Should I encourage or discourage?

I received an email from a person who is interested in teaching college English. She put that into a search engine and found my blog.

I’m a newspaper editor considering a new career as a community college teacher. I was hoping you might have a few minutes in the next week or so for me to pick your brain about how to go about getting into the profession.
I’m still doing my research, but I think I’d like to teach developmental English or English for Academic Purposes, English as a Second Language and possibly freshman composition.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and am trying to figure out what kind of master’s degree would qualify me to teach these subjects. I’m also interested in learning what kind of teaching experience I can get with my current experience and education. Part of my job involves teaching and mentoring young journalists, but I’ve never taught in a classroom.

Here is what I told her:

squiggly-pencilYou can teach developmental English at some community colleges with a bachelor’s. You can also usually teach ESL with a bachelor’s.

Freshman composition is the most common course in English at most community colleges.  You need a master’s to teach freshman comp.

A master’s in English, with an emphasis in any field will be sufficient to teach as a part-timer at the community college.

As a newspaper editor, you could probably teach journalism at the community college part-time, or developmental part-time. That would let you know whether you will enjoy it before you actually get into the financial and time commitment of a master’s.

While many community college teachers only have their master’s, there is a surfeit of teachers in English and to get a full-time position you would need to be willing to move and have experience teaching in the community college.

With a PhD I was recently told I might be better off teaching high school. At least the jobs are more plentiful. I’ve done that, though, and I know I like teaching college much better. It might be something for you to consider though.

Does anyone have pearls of wisdom to share?

How I teach technical writing

Introducing technical writing:

In my technical writing courses I use many of the same real world examples that I discussed above in “Introducing writing.”  We actually examine the Three Mile Island memo as part of memo writing.  I also mention the promotion a friend did not get because he was not able to write well; the students are usually impressed when I mention that the raise that went with the promotion was $43,000 a year and they usually quickly figure out how long it was before he had lost a million dollars.  I am not sure why they find that number fascinating, but their reactions show they are listening.  Though it was not available when I taught technical writing before, Killian Advertising offers examples of horrible cover letter errors, from real cover letters, to help the students see what not to do.   There are many other useful websites available now on different aspects of business and technical writing; an excellent one is “Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design” by Jakob Nielsen.  It is easy to read and understand, yet professional enough that programmers refer to it.


Modeling technical writing:

The modeling process also applies to technical writing.  When I taught the class at Purdue, I began applying for jobs at the same time.  I kept every version of my curriculum vita as I did revision and I showed these to the students.  I think while we were working on resumes I did seven versions.  When I went to Abilene, I took all of those with me and used them as examples.  I also took a friend’s resume, which was for a legal position, and revised it.  The students looked at it with me and offered suggestions, based on what they had learned.  It was fun to see them showing off their newly gained expertise.


Goal for technical writing:

When students leave my technical writing class, I want them to have been exposed to and practiced most kinds of writing from the corporate world, including those they need for the job search.  Usually my students, especially those who are already working, feel more confident about their writing and can talk about ways the class has helped them.

How to teach freshman composition

Or at least how I do it.

Teaching writing:

Much of my college level teaching experience to date has been teaching writing:  developmental studies, freshman composition, business writing, and advanced composition.  I prepared to teach these courses through the primary area in my doctorate, Rhetoric and Composition.  I have taken twenty-four graduate hours in the theoretical and practical aspects of composition as well as an additional twelve hours in communication.  I enjoy teaching writing and believe that writing is an important skill for my students to learn and that it is essential to enhancing the quality of their education and their life beyond college.


Introducing writing:

In introducing writing, I offer examples from life to show that the assignment is not just useful for a grade in class but is also relevant to work after school, since students sometimes have the impression that college and the learning they do there is separate from “real life.”  For example, when introducing audience, one example I give for the importance of knowing your audience is the memos sent by the main engineer for the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island and his inability to alert management to the impending problems because of his lack of audience awareness.  In discussing plagiarism I present the 2006 case of the Washington Post blogger, whose excellent high profile job was lost because he had plagiarized in college.  In the introduction to a paper on definition and illustration, I discuss the Challenger explosion and the misunderstanding generated by two different definitions for the word “secondary.”

These sorts of examples bring possible future implications home and help focus student interest. 


