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Andrea A. Lunsford

Happy New Year!

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Dec 31, 2015

I’ve been taking a holiday break and enjoying blue skies, long walks, rest, and friends and family. On New Year’s Eve 2015, my wish is that Malala Yousafzai will be wildly successful in her work to ensure that every child in the world has access to education. Every child deserves that, and more.


Here I am with two of the children who mean the world to me: my grandnieces Audrey (11) and Lila (8). I’m the one with the biggest smile of all time!

Dec 31 2015 Happy New Year_Photo 1.JPG

I hope your New Year’s wishes will come true and that you will love and be loved on this New Year.

First, happiest of winter holidays to everyone on this December 24th. I am at my home on the northern California coast, enjoying the peace and quiet, long walks along the ocean bluffs, and time with good friends. We are hoping for rain every day and rejoice when we hear the tinkle of raindrops on the roof.


9781457698477.jpgI don’t write about my textbooks very often—in fact, I can’t remember writing about one of them at all. But I’ve just recently received the 6th edition of The Everyday Writer, and I am especially delighted with it. For years, I have been urging that we integrate the information contained in the “Multilingual Writer” section of my reference books, and that goal has finally been reached! I had felt for some time that such a section seemed to marginalize multilingual students, and that bothered me very much. Now all that information is available to ALL students throughout the book. And if I’ve learned anything from my research on student writing, it is that many of the issues multilingual writers have are also issues for native speakers of English. Take prepositions, as just one example: I see many students struggling to get these idiomatically correct, not just multilingual students.


True Tales of the Everyday Writer.PNGGiven my long commitment to teaching graphic narratives (not to mention reading them!), I’m also thrilled that for this edition, award-winning cartoonist and graphic narrativist G. B. Tran has created “True Tales of The Everyday Writer, based on interviews editor Carolyn Lengel and I conducted with college writers from around the country. In this sixteen-page comic, we meet seven student writers who share anecdotes about their own use of this reference book. It was great fun to conduct these interviews and even more fun to see these students come to life on the pages of this book. (There’s an avatar of me in there too, which, unfortunately, looks pretty much just like me.)


I worked very hard on this edition to make it as clear as possible that writing today is multimodal, by definition. My research over the last two years indicates that teachers are assigning more and more multimodal writing—and that students are doing even more multimodal work outside of class. This is a very exciting time to be a writer, and I hope I convey some of that excitement in this book.


Finally, I want to thank Laura Aull, whose work on student writing and corpus linguistics has been of enormous benefit to me. I have learned a great deal from Laura, and have used that knowledge to help students use corpora to check their own usage compared to that of other student writers as well as expert writers.


I began work on my first textbook over 30 years ago, in 1984. That book, and all others I’ve written, was based on research I have conducted on student writing and student writing development—and on my decades of teaching high school and college students. These books have given me an opportunity to meet students and teachers across the country, around the world, even, and to keep on learning about the art and craft of teaching and writing. And I plan to keep on doing so!

I’ve been reading and hearing podcasts lately about how storytelling is being used to help students—and especially multilingual students—learn to read and write and speak English. Of course I’ve known about TPRS—teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling—for a long time, with its three-step method. But lately I’ve been reading about other methods, some of which just simply call for students to tell stories—like a couple of pieces on Edutopia by Matthew J. Friday. Here’s what he says in “Why Storytelling in the Classroom Matters”:


Whether in caves or in cities, storytelling remains the most innate and important form of communication. All of us tell stories. The story of your day, the story of your life, workplace gossip, the horrors on the news. Our brains are hard-wired to think and express in terms of a beginning, middle and end. It's how we understand the world.


Friday is absolutely right, and reading him reminded me of Celia Genishi and Anne Dyson’s 1994 The Need for Story, a book that elaborates on and illuminates Friday’s claim. I taught that book for years: it helped to reconfirm my commitment to story as being at the heart of our discipline as well as the heart of our culture—and many, many other cultures. So I was excited when I read about Friday’s insight that “storytelling is the oldest form of teaching,” and about his work with third graders at an international school in China where 97% of the students are English learners. Friday begins by telling stories himself, and he does so with style: he moves around the room, acting out the story, pausing to ask questions and using physical humor to keep his students captivated. He’d been using storytelling for quite some time, but in this particular circumstance, he says, he got a surprise:


Firstly, a German student who was in the listening phase of language acquisition began spontaneously writing her own fairy tales and requested to tell them--the first student storyteller. . . . Within a month, I had a list of students wanting to tell stories, and this continued for the rest of the year, right up to the very last day of term. Those first EAL storytellers went on to make rapid progress in the wider curriculum, with writing and telling fiction remaining their favourite activity.


Friday goes on to reflect on the enormous power of storytelling, deciding that stories are innately “a form of human experience” and that while not all cultures have writing systems, all do have stories. So he establishes an open and friendly atmosphere in his classes as he tells story after story, sometimes dressing up in funny hats or costumes—and then the students take over. He and the class give positive responses, which also helps build self-confidence, and he doesn’t worry about spelling, punctuation, etc.: rather, he encourages “the freedom to take risks and make mistakes,” knowing that the surface issues will work themselves out with practice.


