the option of using the course to focus on a writing project in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, or the student’s focus area. As part of their investigation into what makes for strong academic writing, they will also consider what it means to write with a purpose and audience in the particular discipline that they have chosen. We in the Writing Program believe that this revised course will better support SNL students at all levels of writing and at all points in the program. It also fills a gap in SNL’s curriculum: there is no other course that specifically prepares students for the writing tasks they will encounter when they take courses in the A, H, S, and Focus Area domains.
But I find this a fruitful moment to remember that writing in SNL’s writing-intensive program is not only taught in Writing for Competence and Writing Workshop. Few SNL students overall take Writing Workshop, and yet all students must WAG, practicing the conventions of writing in the humanities, the social sciences, and science and technology with each course that they take. Per the “basic principles” listed above, we all share responsibility for writing instruction, even if we are not writing instructors.
According to Gottschalk and Hjortshoj, writing courses, though they prepare students for the myriad tasks that they will assume in their disciplinary courses, were never meant to replace writing instruction in the disciplines. Rather, “Real writing instruction has always occurred in other fields, contexts, and forms, in courses of all sizes and at all levels throughout the curriculum – wherever teachers take active measures to help their students write effectively” (6).
In The Elements of Teaching Writing: A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines, Gottschalk and Hjortshoj go on to say that this can be as simple as being thoughtful and explicit about your own knowledge and expectations. Meanwhile, the aptly titled section “How can I avoid getting lousy student writing?” on The WAC Clearinghouse site provides practical tips for crafting clear assignments and offering students instructive models that make your expectations transparent.
In her tips for writing in the sciences for SNL students, SNL Resident Faculty member Dr. Akilah Martin concludes, “Finally, science and scientific writing has the same goal as any other genre and that is to report data in a detailed format, so as to provide the reader an opportunity to evaluate the validity of the results and conclusions centered only on the facts presented” (“Writing in the Scientific World”). Whether our genre uses the words “report,” “data,” and “results” or “narrate,” “story,” and “experience,” we can all give students clear expectations for purpose, audience, and style in their writing, better enabling them to “Write Across the Grid.”

Works Cited

“Basic principles of WAC.” The WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University, n.d.

Gottschalk, Katherine, and Keith Hjortshoj. Introduction. The Elements of Teaching
Writing: A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines. Boston: Bedford / St.
Martin’s, 2004. 1-11. Print.

“Writing in the Scientific World.” SNL Faculty Support: Writing Resources. The
School for New Learning at DePaul University, 17 October 2015. Web. 29
October 2015.

Resources for Writing Across the Curriculum/Grid:
Consider using some time during your first class session to remind students of or ask them to reflect on what they have already learned about writing. Then, share your own expertise in writing in your field, and invite your students to think about how what they already know can apply to the writing that they will do in your course. These resources may be of use to you:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center:  (see “Writing for Specific Fields”)

DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning: (see “Common Writing Assignments”)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Aloud! Celebrates DePaul's 4th Annual Month of Writing

It's time for Aloud!, a quarterly open mic night and reading series hosted by Writers Guild and featuring participants in DePaul's 4th Annual Month of Writing!

Writers Guild is a multi-genre writing group out of the University Center for Writing-based Learning, open to all DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Aloud! is also open to the public. Please consider attending tomorrow night, October 29th, to support our Month of Writing challengers as they share their hard-earned words from the past few weeks.

Feel free to bring something to share during the open mic portion of the evening, as well!

What: Aloud!, an open mic event and reading series
When: Thursday, October 29th, 7-9 p.m.
Where: 1600 Lewis Center (25 E. Jackson)

Please contact for more information. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

SNL faculty member takes first place in international writing competition

SNL part-time faculty member and two-time Craft of Composing panelist Molia Dumbleton recently won first place with her story "Peleliu" in the Dromineer Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition. Click here to read her winning story. Congratulations, Molly!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

SNL faculty presents at CCW

Congratulations to SNL faculty members Michelle Navarre Cleary, Steffanie Triller Fry, Kamilah Cummings, and Kathryn Wozniak (pictured below) for presenting at the Conference on Community Writing in Boulder, CO, last weekend. The conference theme was Building Engaged Infrastructure, with a goal to "cre­ate a national net­work of infor­ma­tion, peo­ple, ideas, and sup­port struc­tures to make the work we do in and about our com­mu­ni­ties more sus­tain­able, impact­ful, reward­ing, and rewarded."

