key reading

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.
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Narrative Knowers, Expository Knowledge: Discourse as Dialectic

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Author: Anne DiPardo

Summary: DiPardo addresses the divide between narrative and expository writing, noting the problematic tendency in composition teaching and scholarship to privilege “pure” exposition. She argues that instruction which fosters this divide, which contends narrative and expository are separate modes, denies students the opportunity to develop a complex and more realistic way of knowing and writing. This article is useful for professional development on expository writing to encourage rethinking of the genre, to realize that the best “real-world” examples of expository writing are indeed multimodal in nature and embrace narrative in myriad ways.
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Teachers at the Center: A Memoir of the Early Years of the National Writing Project

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Author: James Gray

Summary: In 1974, Jim Gray and his colleagues convened a group of teachers for the first summer institute of the Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley—the first writing project site in the country. In the over four decades since, Gray’s then radically new vision of professional development for teachers, and his inspired work establishing what became the National Writing Project model in sites around the country, generated a national network that has served more than two million teachers. In this chapter from his candid memoir, he looks back on the early years, describing the mentors who influenced his thinking, the mistakes he made and strategies he used to refine the model, and the difficulties overcome to gain widespread support for the project. A key reading for NWP teacher leaders, this engaging and thoughtful narrative will also be of interest to anyone concerned about education, literacy, and teacher professional development.

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Linking Genre to Standards and Equity

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Author: Tom Fox

Summary: Here is an important article that offers a framework and looks at how genre studies can help writing teachers design meaningful and engaging writing instruction. Fox suggests that standards-based writing curricula do not go far enough when we only teach students about how various genres work. He argues that writing may be construed as “meaningless” and ultimately serve to disenfranchise students if we sidestep the more fundamental question: “Why do people write?” Teachers already familiar with arguments about “authentic” writing will especially appreciate Fox’s call to examine how teachers and students might pursue “urgent” writing situations.
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Extending the Conversation: Writing as Praxis

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Author: Robert Yagelski

Summary: This essay is a key reading for individuals and study groups looking to understand the “transformation” that teachers say occurs in writing project institutes and other programs when they write, respond as members of writing groups, revise, and publish. Yagelski grounds his exploration in theory as he considers the power of writing as an active (rather than a passive) pursuit that engages teacher writers in reflective practice.
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Grammar, Grammars and the Teaching of Grammar

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Author: Patrick Hartwell

Summary: This article offers a recap of understandings of the concept of grammar: what it is, and when, why, and how it matters. The author, alluding to the relationship between grammar and power, suggests that we should consider how to support students in communicating strategically. This foundational article offers a clear elucidation of the various ways in which people have understood the idea of grammar and would be an important resource for discussion among teachers of writing who invariably must, at some point, address the role of grammar in the teaching of writing.
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The National Writing Project: Scaling Up and Scaling Down

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Author: Joseph P. McDonald, Judy Buchanan, and Richard Sterling

Summary: How does the NWP simultaneously impact individuals and school communities? What can local sites learn about strategies for scaling up their work? Teacher leaders and project directors involved in developing grant proposals, partnerships, or research focused on scaling up professional development or school reform efforts may find this chapter a useful resource and rich perspective on NWP’s successful “improvement infrastructure.” The authors describe what is meant by “scaling up by scaling down”: “to succeed in a new environment, a reform that is spreading geographically must also challenge and, eventually, penetrate habitual practice in new contexts.” NWP has promoted both spread and depth of change via three elements: an annual site review process; specialized cross-site networks; and a commitment to both internal, site-based, practitioner-directed research and external, national, and independent research. These elements, separately and together, enable the NWP to generalize from the diverse experiences of local sites and chart new directions for the work.
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Brief Reviews of James Moffett’s Major Works

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Author: John Warnock

Summary: These brief sketches emphasize ideas for classroom practice found in the works of James Moffett, a writer and theorist in the areas of language and literacy and curriculum integration whose work has informed the practice of many NWP teachers. For teachers in any advanced institute or study group who want to do a deep dive into Moffett and his legacy related to student-centered writing experiences, these readings would provide the door.
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Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

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Author: Henry Jenkins

Summary: This resource challenges teachers and schools to have conversations about the social skills, technological access, and cultural competencies involved in a connected-learning approach to learning and literacy. Written by Henry Jenkins and members of Project New Media Literacies, it describes “new literacies” that rely on collaboration and networking, and argues that schools have been slow to develop pedagogies that support youth in participatory culture, with its potential benefits of “peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship.” Without school involvement, Jenkins argues, groups of students will be left behind in developing the new skills and competencies needed to succeed “as full participants in our society.” For teacher leaders who want to offer ideas and help their colleagues understand and embrace participatory culture in school settings, this resource is a place to begin the conversation.
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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.
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