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Rehearsing in the Writing Curriculum
Chapter 1: The Journal: A Vehicle for Cognitive Development
Chapter 2: Integrating the Journal into the Composing Curriculum

Notes taken by Nada Salem Abisamra
from "The Contemporary Writing Curriculum"
Huff & Kline - 1987

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Summary of these notes

For the beginning writer, regular, focused and intensive rehearsal is essential. Thus, the importance of the journal. Chapter 1: The Journal: A Vehicle for Cognitive Development

The journal can serve as an excellent vehicle for the type of "languaging" that promotes cognitive development.
Cognitive development: the ability to process information at increasingly complex levels of abstraction.

How does journal writing foster cognitive growth?
Before we can answer this question, we need to understand how cognitive development takes place in writing.

Model of cognitive development as it takes place in writing:
Britton and 4 other British scholars (1975) spent 5 years studying the development of writing abilities in children from age 11 through 18. They concluded that " the language by which children will govern their lives will require mental abilities that will best be developed by writing" (p. 201).
To determine what kind of writing would promote cognitive development, they found it necessary to distinguish the FUNCTIONS of language from the MODES and GENRES in which it manifests itself.

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Chapter 2: Integrating the Journal into the Composing Curriculum

Limitations of present process curricula:
1- The overwhelming preponderance of the major writing assignments are informative and persuasive, which encourages the split between "creative" writing and "school" writing, between private experience and public voice.
2- Although the predrafting, drafting, and revision model of the composing process presented in class may allow for or even require writing that ranges from the spontaneous to the carefully crafted or revised, the majority of this writing tends to be subordinated to composing a final informative or persuasive product that has been worked and reworked time and again in a highly conscious, if not self-conscious manner. => In the context of such a curriculum, it is easy to lose sight of the writer's need to write spontaneously, intuitively, and repeatedly in many styles, modes, and genres without concern for external evaluations of quality and correctness (Faigley, Miller, Meyer, & Witte, 1981).

How to integrate the use of skill-building journal into a contemporary process curriculum?

I- The development of the writer's voice:
The journal can serve as the primary vehicle inside the composing curriculum for the development of the writer's voice (Moffett and James Britton).

What is an authentic voice?

Vygotsky in "Thought and Language" (1934-1962) describes a move in the child's acquisition of language from exterior speech to inner speech and back to exterior speech.

  • When a child is learning to converse (at the age of 3 or 4) => exterior speech is the dominant vehicle of development
  • As children mature => inner speech; the child is beginning to construct interrelated chains of thought that would be difficult, time-consuming, and even impossible to vocalize (we can think faster than we talk).
  • Later => exterior speech without prior thought, half-consciously articulated fragments of a private language, which is derived from a monitored, censored, and edited complex of inner speech.
  • Functional definition of voice: every individual's voice is derived from an internalized complex of experience of all orders. The exterior voice of the mature individual is derived from an ongoing, focused interior conversation about the subject at hand.

    For the writer struggling to articulate a complex problem for an audience, the rehearsal of inner speech is essential.
    The text produced by a competent writer is the tip of an iceberg, a visible product of numerous complex interior dialogues about the nature of the subject.

    The concept of the journal as the primary vehicle inside the composing curriculum for the development of the student's voice is derived directly from the work of Moffett and James Britton.

    II- Structuring the journal as an expansion of voice:

    A series of daily journal entries in which the form but not the content is prescribed. This same sequence is repeated week after week throughout a course, with occasional modifications.
    What is critical is the concept => assignments that demand the exercise of all of the functions of the student's voice in modes and genres appropriate to the development of their writing abilities.
    => the formal constraints of the assignments force the students to voice their lives in a variety of functions, modes, and genres.

