Using Multigenre Essays in the Basic Writing Classroom
How can Multigenre projects be used in a basic writing class to help students make connections between personal/academic writing?
Students are placed into basic writing classes for a variety of reasons. Some such reasons are that they have been taught there is one accepted way to write (Del Principe, Elbow); they don’t know the language of academia (Bartholomae); or maybe they are confused about what writing should be or what it is about (Shaugnessy 10). Whatever the reason they are placed into a basic writing class, they are placed there and teachers need to guide these students to think critically; use problem solving techniques; discover ideas for themselves; use their own voice; and make decisions about their writing that comes from discovery; and see that writing is a process. (Elbow, Del Principe, Shaugnessy, Gray-Rosendale, Carter, Bizzell, Davis and Shadle). One way to do this is through Multigenre writing projects.
*Allow for discovery of how students can create writing in a new and different way
*Encourage students to think for themselves
*Make decisions about what to write and how to write based on the topic
*Inquiry method is used
*They are able to choose the way they see the project looking
As the above ideas indicate, basic writers are labeled basic because they may not think of themselves as writers; they sometimes see writing as something other people do, and they feel a disconnect from who they are and what they write. In order to get basic writing students to think about themselves as writers they need to begin by looking at how they feel about writing and why. Angela Carter points out that actual writing is not often included in the curriculum of basic writing classes. Carter and others state that in basic writing classes students should write in a variety of ways and forms.
Because Multigenre/Multiwriting insists that students look at content, as well as form, it is a great way to get students who are placed in a basic writing class to write. They are shown that the academic community values all types of writing, and they are given a chance to excel in the writing process because in Multigenre writing emphasis is placed on their ideas (what is important to them) instead of indicating that they have to write to a form. Patricia Bizzell points out that “to prepare students now for success in school, (and after) it may no longer be necessary to inculcate traditional academic discourse. Rather experimenting with discourse forms that mix the academic and non-academic” (“Basic Writing and the issue of Correctness” 5).
Multigenre writing is very much like the compliance/resistance model that Peter Elbow discusses in his essay “Illiteracy at Oxford and Harvard.” Elbows point is that while students want to comply with the writing, part they often resist the conventional part of writing; Multigenre writing “allows, permits, supports” students to conform and resist at the same time. The conforming comes in the form of “doing an assignment” and the resistance comes from the idea of creating the project the way the student feels it should be formed. When students feel they have nothing new to say it is restrictive, but the Multigenre project frees this restriction. If a student is moved by a piece of information or event that inspires them to write a song, poem, or letter about the topic the Multigenre project gives them that freedom of choice.
One of the hardest things in the writing process for students to “learn” or feel comfortable with is the revision process. Often when teachers have students do revision exercises students feel that there is something wrong with their writing. As Natalie Goldberg writes about the revision process “(n)aturally, there should be a place for editing and revision, but when we hear the word editor, we think, ‘Okay. I let the creator in me go wild, but now I’m going to get back to the proper, conventional, rational state of mind and finally get things in order.’ DON’T do that . . . . Instead, when you go over your work, become a Samurai, a great warrior with the courage to cut out anything that is not present . . . see revision as “envisioning again” (174–175). We want students to see that revision is a natural part of the writing process so the activities should reflect this idea.
As educators of basic writers (or any writers for that matter) the way that writing is taught should not shape the writer, but the writer should shape how they view writing as well as how the writing should take shape (Gray-Rosendale). This is what Multigenre writing helps basic writers achieve—a model that they create for themselves that is not dictated to them by others.
Multigenre writing is for all students, but especially for those who:
---It is the thrill of discovery, not the agony of defeat
—Ultimately it is about the enjoyment of writing
Key words for searching: teaching writing, multigenre writing, better writing, poetry, lesson plans, struggling writers, college writing, basic writers, first year writing, research, writing imporement, multiwriting, enjoying writing, creative writing
Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” Writing on the Margins. Boston:
--- “The Tidy House.” Writing on the Margins. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins 2005: 312–326.
Bizzell, Patricia. “Basic Writing and the Issue of Correctness or, What to do with
---“Hybrid Academic Discourses: What, Why, How.” Compostion Studies
Carter, Shannon. “Redefining Literacy as a Social Practice.”
Davis, Robert and Mark Shadle. “ ‘Building a Mystery’: Alternative Research Writing and the
--- Teaching Multiwriting: Researcing and Composing with Multiple Genres,
Del Principe, Ann. “Paradigm Clashes in Basic Writing.” Journal of Basic Writing
Elbow, Peter. “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A conflict in Goals.”
--- “Illiteracy at Oxford and at Harvard.” Everyone Can Write. New York: Oxford
Gray-Rosendale, Laura. “Back to the Future.” Journal of Basic Writing 25
Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2005.
Harrington, Susanmarie. “The Representation of Basic Writers in Basic Writing Scholarships.”
Hebb, Judith. “Mixed Forms of Academic Discourse: a Continuum of Language
Romano, Tom. Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers.
Shaughnessy, Mina. Introduction, Expecttions. Errors and Expectations: A