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Teaching Writing For The "real World": Community And Workplace Writing

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

We live in a highly textual world. Texts meet us and our students at every turn: on our cell phone screens, computer screens, in the news tickers that run along the bottom of our television screens, in newspapers, magazines, books, trade newsletters, email, memos, reports, billboards, advertisements, forms, bills, policies, instruction manuals. The world's work largely transpires through Breitling Replica text—business, government, and entertainment are all mediated by writing. Interpersonal communication is also largely written now with the advent of technologies that facilitate written talk.

In contrast to this reality, much of the teaching of writing in high school classrooms does not include these kinds of texts in our conversations and in the writing that we ask students to do. Many students leave English language arts classrooms thinking that writing equals creative writing, literary analysis, or the five-paragraph essay, without making the connection that most people write as part of the work they do and as part of being a member of society. Often, in our teaching of writing, we overlook the kinds of writing that are connected to the "real world" that our students and their families interact with on a daily basis.

As teachers of writing with varied experiences in secondary schools, Upward Bound and ELL programs, colleges, and teacher education, we have begun to see the merit of broadening the kinds of writing and texts that we teach. Specifically, we have developed a curriculum that brings workplace and community writing, along with rhetoric and visual design, to the forefront of our writing classrooms. Here, we want to share our experiences with teaching community and workplace writing with student writers, and we propose that teaching this kind of writing in the English curriculum can tap into students' interests, literacy experiences, critical-thinking skills, and rhetorical awareness.

In this article, we offer an approach to teaching that can help students prepare to write for the workplace and in the community: a case study of community-based writing. In this case-study project, students work in groups to study the writing needs and practices of a community-based group or organization, such as a local public library, a student organization, or a nonprofit health Tag Heuer Replica clinic, and then students work in groups to create a document the organization needs. We explain the rationale for such a project, the project design and implementation, tips for making the project a success, and implications for student learning about writing for varied audiences, document design, and creating documents that are meant not only to be read, but to be used.

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