Hello! I am excited to announce the launch of a new series on Bedford Bits: Tiny Teaching Stories, and to invite your participation. What are Tiny Teaching Stories, you ask? See our introductory video: To get us started, I'd like to share my own Tiny Teaching Story with you. We were small zoom squares, remote, distant, across 4 continents. In our online writing class, I talked about the need to create a classroom community; they filled the chat box talk with fears about the pandemic, who had died, and who was in hospital. Isabelle, in Vietnam, sprawled on her pink ruffled bedspread; Zara, in Pakistan, turned off her video to leave class for morning prayers. We understood that we would never see each other in person; we would always be at a distance, always in gallery view. And yet, when I missed class on the day my mother died, from across 4 continents they sent me poems of consolation and a bouquet of sunflowers. Now, we want to hear from you. Send us your Tiny Teaching Story! Submit your Tiny Teaching Story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Guidelines for submission: Stories should be no more than 100 words. Include with your submission the attached release form. Tiny Teaching Stories can be published anonymously or with attribution; please indicate your preference in your submission and include a brief one to two sentence biography for non-anonymous publication. If you would like to, we encourage you to also submit your social media handles and a headshot (optional). Please change identifying names and details of students to protect their privacy.
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This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.
The start of a new school year is the perfect time for students to think about what their goals are for the next few months--including in their writing! Use one of the activities from this blog post to help your students prepare for their coming writing assignments.
Podcasts are well-established, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality.
LaunchPad and Achieve products include assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative.
If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page " Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts ."
If you are using Achieve, you can find information on assigning Grammar Girl in Achieve on the support page “ Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course .” If your English Achieve product is copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “ Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products ” for more information.
Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Prepare for This Semester’s Writing Assignments
Pre-Class Work for Assignment A: Ask your students to bring in a graded paper they completed for another class--no one will see it but them! Alternatively, you can ask your students to consider writing they’ve done for previous courses, and think about the feedback they received on that writing.
Each student should list one writing area or skill they used successfully and one writing area or skill they could improve. If your students are using a graded paper for this exercise, they can use the feedback written on that assignment to guide their responses.
If your students are struggling to come up with topics, ask them to reflect on the following and categorize them as either “successful” or “needs improvement”:
use of active/passive voice
use of citations
metaphors and similes
Assignment: Collect all of the answers, either in person or virtually. You may want to do this anonymously. As a class, group the answers together into similar categories. Consider if students had different terms for similar successes and problems, and note if everyone seems to struggle in the same areas or if the answers are more varied.
Then, assign a Grammar Girl podcast (or two!) based on the most common successes and most common areas needing improvement. Ask students to listen to these and then complete the reflection.
Reflection for Assignment A: Ask students to write 1-3 paragraphs reflecting on what they learned from the podcasts. Also ask them to consider: Were the successes they found in their writing the same or similar to the successes most of the class identified? What about the areas they need improvement in? Finally, ask them to consider how the podcast topic is or is not reflected in their previous assignments.
Pre-Class Work for Assignment B: Ask your students to vote on which of the following topics they feel they need help with right now. You can also turn this into a short class discussion about why students feel they need help with a particular category.
Academic Reading, Writing, and Speaking
Adjectives and Adverbs
Grammar for Multilingual Writers
Grammar, Clarity, and Style
Parts of Speech and Parts of Sentences
Subject-Verb Agreement and Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
If you’re using Achieve and have included the folder “Grammar Girl: 25 Suggested Podcasts” in your course, you could ask students to vote on the suggested podcasts instead of categories.
Assignment: Once everyone has voted, assign at least one Grammar Girl podcast from the top two or three categories. Ask your students to listen to the assigned podcasts.
Reflection for Assignment B: Ask each student to write 2-3 paragraphs reflecting on the podcasts they’ve listened to. They might consider the following questions:
In your own writing, do you consider the topic of the podcast something you succeed with or something you need more practice with?
For those topics in which you think you need work, what are some strategies for improving your skills in that area?
What other topics do you struggle with that were not addressed in the podcasts?
For more start-of-semester ideas, see Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Start the Semester .
Credit: "Start" by jakeandlindsay is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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I have written before about DBLAC—Digital Black Lit and Composition—the organization founded by Khirsten L. Scott and Lou Maraj in 2016 as a digital network devoted to the support of Black graduate students and emerging scholars in the fields of literacy, composition, literature, rhetoric, and related areas. In the five years since then, this group has held transformative in-person retreats and sponsored highly successful virtual reading and writing groups. They’ve also sponsored panels at a number of national conferences. Professor Scott wrote recently alerting members and readers to the opening of the Fall 2021 writing sessions, the first of which was held just last week on September 15. DBLAC writing group sessions follow a similar format: participants register in advance and then are invited to join in on any or all of the slated activities, beginning with Pre-Writing Affirmations and Writing Goals, followed by a three-hour writing period (with a break roughly half way through) and then an hour of time for reflection. While I have not been lucky enough to be part of any of these groups yet, I continue to follow report of them and to think of them (and the equally interesting reading group sessions) as one of gifts that kept giving during the pandemic, since they were designed to be virtual. And I am especially interested in the pre-writing affirmations that participants do—a kind of activity I used to use in abbreviated fashion at the beginning of my first-year writing classes to settle us all down and get us focused. Here’s what DBLAC posted on September 15: Before setting our goals and beginning our writing activities, let's share positive affirmations about our writing intentions. Statements can vary in length and quantity. The goal here is to promote positive energy within the group. Pre-Writing Affirmations: Transformation of Silence into Action In the spirit of this theme, I turn to Audre Lorde's words in this chapter of Sister Outsider: “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.” Lorde’s words seem to me to provide a good starting point for many of our writing classes, especially very early in the term. Reading that first sentence aloud in class, I can imagine looking directly and closely at my students, making eye contact with as many as possible, asking them to think about what it means to say “the fact that we are here” in this mid-pandemic time, and asking about what some of the silences and differences that stand between us are. And about how we might begin not just to recognize and name them but to bridge them. While I and my students wouldn’t have several hours to write, we would have 20 to 30 minutes at our disposal—along with some time for group discussion that could