How Can We Teach Mutt Genres?

Going off of our in-class discussion, I walked away from class wondering about exactly what we talked about in class. How are we supposed to teach students how to write all of these mutt genres? There is no basic writing course that will encompass everything you know. You can’t take how you would write a blog post and then apply those rules to how you might write and APA format essay.

I think someone mentioned the idea in class where you could teach a different mutt genre each week. It could simply be a course of learning basic skills for writing different genres. Each week you could teach something different like different essay formats, poems, blog posts, etc. It could become a problem trying to learn too much about these topics with only one week for each. There are also so many sub genres or mutt genres that there might be debate over what gets taught and what doesn’t.

See? It seems impossible to find a way to fix it all. I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever find a way to incorporate an equal learning of mutt genres into our general education. Every idea sounds like a good fix at first, until you dive deeper and analyze all the potential issues your idea might have.

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Wiley and Formulaic Writing

I will just say right now that I disagree with the prevalent use of the five paragraph essay. I will say, however, that could be a good building block for learning how to write an essay as a beginner. The problem is, once we are taught the five paragraph essay, that is what sticks with some people. Students might go on thinking that they are only allowed to write a five paragraph essay. I remember when this was me and I would have paragraphs that would be an entire page long because I thought I wasn’t allowed to have more than five paragraphs.

Using the format of a five paragraph essay also becomes very limiting. The phrase “the sky is the limit” soon becomes “the fifth paragraph is the limit.” Teaching students to write essays in the format of only five paragraphs essentially boxes them in. This doesn’t allow students to write to their full potential, not to mention that it makes the body paragraphs seem crammed because their trying to shove a large amount of information into 3 body paragraphs. I know that when I become a teacher, I’ll ask my students if they’ve learned the five paragraph essay and if they have, I’m telling them to mentally throw away that idea.

Bad Ideas About Writing Techniques

The chapter “Formal Outlines are Always Useful,” by Kristin Milligan, presents the concept of how linear formal outlines are. This chapter discusses formal outlines to be a type of organizational method that typically work best for mathematically minded people because of the fact that it is a linear organizational method. Schools focusing only on using formal outlines excludes any other potential for learning other organizational methods for writing. The chapter explained how out of six different types of intelligences, only one of those intelligences prefers to use a formal outline to organize their writing. I think it might be interesting to find studies that focus on what other types of organizational writing methods are used best for other types of intelligences. It would be useful for teachers to know what methods are best for each different intelligence so that they may incorporate those into their class curriculum. A teacher’s goal should be to help all students succeed. Students will have a better chance to succeed if they can adapt writing organizational methods that work best for them.

On an irrelevant note, this is just a quote from this chapter that I found amusing: “ultimately, outlines make students focus on writing as a product instead of a process, even though they are meant to do the latter,” (pg 164). The reason I found this amusing was because in my blog post prior to this one, I discussed that chapter titled “The More Writing Process, The Better,” by Jimmy Butts. In that chapter, the author actually argues the opposite view, to which I disagreed with him. He said to stop focusing on the process and only focus on the product saying that the process was a “waste of time.” So, naturally, when I read that quote from page 164, I thought of the “The More Writing Process, The Better,” chapter and kind of laughed at how silly he made his argument sound. Even other authors, like Milligan, in this same book disagree with Jimmy Butts.

The More Writing Process, The Better

In the book Bad Ideas About Writing, I’ve read about a few different ideas that were viewed as “bad ideas” and then the author offers how to fix this bad idea. For example, the first chapter I read was “Bad Ideas About Who Good Writers Are: The More Writing Process, the Better.” In the chapter, Jimmy Butts explains how there has been a long time focus on the process of writing and the classically known “five steps of the writing process.” He makes the claim that this thought process is archaic and that people need to spend less time focusing on the process of writing and focus more on the product of writing. He says that focusing on the process of writing takes away from the value of the writing itself. He goes on to say that “the process of writing is insignificant, unimportant, and immaterial when the product of the writing is really good,” (page 112). I’m just not sure I can agree with Jimmy Butts. I believe that writing is a process that leads to the product, therefore, you cannot have the product without the process. Not to mention that  a product is usually only exceptional when it has, in fact, been looked-over, revised, and edited. I do understand where Jimmy’s ideas are coming from; he’s trying to instruct people to spend less time with the revision stage of writing. I just believe his argument goes a little too far in saying that the process of writing is unimportant.

