ERWC and Teacher Preparation

By Amy K. Conley

What do K-12 administrators, literacy instructors, and literacy researchers think should be included in literacy coursework?

I have taught the CSU Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) for more than a decade, but I didn’t expect my experience as an ERWC teacher and facilitator to be so relevant in my recent EdD dissertation. I surveyed 233 California K-12 administrators, literacy instructors of preservice teachers, and literacy researchers to ask what should be included in literacy coursework to eventually replace the Reading Instruction Competency Assessment required for new elementary and special education teachers.

After the survey, I used focus groups to really delve into what participants thought should be included in literacy coursework for preservice teachers.

I was surprised when the three big takeaways about the needs in preservice literacy instruction also resonated with what teachers have told me in ERWC certification workshops. Preservice teachers need less standardized testing and more instruction in these areas:

  1. Culturally sustaining pedagogy for both methods and materials
  2. Supporting foundational literacy, especially for older readers, based upon a focus on phonemic awareness, phonics, morphology, and writing
  3. All teachers need more support in teaching writing. Being able to write is not the same as being able to teach writing.

In the ERWC community, we discuss the recursive nature of reading and writing, but that research-based idea holds true for every level of reader and writer. To grow reading, students need to use the language to write, whether we call those related ideas orthographic mapping, reflective writing, or revising rhetorically. To grow writing, students need to decode independently, get a chance to acquire academic language, and learn to read rhetorically.

There is also a growing realization in all levels of education that everything we do must be culturally sustaining. It must be the sea in which our students swim, not an add-on. ERWC has long tried to create modules with engaging topics, with support for emergent bilinguals, but is now actively considering how best to incorporate home languages, empowering topics, translanguaging, and diverse authors into its profusion of modules for teachers to choose from to meet student needs.

ERWC has long been a professional development model to support high school teachers and students. It’s interesting to see how it could translate to work with preservice high school and middle school teachers.

You can read in more detail what stakeholders think should be included in literacy preservice coursework in the executive summary. Please see the updated “Theoretical Foundations for Reading and Writing Rhetorically” for more information on ERWC’s efforts to create more inclusive and representative learning experiences.

Amy K. Conley is a lecturer and supervisor at Cal Poly Humboldt in literacy in the education department. She served as a high school English teacher for 20 years, where she worked to promote educational programs that foster excellence in service-learning, literacy, and equity. Her dissertation for her doctorate in educational leadership from CSU, Fresno examined what stakeholders believe should be included in a coursework replacement to the Reading Instructional Competency Assessment.

How the ERWC Fosters Independent Learners

By Anne Porterfield

A key pedagogical strategy embedded in California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) is for teachers to release control to students so that students can guide their own learning. Findings from a study of the ERWC, which was funded by an Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation grant, suggests that many of the teachers who taught it were successful in supporting students to take ownership of their learning.

According to some teachers, the texts and topics are highly engaging because they are relevant to students’ lives. For example, two popular modules–On Leaving I On Staying Behind and The Distance Between Us–include stories about immigration; some of the students saw their own families’ stories in those stories, which allowed them to enter the conversation with the text and one another.

In addition to the ERWC soliciting a high level of student engagement, teachers in the study reported that the ERWC prepares students for college. One way ERWC teachers in the study did this was by structuring discussions in ways that invited students to participate. This built students’ confidence and motivation to participate, allowing the discussions to become more student-led and inquiry-based. The hope is that, when students get to college, they will know how to engage in meaningful discussions with their peers without scaffolding.

Helping Students Set Meaningful Learning Goals

Despite all of the progress ERWC teachers saw their students make towards becoming independent learners, there is still one major area of growth: supporting students to set meaningful learning goals. The most prevalent concern among teachers is that learning goals are inauthentic for students. In other words, students just write down what they think the teacher wants to hear. 

ERWC Steering Committee member Dr. Ginny Crisco suggested some possible solutions in our forthcoming publication, which included teaching students how to look at data in order to develop learning goals and creating a climate of self-assessment and reflection. One tool teachers can use to do that is the Cycle for Cultivating Expert Learners, which includes the following components:

  • Emphasize a culturally sustaining and accessible inquiry approach to learning.
  • Practice mastery oriented goal setting  – focusing on both academic and academically related personal goals – to help students highlight how they are purposefully moving through a process of literacy development.
  • Offer choices for learning via engagement, action and expression, and representation, emerging from goals, that are also culturally sustaining and accessible.
  • Integrate formative assessment – that both students and teachers complete in relation to students’ work – to provide regular feedback about “where am I going?,” “where have I been?” and “where to next?” (Unrau 2019).
  • Evaluate student performance (and have them evaluate it) through summative assessment.
  • Cultivate constructive metacognition (Gorzelski et al 2016) through reflection across writing contexts and tasks.

