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Publication Title

Praxis: A Writing Center Journal








Assuming student discourse is prone to error, teachers have long implemented rules that ensure "safe" discourse, particularly in composition instruction. My fifth grade teacher taught me to place a comma in a sentence whenever I take a breath rather than teaching me the language of comma rules. To my dismay, many of my first-year composition students raise their hands in agreement that they too have been taught to place a comma wherever their lungs suggest. These students learn to call independent clauses a complete sentence, and to them an ellipsis is merely “dot, dot, dot.” In an attempt to reach students, some teachers are using this student-driven discourse instead of bringing students into the discourse of the subject itself. The results are students who cannot effectively engage in academic discourse in their own writing. Peer collaboration can mend student discourse if they are encouraged to participate in contextual learning and confront the restrictions of discourse students have faced throughout their writing instruction. Such restrictions have sought to create "normal," safe discourse at the risk of abandoning contextual learning. I met with these issues years ago as a writing tutor when I learned how to empower student writers by engaging them in purposeful, “abnormal” discourse about their writing. Today, as an instructor of English, I practice the very same methods I used as a writing tutor each time I conduct one-one-one writing conferences. Essentially, I am still tutoring my students, even as a university composition instructor.

Original Publication Citation

Tucker, V. (2009). Bringing "abnormal" discourse into the classroom. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 7(1), 1-5.