The SNL faculty presented on "Teaching in Situ": Sustaining Post-Traditional Student Voices In & Out of the Chicago Writing Classroom. Please contact if you'd like to learn more about the presentation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Challenge Yourself During DePaul's Month of Writing

Registration is still open for the 4th Annual DePaul Month of Writing Challenge. As participants write during the month of October toward our collective goal of one million words, every word matters!

Click here to register for the Month of Writing Challenge and make a word goal for the monthany number of words you contribute is a worthwhile effort and also a great way to start/finish/continue pesky writing projects.

Visit our Digication page for more information, and contact with any questions.

Happy writing!

A Revision Activity That Gets Results

Dr. Karin Evans at the College of DuPage recently shared a strategy for revision in the classroom that could be beneficial for SNL students. She calls it "Showcase" and details it on her blog, linked here.

Describing her reasoning and the effectiveness of showcases, Dr. Evans says:
I believe deeply in the power of having students read MANY drafts. The more they get a sense of the range of what other students are doing in response to the assignment, the more they see what the possibilities are. This seems to raise the bar for the class as a whole – when they see a lot of the drafts, they are bound see some of the best ones. It rubs off. Somehow. I don’t preach at them about this at all – the good examples simply speak for themselves amazingly well.
Once again, click here to read Dr. Evans' blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Craft of Composing Panel Tonight

Please join us tonight for our 4th Annual DePaul Month of Writing kickoff event! Faculty, consider bringing your classes or passing the word along for your students to participate.

The Craft of Composing: Published Writers Discuss the What, Why, and How of Writing
Thursday, October 1, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
DePaul Loop Campus, 14 E. Jackson, Room 1451

And don’t forget to register for the Month of Writing Challenge—join us in setting a personal writing goal for the month of October that will help us meet our collective goal of one million words! Check out our Digication page and register here.

Hope to see you tonight!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Register for the Month of Writing today!

Calling all DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumnithe 4th Annual Month of Writing, sponsored by the School for New Learning, begins tomorrow!

Please join our community as we write our hearts out during the month of October toward our collective goal of 1,000,000 words. Visit our Digication page to see what the Month of Writing is all about, and click here to register for the Writing Challenge.

You can set a goal for any number of words within the month, and participants are encouraged with writing prompts, brainstorming ideas, and events that invite community and accountability.

The 4th Annual Month of Writing kicks off tomorrow night, October 1, with our Craft of Composing event: Published Writers Discuss the What, Why, and How of Writing. See below for details (click to enlarge) and contact with any questions.
Register today for the Month of Writing Challenge, and together we can meet our goal to write one million words in the month of October!

SNL-Experienced Writing Center Tutors Available

The DePaul University Center for Writing-based Learning has added subject-matter and genre expertise to its appointment scheduling website. Now, SNL writers can use the “Area of Expertise” drop-down menu at the top of the Loop or Lincoln Park schedule to limit the schedule to those tutors who have the expertise they need. Areas of expertise of particular importance to SNL students are research papers, research proposals, SNL (APs and ILPs), APA and MLA citation, and Digication/ePortfolios.

Writers can also call the Loop or Lincoln Park locations to have a receptionist help them make an appointment.

See below for information on scheduling a Writing Center appointment using the new “Area of Expertise” feature (click to enlarge), and click here for the Writing Center's Autumn Quarter hours.
Please share this information with your students and encourage them to take advantage of the valuable resources available at the Writing Center.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Word Count – A Month of Writing Reflection

by Kamilah Cummings

It’s that time of year again when we wave goodbye to summer’s sun-kissed bliss and turn toward autumn’s falling leaves. Autumn is when we begin to retreat inward – sometimes both literally and figuratively. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, many of us find ourselves between four walls sipping warm drinks and getting lost in a good book. However, instead of reading a good book this October, DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumni can spend the month writing one as part of the Month of Writing Challenge (MOW). As a two-time MOW participant, I look forward to the annual challenge whether I write the next New York Times bestseller or not.

