Thursday, September 24, 2009

Topic: The Role of Speech in Writing Instruction

10-second review: Some ideas on speaking and writing instruction to think about.

Title: “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” Cynthia L. Selfe. College Composition and Communication (June 2009), 616-669. A college level quarterly journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Our Aural Culture

“Anyone who has spent time on a college or university campus over the past few decades knows how fundamentally important students consider their sonic environments—the songs, music, and podcasts they produce and listen to; the cell phone conversations in which they immerse themselves; the headphones and Nanos that accompany them wherever they go; the thumper cars they use to turn the streets into concert stages; the audio blogs, video soundtracks and mixes they compose and exchange with each other and share with anyone else who will listen.” p. 617.

The Irony of Our Aural Culture When It Comes to Class Discussion

Quote: “Indeed, students’ general penchant for listening to and producing sound can be eloquently ironic for English composition teachers faced with the deafening silence of a class invited to engage in an oral discussion about written text.” p. 617.

Writing as the Primary Mode of Formal Academic Work

Quote: “In sum, the increasingly limited role of aurality within U.S. English and composition programs during the last half of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries was intimately tied to the emerging influence of writing as the primary mode of formal academic works, of commercial exchange and record-keeping and of public and professional expression.” p. 625.

Irony of Using Lectures to Teach Writing

Quote: “…many teachers have continued to impart information through oral lectures, often expending a great deal of time to craft and deliver effective oral texts.” p. 634.

Writing = Intelligence

Quote: “It is an understandable, if unfortunate, fact, as Patricia Dunn argues, that our profession has come to equate writing with intelligence.” p. 644.

Summary: The author has raised some interesting issues about the role of “aurality” in written communication. She seems to think that composition will become more balanced between writing and speaking as students learn to use multimodal communication.

Comment: I’m simply raising some of the author’s issues in the use of speaking and listening in writing instruction. Writing, from my point of view, grows increasingly oral in nature as style becomes more informal. Students repeat words and expressions, over use “it,” “get” “thing,” “there” and fail to relate clearly the demonstrative pronouns, “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” with their antecedents. I’ve always thought that formal expression increases with conciseness and precision in word choice. Is one mode (informality vs. formality) superior? Depends on the audience and purpose. Students need to be able to switch from one to the other as needed. RayS.

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