Questions to Guide Reading & Class Discussions

You might find these guiding questions and excerpts useful as you read:


In groups: How does Szwed understand literacy practices (what does he mean by the social meaning of literacy) (422-423)? How does he say others define literacy? Why is this narrow definition a problem according to Szwed?

Point us to a passage to consider as a class: What does it say, what does it mean, why does this matter? (Post-Its?)

In class work: Our theory of writing (we’ll return to this over the course of the semester):

Our theory of writing:

QW: Look over your notes from your day in your literacy. How might you categorize the reading and writing you did based on purposes for reading and writing? Reading for what purpose? Writing for what purpose? Then, think about words or terms that you believe are important in creating “good” writing (think about your own writing and your method of writing: what terms would you associate with this?).

  • Generate a list of 5-10 terms and define them.
  • Then say why you believe the list you have created is important to writing, specifically your own writing.

In groups: make concept map

  • What connections do you see (if any) between your literacies and these terms?  Take out a big piece of paper and markers and “concept map” the connections you see.
  • If you don’t see a connection, why do you think that is? Why might it be important to see connections?
  • Write a brief theory of ‘good writing’ based on your own key terms and concept map. Account for (include or say why excluded) concepts 1.0-1.4 from threshold reading.

Groups present their concept maps: address assumptions about writing

Follow up questions:

  • Why these terms?  Where did they come from?
  • I noticed these connections or differences among different maps
  • If these are the things you think are important to writing, are they also how you work with student writers?
  • What happens when students didn’t share your terms–didn’t understand the terms you chose, or had different assumptions about what makes writing “good”?  (First off, how would you know–what reveals these differences in assumptions?)

Given our maps and discussion, what’s our role in supporting writers? What moves –practices- do we have as mentors to support writers? We’ll read short excerpt from Vygotsky: ZPD

Discussion: What ideas about writing guide our mentoring practices? How do you support groups of writers and individual writers differently? In other words, what can you imagine you will do in your group sessions versus your one-on-one sessions?


Quick Write: Write about something you’ve learned how to do pretty well outside of school. What materials or spaces do you need? What or who supports your learning?

What is the “take away” for you from reading Russell? What ideas are worth considering?  Point to places in the text for us to consider.

Apply your understanding of Activity Theory to your internship —what are the goals? what is the object of activity? who are the participants? outcomes? rules?


Think through your experiences with writing so far in the university. What’s the range of writing you have done? Have you had the experience of writing to figure something out? Writing that felt like you were doing it beyond fulfilling the assignment? Can you unpack the conditions that made it feel that way? If you’ve never had that experience, why do you think that is? What is it about writing in college that keeps you from seeing your writing as your own or something beyond an assignment?

Wiley & Stommel

Let’s pull out Wiley’s main claims: what does Wiley see as problematic in formulaic writing? How does this compare with your experiences with the 5 paragraph essay? Compare Wiley and Wardle? Look at her passage on Mutt genres (page 777 of her text) and compare to Wiley’s concerns. How might we explain the problem of writing in the first year writing course (FYC)? What should we be doing in FYC?

Then, let’s try out a twitter essay. Summarize Wiley’s claims using 140 characters.

What hashtags might we create as a class as mentoring advice?


Point us to a couple of places in the Nelson text that might help us think through our support for writers.

What do we learn from these case studies? How do they compare to your experiences in working with writing assignments? How does your “insider knowledge” help and hinder your approach to writing tasks?

Let’s use Nelson to think through the internships.

Hull et al:

Come to an understanding of the arguments that are made in the Hull et al essay. What do Hull et al want us to consider? Further, what kinds of data do they use to support this? How might this inform your work in your internship and your ideas about teaching writing?

“We want to recommend that attention be paid to the talk that goes on in our writing classrooms—analyses of the participant structures, whether they be IRE sequences or other patterns of interaction—with an eye for determining the kind of talk those structures allow. We have seen that discourse structures direct talk in particular ways and that certain moves within those structures can instantiate assumptions about cognition and undercut creative thinking and engagement. If we look closely at the talk we allow, we may also get a new sense of our own assumptions about our students’ capabilities” (321).

Unpack this quote. Then think about: What do you already know about the patterns of talk in your internship setting? What should we be looking for or keeping track of in the internships given what we understand from this essay?


Let’s look at places in his text where he identifies problems that are often seen as new problems with the introduction of new technologies (instead of old problems): for example, how has privacy or trust been suspect with every new literacy technology?

How do we talk about multimodal composing? What are the problems? Why the high value on text vs image? Is that only true in the humanities?

What would be the updated version of his article? What new technologies–particularly related to composing–are we coming to understand? What are the issues? (we might want to think about things like remix: we’ll watch Lessig here too)

Peer Response Work: What I Know So Far…

Writer Memo: how did the process work out for writing this paper? What portions are you happy with? What are your concerns? Any specific places you’d like feedback? Do you already have some ideas for revision?

Responder: read the writer’s memo and try to attend to places the writer wants support. You might also make suggestions about readings the writer may be able to connect to from the course. At places that are confusing, you might try saying the idea back to the writer: “I think what you’re saying here is xxx… is that right?” You might also praise, offer suggestions or a different viewpoint. Only attend to surface level errors that are obvious typos.

After you’ve responded to 1-2 drafts, look back over the feedback you received and write yourself a memo about what you plan to change on your own draft before Wednesday.


Help for understanding the term “affordance” 

What is a Mode?

1. What is a mode and how does it function in communication of meaning? How does this change in different cultures/environments?

2. What role do different parts of a mode (signs, semiotic resources) play in understanding?

What is Multimodality?

1. What is the focus/end goal of multimodality and how does can it change depending on the audience and author’s participation?

2. How can the “weight” or “specialization” of a particular mode employed change how an idea is received?

Why Adopt a Multimodal Approach?

1. What is the connection between identity and language? By what other means are individual identities formed? How does this relate to multimodality and how it communicates an idea?

2. How do different “toolkits” related to learning function to understand a multimodal presentation of information? Is it important to maintain several “toolkits” for different areas of study or would a universal toolkit be more beneficial in all areas of learning?

Cover Letters & Resumes

Cover Letter general guidelines: open with a statement about the job you are applying for. Explain your interest. Explain how your experience fits to requirements for the position (in our case, you could talk about the internship). Share something you’ve accomplished that is not readily apparent on your resume or take the opportunity to explain and highlight something on your resume.