ERIC Number: ED284285
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1987-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
From the Impersonal to the Personal: A Cognitive Rationale for a Radical Freshman Writing Syllabus.
Saxton, Ruth O.
The implicit assumption behind personal writing assignments given at the beginning of a writing course is that personal essays eliminate the writing apprehension of having nothing to say. However, college freshmen find it very difficult to write about themselves and their own opinions because this writing involves abstract mental processes and communicative structures of which they know very little. By beginning with text-based assignments, teachers can introduce the skills and conventions prerequisite to personal writing assignments. The syllabus for a freshman writing course at a California women's college is based on this rationale. The course begins with six weeks of source-based writing, using sequential assignments from B. Spratt's "Writing from Sources," so that students master the cognitive processes and skills required to summarize, quote and explicate an argument and to express a personal response to a research/scientific text. Such skills include (1) identifying theses, (2) understanding how examples support the thesis, (3) determining the significance of the order of examples, and (4) understanding the function of transitions. For a midterm research paper assignment, students argue a rational position in response to an emotionally powerful text by C. Gilligan. The course ends with an analysis of M. Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and an autobiographical paper modeled after L. Hellman's "Pentimento Papers." Thus, the gap between personal and impersonal writing is bridged by reversing the order. (JG)
Descriptors: Cognitive Processes, College English, Course Content, Expository Writing, Freshman Composition, Higher Education, Learning Strategies, Reading Writing Relationship, Sequential Approach, Sequential Learning, Teaching Methods, Textbooks, Theory Practice Relationship, Writing Exercises, Writing Processes, Writing Skills
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: N/A