> What does one write about? To paraphrase, one doesn't write writing, one
> writes something to someone. So, first decision: what do we write about?
I agree Aviva. Our own students write a critique (a sort of mini-
research paper) of an academic/intellectual article related to their
studies/personal interests. This allows for exercises in
paraphrasing, documentation, summaries, revision & editing. We also
read one short story as well as several articles together so that we
all have something in common to discuss. In their tutorial groups
students develop their own topics, inspired either by their studies,
interests or old exam topics--again for the purpose of practising
brainstorming, pre-writing, etc. etc. Do the skills students develop
transfer to their subject areas? We believe so and so do the
As for writing about
> The students' personal/intellectual growth?
Here my innate conservatism shows: none of our business unless
students want to write about that in their journals or bring their
experience in as support to argue or show some point or other.
> how to get things done
> politically, through lobbying, letters to the editor etc.
We dropped that as most students found that kind of writing phony.
> "multicultural" values
oh please! (and I'm an ethnic). Leave that to the Americans.
> to use the classroom to inculcate our moral values.
> a classroom which teaches about rhetoric, about
> how language works in contexts. We could make our students into many
We discuss this some, but again in context of what we are reading and
p.s. In high school I used to hate composition (it seemed so
pointless, even though I was very good at it--and btw I loved
grammar, it was like geometry or algebra, two other favourites). I
also loved writing in History, English, Geography etc. There were no
comp courses at McGill when I was an undergraduate, but I sure could
have used some help in changing from writing for high school teachers
to writing academic essays and research papers. I think it took me
about two years to learn how to do them and regain my confidence (and
Mieke Koppen Tucker Bishop's University
Director, Writing Centre Lennoxville, Que.
Writing Proficiency Programme Canada J1M 1Z7
819-822-9600, ext.400 Fax: 819-822-9661
home: 819-823-7273 [log in to unmask]