Just My Thoughts: Observing a Writing Course

Teaching College Comp.
Log #6

Observing What We are Learning to Do
The designs of writing assignments are one of the most important concepts in respects to learning and teaching writing. In writing assignment number three, I briefly discussed the basic concepts of writing assignments, specifically in-class writing assignments. Writing assignments need to be designed to help students realize the importance of writing and to create the will to write outside of the classroom.

The curiosity I have about writing assignments and how they relate to the Teaching College Composition course is how does one actually come up with the ideas for writing assignments for students. I had to opportunity to observe professor Stephen Himmer’s WR101 class and this helped me understand how to come up with ideas for class assignments.

The class I observed focused on “Countering” in writing. It was the first class back after spring break which can pose a difficulty for professors, which I would soon learn a few minutes into class. The problem posed by breaks for teachers consist of a multiple of things; for example, is the material fresh in the students’ minds, did they even read the assignment, are they still in break-mode, and the list goes on.

Himmer’s class would revolve around preparing the students for a writing assignment involving visual interpretations. The phrase “visual interpretations” seems like a very broad topic, so how does one boggle this loose term down to a writing assignment? Himmer focused specifically on branding and it’s effect on our living or capitalism and the consumer versus the corporation. Given two reading assignments, the students began to break down two articles with opposing viewpoints, which help them find their own place in respects to the topics that were discussed. The reading assignments that were given helped set up the student’s next essay.

The free-write assignments in class are extremely helpful in helping the students hone their own voices and not the voice of the university that is discussed and implied in Jim Berlin and Bartholomae’s essays.

It was really a joy to see the professor’s style of lecture and classroom instruction lay the groundwork for my first group assignment in WR600. In class, the Internet can be a professor’s best friend. Moreover, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, can be a professor’s best friend. All these assignments and tools used in class implicitly teach the students to find their own voice through writing while preparing them to write for the university or academia. The discussion of visual culture in class, while it involved writing and explanation, it helped the students talk about the subject matter using the language of people knowledgeable in the Public Relations and Marketing job fields. Simply put, the in-class writing assignments helped students write for the academy.

The assignment was revealed after the class broke up into groups to discuss the advertisements from Apple, Chanel, and a few other notable companies. The assignment was how does the web create visual rhetoric?

Again, it was truly a pleasure to be on the other side of learning. I was in the place where learning and teaching meets. While observing Himmer’s class, I was delighted that I was not a part of the class, but able to see instruction from the other side. The university I’ve been trying to account for as my audience since I first wrote my first college entrance essay was finally at my disposal and I was able to learn some of its secrets such as what actually makes up good writing, why writing is important, how writing is taught, and most importantly why good writing needs to be taught.

According to Bartholomae, the liberal arts education is designed and schemes to make students better writers. I attended a liberal arts education provided by Jesuits, so our education not only was designed to make us better writers with the use of the school’s required writing program, but it was also designed to make us better people in society. After WR600, I am beginning to understand how higher learning institutions achieve their goals in making students better.

If professors can make writing appealing to the students or at least show them the importance of writing, they will be almost halfway of achieving their goals. Making students better writers does not require grammar or structure, but it most importantly requires students to appreciate writing as a useful tool that can be used in any field and at any time.