Teaching Key Concepts

Key Writing Program Concepts

Our Learning Outcomes pages offer a whole range of different resources, and many of these connect to specific Terms and Concepts the program tries to teach and discuss.  So visiting each outcome and checking out the resources can be a great way to develop your understanding of our key concepts.  However, this page offers links to a variety of documents design to assist instructors in developing a genre studies and cultural-historical activity theory pedagogy for writing instruction, and it’s focused around what we think are the Key Concepts for our program.  Some of these documents are designed primarily for instructors to use as they work to better understand and incorporate terms and concepts we use in the program. Others are at least partially designed for students (as handouts) to help them understand or practice important concepts


Genre Investigations & Analysis

Genre Investigations and genre analysis are activities that are critical to our writing program.  They involve the practice of “finding out about” new kinds of writing.  In our program, we don’t subscribe to a narrow “models-based” practice of genre investigation.  Instead we use Cultural-Historical Activity Theory to break apart the activity systems of genre productions. The links below include activities and handouts that seek to help instructors in the task of introducing Genre Investigations to their students:

  • Genre Understanding Sheet  Developed by Rob Rowan and adapted by many teachers at ISU, this sheet can be used to talk about genre investigations throughout the work of a Unit, and through an entire semester.  It can also be used as part of an alternative assessment model that takes learning into account (see below).
  • Investigating Genres Handout: Originally designed as a handout of the college of business workshop (summer 2012), this handout has been revised to for a general 101/145 audience.  It discusses the basic principles of doing writing research into genres and offers some guides for how to go about doing this research.
  •  Critical Genre Analysis. Coffee Klatch session (informal teacher get-together) led by Kristi McDuffie.

Creating Writing Researchers

Since 2009,  the ISU Writing Program has undergone a further transition, moving radically away from more traditional models for teaching and assessing writing, toward one that focuses on teaching for transfer, assessing learning rather than visible mastery, and creating “writing research” identities for ourselves and our students. One of the primary goals of the ISU writing program is to  promote “citizen writing research” through a range of activities.

  • Not Writing About Writing:  This except gives a short explanation of how our efforts to create Writing Researchers differs from the Writing About Writing movement that follows the work of Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs.
  • Using the GWRJournal:  The document helps instructors to think through how to use the GWRJ to move beyond content and begin to think about the daily activities of writing research.

Cultural Historical Activity Theory

  •  CHAT overview This white paper offers a basic overview of CHAT as we use it in the writing program.  It’s not meant to be a scholarly overview of the theory or research in this area. Instead, it’s designed to help instructors and students discuss what these theories mean (in a practical way) to the study and practice of writing in different environments.
  • CHAT worksheet. Using this worksheet during a Coffee Klatch session, participants worked to demystify CHAT and to understand some of the many ways that CHAT might manifest in classroom practice.
  • Walker, Joyce (Fall 2010). Just CHATing. Grassroots Writing Research Journal1. 71-80.
  • Kostecki, Tyler (Fall 2012). Understanding Language and Culture with Cultural-Historical Activity Theory  Grassroots Writing Research Journal 3.1.
  • CHAT in Action In Let’s CHAT podcast, teachers talk about how to use CHAT as part of a Daily Writing Research experience.
  • Teaching CHAT to students:  Let’s CHAT episode with ISU program instructors about the different ways they take up CHAT in their classrooms.

Working With Uptake Genres

Teaching for Uptake and Transfer

Alternative Assessment (Peer and Self Assessment)