Finding Voice

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One thing I find students often struggle with is locating a voice in their writing.  Because the FYC courses at our school focus on academic discourse, students have trouble stepping into a voice of authority, a challenge well explored by David Bartholomae in “Inventing the University.”  Their attempts to craft that voice often lead to writing that is stilted, choppy, and awkward.  I’ve tried approaching the problem by moving the register to the oral, explaining how their writing voice can sound just like their voice in class discussions.  But, I don’t know that it’s an approach that works as well as I would hope.


I’ve been thinking about what creative writing might offer, as well.  In our program, we have a number of GTAs who are pursuing their MFAs in creative writing and I know that a number of them have deployed small creative writing exercises in the classroom, such as open free writing, just to get the juices flowing (so to speak).  Surely, bringing elements of craft into the classroom could be a boon, but to do so would require a grounding in what is a contiguous but not continuous discipline.  To do so would also be to try and squeeze one more thing into a very crowded course.


It so often feels like a race to help students achieve proficiency in critical reading and writing in a scant 16 weeks that paying more attention to writing feels nigh impossible.  Ironic, of course, that I should be so troubled about teaching writing in a writing course.  But I wonder how others approach issues of style in the context of the FYC course.  Do you find ways to teach not just academic writing, not just correct, writing, but also good writing?

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.