Behind the Textbook: Putting Together a Composition Reader

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I’m currently working on the second edition of Emerging: Contemporary Readings for Writers. My editor John and I thought this would be a good opportunity to give Bits readers an idea of what goes into making an FYC reader, while also offering some suggestions on how you can look for your own readings for your classes. My goal with these posts is to reveal the processes involved in putting together a textbook but, more importantly, to open up conversations about what kinds of readings work in an FYC classroom and how we find them. For starters, we did what we probably all do with our classes after each semester: look at what worked and what didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever taught the same syllabus twice and, often, I’m tweaking the syllabus before the semester even ends to account for what’s happening in the classroom. We did the same thing with Emerging by thinking about which readings didn’t quite work and asking others the same question—both those using the text and those who haven’t.  (Revision—there’s just no avoiding it in our field). Nine readings will be dropped. We’ll be replacing those but also adding around ten new, shorter pieces as well as some visual materials. Again I’m reminded of my in-class work: imagining a class, planning its pieces, picking out the materials… that’s always the fun part. How often do you revise your syllabus? What factors do you take into account when deciding whether or not a specific class “worked”?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.