This week’s post is dedicated to Deborah Coxwell – Taegue’s and Ronald F. Lunsford’s article “A Cornucopia of Composition Theories: What these Teachers Tell Us About Our Discipline.” It’s in the context of this article that we, my counterparts and I, learn what NOT to present in our FYC based classrooms. Further, the two authors compile and summarize important details from subsequent article chapters in the book entitled, First – Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Therefore, making this books end chapter a composite of useful ideas from several FYC instructors to the next.
The top three things that don’t happen in the FYC, which I will only address two in detail, are that the FYC does not focus on grammar, persuasion, or improvement of writing.
As a student, a Teaching Assistant (TA), and a future educator, grammar has always been a concern for me personally. I remember reading my class guidelines and seeing that professors wanted accurate grammar, but not giving the slightest help or guidance. However, according to Coxwell – Teague and Lunsford, this isn’t what the FYC focuses on, which is something that others have deducted FYC courses to, too. The FYC is a place for practicing the improvement of writings, not learning the mechanical rules step by step. In other words, if an issue occurs in students writing that can be addressed, we can help explain the issue, but to dedicate a lesson to it in a college course seems to waste class time that could be used for activities to help focus on students locating these errors on their own.
Further, some teachers in Coxwell – Taegue’s and Lunsford’s study showed an awareness “that a racist and classist society may well use issues of grammar and mechanics as cudgels against their students.” Therefore, some teachers allow students to fall through the cracks or even use dialectic differences to punish their students that do not have the benefits of grammar lessons in the initial stages of others and reward students that do. What seems most beneficial, is to encourage and focus on how students can code mesh in the classroom to facilitate growth, while also including their intended readers. This benefits students because they can then push past boundaries, while finding ways to learn about themselves through these connections and negotiate how they choose to present their narrative voices. From there, they can examine how they chose, and choose, the techniques they use and figure out whether those techniques work for the context and how they can better implement these techniques in other writing situations (which arguably improves their writing).
Not a Place for Improvement?
This third ‘does not,’ which highlights that writing improvement isn’t the focal point of FYC classrooms, confused me on initial read through. What do you mean FYC doesn’t focus on improving writing? Why not!?
The FYC is a classroom for practice. It’s in these practices where writing can be improved IF instructors provide valuable feedback that helps students focus on how to make proper revisions in their work. In other words, instructors focus on teaching the “basic principles of rhetorical analysis” which can be used in and out of the classroom. It’s our job as instructors to show them how to find the pathways that fit them and their writing styles, which better connect young writers with their readers/audience naturally, and not a standard set of steps that need to be followed. The intention is to facilitate examination, analysis, and connections with the context of the material and articulate these processes in their own writings.
Overall, these concepts and theories have been introduced and studied by my counterparts and I in different ways. We choose to focus on ways to manage helping students see their potential when it comes to writing. Then, we plan to present ideas that can be implemented, or further discussed, to help students form connections to writing beyond the classroom to make connections that help them practice writing in different contexts and proofread, then edit their work, as they get more comfortable with their own ideas, connections, and writing styles. We want students to make connections to everything they engage with beyond the classroom and find ways to articulate these connections in a way that helps foster communication and other connections where writing is concerned.
- Do you plan on incorporating grammar into your course? If so how? If not, how do you plan on encouraging better grammar skills for students that may need it?
- What ideas do you have to make sure your students that speak English as a Second language understand the course material you’re presenting to them?
Coxwell-Teague, Deborah and Ronald F. Lundsford. First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Anderson, South Carolina, Parlor Press LLC, 2014.