How to Be a Better Writer – 6 Tips from Harvard’s Steven Pinker

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Though writing is certainly one of the most complex acts humans engage in, sometimes it helps to boil the crafting of writing down to its most basic elements. When it comes to good writing, the essentials go beyond process and repetition and into the realm of psychology. Time’s Eric Barker interviewed Steven Pinker, of Harvard’s Department of Psychology, on what he considers to be the best tips for better writing. These helpful strategies are deceptively simple: things like “Don’t assume your reader knows what you already know.”

“…another bit of cognitive science that is highly relevant is a phenomenon called ‘the curse of knowledge.’ Namely, the inability that we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something that we do know. And that has been studied in various guises in the psychological literature. People assume that the words that they know are common knowledge. That the facts that they know are universally known… the writer doesn’t stop to think what the reader doesn’t know.”

How to Be a Better Writer: 6 Tips from Harvard’s Steven Pinker

Read-Around Groups: Low-Stakes and High-Impact Writing in First-Year Composition

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By Caitlin Holmes

Since Dr. José Bowen visited Mason in September 2014, I have been working to implement more of his suggestions for teaching practice into my class. I wrote previously about utilizing one such suggestion: a combination of reading, writing in response, and discussion to understand the rhetorical nature of APA style. More recently, I have experimented with another approach to improving student writing in a low-stakes environment that requires students to show the higher-order thinking skills that Dr. Bowen emphasized: read-around groups. During his workshop at Mason, Bowen reminded us that students respond well to uncertainty, failure, and experimentation, and read-around groups (or RAGs, as they are also known) certainly allow for those conditions to emerge in a productive way.

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Feedback and Revision – A Module from Eli Review

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Today we are highlighting a helpful module from Eli Review on how to understand, use, and teach informative feedback strategies and in-depth revision. Timely and explicit feedback from both teachers and peers leads not only to improved drafts, but to improved writing skills overall. Giving students the instruction they need to learn reflective skills for analyzing both their own writing and their peers’ is critical to fostering the confidence of emerging writers.

“Teaching and learning don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen within specific schools, classrooms, and cultural contexts. This is true for feedback as well.

Effective feedback requires a context in which learners have both the ability and opportunity to hear, understand, and act on that feedback. We might think about feedback rich classrooms as “safe and smart” learning contexts, or classroom communities in which students feel comfortable enough to risk engaging and learning with each other.”

Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy

Multilingual Writing Across Disciplines – an Interview with Anna Habib and Karyn Mallett – Part 2

In this series of interview questions from Mason WAC, Anna Habib, Assistant Director of Multilingual Composition, and Karyn Mallett, Associate Director of International Pathway and English Language Programs, offer some insights into their teaching practices and observations concerning multilingual composition.

Successful Approaches to Teaching Multilingual Writers:

The Challenges of Teaching Multilingual Writers:

Multilingual Writing Across Disciplines – an Interview with Anna Habib and Karyn Mallett – Part 1

In this series of interview questions from Mason WAC, Anna Habib, Assistant Director of Multilingual Composition, and Karyn Mallett, Associate Director of International Pathway and English Language Programs, offer some insights into their teaching practices and observations concerning multilingual composition.

Introduction:

Multilingual Writers at Mason:

Principles for Teaching Multilingual Writers:

Write Nerdy to Me: Utilizing Fanfiction in WAC/WID Courses

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By Caitlin Dungan

Caitlin Dungan is a PhD student in Mason’s Writing and Rhetoric PhD Program. Caitlin is a Graduate Research Assistant for Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, and her current research interests include fanfiction, digital media and rhetoric, online feedback practices, and participatory culture.

It’s interesting, perplexing, and – I think – exciting that geek culture has emerged as mainstream. Realms previously reserved for a few indoctrinated fans are now open for participation to the many. One of the side effects of this growth in fandoms is the increasing number of emergent writers embracing fanfiction as a creative outlet. As young fans pursue this unique composition practice and post their works on online forums like fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own, how much of this self-sponsored writing is informing their writing practice in the classroom?

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An Attempt at “Teaching Naked”: Implementing José Bowen in ENGH 302

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By Caitlin Holmes

Caitlin Holmes is the Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at George Mason University.  She blogs regularly about teaching here at thewritingcampus.com.  You can reach her via email at wac@gmu.edu.  

Dr. José Bowen, President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked, came to George Mason’s Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence on September 18-19. During his visit, he led a 4-hour long workshop and then delivered a keynote presentation. During his presentations, Dr. Bowen spoke passionately about the importance of integrating technology more effectively into and out of the classroom as a way to encourage student accountability for learning and – most importantly – to transform the classroom into a site of thinking, not just knowledge acquisition.

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