serve as a primer for later reflections written at leisure and brought to class the following day. I am not in the classroom (virtual or in person) this term, to my regret. But if I were, this is a prompt I would want to use—thanks to Audre Lorde and DBLAC. I believe it could well set the reflective, contemplative, interrogative tone I hope would guide our classroom deliberations throughout. If you should use this in your classroom, I’d love to hear about it and its results. And in the meantime, I recommend checking out the DBLAC website and signing up for their highly informational newsletter. Image Credit: "Pen and Paper" by kdinuraj, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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As much as I miss teaching face-to-face, online learning has its own rewards, for both students and teachers. One of the many challenges in teaching online is remaining mindful of students’ needs even as students’ faces and voices are often not available to us. For guidance in this endeavor, I turned to Beth Hewlett’s essay “Anyone Can Teach an Online Writing Course” (see Bad Ideas about Writing pages 356-362). Hewlett suggests that one of the primary most important practices is “to think differently—less linearly and more three-dimensionally” ( 359). Because of the affordances of my neurodiversity, I have practiced three-dimensional thinking for most of my life. For me, three-dimensional thinking requires thinking outside the box and detaching from “best practices” that are not necessarily best for everyone on the other side of the screen. Hewlett explains: online teachers must understand both the legal and moral requirements of equal access as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They must be able to understand how to use digital tools to enhance learning for students with physical disabilities, emotional challenges, learning differences, multilingual abilities, and varied socioeconomic backgrounds. These are learned, not inherent, digital teaching skills ( Bad Ideas about Writing 359). While Hewlett’s essay was published before the pandemic began, the requirements she describes have become even more dire. As suggested by a recent ACT study , in Spring 2020, two-thirds of students struggled with the transition to online learning and “ one-third of first-year students reported frequent troubles with an unreliable computer and 21 percent said they had unpredictable or no access to the internet” ( Inside Higher Education August 25, 2021). While Zoom creates an additional burden on wifi and unreliable computers, the problems of inequitable access to wifi, technology, and quiet places to study were at issue long before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, students struggled with balancing work, school, and family responsibilities. Then, as now, it was hard to find quiet places outside of the classroom to complete homework. Equitable access to food, housing, and healthcare also were at issue before the pandemic, exacerbated by national disasters and international catastrophes. In other words, the pandemic is more than a temporary inconvenience, and teaching online is not necessarily a contingency plan. Indeed, the New York Times reports that “ Even just knowing that online classes are an option can help students with disabilities by assuring them that there is a safety net.” This safety net is also a literal lifeline for teachers with disabilities. In advocating for ourselves, we are also advocating for our students, creating awareness and honoring, rather than merely performing, a deep care for human diversity that offers alternative forms for facilitating learning. In beginning a third semester of fully remote teaching on Zoom (of course), in my Bits posts this Fall I want to consider what the glitches were and how I might revise them. I start with the first glitch: Zoom itself. Problem: In face-to-face classes at the college where I teach, we met 1 hour and fifty-five minutes long, two days a week, with part of that hour devoted to small group work. However, Zoom is exhausting for people with and without neurodiversities , and it cannot replace the rapport and familiarity of face-to-face teaching. Rethinking it: The first revision was to reduce Zoom time to one day a week. With less Zoom time, I hope to make our meetings more engaging and worthwhile for students. Nevertheless, with fewer hours on Zoom, students might need more guidance for self-paced learning. Revisions: ZOOM TIME: Zoom time is used to explain assignments, to ask questions, and to write together. Writing together allows students to practice what they must do away from Zoom, and to ask questions and concerns in real time. BEYOND THE CHAT BOX: For questions and concerns, beyond the Zoom chat box, I also include a Google Doc Q&A for addressing issues large and small, and trying out ideas. Google Docs work especially well for students with anxiety and other neuro diversities, and also for students whose video conferencing access is less than optimal because of background distractions and privacy issues. Students can access and add to the Google Doc Q&A after class and during asynchronous office hours as questions occur to them. GROUP CHAT: Students initiated a group chat to support each other in a student-centered space away from Zoom. Problem : The syllabus was incredibly long and unwieldy, which made it difficult to find significant information about readings, assignments, and due dates. Rethinking it: In the late 1980s, when I began teaching, there was no internet and our syllabi were often only 2-3 pages. While not nostalgic for the late twentieth century, I wanted to combine the most useful elements of a shorter syllabus with the affordances of the internet. Revision: SELF-PACED LEARNING GUIDE: I familiarized myself with pacing guides, learning maps, and unit planners. This CDC handout for health education was particularly helpful. The Guide is color coded to the assignment sheets, and breaks the main features of the syllabus calendar into two pages (three major writing assignments and journals). The guide helps make the key features of the course more visual and offers major components of the course in one convenient handout. Following is the template I used for the Self-Paced Learning Guide. First-Year Writing Self-Paced Learning Guide . Changes announced in advance of due dates Assignment Sources Requirements Goals DEADLINES Writing Project 1: Presents the WHAT of Writing Project 1 with a link to the assignment sheet Content warning for materials with which students will be engaged Link to a sample student essay Links to the readings and other sources on which the writing project is based Explanation of nuts and bolts: page length, style guide requirements, and use of sources Presents the WHY of Writing Project 1, briefly explaining how the writing project is connected to course goals Draft Due Date Suggested Due Date Extended Due Date* *Offering extensions in advance allows students to time and space to revise their work Writing Project 2: Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 with draft, suggested, and extended due dates Journals: Link to the Slides and videos that explain what journals are and how journals are used in the class Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 Offers critical links to support students reaching their goals for the course Follows the same pattern as Writing Project 1 with draft, suggested, and extended due dates Offers interim suggested due dates so that students can plan how many entries students will write for each unit in the course