Practice and revise:

In writing, I believe that practice makes, if not perfect, at least more competent; therefore I give many written assignments in my composition classes.  The positive aspects of this are two-fold: the student is learning by doing and if the student does poorly on an assignment, the student’s grade is not lowered catastrophically.  In addition, I believe that giving the students the opportunity to rewrite papers helps them to learn what is wrong with their individual papers, by applying grammar they may theoretically know quite practically to their own writing, and learning how to correct their mistakes before turning in the next paper.  Finally I offer my students the opportunity to write their papers early and bring them to me so that we can go over them together before they are due.  If a student is willing to work to improve, I want to give all the help I can.


Overcoming difficulties:

In the past I have found that the research paper can overwhelm students.  Partly that is because many have never done such a major assignment and they often are not prepared for the amount of out-of-class work required.  One way I have responded to that is to divide the research paper into smaller components. 

The students get a library introduction and pick their topics. They write a one to two page paper on what they know about their topics and why they chose them. 

Then they find articles and take notes.

We go through how to write a Works Cited and then, using the articles they have brought to class with their notes, the students each write one citation on the board.  In this way, other students help them recognize errors.  Although that can be embarrassing, they respond well to this exercise and appear to enjoy it.  At the end of that application, everyone in the class has written at least one citation and as many of the students use citations from similar sources, they have seen multiple examples of the types of citations they need to create. 

After that we work on possible organization for their papers by creating outlines. 

Then they write a short paper each, which eventually becomes part of the research paper, where they present one of the arguments on their issue.  I mark these and return them and they then have a portion of their papers written. 

Finishing up the preliminary writing is much less frightening at that point.  Next they turn in three copies of the paper.  Students do peer editing on two copies and I give the other a quick (two to three minute) read and mark major difficulties.  Then the students do a final revision of their research papers based on both the peer editing, which are usually more in-depth than mine, and my marks and turn them in. 

Students tend to feel better about the research paper and their work improves throughout the project because it is broken into smaller steps.  And presenting the research paper in these smaller pieces models for the students how they can reduce an unmanageable project into reasonable size sections.


Modeling writing:

Modeling writing can be hard for a teacher to do because either we prepare beforehand and the students are overwhelmed by our speed in doing the assignment or we run the risk of being embarrassed by our own slowness in the classroom.  However, I have found that modeling assignments similar to what the students are required to do is beneficial to the students.  After having given the parameters of an assignment, I will often discuss how I would approach the writing.  I will model my thought process and make notes on the computer or board so the students will see how what I say works out in what I am doing.  Then I will begin writing the assignment. 

In one class, I was modeling a definition/illustration paper and I was so quick to come up with my next point that students were frustrated.  One of them mentioned awe at how quickly I worked and I explained that the particular assignment I was writing had been an example for several years; my quick writing was the result of years of prewriting.  I realized my speed was frustrating them, because they could not imagine ever being that fast to prewrite and write.

So I chose another topic, one I had not modeled before, and began the assignment again.  This time I was much slower and when I was caught without a third strong example, I modeled my thinking process for what I might do and came up with a solution.  While the students were completing their assignment before the next class, I also rewrote mine and presented them with the finished project, showing where I had changed sentences and even that problematic third example, which in the new version was a strong and relevant example.  They liked the fact that I had done my ‘homework’ too. 

The best part of it was they also saw, although they may not have realized it, how revision is necessary, even for a professional.


Updating a writing class:

Many people think that a writing class is stagnant- once a plan has been made, a syllabus constructed, there is no reason for review, except when a new textbook is adopted.  However, I think that my classes should adapt.  I have added online reading assignments to my writing classes; these cover everything from how to succeed at college (Dr. Mom’s site), an important question for first-generation college students particularly, to how test taking improves memory (LiveScience article).   My students read the latter and said that they appreciate quizzes now, which was an unexpected bonus.  They are not as enthusiastic about the quiz I give over how to take tests, but it does reinforce the lesson on test-taking, a skill that not all students have previously developed. As I learn and as the world changes, so do my writing classes.


Goals for freshman writing:

My ultimate goal is that, when the students leave my freshman writing class, they will know they are able to write any paper assigned in college.  I also want them to be confident that they can learn to write any kind of composition because they have successfully achieved that goal in my classes. Many students are hesitant about their writing ability when they begin freshman composition and my classes are designed to help them grow in skill and confidence.


How to teach literature

Reading literature:

As an avid reader, I have enjoyed taking literature courses. My second field of study in my doctoral program was Old English language and literature. In addition, my master’s focused on literature primarily in early British and American literature for a total of thirty-six graduate hours in literature.  I have relished the opportunities I have had to teach literature classes, both sophomore British literature through the eighteenth century and freshman writing about literature.

