The Future of Harris

“Integration of multiple modes of communication and expression can enhance or transform the meaning of the work beyond illustration or decoration.”

This the first point made my the NTCE article broadly encompasses the main benefits of practicing multimodality in education, most specifically writing. After looking over my blog posts and trying to find some of the recurring ideas I came across some similarities. I most definitely still stand behind teaching basic writing classes to college students. A system should be in place which allows students to test out of these classes so to not impede their learning. While I know many people disagree with these classes I think they are invaluable. I also believe that multimodality enriches the experience of these classes.

My CTW class at SCU was about the environment and its conservation and protection. The many assignments we had over the quarter were given with guidelines but he topics we chose to write on were our own. As an avid hunter and fisherman I wrote all about the work the these people I associate with do so much work for the environment. It was an uphill battle especially because my professor was firmly against the action of hunters and fishers. I worked even harder on these works because I feel that I had something to share and more importantly prove. It benefitted my work but also help change the opinion of my professor. Writing about that I cared about allowed me to improve my voice and process. The most impactful aspect of this class was our final (multimodal) presentation which we gave on our favorite paper. I shared stories videos and pictures with the class. I was so passionate about the quality of the work I was doing because it was about me. I think it also helped enrich everyone else understanding of what I was doing and why I was doing it.

I think that this is one of the many benefits of multimodal teaching. It improves students writing ability and can even at time open up teachers to the experience of their students and see the value of what they are trying to say. It creates a medium for which students can really immerse themselves in their work, with the desire to learn for the sake of learning.



Myer’s piece supports the theme of the last few pieces we have read looking at the value of what unskilled writers are attempting to get across.  This is most definitely a common thread and an area of emphasis within the profession of pedagogy and teaching ESL students. Myers also follow the though process of many of there others we have read in that repetition or “repeated exposure… leads to learning”(612). It is due to lack of practice and exposure that many of these writers have fallen behind. I agree with this process of thought because it is central to most everything we do. Across the spectrum from learning words at a young age to playing a sport, repetition or practice is key to success. Not just that but perfect practice makes perfect. I think that the quality of material that these students are having and the quality of the conversations that they have at home is key to their growth.

Myers also brought up that we seem to use language chunks that we have seen over and over to construct sentences in our writing. Also that we do no use these chunks when speaking. Through some broken process we have created a group of unprepared writers who simply regurgitate the same language chunks to produce their writing. This use of chunks often goes unrecognized by writers so it is never address and fixed. This is something I must say I had not thought about in my own writing.

More on Error

I really enjoyed reading Shaughnessy’s work after having read about her in Harris’ previous chapter. It gave a much more  in-depth look into what she was really working towards and how she was doing it. I think that Harris jumped to certain conclusions about her work that made it seem like Shaughnessy was claiming empirical evidence for her points. However, I found that Shaughnessy seemed to only want to shed more light on the subject. I though it most interesting that Harris finds her work to not contain the in depth look at her students writing because she often studies students first drafts. Especially because she mentions why she focuses on these early drafts of the papers. She says that the first drafts often contain the most errors. So by attacking these first drafts she is really cutting down the editing process for her students. I oddly find this approach great! Granted I have no professional teaching background but systemically attacking a students writing problems where they occur most seems to be quite the logical approach. I am personally a fan of Shaughnessy and don’t know why Harris is not more of a one.


This chapter from Harris was interesting and pulled together a myriad of view points from different professionals across the field. What I drew from the piece stemmed from Shaughnessy’s work. I think Harris took part of the chapter to disown some of her work for it was not done with great depth seeing as that she was focusing on timed first drafts and the results of her work seemed to only show that her students could improve on the inception of those first drafts. However I think that Shaughnessy is correct in that unskilled writers or basic who come off as hopeless are not so. That though practice, these writers can produce similar material to that which is being produced by the mainstream literacy writers. I think that her work comes from a good place as well. Based off what was presented from her work she cared about improving the students she was working with. I think this was valiant but could have clouded some of the work she was doing with optimism. This is at least what I get from Harris’ interpretation.

Chronic Lamination

This piece written by Paul Prior and Jody Shipka showed us a few things about the process of writing. Looking at these test subjects they studied the environment which they wrote in and the atmosphere they enjoyed writing in most and who they would go to and how they would edit their papers. There was some variance in each of these categories, but the main gist is something that I myself agree with. I find that I most enjoy writing in a quite environment with minimal distractions. I think that it is no surprise that this is the most popular approach as found by the study. I think these environments allow for the most focused writing. I think that the editing process is the most interesting aspect though. I don’t think that I edit and draft my writing enough, both assignments large and small. I also don’t enjoy giving people my writing to edit. I think that this will be a troublesome thing to study with our own subjects. I think that this is a very different stress that we will be adding on our writers when we do our own tests and think that the answers we receive will be fluffed up.

“Decisions and Revisions: …”

In this piece Carol Berkenkotter studies Donald Murray’s writing approaches through a series of tests. The first having Murray record himself writing two piece in the privacy of his home or where ever he was working. The idea here was to capture the thought process of an accomplished writer while he was writing. I found it interest however when Carol explained that Murray had a rather odd strategy to his writing. He would take notes in a journal and then dictate his pieces to his wife who would type them up as he would look over his notes. Odd. Carol found that this was an interesting approach however it left many question about the actual writing process because Murray would pause or stop the recording of his dictation when he lost track of where he was going. This was tough for Carol who was really trying to understand the entirety of his writing process. What she did learn was that Murray had two tones when dictating his pieces one fluid and the other more conservative. She differentiated between the two by explaining that he was more fluid with pieces which he had a better understanding of and when he had clearer notes. But his tone would change when dealing with a newer topic, he was slower and used is words more carefully.

She then also described his writing strategy which he had two of. The first was example based, where he would have the outline of his writing and verbally note that he should add something in, a relevant example or experience of sorts. The second strategy was more goal oriented; how will I best meet the reader or audience.

Another interesting result of the study was “situation variables”, which was brought up when Murray was asked to describe death to children. As a result of his background he was not able to give a explanation that had a depth of emotion which children could understand.

I thought this piece was very interesting because it allowed for some insight into the mind of an accomplished writer who had a very interesting planning strategy to his writing. There are strategies that I think will help my writing( not dictating pieces to my make believe wife thought). I think that this piece was also assigned to give us an example of how to conduct our own writing tests.

In Class: Process

Over the years at Santa Clara I have seen many different types of writing processes, from students who start with outlines and methodically work though their paper to the one and done-res who crank and essay our read it over once and are then done with it. I would have to say that more often than not I see my fellow students taking the one and done kind of approach. I have found that with approach it is often harder to start papers however once started the turn into what Harris calls gushers. I think that the reason for this is that in these classes the focus is not always on grammatical correctness or depth or writing skill. It is the delivery of information.