Please see the ERWC Teaching Resource “Universal Design for Learning for the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum” for more information on the Cycle for Cultivating Expert Learners.

Do you have suggestions for how to support students to take ownership of their learning goals? If so, please use the comment box below to share your ideas! 

Anne Porterfield is a Program Associate at WestEd and one of the authors of the new report Expanding the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum: An Evaluation of an Investing in Innovation Validation Grant (2022). She tweets @anneporterfield.

References

Fong, A., Porterfield, A., Skjoldhorne, S., & Hadley, L. (2022). Expanding the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum: An evaluation of an Investing in Innovation Validation grant. WestEd. https://www.wested.org/resources/expanding-the-erwc-evaluation/

Unrau, N. (2019). Formative assessment for ERWC. Curriculum Overview Document. Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum, 3rd Edition. Long Beach, CA: California State University. https://writing.csusuccess.org/content/formative-assessment

Let Sleeping Teenagers Lie

By Lori Campbell

When I consulted our Associate Superintendent of Business for the Kern High School District, Dr. Mike Zulfa, about the plans for how our district would comply with SB 328, he wrote, “So I am blaming you for all of this disruption! 😊” You see, I am the one who wrote the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum module: “Teenage Sleepers: Arguing for Your Right to Sleep In.” 

Module Background

In the early stages of ERWC 3.0 development, I had proposed the module after watching the TED Talk with sleep expert Dr. Wendy Troxel, “Sleepy Teens: A Public Health Epidemic.” Troxel argues that the hormonal changes in teens cause them to reach REM sleep later than in adults and are not fully out of the sleep cycle until 90 minutes after adults are normally “awake.” She along with the PAC Start Schools Later fought for legislation that requires schools to start later in the morning for both middle-schoolers and high school students. I thought this would be a great topic of discussion for English 11 courses. It addressed all the points of an engaging module: all students could identify with the topic, there were definitely two contested sides of the issue, and students could actually participate in the political discussion. This module also introduces students to the construction of arguments. I never expected it to work so well! 

The Start Schools Later bill was first passed in the California legislature in 2018, but then (to my great relief) Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it citing that individual districts should decide what to do with the information. In fact, our district already provided online instruction as an option for students who had a difficult time functioning before 9:00 am. Students began their day at in-person schools during third period and took two of their classes online through the Kern Learn program–an independent studies program that offers UC-approved A-G coursework at the same rigor as the in-person classes on our school sites. The majority of assignments our students submit are completed between the hours of 5:00 pm and 3:00 am. They are pretty good, too! 

A Changing Context

Well, someone decided to try again when Governor Gavin Newsom was elected, and we all know what happened next. 

With the signing of SB 328 on October 19, 2019 (the month after the 3.0 modules were officially launched) middle school districts and high school districts in the state of California were given three years to figure out a plan to start their instruction no earlier than 8:00 am and 8:30 am respectively. And we also know what happened after that. COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine and teach-from-home nightmare placed this legislation at the back of the implementation line. Coming out of the stupor in winter of 2021, districts realized they really hadn’t thought about what was needed to completely shift the school day to 90 minutes later. I know that the Board of Trustees and KHSD Superintendent, Dr. Bryan Schaefer, petitioned the governor vehemently to at least delay the implementation of the new schedules but to no avail. 

Modifying the Module

In the meantime, I wanted to look at my module and see what could be salvaged. Just like all good ERWC module topics, this subject is still timely. As furious as I was with Governor Newsom for creating this chaos, I finally realized that the implementation of this plan would still allow students to find their civic voices. In our second week of late-start implementation, the students are grumbling about as loudly as the teachers and parents. Football games are STARTING at 8:30 at night. Buses without air conditioning are transporting students home at the hottest hours in Bakersfield with highs of 103-108. Parents are having to shift their days completely if they need to pick up their students later in the day. Teachers who turn into instant moms and dads when they arrive home are more exhausted and have less time to prepare dinner. It’s a hot mess in Kern County. I can only imagine what it is like in your neck of the California woods. 