In teaching a literature course, I believe that the more the students enjoy the readings in class, the more likely they are to finish the assigned texts and continue reading similar works after they finish the course.  Examining the choices available, I select works I am enthusiastic about, since enthusiasm is contagious.  Beowulf is a favorite of mine and the students benefit from studying the work with someone who enjoys it.  I have had students, even those who have studied the work before, tell me that they did not realize Beowulf was so fascinating.  I do not think the text changed, but the way they looked at it clearly did.

Providing background information:

I also make sure the students have the background they need to understand a particular work, including historical, linguistic, and cultural information.  For example, when teaching “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I introduce the students to the history of psychiatric care and to the changing expectations of women, specifically delineating the idea of the “weaker sex” and how that plays out in illness, relationships, and social life. Additional readings include Nellie Bly’s biography and her expose of asylums, Ten Days in a Mad-House, while those who wish to learn more about historical responses to insanity might read Torrey and Miller’s The Invisible Plague or for a quicker overview examine posts on the topic at I also try to give the students related literary readings, so that they can see the work as a part of a larger canon and not as a work in isolation. When teaching Gilman’s short story, the class also reads “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and the play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell.  This gives the students the opportunity to compare the role of illness, both mental and physical, and the role of women in different stories written during similar time periods.  This enrichment approach to literature encourages the students to develop their own deeper insights about the works and the themes and ideas presented in them.

Modeling how to read literature:

Modeling how to read literature is a practice essential to my courses.  I usually begin to read the assignment with the students, since this introduces them to the work in a non-threatening way.  When a concept is new to the course, I often have the class brainstorm together; when teaching Shakespeare, the class collaborates on possible definitions for tragedy and comedy.  When I am teaching poetry and want them to practice intense reading, I allow them to choose a poem not on my assigned list and, as a class, we read through it on consecutive days, making notes and identifying our changing understanding of the work. They expect me as the expert to know everything about a poem with the first reading and this experiment lets me show them how even someone well versed in reading poetry can learn from subsequent readings.

If the literary work is challenging, I provide help with vocabulary lists and questions to focus on particular issues as needed.  Several of my students have said that these act as a guide for them when they are reading so they know that they understand the text when they are able to begin to answer the questions.  A sample question for Gulliver’s Travels is:

Gulliver says, “Although there were few greater lovers of mankind, at that time, than myself, yet I confess I never saw any sensitive being so detestable on all accounts; and the more I came near them the more hateful they grew, while I stayed in that country” (Bk. 4, Ch. 2).

  Gulliver’s revulsion forms the basis for his intense hatred of mankind (misanthropy).  Why and to what extent is it normal for Gulliver to react to the Yahoos this way and how is his reaction problematic?

Questions like these allow the students to explore the text and its implications rather than just rush through a reading to say it is finished and perhaps miss the reading’s most important lessons.  If a student can read well, most things become accessible.

Goals for literature:

In my classes I also discuss the applications of literary analysis to other areas of their lives.  A character analysis can be very similar to a personnel review, for example.  It can also be useful when trying to sort out personality conflicts among friends.  In addition I try to show that other people, besides English teachers, have read the works and expect that they will have too.  To do this, I bring in comic strips or cartoons that refer to the works we are reading.  I also reference editorial letters in newspapers or magazine articles on other topics that refer to literature. It is a light-hearted way to make a serious point.  I hope that they are encouraged to keep reading long after the assignments are completed.

Poetry Introduction

Poetry introduction.

A lot of our students have never read poetry or don’t realize they have read it.
Things to talk about:
What is poetry?
Where is poetry?
Who writes poetry?
History of poetry.
How do they write poetry?
How can you write poetry?
How to read poetry aloud.

What is poetry?
create a feeling
set a scene
may tell a story- used to tell a story, now more often a photograph/scene
may give a moral
may rhyme
a way of expressing something (thought/emotion)
“should be written at least as well as prose”

Ezra Pound
pay attention to the way it looks on the page

“use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something”E. Pound

if you had to pay $1 for each word in your poem, how many would you have to keep?

Poetry is an experiment. The poet is trying to say something in a way you’ll KNOW it.

concrete- not abstract

“go in fear of abstractions” E Pound

original- new way of saying that gives you a new way of thinking about the thing
has a form- shape or structure the words take MATTERS; haiku, prayer, psalm, etc.

Where do we find poetry?