The fourth annual Month of Writing Challenge offers participants the opportunity to experience the power and promise of writing. It was inspired by the National Day on Writing, which was designated by the Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) as October 20. According to the NCTE, the day was created to, “draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives” (National Council of Teachers of English). Adding an additional 30 days, the MOW not only reminds us of the myriad types of writing that we do, it also offers opportunity to set writing goals and learn about ourselves in the process.

Having participated in the last two MOW Challenges, I can attest that I have learned as much about myself as I have about my writing during the 31-day challenge. I participated in my first MOW challenge during an extremely difficult period in my life. Needless to say, I failed to meet the lofty word goal that I set for myself. However, in trying to meet it I learned things about myself that I continue to apply in my personal and professional lives. Additionally, creating a time and space to write amid personal tumult was therapeutic. It was the first time in a long time that I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted.  My writings could be as silly or serious as I wanted. The point was that I was writing. Participating in the MOW reignited my love for journaling, which I had not done in many years due to “not having enough time” for it. Now, I journal regularly as I had many moons before “life kicked in.” Multiple studies have shown the health benefits of a regular writing regimen. I experienced this firsthand as my MOW writings allowed me to take time for myself; to be introspective; and to be mindfully attuned to my emotional and physical well-being.

Armed with the knowledge from my first MOW experience, I set a more realistic goal that I met the second year – barely. I must admit that I really wanted to meet my goal in my second year of the challenge. As with any goal, there is an intrinsic motivation to achieve it once you set it. I found that setting a writing goal was especially helpful when working on longer or less attractive writing projects.

I had already made writing a part of my regular mindfulness practice, so my focus the second time around shifted from personal writing to professional writing. In addition to writing for work, I also decided to work on some writing projects that had been collecting digital dust. Setting aside time during the MOW for work-related writing projects helped me to stay on track and meet deadlines.  However, I also started some new writing projects that I planned to finish after the MOW ended. That did not happen.

Therefore, the important takeaway from my second MOW experience was the importance of continuing the writing regimen that I practiced during the month. The first year, it was easy to do this because it fit nicely into a personal healing journey that I had embarked on during that time. However, the second time around after I met the deadlines that I needed to meet during the month, I abandoned my regimen leaving my projects unfinished.

So, as the start of the MOW 2015 looms, I’m not quite sure what I plan to write. I might mix professional and personal writing projects in addition to whatever else might arise during the month. I know that I have learned a lot from my last two MOW’s that I can apply this time. Regardless what I write, I know I will be dedicating time to writing and reaping the many benefits of it. At the end of the day, for me that is what counts.

For more information on the 2015 Month of Writing or to register visit

Works Cited
National Council of Teachers of English. About the National Day on Writing. n.d. web. 29 September 2015.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Writing Center Fall Quarter Hours

The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) has announced its fall schedule. Please consider passing this information along to your students.

Loop Campus Writing Center
(312) 362-6726

Monday: 9am-7pm
Tuesday: 9am-7pm
Wednesday: 9am-7pm
Thursday: 9am-7pm
Friday: 12pm-5pm
Saturday: 12pm-5pm
Sunday: Closed

Lincoln Park Campus Writing Center
(773) 325-4272

Monday: 9am-7pm
Tuesday: 9am-7pm
Wednesday: 9am-7pm
Thursday: 9am-7pm
Friday: Closed
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: 12pm-7pm

Click here for instructions on how to register and make an appointment.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Exposing our "expert blind spots" to support student learning

At the Distance Teaching & Learning conference in Madison, WI this week, Sharon Derry and Susan Rundell Singer discussed the role of novices and experts in the classroom. According to Singer, research shows that experts can make visible only 30% of what they do unless a specialist in cognitive task analysis is there to help them unpack it. As learning practitioners, she stated, we need to help experts expose their "expert blind spots" in order to aid novices in their movement along the novice-expert continuum. The two scholars explained how faculty should be aware of their expert blind spots so they can put on the persona of their learners and learn how to solve the problem without this expert knowledge.

They went on to discuss how "worked problems", a concept discussed in earlier research by Derry, might be a potential way for experts to make their expert processes visible. A worked problem is making visible the thinking process one might go through to solve a problem or filling in the gaps that an expert may not be aware they need to show you in order to solve a problem.

