Beyond the classroom: pursuing an audience for my student-teachers’ writing

8 06 2012

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Writing is a deeply social process, in which people`s thoughts, perceptions, experiences, and projects are connected into wider collectivities of organized action and belief (Bazerman, 2006).

Thus, in real life, we write to initiate or continue a process of social interaction and construction of meaning. This is not what usually happens in a traditional writing course, though, where students typically produce texts to be read solely by the teacher or, perhaps, by one or two peer reviewers. The greatest challenge for a writing teacher, then, is to engage students in the production of authentic texts, for authentic communication with a wider audience, an audience beyond the classroom walls; an audience that will read and respond to the text not as reviewers, as are the teacher and peers in the writing class, but rather, as genuine readers interested in the content of the text – the feelings, ideas and experiences shared by the writer.

In designing the curriculum for a two-month blended writing course for current and prospective teachers, authenticity was the word that resonated in my mind, and giving the student-teachers the chance to share their work confidently with a wider audience was my greatest goal. Three steps were taken in this direction: a) though we continued using the assigned textbook (Folse’s and Pugh’s  Greater Essays, 2010) as a starting point and a means to bring structure to the course, for each text type we studied, I also chose an updated and authentic sample as a model, which was thoroughly discussed and analyzed by the students; b) rather than writing about general topics typical of a traditional composition class, they wrote about their experiences learning and teaching English, given that the writing course is one module in a Teacher Development Course and that in subsequent semesters they will write reflective pieces on what they are learning; c) finally, and most important of all, I put together our class portfolio, showcasing the excellent work produced by the group. There you will also find a longer description of the writing course design and methodology.

I’m very happy that my students gained confidence about their writing, for only one of the nine writers chose to remain anonymous. Now, in order to reach my major goal, I’d like to ask my peers around the world to take some time to read a few, if not all, of the texts, and leave a short response.  Richardson (2012) urges teachers to prepare students to learn without them; likewise, my aim is to encourage my student-teachers to continue writing about their rich experience learning English and teaching EFL.  With your help, I’m sure they’ll see the true value of their texts and feel encouraged to keep on writing.

References:

Bazerman, C. (2006). The writing of social organization and the literate situating of cognition: Extending Goody’s social implications of writing. In D. Olson & M. Cole (Eds.). Technology, literacy and the evolution of society: Implications of the work of Jack Goody. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Folse, K. S and Pugh, T. Greater Essays (2010). Second Edition.  Boston, MA: Heinle Cengage Learning.

Richardson, W. (2012). Preparing students to learn without us. Educational Leadership, vol. 69 no. 5.

Photo: reading – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Reading_comics.gif

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