Friday and the other storytelling teachers I’ve read about are working with young students, but I think we can take a lesson from them in terms of our college students, especially those learning English as a second, third, or sixth language. I know from my own experience with The Stanford Storytelling Project that undergraduates are as excited by and devoted to storytelling as Friday’s third graders and then some. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to include a storytelling component in all of our classes: my bet is that it would soon become students’ favorite part of the course!

Saxon_airport+selfie+2014.jpgGuest blogger Jessica Saxon is a faculty member at Craven Community College in New Bern, North Carolina, and she teaches composition and literature courses. A former WAC coordinator at Craven, her primary interests are WAC/WID programs and creating partnerships with other community colleges and universities. She is also pursuing a PhD in narrative theory and nineteenth-century British literature at Old Dominion University.


This post is the third in a series. View previous posts: First Time WID Jitters and My Comfort Zone and Natural Sciences and My Magic Bullet


I am nearing the midway point of my semester in ENG 112, which means I have to plan the upcoming social sciences unit. When I was building the course in August, I was not sure what I wanted to do in the social sciences section. When I created the course calendar, I used a generic “research paper” marker throughout the unit. “Social sciences, something, something, research, APA, something interesting” was still all I had figured out for the unit until just a few weeks ago. Between talking with my colleagues in the social sciences and reading through An Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing, I finally have a plan and a project: a social sciences theory evaluation with primary and secondary research.


Creating a new assignment can be daunting. While I borrow liberally from my colleagues and from textbooks, I also want the assignment to be uniquely my own and to work for my specific students and institution, which means that I revise or redo assignments every semester. Sometimes I only make small changes. But other times the changes are pretty radical. Creating the theory evaluation assignment—even with the support from colleagues and An Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing—has been challenging, and I am sure that as I get into teaching the project I will have to make some adjustments. But here’s what I’ve got so far:


The Assignment and Schedule

Students are asked to choose a theory from a social science field. I encourage them to choose something from a social sciences class they have already taken. But I will also be supplying them with a list of possible topics in case they get stuck. They will have to find at least four secondary scholarly research sources on their topics, and they will also have to conduct some form of primary research (documenting their personal experiences, interviewing someone, surveying a group, or observing a group). Their final project must be at least six pages of essay with title page, abstract, and references in APA format.


In their essays, they will have to explain their theory, discuss the research on the theory, and apply the theory to their own experiences and/or the experiences of others. We will also work through various ethical concerns with primary research (such as the privacy of participants).


Students will have the month of November to complete the project:



Writer’s Journal #12: Writing an Argument

Introduction to Social Sciences Writing and Theory Evaluation Paper


Writer’s Journal #13: Primary Research

Introduction to Primary Research Skills


Process Assignment #12: Theory Evaluation Questions

Theory Evaluation Questions Workshop


Process Assignment #13: Theory Evaluation Sources

Theory Evaluation Sources Workshop

Introduction to Formal Outlines


Process Assignment #14: Theory Evaluation Outline

Theory Evaluation Outline Workshop


Process Assignment #15: Theory Evaluation Draft 1

Theory Evaluation Draft Workshop 1


Process Assignment #16: Theory Evaluation Draft 2

Theory Evaluation Draft Workshop 2


In-Class Work on Theory Evaluation and Theory Evaluation Self-Reflection 

Theory Evaluation Paper (Due by the End of Class)

Process Assignment #17: Theory Evaluation Paper Self-Reflection (Due by the End of Class)



I still have a few weeks to tinker with the theory evaluation paper and the social sciences unit. I think I have a solid foundation for the project. However, I have never written one of these papers before. I have experience with every other writing genre/project that I have assigned for this class. This project is truly a step into the unknown for me. But I think I have a strategy for tackling the unknown: I may try to write my own theory evaluation with my class. In completing the project with my students (ideally working a few days ahead of their schedule), I may be able to see potential gaps in my assignment or lesson plans and be able to address the problems before my students get to them. Plus, I think it might be interesting to let my students see me working alongside of them—it might open up occasions for larger discussions of writing processes.


Of course, what sounds like a great idea in October may fall apart in the harsh realities of November. Other classes will need to have assignments graded and classes taught. This ENG 112 class will still need feedback on their journals and process assignments. Administrative reports for other projects I work on will have to be written as well. So while I might not actually be able to write the whole theory evaluation paper with my ENG 112 class, I’d like to at least make it halfway through the process with them.


How do you approach creating a new writing project assignment? What resources do you draw on when creating assignments? How often do you revise or create assignments for a class? Have you ever written a paper with your students in order to test out your assignment? If so, how did students respond? And did it help you improve your assignment?


Want to offer feedback, comments, and suggestions on this post? Or share it with others and start a conversation? Join the Macmillan Community to get involved (it’s free, quick, and easy)!

