3 Days at UConn ECE English Summer Institute

After teaching the UConn ECE course for the first time this past year, I knew there was a lot to revise, and this three day Summer Institute helped focus some of that revision work by extending my thinking about the 1010 course, what it should be, and what were the desired outcomes.  A few of things I took away from my 3 days:


  1. First year writing is focused on preparing students for the type of writing they’ll do across disciplines in college. While this may seem obvious, it took me a while to wrap my head around this because I want students to love and find value in literature as much as I do. There’s a space for that, and ideally it should be the AP Lit classroom, and yet with few students will take literature courses beyond the high school level (even those that take AP Lit) preparing students for the types of academic writing they’ll encounter across disciplines is essential. It’s precisely what the UConn ECE 1010 course is all about and why we decided to use the film elective as a the space for the course, but thinking about what academic writing is, looks like, and accomplishes is something I’m still considering as I revise the course and think about AP Lit and Sophomore English. Most immediately, however, this means varying the types of assignment and writing students will do over the course of the year in the Honors Senior English and Film Studies UConn ECE course. While we’ll start with a scene analysis that is more familiar in its relation to the literary analysis essay, our first major essay will be more conceptual, asking students to create an argument on the power of cinema, drawing from a number of sources from the first unit.
  2. Process vs. Post-process and Assemblage Writing. It was interesting learning more of the history of process (1970s) and post-process (post 1986) writing theory. One idea that really stuck with me from the discussions I had over the past three days is that process implies formula, while post-process is looking at the way ideas, evidence, discussion fit together to suggest new relationships. In art school, I was always taught to “know the rules before you break them,” and in some ways knowing and understanding the formula (5 paragraph essay I’m looking at you!) is a way to learn how structure works and the relationship between evidence and analysis that is an excellent starting point for students, but it’s not where I want them to end. I’ve been grappling with how to break the students out of that structure, especially in this past year because it is so engrained in students by senior year, and I think post-process and assemblage theory is a way to restructure my approach. Admittedly, I have a lot more reading and thinking to do about this, but the discussions and readings from the Summer Institute definitely sparked a curiosity not just for the UConn course but for my sophomores and APLit students too!
  3. The classroom as authentic audience. So many times when I hear “authentic audience” I wrack my brain of who else I can bring in to the classroom, but this ignores the captive audience and network built into the classroom.  We create a classroom culture over the course of a semester/year, and students are participating in a classroom dialogue, so it makes sense that there should be more sharing of each other’s writing in the classroom. I sometimes have students peer review but haven’t always found it useful to the students, and I’d like to rethink how to structure it for the upcoming year. Beyond peer review I’m thinking about some sort of class repository that houses the academic work the students in my Honors Senior English and Film Studies class contribute, so that it becomes a network of ideas and an environment to participate in rather than “hand in to the teacher and the discussion ends after I get a grade.”

These are just of the few ideas swirling around my head after the institute. There are more practical ideas too like students submitting a cover sheet with their assignments that offers students a place to reflect and consider what their writing does. I also have a few assignments that I’m working on to extend our conversation in the film studies classroom: “what’s the difference between appropriation and plagiarism?” (special shout out to Kylie and Kendall Jenner for offering some material for us to consider!).

Good thing I have the rest of the summer to think, plan, and revise.

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