Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Teaching Writing - where I'm coming from

Hello all

I said I'd go first and here I am. By doing so, I am also modeling a basic teaching strategy - e.g. "modeling." Writing teachers not only model writing for their students but are often their first audience as well. How they feel about writing for us shapes their attitude toward future audiences and comfort with the writing process itself. Enough with the compositional pedagogy lectures already! But seriously, writing and its teaching do come before tools - and help determine which ones to use.

I write, teach writing to both NNS and NS writers, advanced and emerging or developmental, college level mostly but also secondary school, ESL, computer mediated writing, writing for the workplace, written communication (business), WAC, GED, technical writing, writing about literature. I've been doing it since 1991. Before teaching writing, I did technical writing, business writing and copy-editing professionally, and wrote non-fiction for newsletters, specialty magazines and local print media. These days I
write web page copy, blog copiously and maintain a local chamber of commerce web site.

The word came before the byte. Computers did not enter my writing world until the mid 90s. Since then I've developed course materials using online resources, built course web pages, and taught writing in both blended or hybrid (writing intensive comparative literature classes, developmental writing, college composition, GED) and 100% online (college composition, literature, ESL) classes.

I started teaching ESL online in (I think) 1997 while at UC Davis. Vance Steven's presentation at an online conference about teaching online mentioned EFI. Volunteering to teach online seemed like a good way to learn how to teach online and experience. When I applied, David sent me 100 applicant email addresses. I started with group and individual addressed email but soon moved to groups. Later I built pages, used groups to email web page like lessons/ study group materials, and so on.

Over the years, I tweaked, fiddled and experimented email and group features to streamline class administration tasks that eat into teaching time. Pat Harvey and I collaborated on self-paced study package. Free, non-credit online courses have a high attrition rate - not just ESL but across the board.
We found ourselves spending too much time processing students, many of whom would disappear after just a few lessons, and wanted to free up more time for the student who really wanted to learn.

Although I still use many of the same tools, techniques an online resources, I've added blogging to my online teaching tool kit, Beyza has me convinced to try wikis too. If DSL ever comes to Mountainair or I can ever afford wireless (neither likely in the immediate future), you'll see me in "tech-ier" teaching venues.

Write on!


PS I will also blog what the syllabus stated I would cover on days 1 & 2. That dear readers -
colleagues, mes semblables - is part of the "asych avantage" ...


Beyza said...

Hi again,
I'm the second to model answering the questions.Vanessa is an expert in teaching writing but I'm really new when compared to her .I' ve been teaching writing for three years in Bahcesehir University English Preparatory Program. My students are teenager NNS who are required to master English(especially writing ) in a year to be more proficient in their academic life. I've taught writing to many different levels of students including EAP which is the exit level in the university I work for.My classes are F2F but I've been trying to integrate some online tools to my teaching context.When I first started teaching(especially teaching writing),I and my students were really bored and demotivated as there were only pens ,pencils,and papers to make use of. All I could do with with computers with my students was to take them to our library and ask them do research about a topic.It all started when I attended two EVO sessions (Blogging for beginners and Tips and Tricks) last year.Both of them provided me with practical ideas and I used the tools mentioned(especiall y blogs and wikis) in the sessions with my students to see which one is more suitable to my teaching context.My students loved interacting each other and writing for a real purpose and having readers and getting feedback not only from their teacher but also from their classmates and people outside the class when I first blogged with them.As I mentioned before,I used blogs first then I wanted to use wikis to enable cooperation more.I also use some synchronous tools in order to give feedback (MSN,YM) which is really necessary in writing process.Thanks to Vanessa I have better ideas to use blogs to teach writing .I've just designed four basic level blogs for my school to provide them with an opportunity to use English to convey their ideas and interact.I'll send you the links when the students respond to the posts in the level blogs.
I look forward to reading your ideas and experiences about teaching writing.

Write on!


Vance Stevens said...

I thought I heard my name mentioned back there somewhere. Webheads got its start over ten years ago as an email grammar and writing class with Dave Winet's EFI which had just started then. More recently I've put some materials here: More still at my blog Happy trails, Vance

Vanessa said...

Hi Vance - yes it's true.... 10 years with EFI and it's all your fault [insert ironic grin here]

And thank you so much for the links.

From your experience and perspective, what do you identify as major problems / challenges in the ESL writing classroom?

What challenges, disadvantages or even advantages does the NNS face teaching writing in English?

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