Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice

By James D. Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

When I began teaching high school many, many years ago, it never occurred to me that one day I might be helping prepare future teachers. I was too busy to think that far ahead. I juggled six different classes and monitored the restrooms during lunch hours while trying to understand why my students could not write and why they did not love literature as much as I did. In spite of my English degree and credential, I really had not been prepared to teach writing. It just was not part of the education curriculum in those days. So when I entered my own classroom for the first time, I was overwhelmed by how much I did not know. I began reading everything I could about the subject, but it never seemed to be enough, and I hope that the students I had during those years did not suffer too much from my ignorance.

A decade later, Ph. D. in hand, I began training people who wanted to teach, and like many others before me, I was certain that I had answers to most of the questions I had asked when I began my own career at a high school in California. The first edition of this book emerged out of those early years as a professor at UCLA when I discovered that there were no available books that tried to bring together all the disparate theories and research that influence writing instruction. This first edition provided many answers but posed few questions. Positioned firmly in the cognitive approach that dominated composition studies during those years, the first edition explored writing as a psychosocial action and advocated a pragmatic approach to instruction before the ideas of social constructivism had fully jelled in the profession.

Another decade has passed and I'm still training people who want to teach, but I discovered that I only knew a fraction of what I thought I knew, and most of that is not germane to the issue of how we help young people become better writers. The world is a different place. Education has changed. Students have changed. The challenges we face in turning children into literate human beings are greater now. Therefore, it is appropriate that this second edition of Preparing to Teach Writing offers fewer answers but asks more questions.

Like the first edition, it offers a fairly comprehensive examination of the research and theories that influence what teaching writing is about and it strives to separate the wheat from the chaff. Readers who want a quick overview of the history of rhetoric from classical times to the present will appreciate chapter 1, which is far more detailed than anything the first edition offered. I thoroughly revised and updated all

-xiii-

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Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xiv
  • 1 - Rhetoric and Writing 1
  • 2 - Models for Teaching Writing 45
  • 3 - The Classroom as Workshop 79
  • 4 - Reading and Writing 99
  • 5 - Grammar and Writing Overview 118
  • 6 - Style 160
  • 7 - English as a Second Language and Nonstandard English 176
  • 8 - The Psychology of Writing 219
  • 9 - Writing Assignments 242
  • 10 - Assessing Writing 258
  • Appendix A - Writing Myths 296
  • Conclusion 303
  • Appendix B - Sample Essays 305
  • References 313
  • Author Index 331
  • Subject Index 337
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