Not having any children nor much of anything to do with Christmas, I must confess that I had never heard of the Elf on a Shelf toy (and book) until I read an article on it in the Washington Post this morning.  The article was actually less on the toy than on a cultural interpretation of it recently published by Laura Pinto and Selena Nemorin, both of whom rather left themselves open to a certain amount of mass media ribbing by describing the toy as “'a capillary form of power that normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy, teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance and'” [deep breath] “'reify hegemonic power'” (bracketed remark courtesy of the Post reporter, Peter Holley).


That doesn't mean that I don't agree with Pinto and Nemorin wholeheartedly, however; I'd just put things a little differently—as follows.


113806-111676.jpgShould you be, as I have been heretofore, somewhat in the dark about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon, here's the background: the Elf on the Shelf is the creation of Chanda Bell, who self-published a children's book in 2005 about the way that Santa Claus keeps track of all the world's naughty and nice children by assigning "scout elves" to monitor them in their households, who then report back to "the boss" on who deserves a nice Christmas, and who doesn't (I'm holding myself back here from digressing into a lecture on how this Santa Claus/Elf/North Pole business got imported into a religious celebration which originated in the snowless and elfless Middle East.)  The book (which has reportedly sold some six million copies) is sold along with various elf dolls that parents are instructed to secrete around the house in a sort of treasure hunt for their children, who are instructed to try to find the little spies (who are held harmless from the traditional fate of the spy-caught-in-the-act by the rules that govern the game).


The whole thing, of course, is a rather clever (and hugely profitable) riff on that old Christmas standard that has been telling children that Santa Claus has been "making a list/and checking it twice" for generations.  And that is the way that everyone but us dastardly cultural analysts has responded to it.


But as I say again and again in these blogs, the meaning of a cultural signifier depends not upon itself but upon the system (or historical context) in which it appears.  And at a time when the cultural system includes everything from NSA surveillance to Facebook/Google data mining to iPhone-to-YouTube video feeds, this harmless little toy becomes a sign—a sign, as Pinto and Nemorin put it, of a society that has become a vast Panopticon, the word that the late Michel Foucault adapted from Jeremy Bentham to describe a place where everyone is under constant surveillance.


The only place in which I would depart from Pinto's and Nemorin's take on this signifier is their focus on top-down, "hegemonic," surveillance.  Not that such a Panopticon doesn't exist (of course it does), but that isn't where the really striking significance lies here.  The really striking significance lies in the difference (remember, a semiotic system is always one of associations and differences) between the way that people today appear to be responding to this "game of spies" and the way they would have responded to such a toy in the 1960s.  Because, fresh from the trauma of an era when Americans actually were encouraged to spy on each other in real life in order to smoke out "Commies," children and adults alike in the 1960s would most likely have found the whole thing to be unbelievably creepy.  This was, after all, the era that made distrust of governmental authority (from both ends of the political spectrum) a national pastime; and it was also the era when "the generation gap" became one of the most commonly uttered phrases of the day.  It was not a time when children would have happily played a game that invited constant parental surveillance of their every move.


And that is where the significance of all this lies for me. People (children and adults alike) have become so accustomed to having their entire lives on digital display—whether through the active uploading of their every thought and experience to social media, or through such passive agencies as data mining, surreptitious digital recordings, and so on and so forth—that the idea of an elf spy game comes across as charmingly traditional.  So this isn't simply a matter of hegemony run amok: it's the voluntary surrender of a right to privacy that perhaps only folks as old as I am value any longer.


And so, elflessly yours, until next semester's Bits bits.

During the years I and my research team were collecting the 15,000+ pieces of student writing that went into the Stanford Study of Writing, we had a running joke that the most “closeted” group on campus were poets. Because as the texts rolled in, we found poetry coming from everywhere: engineers, pre-med students, computer scientists, athletes—poetry, poetry, poetry. Now some of it was pretty bad poetry, but it was ubiquitous in our study, and heartfelt. In fact, I had asked students to submit all the writing they wanted to—not just that prepared for a class—without much thought. But that “other” writing turned out to be the most interesting to us as researchers, as it showed us what our students cared about when they weren’t working on assigned writing tasks. And one thing they cared about was poetry.


So I was not surprised when I read a few weeks ago about “Instapoets” on the web. If you didn’t see this piece in the New York Times, check out Alexandra Alter’s “Web Poets’ Society: New Breed Succeeds in Taking Verse Viral.” The article opens with a brief profile of web poet Tyler Knott Gregson:

Seven years ago, Mr. Gregson, 34, was scraping by as a freelance copywriter, churning out descriptions of exercise equipment, hair products and medical imaging devices. Now, thanks to his 560,000 Instagram and Tumblr followers, he has become the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a best-selling celebrity poet.


Gregson’s first book, Chasers of the Light, has sold well over 100,000 copies, a figure the author of the essay compares to Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night. Gluck’s book, which won the National Book Award for Poetry last year, has sold only 20,000 copies. And Gregson’s latest book, All the Words are Yours, had an opening print run of 100,000 and, at the time I write this, is number 3 on Nielsen’s top 10 bestselling poetry titles.


