WAC Celebrates National Day on Writing 2018

This year, our National Day on Writing celebration was a bit more familiar but no less exciting. According to the NCTE website, the National Day on Writing is a day to recognize all forms of writing, built on “the premise that writing is critical to literacy but needs greater attention and celebration.” This mission is one near and dear to our hearts. So, with tweets prepped, pens at the ready, and sticky notes shining brightly in the sun, we were ready to call attention to the diverse voices of the Mason community as they let us know their thoughts on writing.  

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A bit differently than last year, we set up our booths in the atrium of Fenwick Library and in the JC South Plaza. Our WAC team kicked the day off right, writing a few sticky notes themselves and placing them on the poster boards or glass windows, respectively. Then, as the morning wore on and people stopped by, we asked them to tell us why, when, what, where, or how they write. Their answers? Varied and written in Sharpie on our colorful sticky notes. Even good old George, campus’ most famous writer, got into the writing spirit.

Note by note, the windows and boards were filling up! At Fenwick, we even started running out of room inside. So our team of volunteers decided to place some of the answers on the outside of the library. They talked with students and professors alike; they even met a couple of dogs along the way!

Like we’ve been seeing in our Writers of Mason profiles, the writers we met at NDOW demonstrated just how diverse our campus’ writing culture is.  Certainly, some of the notes repeated similar ideas, but others took us by surprise. Here are some samples of what people shared:

  • #whyIwrite: to express my ideas, to share my passion and give some to others, quoting Aeschylus, to tell the truth and tell stories of those who aren’t able to, to better understand the world, because my voice is heard 10x more when it’s on paper, to outpour an expression of my soul,
  • #whatIwrite: stories, scientific purposes, 100 emails a day, self-exploration, creative stories, prayers to God, about my cancer experience, my sanity, music and lyrics, haikus, grant proposals, social media posts, YA fiction,
  • #howIwrite: without writing there would be no heroes, creating new life, all at once, with pretty pens and tea, with so so much coffee, collaboratively, transforming what already exists into something new,
  • #whenIwrite: between 8 and 10 p.m., everyday and in so many ways, with a deadline approaching, inspiration hits, in the middle of the night, right when I get up, in a blind panic, early in the morning when no one is around to bother me,  escribo cuando estoy aburrido
  • #whereIwrite: in a blue moleskin, at home, on the couch with my laptop, into the universe, in Fenwick library, everywhere but the toilet, in my mind, at the park near my house, Gathering Grounds coffee shop

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In addition to these hashtags, we had fantastic engagement online all week! The WAC team had the privilege of taking over Mason’s official Twitter account (@georgemasonu) for the week to spread messages about the NDOW, writing tips in general, and specifics about writing at Mason. Each day, we tweeted every 30 minutes during business hours, making sure everyone had the chance to view the writing world at Mason. We tweeted almost 100 times the entire week thanks to help from the Mason community. However, the NDOW was a huge day for social media engagement and proved to be the most prolific. We tweeted a total of 58 times that day through Mason’s twitter, cross publishing with WAC’s twitter (@thewritingcampus). With replies and mentions, Mason’s engagement across all accounts was upwards of 250 tweets for the day.

Some of our favorite tweets included:

  • the use of our lego sets to replicate the inside of an MFA workshop and establish a swashbuckling writer ship
  • one professor’s appeal to writing, Broadway, and Hamilton
  • photos of the visit from over 40 middle school children from Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.
  • one volunteer’s haiku on the National Day on Writing

Our favorite post of the day had to be one by Mason’s president, Angel Cabrera. He posted a picture of himself holding up a sign saying “Scribo ergo sum” which translated from Latin means, “I write, therefore, I am.” His engagement was the highlight of our day and showcases the appreciation the administration has for the work we are doing within the wider academic community.  

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All of this couldn’t have been possible without the help of some dedicated volunteers either; a bevy of tutors from the writing center, faculty from the Composition program and the Stearns Center joined us. By the end of the day, we were all tired but we had a lot of fun talking with people across campus about writing. We can’t wait until next year’s National Day on Writing!

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Link Round-Up: WAC Staff Blog Picks

In preparation for a new school year, here are our staff blog picks from last year.  Read on for four easy-to-use teaching tips for the writing classroom.

