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Patterns Created with Words

 

  1. Brief Description

 The purpose of Patterns Created with Words is to provide a developmental through intermediate composition text that offers students a “hands-on” structured approach to reading and writing. The integration of reading and writing has come to the forefront of teaching composition. The two processes are integrated tightly together and any text that fails to connect the two falls short of current pedagogy.  Yet many current composition texts fail to integrate the two, leaving students at a loss.

 

Patterns Created with Words offers students a structured “hands-on” writing and reading process that connects to the student’s own writing. Most composition textbooks leave out this critical step. For example, if you pick up any composition text and turn to “pre-writing,” most textbooks will show the different types of  pre-writing such as clustering, listing, and free writing and will then ask students to attempt it on their. This seems like a simple task to those of us who are experienced writers.  But developmental and beginning freshman students are often not sure how to begin.  Although they have the intellect to create the writing assignment, they get stuck in the actual process. They can create the list or cluster, but they do not grasp how to connect the information they have created into their writing assignment.

 

Patterns Created with Words provides structured lessons that guide students through the creation of their own writing process that includes the integration of reading and writing as well as the integration of personal observations and writing for developmental students. The lessons for Patterns Created with Words are based on methods that incorporate my own pedagogies along with the pedagogies of Mina Shaughnessy and David  Bartholomae . The methodologies focus on the observations of patterns in both reading and writing. This combines with the practical experience I have accumulated by teaching composition for the past nine years.

 

B. Outstanding Features

To prevent inexperienced students from becoming overwhelmed, Patterns Created with Words offers structured activities that guide students through the writing and reading processes. The book explains the writing process in traditional terms, but gives new meanings to these terms. For example, Patterns Created with Words asks students to make specific observations as opposed to randomly free writing. The observations may be about a personal topic in the case of a personal paragraph or essay, or the observations may be about a reading. By making observations, students learn how to integrate reading observations or personal observations into their writing.

 

To begin the process, students respond to specific questions that guide them toward the discovery of ideas. In this way students are guided through the process of prewriting using a clear “hands-on” approach. This is followed by creating a generalization statement about the observations whether in response to a reading or a personal topic. The generalization statement will become a topic sentence in the case of a paragraph or a thesis statement in the case of an essay. The process continues as students prove or explain their generalization statement. Then students select illustrations from their reading observations, or personal observations to create the details that support the generalization statement. This way connections are made between the reading and writing assignment, adding coherence to the student's paragraph or essay. This type of sequence gives students a method of creating their own reading observations that will be shaped into the writing assignment. The readings are thematic and sequential. This means that as students begin a journey to find meaning on one particular topic; the next reading will take them further into the same topic to deepen the level of learning and to reach a comfort level with the topic. Besides showing, defining, and giving examples, Patterns provides specific steps to guide students. As students become experienced at reading and writing, the steps will begin to occur naturally. 

 

Grammar lessons are based on traditional methods but include identification of patterns of sentences and words as opposed to only memorization of abstract rules. For example, students will practice sentence embedding exercises to avoid the creation of fragments. By doing this, they will learn to recognize dependent clause and relative clause fragments. Sentence linking exercises teach students to coordinate sentences. Subject-verb agreement is taught by teaching students the difference between two main words that end with an “s” - plural nouns and singular verbs. In the classroom, this is one of the most difficult concepts for students to grasp. Why does an “s” ending make a verb singular? For example, “crosses” is both a singular verb and a plural noun. “Rafael crosses the patio to find an old man.” In this case, “crosses” is a singular verb. But in the sentence “Rafael saw many crosses in the church,” the same word is a plural verb. I have had students remark that they had never understood these “s” ending words prior to using Shaughnessy’s method of teaching patterns. This methodology is not found in any current composition text.

 

One last important aspect of the grammar lessons is they will also be integrated into the writing assignments. Every single composition text on the market teaches grammar through the presentation of rules and then exercises that follow. The exercises may be extensive in number but they are not tied into student writing. Patterns Created with Words ties one or two aspects of grammar into each writing assignment. For example, after teaching students how to coordinate and subordinate sentences, they will be asked to create examples of these types of sentences in their writing assignment. They will underline these sentences and bring them to peer review workshops to share with their group. By applying sentence structure and basic grammar rules to their own writing assignments, students show a deeper understanding and greater retention of the concepts being taught.

 

C. Apparatus  

As discussed above, the book will focus on writing and reading strategies. The different steps of the strategies will be supported with examples and exercises followed by a writing activity that will demonstrate student understanding of the skill being taught. Objectives for the chapter will be stated in a graphic at the beginning of the chapter. A chapter summary, also in a graphic, will appear at the end. Questions to the readings will guide students to discover the main points of the essay or story and will guide students toward discovery of a particular theme, which will start them down the path of critical thinking. An answer book as well as an instructor’s manual will be included. A companion web site will also be available.

 

For more information on Patterns Created with Words or for more sample chapters please contact the author.

 

           Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations. New York; Oxford University Press, 1977.

           Bartholomae, David. Writing on the Margins Essays on Composition and Teaching. Boston, Bedford/St. Martins, 2005