Paper Proposal: Making the Composition Classroom Make Sense

When I observed an English 1000 class last semester which required students to write all the standard forms of essays, (argumentative, persuasive, etc), I felt like each topic worked independently of itself and that these students were jumping from place-to-place rather than crossing one complete road. It reminded me of my struggles in a math class: I sometimes fully understood how one concept applied to the next, but some seem just random and pointless exercises that didn’t build on a full understanding of math as a whole. I can’t help but wonder if students who are not so easily inclined towards writing feel similarly.

From that brief internship I noticed that students couldn’t seem to carry over what they had just completed from one paper topic to the next. Why did I feel like we were telling them the same things over and over? Why did it seem like some concepts stuck with them for a brief time, and then were forgotten suddenly? Is it just that they don’t want to be there? Is it that they’re dead-set against writing period? For my paper I would like to investigate a theory similar to the one I have with my lack of success in math: I just never saw how it all fit together, and therefore, it was hard for me to internalize concepts that I didn’t see of use down the road. I would like to look at ways to implement metacognition in the composition classroom. Should there be a certain order to the way these writing assignments are assigned to create a better scaffolding for writing? How and what exercises can be done in between these larger assignments to help students see the relevance that carries over into each? Should discourse be a larger focus in the composition classroom so that students fully grasp why they should use more logos in an argumentative essay and more pathos in a persuasive essay? If they have a fuller picture as to why they do each assignment and if each assignment can be made to fully prepare the student for the next task then will certain problem areas stop reoccurring so much?

For this paper I will research the different aspects each of these different essays have to offer and why they are important to the composition classroom. I will also look into aspects of metacognition that should be emphasized in order to get students to fully acquire and internalize the concepts they learn in the writing classroom so that they are more relevant to them as future writers. I will also try and find out what kinds of exercises can be done in between these assignments to encourage relevance across the course. For example, what kinds of things should I be asking of the reader responses? Should journal writing be a part of the course, and if so, what kind of goals should I ask them to try and achieve with it? Are there any other types of writing exercises or activities that will help these assignments blend into one another rather than stand alone separately?

All in all I hope to collect some assignments, activities, and ideas that I will be able to use in my own composition classroom in the future. I think that making all types of education relevant is key to retention, and that if it is possible to get a non-English major to see how the various forms of writing can benefit them in their field in the future that it will be an added skill, not an added hurdle.

2 comments for “Paper Proposal: Making the Composition Classroom Make Sense

  1. Rachel
    March 12, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I’m not going to lie to you; you have your work cut out for you. While I have told several other people it is good that they chose a top that interests or intrigues them, I’m going to tell you that you chose a topic that is beneficial to each and every one of your classmates. I have not had the same experiences as you, to be sure, but I have been a writing tutor for years, and I, too, have witnessed that lack of connection and sadly, I have witnessed what appears to be a lack of caring. I have often thought, however, that there has to be more to it than that. I don’t think some people just wake up one day and love English and decide it’s what they want to make their lives about. I think some of us have had that inspiring teacher who made it all connect or have bonded with a text so much, it was like it was our friend. I’m genuinely interested to see what you come up with because some of my deepest fears regarding teaching come down to actually “teaching” and having my students get it. Good luck to you.

  2. Rachel
    March 12, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    *topic rather. Although you can probably choose a top if you would like.

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