My Tutoring Experience

To be completely honest, I was a little intimidated, but also excited, to be an intern in the ESL center. I’ve never had any experience tutoring anyone before and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this. I was looking forward to it anyways because I knew gaining tutoring skills would definitely be applicable in obtaining my goal of becoming a high school English teacher. One idea that has proved to be useful in the ESL center is watching how the tutor doesn’t fix every single mistake as they go through a student’s paper. The tutor will point out where the student is having a lot of issues and explain to them how they can look out for those problems in future writing assignments and fix them on their own. This is extremely useful because the student will learn better if they are guided in a direction where they will begin to notice their own mistakes.

I don’t currently have any major concerns that I can think of. The only thing that I am slightly worried about is later on in the semester when the ESL center gets busier. I’m concerned that if it gets too busy and students are waiting, I might feel pressured to finish quickly with the current student that I might have and, therefore, make the student feel as though i’ve rushed through their session. I absolutely do not want a student to feel this way. Hopefully, since I’m aware of it now, it’ll help me avoid it in the future. I will also look to the tutors in the ESL center for advice about that situation as well. I’ve noticed a great sense of community in the few weeks I have been in the ESL center. All the tutors are very friendly and have checked in to see what I have been learning and what kinds of tutoring methods I have picked up on. I can already tell that interning in the ESL center is going to be a very rewarding learning experience.

I also have a bit of concern about reading some of the articles for this class. Sometimes they are a little esoteric and I’ll catch myself “reading” but not really paying attention or even trying to understand what i’m reading and I’ll have to reread the whole page. This is just my own obstacle and I’m hoping to improve with this as the class goes on and with the more articles we read. It definitely helps when we have class discussions about the articles. It makes it click and has me realize things about the articles that I hadn’t even noticed when I read it myself.

First Day Interning at the ESL Center

Although I have only had one official day at my internship, I think it went well. It was slow, but it was helpful for it to be slow for the first day. We had two different students come into the ESL center for help. The first student had us review his paper which only had a couple minor grammatical errors. The second student had brought in a speech that she was going to be reading aloud.

With the first student, the tutor I had watched mentioned that it is always a good idea to get to know the student a bit. This will help the student feel more at ease in a potentially intimidating environment. It is also helpful to ask for the prompt to find out what the assignment is focused on and then to ask the student if he or she has anything specific they would like us to focus on. Then after you are finished reading the student’s assignment, it is always a good idea to read it through once more to catch any mistakes that might have been left out during the initial read-through.

When the second student came in, we began going through her speech line by line. When the tutor came across any problem sentences, he asked the student what she had meant to say for clarification. Another key thing I noticed the tutor doing was appraising the student for the sentences that she did well with. This is essential in helping the student feel more confident in their writing. After the session had ended, I asked the tutor if there was any other tips he would suggest.  One thing he suggested is to have the student read their paper to you if he or she is comfortable in doing so. If not, then be sure to read their paper out loud to them. Both of these methods can help the student improve their English through speech or auditory learning.

Responding to Lave and Wenger’s Ch. 3

Lave and Wenger’s chapter 3 discusses 5 different examples of forms of apprenticeship. Midwives obtain their knowledge as it is passed on from their own mothers and grandmothers. Tailors begin with basic skills and then increase in difficulty to more complicated skills. Quartermasters begin with limited duties and later advance to more difficult procedures. Meat cutters as apprentices are used as tools and sometimes learn outdated tasks that may not be useful in the modern scheme of things. Non-drinking alcoholics attend AA meetings where they feel empathy by relating to others’ stories as well as learning from others’ stories.

In reading about the meat cutters, there seemed to be a prominent parallel to this apprenticeship and the American education system. Reading about the meat cutters reminded me of the way the first couple years of college is set up in America. Generally, your first 2 years in college are spent fulfilling your general education requirements before you may proceed to upper division classes that are actually related to your major. Most people typically view this as a pointless condition in college education. This parallels with the meat cutters who learned how to sharpen knives even though their actual occupation would not require them to do that, just as college students have to take classes that have nothing to do with their majors.

Lave and Wenger’s chapter 3 could, in a way, lead to the different ways in which students might learn from tutoring. Now, I don’t entirely know if this could be the case since my internship does not start until week 3, but this is my current assumption. I would maybe relate the piece about non-drinking alcoholics to what tutoring might be like. I’d relate those two in the way that the non-drinking alcoholics used self-reflection to instigate change in their life. This could be so with students whom I would tutor. If the student spends time reflecting on the suggested changes I might give them on an essay, the student could potentially change and improve their essay organization, or syntax, or whatever it is than needs to be improved.