Writing Matters V (2018)- “Writing With Mirrors”

I spent Saturday writing and working with the Seven Valleys Writing Project and its members at Writing Matters V. This year’s theme, Creating a Culture of Writers, was particularly attractive to me as I continue to pursue a career working within English and Writing departments within academia, and obviously as I prepare and construct pedagogies and classroom strategies that create inclusive, generative communities of composing.

My contribution to Writing Matters this year was titled “Writing With Mirrors: Reflecting on Goals and Choices in FYC.” The presentation asks questions of reflection, autobiography and rhetorical education, specifically grappling with Jody Shipka’s assignment of formal Statements of Goals and Choices to her composition students as outlined in Toward A Composition Made Whole (2011).  Working with teachers of writing, English and literacy at all levels K-12, we constructed practical, real-world strategies in which to use reflective writing to augment the rhetorical educations we already strive for in our pedagogies.

Writing with Mirrors Handout:

Writing with Mirrors — 10 March 2018 — Writing Matters V

  • Let’s write. In what specific, practical ways have you asked your students to reflect on their individual writing process in the past? What did you hope they’d gain from the reflection?
  • Example SOGC prompt, this one for a typical argumentative project:

This project will be composed of two interrelated parts. First, you’ll write ________. You’ll then compose a “Statement of Goals and Choices” in which you reflect on your writing process for this particular assignment and answer any or all of the following questions: How were you challenged? What solutions did you find? What aspects of this assignment did you excel at, and where were you not quite so strong? Where were you when you did your best writing, focusing, thinking. What sentence are you most proud of in your essay? Which words do you think were most persuasive, effective, productive? Were you persuasive overall? Did you accomplish the goals of the assignment? What have you learned about yourself as a writer, learner, and student?  Avoid generalities. Be specific to your own writing.

(C) “Takeaways” :

  1. Writing is discovery. Reflective writing (such as SOGCs) can help encourage self-discovery.
  2. Students learn without realizing it. It’s beneficial for writing teachers to ask them to “name their learning,” ie. explicitly identify it.
  3. Students oftentimes struggle to reflect on specific goals and choices they’ve made in their writing. However, this is a skill that can be cultivated, nurtured and developed through guided practice.

Questions, concerns or new ideas? I’m available at Jacob.Richter10@gmail.com.

SOGC concept taken from Jodi Shipka’s Toward A Composition Made Whole.

Cartoon via Sam Gross.

Some benefits to reflective writing were able to brainstorm include:

  • Reflective writing increases student confidence in her/their/his writing.
  • Helps students build knowledge of rhetorical moves.
  • Helps students replicate the “good stuff” they’re already doing in their writing, composing and individual writing process.
  • It’s writing in and of itself.
  • Makes students aware of the times/places/habits that work best for their study, writing and work habits.
  • Makes good writing a student goal.
  • Students build upon prior knowledge.
  • Fosters meta-cognition.
  • Help students explicitly identify audience, goals, context, timing, situation, emotions.
  • Encourages the “Why is my writing important?” question.
  • Encourage reader-centered thinking.
  • Develop skills of analysis and self-analysis.
  • Benefit over freewriting/unstructured writing: depth of reflections; comprehensiveness; details; specificity; complexity of reflection.
  • Instructor feedback.
  • Enhances teacher’s ability to assess success of learning outcomes.
  • Personal experience. Reflection. Autobiography.
  • Are community autobiographies possible learning outcomes?
  • Discourages “I did it because the teacher/assignment asked for it” rationales and types of thinking.
  • Students see the significance of their own writing.
  • Writing and reflection are discover/self-discovery.
  • Reflection forces students to explicitly Name Their Learning.

Some concrete, on-the-ground strategies in which we can assign rhetorical reflection include:

  • Statements of Goals and Choices, as conceived by Shipka and put into practice by me in both new media remix and traditional research paper contexts with a variety of benefits, affordances and outcomes.
  • “Why I Deserve An A+ On This Assignment” writing assignments.
  • Freewriting.
  • “Where, Who and When” did you write -style assignments.
  • Journaling.
  • Blogging.
  • Blackboard/software applications.
  • Podcast/Participatory video composing.
  • Writing log/ journal.
  • Coverletters on formal writing assignments (Conceived by Peter Elbow, put into practice by me and many others).
  • “Re-Frame” assignments- ie. what were you doing in this sentence? What were your goals? What were you trying to accomplish with this sentence, word, metaphor, anecdote, aphorism, diction, tone, style, break, citation, etc.?

Writing Matters is a blast each year, and I left with a lot to think about. Thanks to everyone at Seven Valleys, to my mentor David Franke, and to our tremendous organizer Jenna Sterling. Looking forward to next year.

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