The changes we are going through add a new dimension to this module, and we will be entering a period of data gathering. After a year or two, we will be in the position to look at the results: have attendance rates improved? Has the mental health of teens overall improved? Are students more successful in middle-schools and high schools? I think there is still plenty to argue with this module. I have revised some texts, the prompt, and some of the activities to reflect the passage of SB 328. This includes adding the bill itself to the module allowing teachers the opportunity to add the format of a foundational document to their instruction. This Google Doc provides the modifications that I have made. I would love to have feedback from teachers and their students. I think with all of us caught in the maelstrom, we may actually be able to work together to determine the benefits (or detriments) of SB 328. While I deny all culpability in the passage of this bill (I wrote letters to both governors telling them this was a bad idea!), I still believe we can teach our students about their civic voices and how to use them. This is exactly what ERWC is all about.

Lori Campbell is the English department chair for Kern High School District’s Kern Learn Program. This is a complete distance learning program that provides students the option to take their A-G required courses online. She has taught ERWC both face-to-face and through distance learning for 10 years. She holds her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Three Things I Carried from Teaching The Things They Carried

By Rachel Schultz Nguyen

At the start of the second semester of English 11, I taught the ERWC 3.0 module, The Things They Carried and the Power of Story. This was my students’ second approach to narrative writing; they wrote short stories during the Danger (and Power) of a Single Story module in the first semester. For this module, I was particularly interested in students developing new narrative techniques by studying a mentor text. They did! But I did not anticipate a secondary outcome that has changed my approach to teaching writing. 

The Things They Carried module is designed for students to complete eight writing tasks in response to their reading of Tim O’Brien’s constellation novel about the Vietnam War. By all accounts, this is A LOT of writing, writing that my students who hid behind black Zoom boxes for a year were not accustomed to. Thankfully, we were all up for a challenge. Why? Because the risk was low, and they knew they would get feedback. 

For the sake of time and technology access, I assigned five writing tasks. I used standards-based narrative writing success criteria and gave both individual and global feedback each week as we continued to study and discuss the novel. The end result: a digital publication called Letters I Carry, which included all five of their letters, an Author’s Note, and a process reflection.

This experience gave me a new view on the classroom writing process regarding prompts, mentor texts, and revision. Here are the three things I carried from The Things They Carried module.

Takeaway# 1: Good Prompts–And Lots of Them–Make All the Difference

We know that well-written prompts make all the difference. We also know that choice, a key component of Universal Design for Learning, helps in recruiting interest to better engage learners. This module contains over 20 (fantastic) prompts for teachers and students to choose from. 

Not only do the prompts ask students to try new techniques like Stream of Consciousness and Breaking the Fourth Wall, they also provide students a chance to rewrite their previous tasks in a new way: changing the perspective, inverting characters, re-writing endings. 

Offering a variety of prompts–some based on childhood memories, some asking students to try new techniques, and all challenging awareness of purpose, audience, and occasion–creates an atmosphere of engagement, risk-taking, and growth. Students reflected that they felt both challenged and supported by the prompts

Here’s how one student put it:

I think this activity has been really helpful for me as a writer. Having the prompts allowed me to rewrite narratives in a new way or write things that I’ve been meaning to but have never gotten around to. It can be frustrating sometimes when you want to express something so badly, or tell a story, you have all the words, but there’s something missing. It’s not writer’s block but a different kind of creative block that you can’t think of a different way to tell a story than to just tell it, but these prompts gave me the opportunity to do more than just tell a story, and I really appreciate this. I also really enjoyed writing inspired by the choices Tim O’Brien made in The Things They Carried. The combination of the prompts and the inspiration from his novel gave me a wonderful opportunity to write my stories the right way, how I wanted them to be.

Katelynne Hall

One key goal I have for my students is to understand rhetorical situations and respond effectively. The majority of the writing prompts in this module ask students to write letters, or, as I called them, “epistolary narratives.” By asking them to choose their own audience for their letters, students had to think carefully about audience, purpose, and occasion. I found that my feedback often came back to this, and student reflections affirmed this to be a key takeaway:

Through the process of brainstorming, drafting, and ultimately writing the letters in this collection I learned valuable lessons on audience, purpose and messaging. As the letters went on my targeting of a specific audience improved, my purpose for writing each letter more clear and my messaging more direct. 

Thomas Hunter

Takeaway# 2: Literature Is A Mentor

So often in the secondary classroom, we have students merely write about good literature (and often in the driest of ways. I’m looking at you, FPE). Teaching this module reminded me of the power of using literature as a mentor text. Students went straight from the text to their own stories, carrying with them techniques they had never tried before. Here’s how a student responded to “On the Rainy River,” in which O’Brien breaks the fourth wall:

Dear Dad,

I’m writing to you because I want you to understand how surreal those motorcycle trips were for me. I think we went on three, maybe four, but I remember them; I remember them because sometimes I look back and can’t really believe we did that together.