  • Jump rope rhymes
  • Mother Goose
  • America the Beautiful
  • hymns
  • songs
  • poems
  • playground
  • books
  • Reader’s Digest- Life in these United States (Robert Frost)
  • comic strips, cartoons
  • music
  • radio
  • paper: editorials, qtd Tree by Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
  • on the wall? “Foot prints in the Sand” wall hanging
  • fancy magazines like Sat. Evening Post, The Atlantic Monthly
  • children’s books
  • Bible
  • SF novels- John Ringo qts Kipling
  • Fantasy novels- Christopher Stasheff quotes lots of folks

Who likes poetry?
English teachers

Okay, but who else?

police officers
song writers
people who like music
religious people
in the Bible (New Testament), Paul, quoting a poet about the people
story tellers of all kinds

Who writes poetry?
people who care a lot

  • missionary
  • dr., nurse, soldier
  • fundraiser
  • spokesperson—like Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’s

people who like to play with words
people who read a lot
journals (genre specific mags for people in certain fields)
fiction, nonfiction
people who write a lot
curious folks
people who are willing to work hard to improve—

often requires a lot of revision

How do they write poetry?
different ways

  • Virgil (Roman poet) walked in gardens all day long.
  • Thought it was a good day if he got one new line.
  • Elizabethan poet Ben Jonson wrote a prose paragraph first.  Then wrote poem on topic.
  • John Milton was blind.  Composed Paradise Lost in his head and dictated it.
  • Frank O’Hara would eat lunch with friends. Go back to work.
  • Type one poem. Get back to working.
  • Maya Angelou writes on a bed.  She’s been doing it so long she has a callous on one elbow.

How can you write poetry? How do people do it?

Colonial America
Kept a commonplace book. Place to write ideas down.
Artist’s Way-says to write three poems a day
Keep a journal
Keep a book where you put in “interesting stuff”
Someone gave me one when I was 15. I loved it. Still cut articles, etc.
Practice writing traditional poems
“paying your dues”
Hemingway didn”t write grammatically correct sentences in his novels, but he knew the rules.

Keep a list of subjects to write about.
Ray Bradbury makes a list of nouns. Eventually many become stories.

How to write a story critique

Story critique (essay)
This is a five-paragraph essay.
1st paragraph:
Capture your audience’s attention, maybe with a question or an interesting idea.
Give the background for the story. Include who wrote it and when and its name.
2nd paragraph:
Character and setting
Who is in the story? Where are they in the story? When does the story take place?
3rd paragraph:
Conflict and plot
What is the storyline? What happens in the story? What do the characters do and say?
4th paragraph:
Climax and theme/moral
When does the story resolve itself? What is the story about? What does it try to teach?
5th paragraph
Give your opinion on the story without using personal pronouns.
The last sentence should be reflected/repeated in the essay title. (This brings your whole paper full circle and makes it more coherent.)

Tip 27: How to teach a definition/illustration paper

This is my favorite paper to teach because my students enjoy it (as much as they enjoy any paper) and overall they do a very good job with it.

To Begin
Talk about why people need to define the words they use.

I recently taught this lesson again, adding a definition/illustration example from music. I figured there had to be a song somewhere on this topic. And, sure enough, I turned on the radio and there was Tracy Lawrence singing, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”

An example I give here is two people dating. One says, “I love you.” The other says, “I love you, too.” Both think the other person understood what they said and agrees with it. But, in this case, the first person means, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” and the second person means, “I like being with you till somebody better comes along.”

Another strong example is the issue of the Challenger explosion. The engineers working on the Challenger wrote the administration and said “the secondary O-rings” have problems. Administration wrote back and asked if the primary O-rings were good. Yes, they were, but the secondary O-rings were problematic. Administration decided that as long as the primary O-rings were okay, there was no reason to worry about the secondary O-rings.

The issue here was that administration heard “secondary” and thought “back-up.” The engineers were saying “secondary,” which was the official name, meaning “second kind of.”

Because the two groups did not understand each other, the Challenger launched and blew up in sight of everyone standing there and an entire school whose teacher was on the ship.

Sometimes the difference in definitions can make a life and death difference.

This illustrates to the students why they might need to define words, even words they use all the time.

Real life examples of definition paragraphs
I also give examples of definition paragraphs from real life. This is growing over time and you could probably come up with your own set of real life definition paragraphs.

Abstract Nouns

Then I give definitions of and examples of concrete and abstract nouns.

It is important that students know the difference between abstract and concrete nouns because they need to know what they are going to be defining.

Students Begin

Then I have the students choose an abstract noun to write on.