12.10.15_Social Media Post.PNG

One of Gregson’s daily haikus from his Instagram feed:



Gregson is just one of many young authors who are publishing their poetry on the web: Alter cites numerous examples from around the globe to support her claim that “Instapoets” are everywhere. And while the Instapoets are not winning major literary awards (yet), they do suggest that the American habit of turning away from poetry may be changing: the 440,000 subscribers to YouTube’s Button Poetry channel suggests that readers/listeners are responding to poetry in powerfully positive ways. In this regard, the web has opened up a space for creativity that had been pretty much sealed off to all but a few poets able to publish their work through traditional means. This opening up of publication to ordinary folks is one of the hallmarks of the democratizing potential of the web, and one that seems to be working for poets.


Teachers of writing have argued for the creative potential of all writing and have been at the forefront of keeping a focus on creativity even in the face of the national craze for standardized testing. Of course the Common Core puts emphasis on creativity—and even China seems to have realized that its approach to rote learning has left its students unable to compete in the creative arena, leading its education policymakers to introduce goals for “creativity” into their national curricula. In this country, we see “creative writing” courses in greater demand than ever—and an outpouring of creativity in both poetry and other forms of discourse on the Internet.


Certainly this outpouring of poetry online offers great opportunities for our classrooms and students, both in terms of reading the work of others and of getting their own work out there for others to share. I’m hoping to do a small informal survey of the first-year writing classes at Stanford, asking how many students in them are putting their poetry online. I expect I’ll find a number of these students to be Instapoets and I hope that I can read and learn from what they are doing.


Poetry to the People!!

Tisdale.JPGGuest blogger Ashely Tisdale is an English MA candidate, writing consultant, and graduate teaching assistant at Florida Atlantic University. She is the curator of, and contributor to the digital lifestyle magazine Black Girl Fly. She hopes to pursue a PhD in English, concentrating on contemporary African-American fiction. Her research interests include race, gender, and sexuality, hip-hop/pop culture studies, and the digital humanities.


Helen Epstein’s “AIDS Inc.” compares several different attempts made by African countries to heighten HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. Epstein’s focus was on South Africa’s loveLife program, that merged the “cool factor,” “lifestyle branding,” and community centers in the hopes of reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. She decided that despite these “bright” advertisements and methods, the program was ineffective because of the lack of direct conversations about the virus. Our writing program asked students to “evaluate the effectiveness of direct versus indirect approaches to educating and changing the behavior of young people.” Students were urged to consider how HIV awareness could be marketed effectively, and how the “cool effect” could be balanced with education and raising awareness.


Although the writing assignment for this text was relatively straightforward, I felt it necessary to push my students and myself. I felt that ignoring the racial and sexual stigmas that often run parallel to those surrounding HIV/AIDS would do a disservice to my student’s development of critical thinking and analytical skills. As a first-time and first-year teacher, I found myself extremely nervous with the task at hand. I wondered how I might prompt discussion about sexuality, race, HIV/AIDs, and Africa in my apathetic 8:00am class. In order to meet my goal of making a positive and lasting impact, I would need to revise our syllabus and make room for “Cultural Connections.” Armed with my Emerging textbook, “newbie” optimism, and a PowerPoint, I mapped out a presentation to address stigma surrounding Africa and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


First I assigned the reading (with the threat of a quiz) to be sure that students would have some context to frame our discussion. We then had a discussion about what stigma is and how it develops and spreads. My students recognized that stigma is a negative association that in some cases develops from a lack of understanding. Next I revealed the Cultural Connections PowerPoint. This set of slides was important because they were prefaced with some simple but powerful rules. One of those rules included stating which country in Africa a person was referring to, whenever they addressed anything surrounding the continent. Students were not allowed, for example, to simply say “over there” or “In Africa everyone…” or make any similar generalizations. The point of this conversation was to clearly identify the people being discussed out of respect and understanding of their differences. The content of the first set of slides dealt directly with some stereotypes and misconceptions associated with the African continent. One such misconception was that it was completely destroyed by the HIV/AIDS virus. I wanted to share the reality of Africa as a diverse continent and also real examples of Africans’ lives. 


Here, I wanted to create an opportunity for interactive engagement. Luckily, one of my incredible co-workers provided me with the hashtag, #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou. Its function is to combat archaic popular media images of Africa as a disease-ridden and impoverished continent.  Since most of my students were familiar with Twitter, it intrigued them to use it academically. We scrolled through the tagged images, and watched a short video summarizing the frustration of Africans with negative images of their cultures in popular media. Using Twitter to have a conversation about the misconceptions about Africa worked well because the tweets are being produced by people with no other motivations than to broadcast their reality. The tweets also work in “real time” so students can watch the tags and perspectives increase at the same time as their own perspectives change. I learned later from one of my students that this medium and hashtag was a useful example of the power of united digital activism.