Get this: you’re seven. Or maybe you’re six or maybe you’re eight. It doesn’t matter, though, because you’re on the back of your dad’s motorcycle and the world is like you’ve never seen it before. You feel kind of gross, because the wind’s all cold and biting and sometimes everything smells bad, and you’re all achy, too, because when you’re seven, twenty minutes of nothing but sitting on the back of a motorcycle feels like twenty hours. But most of all, you’re super cool, because all you’re thinking about is, I’m riding a freaking motorcycle. And you’re thinking about how your friends have never ridden a motorcycle and you’re thinking about how awesome you’ll look with your own motorcycle when you’re older.

Aubrey Stewart

The process of creating in response to a published text meant that students were more mindful of the writer’s choices than ever before. I first taught The Things They Carried ten years ago. While students enjoyed the book, they didn’t take away the same level of appreciation for O’Brien’s storytelling. This active use of mentor texts challenged students to write like O’Brien (one option is to write to him, which presented a surprisingly fun mini-lesson on how to address an envelope). The general reflective response from my students was: “challenge accepted.”

I am mostly proud of my last letter because I feel that I incorporated some of the techniques used by O’Brien. I wrote a good story that made sense and a very thorough thought out story that included pieces of real and false information just like O’Brien’s writing.

Eric Oceguera

Takeaway #3: Process Portfolios Make Formative Assessment Formative

I have tried a variety of approaches to process writing in my classroom over the years, but nothing seemed to work for me. I want the writing that students do in my classroom to be connected to unit goals, personal, and meaningful. Tall order, I know. I also want students writing throughout a unit, not just at the end. (Among other things, this cuts down on the chances of prolonged disengagement and—dare I say it?—plagiarism.) 

Many of the new ERWC 3.0 modules provide multiple opportunities for students to write throughout a unit, and I’m here for that! Sure, it requires me to be giving more feedback more often. But since the feedback was not connected to a score, students were invigorated by it. I created global feedback mini-lessons, wrote comments on their Google Docs, held brief writing conferences, and facilitated peer reviews throughout the course of the unit, not just at the end of it. 

I feel like I have improved a lot on my writing and have grown to love writing more that I know more about it. I enjoyed learning new techniques and being able to look at past work and look at it and immediately know what I could do to improve on it. I also feel like I grew as a writer and still will in the future and that these letters were more of a beginning.

Sarah Hall

Carrying On

As I finished up this unit and prepared to teach Night to my sophomores, my PLC team and I decided to try this same approach of writing throughout the unit. My planning partner and I put extra energy into creating strong engaging prompts. We gave time for students to write thoughtfully and formally weekly. We collected writing and gave immediate feedback, both individual and global, in accordance to our success criteria. Students reflected that their confidence, skills, and writing fluency increased through the process. 

Have you tried a process portfolio with an ERWC module this year? We would love to hear about it!

Rachel Nguyen has taught English Language Arts to students in the Sacramento region for the past 15 years. She is an ERWC Workshop Leader, and she served as a coach and module editor for the ERWC 3.0 adoption. Her classroom experiences with ERWC 3.0 led her to start a writing club at Bella Vista High School. She recently earned a Master’s degree in Education in Language and Literacy at California State University, Sacramento, where she instructs the Academic Literacy course for secondary preservice teachers. Rachel is a mom and a marathoner–view her “Ted Talk” on running that she created for her 10th grade students during their We Should All Be Feminists module here. Follow her on Twitter @msschuyen. 

Creative Spaces: Conference Preview!

Editor’s Note: This month we’re featuring previews of sessions from California State University’s upcoming ERWC Literacy Conference. Author and teacher Martin Brandt is presenting June 27 in Northern California.

By Martin Brandt

I wasted many a Saturday or Sunday morning of my youth watching football before I learned that coaches actually have names for the “gaps” in the line of scrimmage–that is, those spaces between the linemen which can be expanded for either blockers or ball-carriers to run through.

On either side of the center (that’s the guy who hikes the ball, for you non-football fans out there) are the “A” gaps. Beyond those gaps are the guards, whose outside flanks are designated “B” gaps; on the other side of the B gaps are the tackles, who (if there’s a tight end lined up next to them) create a “C” gap.

Why do they name the gaps? Because coaches design offensive plays to create holes in those gaps for players to run through. In other words, the gaps create space for the creative act of offensive football.

I guess I started thinking about this because I wanted to find a way to reach the athletes in my classroom, to help them see that what I am asking them to do at the sentence level–to make use of phrase additions–is analogous to what they already do on the field, court, or diamond–indeed, that it’s something they already understand: they have to find the spaces in order to create.

