This annotated bibliography focuses on the history and strategies of teaching basic writing. The original intention was to find research discussing different methods and tips for teaching basic writing. Although there are many handbooks, scholarly articles, and case studies detailing how to teach writing, few of these were specifically geared toward teachers of basic writing. Instead, many sources discussed the history of teaching of basic writing and sprinkled in some general strategies along the way. In determining a source’s credibility, I paid attention to the caliber of the journal in which the author published, the other sources cited by the author, where and what the authors teach, and how often and in what capacity they had published before. This bibliography should appeal to teaching assistants, graduate students, first-year teachers, and even professors interested in teaching basic writing, especially at the community college or open-access university. The following provides an overview of the politics of basic writing and a few potential pedagogical practices.
Fearn, Leif and Nancy Farnan. “When Is a Verb? Using Functional Grammar to Teach Writing.”
Journal of Basic Writing 26.1 (2007): 63-81. This scholarly journal article describes a study determining the differences between traditional grammar instruction – which focuses on identification, description, and definition – and functional grammar instruction. The authors are professors of teacher education at
Gorrell, Donna. “Controlled Composition for Basic Writers.” College Composition and
Communication 32.3 (1981): 308-316. In this scholarly journal article, Gorrell, who has written two articles and two book reviews for CCC, describes a method of teaching remedial writing, controlled composition, that has proved successful in teaching ESL. It is useful “for students whose biggest writing problem is lack of attention to written forms” (308). Step one is to exactly transcribe a 150-200 word essay. If there are no problems, Step two includes requests to change things like number, case, or tense. In Step three, these grammatical manipulations become more complex. Studies at
Hillocks, George. “Some Basics for Thinking about Teaching Writing.” Teaching Writing as
Holladay, Sylvia. “Order Out of Chaos: Voices from the Community College.” Composition in
the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Eds. Bloom, Lynn Z. Lynn Z, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White.
Lunsford, Andrea A. “The Content of Basic Writers’ Essays.” College Composition and
Communication 77.8 (1988): 77-79. This short essay by Stanford’s Director of Writing and Rhetoric is a rousing article that summarizes some of the strategies of Bartholomae, Donald Graves, Petrosky, Mike Rose, and Mina Shaughnessy. It calls readers/teachers to be more aware of their students. Lunsford reminds us that students’ submitting texts opens them to vulnerability. She recommends Mike Rose’s idea of expanding the idea of writing for remedial students rather than restricting it (79). In a few pages, she reminds us that basic writers tend to “have less opportunity to read and write” (77) and tells us to encourage students to write often and to practice. Teachers need to allow for the transition between speech discourse and writing discourse; students need to understand the difference between these discourses before they can be successful.
Rigolino, Rachel and Penny Freel. “Re-Modeling Basic Writing.” Journal of Basic Writing 26.2
(2007): 49-72. These two professors at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, an artsy upstate city, describe current pedagogical models for basic writing and their pros and cons. Then they propose their model, the Supplemental Writing Workshop (SWW) which had existed for ten years at the time of their article’s publication (51). The workshop is designed to increase intellectual interaction among faculty and fellow students (57). This program set-up includes a regular classroom setting in which students learn to write in different genres, work with different conventions, and learn how to do research in the Academy. To differentiate this from other programs, though, there is a workshop hour connected to the course which is more student-focused. In this computer lab, faculty members and tutors, usually graduate students, interact with the undergraduates in a less formal environment. Tutors are seen almost as intermediaries. Here the students are encouraged to engage in pre-writing and incubation. Subjective assessments of this program after ten years indicate that students have more confidence, more pride in their work, better voice, and a greater appreciation for the act of writing for its own sake.
Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations.
is the first seminal work on basic writing and most other authors in this bibliography refer to Shaughnessy. Her book is “mainly an attempt to be precise about the types of difficulties to be found in basic writing (BW) papers at the outset, and beyond that, to demonstrate how the sources of those difficulties can be explained without recourse to such pedagogically empty terms as ‘handicapped’ or ‘disadvantaged’”(4). In each of her chapters – Handwriting and Punctuation, Syntax, Common Errors, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Beyond the Sentence – Shaughnessy 1) gives examples of the range of problems under each heading, 2) determines or guesses at the causes of these problems, and 3) offers suggestions for teachers. She uses a lot of examples, feeling that they can be some of the best teaching tools. She operates under the assumption that for basic writing students, “academic writing is a trap, not a way of saying something to someone” (7). Her tone throughout this major work is knowledgeable, sensitive, flexible, hopeful, and humble.
Soliday, Mary. “Ideologies of Access and the Politics of Agency.” Mainstreaming Basic Writers:
Politics and Pedagogies of Access. Ed. Gerri McNenny.
Zeller, Robert. “Developing the Inferential Reasoning of Basic Writers.” College
Composition and Communication 38.2 (1987): 343-346. In this scholarly journal article, Zeller, a professor at Southeast Missouri State and follower of Andrea Lunsford (also in this bibliography) first explains why inferential reasoning is valuable in basic writing courses and then anecdotally talks about how he uses inferential reasoning in his own classroom. “We should not underestimate the cognitive development basic writers bring to the writing class,” he asserts (346). “Most of them are already good at drawing inferences; they just do not realize that they are doing it. What these students need are assignments that build on their ability and give them practice in analyzing and synthesizing.”