We then shifted our focus to a YouTube video explaining the HIV/AIDS virus. We discussed who was at risk and reviewed local statistics for our area. Our final slide was a set of exploratory questions I presented to the class and had them respond to with no risk of penalty. These questions asked students to consider how intersections of class, race, gender, and/or sexuality could affect HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. Here are some of the questions I presented them with:

  1. What kind of economic obstacles exist that prevent all people from gaining access to the same helpful information and medication as others?
  2. What about people who don’t conform to either gender (they are non-binary)?
  3. If campaigns are solely heteronormative, how do people outside those boundaries protect themselves?

These questions were not simple, or comfortable. But they got my students to (re)consider some new and familiar subjects. They analyzed HIV/AIDS, class, race, gender, and/or sexuality alongside stigma and surprised themselves. Because we tackled such a big set of issues so early on, we were well equipped to deal with Dan Savage and Urvashi Vaid’s “It Gets Better and Action Makes it Better” essay on the bullying of LGBTQA students. I believe that if we had not created an open and exploratory environment earlier in the semester, we may not have been able to discuss the comments on Savage’s YouTube video as well as we did. That’s right, we read the article, and broke internet rule #1. We read the hate filled comments below some of the It Gets Better videos and read the stigma associated with homosexuality. I realize now that our previous discussion on Epstein provided a frame of reference with which students could more easily approach social issues like stigma and sexuality.

Source: It Gets Better Project It Gets Better: Dan and Terry - YouTube


Integrating technology helped me broach Epstein and Savage. I was able to place my students in control of their learning, by utilizing modes of technology they were familiar with. They were also able to participate in conversations non-verbally, which was an excellent option for those students who are uncomfortable speaking in class. I am proud of the work my students did, and I’m excited to integrate more technology/social media into my pedagogy. For more information on the benefits of teaching with social media check out this article or scroll through the Bedford Bits tags like multimodal, social media, digital composing, or teaching with technology.


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This post was originally published on July 23, 2012.


Have you ever longed for a place on the Web where ideas for new basic writing course materials would be easily and readily available? Happily, such a virtual site now exists. Professor Elizabeth Baldridge, a basic writing teacher/scholar at Illinois Central College, has created CBW Resource Share, a new Web page with links to downloadable basic writing assignments, activities, and other resources.


For years, teacher and scholars of basic writing have generously shared resources for assignments, course activities, and other pedagogical materials. Yet the circumstances for sharing presume privileges of time, financial resources, and institutional support. What happens, for instance, if we are hired at the last minute to teach a course at places, times, and days where colleagues may be few and far between, or if our modest paychecks make conference attendance prohibitively expensive? The virtual archive was created to ameliorate this sense of isolation, as well as to provide a central location for sharing our work in a do-it-yourself (DIY) space for professional development.


The Wiktionary (Wikipedia dictionary) defines DIY as follows: “To perform oneself a task usually relegated to an expert.” At the same time, a DIY ethos, with deep roots in punk rock culture, encourages a leveling of hierarchies so that we can create opportunities to become experts ourselves, as a discussion on the CBW listserv in 2011 made clear. Examples of DIY projects include self-producing and distributing ’zines and albums, knitting and repurposing used clothing, starting bicycle repair cooperatives and homegrown vegetable gardens, and, as Jason Dockter suggests, open access scholarship.


Professor Baldridge describes the CBW Resource Share as “the currently under-construction home of the CBW resource share site that will someday, with your contributions and participation, be amazing.” In other words, as part of the DIY ethic, the success of the archive becomes part of a collective activity, an ongoing process in which any of us may take part in building a stronger community for basic writing. Connecting to this virtual community affords us both the pleasure and responsibility of asking yet another question as we peruse our teaching artifacts: Who else might benefit from these materials? How can I reach out to colleagues from other communities?


We may wonder how we may begin to make these judgments, or perhaps more significantly, why we might wish to ask ourselves such questions. We may feel too overwhelmed with the task at hand or we may question our own levels of expertise. Yet an unfortunate aspect of teaching basic writing for many of us is that we, along with our students, may often be made to feel that we are not experts at all. People outside the field have increasingly come to define who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to do, and how we are supposed to do it. To question those definitions may invite immediate calamity—yet our questioning can also allow us to shape the future.


As the virtual archive grows, we can strengthen the web of connectivity for ourselves as a field and contribute to the promise of great teaching for all of our students. The promise of creating a better world remains a significant tenet for DIY and allows us to imagine a brighter future for the multiple and intersected worlds of basic writing. We owe ourselves this much—and we owe our students even more. Raising the bar for our field has the deep potential to enrich our students’ educations and to enrich ourselves as teachers/scholars, as we continue to learn from our students and strive toward positive and sustainable educational change.


[Image source: Scott Lewis, DIY-renovators | Flickr - Photo Sharing! ]

profile-image-display.jspa?imageID=2353&size=1000Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn (see end of post for bio).