To help the students think of the abstract term in a visual way, using the handmade approach that Dr. Musgrove presented at 2010 CCTE, give them a few minutes and ask them to illustrate the concept they think they want to write on. This allows those who are not verbal to approach the problem and this also helps students to “think outside the box.”

To help them think through, as a kinesthetic prewriting activity, I have them look up definitions for their word online. I usually have them look up multiple definitions for the word. An easy way to do this is put “define x” into Google. Then the first one is web definitions for the word, if such exist. Here they are looking for any quote on the topic.

Then, still as part of their prewriting, I have them look up quotes on the word. Here they are looking for a quote they agree with.

This is a good time to go through MLA internal citations and Works Cited for electronic sources. Only these two sources are used in the paper and most of the students do a good job with this. It’s much easier for them to say something like: “Princeton’s definition of honor is…” Or Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” (“Health”).

Definition Paragraph

I discuss with the students types of definitions. I have the students use the definition they found and add to it or define it more precisely.

I also have them use the quotation they found, if they wish.

I suggest they start off with questions or a personal anecdote which tell why they are interested in this word.

A student example of beauty.

A student example about love.

Three Examples

The next three paragraphs are, I tell them, examples of this word that match their definition of the word. And, since I told them to pick a word that means something to them, most of them have examples from their lives or the lives of those they know.

This is where their imagination and creativity can run riot, giving many details. I often get long papers because I allow them to choose their topic and their examples.


Obviously there ought to be a concluding paragraph to tie it all together. What should go in it? They can remind the reader of the definition. They can say what the word does not mean. They can recap the illustrations. They can add an example that was too short to give in the illustration paragraphs. They can give an example that is NOT their definition and say why it is not, ending with their definition again.

Online examples

This is one I wrote in class with the students watching, to show them the thought process I went through.

This is a student definition/illustration paper written in class.

Mental Health Issues in Literature and History

There was a call for papers for 19th century American literature and topics from within that. I thought of my most interesting section in freshman comp and literature at CC2.

One of the stories in the book was “The Yellow Wallpaper.” It is the story of a woman who goes crazy from the prescription for her postpartum depression. It was from this story that the whole unit grew.

First, we read “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” discussing the insanity in them and also the gothic elements (since similar gothic elements exist in “The Yellow Wallpaper”). We discussed questions of whether or not it is insanity to believe something that is patently untrue. We talked about the definition of insanity in terms of living with other people or not being able to do so. And we talked about the typical expectation of crazy people to hear voices (or sounds) that no one else can hear because they do not exist.

Then we moved into a discussion of women’s historical experiences with mental instability.

Before we read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I told them of one experience I have had with insanity.

After that I had the students freewrite about their experience with insanity in any form. I had them write for a few minutes about the most insane thing they’d ever seen.

Then I asked them, what was their definition of crazy?

My personal experience, expressed much more specifically in my class, made it possible for students to feel safe orally sharing stories and one or two did so.

After that we read “Yellow Wallpaper.” We discussed its history and surrounding information such as Gilman’s explanation for writing the work, an English teacher’s explication of the story, and the history of mental health and women in the United States.

For instance, Governor Winthrop wrote in his Journal on 13 April 1645:

Mr. Hopkins, the governor of Hartford upon Connecticut, came to Boston, and brought his wife with him, (a godly young woman, and of special parts,) who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason, which had been growing upon her divers years, by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error, when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her.[2:225]

I introduced Nellie Bly at this time. Her work Ten Days in a Mad-House is relatively short. And it does a good job of making clear the situation for women in asylums at the time. Time limitations can be eased by picking particular sections. (Some chapters are less than a page long.)

Love’s Madness: Medicine, the Novel, and Female Insanity explains the focus on the part of the doctors on questions about her lovers and everyone’s giggles over the judge’s description of her as someone’s darling.

To relieve some of the depression of the whole unit, we also talked about her world tour . This is an amazing story of courage on the part of a woman who knows what the world can do and since it ends happily, it relieves some of the gloom this unit creates.

There is a YouTube on Nellie,
that is living history. It is short and introduces the students to her. There are other YouTube videos available on her.

Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” talks of a kind husband with a life that is circumscribed not by physician or barred windows but by society’s expectations. The shortness of the story, the simplicity of the narrative line, and the shock of the ending makes it a favorite in English classes. We discussed the expectations for women in the day, in terms of education, work, and family. We also discussed the differences in working women and ladies. (This comes up in Nellie Bly and can be either examined there first or after the reading discussed here.)

