Jigsawing “Bad Ideas” Today

Today we’ll jump into some jigsaw teaching.

While the strategies we use aren’t super close to those in the original model, our intentions are the same: to work together to construct a “picture” of the book by sharing perspectives on the individual “puzzle pieces.”  To do this we’ll get in groups and talk about what we read and then rotate into different groups at least twice–maybe three or four times.

Your goal through this should be to have a conversation with the people you talk to, not lecture.  Try to listen and learn–and respond to what you hear!  We’re talking “bad ideas about writing” here, so be looking for spots where you think the reasoning of the authors may or may not be solid: where what they say is a “bad idea” may not seem so “bad” to you after all.

The book emerged out of a common refrain in composition circles, that people outside of our research and teaching community have ingrained perspectives on writing and learning to write that don’t really align with the research of the field (Of course, one could wonder for what community or CoP would that NOT be true?)  The issue to many of the authors, I’m sure, is that these views of writing play an outsize role in what we can accomplish as professors and teachers.  In composition classes a common model is to structure classes to “unteach” formulaic high school writing–disabuse students of wrongheaded views about writing practice–as one teaches better, more informed views, and to help students see the value of writing to their future lives.  At the same time, we know we work in universities and those same wrongheaded views color administrators’ and other faculty’s view of what we can or should do to help writers write, as in writing centers.

In short: Students will come into writing centers and workshops espousing these views, so we need to know how to respond!

So this work of figuring out the bad ideas isn’t trivial!  It’s important to be able to say what we know and why we know it in clear, unambiguous language.  It’s also crucial for our work in writing centers and one-on-one with writers that we prepare to counter folk wisdom about writing that we know could be unproductive for writers and ineffective for writing.

The chapters are written informally, with a minimum of scholarly jargon and technical detail–they’re written to all of us.  Question is, do they “work,” are they persuasive?  Would they persuade people who don’t study writing?

So as you talk, focus on these things:

  • Which chapters seemed particularly persuasive, and why?
  • Which chapters didn’t “make sense” to you?  Where did you not buy their reasoning, or think the authors had overlooked something?
  • As you listen to others discuss the chapters they read, ask them questions–relay your own “common sense” views of these topics.  How do the presenters respond?
  • What connections are you making to tutoring and mentoring?  That is, when might these myths or “bad ideas” come up and how might you address them?

We’ll come back together at the end to share our impressions.

Dunno, but we could continue this work with three more chapters from the book.  Hmmm . . .


Hey! I'm a professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English dept. at Chico State. Also disc golf player, indie music listener, and vanilla Marxist.

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