How “How To”s and “The Best Of”s Can Enhance Writing Instruction

When I first started the blog, Pink Curlers & Post Scripts, my main focus was to create a new avenue for my self-expression. I wanted to access a less serious side to my writing and art. I aimed to design a more “pop” version of my creative addictions with the hopes of freeing myself from the weighty pressures of academia and connecting to a more mainstream readership. As a professor, the pressure to write and sound intellectual is ever present. With the “pop” blog, I like being able to create away from these expectations.

Initially, I had no idea what I was doing; now, I have just a little more experience in the realm of blogging. I began by reading suggestions posted by other bloggers, “How to Get More Readers,” “How to Write a Good Post,” “10 Ways to Connect More with Your Readership.” I learned, for example, that blog readers enjoy and even expect a list format. Sub-headers in bold help keep the reader moving along quickly. They want the main points highlighted and easy to find. Paragraphs should appear short. Exclamation points are acceptable. Correct grammar is still highly regarded though. Images and vivid infographs carry a lot of appeal.

Inevitably, my new skills seeped into my lesson plans. The “How To” list format became an essential tool for teaching participation techniques. At the start of the semester, I struggled to gain the class participation I was used to in one particular class which was especially culturally diverse. I realized that I take my students’ abilities and desires to participate for granted. With this class, no matter how many times I reminded them that participation is part of their final grades, the students remained mute. Don’t they want to succeed? I would think, I just don’t get it.

It finally occurred to me that the confidence to participate in class is a cultural trait and a learned skill. I realized that my students in this class may have had no background knowledge about the practice of in-class participation. They were overwhelmed and at a disadvantage.

Students_QuestionMark

This is when the blogging experience came in handy. I sculpted an underwhelming “How To Participate in Class” reading which I assigned for homework. I laid out the basics of in class participation. I also offered tips, like “write down questions to ask in class the night before while you’re reading,” and “aim to make at least one comment per class.” As it turns out, the bold phrases and the list format conveyed what could have seemed like a daunting process as a simple, accessible compilation of directions and short guidance.

I’ve found that list writing can not only benefit teacher to student communication but also the student’s brainstorming process. If I ask them to bring a list of supporting details or a list of the best sentences from a reading etc. they can access precise details from reading more easily. Furthermore, the implementation of the list information then assists their writing processes. It’s less restrictive than constructing an outline, with less academic (aka boring–to them) connotations, yet it’s just as effective for gathering material as well as enabling research and close reading.

As frustrated as I am with the open laptops and constant phone grazing they do, at least I can connect some of my priorities to theirs. Perhaps the same liberty I feel while blogging can enrich their creation processes too.

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