The third literary work in this second section which we read in this section was Susan Glaspell’s Trifles. This play is complicated in ways that are more understandable having read and discussed women’s issues and mental health issues in the day. Though it is from a later era, the differences are not extreme, since it is about a farming community, a more conservative, less changing group than, for instance, a story about a woman in the city in the same era.

This unit allowed us to talk about women’s issues, to place women’s issues in a historical context which explained some anomalies the students had noticed in life around them, and to discuss mental health and insanity in a way that was unthreatening and thoughtful.

I am also thinking about using part of this in the class on Writing in the Behavioral Sciences to introduce the kinds of issues there have been historically.

Using Web 2.0 in the English Classroom

Digital Book: The Wild, Wild Wiki

Wiki Lore and Politics in the Classroom by two English teachers.

Wiki: Romantic Audience Project

Wiki: Romantic Audience Project 2

Using Wikis in the Classroom from Hamline University

For example, …a Rhetoric and Composition Wikibook (Barton, 2006) that share different aspects of learning to write in college: the composing process, writing different types of writing, editing, writing in different disciplinary areas, etc. These students were motivated to share their experiences with first-year college writing courses because they knew that future students would benefit from insights on how to grapple with the challenges of learning to write in college. And, given the challenge of college students deciding on courses to take, students at Brown University created a wiki for providing reviews of different course in a school or college, as did (

To help students adopt a critical stance related to considering what or how to revise a wiki, you may model question-asking responses to a wiki text to determine necessary revisions:

– “What is the text trying to say or do?”

– “Who is the intended audience?”

– “What descriptions or concepts that are not clear?”

– “What revisions would serve to clarify these descriptions or concepts?”

– “What points are being made and is their sufficient evidence or support for those points?”

– “What additional information is needed to provide needed evidence or support?”

How Do I Set Up A Wiki For My Classroom?

How can you set up a wiki for your classroom? There are a lot of different wiki hosting sites available for you use (@ = Wiki hosting). Tim Stahmer (2006) describes three different options for setting up wikis that range from free, uncomplicated to more commercial, complicated options:

Free “wiki farms.” The first option consists of what are described as free wiki hosting sites or “wiki farms” that are easy to set up, although they may have advertising and have limited features, sites such as Wikicities (, WikiSpaces (, PBWiki (, JotSpot (, UseMod (, or WritingWiki, Wikispaces, Seekwiki, Project Forum (, EditMe, TikiWiki, (,, or WetPaint.

One of the most popular of these options is PBWiki given its ease of use, one reason we selected it to use for this book’s resource site.

Students could also reflect on the often-challenging process of engaging in collaborative work. Ferris & Wilder (2006) suggest some questions related to issues of ownership and authorship tied to traditional print based texts:
*How does it feel to have the part(s) of the story you worked on changed?
*Who “owns” the story?
*How do you make changes while respecting the efforts of your co-authors?
*How do you justify the changes you want over the changes your co-authors want?
*How do you negotiate final changes and/or disputes over how the story should be changed?

Rhetoric and Composition Wikibook could easily be used as a textbook if the class had access to computers immediately. And they could edit it as they went along, finding ideas that worked well and others that didn’t.

I edited it while I was looking at it. I thought I could add something useful to the discussion.

Beowulf teaching resources

I have waded through 45 pages of Google for “teaching Beowulf,” so that you don’t have to. Here’s the useful stuff:

Beowulf@Web English Teacher

Teaching Resources

English 505 Beowulf Blog, with short critical discussions

Beowulf on the Web, including Beowulf sites, aids for learning Old English, and general medieval links

Flytes of Fancy: Boasts and Boasters from Beowulf to Gangsta Rap, an essay

The Labyrinth: Resources for teaching medieval studies, a series of links maintained by Georgetown U

The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf, a book preview online. Lots of good stuff if you take the time to read it, but not on the top. Have to read it.

Editing Beowulf: What can the study of ballads tell us? an article from Oral Tradition.

Beowulf: a slideshow

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: beowulf)

Medievalist blogs. This might be something I could use to have my students look for information. It would at least be an adventure.

The Electronic Revolution and the Teaching of Literature (2005) about teaching Beowulf and how that has changed with the internet. from the CEA Forum

EdSITEment: The Beauty of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, with lots of links and some ideas.

Beowulf Resources, “along with Anglo-Saxon, Old English, Germanic, Indo-European, & Mythological/Epic resources.” This list of resources has a short note about what it is and includes readings, lectures, etc.

There is also my own Useful Old English links.