Sunday, September 30, 2012

Literacy Narrative

Literacy Narrative

Several forces have shaped my literacy.  These forces, also known as sponsors as explained by Deborah Brandt in “Sponsors of Literacy,” range from people to abstract things. The most influential sponsors for me took place in my childhood when I was really learning how to read and write, but more numerous sponsors shaped my literacy in later years. 
As a child, I learned to read and write at home rather than waiting until kindergarten. My parents provided several children’s books for me to read from and my grandmother/babysitter spent time helping me learn the alphabet and sounds. My grandma also helped me learn to write while my parents worked. Also, my older sister- who is very intelligent- used to write stories that we would come up with during free time. I would re-read them and attempt to write my own stories, too.  This was about the time I started reading out food labels and cereal boxes. I could successfully read and write by the age of four and was well prepared for kindergarten. 
When I finally went to school, the teachers there obviously had a huge influence on my literacies. I was not only good at reading and writing narratives- but also math problems, science questions, harder vocabulary, and so forth. Group work with fellow students also shaped how I would write and reading their own words helped me understand that not everyone thought exactly as I did. As I grew older, my parents and family became less of an influence, but teachers and friends become more of an influence. 
Junior High was a big part of writing in my life- not academically, but socially. Passing notes was an everyday activity and occasionally consisted of more grown-up thoughts compared to those in elementary school. Hiding the notes and coding the letters modeled my reading and writing skills as well. 
High school brought several long writing assignments. The assignments ranged from English, to governments, to topics of my choice. I also become literate in the reading and writing of mathematical equations and graphs, and in chemistry and biology notations and equations. I started to broaden my literacies in specified areas of study in high school. Other events in high school led to me understanding sports notes and scores, shorthand, and advanced note taking. 
Another sponsor of my literacy was letter writing. I dated a boy for three years that was in the Army. He went to basic training and advanced military schooling in Oklahoma. Phones were not permitted and our only means of conversing were through letters. I wrote 43 letters overall and received 21- all of which contained a language only he and I could fully relate to. We had our own ways of saying things and our own history that no one else could know. Therefore, writing the actual letters and actually understanding them significantly influenced my literacy. 
Other influences on my literacy are music and video games. Lyrics are rather poetic and just memorizing them influences the way I write and read fictional work. Also, I played saxophone in school and can play the guitar. These musical instruments influenced my literacy in reading and writing music. I own a Wii, a game-cube, a Gameboy advance, and I currently play Xbox. Obviously following the story line of games and recognizing their creativity formed a whole new type of literacy for me. 
Game systems are technology, but all other sorts of technology are sponsors of my literacy. I have always had a computer at home, I can work all computer accessories, I have had several iPods, I constantly take pictures with digital and film cameras, I received my first cell phone in 6th grade, and I operate copy and fax machines regularly. All of these things added to my literacies in understanding technology talk, instruction, and means of communication.
I would have to say that the Internet is a huge influence on my literacy. Social media sites, academic archives, games, videos, …just about everything you find out there can make me more knowledgeable in any given topic. The Internet was, is, and always will be a sponsor of my literacy. 
I’m sure that there are several other sponsors of my literacy but these are the most memorable and influential. Up to this point, I believe I have grown greatly in literacy of all subjects. However, there are millions of things I do not know or understand yet. There are millions of things I may never venture to. Reading, writing, and understanding will always be a huge part of my life so all I can do is keep practicing. 

Reading Response: "Sponsors of Literacy"

Writing About Writing (p. 328-352)
Reading Response
“Sponsors of Literacy” by Deborah Brandt

In “Sponsors of Literacy,” Deborah Brandt attempts to explain literacy, its history, and how there are influences that form the way we learn and practice literacy. Brandt argues that the forces that influence an individual’s literacy are sponsors of literacy. Some “forces” that Brandt discusses are influential people (such as parents, siblings, teachers, or mentors), culture, race, gender, language and location, access to technology, and politics. Brandt described several events in our history to help define what exactly a sponsor of literacy is. She also interviewed several people to find their unique literacy history and used them as examples in her writing. Varying ages, backgrounds, and sponsors indicate that literacy changes with each generation and is a valued commodity.

