Looking Back: Retrospective Blog Post in Preparation for Future of Harris’s Key Ideas

Here at the end of the quater, I realize that our class has exposed me to an area of study that I wasn’t totally aware existed. Though I’ve been writing for years, and hope to find a career that will keep allowing me to do so, I’d never been taught about writing as a subject in itself. It had always been in conjunction with other classes, normally my English and Spanish classes in both high school and college. Taking English 16 has shifted my perspective and made me see writing as a multi-faceted discipline in itself.

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One of the questions I found most intriguing this quarter was how to teach students who are not prepared for college.

Though we’ve been exposed to many intriguing topics over the course of the class, one of the ones I found most thought-provoking was the idea of teaching the “unteachable,” the students who are not prepared for college. Because it is a topic that hits close to home because of the area in which I grew up, its fascinates me, because I think there are very few clear answers. Shaughnessy’s piece was intriguing, and I liked her idea that those who have disadvantaged academic backgrounds should not be excluded from higher education. I also thought this tied in well with Harris’s analysis of error, and the dichotomy we discussed as a class about what makes “correct” writing and how much teachers should focus on a student’s grammar. I also found the debates about voice really interesting. In the chapter on which I did my Harris and His Sources assignment, Harris manages to illustrate the issue in such a way that makes the reader understand that the issue is not black and white. I’m inclined to believe that a writer’s voice is a reflection of who they are, but that multiple factors create their identity. It’s been intriguing to apply this to my own life and writing, because this was not something I’d thought deeply about.

Many of the ideas we discussed this quarter, like process and voice, are logical, but this quarter opened my eyes and helped me understand them in a way that I hadn’t before. I’ve enjoyed learning about structure and style in a subject I love so much.


Harris and His Sources– Works Cited

Works Cited

Bartholomae, David. “Writing with Teachers: A Conversation with Peter Elbow.” College Composition and Communication

46.1 (1995): 62-71. Web. 1 March 2015.

Elbow, Peter. “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals.” College Composition and Communication 46.1

(1995): 72-83. Web. 1 March 2015.

Harris, Joseph. A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2012. Print.

White, Emilie. “Graph 1.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Graph 2.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Screenshot 1.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Screenshot 2.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Screenshot 3.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Screenshot 4.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Screenshot 5.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

White, Emilie. “Timeline.” 9 March 2015. Photo.

Reading Log #15: NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies

downloadI have spent the last eight years gradually falling more and more in love with the stage. For me, it’s always enhanced the way I view the world and been an outlet for my creativity. The National Council of Teachers of English Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies reminded me that this effect is not only limited to my theater experience, and has wide-spread implications that make it an invaluable tool in the classroom.

In the first half of the NCTE’s position statement, the writers highlight the theatrical process as an example of the level of collaboration required to achieve a truly successful multimodal writing classroom. As a theater person, this image really made sense to me and made me look at my writing process differently than I have before. I just directed a play a few weeks ago, and a lot of the steps I went through were similar to those I do while writing, none of which would have been possible without collaboration from my stage managers, actors, designers, and professors. I also realized, though, while reading that the process I experienced when directing my one-act directly mirrors my writing process. I did “outlining and planning” by doing research about my play and picking a cast and crew. During the rehearsal process, I metaphorically “wrote” the show by putting it together. Then, once everything was blocked out and on its way, I went back and fine-tuned everything, much like editing. In this sense, I was “writing” a story, but rather than using paper or a computer, I used physical space. By directing the play, I was also “enhancing” the original work in a literal sense by bringing it to life, off the page. Therefore, while reading, I discovered that this gave the NCTE’s claims an extra layer of truth for me.


Enhancing a story by bringing it to life– the set of the one act play I directed last month, as seen from the tech booth.

I loved, too, that earlier in the article, the writers of the statement cited drama, among other art forms, as one of the “multiple ways of knowing” that “should not be considered curricular luxuries.” This particularly resonated with me. I’ve long been a supporter of arts education and art programs in schools, and it frustrates me that often they are eliminated from schools because they are not a core subject and are viewed as unnecessary. The position statement confirmed my previous opinions and highlighted potential benefits.

