English 4790, Summer I 2010

Teaching Writing in Secondary Schools


Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

Paulo Freire from Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Learning to write can empower students to trust and value their own words and voice, to inquire more deeply into knowledge and ideas, to be creative, to better understand themselves and the world around them, and to speak out clearly and cogently on topics that matter.

Facilitating the power of writing will be the focus of this section of English 4790 Teaching Writing in the Secondary Schools. Aspiring and practicing teachers will write about their own experiences learning to write, learn about leading writing workshops, effective ways to improve student writing, and help make writing meaningful. We'll think about how to help secondary students meet Michigan and national standards. We'll focus, too, on writing in the digital age and using new tools for composing, collaboration, revision, and publication, and draw on research in teaching of writing.

The work we do will help you develop your pedagogical content knowledge in English education.

Class will be held in a wireless, laptop classroom in Brown Hall specifically designed for English education courses. This room will allow us to integrate technology into language arts teaching in a "classroom of the future." Our class will be organized by our on-line syllabus that also serves as an electronic, hyperlinked, textbook. Students will work extensively with new digital writing platforms.

Technological change is reshaping the world our students will be living in, as this 2006 -- and already dated! -- video indicates:


Course discussions will be significantly extended in the class on-line discussion forum on the English Companion Ning, a remarkable resource with, at the time our course begins, 16,000 English teacher members.

As the capstone experience for English Education majors, this course entails an exciting variety of professional activities and responsibilities. You should join NCTE, MCTE, and/or MRA and read regularly the English Journal or Voices from the Middle.

I have created resources that maybe helpful to you in your journey toward certification and employment as a secondary English teacher. With former students I have created an extensive wiki about seeking a job teaching secondary English and a webpage of information for aspiring teachers. Information about the Michigan Teacher Certification test is available on the MTTC website, and on the MTTC page on the English Job wiki. You may also want to review the WMU teacher education Program Goals, which are the basis for the evaluation of intern teaching.

This highly condensed summer semester course offers 4-credit hours at double speed. We are meeting 7 hours per week in class, with substantial reading, course work, and meetings with student groups outside of class time. It will difficult to be successful in in this class if you are taking other courses or working many hours.

Class participation is vital in 4790 and one class meeting of a summer course equals a full week during the regular semester. Missing more than 2 classes will lower the grade and missing more than 3 classes may lead to failing.

This course will follow WMU policies regarding academic honesty.

Students will need to purchase a five dollar fee card from the bookstore, and turn that card into the professor, to offset English Department copying expenses.

WMU has many resources to foster student health and well being. I support the Safe on Campus environment (387-2123), and I recommend The Last Closet for gay and straight future teachers. If at any point in the semester if you feel stress, English 4790 does offer free on-line therapy from Eliza!

My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.


Atwell, Nancie. In the Middle Second Edition. (Boynton/Cook, 1998)

Beers, Kylene, Robert Probst, and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. (Heinemann, 2007)

Christensen, Linda. Teaching for Joy and Justice: Re-Imagining the Language Arts Classroom. (Rethinking Schools, 2009)

$5 Copy Card

Major Assignments

Class & Ning Participation

Autoethnographic Literacy Narrative

Responding to Student Paper Assignment

Teaching Writing Presentation

Writing for Change Unit Plan






Electronic Syllabus

May 10 Monday: Introductions

Introductions, Planning the course, Autoethnography, Ning

May 12 Wednesday: Students, 21st Century Workplace, & Teaching Writing

Before class:

1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus, including all assignments. Bring any questions about the syllabus and assignments to class.

2. Familiarize yourself with the Autoethnography / Literacy Narrative Assignment.

3. Read: Adolescent Literacy chapters 2 ("Flying Blind" by Chris Crutcher), 10 ("Teaching English in a Flat World" by Jim Burke), and 12 ("Teaching Writing Your Way" by Donald Murray)

4. Join English Companion Ning and Respond to Allen's blog on "Teaching English in a "Flat" World"

5. Join NCTE and subscribe to the English Journal.

Learn about Friedman's The World is Flat, from the man himself:


Meet Jim Burke:

