Reading Response #5 by Gay Ann Kiser

21 Nov

Teachers of composition place a strong emphasis on their student’s using ‘voice’ in their personal narratives. For that reason, istructors are called upon to examine these writings outside their own social context-something easier said than done.

In the “Take 20” video, Brian Huot, when asked what he’s learned about his students during the course of teaching, says, “I’ve learned how the world I live in is much different than theirs.” That challenges us, as educators, to attempt to understand the cultures of our students as we judge their written work.

In The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES, Juan Guerra cites a study (Street, Literacy 29) which implores us to view literacy not as singular and monolithic, but rather literacy that only makes sense when studied in a social and cultural context. While at first glance, it seems obvious that instructors of writing focus on their students’ voices and seek to understand where their students are coming from, Richard Rodriguez addressing a dilemma which I wasn’t aware of. He maintains that the greater the difference between a student’s background and college, the greater conflict they’ll experience in the academic setting. (Defying the Odds by Donna Dunbar-Odom.) In Rodriguez’s experiences, as he continued furthering his education, talking to his parents became increasingly difficult.

How do we engage students in writing on such a level they can buy into how greatly literacy can empower them without creating problems within their context? (the family) As I seek to better understand students, I somehow always make my way back to books by Mike Rose. Donna Dunbar-Odom has studied Rose extensively and sees three themes running throughout his works. (1) literacy as a passport or an escape; (2) the role teachers play in shaping a student’s life; (3) effects or assumption we, as educators, have about our students. Although Dunbar-Odom interjects a thought-provoking quote by Rose: “Students will float to the mark you’ve set” (as a classroom teacher), I’m not altogether certain I can truly buy into this. I hope I’m wrong.

Encouraging our students to have a voice in their writing and making them feel empowered appears to be the key here. David Bartholomae The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES, is quick to point out that the basic writer may not even be aware of the conventions of his own community, Therefore, we, as teachers, may be called upon to help students sort out how better to “think,” “argue,”, “describe”, or “define” concepts as they seek to achieve their goals.

English 571 is truly challenging me, but I’m left with many questions as I prepare myself to teach college writing. Like many educators, I like concrete answers with easy to incorporate examples of how best to serve my students. I’m a hands-on, tactile learner and for me, much of what we’re studying is extremely philosophical. I welcome your comments and suggestions as to how I can effectively serve my future students.

Works Cited:

Taylor, Todd. “Take 20.” The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Produced by Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2009.

Guerra, Juan C. “Putting Literacy in It’s Place: Nomadic Consciousness and the Practice of Transcultural Repositioning.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller.New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009. 1643-1653. Print.

Dunbar-Odom, Donna. Defying the Odds.New York:StateUniversity ofNew York Press-Albany, 2007. Print.

Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller.New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009. 605-629. Print.


Reading Response #4

7 Nov

Reading Response #4

by Gay Ann Kiser

       I’m intrigued by the March 2009 revised version of the NCTE Writing Assessment: A Position Statement for a multitude of reasons. This document maintains that the best writing assessment practices should be in response to
local goals, not external pressures. Since the group of educators who wrote this has far more expertise than I in expressing themselves succinctly, I’m going to quote something directly that really spoke to me. “Best assessment practice respects language variety and diversity and assesses writing on the basis of effectiveness for readers, acknowledging that
as purposes vary, criteria will as well.”

       Following that statement was another passage that I’ll tie in with our readings. “Standardized tests that rely more on identifying grammatical and stylistic errors than authentic rhetorical choices disadvantage students whose
home dialect is not the dominant dialect.”
This, of course, is nothing newt o those who are actually in the classroom, teaching composition. In The Way Literacy Lives Carter (108) reminds us there is often a disconnect for basic writers, due to the fact they lack experiences relevant to the academic community’s practices, keeping them from “gaining membership” into that community of writers. Anthony Petrosky (110) at the University  of Pittsburgh designed a program which focused on helping basic writers feel as though they were “insiders”, helping them feel a part of the established and powerful.

In The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES, Juan C. Guerra (1646-47) B. V. Street laments the fact that educators of literacy are often too theoretical and ungrounded. He goes on to accuse them of viewing themselves as literary heroes, the only individuals who have achieved what he terms “critical consciousness.” Guerra conducted studies of several student. Maria Isabel, a native of rural Mexico, was of particular interest to him. The young woman had only a sixth grade education. Her writing, obviously, contained an overabundance of mistakes in spelling and punctuation. Yet, her compositions showed amazing reflection, cadence, and the syntactical maturity of someone well versed in the written word. In writing circles today, we’d refer to Maria as a writer who had good “voice.”

The NCTE writing assessment article addresses Assessment in the Classroom. They suggest that writing teachers have a period of ungraded work for their students which includes peer reviewers. They encourage self-assessment as well. They value writing portfolios, something I totally support in any writing program.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to the problems our basic writing students often have with grammar. That is something I’ll need to personally address once I begin teaching writing composition at the college level. In middle school, it was always part of our curriculum. As always, I have more questions than answers as I pour through these reading, making decisions on how best to serve my students. But I believe that’s an indicator that I’m striving to do better..




