Showing posts from November, 2009

Beyond Pen and Paper

Writing. Writing what? For whom? In what context? Through what medium? What exactly does the word “writing” encompass? As a discipline, it implies much more than formal compositions or school assignments, and by no means is it limited to a specific context or audience. Whether we realize it or not, we write to communicate constantly. Any type of writing allows us to formulate our ideas, structure them, and express them in a way that is permanent. Let’s expand our notion of writing even further. The final “product” of writing does not have to end with typed words and sentences. Writing can also be the backbone for audio and visual productions, as well as speeches and presentations. You could, for example, be writing a script that you’ll produce as a video. You could be organizing points that you want to highlight when presenting your research poster. You could be writing interview questions that you’ll use to create a podcast. One of Texas A&M’s core-curriculum re

Buenos Aires...and Writing

Entering the classroom, the typical noises of students hits me. I quietly take my corner seat, smiling inwardly at the high school flashbacks flooding my mind. The teacher walks in, greeting the class with a quick hello and asking each student about their winter vacation. This scene could take place anywhere, but for me it is the beginning of August in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where English is a foreign language. This summer, I traveled to Buenos Aires, took a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course, and taught/observed English classrooms in high schools and businesses. Buenos Aires has an obsession with learning English, which can be seen by advertisements posted along streets, slid under doors, and even found on the subte (subway) steps. As a Writing Center consultant at Texas A&M University, I was excited about teaching this skill in a foreign setting. I quickly learned that my students did not share my sentiments. In the high school classroom, I could insist they

Tutoring is a Two-Way Street

I think all of us can agree that one of the most agonizing things to happen to a writer is to NOT be able to write. Whether we can't get our thoughts out on paper, or we can't them in order, or we just don't have any thoughts to write about; the feeling can be compared to a fish out of water. We gasp for breath. We flop around helplessly. Our one desire is to return to that which sustains us. Late last month, my father passed away. He was relatively young (59) and we were not very close. But being the one who had to settle his estate, I found myself putting everything else in my life on the back burner. In the week I was handling the arrangements, my skills seemed to have left me. I wanted to write but my head was so clouded I couldn't get anything out. For the first time in a long time, I remembered what it was like to be a first-year student, struggling with a writing assignment. Suddenly, I found myself in need of the writing center. I needed to know how t

When terminology escapes you

Hello everyone, One of my recent tutoring sessions gave me some insight into a broader issue that we have been experiencing at our writing center. When tutoring very subject-specific lab reports or scientific papers, tutors often face the challenge of helping writers with papers whose subject matter is specialized and unfamiliar. My session was actually with a good friend of mine, Liz, who scheduled an appointment with me to work on a paper for her advanced medical technology class. It was a research paper riddled with anatomy and medical terms, so in trying to help Liz make sure her sentences had clarity and effectively explained their purpose, I felt stumped. Because the terminology was so unknown to me, I was limited to two tutoring strategies. The first one, zooming in on the details and fixing sentence-level grammar and syntax issues, seemed a frivolous approach to this seven-page paper. The second, zooming out and asking about the paper’s organization and structure, seemed more a

Hello Fellow Writing Center Staff

Hello Everyone: My name is Nikki Gillespie and I am a Graduate Writing Consultant for the writing center at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. My colleagues, Steve Uhler, Corey Smallwood, and I, are doing a project on technology in the writing center. We are asking anyone who participates on this site, to please fill out this brief survey on technology, as it pertains to your writing center. The survey should take you no longer than 10 or 15 minutes, and your time would be greatly appreciated, as this information will be used for statistical purposes within one of our major projects for this semester. Here is the link to the survey: Click Here to take survey If you have any questions, please feel free to pose them in the comments portion of this post. Thank you again for your time.

"Pure " Tutoring?

There seems to be a need for robust conversations around directive versus purely collaborative tutoring, not only in the realm of tutoring nonnative speakers, but across the spectrum. Shamoon and Burns, in “A Critique of Pure Tutoring”, from The Saint Martin’s Sourcebook, provide both data driven and anecdotal support for deconstructing the orthodoxy of pure, non-directive tutoring in writing centers. There is a disconnection between the views of social constructionists and practices applied in writing centers – practice not matching theory. To paraphrase what I understand to be our mission: we aim to improve the writer, not necessarily the paper. Shamoon and Burns note that “…students at different stages in their education, from beginning to advanced, are developing different skills and accumulating different kinds of information, thus making them receptive to different kinds of instruction and tutoring” (178). This comment, reinforced with research in acquisition of cognitive skills

High School Update

Hi everyone, I know it's been a while since my last post, but things are developing well at our high school satellite writing center. Since we started the satellite, we've had more students come for help on various types of writings. Students have grown accustomed to seeing us there and have responded positively to the experience. For the National Day on Writing, 15 students from Pace came to STU and spent time in the UWC celebrating with us. After the event, they created a thank you card of how much they enjoyed themselves. Some of their comments were: "I had lots of fun and learned new things. The small activities were great!" "Thanks for letting us see the importance of writing and how much fun we can have." "My first college experience! The best was getting to read my paper out loud.” Last week we helped a student with her college admissions essay. She was very happy and told her friends about it. On Friday, she came back with a sheet of paper for u


... and I am not just talking about sentences. This last week, we read the story of a consultant's dealings with a student she was tutoring in the article "Whispers of Coming and Going": Lessons from Fannie" by Anne DiPardo. Although the essay had many different themes; preparedness for tutoring, technique, minorities, self-reflection, and more, I found something more. People are fragmented. The student in this story had come from a Navajo reservation, and had been shuffled from one school to the next while growing up. She became separated from not only her family, but from her culture. Now in college, her goal is to go back and teach on the reservation. But her writing skills as well as her communication skills, are lacking drastically, and she is forced to go to the Writing Center to try to strengthen her abilities. Throughout the essay, we see Morgan, Fannie's tutor, struggle to get the student to progress in her writing. At the end of the essay we see