Minimal Marking

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Author: Richard H. Haswell

Summary: The author proposes a simple (and fast) system of marking editing errors on student work—checkmarks in the margin next to the line where an error has occurred. This system presupposes two important principles: 1) the teacher will spend time commenting on more important writing issues; and 2) the students will be given the opportunity to correct errors. The data in the article, although limited to the author’s own students, seems to demonstrate that students do successfully correct most errors and leads to mastery of “threshold errors,” or those for which the student is close to competence. For the teacher, this method allows relegating error marking to a minor role, while still providing effective teaching in editing. The article is useful in any context in which teaching of grammar and correctness is a block to moving onto other issues or in which fast, but effective, formative assessment is a need.

Site Outreach and Visibility

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Summary: How do you represent the breadth and depth of the work at your site to public and professional audiences? What do you highlight when approaching potential community and school district partners? How can you quantify and communicate your contributions to the university?

This collection of resources demonstrates how different National Writing Project sites describe, showcase, and market their rich and complex work. Whether created with an external or internal audience in mind, these resources provide insight into the value, reach, and impact of the sites’ work.

In addition to the resources included here, it would also be useful for sites to revisit the NWP Annual Reports, linked here, to see how the network describes the reach and relevance of its work and consider how that information might be usefully included in local site materials.

Joined at the Hip: The Joys and Travails of Teaching “Linked” Courses

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Author: Matthew Teorey

Summary: This article features one university’s program offering “Freshman Learning Communities” in which two instructors from different disciplines work together developing curriculum by coordinating two sets of complementary readings and assignments. In this cross-disciplinary approach, a community environment helps the students succeed in their freshman year. The resource provides an example of co-teaching and of coordinated literacy integration with specific writing and critical thinking skills across disciplines and has the potential for adaptation to the high school curricula.

Book Review: Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment

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Author: Meg Petersen

Summary: This review describes the work of high school teacher and author Maja Wilson, whose book examines what assessment without rubrics looks like and where it may take us. The sample chapter, “My Troubles with Rubrics,” advises that instead of reviewing student papers based on prescribed categories, we should engage students as fellow thinkers in our respective fields and have them consider the different ways that others might respond to their work. For teachers who are rethinking rubric use or seeking differentiated or better practices for assessment, this would be a useful book for study.

Honoring the Word: Classroom Instructors Find That Students Respond Best to Oral Tradition

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Author: Michael Thompson

Summary: In this award winning essay, Native American teacher and NWP site director Michael Thompson, reflects on his own practice and shares findings from research interviews he conducted with instructors in tribal college and university classrooms to learn how they approach literature and writing. In particular, he wondered if assigned texts represented “the value that Native people have historically given to traditional stories, teachings, speeches, tribal journeys, and accomplishments.” Instructors reported that Native communities typically value the spoken word over the art of writing and described language practices such as collecting personal narratives of elders in documentary films and digitized recordings. Classroom teachers, study groups and professional development leaders interested in exploring resources and practices that support efforts to “reclaim and honor oral traditions” of native peoples may find this article of interest.

Democracy, Struggle, and the Praxis of Assessment

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Author: Tony Scott & Lil Brannon

Summary: Invited to assist in restructuring the assessment practices of a college first-year writing program, Tony Scott and Lil Brannon examine the structure and ideology of the existing assessment system, exploring how it serves to preserve the status quo by providing seemingly objective proof of the effectiveness of the prevailing formalist model of instruction. Their qualitative research examines the relationship between assessment, valuation, and the economics of first-year writing and considers how assessment practices can become reductive within set power structures and lead to normative practices that limit expectations for student writers. In the process, they expose how the existing assessment model obscures the wide variety of ways in which student writing is understood and valued by faculty and instructors.

Writing from the Feather Circle

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Author: G. Lynn Nelson

Summary: In this resource, a writing teacher from Arizona applies the Native American feather circle to the teaching of writing and describes her work teaching sections of first-year composition exclusively for Native American students. The feather circle focuses on speaking from the heart; in the classroom this approach involves writing honestly and openly first and worrying about form later. The author shares the writing experiences of her students using a culturally responsive stance, and describes how an emerging group, “Native Images,” has shared their writings and art in community-based settings and at conferences across the country. This resource would be useful in teacher discussions of culturally relevant pedagogies for writing.

Helping High School Students “Gear Up” for College

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This article highlights a program designed to support 9th graders in understanding how to differentiate and act upon revision and editing concerns. The program’s development and implementation reflects a collaboration between area high school writing centers, teachers, and university composition faculty. Since Gear-Up funds programs throughout the country, teacher leaders and site directors might see possibilities for local adaptations.

Negotiating Academic Discourse

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Author: Linda Flower

Summary: This report discusses the difficulties experienced by many college freshmen as they seek to negotiate the transition from a writing process based on comprehension and response to a more fully rhetorical, constructive process. Summarizing a series of research studies on student responses to a reading-to-write task, the report concludes that both the deficit model (“lack” of skills) and developmental model (“stages” of growth) are incorrect characterizations of the transition between these two processes. Instead, the report supports a discourse community model, which views students as attempting to negotiate their entry into academic discourse by learning the conventions, expectations, etc. expected by this community. Although this study took place in the 1980s, the report still offers important food for thought as teachers work with students negotiating the academic transition. The report would be useful in contexts related to high school-college transition.

Promises of Coherence, Weak Content, and Strong Organization: An Analysis of the Student Text

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Author: Margaret Kantz

Summary: This report looks at ways in which college freshmen interpreted and negotiated an assignment calling for writing based on reading, along with how teachers then judged the abilities and preparation of the students based on that writing. The study discovered that students and teachers had different understandings of the expectations of the task and that such tasks are more difficult and complex for students than teachers realize. Although an older article, the conclusions of this research are still relevant in understanding the difficult transition from high school writing to college academic discourse. This article would be a useful starting point for discussions of how teachers must examine their assumptions about students’ interpretations of assignments. In addition, it might serve as a model of inquiry into the writing process of students.