Presentation #2

31 Oct

Presentation 2

Presentation #2 by Gay Ann Kiser


Reading Response #3 by Gay Ann Kiser

5 Oct

Response #3 – Week 6

by Gay Ann

            Throughout time, pedagogical instruction has shifted dramatically to accommodate a diverse population of learners. Through the readings of Rhetoric At the Margins by David Gold and Memories of Old E.T., we’ll investigate how Wiley
College, TWU, and TX A & M worked to promote diversity among learners.

       Rhetoric At the Margins credits a famous professor at Wiley
College named Melvin Tolson for being instrumental in changing the lives of many black students. Professor Tolson embraced his African American heritage and delivered compelling lectures that had a sermon-like quality about them. He made few distinctions between his  politics and pedagogy and was a firm believer in the power of words. A learned
man, he followed the teachings of Socrates, mindful that education should serve a moral purpose. (Cavier 233). Tolson demanded excellence from his black students, warning them to question everything. (Flasch, p. 38) Aware that white people relied on printed materials to stay current, Tolson pressed his black students to become proficient writers. A skilled orator, he understood the  power of words and brought Wiley’s debate team to Chicago in 1930 for the first interracial debate. As someone unfamiliar with Melvin Tolson, I was drawn in by how he emphasized the importance of both oral and written traditions. For most learners, both can be beautifully combined to produce articulate students who
can function successfully in a global world.

Texas Women’s University, according to David Gold,  struggled to compete in the white man’s word, much the way Wiley College did. (Catalogue 1907 77). He cites several examples of how the country’s mood during the early 1900’s drove college curriculum. In a passage by Conway and Gordon, Gold points out that lingering antebellum and Victorian ideologies discouraged women from public speaking. Texas Women’s University struggled to achieve a balance between the traditional obligations being a woman and becoming better educated,
a catalogue from 1907 sums up the prevailing attitudes of that time. (Regarding women) “They will never attract much attention. For even the men that pass over  them will frequently only give them the scantest notice.” But although women’s suffrage did not yet exist, Texas had a number of women’s clubs which were instrumental in increasing women’s pay and equal rights. With the shift toward women gaining equal rights, TWU began incorporating vigorous rhetorical instruction. One of the pioneers in the endeavor was Lucy Fay who was known for being an instructor who demanded that her students draw themes from their every day life and incorporate them into their writings. English instructor Etta Lacy also emphasized using composition to increase diversity in the student body. (Palmer & Martin Timeline).

But even with the passage of time, women struggled to define their role in society. This struggle is hinted at in Memories of Old E.T. when Irene Goodson Arlington (class of 1938) tells readers how Dr. J.E. Franklin frequently quoted a poem maintaining that being a mother was a very important career for a woman.


Works Cited:

Silver Leos Writers Guild. Memories of Old E.T. Commerce: 2010.

Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins.
Southern Illinois
University Press.Carbondale. 2008.


Reading Response #3 by Gay Ann Kiser

5 Oct

Reading Response #3 by Gay Ann Kiser.

Presentation #1 – by Gay Ann Kiser

26 Sep


How Writing Works – Reader Response #1

19 Sep

How Does Writing Work – Reader Response #1

Before answering the question, How does writing work?”it would serve us well to observe how writing does not work. In Why School?, Mike Rose cautions us as follows: “Unless a testing program is part of a larger effort that includes other student compensatory and professional development efforts and social programs aimed at vulnerable populations, we get, instead, a focus on scores, rankings, and an elaborate technology of calibration and compliance. In this particular reference, he’s referring to the No Child Left Behind legislation. It’s a daunting task, but we, as educators must create writing opportunities for a diversity of learners.

Regarding the question, How have teachers responded, The Norton Book of COMPOSITIONAL STUDIES provides a more hopeful view of current writing programs, stressing that composition has consistently renewed its thinking about composing. In the video Take 20, several educators stressed the importance of writing teachers redesigning their curriculum every five years to keep it current. Because of cultural and economic diversity among our learners and the constant change in technology, we continuously need to reevaluation our writing programs.

While much debate about writing exists, the key appears to be student empowerment. Rose points out that resourcefulness and intellectual spontaneity are the keys to successful writing programs. He cites first grade teacher, Stephanie Terry as one who’s responded to the call of creating engaged writers. She involved students early by raising five hermit crabs in her classroom. Kids documented the crabs’ behaviors, analyzed this date, and formed hypotheses. Before they even began writing, those first graders felt empowered as they shared their finding with classmates. Not only are these children become self-confident, proficient writers, but they’re beginning to create an integrated curriculum, combining language arts and science in a meaningful way.

Works Cited:


Rose, Mike. Why School?, 2009. Print.


Miller, Susan. The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES.New York:

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009. Print.


Shaughnessy, Mina.
Errors and Expectations. A Guide for the Teacher

Of Basic Writing.
OxfordUniversity Press, 1977. Print.