‘The College Writing Toolkit’

Many of the students in today’s college writing classroom are career-oriented and have little interest in literature; they also may not be native speakers of English. A traditional approach to teaching writing — through reading and writing about classic literature — may not reach these students.

But that’s the audience that Martha Pennington and Pauline Burton hope to help instructors reach with their new anthology, The College Writing Toolkit: Tried and Tested Ideas for Teaching College Writing (Equinox). Pennington, a professor of writing and linguistics and Georgia Southern University, and Burton, a lecturer at the Community College of City University in Hong Kong, have compiled 18 essays from 25 teachers at a diverse range of institutions, from the University of Vienna to Miami Dade College. Each essay outlines a different assignment or in-class exercise.

The first section is entirely dedicated to writing personal essays, which the authors see as an easier way than analyzing literature for students to learn the basics of writing. Olivia Archibald, an English professor at Saint Martin’s University in Washington State, suggests a personal essay on a transformative life experience as the students’ first assignment, as a means of discouraging students from "dumping" — writing four pages of researched facts and saving all of their analysis for the second-to-last paragraph. It’s more likely that students will see the value in interweaving facts and observations with reflection in a personal essay, she argues.

"I am interested in having students hone their ability to effectively balance evaluative claim with specific detail," Archibald writes. "In a good college paper, the thesis does not just appear in the introduction and conclusion; it is interwoven throughout the essay via such strategies as transitional moves and evaluation/reflection of the evidence presented."

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