With all of my multimodal teaching, I do admit that I still hold on to the idea of paper assessment for multimodal projects.  Part of this is due to the fear that when it comes time for grading I will not be able to access students’ work on their blogs. The other is the affirming experience (for students and teachers) of collecting tangible evidence that they have completed their work.  I have come to feel comfort in the ritual of collecting student folders at the end of the term and looking them in the eye and asking, “Is everything here... to the best of your knowledge?  They answer with an accomplished, “yes.” I even ritualistically break out my rolling suitcase for the occasion to drag them all home.


In one of my earlier blog posts I discussed the use of academic blogs, and I have come to use them in almost all of my classes.  Students’ shape multimodal compositions for multiple audiences and purposes and include deep links, detailed context and connections that don’t often come across on the printed page.  In the past I had students print out screen captures of their home page and media content and make document copies of their blog posts.   Lately students vocally resist printing (many of them don’t even own printers anymore).   I have plenty of theories regarding their resistance to printing but I realized that in their world, as digital natives, this is the norm and that they were perfectly comfortable with electronic submission and online evaluation.   I am listening . . . and examined my own resistance to this shift (as a digital immigrant) and decided to try to restructure my evaluation models to be more multimodal.  


I still believe that it is important for students to be held accountable in a physical world for some things.  This also keeps the agency where it belongs – with the students—to check, articulate and organize their work over a semester.  I use a couple of tools and assignments that help me maintain this agency and provide structure and overview when reviewing multimodal student work. 


1. Revising the blogs

Near the end of the semester, I ask students to return to the work they have completed over the term.  This assignment asks students to move from a series of isolated blog posts to a larger collection with patterns and connections.  It helps them understand the blurred line between classroom and public spaces for writing and teaches them deep revising practices beyond textual editing.  I ask them to

  • return their posts and revise them for engaging writing, audience awareness embedded links, proper citation and a rhetorical awareness of their digital identity
  • go back and examine and craft the online identity for their blog and incorporate ideas and images from their work in the class
  • revise their About page they created in the beginning of the term and re-see their purposes and authorial personae through the eyes of their purposes and journey through the course. 

When students composed their original posts, their classmates were their primary audience.  This revision should take into account the shift towards a more public audience in which the blog stands on its own in a digital space.  This includes reshaping titles, adding captions to images, embedding links, and perhaps defining terms that are specific to the classroom discourse community.  See my assignment,  Revising Your Blog Guidelines (Kim Haimes-Korn) for guidelines and criteria.


2. Reflective Narrative

I modified a reflective narrative assignment to act as both a final reflection on their work for the class and as a final post in their course blogs. Students read back through their posts from the semester and create a closure (or continuation) piece for their blogs for a public audience. I ask them to closely examine the subject matter and the connections they made in the class and explore how they are reading across the texts in their blog and connecting the concepts of the class in their writing and thinking.    I instruct them to draw upon and quote from their own writings and ideas and write a detailed account of the ways they have explored their ideas in the class through textual referencing. In this post, they must intentionally cross link to their earlier blog posts.   They can think of this reflection as an overview of what is included in their blogand write it as an extended introduction to the entries that follow or as a closure post in which they look back on what they have done. 


3. Annotated Bibliography and Abstract

This part of the assignment is very helpful when evaluating student work on their blogs.  Since I encourage students to give their blog posts engaging titles, this list identifies the assignment number, title and give a short abstract/summary of the work.  Not only does it help me in grading but it teaches them the form of the Annotated Bibliography and online citation practices and prepares them to create short abstracts of their work for metadata and other academic purposes.


4. Statement of Self-Evaluation This statement should NOT appear on students’ blogs. I am the only audience – teacher as evaluator – for this writing.  Students write an evaluation of their work and performance and in the class. They create a detailed portrait of themselves as  working writers and evaluate their progress with justification from their writings (by citing particular movements in their texts, style, etc.).   Students also need to complete the student evaluation (SE) portions of the rubric for a "Portfolio Evaluation" Sheet by returning to the criteria introduced in the class.. These holistic marks should be reflected in this Statement of Self Evaluation.


5. Rubric of Blog Contents and Description

When students complete the course, they must go through the checksheet on Rubric for Multimodal Assessment (Kim Haimes-Korn) and confirm submission on all of their blog posts and assignments. I also include evaluation criteria to help them define what constitutes strong work in this digital environment.



Reflections on the Activities:

Although I don’t collect all of their work, I ask students to complete the rubric checksheet, print the reflective narrative, Annotated Bibliography and Abstracts, and their Statement of Self-Evaluation.  I refer to their online documents and respond, in writing (either on the text or through electronic commentary for online submission) to the documents and fill out the teacher evaluation portion of the rubric while holistically marking it for assignment criteria to justify the grade. This gives students a way to remain accountable for their work and  teachers  a space to interact with their

multimodal projects.


We are still in the process of understanding what it means to teach in multimodal classrooms.  As teachers, we need to consider the ways this changes our pedagogical approaches and student-teacher relationships.  It is important that we consider new approaches to assessment and evaluation that honor this shift and allow us to expand our definitions and practices. . . and to leave the rolling suitcases at home.


Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things.  She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity.  You can reach Kim at or visit her website Acts of Compositio

Ahh, motivation.