Brandt’s main focus was that opportunities and access to sponsors vary and cause stratification in the literacy of all people, that sponsors contribute to “the literacy crisis,” and that sponsors can be a means of self-development and social change. The availability of sponsors hinges on several factors and some people have more access to better forces than others- thus diversity among literacy is created. Brandt describes “the literacy crisis” as the gap between people’s ability to reach literacy standards that are continually rising. Sponsors contribute to the gap because of their participation in economic and political competition and competition leads to more people being expected to do more reading and writing. Brandt argues that literacy is misappropriated and that change in individual literacy can relate to more big-picture changes. Brandt closes her work, and summarizes it, by saying, “What I have tried to suggest is that as we assist and study individuals in pursuit of literacy, we must also recognize how literacy is in pursuit of them.” Sponsorship of literacy is unique to each person. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reading Response: "Good English and Bad"

Readings on Writing
Reading Response
"Good English and Bad" by Bill Bryson

          In "Good English and Bad," Bill Bryson attempts to explain the ways of the English language in relation to how we use grammar. Bryson argues that in English we can use several tenses of a word to express similar, or different, meanings. Bryson also argues that the English language is so complicated (so complicated that experts have trouble defining its terms)  because it is based off of Latin- and English is not closely related to Latin at all. He gives several examples of how even professionals abuse the "rules" of English, and he contests some of the rules, such as splitting an infinitive. Also, he goes into how some words are both nouns and verbs in English. Bryson claims that some grammar rules are based off of prejudice only. Bryson goes on to detail the lack of a grammatical guide. Overall, Bryson questions several aspects of the difficulty of the English language. 

Reading Response: "Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool"

Writing About Writing
Reading Response
"Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool" by John Dawkins

          In"Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool," John Dawkins attempts to explain that punctuation rules are simply guidelines and not laws. Dawkins argues that his idea of "raising and lowering" (with his hierarchy of punctuation) would be a better way of teaching punctuation than what the handbooks present currently. He uses several examples to show how handbooks can be proven wrong and how they do not explain some rhetorical situations in which punctuation would come into question. Dawkins also explains that "good" writers use punctuation as they see fit according to their rhetorical intent. Basically, the author has the choice on which punctuation to use in order to emphasize what they think should be emphasized. Dawkins' whole article is based around the idea that the writer actually has a choice when it comes to punctuating and that there are not actually a set of laws for punctuation. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Introduction and Synthesis

The Writing Process and Transitioning Students
Writing is applied in essentially every aspect of one’s life. Students are always taught a rhetorical construct that explains the specific steps, and their order, in writing that must be followed in order to write effectively. These steps are known as the writing process. This step-by-step construct of linear writing does not hold, however. Once the students write in college the steps get disorganized and revisited, and the linearity quickly converts into a more recursive configuration. Transitioning from one writing mindset to the other can be stressful, confusing, and upsetting to young writers. A transitional phase from learning the linear process in secondary school to learning a recursive process in post-secondary school is necessary for effective writing development.

What is a “Writing Process?

There are many different standpoints on what a writing process actually is. The broadest definition, according to the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance’s Institute of Education Sciences, is “the means through which a writer composes text.” The Institute goes further describing that, “components of the writing process include planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, and editing. An additional component, publishing, may be included to develop and share a final product.” These are the organized steps that form the process secondary school teachers have taught young writers for years.

Collegiate constituents choose to define the process in a much different way. In a broad sense, Donald M. Murray defines writing as, “the process of discovery through language.” The more conceptual thinkers in this area define the process as an approach that “recognizes that there are many stages to writing and that these stages are fluid and overlapping.” They further explain, “This method emphasizes the recursive processes of prewriting, drafting, editing, and revising.” (Kamehameha Schools, 2). These definitions provide a more flexible, individualized process.

The trend tends to be that secondary school teachers stick to teaching the more linear fashion of the process while college professors prefer students to engage in the recursive fashion of the process; thus, linear writing is just a construct young writers have adapted to and must modify in order to become successful writers. In other words, a writing process is not a process at all- yet an experience that changes with every writer.

The Linear Writing Process

The linear writing process is not improper and it does have supporters. Those who argue for the process typically are the ones that utilize it and praise it for its benefits. Michael Becker wrote that he breaks his process down into the six stages of brainstorming, organizing, outlining, drafting, revising, and proofreading. Becker claims:
Having a process to follow bestows confidence. It helps you know that someone somewhere has been through your situation before and has survived or at least finished her product. The process can give you a direction to go if you’re lost and can reassure you if you’re struggling. (6)
It is because of these particular benefits that secondary teachers implement this method of writing in their classrooms so often. Orlean R. Anderson, a teacher, admits that she has taught linear writing in her classroom for years. She refers to the conversation on linear writing stating that, “structure is good for the kids who aren’t gifted, kids who just don’t know where to start.” (2). The linear version of the process is not outdated. The argument here is not that the linear technique is old-fashioned, yet that it is too much “in” fashion. Though some find the linear process advantageous for certain learners and in certain circumstances, there are other options and many who oppose this version of the writing process.