Tom Polk, Assistant Director, recommends Mini and Mighty: How the One-Minute Paper can Transform Your Teaching.

In this article, Tom Sura recommends using a simple index card to assess students’ understanding. He uses them at the end of each class to review what students believe was most important and any questions they have.

Tom Polk writes: “what I love about Professor’s Sura strategy is its simplicity.  We often think and talk of teaching with writing as an arduous endeavor, but the one-minute paper doesn’t really require planning, time, or technology.  It, however, can provide critical insight into our students’ learning while also developing their practice of reflection if used regularly.  For professors who are looking for an easy way to start using writing as a pedagogical tool, the one-minute paper is a good place to start.”

Dr. Michelle LaFrance, Director, recommends Error in Student Writing: A Balanced, Developmental Approach:

Paul Corrigan encourages teachers to re-consider their marking of student errors in this piece.  By reconsidering their marking, teachers can better encourage and support students’ writing development.

“Paul’s piece reminds instructors that less is sometimes more in dealing with writers at all stages of development—a prospect that is both good pedagogy and time saving for me as an instructor,” comments Michelle.

Alisa Russel, Associate Editor of The Writing Campus, recommends Placing Writing Processes on the Wall:

Here, Donald Gallehr narrates a teaching experience in which he asked students to map out their writing process and THE writing process, thereby helping students re-consider the effectiveness of their process.

“What I love about this piece, whether you follow Dr. Gallehr’s exact activity (which he details nicely for you) or whether you modify it slightly, is that it encourages explicit discussion about writing processes,” explains Alisa.  “I think many of our students believe that more experienced or professional writers don’t engage a writing process – that words flow through them from on high. It’s all very mysterious. However, Dr. Gallehr’s activity forces students not only to recognize and name their own processes, but then evaluate them against other models.  This way we bring the “grunt-work” of writing out of the mysterious shadows and into the light for our students to better shape their processes – and hopefully produce better papers because of it.”

Emily Chambers, Graduate Research Assistant, recommends Infographics: A Fun, Multimodal Tool for Student Thinking and Writing:

Ben Causey describes how to use infographics and even employs some of his own in this article.  Ben outlines ways to use infographics in the writing classroom for pre-writing, revising, or as a stand-alone assignment.

Emily notes that “Ben describes multiple ways to use infographics in the classroom, such that they become accessible and feasible, even alongside a writing assignment or without technology. I’m excited about the ways that infographics can help students compose or revise, as well as helping them improve their technological and visual composition skills.”

Reviewing Your Pedagogy by Using Jessie Stommel’s #4wordpedagogy

When Jessie Stommel tweeted “Start by trusting students. #4wordpedagogy” and invited others to join in making four-word pedagogy statements, he began an unexpected worldwide conversation.  More than 4,500 tweets followed, with humorous, provoking, and critical comments on education today.  The Twitter conversation Jessie started shows Twitter at its best, as a tool to begin honest conversation and innovation among many.  

Many of the tweets are applicable to those who teach writing, though not so specific as to only apply to them.  Most of the tweets challenge teachers to rethink the way they approach students:

By seeing the humanity of students and the collaborative nature of teaching, teachers are prepared to work with students, not against them; to see students as fellow workers in meaning-making.  Still, teachers must acknowledge that they are for students by showing it in words or actions:

The move to acknowledge and show that students matters moves teachers to humility, and makes them able to learn alongside students.  In the writing classroom, this can look like writing alongside students, such that teachers can empathize with and build camaraderie with their fellow writers, who also happen to be students.  Many who responded to Jessie’s invitation acknowledged that this is just where teachers should be:  

Nevertheless, this working together can get messy, and others who responded pushed educators to allow students freedom in the messy process of learning:

Others proposed that these messy approaches should be student-centered and experimental:

There’s a beauty to Jessie’s challenge to write a four word pedagogy: it forces educators to zero-in on the core of their pedagogy.  As you reflect on the semester past, what are ways that your course adhered to your core pedagogy? What are ways that it got a little off course? Try writing your own #4wordpedagogy, as a way of focusing in on what matters most, then use it to re-evaluate how to move forward in your teaching.  We’d love to know what you come up with; comment below or tweet us @writingcampus.

To read Jesse’s full article, visit: https://storify.com/Jessifer/4wordpedagogy