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Rhiannon Scharnhorst Rhiannon Scharnhorst (recommended by Samantha NeCamp), Bedford New Scholar 2021, is pursuing her hybrid PhD in Writing Studies and Victorian Literature at the University of Cincinnati, where she expects to defend her dissertation Willful Objects and Feminist Writing Practices in May 2022. She teaches a variety of courses in writing, from first-year composition to advanced topics classes, including Writing with Style and Food in Literature. She has also served as the Assistant to the Composition Program, writing and designing the department's handbook, overseeing graduate student education, and hosting the annual graduate conference. Her research draws on feminist rhetorics to make sense of objects in writing studies, including typewriters, cookbooks, and other tools. She also writes about materiality, embodiment and writing practices of nineteenth-century women writers in Great Britain. What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students? How to communicate effectively in writing, which starts with helping students unlearn limiting beliefs about writing. So often students enter the classroom believing they are “bad” writers because a previous teacher told them they were. They see writing as a performative act, done only as a test of grammatical intelligence or syntactical prowess in the classroom. Yet they are some of the most prolific writers I’ve ever seen. In my classroom we spend a lot of time unpacking what makes writing “good” or “bad” (hint: it’s always contextual). A well-crafted text message can be just as “good” as a brilliant essay. Both require an awareness of the rhetorical situation, the affordances of the genre, and a lot of practice. I want students to leave with an understanding of writing as a recursive process, a tool for thinking and not just a record of intelligence logged onto a page. I want them to have the confidence to try things in writing that might not work out. Writing is a skill we cultivate through practice, not something that’s given to us by a muse or higher being. How does the next generation of students inspire you? They refuse to live by the status quo. If they see injustice, they work to correct it. They are willing to call out bad behavior, refuse to back down when something’s not right, and are actively trying to address some of the most pressing issues in our world today. I am constantly in awe of their resilience: what they’ve lived through with the pandemic, climate crisis, racial injustices, mass shootings just in the last year is astounding. Yet they continue to fight, continue to seek out opportunities for growth and change, and are all around some of the most resilient individuals I’ve had the chance to learn from. Their vulnerability and openness about their personal struggles with issues like mental health—struggles that I myself also experienced—are also inspirational. What with all those platitudes, I can’t forget to add they are also hilarious: rhetorically adept, unabashed, irreverent. I spend a lot of time laughing with them. What do you think instructors don't know about higher ed publishing but should? Publishers like Bedford/St. Martin’s use their power to create texts that are inclusive and equitable by recruiting and publishing diverse voices and perspectives and by asking for feedback throughout that process through programs like BNS. I mistakenly assumed higher ed publishing was more of a top-down process than a real reciprocal relationship between publishers and teachers. Instead, the editors are just as invested in creating tools and texts that challenge the status quo. The texts are continually revised, updated, diversified. They seek out students and teachers who will give them honest feedback. They commit to doing better, being better, and invest their time in figuring out how to provide material that responds to in-the-moment concerns. Most importantly, they listen! What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars? The struggle is real, y’all! Hearing from other dedicated teacher-scholars across the country about their teaching practices gives me hope for the future of higher education. The diversity of approaches (labor contracts, trauma-informed teaching), the variety of modalities (visual essays, memes), the shared anxieties and concerns (extremism in the classroom, pandemic issues): all helped me appreciate and reassess my own standpoint as an imperfect teacher. In particular, we revised our diversity philosophies together after a week spent thinking and discussing how to bring antiracist practices into the composition classroom. Out of those conversations was born my commitment to “failure”: that doing important work like creating equitable and culturally relevant curriculum requires a commitment to listening, changing, apologizing, improving. There is no perfection in teaching, only the continual recommitment to this necessary work. Thank you to everyone who read, shared, or listened as we co-created this space for change. Rhiannon’s Assignment that Works: Autoethnography During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Rhiannon’s assignment. For the full activity, see Autoethnography. Students don’t know how they write; by that I mean they don’t know what their writing process looks like on the page as it happens. In most cases, the students I teach in introductory composition courses have never considered writing as a labored, material process. This assignment asks them to record their screens while writing, as well as the environment they work in, the people they talk to, the objects they use, and ultimately their thought process as they write. They use this primary data to write an autoethnography, detailing what they witness in the screencasts as well as any conclusions they draw after coding their compiled data. Usually, the material realities of their lives show up on the page, from what they use to write (computers, cell phones, pen and paper) to the spaces in which they write (kitchen tables, coffee shops, beds, buses). The writing process expands, spreading from time spent typing on a screen to conversations about the assignment with roommates. They begin to reassess their own practices, interrogating what works and what doesn’t. My hope is that the assignment sets them up for future writing success by bringing their awareness to the labor behind it.
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I was finishing revisions of the most recent editions of Elements of Argument and The Structure of Argument as the presidential election of 2020 was nearing its end. As the books went to press, I could make no assumptions about how the election would turn out, but that was not a new struggle for me because throughout the process of writing about argument and selecting examples of argumentation for these and prior editions, I needed to try to not let my political biases show. (I have not always been successful.) On this platform, to a community of instructors in the classroom, I can say with candor that teaching argumentation during the era of former President Donald Trump was not easy. The lasting effects of his administration make it difficult still. We have long known about media bias. We have long talked to our students about how certain networks, certain newspapers, and certain magazines can have a conservative or a liberal bias. But beyond media bias, one thing that gave Trump his surprising power over his followers was his ability to convince them that only he was telling them the truth. He convinced them that everything else was fake news. The media could not be trusted to present balanced news; they could not even be trusted to present the facts accurately. How do you support an argument, or teach your students to, when no one is telling the truth? Only that kind of cult of personality could make it possible for millions of people to refuse to take a vaccine to protect themselves against a disease that has killed over half a million people in America alone. Some people have entered the hospital with COVID still arguing that it can’t be COVID because COVID is a hoax. Only on their deathbed have some accepted the truth and begged their families to be vaccinated. This level of refusal to accept scientific truth is new. What will people from the perspective of the future think about a generation of Americans who in large numbers chose to die rather than take a vaccine advocated by the government? We still have to teach our students the difference between fact and inference. We still have to teach them how to evaluate sources. Doing so remains difficult in today’s politicized environment. The same basic guidelines for evaluation still apply. We just have to get past the emotion, and for some, that is just not possible right now. Sometimes it may be a matter of doing the most we can do under the circumstances. I happen to be in one of the states where the legislature is eager to mirror Texas’s S. B. 8 in essentially taking away women’s right to control their own bodies by making abortion illegal after six weeks and making a woman’s neighbors bounty hunters to be rewarded for turning her in if she has an abortion. I wanted to write a letter to the editor opposing passing a similar law in Arkansas. But what would I have argued in this letter, and how? It would have been pointless to try to argue in favor of abortion in general. In fact, I don’t support abortion in general, but rather under specific circumstances. A letter is hardly enough to present the complexities of my views on abortion. Too often in such discussions, we tend to focus on the most sensational cases, such as when the girl or woman is the victim of rape or incest, but doing so suggests that abortion is acceptable only in the most extreme of cases, which is also not my view. I reflected on what exactly I