Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS


Leave a comment

Silence as a tutoring tool

Brian Hotson, Director, Saint Mary’s Writing Centre

 

“Silence is argument carried out by other means.” — Che Guevara

 

Working recently with a student, I found us both staring in silence at a page of the student’s handwriting. Five second… 10 seconds… 15 seconds…

Student: “What if the paper is about the universality of addiction and intervention?”

More silence.

“Universality…that’s a word, right?”

Tutoring is an intimate experience and silence creates an intimate space. Silence democratizes the writing and learning processes in general, which “can lead to a sense of teaching-based group intimacy that, ultimately, can enhance the discovery of knowledge” (Lees, 2013). I’ve found that in silence, more answers seem to come up than when the tutoring space is filled with words. The work of silence as a writing tool is similar to that of putting aside work for a time; it allows the brain to re-focus, breakdown, and re-form into something changed or new. When tutoring students from learning cultures of China and Japan, as well as Scandinavia, “appreciating the pedagogical uses of silence can be particularly helpful… where silence plays a significant cultural role and is valued” (Lees, 2013). Used at the right moments, silence allows the student a chance to commandeer the tutoring process, while encouraging his or her own strengths in the knowledge-making process.

Beginning a tutoring session with silence in mind will help mitigate apprehension of silence. In the case of this recent student, he thought that he had no idea of how to tackle his paper when we began, though he knew his topic, addiction and Wind in the Willows and had done a significant amount of research and prewriting. He had time constraints. Using a script of “Let’s think about…” followed by silence at the beginning of the session set a process of talking and pondering at the outset. In this case, the student just didn’t know what he already knew. Silence helped this knowledge come to the surface.

Source

Lees, H. (2013). Silence as a pedagogical tool: Using silence effectively in the university classroom has pedagogical benefits, asserts Helen Lees. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/silence-as-a-pedagogical-tool/2006621.article


Leave a comment

When and How Should Your Students Use the Writing Center?

Originally posted on The Writing Campus

Alisa Russell, George Mason University

Whenever we assign writing assignments in our classrooms, we often peripherally acknowledge that the Writing Center is a viable option for our students to work with a tutor toward improvement. However, students may not fully understand the extensive options that the Writing Center provides for them. After scrambling for an appointment or not making one at all, the student may bring in a near-final draft for a quick check mere hours before the due date, which fosters little learning and room for growth. Instead, as the instructor and grader of your students’ work, you can steer your students toward when and how they should be using the Writing Center even more convincingly than our website or bulletin boards. Teaching your students when and how to use the Writing Center will not only provide more opportunities for your students to engage in transferable learning, but it will also lead to more fully developed and reviewed writing assignments.

View Original 736 more words


Leave a comment

Children’s science author L.E. Carmichael on her writing process

 Here’s our own Dr. Lindsey Carmichael, writing tutor and published author of science-focused children’s books, talking about her writing process!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There are a lot of brilliant science books out there for kids, but I think one thing that makes my work different is my background as a scientist. I think it gives me a slightly different perspective than that of authors who love science, but never studied it at the level I have. Because I work part time at a university, I also have access to a lot of research materials that other writers might not be able to find or afford (most professional journals charge pricey subscription and licensing fees). My own research experiences, and those of my scientist friends, also help me identify little-known, but utterly awesome, stories to share with kids.

Why do I write what I do?

I started out writing fiction, but fiction is highly competitive and I wasn’t making much headway with publishers.

Sources I used while writing Gene Therapy

Then, in 2010, it occurred to me that by switching to nonfiction, I could leverage my academic credentials and break into the biz. That sounds mercenary of me, but I quickly realized that nonfiction is a lot more fun to write than most people think it is, and I absolutely love the research process (so much so that I often have to remind myself to stop chasing facts and start writing already!)

In terms of subject matter, I choose projects that I’m fascinated by or subjects I want to learn more about. And I dream about the day someone will come up to me and tell me that my books are the reason they love science.

How does my writing process work?

I love the word “process” – it sounds so organized!

I usually start with exploratory research. I get my hands on some good books about my topic and troll through them with a wide net, looking for anything that sparks my “oh wow” response. This continues until the book starts to take shape in my head – until I’ve figured out roughly what I want to cover and what order it goes in. Then I write a draft of the whole book. This reveals every hole in my research, from the tiny and specific to the huge and the gaping.

My second round of research is designed to plug those gaps – now I’m looking for answers to specific questions. I start using journal articles and reputable websites and contacting experts until I’m satisfied (or my deadline starts to loom). I go back to my draft, add the new material, and polish the whole thing until it shines. This takes anywhere from three to six rounds of revision.

At last I submit, reward myself with chocolate, and wait for the inevitable request for revision, at which point the cycle starts again!

[See original @ http://www.lecarmichael.ca/tag-youre-it-my-writing-process-blog-tour/ ]