Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Glenn, Cheryl, and Melissa A. Goldthwaite. The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing

Glenn, Cheryl, and Melissa A. Goldthwaite. The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

Though this book is essentially aimed at a reader who will be teaching a traditional composition course, it is also quite useful for anyone who uses writing in the classroom, which is just about all of us. The first part of the book focuses on day to day issues of teaching writing, and offers numerous examples of sound advice from the very beginning such as these words of wisdom from the preface: “First, writing is teachable; it is an art that can be learned, rather than a mysterious ability that one either has or does not have. Second, students learn to write from continual trial-and-error writing and almost never profit from lectures, from teacher-centered classes, or from studying and memorizing isolated rules. Third, the theories and methods included here should represent strategies that work in the classroom” (v). Particularly useful for our current concerns about student writing are the sections that deal with how to create a good writing assignment (100-102), how to utilize revision for better writing (104-107), and how to best evaluate and grade writing (114-147). The second part of the book focuses on rhetorical practices, and serves as a good theoretical introduction to rhetoric that may be tremendously useful in enabling you and your students to view writing in your courses from a different perspective that may prevent writing assignments from merely being seen as rote exercises. Sections of note include advice on using more informal writing assignments as tools of learning, particularly when developing paper topics (151-173); introducing students to rhetorical forms that can aid in the organization of their writing (174-198); distinguishing among sources in research (239); and noting the difference between formative and normative responses to writing, with formative responses aiding students in developing their writing and normative responses serving as the more traditional, final evaluation for a grade (267). The third and final part of the book is an anthology of classic essays from the discipline of composition that provides a rough overview of how theories about writing and approaches to teaching it have evolved in the past four decades. The essays explore various topics such as the unique learning opportunities of writing, errors in student writing, approaches to teaching grammar, peer writing groups, responding to student writing, diversity and different language varieties in the classroom, changing notions of literacy, utilizing service learning, new media texts, and more. We have a copy of this book in our writing instruction mini-library in the USP office.

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