Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writing Center Summer Hours


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

Summer Session I & II (June 17 - August 23)

Lincoln Park Campus Writing Center
(773) 325-4272

Monday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Wednesday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Thursday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Friday: 10 AM - 3 PM
Saturday: closed
Sunday: closed




Loop Campus Writing Center
(312) 362-6726

Monday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Wednesday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Thursday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Friday: 10 AM - 3 PM
Saturday: closed
Sunday: closed



CLICK HERE for instructions on how to register and make appointments. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Defiant Friend


One of my academic writing students wrote what I would call a “defiant” final reflection essay, one in which he used academic discourse to poke fun at the lame things he had to learn (and admitted he needs to know) about academic discourse. He even wrote an apologetic note at the end in 24-point magenta font, letting me know that this wasn’t personal, but that the opportunity to tell the truth and vent a little helped him to let the words “flow”. I admittedly enjoy reading the defiant students’ work just as much, if not more than, those students who write exactly what the instructions suggest they write. It doesn’t even have to be defiant, though, so long as it’s creative and keeps me awake when grading that huge stack at the end of the quarter.

On the last day of the course, I like to try to leave students with some sort of inspiration--usually a pep talk about all of the “cool research writing” they’ll get to do in their more advanced courses. (Okay, not so inspirational for some.) In any case, this last class took a different spin because that same anti-academic discourse student announced to the class how much he likes TED Talks, and seemed pretty interested in watching one together as a class as a “fun” end of the class activity. So I went to the TED Talk site, filtered the results by “Inspirational” (trying to stick with that pep-talk theme, after all), and clicked on the first one that popped up without really looking at which one it was.

It was a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson from 2006…about how school kills creativity. Oh, blast it.

The students’ eyes lit up like firecrackers, especially those of my defiant friend.  I had seen this TED Talk a long time ago, so I knew the gist, but I had forgotten the details. Sir Robinson, while appearing as though he might be a straight-laced stuffy academic at first, was witty, smart, charismatic, and took a few moments to let the audience laugh quite frequently.

And after I did my best to tie the first half of the video to academic writing as it played - pointing out Sir Robinson’s logos, ethos, and pathos, his thesis development, and his use of narrative to give examples of his points – Sir Robinson said, in so many words, that “our educational system has one mission: to produce more professors”. Everyone looked at me with eyes saying, “What? Heck now, I don’t want to be a professor! What are you doing to us in this school?!?”

Oh, blast it again.

I let the video play, nervously laughing. I did what most teachers do and talked through it, getting everyone’s thoughts on “the point of academic writing” and of college, more broadly, for a few minutes before class time had run out. My defiant friend had a smirk on his face; he knew I had to sleep in the bed I made and seemed entertained by my improvisation act.

We had a lot of honest discussion about what “academic means” throughout the course, and I did my best to defend the values of usefulness of academic writing despite Sir Robinson’s claims. I’ll admit that I felt a little defeated. But then I realized that this moment was really the home-run for me. My defiant friend had, in fact, learned about academic writing, he knew what he didn’t like about academia, he could write an argument about it (even citing himself as an authority), and he knew what engaged him and how to engage me and everyone else. I suppose that discussion of discourse, that argument, that engagement were the whole point of this course. And perhaps “defiant” wasn’t the right word to describe my friend after all. And perhaps my class and its "academic" content weren’t stifling creativity – that “flow” my friend talked about - like I worried it might have been.

Sir Robinson, come hang out in my class.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SNL Writing Instructors Report Back from Spring Conferences


The Voice – The Question by Steffanie Triller Fry who attended the Association of Writers and Writing Professional’s Conference

Something we all think about as writers and as teachers of writing is the elusive concept of “voice.” Students often tell us that they want to “find their voice.” Sometimes we tell ourselves this very same thing. In a session entitled “Finding Your Voice” at the Association of Writers and Writing Professionals’ annual conference this year, four established writers discussed what voice is and whether or not it can be taught. One particular comment may be very effective for our own students who are trying to find their voice: All great work carries a question inside of it. When a student paper is missing that “something” that ties it all together or makes it relevant in the world, they may be missing that question that is being explored. What does the reader want to discover in this piece? What do they want their audience to discover? Asking our students about their question may not only engage more passion in each writing assignment, but may prepare them for the larger writing tasks ahead, such as Research Seminar.

The Impact of Cultural Identity and Experiences on Classroom Learning by Kamilah Cummings who attended the Conference on College Compositon and Communication

The thing that most resonated with me after spending four days at the four C's was the impact that one's cultural identity and experiences can have on the classroom learning experience. In theory, this is not news to me. However, I was particularly inspired by the current research and application of it. For example, I participated in a workshop on fighting linguistic dominance in the classroom where I learned how African-American Verbal Tradition (AVT), which is different from African-American Vernacular (AAV), can be taught as a convention of academic writing. During that same workshop, I also learned how service learning class assignments can be designed to afford ESL students the opportunity to apply their linguistic skills through civic engagement with organizations in their respective communities.

Additionally, I attended sessions on topics that ranged from exploring the effect Hmong perceptions of masculinity have on the learning experience of Hmong males at Fresno State to using the hip-hop cipher as an inclusive practice. As a result, I left this year’s conference encouraged by how cultural identify is being leveraged to improve the learning experience. It provides opportunities for both teachers and students to enrich the classroom with greater diversity and creativity. I look forward to implementing what I learned in my own classroom.

What Other Schools are Doing to Promote Metacognition and Knowledge Transfer by Kathryn Wozniak who attended the Conference on College Composition and Communication

Faculty from Wayne State, Oakland, Seton Hall, and George Washington universities discussed their implementation of writing assignments and program trajectories to promote writing transfer and metacognition. Each institution implemented a slightly different version of the reflection assignments intended to promote transfer and metacognition based on their individual program's needs and population. For example, one university did not integrate writing about writing as a program requirement due to curriculum limitations. Another program compared instruction with high-level rhetorical emphasis and instruction with low-level rhetorical emphasis. However, each institution did include a common reflection assignment and studied groups of students as they moved through their writing courses in each program. All institutions showed some development related to transfer based on use of a reflection-based or writing-about-writing based pedagogy, though the development was not always significant at a statistical level due to small sample size. The speakers will present more of their findings at next year's conference.