Joyce Davidson Case Study

Writing Dialogue: 8 Tips, Punctuating, Not Difficult

May 17 Monday: Beginning Technology and Writing Workshop

1. Read: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell chapters 1-4 (to page 118)

2. Read: Adolescent Literacy chapters 14 ("Unleashing Potential with Emerging Technologies" by Sara Kajder)

3. Respond on Ning about your technology platform(s) and prepare to discuss with the class

May 19 Wednesday: Writing Workshop

1. Read: In the Middleby Nancie Atwell chapters 5-6 (pages 118-217)

2. Respond on Ning item In the Middle

3. Optional listen to Troy Hicks on the Digital Workshop

May 24 Monday: Writing Genres

1. Read: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell chapters 10-14 (pages 331-455)

2. Respond on Ning item In the Middle

May 26 Wednesday: Responding

1. Read: In the Middle chapters 7-9 (pages 217-331)

2. Read: "Rethinking a Writing Teacher's Expertise" Maja Wilson (English Journal, Jan 2010)

3. Respond on Ning item In the Middle

May 31 Monday: Memorial Day No Class

June 2 Wednesday: After Atwell

1. Read: Adolescent Literacy "Afterward" by Nancie Atwell, chapters 13 ("Writing Commonsense Matters" by Linda Rief), 11 ("Teaching Writing from the Inside" by Tom Romano), 9 ("One Teacher to One Student" by Harvey Daniels)

2. Responding to Student Writing Due

3. Respond on Ning

Meet Tom Romano:


Tom Romano's site on Multigenre Writing.

Meet Harvey Daniels:


June 7 Monday: Understanding and Learning from Student Experience

1. Due: Autoethnography / Literacy Narrative Project

June 9 Wednesday: Social Justice and Writing Instruction I

1. Read: Adolescent Literacy chapter 20 ("The Role of Handover in Teaching for Democratic Participation" by Randi Bomer)

2. Read: Teaching for Joy and Justice, chapters 1-4 (to page 208)

3. Respond on Ning

Meet Linda Christensen:


June 14 Monday: Social Justice and Writing Instruction II

1. Read: Teaching for Joy and Justice, finish

2. Respond on Ning

June 16 Wednesday: Presentation / Workshops

1. Read: Writing to Learn

2. Respond on Ning

June 21 Monday: Presentation / Workshops

1. Read: Handout on Teaching Spelling

2: Read: Articles on Writing Centers:

"The Idea of a Writing Center" by Stephen M. North
College English, Vol. 46, No. 5 (Sep., 1984) pp. 433-446.

"'Our Little Secret': A History of Writing Centers, Pre- to Post-Open Admissions" by Elizabeth H. Boquet College Composition and Communication, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Feb. 1999).

"The Writers' Room: The Story of a Writing Center" by Ellen D. Kolba and Sheila C. Crowell. The English Journal, Vol. 85, No. 6 (Oct. 1996) pp. 50-53.

3. Respond on Ning: Spelling & Writing Centers

June 23 Wednesday: Presentation / Workshops

1. Read:

English Langauge Learners
Magno’s "Self-Regulation and Approaches to Learning in English Composition Writing;" Faltis & Coulter’s “Chapter 4: Learning English in an English Class” from Teaching English Learners and Immigrant Students in Secondary Schools; Sai Mahmoud Mahfouz’s "A Study of Jordanian University Students' Perceptions of Using Email Exchanges with Native English Keypals for Improving Their Writing Competency"

Packet with Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Antler

2. Respond on Ning: English Language Learners, Poetry

June 28 Monday: Final Project and Class Evaluation

1. Read about Teaching Grammar

2. Respond on Ning: Grammar and Teaching English

Reading suggested by Joe Law and Cody Piechoki:

National Capital Resource Center: Teaching Grammar
Teaching English as a Second Language: Grammar-based Perspective
Denny Sargent: Implicit Grammar Teaching Activities
Perry and Piper: Ideas for Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

3. Due: Writing For Change Unit Plan


Examine Other On-line Secondary English Methods Courses

A few additional resources -- there are so many!:

Digital Writing, Digital Teaching, Troy Hicks

Secondary Worlds, Robert Rozema

The National Writing Project

The Third Coast Writing Project

Teach Secondary Writing

Upcoming Events

Nov 18-23 NCTE National Conference, Orlando