was advocating. For now, specifically, it was that a similar law to Texas S. B. 8 should not be passed in my state. And it wasn’t even that I was arguing that never in the future should any abortion law be passed in my state. Rather, I was responding to the push from one of our state legislators to pass a law just like Texas’s right now, before the current legislative session ends. My case was strengthened by the fact that the state senator who is advocating the newest restrictive abortion law has sponsored two similar laws that have already been struck down in federal court. Even before the court’s decision on the more recent law, our Governor admitted publicly that he knew the law was unconstitutional. Two of the three dissenting justices who failed to block Texas’s S. B 8 stated bluntly that the law was unconstitutional, and Chief Justice Roberts said the constitutionality of the law could only be considered when a specific case comes before the Court. There are facts that support my contention that it would be unwise to force a law of unclear constitutionality through our state legislation at this time, when a specific case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court in a few weeks. Add to that the fact that some states and companies are already rethinking the wisdom of doing business in Texas, and there are reasons to stop and think and not simply let emotion rule the day. Our legislature, unfortunately, probably will not do that, but what I can do at this point is to know the facts and to know exactly what I want to argue should be done. Other battles will come later, but for now, that may be the most that can be done. Image Credit: "Supreme Court of the United States" by Phil Roeder is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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It is with much sadness that I begin this inaugural blog of the 2021-2022 Bits blogging season, for this is the first of scores of such mini-essays that I have written here over the years that I have not been able to run past my late wife and fellow author, Sonia Maasik, whom I always relied on to make certain that I was not running off the rails in some way or another before hitting Send. I'm on my own now, and must serve as my own editor. Still, I know that Sonia would want me to continue. So here goes. As I have scrutinized American popular culture over this long summer, which began in post-pandemic hope and is ending in Deltaic disappointment and dismay, it has struck me that if there are any new television (or should I say "streamavision"?) series or movies that make the COVID-19 pandemic an explicit, or even metaphoric, theme or background, they haven't made much of a splash. Of course, the long lag time between creative concept and actual release may explain this (though it feels like forever, the pandemic is still less than two years old—perhaps insufficient time to conceive and produce a film or TV show), or perhaps the long run of The Walking Dead (which is, after all, centered on a pandemic), has exhausted the metaphoric possibilities. Then again, any day now there may be an announcement of a soon-to-be released COVID-19-related movie or TV series. We'll just have to wait and see. But if the pandemic hasn't stimulated (at least yet) any significant reflection in American popular culture over the past few months (its political manifestations are another matter entirely), America's culture wars most certainly have, and I find striking signifiers of this in HBO's Succession and The White Lotus, along with FX's just-released Y: The Last Man. At first sight, these programs would not seem to have enough in common to signify much of anything. The first premiered well before the pandemic hit, and is a rather obvious successor (pun intended) to such rich-families-with-business-empires-behaving-badly vehicles as Dallas, Knot's Landing, and Falcon Crest, while the second (which appeared just this summer) is a kind of Love Boat turned upside down, featuring the hapless hosts and patrons of a luxury resort in Hawaii. The third, for its part, brings an apocalyptic comic book series to television that featured a near-total extinction event of all Y-chromosome-bearing organisms. So what's the connection? The semiotic link lies in the way each series answers, in a different way, the question that, as Kathryn VanArendonk puts it in her essay "TV's White Guys Are in Crisis," "preoccupied" television all last summer: viz., "What should happen to men?". Not all men, mind you, but, rather, all the "white guys who used to be default protagonists on TV and in American life, all of the beleaguered dads, bad bosses, authoritative leaders, and wild-card mavericks, [who] are no longer the main characters." And Succession, The White Lotus, and Y: The Last Man offer three examples of just how the television industry has responded to this question. Coming first to TV, Succession's response relies on an old, tried-and-true Hollywood tradition of playing upon the fundamental ambivalence on the part of America's middle class towards wealth and privilege. At once fascinated by the rich (and hoping to join them one day), middle-class viewers have always been attracted to entertainments that cater to their desire to see how the really wealthy live (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ), while being reassured of their moral superiority to upper-class shenanigans. This explains the huge success of the Dallas franchise and all its imitators, and it continues to be effective right up to the present. Thus, what Succession does is to play the class card by presenting upper-class white male characters who are at once the series protagonists and its antagonists: still the center of attention (though, of course, there are upper-class women in the mix as well), but morally inferior to their largely middle-class audience. The White Lotus, for its part, borrows from the more recent (but very well established) television tradition of the "dysfunctional" family sit-com, whereby the fathers who once knew best became the Al Bundys and Homer Simpsons that would change the face of TV comedy. Accordingly, the (white) fathers of The White Lotus (the double entendre of the show's title is inescapable) are, as VanArendonk puts it, "ridiculous," with the emphasis being on their whiteness. Race, then, as well as class, shapes the show's answer to the dilemma of how to portray white guys in an era of woke TV. Finally, Y: The Last Man offers the most complicated response to VanArendonk's posited question, this time focusing on gender rather than race or class by inviting its viewers to imagine a world without men, a world where women are in complete charge because there is only one man left on earth (along with his Y-equipped monkey). What makes it complicated is that the situation is not presented as some sort of post-masculine utopia; rather, the characters recognize that without men the human species faces biological extinction, which turns the whole story line into a desperate quest to keep "the last man" alive until some sort of reproductive solution can be found. For her part, VanArendonk proposes an alternative solution to the problem of the white male protagonist. As she puts it, TV "could just forget the Main Guy altogether, at least for a while (and it’s worth noting that most recent shows led by creators of color do not frame white masculinity as the fundamental obstacle for their characters) . . . It would be so much more pleasant to erase his history, to eliminate his assumed protagonicity and make him like everyone else, a guy whose moment comes and goes, a team player." Or, to offer yet another alternative, maybe television scriptwriters could work on creating fully-rounded characters rather than caricatures. Image Credit: "stress" by bottled_void is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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In the midst of a wave of the COVID Delta variant, I took a fall and ended up in the emergency room of a hospital, where I spent the night waiting for a bed in what turned out to be a closet in the outpatient wing: there was not a single bed available elsewhere. In spite of being overwhelmed with patients, the staff were kind, caring, and attentive, managing x-rays and CT scans and other test with patience and skill and transferring me within three days to a skilled nursing facility nearby. Once settled in the new place, I had a chance to look at the written records that accompanied me, and to remark on the thoroughness and accuracy of the reports, including descriptions of the fractures and notes about my allergies to pain medication: some fine pieces of writing, I thought! I spent the next three weeks in a