Monday, September 25, 2023

Composition as Conversation (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review)

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My own children have graduated from our homeschool, but I still have the opportunity to tutor high school students in writing and literature, and therefore still appreciate finding useful resources for writing instruction. I was recently able to review Composition As Conversation by Heather M. Hoover, and enjoyed pondering the insights and ideas offered.

Heather M. Hoover (PhD, University of Tennessee) is a profressor of English and compositio at Milligan University, where she developed and has directed the writing program for fifteen years. She also directs the Master of Arts in Humanities and is the George and Janet Arnold Chair of the Humanities. She lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Although this concise guide to writing well is not a traditional textbook, it does offer valuable advice to students and instructors alike on how to improve the craft. Based on her experience as a college writing instructor, Hoover approaches composition as an ongoing conversation between the writer and readers. She begins with a question asked of her students about what makes a person an excellent conversationalist, and then applies seven of the top characteristics to the discipline of writing. This paradigm shift can invite and inspire writers to be more respectful and willing to continue learning about their subjects.

The suggestions and instructions are geared for college level students and classrooms, but I think the ideas could be adapted and incorporated into high school classrooms as well. In fact, high school students would benefit from learning how to be attentive and open-minded as they are developing their writing skills in preparation for college research. 

In my opinion, this book is best suited as a resource for writing instructors who wish to make their classroom more interesting and engaging, and inspire quality conversations and writing from their students. There is no lesson plan or syllabus, but many ideas for engaging students in ongoing discussions that will help them learn to listen and read attentively, and put their research and thoughts into more meaningful and relatable written conversations. There is an appendix of samples and templates for revision guides and peer reviews and the like that would be very helpful to many instructors. Certainly more advanced writers, especially at the college level, will find the book very helpful as well.

In keeping with her theme, Hoover's writing is conversational in tone and inspired me to ponder the ideas more deeply and consider how the suggestions could be useful in my high school level class for homeschool students. I was intrigued enough to purchase a paperback of the book when I was only about halfway through the digital ARC I received, so that I could easily highlight and annotate the instruction ideas I most wanted to incorporate into my classroom. 

From the publisher:

Teaching writing is not for the faint of heart, but it can be a tremendous gift to teachers and students. Students often approach writing courses with trepidation because they think of writing as a mystical and opaque process. Teachers often approach these same courses with dread because of the enormous workload and the often-unpolished skills of new writers. This approachable composition textbook for beginning writers contends that writing can be a better experience for everyone when taught as an empathetic and respectful conversation. In a time in which discourse is not always civil and language is not always tended carefully, a conversation-based wrirting approach emphasizes intention and care.

Written by a teacher with more than fifteen years of experience in the college writing classroom, Composition as Conversation explores what happens when the art of conversation meets the art of writing. Heather Hoover shows how seven virtues―including curiosity, attentiveness, relatability, open-mindedness, and generosity―inform the writing process and can help students become more effective writers. She invites writers of all skill levels to make meaningful contributions with their writing.

This short, accessible, and instructive book offers a reflective method for college-level writing and will also work well in classical school, high school, and homeschool context. It demystifies the writing process and helps students understand why their writing matters. It will energize teachers of writing as they encourage their students to become careful readers and observers, intentional listeners, and empathetic arguers. The book also provides helpful sample assignments.

This review also appears on my book blog, Just A Second: Recent Reads - Composition as Conversation

This title is available on Amazon for Kindle, or in paperback or hardcover.

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Rainbow Evening said...

well written review.... good for me.
thank you for sharing.

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