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Pedagogy 5.3 (2005) 525-532
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My Three Cs
[Works Cited for Roundtable]
As a new first-year composition (FYC) teacher, I've learned that teaching writing takes exercise, endurance, experience, and a text that works for students and the teacher. Much of my frustration in teaching my first sections of FYC stems from the department-designated text I have to use. Although it offers rhetorical information and models, it was the first text I had to "try on," and it just doesn't fit my developing pedagogy. I know—from a teacher's and not-too-distant student's perspective—that what students want is clear, exact instruction, a problematic charge at best. With little experience and a text that is as confusing to me as it is to my students, providing this feels like an impossible challenge. That's why, come fall, I'm comforted to have my three Cs by my side—concision, connections, and conceivability—in the form of Axelrod and Cooper's Concise Guide to Writing to help me deal with the challenges of FYC more confidently.
True to its title, the Concise Guide (now in its third edition) is a well-rounded, step-by-step writing course in a succinct, narrow volume. Its six essay-assignment chapters, five writing-strategy chapters, and collection of student texts work to provide thorough, explicit writing suggestions, activities, [End Page 525] and models that meet students at their level. When direction and flexibility are the new teacher's (admittedly conflicting) ideals, the Concise Guide's open yet detailed approach to recursive writing allows structure as well as freedom for teaching and learning. Exemplifying the relationships among reading, writing, and thinking, the Concise Guide and its ancillary, Sticks and Stones, provide models that are readable and relatable, challenging and multifaceted, as well as assignment specifications, journal prompts, collaborative activities, invention and revision suggestions, discussion questions, and writing strategies. With all of this housed between the covers of two inexpensive volumes, the Concise Guide and its companion text have become, for me, a tentative answer to the inexperienced instructor and FYC student's call for concise, connected, and conceivable writing instruction within the confines of a single semester. In short, the Concise Guide is the perfect parent for a teacher in her infancy.
How It Helps Me
The "WPA Outcomes for First-Year Composition Statement" (1999) de-scribes the skills students should develop in an FYC course, including those under the categories of "Rhetorical Knowledge," "Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing," and "Processes."1 Upon completion, students should understand writing concepts like purpose, audience, situation/perspective, format and structure, voice, and genre. They should be able to use reading and writing for inquiry and communication, understand writing as a series of tasks, integrate their ideas with others', and understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power. Finally, students should be able to practice flexible, open strategies for writing, be able to analyze and critique writing, and consider criticism from others (61–62). The Concise Guide meets these objectives, and in doing so, also meets those set forth by typical FYC syllabi.
At present, what I want in a rhetoric is simplicity. Because my limited teaching experience has sometimes left me feeling adrift, I appreciate that the Concise Guide tells me and my students what to do. As a new teacher, it is difficult to approach a writing course holistically, and the Concise Guide helps me do this through its two parts—"Guides to Writing" and "Writing Strategies."
For example, the assignment chapters in part 1 follow a common layout progressing through invention, drafting, and revising. They begin with a description of genre features, writing tasks, applications to real life, and examples of how students might use the genre in their courses, community, [End Page 526] and careers. "Explanatory writing presents information, confidently and efficiently, with the purpose of educating the reader about the subject," one chapter begins. "Since it deals almost exclusively with...