rehab center, and being the rhetorician that I am, I paid close attention to all the communicating I saw going on around me, both spoken and written. And in this time of almost unbelievable division and hostility in our country, of the avalanche of misinformation descending on us on social media, and of the increasingly bitter attacks and counterattacks regarding the recall of our governor here in California—I learned lessons in kindness, dignity, grace, and forbearance. I’ll share just two of these lessons here. The building I was in was a big rectangle, and once I was in a wheelchair, I could wheel from hall to hall, where I watched staff at work. Other patients did the same, including one woman with advanced dementia, whose soft smile and voice greeted me often. She would wheel slowly by, often talking about things that seemed to deal with numbers, or economics, and addressed, it seemed, primarily to herself. I later learned that she had been a long-time math teacher. She was hardly ever in her room, preferring to roam about the facility—and she had a penchant for going into any door that was open or that she could open: one night I woke to find she had wheeled into my room and was sitting inside the door, singing to herself. So the staff could have trouble keeping track of this patient, and when they located her she would often resist going back to her room. As I watched this pattern repeat, I was impressed (and more than a little humbled) by the staff members’ ability to talk with her quietly, kindly, and always respectfully, suggesting that she might want to share a cup of hot chocolate, to listen to music, or to roll around with one of the assistants as a companion—and eventually, ever so gently accompany her to her room and, at night, help her with washing and undressing and getting into bed. The way the staff spoke—as well as what they said—impressed me deeply: it was a kind of communication, a lot of it nonverbal, that I think characterizes the best teaching, and it has a persuasive power all its own. As I came to know the place better, I realized that some staff were more highly skilled at this kind of communication than others, but oh how I wished that all of us teachers could have a chance to learn from them and to pass on some of their expertise to our students. And then there was a nurses’ assistant that I will refer to as Maria. I met her my first night there, as she was cajoling a patient into eating just a bit more of her dinner, but I didn’t get to talk with her until a few days later, when she came into my room as she said “early, ahead of her schedule, to ask a question.” She had seen two books by my bed—The Everyday Writer, which I’m working on revising, and a book of poems by Rita Dove—and she wanted to ask about writing, specifically about her writing. As her story unfolded, I learned that she had come to this country with her mother and siblings to join her father, then working in the fields, when she was a child. In those days they had all managed to come legally, and they settled in to working in four areas of California, in order of crop rotation. Maria did not go to school until she was 14, and then she found herself in a public classroom, with little English and a lot of anxiety. But she also had a lot of curiosity, which her English teacher noticed. One day, the teacher asked her to stay behind at the end of class and offered a deal: if Maria would work hard, the teacher would stay after school 2 to 3 hours a day to teach her English. Maria did work hard—very, very hard. One day, her teacher said she wanted to take Maria somewhere on the weekend but Maria demurred, saying she didn’t think her father would allow it. He agreed, however, and Maria found herself at a high school graduation, something she had never heard of and could scarcely imagine. She set her sights on such a graduation, and with the ongoing support of her teacher, she graduated with fine grades and got a good job. Eventually, she completed the college work necessary to become a certified nurse’s assistant. But all the while, she told me, she was “telling stories,” writing them in both Spanish and English, and dreaming of doing more. How many Marias have you known in your career? How many times have you met someone who had a teacher like Maria’s? How many times have you been that teacher? Maria’s story has once again taught me that the work we do matters. That writing matters. That language shapes our lives even as we shape it, and that it connects us to one another. I gave Maria The Everyday Writer and another book I had with me, Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and I’ve sent a few more books since I got home. She has written that she hopes to visit soon, and that she will bring some of her stories with her. And that she continues to write, every single day. In the wake of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I have felt . . . discouraged. But even on a dark day filled with dark memories and darker grief, I remember the lessons I have learned from Maria, from the remarkable staff of the rehab center, and from so many students: the work we do has meaning, far beyond what we may ever know. Image Credit: "Posters of Muscular and skeletal systems anatomy chart in hospital" by shixart1985, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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For those of us who were new to online teaching when the pandemic began, the learning curve was steep. I am grateful to the Bedford Bits community for the insights and straight-up “how-tos” that helped so many of us navigate disembodied teaching. Now, many of us are back in the classroom, remembering how good it can feel to teach and learn with our whole unmuted bodies. We worry about keeping this good feeling going if Delta, Lambda, or Mu drive us back online. My university has a mask mandate, so I have been luckier than many of my colleagues about safety in the classroom. While I’ve heard some grumbles, my first-semester students seem positively giddy to be back in person, and masks seem a small price to pay. I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness students are showing one another, despite the polarizing behavior that keeps making the news. Students remind me, constantly, why classrooms can be a space of optimism and compassion. Eric D. Brown describes this well in his recent post about empathy and collaboration in the writing classroom . I’ve realized it’s the extraverbal murmur of the classroom that I’d missed in Zoom’s “mute-yourself” environment. For example, on the first day of discussing a challenging excerpt of Mary Wollstonecraft’s 18th century writing on education and gender equity, the first student who shot up a hand to respond to “What did you think?” said, with operatic drama, “Two words: ‘Yas, Queen!’” After a beat, the room exploded in laughter and nods, and I energetically scrawled the comment in huge letters on the chalkboard, dust flying, while other students shouted out in agreement: “Oh, yeah -- Per. I. Od! You know?” “YES! Mic drop!” What joy to feel again that noisy buzz, the snap of electricity through the room, the gasps and hum of embodied learning. I’d love to hear how others are making the most of being back in in the classroom, even as we navigate masking, COVID testing, and classrooms that are often poorly ventilated and too crowded. Every day we can stay in person feels precious, and I’m embracing the unique tools of the physical environment. I invite students up to write on the board, empowering them to call on their peers and steer the conversation, watching them enjoy the power of holding the chalk and the figurative mic. I sent them on a scavenger hunt for academic resources around our campus, which is why I’m alone in the photo above. I guarded their backpacks while they took goofy group selfies with a librarian, visited the Writing Center, and located the Counseling Center, taking note of their services. When they returned to our classroom, gasping with the effort of running around campus, one group showed off by proving they knew everyone’s first, middle, and last names, and other funny personal details, cracking each other up with a friendly rapport denied them over the past year and a half. Despite all our social skills having atrophied over the last year, we are remembering the feelings of belonging and comfort that can come from talking with people we don’t yet know, as Joe Keohane describes in this recent article in The Atlantic. What are you trying in your classrooms -- in person or online -- to help students stay motivated and connected to one another during the marathon of this pandemic? Image Credit: Photograph of the author in her classroom, taken by the author.
