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Readings to Inspire Your Teaching


John C. Bean. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, 2nd Edition (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2011).

Of note: chapter one outlines the ways in which writing, critical thinking, and learning objectives can all be met in the context of courses that seek to teach writing as well disciplinary content. Bean calls this first chapter “the busy professor’s guide to the whole book.” Chapter seven provides ideas for informal writing activities that can help students practice writing while familiarizing themselves with disciplinary content.

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/ I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 2nd Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010).

Graff and Birkenstein suggest that academic writing is largely a matter of making arguments that engage the ideas of others. They present the typical rhetorical moves that academic writers make in the service of such arguments.  Being aware of these rhetorical moves can help students understand not only the point of academic writing but also the complex and nuanced ways in which that writing is structured.  

Nancy Sommers, Responding to Student Writers (Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2013).

This is a concise guide to giving students feedback on their writing. It includes sample texts and lists of best practices.

John Swales, Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

The first excerpt from this book lays out the author’s approach to analyzing scientific writing.  The second excerpt includes his analysis of introductions from science articles, most of which follow a similar rhetorical pattern, in which writers situate themselves within the received views of the current research and then destabilize those views by finding research gaps.  This book might be of particular interest for those who are teaching a FYWS in the sciences.


Nancy Sommers, “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers” College Composition and Communication , Vol. 31, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 378-388

This article reports on a number of interviews conducted with student writers and experienced writers.  It finds that while students consider revision to be something done after writing, involving minor stylistic and sentence-level correction, experienced writers consider multiple revisions to be integral to the writing process and to consist in wholesale reformulations of structure and argument.  This article might be helpful in coming to see the ways in which our students misunderstand the reasons why we ask them to revise.

George D. Gopen and Judith A. Swan, “The Science of Scientific Writing”.  American Scientist, Volume 78, No. 6 (November-December 1990), pp. 550-558.

Although primarily concerned with sentence-level clarity in scientific writing, this article is useful for all disciplinarians concerned with clarity and style.  The authors analyzed several pieces of scientific writing and found that the most successful among them were those that anticipated reader expectations.  Among the many helpful recommendations they make, is the suggestion that old information which links backwards should be placed at the beginning of a sentence while new information should be placed at the end in the stress position of a sentence.

Ilona Leki, “Coping Strategies of ESL Students in Writing Tasks across the Curriculum.”  TESOL Quarterly, Volume 29, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp.235-260.

This article provides a look inside the experiences of five international students at an American university struggling to succeed on their writing assignments.  It analyzes not only the strategies these students use, but also the types of assignments and instructor feedback they found helpful and frustrating.

Malcolm Kiniry and Ellen Strenski, “Sequencing Expository Writing: A Recursive Approach.”   College Composition and Communication, Vol. 36, No. 2 (May, 1985), pp. 191-202.

This article argues that writing is best taught in stages and helps instructors think through the ways in which those stages can be developed through sequenced writing assignments.  Examples are drawn from a number of disciplines.  Their approach is recursive in the sense that it encourages students to return to and build upon those stages with which they are most comfortable.

William J. McClery, “A Case Approach for Teaching Academic Writing.” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 36, No. 2 (May, 1985), pp. 203-212.

The article discusses ways in which case studies can be used to teach writing and disciplinary content simultaneously.  It provides helpful hints on how writing assignments can be created around case studies.  It may be of interest to those who will be teaching FYWS in the social sciences or other disciplines where case studies might be appropriate.