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FYW Teaching Philosophy

Students in our first weeks together often tell me they hate to write. Insecurities push some of these students off the page, and others tell me they find writing boring. I welcome their challenges and experiences into the classroom in the same way I welcome the different struggles of students who already consider themselves writers.

As a writing instructor, I encourage students to engage with new ideas and refine old beliefs through respectful discourse and reflection on their writing processes. I hope to foster critical thinking skills through a student-centered pedagogical approach with emphasis on co-creation of knowledge.

Developing Student-Researchers

Throughout their research and writing, I foster writing as a collaborative and social activity (Cooper 1989). I create activities such as group writing exercises and research-based “jam comics.” These activities create an active learning environment and promote classroom community.

Another way I create the classroom community is through discussions of my own research and writing – the struggles and eventual joys. I personalize lesson plans with memes and pop culture references. In a recent lesson on James Gee’s theory of discourse communities, we analyzed the Plastics from Mean Girls. We later connected the Plastics to Ann Johns’ issues of authority (or, as the Plastics say, “You can’t sit with us.”).

Although I love a good Mean Girls reference, I adapt lesson plans to class interests. I regularly ask for student feedback, and this input guides our conversation and their research.

My students have researched topics such as cosplay genres, the rhetorical nature of curse words, and the discourse of political hashtags. Students participate in peer-reviews, feedback sessions, conferences, and reflections.

This reflective aspect increases metacognition and an understanding of, as Jody Shipka describes it, “how talk and written text impacts composing practices” (227). Students talk to me about their work and writing process as they deepen rhetorical knowledge.

Rhetorical Awareness

Rhetorical knowledge in a digital age crosses multiple modalities, so I incorporate technology in the classroom to expand writing toolkits. I have taught Twitter threads as literacy narratives, used WordPress for ePortfolios, and assigned Instagram essays.

I connect these modalities to conversations on multiliteracies and then incorporate these concepts into rhetorical analysis and communities of practice. As well as teach multimodal compositions, I also allow for flexibility in the delivery of assignments. Students have turned in podcasts, websites, videos, songs, paintings, poetry, mosaics, and other compositions connected to their writing and literate activities.

Community-based Pedagogies

My teaching philosophy stems from the community-based pedagogical training I received as a graduate student at the University of New Orleans. At UNO, I studied compositional theory, attended monthly mentor sessions, teaching circles, and worked at the Writing Center for a year.

This training helped me understand the importance of empowering student voices with various literacy experiences. My current classes acknowledge these literacies with a selection of diverse readings to validate individual experiences and dialects, or as Peter Elbow says, inviting in the mother tongue (643). I hope students leave my class confident in their voices. I also hope to equip them with skills to address rhetorical situations in their future classes and careers.

Works Cited

Cooper, Marilyn M. “The Ecology of Writing.” College English, vol. 48, no. 4, 1986, pp. 364–375. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/377264.

Elbow, Peter. “Inviting the Mother Tongue: Beyond ‘Mistakes,’ ‘Bad English and Wrong Language.’”Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. Ed. Victor Villanueva and Kristin L. Arola. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2011. 641-672.Print.

Shipka, Jody. “Beyond Text and Talk: A Multimodal Approach to First-Year Composition. “First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Eds. Deborah Coxwell-Teague and Ronald Lunsford. South Carolina: Parlor Press, 2014. 211-235. Print.

For more information, please email: tmgilles@olemiss.edu

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