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As the new semester begins, instructors across the country will begin the process of trying to convince their students to persist in the face of the inevitable “failures” that come from learning and practicing new ideas and skills. In doing so, many of us will turn to the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In that groundbreaking volume, Dweck opposes “growth” and “fixed” mindsets. The former “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperament — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” In contrast, a fixed mindset assumes that “your qualities are carved in stone.” You are who you are, and no matter what you do, you’re never really going to change. Dweck’s ideas have been adopted widely not just in education, but also in business, though not always as she might have wished. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, she points out three widespread misconceptions about growth mindset: “1) I already have it, and I always have. 2) A growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort. 3) Just espouse a growth mindset, and good things will happen.” Clearly, these are simplifications of the hard work needed to develop a growth mindset—the “passion and persistence of grit,” to quote Dweck’s fellow psychologist Angela Duckworth. As Dweck points out, having a growth mindset doesn’t just mean being “flexible or open-minded.” Instead, students with a growth mindset, to quote from Dweck’s “Brainology,” “believe that intelligence is a potential that can be realized through learning. As a result, confronting challenges, profiting from mistakes, and persevering in the face of setbacks become ways of getting smarter.” In other words, moving towards a growth mindset is an active and ongoing process. Dweck argues in the Harvard piece that “It’s critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress, and to emphasize the processes that yield these things, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively.” Moreover, institutions, as well as individuals, must “continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.” Ultimately, she claims, we are all “a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience.” In short, “A ‘pure’ growth mindset doesn’t exist.” The act of writing is full of challenges, course corrections, and constant minor victories and defeats—a veritable laboratory for creating a growth mindset. Consequently, college composition classes are particularly valuable sites for encouraging students to confront their setbacks head-on so they can unpack them and strategize ways to effectively address similar challenges the next time they arise. It’s possible to cultivate a growth mindset in everything we do in our college writing classes: from class discussions where equitable participation is paramount, to essay prompts that encourage growth mindset qualities like experimentation and introspection, to assessment and evaluation on written work that emphasizes constructive criticism and praise for risk-taking. In fact, I think we can begin fostering a growth mindset from the very first week of class, not long after the opening icebreakers and introductions. To nudge us in that direction, I’ve asked students to discuss the following conversation prompts with a partner, or in small groups: Think of all the people you know personally who have a growth mindset. Choose one of those people, describe that person, and give specific examples of how their growth mindset has helped them succeed. What traits do the people you’ve identified have in common with those of your partner(s)? How are they different? Make lists or a Venn diagram. Talk about which type of mindset you generally have — fixed or growth. Describe how that mindset has played out recently in your life. In which areas can you cultivate a stronger growth mindset to help you overcome the challenges you currently face? Developing a growth mindset is essential to student success, especially in accelerated composition courses, where some students may initially feel underconfident. You can do it, we need to keep telling our students, and we need to show them, step-by-step, how to achieve their goals.
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I am writing this blog while my FYC/corequisite students are composing the first draft of a literacy narrative. While most of them, like me, are tapping on keyboards, a few are scribbling in notebooks. Earbuds are evident, as are energy drinks and iced caramel macchiatos from the coffee shop upstairs. Some of us are masked; many are not. Every few moments, I hear a sigh—and I see a student staring at the screen. The process has begun. I am assuring my students that what happens today is not the end; they must trust that I am leading them through a process—a process which, though bewildering and murky now, will eventually lead to a text they can submit with confidence. I am also assuring myself. I actually wrote the previous paragraph two days ago; this blog post hasn’t come together, and the vague idea I had hoped to flesh out remains “formless and void.” So, I am trying again this morning, this time while the students are working in groups on their first peer review. I have asked them to read drafts aloud to their groups, so there is a humming across the room. I occasionally discern words: language, Spanish, soccer, try out, world. And while it isn’t really distracting me from finishing this blog, it isn’t helping either. Basically, I’m stuck. Where have I heard that before? From my son, for one. He’s a high school senior in a fairly rigorous college-prep program; he loves the math and individual exploration components (he’s writing an extended capstone essay about the math he uses in video-game design). But he finds no internal motivation to power through his English assignments; he prefers to put the energy required for analysis into problems that are important to him. The value of poetry analysis and explication, despite my best attempts at persuasion, eludes him. So, he shifts to work on the latest iteration of a game code, de-bugging a program, solving a math challenge, or creating a digital design. The essays remain unwritten. I came into his room a couple of weeks ago and found him staring (yet again) at a blank screen. Well, not totally blank. He’d written the required header. The floor around him was littered with copies of the assigned poems, notes, and rubber bands, which are a kinesthetic coping mechanism: he shoots them at chess pieces that line the tops of window frames in his room, honing a shooting technique that improves the speed and spin of the rubber bands. (He attempted to teach this to me, but as a somewhat inept shooter, I ended up hitting myself in the face…) I offered to talk with him about the poems. That invitation became a four-hour marathon, first of listening to his frustration with the assignment itself, followed by a meandering path towards a thesis. I queried, “Are you saying . . . So, does that mean . . . Which entails this—is that where you are heading?” “No, that’s not it. I want to say…” “Wow. I think you just said it. Write it down.” A few moments later, he grimaced. “I’m stuck. I need a word that means…” I offered a few suggestions. “Motivation? Cause? Source? Impetus? Force?” He considered. “No, no, no… maybe. Let me think.” So, I waited in silence. After a few minutes, he read a sentence back to me, nodding and pointing at the screen. “Yes. That’s what I want to say.” It had taken over 30 minutes for the concept to materialize in words. Throughout the process, he moved back and forth between his sense of the poem and a rhetorical approach to the assignment: “So, I’ve made that claim. Now I want to set up a justifying quote.” With his focus on the screen, he rarely saw my smiles. But four hours later, he had a couple of pages, and he thanked me. My son’s teachers know him. They know his giftedness, and they empathize with his writing struggles. They aren’t offended by his self-advocacy: “If I accomplish the purpose of the practice assignments after the first three, do I still have to do the fourth one?” He wants to know the why behind his assignments, and they are usually more than willing to tell him—and on some occasions, negotiate. And he’s got a mom with the schedule flexibility to sit with him for four hours and support him in the hard work of writing a paper he doesn’t like. He doesn’t have to race to a job—he can devote those four hours, finish a couple of other assignments, and still get a good night’s sleep. . . . I am watching my students again; they are taking this first peer review seriously. They are using the words I gave them: “Thanks for sharing. I hear you saying that…” Some of these students will not have the advantage of four undisturbed hours to work on their literacy narratives. They may not know that they can ask me about the assignment purpose or negotiate some of the requirements with me. They may be squeezing the writing into short breaks at work, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, where they have taken a parent or sibling. Some come to the school after hours just to find a wifi hotspot. As per my peer review instructions, I should ask myself this: what do I hear myself saying? I’m saying there is a writer in every student—even if that’s a “little w” writer, as a grad-school friend used to say. I have to remember how hard the process is, even for privileged learners, and find ways to support ALL my students to work through that process intentionally and effectively (even if I can’t give four hours to each one).
