There are many things that I want my students to take away from my class, but the most important can be summed up in three words: writing is real. Writing is a real process that takes effort, hard work, dedication and time. Real writing is not something that is accomplished quickly or easily. I want my students to understand they may not get everything right the first time. In order to successfully teach my students the understanding of real writing, my philosophy of composition is one situated in modality, adaptation, trust and hands-on practice.
Due to my background in fine arts, I have always been fascinated by the world of mixed media, from the processes the artists go through to choose or appropriate the particular media they use (whether it be computer graphics, paint, ink, glue, cloth, metal, rubber or a ready-made object like a book) to their application and use of it in the work they are creating. These artists start with a group of diverse objects and media and form them into a cohesive whole. They use multiple modes of accomplishing their end result showing many parallels between an artist’s creative process and a writer’s creative process. This type of modality is one that I utilize in all of my classroom lessons as well as by assigning a multimodal final research project to my students. I intentionally combine multiple modes of delivering my lessons such as lecture, hands-on activity, group work and individual practice as well as combine modes of technology to communicate the content to the class. Since writing instruction is something students typically associate with traditional lecture methods, by integrating technology and multiple modes of presentation I strive to integrate historical writing practices into more modern methods of modality. This approach most often results in the students being more engaged and understanding the material presented. For example, in presenting a lesson on persuasive writing using ethos, pathos and logos I combined instructional video, power point, paper handouts and group practice. I believe it is extremely important to include the use of technology into the classroom as a way to connect to students. Many of them spend hours of personal time on the internet or with other modes of media such as smart phones or iPods. By using multiple modes to present writing concepts it helps promote student interest and connect to their personal world thus making the writing process more real.
Additionally, I apply a multimodal approach of composition in my classroom. Students are assigned a final multimodal project in which they integrate visual elements into their formal essays as well as conduct multiple modes of primary and secondary research. In using a multimodal approach to enhance formal subject areas, I strive to facilitate the building of important transferable connections for my students. Many of the texts students are exposed to whether via the internet or print material are in fact multimodal and include some type of visual elements. Since students are responsible for integrating and creating visual multimodal elements into their formal papers, the assigned tasks are helping to immerse them even further in the material and build an even stronger understanding of real writing. This approach also facilitates my position as a co-learner in my classroom. My students help teach me about the many uses of technology just as I attempt to teach them how to use it. In the end, I am gladly learning right along with them.
My method of pedagogical adaptation is rising to meet changing class dynamics, learning pace and understanding of material. I believe it is necessary to build a strong foundation in traditional composition practices and philosophies, but once formed, what rises from the foundation should be adaptable always answering to the instructions effectiveness and evaluation to see if change needs to occur. For example, I noticed some of my students were struggling with integrating source material and writing thesis statements even after I had presented my lessons and they had practiced the concepts. To help them further understand I reviewed the material again by adapting the lesson I had previously used to help them understand the material in a different way. In the end, my students were more comfortable with the concepts.
Furthermore, a key component of my classroom is trust. I help establish a strong sense of trust in my class by being consistent in providing feedback on assignments, answering questions and being available outside of class. My students come from many different backgrounds and have many outside activities and commitments. I always encourage students to email me outside of class if they have a problem or question. But it is not just enough that they initiate the communication. It is my job to increase the established trust and always answer them back. I view my students as not only student learners but as my helpers and evaluators. I want them to feel that what they have to contribute to the writing conversation(s) and their opinions matter. Halfway through the semester I “take the pulse” of my class by having students complete an anonymous survey of how they think the class is going. I stress to them that I really want their opinions and constructive feedback on a range of things from activities and lessons to concepts being covered. After compiling the results of the evaluations, I let them know how I will be utilizing their suggestions. In this way, they know that I am really listening and that I care about what they have to say.
Finally, by scaffolding my lessons and allowing important time for hands-on practice my students are able to connect the lesson to its actual application in a composed paper. Building such connections between lesson and application to the “real” assignments is extremely important to facilitate true transfer and learning. For example when teaching a lesson on organizing and drafting I conclude the lesson with students completing their own personal organizing and drafting worksheet directly tied to the paper they are writing. This allows them to see the application of the lesson in direct relation to their own personal writing.
Real writing is not always getting everything “right” but rather about learning something new, relating understanding and proceeding to develop or expand the information with evaluation, analysis and study. I purposely use myself and my journey as a writer to illustrate those concepts. I share with students situations in which I didn’t always get writing “right” by giving examples of the writing I produced as an undergraduate and graduate student. This strategy helps show them an additional glimpse into the realness of the writing process. By integrating a multimodal pedagogy in my classroom I am able to challenge students showing them writing is not always a cut and dried but rather one that is a real, challenging and rewarding.
My name is Kristin Bradley. I am a photographer, designer, writer, avid reader, mother and constant artistic dabbler. This blog contains samples of my writing.