In baseball and softball, you hit the ball where the other guys ain’t; in basketball and soccer, you create open spaces to make shots possible. And to return to football (but away from the offensive line), receivers must “get open”, either by juking their defender one-on-one, or by finding the “soft spot” or seam in the defensive zone.

In writing, these “soft spots in the zone” present themselves in every sentence we compose. And if our students learn where to look for them, how to find them, and how to make use of them, they can begin to experience writing not as another odious chore inflicted by their sadistic teacher, but instead as the joyful act of creation that it is–as something like scoring on the field.

These spaces have names, too. In the sentence, they are the Left Branch–introductory phrasing which precedes the subject-verb core, situating the reader to the action of the sentence; the Parenthetical, which splits the subject-verb core to comment on the subject; and the Right Branch, which extends from the subject-verb core and comments in some way on the action of the sentence.

Students who can learn to see and make use of these creative spaces can experience exciting and significant growth in the course of a school year, improving both their confidence and their syntactic maturity. And finding ways to help my students understand this has become the driving creative problem of my career. For if we understand the humble sentence better, we create the possibility for authentic growth, both for the student and the teacher.

Martin Brandt teaches English at San Jose’s Independence High School, a large urban school with a diverse student population. He is a teacher consultant with the San Jose Area Writing Project and former winner of the California Teachers of English Award for Classroom Excellence. Martin is the author of Between the Commas: Sentence Instruction That Builds Confident Writers (and Writing Teachers).

We Are Not Immune


Editor’s Note
: This month we’re featuring previews of sessions from California State University’s upcoming ERWC Literacy Conference. ERWC teacher and workshop leader Frank Mata is presenting June 21 in Southern California and June 27 in Northern California.

By Frank Mata

“Too Dope Teachers and a Mic” podcasters (@toodopeteachers) recently tweeted “How do y’all think about folx who you thought were dope, then did real harmful things? Not imperfections, not just being flawed, but actual harm?” 

Their question made me think about how teachers, specifically English language arts teachers, truly have the delicate burden of balancing between an unconscious reinforcement of dominant oppressions and the liberation from it. Big, big thoughts… I know. But we are about to be at a literacy conference. How can we not think about this given the social unrest from our continued and historical American racial reckoning? 

When thinking about this year’s upcoming ERWC Literacy Conference, I am struck with the potential opportunity we teachers have because we are facilitators of the spaces where transition and progress for our immediate society can form. This June, we get to actually look at one another, face-to-face, and dialogue about whether we are contributing to what we say we do. We say we nurture student voice. We say we provide space for young people to find and develop their own interests. We say we help strengthen their literacy and ability to communicate in a variety of contexts and audiences. We say, we say, and we say…

Dr. April Baker-Bell, author of Linguistic Justice, will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 ERWC Literacy Conference.

We say a lot of things.

And though I am absolutely honored to have been invited to speak about our roles as ELA teachers, specifically through the discussion of the existing 12th grade module Language, Gender, and Culture…at a “literacy” conference, I also come with a real-time on-going attempt at understanding this shared burden–our shared burden. At the same time, I am especially excited to be in Dr. April Baker-Bell’s audience because I believe she will ask the same questions we ELA teachers are faced with: Whose literacy are we teaching?

I come to this conference to find community with folks who understand (or are trying to) the nuances and layers infused within the concept of gender, literacy, and racial performativity. After reflecting about both the module and ERWC’s new Theoretical Foundations, this June I aim to unpack how we might not just be reinforcing dominant norms, but also harming young folks through what author Clint Smith refers to in his New Yorker essay as the “ideology [of white supremacy].” I am inspired by James Baldwin’s speech “A Talk to Teachers” that challenges all of us, specifically teachers, to inspect and confront how we are accomplices to harming these young people. I draw inspiration from Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young’s LGC module text “The Barbershop” because of its examination of how we all perform gender, intellect, and even race. I still wrestle with Dr. Judith Butler’s challenge for both students and teachers to examine “the relation between complying with gender and coercion.” 

At my presentation I aim to unearth the hidden areas that affect this delicate discussion. I want to know how our own social positionalities (social identities) affect the dissemination, facilitation, and delivery to our economically, ideologically, and socially diverse student bodies. Does the discussion of dr. vay’s “Barbershop” hit differently when coming out of the mouth of a white woman? Do male teachers of color showcase an appropriate delicacy when fostering discussions about gender performances? Do we teachers actually have the intellectual capacity to see that our own literacy performance can stifle the transference of knowledge gained from these pieces? 