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Greetings to teachers of writing everywhere. I am back from a summer hiatus and looking forward—albeit with a cautious lump in my throat—to a new school year. Stanford faculty, staff, and students will be back in person, with some substantial exceptions, but vaccinated and masked. The university has all kinds of contingency and backup plans, and I will not be surprised if they have to use them. So we begin another year of unknowns! I’d so love to hear from you about what your teaching is like throughout this fall semester and about how you and your students are doing. I’m wishing you all a safe, rewarding year of teaching! Image Credit: "Counting down the days" by hjl, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license
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Emerging's fifth edition is here, and it contains some great new readings to help you encourage students to grow as citizen-actors in the world, who will deal with - and maybe even solve - many of the issues facing the world today. See this video blog about a reading that challenges our conception of the human vs. natural world divide, questioning our notions of human uniqueness and notions of the political sphere.
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Hyoung Min Lee Hyoung Min Lee (recommended by Dr. Claire Carly-Miles), Bedford New Scholar 2021, is pursuing her PhD in English at Texas A&M University. She teaches Writing About Literature as a graduate teaching assistant. She has also taught Rhetoric and Composition and worked as a grader for Technical and Business Writing. She is interested in teaching 20th- and 21st-century American literature with a focus on diversity and social justice. Her research interests include theories of race and biopolitics and 20th- and 21st-century American literature, especially African American literature. How do you engage students in your course, whether face-to-face, online, or hybrid? A method that has worked especially well for me since the global pandemic changed the way classes are conducted is to assign students discussion posts as well as response posts to their peers’ discussion posts prior to each class meeting. I make sure to directly reflect students’ discussion posts when I design my class materials. What I find to be an effective approach I take here is to cite students’ discussion posts in my course materials and give recognition to students by putting students’ names before introducing their questions. I would often highlight especially helpful parts within a discussion post and ask the student whose post I cited to elaborate further on their discussion question or begin to respond to their own question for the class. I found this to be an effective way to increase participation without the recourse to random cold calling, which can make some students feel uncomfortable, especially in online settings. I can confidently say that this method worked well for including even the less vocal students to become important contributors to class discussion. What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students? I try to equip students with revision skills and the habit to keep revisiting one’s own writing. I try to provide students ways to approach writing as a (collaborative) process rather than a product to be quickly written and be done with. As a teacher who has acquired English language skills as a second language, I understand what it means to approach writing as a process; I continue to strive to be a better writer of English prose by revising, editing, and asking for my peers’ suggestions and advice because I cannot take my written communication skills (in English) for granted. To show that writing is a process for anyone who tries to write well, I ask students to write rough drafts for major assignments and provide them with a chance to revise their paper after receiving comments from me, their peers, and themselves. I aim to provide students an understanding that patience, resilience, and collaboration are significant for writing well. My goal is to see students’ increased awareness of their writing and decreased fear of writing by embracing writing as a process. What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program? Having majored in literature, it has been a new and challenging experience for me to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program with many scholars whose expertise firmly lies in rhetoric and composition. Although there were moments I was worried about my lack of expertise in the field of rhetoric and composition, my experiences of having taught first year composition and writing about literature courses have allowed me to join in the rich conversations that took place in the program. Among many things, this program surely deepened my interest in anti-racist pedagogy. For instance, Dr. Uzzie Cannon ’s lecture offered during the Summit week was an amazing opportunity to learn more about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in teaching composition as well as other Scholars’ insights into social justice pedagogy. These opportunities to learn also greatly benefited me when I received an offer to review a textbook from a DEI perspective as a Bedford New Scholar. I learned so much by being a part of this wonderful program. It has been an honor for me to be a part of it. What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars? I have learned so many valuable lessons from other Bedford New Scholars, especially during the Summit week. Having the chance to learn about other Scholars’ “assignments that work” was an amazing opportunity to grow as a scholar and teacher. I was especially impressed by the ways these creative assignments incorporated multimodality by, for instance, making students approach writing not just through traditional writing on a paper but through creating video and audio responses. As someone who is not tech-savvy but wants to move out of her comfort zone to become a better teacher, many helpful suggestions other Bedford Scholars provided for me on incorporating multimodality more in my classroom gave me confidence that I could improve my own assignment and make it more interesting. I also learned so many helpful assignment building ideas with a focus on DEI and ways to make writing fun through incorporating gaming and photography in a composition classroom. Hyoung Min Lee’s Assignment that Works During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Hyoung Min’s assignment. For the full activity, see Creative Literature Response. I have designed a small writing assignment, a creative literary response assignment, to increase diversity and help students engage with literary texts more freely (without suppressing too much of their creative writing voice) before they submit more formally structured essays in my course on writing about literature. While assigning a creative response is a common method that many teachers have used to increase student engagement with a text, I have designed this assignment to function as a bridge between students’ creative interpretation of a text and formal analysis of the text. In preparing four prompts for the assignment, I tried to encourage diverse ways of student engagement with the texts. For instance, students who feel comfortable writing a response structured closely to a conventional literary analysis essay can choose to respond to a prompt that asks them to write from the reader’s perspective about interesting literary aspects while other students who want to approach the assignment more as a creative writing task can choose the prompts that ask them to imagine themselves as a character and write from the character’s perspective. From my teaching experience, after asking students to read each other’s posts and comment on them via Google Docs, students expressed how the practice of reading their peers’ creative literature responses offered them “new perspectives” on the texts we read in class.