Yes, good people, it is that wonderful time of the semester when none of us has any time for anything. We give ourselves over to daydreams of purchasing a one-way ticket to Hawaii with plans to never return to teaching, grading, meetings, or anything related to university life. It’s a beautiful daydream. Filled with the salty taste of the ocean, an ice-cold adult beverage, and the feeling of burying your toes in sugar-white sand. Don’t tell me you haven’t imagined your escape plan, too. Maybe yours involves Cozumel or Aruba.


A few years ago I found myself sitting at my desk in my windowless lecturer’s office that I shared with ten other NTT faculty at NC State University. It was like a large janitor’s closet, that office.


Google, save me, I said to the computer one day.


I began searching phrases like “student motivation.” And “how to get students to talk.” Or perhaps “career choices.” One such search led me to a beautiful area of scholarship and publications like The Journal of Educational Psychology. Therein I found a life raft.


One article led to another, and eventually I discovered Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi’s “Middle School Students’ Motivation and Quality of Experience: A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional School Environments.


Their research hit me at time when I was beginning to wrap my mind around what it meant to teach a rhetorically-based WID approach to First-Year Writing. Rathunde seemed interested in questions about quality of life, student motivation, and pedagogical approaches to teaching that affect both.


11.27.15_Insider's View Kevin Rathunde.PNG

An Insider's View from Kevin Rathunde, featured in An Insider's Guide to Academic Writing, page 161.


Rightly or wrongly I began to see parallels between a WID-based approach to teaching composition and the philosophy of Montessori. Primarily I noticed that both involved a student-centered approach and that both emphasized students’ intrinsic motivation to learn by encouraging students to develop research from their unique and personalized interests. Intrigued, I began synthesizing Rathunde’s research findings in my day-to-day activities for English 101, and lo and behold, I saw a bump in student motivation.


Here’s one example:


Rathunde’s research suggests that students’ motivation improves when they work in groups with clearly defined goals and clear accountability, and they have a voice in how they are graded.


I organized students into small groups, gave each group a dry erase marker, and asked them to develop criteria for a rubric written on a white board in the classroom. The rubrics, I told them, would be used by me to grade their next written project.


When they realized I was serious, the conversation in their groups took on an energy the likes of which I’d rarely seen in a classroom. They negotiated every criterion. Moreover, each group looked around at what other groups were writing on the white boards, and they drew from group to group.


Once they had a list of seven to ten criteria, we had a discussion. Groups would present things like “organization,” “evidence,” “spelling,” “thesis statement,” “purpose,” “audience,” “grammar.”


Often they would put criteria on their lists that made me uncomfortable. Things like “content” or “clarity.” I would ask them what they meant. Where could I point in a paper to assess “content”? Where is a specific example of “clarity” in your writing?


Show me, I’d ask them.


They would do their best to explain. And in so doing, they often came to realize what was and wasn’t good criteria for assessing writing. More interestingly to me, though, I began to suspect that the most important learning that was taking place was in the negotiation with their peers. If someone was domineering or difficult to work with, everybody else in the group recognized it. They would find subtle ways to communicate approval, disapproval, and develop optimal group dynamics. They had a collective goal.


The hardest part was letting go of my authority as a teacher. It was hard letting students take the lead. It was hard trusting them and their abilities to figure out what constitutes good writing. My hunch is that the essence of authentic learning comes by developing that trust, showing students that they have the ability to recognize, analyze, and produce good writing, and that they can work together toward consensus.



Stacey Cochran is the bestselling author of Eddie & Sunny. He has taught First-Year Writing for nearly twenty years at East Carolina University, Mesa Community College, North Carolina State University, and most recently the University of Arizona. He lives in Tucson with his wife Susan Miller-Cochran and their two kids Sam and Harper. He is currently at work trying futilely to overcome his impostor syndrome.


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If you haven’t taken a look at the September 2015 issue of College Composition and Communication, take a minute to check it out. I’ve been continually impressed with the journal under the editorship of Jonathan Alexander, and this is certainly no exception. There’s a fine lead essay by Patrick Sullivan on stressing the creative potential of all writing (though the odd title of “The UnEssay” obscures its real focus on multimodal composing), along with Jacqueline Preston’s essay on writing as assemblage (related to Krista Kennedy’s concept of writing as curatorial), three terrific literacy narratives, and an instructive review essay on four volumes addressing language difference by Brian Ray. All good reads.


But what caught my eye in particular in this issue was Zachary Beare and Marcus Meade’s “The Most Important Project of Our Time! Hyperbole as a Discourse Feature of Student Writing.” While I got bogged down a bit in some of the details of their study of hyperbolic moves in student essays, I loved thinking about the role of hyperbole and appreciate the authors’ timely reflections on it. Along the way, they show that hyperbole can be a powerful and useful trope, one that students can employ to good effect. I agree and, in fact, John Ruszkiewicz and I define hyperbole (in Everything’s an Argument, Seventh Edition) as a “special effect, a kind of fireworks in prose” and go on to offer an example of Rex Reed using hyperbole effectively in a film review.