    (Ladder of increasingly complex abstraction)
    Day 1: Interior dialogue (egocentric speech)
    Day 2: Vocal dialogue (socialized speech- recording what is happening- PLAYS)
    Day 3: Correspondence, personal journal, autobiography, memoir (reporting the narrative of what happened- FICTION)
    Day 4: Biography, chronicle, history (generalizing, exposition of what happens- ESSAY)
    Day 5: Science, metaphysics (what will, may happen)
    (Poetry = any day)

    Certain types of journal exercises that are needed: (middle school to early college)

    1. write regularly
    2. nongraded formats
    3. practice all functions of voice (expressive, poetic, transactional--informative + persuasive)
    4. practice all modes of language (descriptive, narrative, informative, persuasive, poetic/literary)
    5. practice a variety of genres (essay, letter, poetry...)
    6. engage stimuli beyond their immediate personal experience
    7. ongoing practice in moving from expressive responses to public, transactional responses
    8. practice in audience analysis: writer's stance, needs of audience, definition and limitation of subject, purpose of text
    Journal Assignments:

    Before constructing specific journal assignments, teachers need to DEFINE the particular developmental needs of their students. They need to take into account 3 variables:

    1. reading comprehension
    2. syntactic maturity
    3. cognitive complexity
    Weekly journal assignments to meet the needs of college freshmen identified as remedial writers: (developed by Huff & Kline with David Hadley, Washington State University, 1982)
    => Heavy emphasis on ensuring that students have something to write about => carefully designed stimulus units
    => Write about subjects that really concern you since this journal will be used as a source for topics for papers.

    - Monday: listen to tape while reading transcript then write a 10-minute expressive nonstop in response. You are the primary audience.
    - Tuesday: select an idea or image from Monday's journal and spend 10 minutes developing your idea, refining it, or changing the perspective from which you originally viewed it. Try to explain things so completely that someone you have never met could understand exactly what you are talking about => external audience.
    - Wednesday: spend 5-10 minutes meditating upon an object, scene, person, or event. Then write a description of your meditation. Don't tell us about it, recreate it, bring it alive by allowing your reader to see, hear, feel, taste, and touch what you experienced. Sequence of meditation/descriptions to follow: 1-object, 2-scene, 3-person, 4-event. After completing the sequence, repeat it but draw your subjects from your memories of the past.
    After your initial writing of your meditation/description, set it aside for 1 day then revise it, type it, and hand it in the following Monday of each week.
    - Thursday: write a significant letter in which you need to communicate feelings, ideas, or information to someone important to you. This letter needs to be written to a real important audience.
    BEFORE you write your letter, you are required to define in 3 to 4 sentences:

  • your stance
  • your subject (define and limit)
  • your audience (needs, knowledge, attitude)
  • your purpose/goals

  • - Friday: rethink, in writing, one of the week's journal entries. Try to consciously change perspectives. Consciously shifting perspectives is a valuable technique for learning.
    - Saturday & Sunday: optional entries in which you can write anything you choose (poem, song, description of the most intellectual concept you have encountered during the week...).

    Your journal entries must be more than just words that fill a page!

    Identify each entry with:
    - week of the term
    - day of the week
    - date

    Revised journal entries:
    Each week you are to take Wednesday's meditation and revise it. Type your revision, paying particular attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar conventions. Turn it in the following Monday.

    The aforementioned journal assignments teach students to:

    1. - write expressively
    2. - derive transactional writing out of expressive writing
    3. - write precise observations and descriptions
    4. - write effective letters
    5. - learn how to rewrite and revise
    Weekly journal assignments for a second term regular freshman composition course: (developed by Huff & Kline with Jean Hegland, Washington State University, 1983)
    => Increasing emphasis on students' responsibility to identify engaging subjects in the world outside their immediate experience and to respond significantly in both expressive and transactional writing. + students are introduced to poetic writing (Haiku) => => Need for a much more elaborated sense of audience.
    => Write about subjects that really concern you since this journal will be used as a source for topics for papers.

    - Monday: observation/description: observing/remembering an object/scene/person/event, then writing a carefully crafted description for sharing.
    - Tuesday: 10 minute expressive nonstop in response to a news article of your choice/interest. Include the article in
    the journal.
    - Wednesday: less than 17 words long: compose a slogan suitable for a T-shirt or a bumper sticker OR write a haiku** (17 syllable poem) => word-play that makes a statement or captures a moment.
    - Thursday: transactional response to Tuesday's nonstop. Define your audience.
    - Friday: either a rethink or a free entry. Try shifting perspectives in your rethink (different angle).
    - Saturday & Sunday: optional. You can write anything you choose.