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Eric D. Brown Eric D. Brown (recommended by Kyle Jensen), Bedford New Scholar 2021, is pursuing his PhD in Arizona State University’s Writing, Rhetorics and Literacies PhD program, where he studies writing technologies, writing pedagogy, and writing program administration. He has taught First-Year Composition, Persuasive Writing and Public Issues, Writing for the Professions, and Business Writing. Eric is also Assistant Director (AD) of Writing Programs, where he aids the director in growing the scope of Writing Programs and creating professional development for faculty. As Assistant Director, he also co-runs the National Day on Writing, ASU’s annual Composition Conference, and is an editor of Writing Programs’ bi-annual newsletter, Writing Notes . How do you engage students in your course? I’ve found that one of the best ways to engage students in my courses is to show them that the writing process doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor and that writing is hard, even for those of us who are “good” at it. I enact this approach by positioning myself as an expert on writing (what it is and how it works) but one that fails and stumbles through the writing process, just like they do. And I’ve found that students are particularly engaged with this idea when I write “live” for/with them. For example, I’ll write an email or an assignment sheet with them, talking through my thinking/rhetorical strategies and asking for advice and ideas from them. Regardless of what writing task I take on for/with them, they see me struggle to get started, stumble with wording, sidestep through typos/spelling mistakes, and go back and rework the text. In sum, they can see that “the struggle is real” when it comes to writing, showing students (who are often fearful of college writing) that even experts struggle with writing, that writing is collaborative, and that revision is essential to any writing situation. What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program? In sum, it’s pretty awesome. As a Bedford New Scholar, I get opportunities to work with Bedford/St. Martin’s on a variety of projects: feedback on textbooks, input about developing technologies, and opinions on readings for students, to name a few. It’s really great to not only get some insight into the higher ed publishing world but to contribute to that world. Meeting and interacting with the other Bedford New Scholars is also a notable highlight of the program. The virtual summit this summer gave me the chance to not only meet and interact with other new scholars, but I was able to work on projects with them and talk about what is most important to me with them: teaching. Sharing my work and sitting in on presentations for the Assignments that Work part of the summer summit was generative, as well as fun. I got a ton of great ideas for assignments to try out, and I was able to see my fellow New Scholars’ unique approaches to teaching and writing. What do you think instructors don’t know about higher ed publishing but should? I don’t think instructors know how willing and excited publishers like Bedford/St. Martin’s are to work with them, and I think this “not knowing” can lead to a view of higher ed publishing as “The Man.” While this was certainly a perception I held in my early days as a graduate student (and before that as an adjunct), I have become persuaded otherwise. I have found higher ed publishers like Bedford/St.Martin’s to be highly invested in instructor input, experience, and in the workings/makeup of the writing programs instructors teach in. Before working with Bedford/St. Martin’s, I would not have imagined that my ideas, feedback, and support would be important to higher ed publishers, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Furthermore, I have found that higher ed publishers like Bedford/St. Martin’s are more often than not pedagogically focused--they want to know what research is influencing our teaching, what we are doing in the classroom, why we are doing things the way we are, and how they can support that work. What projects or course materials from Bedford/St. Martin's most pique your interest, and why? My writing program just shifted to using a common textbook (which we created with Bedford/St. Martin’s) , and Achieve is offered with the textbook. I’m excited to learn more about Achieve and use it with my students. I was able to use some of Achieve’s peer review functions this summer during the virtual summit, and I really liked many of its affordances. My institution’s current LMS has a very clunky peer review system, and I’m particularly looking forward to switching to one that allows me to shape and tweak peer review goals and that has an interface I think will be intuitive for my students. I also know that Achieve has some annotation functions, and I’m excited to use them with my students, as well. Eric's Assignment that Works During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Eric’s assignment. For the full activity, see Remediation. One of the goals of my 101 courses is to expand for students what writing is and how it works. My “Remediation” assignment works toward this goal, as it asks students to reshape their writing for new audiences and to funnel their ideas through a new medium or genre. In sum, students are asked to take an already completed written project (usually the first major project, which asks them to explore a literacy) and funnel its ideas through another medium/“translate” it into another genre. For example, students might take their project and (re)shape it into a podcast or blog post. Remediation gets students thinking about the ever-shifting relationship among writer, audience, and text (i.e., the rhetorical situation), but also asks them to focus on how the mediums/genres in which we communicate our ideas to others consist of different kinds of media that very much are “writing.” Students are excited to expand their notions of what “counts” as writing, and one of the assignment’s selling points is in how it asks students to not only consider how certain mediums/genres appeal to certain audiences, and not others, but to consider how their writing does so as well.
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