As I thought about my own relationship to hyperbole, two memories surfaced: one was of a class report I wrote as an undergraduate on Richard Altick’s The Scholar Adventurers. (I would go on in grad school to study with Altick and to appreciate his enormous gift for storytelling, much on display in this book.) I was enthralled by Altick’s narrative, and my report showed it: I remember making comments that Beare and Meade would definitely label as “inflation.” My teacher was having none of it: while I didn’t get an awful grade, I got a reprimand: “don’t go overboard,” he said: “keep your critical wits about you.” I was definitely taken down a peg or two and endeavored to keep all such inflationary language out of my academic prose, a “rule” I lived by through most of my graduate education but then soon tried to move beyond.


My second memory is of my teacher, mentor, and advisor, Edward P. J. Corbett, author of Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student and the person who introduced me to rhetoric and writing studies and hence changed my life. He was nothing if not a devotee of hyperbole: a film was always “the absolute best” or “hideous beyond endurance.” As the editor of CCC (I was his erstwhile assistant), he was usually generous, holding such hyperbolic explosions as “this piece is simply, my dear, STUPID.” But the tendency toward hyperbole was still there. I recall one snowy day during winter break when we were toiling on getting the next issue ready for print. After several hours, Ed called for a break and said, “I will take you to the best lunch place in Columbus,” and then headed resolutely for McDonald’s. What a guy!


Today, of course, hyperbole is all around us: we can see plenty of it, from the election debates to advertisements to dinner menus. Today, even punctuation is hyperbolic: look at the proliferation of exclamation marks!!!! So it’s instructive, I think, to give hyperbole its due, to seek out uses that are powerful and effective, and to share them with our students. Hyperbole can be particularly successful in humorous writing and speaking, as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert made very clear, along with others such as Amy Sedaris and David Sedaris. Even in everyday life, a little hyperbole can go a long—and good—way. During a particularly tedious department meeting a year or so ago, a witty and wonderful colleague raised his hand and said, “Can we just vote . . . before I lose the will to live?”


So here’s to hyperbole, well used, and to Zachary Beare and Marcus Meade for their engaging exploration of it.


Cervone.jpgGuest blogger Skye Cervone is a PhD student in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University where she teaches Freshman Composition and Interpretation of Fiction. She holds an M.A. in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature and is the Student Caucus Representative for The International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts. Her current research focuses on biopolitics and animal studies in Science Fiction. Skye’s work has appeared in Critical Essays on Lord Dunsany and Animalia: An Anthrozoology Journal.


While the prospect of addressing racial tension at American universities in our classrooms may seem daunting, the continued student protests at The University of Missouri at Columbia after the resignation of their president, Timothy M. Wolfe and the planned exit of their chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, highlight the importance of discussing this issue openly and directly with our students. Emerging offers several essays that can provide instructors with important starting points for such discussions. Since many students might be unfamiliar with the current tension at universities such as Mizzou and Yale, it might be helpful to discuss the timeline leading up to Mr. Wolfe’s resignation in The Chronicle of Higher Education as a prelude to engaging the readings from Emerging. I also suggest having students familiarize themselves with the death threats the black students at Mizzou have received and the protesters’ confrontation with a journalist.


Rebekah Nathan, “Community and Diversity”—Nathan’s essay offers an important starting point for getting students to think about the kinds of social groups that exist at universities. Nathan problematizes the existence of a cohesive sense of community that includes diversity on contemporary university campuses. Her argument can allow students to interrogate the concepts of community and diversity at Mizzou and see how student experiences at singular locations can be varied based upon whether one is inside or outside of select “communities,” especially along racial lines, leading to a sense of isolation and frustration.


Nathan Gladwell, “Small Change” —Gladwell’s essay is, of course, one of the most logical choices when approaching any social change movement, especially a movement aimed at combatting discrimination. By comparing the tactics used by activists involved in the Greensboro sit-ins to fairly contemporary social media campaigns, Gladwell determines strong social bonds are required for high-risk activism. His essay provides students with an important vocabulary and set of concepts to approach how the football team at Mizzou was both willing and able to oust a university president.


Jennifer Pozner “Ghetto Bitches, China Dolls, and Cha Cha Divas” —Pozner’s discussion of reality television is a critical piece for introducing students to mass media’s role in perpetuating racial stereotypes and influencing how we talk about race. While many have criticized the Mizzou protestors’ unwillingness to cooperate with the media, Pozner’s essay can allow students to interrogate the social causes for why people of color have reason to be wary of the media and determine ways in which responsible representations can be fostered.


Student protests have continued to spread to other universities, so there will undoubtedly be more opportunities to have important conversations about fostering university communities that provide racial parity and inclusiveness. Other essays that might be of interest are Francis Fukuyama’s “Human Dignity,” which discusses the importance respecting our fellow human beings; or Manuel Muñoz’s “Leave Your Name at the Border,” which might allow students to consider how easily non-white people can be othered and the dehumanizing effects of othering.


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