Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Amateur tips on reading, writing, and teaching composition

File:Writing hand.jpg
A hand holding a pen on the statue of Isaiah
at Piazza Spagna in Rome.

27 October 2008
FlickrRoma Italy - Creative Commons by gnuckx
Writing is a part of life, used every day, but not always in the correct capacity. Good writing (or proper writing, or both) needs to be taught. What is most important is that people have to care about their writing, and not only care, but re-evaluate their ability to read, write, and teach.

Inspiration is crucial to any type of writing, be it creative or academic. There are times when the line between academic and creative writing can become blurry, but all writing is technically a creative outlet. There are no strict rules on writing, only guidelines set forth by texts like A Writer’s Reference. A writer must find their own voice and style, while adhering to the writing structure necessary for the audience.
Audience is a big thing to consider when writing. If the audience is a fiction fan, then as a writer, it is possible to leave them out of the writing, to keep some secrets and surprises in store for later. An academic audience must be included in the writing process at all times, because they need to fully understand the research and purpose of the paper. A writer can always break some rules to include tone, as long as the writing makes sense. Academic papers deal with structure, surrounding a thesis that requires sources, sort of like a big argument cushioned by a series of smaller supporting arguments. In contrast, creative writing is a showcase for the writer’s story and style. Eric Mast of the Writing Center echoes Flowers & Hayes on the purpose of writing by saying, “writing is a thought process and the reader should identify with that process”.

Mast also has some other tips for writers, specifically writing teachers. He believes that it is not possible to fully learn about teaching until the first day of class. A new teacher may prepare thoroughly, but what Mast suggests is to pretend confidence as a new teacher, even when the outcome is unsure (as it will most often be in the first year of teaching).
A composition teacher’s best friend may always be Hacker & Sommers A Writer’s Reference. It is a textbook filled with easy to follow steps on all types of writing, and included are several examples on how to utilize each writing step. Planning a draft, writing a thesis and introduction, creating body paragraphs, and writing a conclusion are writing steps outlined in A Writer’s Reference, and they are steps all composition teachers should be comfortable with.
Background and real world knowledge are other tools a teacher can apply to their teaching methods. Though, Mast warns that even as professional work environments and teaching environments share similarities, they are definitely not the same thing. Teachers should find their own balance of control to maintain in a classroom, remembering that the students are not employees and there are different rules in a classroom than in a workplace.
Reflecting on learning, writing, and teaching can appear to be a boring exercise. However, once completed, the process is an eye opening one because it expands the writer’s overall knowledge on their competencies and their deficiencies in each area. A writer/learner/teacher can discover things about their own writing and learning curves, and discovery leads to improvement. Self-improvement puts any writer/learner on the right road to becoming an effective teacher. Teachers should be familiar with the learning process from both sides (student and teacher) so that they can recognize their students’ needs at a relatable level. 

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