We are not immune to the cold questioning from Butler, Lourde, Shira, Brooks, or Young. We are not immune to Baldwin’s criticisms of solidifying the existing and malignant racial gaps of our society. But we are capable of hard self-examination. We are capable of confronting our own dependence on these social performances. We are capable of authentically conferencing about what the state of literacy development is in our classrooms. And hopefully, we can be capable of undoing the harms we give from our unconscious reinforcement and protection of our static identities. 

Frank Mata has been in the classroom for eighteen plus years. His current project is developing an ELA 12th grade course focusing on social justice and equity. He teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale, CA.

Leveraging Digital Tools for Teaching ERWC: Sneak Preview!

Editor’s Note: This month we’re featuring previews of sessions from California State University’s upcoming ERWC Literacy Conference. Author and teacher Jen Roberts is presenting June 21 in Southern California and June 27 in Northern California.


By Jen Roberts

Do you remember how much fun it is to get to talk about teaching and learning with other teachers? In person? I had really genuinely forgotten how fantastic it is to get to be in a room with people who also care passionately about literacy education. The CATE conference in February of 2022 reawakened that spark for me and motivated me to submit sessions for not one, but two locations for this year’s ERWC Literacy Conference. I’ll be in Pomona and San Jose talking about leveraging digital tools, and I can’t wait.

The other night I began the more detailed planning for my session. I started by looking back at what I presented in 2019. Things are so different now. My perspective has shifted with regard to digital tools. In 2019 I was a supplicant, humbly displaying various digital tools and trying to make a gentle argument for adding some of them to your ERWC courses.

In 2022 I’m not making an argument. That would be preaching to the choir. You are already using digital tools. You’ve taught online, hybrid, hyflex, synchronously, and asynchronously. You’ve adapted, assisted, blended, designed, differentiated, implemented, flipped, personalized, planned, and transformed. You know the tools you use well, and you know that there are more out there to learn about. And, you now understand how effective many of them can be for supporting literacy instruction. You’ve built a digital version of your course, and now you want to make it even better.

So, let’s put our heads together, literally, in person. I’ll bring you everything I learned about teaching ERWC 3.0 in my Chromebook classroom with Canvas and Google, and a bunch of other useful tools. You bring your experience, successes, and questions. We will learn from each other, pool our resources, and go further together.

Jen Roberts is a National Board Certified high school English teacher. She has been teaching with 1:1 laptops for her students since 2008 and is the co-author of Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning. She tweets @JenRoberts1 and blogs at LitandTech.com. You can watch Jen’s webinar “Tools and Strategies for Moving ERWC Online” here.

ERWC Literacy Conference 2022: A Time for Post-Pandemic Reconnection

By Jyothi Bathina

We have all grown weary over the past two and a half years. It’s time to take advantage of the opportunity to reconvene and reconnect, person to person.

Until just a month ago, I was feeling resistant, unwilling to get on a plane and travel across the country to a conference in D.C. “Do you have an online option?” I asked. “Will most of the sessions be streamed or recorded?” The answer was that while some key sessions would be available for later viewing, they really hoped I would join them in person. I waited until the last minute. I bought a refundable ticket. I hesitated. Was it safe? Did I really want to leave my comfortable home and my semi hermit-like existence to get on a cramped plane? What was the big deal about in person anyway? We could achieve the same thing on Zoom and I could sit and watch from home.

At the last minute, half out of a sense of duty and half out of a nagging feeling I might be missing something, I boarded the plane to D.C. It was rainy and cold and gray. The fabled cherry blossoms were soaked and the one tour I managed to take left me drenched. But every morning as I put on my badge and grabbed my breakfast to take to our table, I felt myself coming back to life. I met lots of people, fellow educators, who were passionate about their projects. I felt the energy in the room as we heard about all the incredible work people were doing across the country and all the opportunities available for those who wanted to help students. I was inspired by the presentations by federal grant administrators who urged us to keep dreaming big and applying for funding to implement groundbreaking programs that would help teachers and students.

I’m so glad I went. After exchanging cards with some amazing innovators and boarding my return flight, I was reinvigorated, excited for the possibilities ahead, eager to share what I had learned with my colleagues.

I invite you to experience the same kind of heady collaborative excitement that only comes from gathering in a common space, seeing and hearing each other, feeling the warmth of instant human interaction. After a long hiatus, the annual CSU Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum conference is back, live and in person! We can’t wait to welcome you back, to meet and greet, applaud and encourage, teach and learn, and exchange ideas in real time, face-to-face. Register now to attend in San Jose or in Pomona, and come join us as we celebrate and strengthen our community. See you there!


