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!