Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom: Part II of Angie's Adventures into College-Ready Writing

This Wednesday, Angie shares Part II of her adventure into bringing College-Ready Writing into her classroom. In case you missed it, read her Part I from last week here

March 30 - On March 17th, my student teacher (ST) taught Harris’s “Forwarding” from the book Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts. Although I was trekking around Washington DC for the College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) the day it was taught, I think it went well. The biggest issue was getting my ST comfortable with the terms because I’m pretty sure she hates them, and if I keep pushing it, she just might quit the profession. Harris’s book can be a difficult read. His examples are tough to follow and he doesn’t give enough of them to feel like you really understand the nuances between the definitions.

My ST took the book home to study the chapter and then together we went through the different types of forwarding: illustrating, authorizing, borrowing, and expanding. Understanding borrowing was a struggle for my ST. It isn’t often that an author borrows a definition from another author and then uses it in their own writing. Because we don’t see this one as often, it was harder for my ST to think of an example or find one in our previous readings. For me, understanding expanding was difficult. I could easily tell when an author borrowed from someone, but there is a nuance in taking that and making it your own.  

To help my ST plan her lesson, I gave the old teacher adage: Do some research and steal something someone else does. But, that was another problem. Not many people teach his method so there isn’t much out there to take. When I went to Washington DC for the CRWP conference in March, we looked at examples of student writing and worked on identifying the different types of forwarding. After looking at those examples, I now think of expanding more like building on the ideas of others as opposed to putting “your own spin on” other words like Harris states. Simply switching from spin to building was enough for me to understand it better.

During the conference, the people at my table were having difficulty understanding the difference between illustrating and authorizing. When I returned to my classroom, my ST told me that students struggled with this as well. They also wanted to know what “constitutes” as extending. The definitions held students back a bit, but once they worked on identifying different types of forwarding in an article, it started to make more sense to them. When my ST and I conference with students on their research paper, we try to use the terms. I think I can see their understanding of the terms; my ST, not so much. She thinks that some of them just don’t care about the different terms and some of them are probably lying about understanding.
An example of a student identifying the moves an author makes

I asked her if she felt if there was any benefit in having a shared vocabulary with students, and that just brought up another issue. My ST is used to hearing different terms from her college classes. For instance, she hears make your paper credible instead of authorizing. I think that switching now is a big task. It is out of her comfort zone, and right now, teaching for the first time, that is a lot for anyone to try and do.

This week we tackle another new term: countering. I’m not giving up on Harris yet. Because as Jim Knight, a high-impact teaching strategies researcher, states,“Words, despite their limitations, help us talk about topics we would not otherwise be able to discuss, and see things we would not otherwise be able to see. A word is a candle held up in the darkness to help us move forward.” And I want my students to move forward.


Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2006.

Knight, Jim. “Words: The Power of a Shared Vocabulary.” Literacy Daily. International Literacy Association, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 March 2016. 

Reminder: Sunday, May 1st: Deadline to apply for the College Ready Writers Program Advanced Institute. The NWP would like an updated timeline and list of participants by April 15th, so if you are planning to apply, please let Kelly Sassi know by April 15th.