But a worked example is very different than just a physics professor solving a problem on the board. There needs to be specifics, unpacking expertise, scaffolding/making the thinking process. She referenced Allen Schoenfeld's work on making thinking visible, which is still critical (and perhaps lacking application) in classrooms today. She also discussed how the novice and expert might work together to expose the problem and developed the worked problem model together.

When it comes to helping students develop their writing, it is critical that we provide similar "worked problems" in the classroom. One way I do this is to walk students through my own writing process and show them my progress on real writing projects throughout our time in the course. I also provide annotated examples of prior students' writing to show my new students what works, what is good evidence, and what are good "moves" in academic writing. I will admit, however, that I could use more time talking with faculty or other specialists about what makes me an expert writer and what my blind spots might be when it comes to teaching writing. With this in mind, I suggest we spend time talking through our process and our methods for solving our discipline's "problems" with others. And since cognitive task analysis experts aren't always hanging around the corner to help us unpack our expertise, perhaps we can gather faculty and experts in other disciplines who may not have the same blind spots as us to help us unpack these blind spots together.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lessons in Peer Review from Eli Review

Eli Review has put together free curriculum in "Framing Feedback and Revision" for students that assists them in both providing helpful feedback and then using the peer feedback given to them. Check out Nick Carbone's blog post summarizing the student curriculum with additional links and examples.

A Helpful Resource for Academic Writing

The Academic Phrasebank is a resource developed out of the University of Manchester to provide "examples of some of the phraseological ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing." Originally designed for non-native speakers of English, the Academic Phrasebank offers a variety of phrases, context, and organizational information for all scientific and academic writers.

Click here to visit the Academic Phrasebank and here to learn more about its development.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Will you give life to a Chicago statue?

Statue Stories Chicago is hosting a public monologue writing competition in partnership with the Goodman Theatre. The winning pieces will be recorded by members of the Goodman and included as part of Statue Stories Chicago.

Submit entries of 350 words or fewer here by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Click here for more information about the competition and to see photos and descriptions of each statue needing a voice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives"

A researcher in Canada is discovering that certain writing prompts not only help students with edifying self-reflection and goal-setting, but also nearly erase the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap in those studied.

Jordan Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto, wanted to explore the relationship between writing and students' motivation. He created an undergraduate course in which "students complete a set of writing exercises that combine expressive writing with goal-setting." The course has already shown to reduce the drop-out rate of at-risk students and even increase academic achievement.

One educator theorizes that Peterson's course could be seeing results by limiting self-defeating behavior. "If you aren't sure you belong in college, and you don't hand in that paper," Melinda Karp explains, "you can say to yourself, 'That's because I didn't do the work, not because I don't belong here.' " Peterson's writing exercises might curb these thoughts by helping students to focus on their goals and motivations.

To learn more about Peterson's research and process, click here to read NPR's story, quoted above.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Writing Boot Camp - Loop Campus

Invite your undergrad and grad students to the summer SNL Writing/Incomplete Boot Camp on Saturday, August 1st from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Loop! Walk-ins are welcome, but students may also register by emailing Click on the image below for more information.
Students should bring a flash drive, their copy of the incomplete contract if needed, and all prior assignment preparationincluding research material, assignment instructions, and assignment writing format (APA/MLA).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Yes, And…Not Just For Improv Anymore

by Steffanie Triller Fry

The Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello prayed that “Peace is only found in yes,” (qtd. in Manney 108) but these days it can be so much easier to say no; as in, “No I won’t consider thinking about this from another perspective.” “No, I’d rather watch CSI Miami/LA/Chicago/St. Louis/Naperville (you get the picture) than revise my paper for your class.” “No, I just don’t see how I can further develop this topic.”

Sound familiar? Students are great at saying no. But if you’ve read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, you know that she claims that the rules of improvisation will “change your life and reduce belly fat” (more so the former than the latter). The first of these rules is to agree. Say yes. The second rule is to “add something of your own” (84).

Saying yes starts with thinking yes. And while I’m not suggesting that Yes, And will change your life, I do think that it can change the way adult students think about the writing and thinking that they do during their college career.

As one of my students put it, Yes, And works like this:

Imagine you’re onstage and your scene begins at a party. Your partner says, “What a great party. Hey, there’s a gorilla.”