This article further proved to me that the arts are an integral part of a child’s education. I have watched many of my peers find themselves and ways to express their thoughts and feelings on the stage. For many, this is what allows them to grow as people. I’d never considered the way this could be applied to writing in the ways described in the article, but if theater can help enhance a student’s work in the classroom, this is further proof that the arts should be included in our schools. Ultimately,  I really enjoyed reading the NCTE’s Position Statement, because I felt like I gained a much better understanding of multimodal forms of communication through its references to theater.

Reading Log #14: “ReMembering the Sentence” by Sharon A. Myers


How important is the art of sentence combining while writing?

In her article “ReMembering the Sentence,” Sharon A. Myers argues for the inclusion of sentence writing and combining into the curriculum of student writing courses. I found some of her descriptions specifically about ESL students particularly intriguing because of my Spanish major.

On page 610, Myers begins, “In teaching ESL composition, the devaluation of the sentence as a locus of instruction is particularly surreal… Most university ESL students are graduates, people who already think critically, have plenty to say, and may even have a good idea of how to organize what they have to say. Their thoughts founder on sentences much more often than on content organization.” I really liked the way that she pointed out, like Shaughnessy, that a student’s capabilities and preparation for college are completely separate things. I found it thought-provoking, though, that she connected the writing issues of ESL students to first-language students as well. I’d never put the two together before.

On page 616, Myers argues that, “Students can’t write without words, and I think that some part of composition instruction needs to recognize and address the need for students to expand their repertoire of ‘writing words.'” Though I do agree that vocabulary building and instruction are instrumental for young students, especially second language learners, I was torn in regards to the tone that Myers used to present the concept. To say that students can’t write if downloadthey don’t have the vocabulary seems to be a generalization to me. In terms of second language learners, perhaps the need to write in their second language with a lack of proficiency can be a stepping stone instead. This section also made me think of the growing generation of Latino/a writers in the United States, who often use bilingualism throughout their works.

Myers presented a variety of ideas about teaching sentences and students of different educational backgrounds in “ReMembering the Sentence.” I found the article one of the more thought-provoking that we’ve read.

Reading Log #13: “Introduction to ‘Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing'” by Mina P. Shaughnessy

It was enlightening to read Mina P. Shaughnessy’s point of view after reading an outsider’s perspective on her ideas in Harris’s chapter, “Error.” I’d initally been intrigued by Shaughnessy’s ideas about improving the writing skills of those unprepared for college, and feel like I now have a more thorough understanding of her point of view.


Can those students unprepared for colelge be taught academic writing?

Two quotes from this reading were particularly thought-provoking. On page 393, Shaughnessy writes, “Language learners at any level appear to seek out, either consciously or unconsciously, the underlying patterns that govern the language they are learning. They are pressed by their language-learning faculties to increase the degree of predictability and efficiency in their use of language.” I found this section memorable because as a double major in English and Spanish, I’ve found it to be really true. Spanish is, in some senses, a lot more formulaic than English, and I’ve often tried to teach myself lessons by finding patterns. Though English is my first language, my guess is that this natural instinct makes it even harder to learn English, since English has less patterns and more exceptions than many other languages.

A complementary quote on page 394 also caught my eye. Shaughnessy writes that BW students, “have lost confidence in the very faculties that serve all language learners: their ability to distinguish between essential and redundant features of a language left them logical but wrong; their ability to draw analogies between what they knew of language when they began school and what they had to learn produced mistakes; and such was the quality of their instruction that no one saw the intelligence of their mistakes or thought to harness that intelligence in the service of learning.” This was intriguing to me because I grew up in an area of California where most of my classmates spoke Spanish. I found this passage interesting because it is so true to life. Those of my classmates who struggled with English have this lack of confidence in their own reading and writing ability. Rather than seeing their own intelligence and writing abilites as separate entities, they often connect the two.

I enjoyed this reading, although it felt like it only skimmed the surface of Shaughnessy’s arguments, because it enriched the Harris reading and gave me a much fuller picture of the issue. I want to go back and reread Harris with a new eye, and analyze the arguments he presents both for and against Shaughnessy.