Please see the registration links below. The $50 registration fee includes lunch and the morning plenary session with Dr. April Baker-Bell.

Sheraton Fairplex – Pomona, CA: June 21, 2022 Registration link: https://calstate.eventsair.com/2022-erwc-literacy-conference/event

OR

San Jose Marriott – San Jose, CA: June 27, 2022 Registration link: https://calstate.eventsair.com/2022-erwc-literacy-conference-san-jose/event

Extended Registration Deadlines: May 16 (Pomona) and May 23 (San Jose)

For questions, please contact  carinfo@calstate.edu.


Dr. Jyothi Bathina is Co-Director for the Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing at the CSU Chancellor’s Office. She oversees ERWC in collaboration with the ERWC Steering Committee.

Arcs and Spirals

Editor’s Note: California State University is hosting an in-person literacy conference in June of 2022. All are welcome! Sessions feature strategies for teaching texts rhetorically, fostering language awareness and exploration, and promoting equity and inclusion. The $50 registration fee includes lunch and a choice of location and date.

Sheraton Fairplex – Pomona, CA June 21, 2022 | Registration link: https://calstate.eventsair.com/2022-erwc-literacy-conference/event…

San Jose Marriott – San Jose, CA June 27, 2022 | Registration link: https://calstate.eventsair.com/2022-erwc-literacy-conference-san-jose/event


By Jennifer Fletcher

In mathematics, a fractal is a geometric shape in which each part has the same characteristics as the whole. The pattern repeats across different levels of magnification, giving the sense of endless complexity and connections. Worlds within worlds.

The patterns in a fractal recur at progressively larger or smaller scales.

California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) is also characterized by intricate patterns that repeat across the curriculum and that mimic the infinite nature of civic and academic conversations. Someone says something, someone responds, and then someone else builds on or challenges that idea in the endless production of texts. The conversation arcs from speaker to listener, or from text to text, and spirals through progressively nuanced iterations. These arcs and spirals represent the dynamic rhetorical exchanges that form the basis of the ERWC instructional modules.

Arcs

The idea of the ERWC “Arc” is an essential part of the ERWC’s course design. The arc enacts the recursive literacy processes that connect the texts students read to the texts they compose. Completing an ERWC module means completing the arc.

The arc is also a key structure for promoting transfer of learning. As students shift from “reading like writers” to “writing like readers,” they transfer the rhetorical moves and literacy strategies they learned from studying professional models to their own acts of communication. The reciprocity represented through the two sides of the arc illustrates the application of rhetorical reading strategies to rhetorical writing. In other words, the reading strategies–for example, descriptive outlining or rhetorical précis–become writing strategies during the composing process as students repurpose these tools for the texts they create.

The ERWC Assignment Template


This recursivity emerges from a shared design structure, the ERWC Assignment Template, that creates coherence both within and across the individual modules, as well as throughout the ERWC literacy network. The generative principles that shape the ERWC and its community are embedded in the template; this is the “DNA,” or protean structure, of the curriculum.

Here we find the ERWC’s core ideas and practices: reading and writing rhetorically, transfer of learning, the cultivation of expert learners, and English language development. All ERWC modules are designed using this common template, including a new collection of modules with designated English language development currently being developed for grades 6-8

Spirals

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The modules also spiral up through increasingly complex texts and tasks over the course of the year. This is what gives the ERWC its scaling shape: the ascending turns through the Assignment Template.

The repeated turns students take through the template over the course of a year-long experience affords them frequent opportunities to develop and internalize the rhetorical literacy skills and academic habits of mind that are essential to postsecondary success, such as the ability to read with and against the grain, to negotiate different perspectives and meanings, to analyze writer’s craft, and to respond to a variety of rhetorical situations. The spirals through the template are important and intentional; they support students’ growth as expert readers and writers.

At the same time, ERWC teachers might also think in terms of a “vanishing Assignment Template” when using these materials. As our students start to develop greater fluency and automaticity in key skills—for instance, surveying or annotating a text—we may no longer need to provide direct instruction in these areas. Some template sections will start to disappear from our lesson plans as our students progress from novices to experts.

Feeding the Feedback Loops

An effective ERWC course design allows us to teach the full arc of each module and to complete several turns through the ERWC Assignment Template. The year-long course should spiral up through increasingly complex texts and tasks while providing an ongoing feedback loop for learners. For instance, students might begin the year by studying a mentor text provided for them in preparation for writing and then end the year by finding their own mentor texts as part of their full consideration of a rhetorical situation–a consideration that includes independent genre analysis at advanced levels. Formative assessment is key to creating meaningful arcs and spirals that are appropriate to our students’ needs at different stages of the learning continuum.

