Tuesday, June 25
Dear NPR English Majors of America:
You will be pleased to hear that I am in a four-week long writing camp of sorts this summer. It is through the Lake Michigan Writing Project and runs from 9-6/4 four days a week, for four weeks. The best part is that I don’t need college or continuing credit for it or anything. I am just here voluntarily along with 17 others. So while all the math and science teachers are home vacationing in the sun or making home improvements, I am in a stiff plastic chair on the fourth floor of the GVSU’s Eberhart Center with one little window, looking out at the public museum–and I love it!
Let me give you a snapshot of my experience here today. Sharply at 9 a.m., we are discussing audience and writing. (Mind you not as early as my 7:30 a.m. Oxford comma discussion with my students, but it it’s still pretty good for the middle of summer.) Lindsay, one of the directors, is sharing David Bartholomae’s idea on college freshmen “inventing the audience,” as they try to write for an unfamiliar, collegiate world. She then asks us to define the audience for which we will write this summer.
If you can believe it, we are being given thirty minutes for Sacred Writing Time/Freewriting! Yes, heaven. No interruptions. No kids or laundry. Not even public radio. I write about my estranged relationship with my younger sister and her upcoming visit. I conclude that therapy should probably be sought for this situation, and as with all paradises, time is fleeting, and the buzzer sounds, ending our delectable writing time.
We move on to Lindsey Boyles’ teaching demonstration. She is a little nervous as the first fellow to present, but as Susan, a snappy CC professor, says, she did a fabulous job of transforming from monsoon girl to fashion girl. Susan also mentions that Lindsey is a history person, not as desirable as ELA major in my humble opinion, but I’ll still keep an open mind.
Lindsey mentions that history is really his–story. This is her lead into having her students write their own story in a seven-day writing workshop. She begins with Anderson’s list of ten lies about high school from her book Speak. This sparked much interest in Lindsey’s students and allowed them to see that structure can vary.
After, ten minutes, I have decided Lindsay is a secret English major. She just said that content teachers cannot leave writing to only the English teachers. We all have the responsibility. (Maybe she can be cloned into my school’s social studies department.)
We begin with a freewrite, listing elements of a place we remember, and then we draw a picture. Of course, Erica draws three-scenes in thirty seconds. The second freewrite has us compose a fictional story of a swimming pool accident based off three objects: bird, candle, and tennis shoe. Last, we quick write based off a picture of four teens sitting on a bench near the water. Somehow, Greg’s has one girl’s face being bitten off by a shark.
Lindsey then shares her timeline, mini lessons, writer’s notebook, quotes, and agenda. Whew! She is very ambitious. Again, I am thinking English teacher incognito. She also had students use self-evaluation, which involved their giving evidence of their good work. She ends with a Launch (a great term, by the way)–a video called Word, where words are made visible.
On this rainy day, we break for lunch to a covered commons area. Isn’t a dreary weather day a requirement for all camps? Sadly, GVSU only offers Pepsi, (I am aghast!) so I make due without my Diet Coke. Rachel eats a delightful salad with beets, and Lisa, tired of beets, eats a delicious chicken dish with cilantro from her garden. I was secretly revealed her daughter made it and not her husband. Rachel fantasies that someday her daughter will mature into a wonderful helper too. Mine is sixteen, and I have decided this is a fantasy not all that believable. I pursue the bookstore and spot a $65 Under Armour hoodie I’d love to own. But, as all English majors understand, that money could be better spent on books!
When we reconvene after lunch, using a Fishbowl strategy, and five members, looking not at all like fish, model helpful and not so helpful peer response behaviors. After Becky is silenced about her precocious kids, we brainstorm lists of behaviors. Lindsay is “on” again. (Maybe that is how she stays so thin.) She quotes from Peter Elbow’s book Writing Without Teachers, which sounds like a good gift-giving choice for the English major in your life–or maybe not since it might put some of us out of a job!
Again, we are given time to write. Over two hours this time. Ahhhhh……
Now, Rori, from sunny Georgia, is giving her teaching demo on “I” in research papers. Charles politely feeds the “monster” or topic by saying he expects a research paper to be written in third person. (And traditional ELA teachers cheer, meaning myself.)
As a creative non-fiction writer, Rori readily allowed her college freshman to use “I” in their papers, and then she reconsidered. She thoughtfully categorized student examples–weaknesses of “I” use. She then considered the appropriate use of “I” in an academic paper, as well as modern trends in journalism. As Rachel, so aptly put it, many journalists are becoming actors in their own articles.
Next, Rori takes us through the process of finding a research topic. We make a list of obsessions, pick one, implosion, and make a web on implosion topics, categorize ideas, and create research topics. She then looked at a student’s work in two genres and noticed that in the COD review, voice was much more apparent.
Looking at the rhetorical triangle of logos, ethos, pathos, Rori decided that she wanted to give her students a time and place to be credible. After reviewing an activity, the skills required, and the questions the activity poses, Rori again leads us to research topics where using ethos we could be credible sources. She reads a successful student introduction with a student using personal pronouns with his family’s business using vegetable oil to fuel their trucks. Thank you, Rori.
Finally, we end with delight–the author’s chair. Indeed, we are a talented group. I think you, the English major that you are, would agree, it has been a wonderful day.