Reading Log #12: “Error” from A Teaching Subject by Joseph Harris

In his chapter entitled “Error,” Joseph Harris once again provides readers with an in-depth look at one of the debates downloadsurrounding the teaching of writing. In “Error,” he evaluates teaching styles, comparing those that are geared toward teaching students basic grammar versus more complicated literary elements.

One of the most intriguing sections of this chapter begins by describing Shaughnessy’s work in her book Errors and Expectations. Harris writes, “Errors and Expectations showed how students who had often be presumed uneducable, hopelessly unprepared for college work, could in fact be helped to compose reasonably correct academic prose– that their problems with college writing stemmed not from a lack of intelligence but from inexperience” (104). This section particularly resonated with me, because I attended a fairly low-achieving high school. Many of my classmates were very smart and more than capable, but we had low standards presented to us and were not pushed hard enough, so much so that sometimes, our motivation to succeed came from each other. For many of us, including myself to a certain extent, coming to college required an adjustment. Some of us found our better-prepared peers overwhelming at first, but came to the realization that Harris points out in this chapter. Because I’ve seen both the Santa Clara world and the world I grew up in, I would wholeheartedly argue that very few students are physically incapable of keeping up with college work, but would errorinstead emphasize that children need help and study tips.

This quote represents the debate over the role of grading for error versus helping students develop their own style. Though the chapter didn’t really reference it by name, this reading also reminded me about discussions about voice, and made me think about how things like voice and community are formed through some of the processes described. As always with Harris, this chapter was intriguing, and I enjoyed reading and comparing the different points of view.

Reading Log #11: “Chronotopic Lamination: Tracing the Contours of Literate Activity” by Paul Prior and Jody Shipka

In “Chronotopic Lamination: Tracing the Contours of Literate Activity,” Paul Prior and Jody Shipka present their findings from their study about the writing process. Prior and Shipka interviewed five writers about the way they write, asking them to draw two pictures to illustrate. I really enjoyed this article, and liked perusing the visual aids that Prior and downloadShipka provided.

One of the parts of the study that stood out to me occurred on the first page of the article. Prior and Shipka write that a psychology professor was doing laundry in between writing. They state, “She sets the buzzer on the dryer so that approximately every 45 minutes to an hour she is pulled away from the text to tend to the laundry downstairs. As she empties the dryer, sorts and folds, reloads, her mind wanders a bit and she begins to recall things she had wanted to do with the text, begins to think of new questions or ideas, things that she had not been recalling or thinking of as she focused on the text when she was upstairs minutes before.”

This section was particularly interesting to me, because I’d never thought about the way our environment can directly condition us to perform certain tasks. My mind went to Pavlov’s dog in this section, because, like garnering a reaction from the dog when he heard the bell, the buzzer on the laundry elicited a reaction from the professor in terms of her writing. I also thought it was interesting that getting up and moving away from her work helped the flow of her ideas. I’ve had this technique suggested to me before, and I’d be inclined to agree with it.

This aritlce kept my interest all the way through. It was written in an accessible way, and as Dr. Medina always emphasizes about our blogs, the inclusion of the subjects’ drawings and notes was intriguing. Thought it reminded me of Berkenkotter’s findings during her study on Murray, this article was a lot clearer and more straightforward.

Reading Log #10: “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer” and “Response of a Laboratory Rat: Or, Being Protocoled” by Carol Berkenkotter and Donald M. Murray

In “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer,” Carol Berkenkotter documents the findings of her experiment with writer Donald M. Murray, during which she analyzed and evaluated his writing process.

While discussing her discoveries, Berkenkotter writes, “Murray’s planning activities were of two kinds: the first were the stating of ‘process goals’—mentioning procedures, that is, what he developed in order to write… Suddenly he stopped, took his daybook and began making copious notes for a list of examples he could use to make the point that the wise editor or teacher should at first ignore sentence level editing problems to deal with more substantive issues of revision” (161). Berkenkotter then goes on to list that this kind of pre-planning can lead to different sub-plans, which could include techniques for incorporating different quotes and anecdotes.


Carol Berkenkotter and Donald Murray collaborated on a study about the writing process and planning strategies while writing.

