In our last class session, we discussed how to model close reading for our literature students, and while this week’s readings do not discuss modeling extensively, I’d like to return to discussing this technique, both in the literature and composition classroom.
Beginning with the composition classroom, I’m currently teaching a section of ENG 1020 (basic composition). This is my first time teaching this course since the department redesigned it (and my second time teaching it ever), so it is still very new to me and a learning experience; in addition, all my assignments are new or revised, so I have no examples to offer students. We are, in fact, learning together. Thanks to snow days, the class’s first major writing assignment has just been submitted, and having graded 1/3 of the papers so far, I’m largely disappointed (even with lowered expectations). As we begin work on the second project, I have accepted that modeling the process I expect the students to take is, at this point and with this class, a necessity. Borrowing and modifying another instructor’s assignment, I am asking my students to select a scholarly article that interests them (the only restraint I place on this is that it must be related to the course theme of fairy tales in some way), summarize the argument in the article, analyze the article rhetorically, and then begin to form their own responding argument that they will then expand/revise for their next assignment, their researched argument paper. To model this, I will be doing the assignment with an essay I already assigned the class to read, to both work out and anticipate “new assignment” kinks as well as offer my students an example of a “good” paper for the project. (On a side note, looking at rough draft comments from our in-class workshop shows they neither followed directions nor took the activity seriously, so I’m using a suggestion from the practicum and having small group conferences so I can help model what exactly they should be doing in a peer review workshop.)
My other thought on modeling is that I should take advantage of my own position as both instructor and student and make my own writing available to my students. I considered doing so last semester while teaching Intro to Fiction and Writing when my students became quite interested in an off-hand comment I had made about my own work on my Prospectus. While I considered uploading various drafts onto Blackboard for students to look at if they were at all interested, I never got around to doing so. However, I’m still thinking about it. In particular, I’m wondering if it might not offer students a chance to see “real” revision as opposed to inconsequential editing; I also think it could be a good way to highlight writing as a *process* as opposed to a one- or two- step task. It could also enhance my credibility as their instructor–“See, this is what I do and what I know about academic writing”–and more importantly, put us on a more equal ground in the sense that they are not only sharing their writing with me, but I am also sharing my writing with them (should they choose to look at it, of course). In a literature course, there is also the benefit of showing them what can actually be written about literature when you continue to study it beyond the required General Education courses. However, I don’t want students to expect that that is the quality of writing I expect from them at these early stages, and there is also the mild anxiety that comes with sharing one’s writing with anyone but especially those you don’t know well. Plus, the fear that they will think it is BAD and I’ll lose all credibility in their eyes. And of course, the pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) realization that probably no one in the class would bother to look at, let alone read, the lengthy papers/chapters I’m currently in the process of writing. As you can probably tell, I’m still quite undecided on the benefit of this type of modeling, but would very much appreciate input on the idea–Yay or Nay?