Opposition to the Linear Writing Process

Opposition to the linear process comes from several areas: professors, students, and even those who teach it. Referring back to Anderson, it is apparent that she recognizes some flaw in teaching linear writing because she claims that, “As teachers, we seem to find comfort in clearly delineated steps, formulas that we can outline and evaluate. Maybe it is this need for control that has led so many of us to mold a messy creative phenomenon into a checklist.” Anderson also explains that by calling it “the” writing process, teachers suggest that it is a process with correct steps that are the same for all writers (2). College professors engage in, and expect their students to engage in, a totally different process. They take the steps that have forever been tied to “the” writing process, and use them in a different order, go back and forth, and rearrange them every time they write in order to clearly express what they need to. The fresher and more applicable process, though derived from the original linear process’s steps, has been successful and praised just as it’s predecessor. This newly improved, more effective process is known as the recursive writing process and it ultimately destroys the construct of linear writing.

The Recursive Writing Process

The recursive version of the process is essentially an adapted form of the linear process. The same steps are implemented, however they are not in a set order. Once one step is complete, it can be revisited if need be in the future. The Writing Process, published by Capella University, describes the recursive writing process best. It expresses that recursive writing “helps writers produce stronger, more focused work because it highlights connections and allows for movement between research and the phases of writing. Writing does not have to be a one way path.” (3). Recursive writing refers not only to the actual “words-on-paper” procedure, but the production of the whole paper. Writers do not just revise their words, but also their strategies and purpose for writing (Kamehameha Schools, 3). This version of the writing process gains more and more supporters each year, and thus again confirms the construct of linear writing is flawed.

Opposition to the Recursive Writing Process

Some may argue that the recursive writing process is too complicated for young writers to comprehend. As discussed previously, the linear process provides a guide for struggling students. Though that argument is understandable, it does not account for students that do not struggle. If those students never get accounted for, they enter college writing with no knowledge of how to write like their professors prefer. Therefore, the students who were limited with the linear writing process in secondary school now become the struggling students in post-secondary school. Basically, opposition to the recursive writing process exists where there is a misunderstand as to why teaching that process is necessary and among the undergraduate students that have been thrust into a new world of writing. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Project 1 Progress

To begin my writing process, I obviously picked my topic. My topic (or reality if you will) is that writing is not a linear process like we have always learned in secondary school. Now, older and experienced writers are going to look at that statement and say, “Duh!” However, inexperienced and young writers are likely thinking, “What do you mean?” Since my start of college, I’ve discovered that mostly everything I thought I knew about writing is false. This really makes me wonder, if writing is in fact non-linear, why do we learn it in the first place? Is it to help explain the steps you could use in a process? If so, why do teachers neglect teaching the transition from secondary to post-secondary writing? Are there ever times when implementing a linear process is necessary and/or useful? …I guess you could say I have several questions that I want answers to- or at least find information on.

So, after picking this topic, I did some research. I found several academic articles that could be useful in my discovery process. One of these articles is actually a government published outline for how teachers should teach the writing process. I also went to Alden Library to look for some books on the writing process in different levels of education; these will definitely be useful. From what I have gathered and read so far, there are two worlds I’m jumping into. Secondary school teachers seem to teach nothing but linear and have no instruction on how writing in college is different, or that it is even okay to write differently. (I’m not implying that the teachers are not doing their jobs- just that they do not touch on the recursive writing process at all- perhaps their teaching standards are set that way). Post-secondary teaching in the area of writing does everything to destroy the idea of a linear writing process and emphasizes that no writer is the same, writing can take as long as it needs to, and there are several different steps you can take in any order to write. Now, this is what I expected to find in my research, but it still does not answer the question as to why there is no “transition phase.” Thus, my engagement in the argument of writing processes has been centered on that niche- the “transitional writing phase.”

Now I plan to do a little more research. Then I will begin my actual “words on paper” process. Hopefully some more of my questions are answered, and I can write an interesting new piece for this discourse community. I will keep you posted.

Some sources I have found so far (not all in citation form):

Bay, Jennifer. "Writing Beyond Borders: Rethinking The Relationship Between Composition Studies And Professional     Writing." Composition Studies 38.2 (2010): 29-46. ERIC. Web. 18 Sept. 2012.

Gebhardt, Richard. "Process And Intention": A Thirtieth-Year Reflection." Writing Instructor (2011): ERIC. Web. 18 Sept. 2012.

*This is not an introduction. This is a progress report of sorts. *