This part stood out to me in particular because it was so specific about his writing process. I, too, am inclined to have a heavy pre-writing process when working on different assignments, usually going so far as to make an outline for whatever piece I’m writing. I thought it was interesting, though, that I don’t naturally gravitated to Murray’s second planning activity, stating the goals of the piece. Reading this section reinforced to me the idea that everyone usually develops their own steps in the writing process according to what works for them.

Another quote I found particularly interesting occurred on page 165. Berkenkotter writes, “Generally speaking, subjects giving protocols are not asked to add the demands of introspection to the task of writing. But in fact, as Murray demonstrated, writers do monitor and introspect about their writing simultaneously.”

I think one of the reasons this quote stuck out so clearly in my head was because I feel I do that while writing, as well. That can actually be a source of writer’s block for me, particularly in creative writing. As I continue to figure out what I’m saying next or an ending for a set of characters, I often get stuck because I want to go back and rewrite something with new ideas. Ultimately, though, I think writing is a balance between the two.

I really enjoyed reading Berkenkotter and Murray’s pieces, and seeing two perspectives on the same experiment. I felt like I got a fuller picture of the results by reading both pieces, and it was an intriguing read after being exposed to the basics of process in Harris’s chapter.

The Writing Process of My Fellow Students


Everyone’s writing processes are different, but lead to similar results.

Since coming to college, I’ve been exposed to countless different ways of thinking and ways of studying. I’ve also seen how my  classmates go about writing things differently, demonstrating different processes that may stem from having gone to different high schools or different classes.

Many of my classmates have different writing processes that lead to the same goal. One major thing I’ve noticed is that they vary greatly as to when they begin the process of writing a paper. My roommate, for example, starts most of her projects early, because she finds it helpful to have enough time to go back and look at both her technical essays and her creative writing pieces with a fresh eye. She has told me before that when she doesn’t have a chance to go back and look, she is usually dissatisfied with the paper, and doesn’t feel like she’s had the opportunity to put her best work forward. On the other hand, I have several friends who have told me that they work better under pressure, and whether by accident or design, leave their papers to the end, beginning them closer to when they are due.  I’ve also seen a wide variety of pre-writing processes. I myself am partial to making an outline before beginning writing, but know many who prefer to start writing and see where their train of thought goes.

In regards to the idea of “focusing on the process rather than the product,” it appears to me, when watching my fellow university students, that many of us have reached a point where we’ve discovered a process that works for in creating the best product. In this sense, it seems to me that we focus on both the process and the product to maximize success.jnwJFsF

Reading Log #9: “Process” from A Teaching Subject by Joseph Harris

In Joseph Harris’s chapter “Process,” from his book A Teaching Subject, the author looks at the concept of the “writing process” and evaluates many of the studies and claims made about it and how it relates to student writers.

One of the most interesting segments of this chapter for me occurred on page 79. Harris writes, “In thus defining one sort of discourse (reflexive) as self-sponsored, imaginative, contemplative, and exploratory, and another sort (extensive) as school-sponsored, assignment driven, and geared toward efficiency, Emig seems to leave out the possibility that some kinds of critical and scientific writing may often hold real personal worth for their writers.”

Though my first reaction was to agree with Harris’s claim in this section, this quote also sparked me to reflect on how I connect to my own writing. I am most attached to my creative writing, which is a deep passion and source of personal satisfaction for me. However, as a senior double major in humanities, I have done lots of critical writing, both in Spanish Process 4


What form does your writing process take?

and in English. I feel a deep connection to education in the Spanish language in particular, but much  of my work in that area has been literary analysis. Over the course of my college career, I’ve found a lot of personal worth, as Harris points out, in both types of writing.

Reading this chapter as a whole also reminded me of a conversation my professor had with his students in my Adv. Playwriting class just yesterday. He told us at the beginning of the course that over the course of the quarter, he wanted to help us develop our writing process as playwrights. Yesterday, he told us about a friend of his who hates revising, and would much rather begin new plays than revisit old ones. He then said that, in contrast, he hates first drafts, but can spend hours reworking scenes. This chapter reminded me of that conversation, and cemented for me the idea that everyone has different views of the “writing process,” and that everyone’s views can be different.

Harris took an intriguing evaluative approach throughout this chapter, addressing the work and claims of various other experts in writing studies. His analytic approach made the chapter an interesting read.