Photo of a fractal by Fiona Art on Pexels.com

The course’s arcs and spirals are designed to foster deep and internalized learning. ERWC thus presents a template for transfer—an iterative process for engaging and responding to texts that sharpens students’ ability to detect similarities in dissimilarities. Like fractals, this curricular model is unendingly generative.

The approach we aspire to take in ERWC is as complex, creative, and beautiful as the students we serve. At its best, the curriculum takes learners on a journey guided by the intricate movements of their own intellectual growth.


*ERWC is a rigorous, rhetoric-based English language arts and English language development curriculum for grades 7-12. Teachers access the instructional modules through Cal State University’s introductory ERWC professional learning sessions, available free-of-charge to educators in California. Please direct queries for out-of-state ERWC professional learning opportunities and curriculum access to jbathina@calstate.edu.

For more information on the ERWC, including how to register for a workshop, please visit the following websites:

ERWC Online Community:
https://writing.csusuccess.org/
CSU Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing: https://www2.calstate.edu/CAR/Pages/erwc.aspx
ERWC Workshop Registration:
https://www2.calstate.edu/CAR/Pages/professional-learning-workshops.aspx


Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. She serves as the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenJFletcher.

Rhetorical Grammar in ERWC: Part 2

By Robby Ching

Note: This is the second post in a series on ERWC’s rhetorical approach to language learning. For the first post, click here. Please see the teaching resource “Rhetorical Grammar in ERWC: A User’s Guide” in the ERWC Online Community for the full text from which the excerpt below was taken.


ERWC is designed to cultivate linguistic dexterity so students can read texts written for a variety of purposes critically and write texts tailored for their rhetorical situation. As educators charged with teaching our students how English works (California ELD Standards), we have to be mindful of the many languages and varieties of English that students bring to our classrooms.

The ERWC teaching resource “Essential Pedagogies for Integrated and Designated English Language Development in ERWC” advocates “teaching about the relationship between language and power” and “supporting the development of academic English while promoting pride in students’ home languages.” At the sentence level, a rhetorical approach to teaching English grammar invites us to take an assets-based approach as we value these languages and varieties of English while inviting students to further develop their ability to enter disciplinary conversations about topics that matter to them.

Encouraging students to use all the language—as well as other multimodal resources—available to them means keeping the focus on meaningful communication rather than correctness for its own sake. We can invite students to incorporate words, phrases, or entire sentences in their language or variety of English into their own writing while at the same time asking them to be clear about their rhetorical purpose for doing so. We can let them know that they are welcome to use translation apps and bilingual dictionaries and take notes or write early drafts in their home language. We can select texts that include other languages, such as The Distance Between Us, and consider Reyna Grande’s rhetorical purpose for using Spanish in a memoir intended for an audience of mainly English speakers.

We can introduce uncomfortable questions about whether the use of academic English is a way of performing “Whiteness,” an issue raised by Vershawn Ashanti Young in “Prelude: the Barbershop” in the 12th grade Language, Gender, and Culture module. We can draw on multilingual students’ own experiences moving among languages and identities tied to language and acknowledge their remarkable accomplishments. Approaching grammar from the rhetorical perspective rather than the traditional rules-based prescriptive approach is, Micciche asserts, “emancipatory teaching” (717).

ERWC encourages students to ask not what makes a sentence correct, but what makes it work and why.

The language of ERWC texts provide rich opportunities to explore the information-dense complex sentences that are typical of disciplinary English (Schleppegrell). ERWC encourages students to ask not what makes a sentence correct, but what makes it work and why. As students observe how skilled writers make use of these language resources—or choose to use simpler language—they can develop their capacity to better understand the arguments embedded in the language of the texts they are reading.

At the same time, they can observe how and why writers use more familiar language, other dialects, and other languages for rhetorical purposes. When students turn to their own writing, they can apply what they have learned to create varied sentences that are effective for their purposes. Most students who are learning to create complex texts will only be able to do this if we help them develop the tools of the craft.

Our job is to guide their inquiry into how English works and help them transfer what they have learned to their own writing with the questions “What did you observe? And how can you apply it to your own writing?”


ERWC teachers can find activities and strategies for teaching language rhetorically, including 2.0 modules with rhetorical grammar lessons, by visiting the Rhetorical Grammar in ERWC section in the online community.

Click on “Modules 3.0” and select “Overview Documents.”

Then click on “Rhetorical Grammar in ERWC.”

Robby Ching is a professor emerita at Sacramento State in English and a member of the ERWC team since 2002. She has written many ERWC modules, most recently those with an ELD focus.