Picturing yourself there, you might hear yourself think, “I don’t know what to do with a gorilla … how does a gorilla fit in this scene … will this ever work as an idea?” To deal with this doubt, you might get a short laugh by saying out loud, “That’s not a gorilla … that’s her husband.”

The thing is, now you’re starting over. You’ve lost the trust of the person you’re on stage with, because you said “no” to them. The audience feels fooled, because they heard that one thing and started to picture it, then had it changed on them. Nobody is comfortable. Let’s try it again.

“What a great party. Hey, there’s a gorilla.”

“Yeah, and he’s making some killer Manhattans.”

Yes, there is a gorilla. And he’s putting those opposable thumbs to work as a mixologist. Your mind, and perhaps the audience’s mind, is starting to go places. You might start picturing the gorilla is wearing cuffs and a collar while working the shaker. Why is there a gorilla? Are there more animals working this party? Will the host enter and fill in more of this picture about the unusual catering? These possibilities have opened up because you said, “Yes, And”…

When you are writing, your writing voice is your scene partner. Say “Yes, And” to yourself. (Meyer)

Peter Elbow said that the “freewriting muscle” not only brought one to a “more intense state of perception” but also to a heighted awareness of “language production” (43). Tina Fey (had she become a writing theorist rather than a comedy writer) might add to this that getting writers and thinkers practicing the idea of Yes, And can help them think more critically and develop ideas and papers more fully. Patricia Ryan Madson writes in Improv Wisdom that “saying yes gets us into heaven but also into trouble” (27).

Ryan Madson teaches theater, but her book is written for anyone who wants to think about how the rules of improvisation can apply to their own life. She bases much of her thinking on the ideas of Keith Johnstone, a revolutionary educator and theater teacher who wrote Impro and Impro for Storytellers, awesome texts for any educator looking to glean more thought about storytelling out of their students. Impro for Storytellers in particular is full of improv exercises that can help students practice answering the question, “What comes next?” Here is one exercise from Johnstone and one from Ryan Madson that instructors of any subject can adapt to their purpose:

·      Yes, But: Two students sit in chairs opposite one another. Student 1 asks questions; Student 2 provides answers. Student 2 must answer “Yes, but…” to each of Student 1’s questions. For the first round of questions, Student 2 should pause and think before answering. For the second round of questions, Student 2 should answer without thinking. Repeat the exercise, using “Yes, and” instead.

When students are forced to answer “Yes, but” they are practicing what Johnstone and Ryan Madson call “blocking.” Blocking happens in the example above when the scene partner says, “That’s not a gorilla…that’s her husband.” This exercise first forces students into these dead ends, and then, by changing the “but” to an “and,” lets students practice continuing on with the story, thought, experience. Moreover, they don’t think before answering because Johnstone believes that students are less likely to block when they do not think about what comes next, but let it happen unconsciously.

·      The Proverb Game: Invent a new proverb by speaking it one word at a time. This works best when students are sitting in a circle. The first volunteer begins with any word. Go around the circle, each student filling in the next logical word that comes to them. When the proverb comes to its natural close, all participants should press their fingers together and chant “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

Ryan Madson believes that blocking primarily happens because we need control. Control of our lives, control of our stories, control of what comes next. This game helps participants to practice giving up control. (Try it as a warm-up exercise before freewriting).

Getting students to play with the idea of Yes, And may not help them reduce belly fat, but it may invite them to enter into more complex ideas and details than they might have investigated on their own. On second thought, maybe it will change their lives. It’s worth a try!

Works Cited

Elbow, Peter. “Toward a Phenomenology of Freewriting.” Journal of Basic Writing 8.2. (1989): 42-71. Print.

Fey, Tina. Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. Print.

Johnstone, Keith. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Routledge, 1979. Print.

---. Impro for Storytellers. New York, Routledge, 1994. Print.

Manney, Jim. An Ignatian Book of Days. “June 2.” Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014. 108. Web.

Meyer, Jason. “The Force of Improv: Yes, And…” School for New Learning Month of Writing Challenge 2014. Digication, n.d. Web. 2 July 2015.

Ryan Madson, Patricia. Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. New York: Harmony, 2010. Print.