    Revised journal entries:
    Each week you are to choose one entry from your journal and revise it until you are satisfied that it is a finished piece. (Wednesday's entries are not appropriate here).

    **Haiku = unrhymed poem, short description of the natural world, evokes feelings, what is happening here now, 17 syllables:
    - 5 syllables in line 1
    - 7 syllables in line 2
    - 5 syllables in line 3

    The weekly sequence of journal assignments is designed to provide exercise for all the functions of the student's voice in a rich divergence of modes and genres.
    => helps the development of an increasingly sophisticated "authentic voice."

    Journal Format:
    - 2 major columns
    - each column has a small sentence-level revision margin for minor revisions of syntax and vocabulary
    - right-hand column = for initial drafting / nonstop writing
    - left-hand column = for notes, predrafting, problem-solving drafting

    Journal Sections: (use posterboard dividers to separate the sections)
    - section 1 = for daily journal entries (biggest section)
    - section 2 = for special journal entries written in class or assigned as predrafting activities for major writing assignments
    - section 3 = for the actual drafting of major writing assignments.

    *** Journal Privacy Policy at the beginning of the class.

    How to check students' completion of assigned journal entries?
    - Completing all journal assignments is graded.
    - All journal entries are written in a notebook reserved solely for that purpose.
    - The journal notebook is divided into 3 sections.
    - At the front of the journal notebook: a checkoff sheet that identifies all assigned journal entries. Students are responsible for checking off each assignment when it is completed. Every week, beginning of first class meeting, students exchange journals randomly + each student turns in a half-sheet that reports on the status of their classmate's journal. Missing assignments are itemized and each report is signed.

    How could time be scheduled to respond to students' journals?
    Weeks 1 & 2: each student selects 2 journal entries to be read aloud to a classmate. Using the journal feedback terms, the listener responds orally to the 1st piece and briefly in writing to the second.
    Week 3: students turn in their journals, having identified 4 pieces they would like the teacher to read. The teacher responds in writing to 2.


    The role of the journal within the composing curriculum:
    1- place for regular production of nongraded writing => essential for developing fluency
    2- the journal feedback terms promote the acquisition of basic writing skills
    3- vehicle for the development of the expressive function: primary stimulus to cognitive growth in all functions of language
    4- writing transactionally in response to expressive journal entries provides a crucial bridge between expressive and transactional functions
    5- daily journal assignments foster the development of students' voices in a variety of functions, modes, genres
    6- the journal format asks the students to practice the basics of the composing process daily and to transfer that process into major assignments.

    For young writer, the rehearsal provided by the journal in terms of form and content is essential.

    In composition classes, the ongoing rehearsal of the journal is integrated into the larger context of the composing curriculum in immediately practical terms. Students are required to derive at least half of the subjects for their major writing assignments from the journal. When students choose subjects from their journals, they are asked as the first step of their composing process to read back through their journals, cross-reference the entries, and identify related entries that constitute a focus of concern.

    The assigned daily journal entries promote the writer's foregrounding of issues, ideas, and conflicts that represent true concerns.

    The cross-referencing of the students'own writing embodies a significant rehearsal of one of the most difficult cognitive steps of the composing process: finding/discovering an authentic subject.

    Given the fact that students have written in their journals frommultiple perspectives and in a variety of modes and genres, the journal serves as significant predrafting for the papers they will eventually write. In fact, we find that when students derive their subjects from their journals, almost 80% of them write adequate papers. when students derive their subjects from other sources, only about 50% write adequate papers.

    There is no replacement for the journal within the composing curriculum. It serves as an ongoing rehearsal of skills and ideas that interact to ignite the composing process, turning it into an act of discovery.

    Journal = interaction between student and experience.
    Journal = introspective descriptions/ commentaries on experience.
    Journal = self-exploration
    Journal = commentaries on significant experiences + elaborated descriptions of events and the emotions that accompanied them.

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    Page created on January 2, 2006
    Last updated on January 10, 2006
    Copyright © 2006 Nada AbiSamra

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