Thursday, March 23, 2017

CRWP Success Story: Nancy Gourde

About  Nancy Gourde
                  For the past twenty-three years, Nancy Gourde has been a teacher of English and Spanish at the secondary level, currently teaching English I and AP literature and composition. She graduated from UND in December of 1973, before the National Writing Project’s inception, and Nancy is so thankful that she has had the opportunity to take part in two of the Red River Valley Writing Project’s Summer Institutes. Those weeks in 2010 and 2016 profoundly affected her view of the teaching of writing, and she is always quick to say that they were the best thing she could have ever done for herself professionally. Since the institutes, Nancy has felt even more sympathetic toward those who struggle with the writing process and uses research-based strategies to make the composition of written text a more comfortable experience.  She enrolled in the College Ready Writers Project at the suggestion of Dr. Kelly Sassi, and this experience is reflected daily in her classroom and her approach to the teaching of writing.

                  Nancy’s personal interests include watching baseball, doing the New York Times Sunday crossword, power walking, reading nonfiction, and coloring with her grandchildren. You can see her at the monthly meeting of the RRVWP reading group at Dunn Brothers on 13th  Avenue .

Successes in the Classroom Thus Far
All of my students, whether in English I or AP Literature and Composition, understand and express the Poses, Wobbles, and Flows taking place in the classroom. They let me know through formative assessment and shared conversation when they wobble (and to what extent) and when they are ready to flow into the next pose. I have heard such comments as “Mrs. Gourde, I am wobbling real bad, real bad” and “Let’s go. We can flow.”  
For the freshmen, there is a realization of what rhetoric and the art of argument are. They know that to be effective, one has to recognize logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos in order to put forth one’s opinions, concerns, and ideas in a clear and appropriate manner. One success I have witnessed is the concerted effort to include credible sources in their arguments. They are aware that the sources need to work to bolster their claims and not just stand there in the work so that they can earn a good grade in that category of assessment. Though there are still wobbles in terms of finding the most credible sources and solid information, they are aware that evidence that is warranted is a vital part of the process.
Also, the ninth-graders know that evidence can be interpreted differently—which is exactly what defense attorneys and prosecutors do. This has helped the freshmen recognize that people read and interpret literature differently. For example, no one in the class disputes that Tom Robinson is the mockingbird, but what are the various “cages” that hold him? What are the cages that hold the populace of Maycomb, Alabama?  Discussion has helped to alleviate the fear that an interpretation is wrong; however, they know that evidence from the text must support their analyses. This realization and the practice of citing evidence from the text source has shown signs of success, though still needing reinforcement and practice.
The AP Lit. students have had to unlearn some aspects of their writing, which they find to be somewhat challenging. They are so used to expository writing that having to recognize counterclaims and disagreements has exasperated them at times, but being the driven and conscientious students that they are, they continue to work rhetoric into their writing. They have been successful in reading and annotating the work of other critics and literary analysts and responding to them with their own claims. The inclusion of these sources through the use of the They Say, I Say templates has made their papers more college ready, though not without some expression of frustration. The AP students benefit from the Burkean parlor--in this class, the saying goes “Life is a Burkean parlor”--and they consistently ask for discussion time to provoke their thoughts and act as a catalyst for their pre-writing. Though they balk at the change in thinking at times, they have shown a shift toward more college-ready writing. They are on their way.