WHAT’S BEHIND THE RHETORIC?
First off, rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the ability of writers and speakers to inform, persuade and motivate. This textbook, Skyline’s Writing & Reading Rhetoric, was written by English teachers at Skyline College with contributions from our Librarians and ESOL teachers with the goal of providing clear and consistent instruction on how to recognize and apply successful writing, reading, and research strategies.
This project is unique because English teachers and other faculty volunteered their time over two years to create this comprehensive and free textbook for students and instructors. This textbook is an English teacher’s version of a love letter to our students. We love the written word and strive to infect our students with that shared love and appreciation of language. Also, we have dedicated our professional lives to help others reach their academic goals, and this textbook is a testament to our ongoing commitment to help our students succeed and flourish in college and beyond.
WHAT PHILOSOPHIES ARE BEHIND THE RHETORIC?
As we set out to create one text that promoted a shared set of values and approaches in teaching, we began by articulating our teaching philosophies and used these to shape our work.
First, we believe in and promote the mission statement of Skyline College: “To empower and transform a global community of learners.” Next, here are our shared philosophies when it comes to teaching English:
When you take a Skyline English class, you will:
- Become a part of a community of learners who
- support each other’s learning.
- engage in collaborate projects.
- lead and contribute to discussions.
- develop your leadership abilities.
- Work with teachers who
- value active learning that is hands-on where you can directly apply your knowledge.
- encourage and respect multiple and diverse perspectives.
- care about what you think.
- create comfortable and inclusive learning environments that put students first.
- who believe in empowering students and facilitating self-determination.
- Strengthen your reading skills by
- reading texts that often reflect your experiences and interests.
- being exposed to global perspectives.
- applying strategies to improve your reading comprehension.
- interpreting, analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing texts.
- writing thoughtfully and analytically about the texts you read.
When you take a Skyline English class, you will:
- Strengthen your writing skills by
- approaching writing as a step-by-step process that involves feedback and multiple drafts and revisions.
- practicing timed in-class essay writing because the ability to compose quickly and on the spot is valuable.
- learning sentence craft and paragraph development within the larger context of writing an essay.
- becoming aware of your own processes of writing as well as the approaches and techniques used by other writers.
- developing your own authentic writer’s voice and clear point of view.
- writing different types of essays that fit your academic and professional purposes and audience.
- helping you to communicate more clearly and logically not only in English class but in your other classes, the workplace, etc.
- Receive feedback from your instructor about your writing that
- is given to you within two weeks from when you submitted the work.
- encourages you to improve your writing and thinking.
- emphasizes what you did well and also provides clear and constructive feedback on the areas that could be strengthened.
- assigns grades based on evaluating essays as a whole and doesn’t penalize for each “error.”
- helps you to identify patterns of error so you can learn to identify and revise on your own.
- gives you opportunities to apply the feedback to your current and future drafts.
- is ordered and clear and follows accepted and shared academic guidelines.
When you complete a Skyline English class, you will be able to:
- Achieve the shared English Department goals (also called Student Learning Outcomes—SLOs)
- ESSAYS: Write focused, organized, well-developed, and text-based essays using effective paragraphs, which support a clear thesis statement, and demonstrate competence in standard English grammar and usage.
- CRITICAL ANALYSIS: Demonstrate critical reading, writing, and thinking skills through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of important ideas.
- SOURCES: Effectively evaluate and fluidly integrate relevant sources, using appropriate research strategies and tools, and documenting them according to MLA guidelines.
- LITERARY ANALYSIS (for literature classes): Demonstrate an understanding of a broad range of literary works from the period and/or genre by analyzing major themes and literary techniques.
WHY A SHARED RHETORIC?
There are many writing textbooks to choose from so why spend so much time and energy creating our own?
We created this Rhetoric….
- to promote consistency amongst our English classes so that the fundamental writing and reading concepts are taught using shared definitions, philosophies and approaches.
- to avoid the possibility of giving students mixed messages and instead create clear and consistent academic standards and expectations with clear guidelines of how to achieve high quality work.
- to take advantage of and harness the rich pool of expertise and experience on our teaching staff using the strengths and benefits of our teachers who are fresh out of programs to other teachers who have been teaching for decades.
- to craft what we saw as the “perfect” combination of lessons, hands on skill application, and text-based writing instruction. We contextualized the teaching of writing by building into the chapters an example of how to create a text-based paper from the beginning stages to completion based on analyzing an excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass.
- to save our students money! We know textbooks are expensive, so we created one that is free and can be used at all levels of English. If students want a print version of the textbook, they can get a copy through our bookstore and pay only the duplication costs.
- to appeal to different types of learning styles. Since we created all the materials, we were also able to adapt the lessons into PowerPoint and podcasts for students with more visual and auditory learning styles. Rhetoric website: http://accounts.smccd.edu/skyenglish/
HOW DOES IT WORK?
We used a consistent structure throughout the textbook to make it easy to learn a concept, to understand its relevance, and then to apply it. You can see that very structure used here in this introductory chapter, and it is reflected in the textbook title itself: What, Why, and How?
The structure for each topic:
WHAT? Definition: What is a clear explanation of this concept?
WHY? Purpose and Rationale: Why is it important or beneficial? What are the reasons why this concept should be used?
HOW? Application: How can I see it applied in examples? How can I best apply it?