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“MnWE News” Mid-Fall Issue
September-October 2019

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In this issue:





     5. What is MnWE:
 Forwarding, Joining/Leaving, Representatives

If you are a MnWE representative, chair of a department, or Writing/English 
Coordinator, please forward this email to colleagues in English, Writing, Reading, ESL, and related fields. Many new faculty, grad students,
& writing tutors may not be on the listserv.

If you are a long-term member of this listserv, thank you for
your continued participation. If you are new, welcome! Our listserv
emails go to over 1500 English, Writing, and related Upper Midwest
faculty. To join, send a request to the editor at richard at jewell dot net
Next Conf.: “Civic Engagement through 21st Century Literacies”
Minnesota State University-Mankato, Fri.-Sat., March 20-21, 2020
Our website is at www.MnWE.org. You are welcome to attend our next 
Committee meeting Fri., Sept. 20, 3:30-5:30 pm in UMN’s Nolte Center 235
, or 
ask how to Skype in to the meeting: email richard at jewell dot net. –RJ, Editor

      We hope you will offer a proposal at www.MnWE.org for our Fri.-Sat., March 20-21, 2020 MnWE Conference at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  Our theme for the conference is “Civic Engagement through 21st Century Literacies.” Your proposal only need be 50-100 words, and your presentation may be in rough outline form: in fact, we do not want you to read from a paper, but rather to engage a small group, your attendees, by offering your ideas, thoughts, and experiences and then asking for their own.

      Though a majority of presenters at our conferences offer a practice or idea related to the theme, many other presenters choose a non-theme subject that fits within the field of teaching Composition, Literature, Rhetoric, Creative Writing, ESL/ELL, the relationships between high school and college-level English, or writing center and tutoring work. We welcome presentations on both practical teaching and on the application of theory to practice. You are welcome to present alone, in pairs, or with a group of colleagues. Individual and paired presentations typically are 20-25 minutes in length with discussion after (or during them), but larger groups (and some individuals or pairs) may request more time.

     Please read our announcement of the conference at www.MnWE.org . It calls us to reflect on our mission of educating writers and readers who, we hope, will be civically engaged with the world beyond the classroom. In fact, our functioning democracy depends on it, from next door to the world.  How can our teaching be adapted to meet the needs of 21st century learners who are active participants and agents of change?  How do our disciplines influence our approach to these questions?  And how do we understand the relationship between our courses and politics? 

      When we chose this theme many months ago, the University of Minnesota-Mankato English and Composition programs, along with the MnWE Committee, knew it would be relevant in 2020. However, we had little idea just how much the national discourse related to our theme would intensify, nor how quickly, and how this will be true even more so in the coming months. What should students’–and our own–civic responsibilities be? These questions and our answers are urgent and pressing. Can you help us by presenting at the conference and/or attending it?

Theme, CFP, and Proposal Form: www.MnWE.org


      The “reader-response” method of teaching literature–and readings in composition courses–has existed since the 1960s with top billing and excellent practical advice by people such as Fish, Barthes, Lewis, and many others. Though reader-response sometimes is considered a K-12 method, many advocates practice it in college teaching at all levels.

      The basics of reader-response practice are that you (1) expect your students’ to value their own and other students’ responses to the assigned texts, (2) ask students to write their responses, and (3) provide at least minimal feedback, such as an idea or thought for each student. Some instructors simply want notes. Others ask each student to write a “double-entry response” in two columns (or even a three-column “triple-entry”)–one column for phrases that struck the student, a second column for an immediate reaction (and sometimes a third column for later–or more thoughtful/critical–responses to the initial reaction). Whichever you require, a student’s writing helps show that he or she read the assigned text; in addition, her active response causes her to become more involved with the reading.

      In the September Council Chronicle, Lorna Collier offers advice for modernizing reader-response. She suggests a paradigm shift to more than just written responses. Some of her suggestions (for K-12, but they easily can be adapted to college level) include (1) expanding student responses to allow references to movies, music, social media, etc.; (2) offering students a creativity option (e.g., letting them respond with a directly relevant drawing, poem, song, et al., their own or someone else’s); and (3) asking students to share their responses with each other in the physical classroom or online, with the entire class or in small groups.

      Reader-response practitioners also recognize that most college students still want to hear your own response. You can, say these practitioners, share your feelings and questions last during a class period (to not intimidate student responses); first, briefly (to encourage students to share their own responses); or both.

      Reader-response practice also still allows lecturing. One recommendation is to lecture before students start reading, and do so in a way that does not “give away” what happens, but rather offer keys for their easier reading and understanding of the text. Reader-response teaching does assume that a lecture will not provide textual elements that students should discover and experience for themselves: multiple studies show a majority of students in four-year college courses–from the smallest college to the most prestigious university–do not complete a reading assignment if, instead, they can depend on a lecture for what they need for testing.

      Once students actually start reading a text, say reader-response practitioners, then it is time to expect readers to respond individually. Practitioners say that giving credit for reader responses not only helps make your students read their text, but it also allows all of them to better interact with–thus better remember, critically examine, and appreciate–their readings.
- ”Three Key Practices to Revitalize Reader Response Notebooks” by Lorna Collier, Council Chronicle, Sept. 2019
- Helpful history on Reader-Response Teaching: Wikipedia on Reader-Response Criticism


      Every week, The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a free email newsletter, “Teaching.” Each newsletter contains one short article and a few very brief pieces about the practice of college teaching.

      For example, the lead article in the October 17n ewsletter discusses neuromyths about brain functions that teachers and many others have heard in the past but scientists now know are not true. Examples include the myths of a strict left-brain, right-brain split in our thinking and feeling; of our using only 10% of our brains; of students learning best when using only their own learning style; et al. The article–like most in the weekly newsletter–also offers a link to a longer professional/academic article about the issue, in this case at
International Report: Neuromyths and Evidence-Based Practices in Higher Education .”

much briefer articles in the Oct. 17 issue discuss “Making Sense of Midterms” and “Adapting Academic Offerings.” The issue also offers an interesting quotation about teaching from a faculty member. You can subscribe to the newsletter–and unsubscribe–at any time very simply.
The Chronicle Weekly Newsletter


Octavia E. Butler

        Everyone rightly is celebrating the enormous contributions of recently-deceased Nobel Prizewinning author Toni Morrison. However, another African-American female author is becoming more noticed: Octavia Butler. Her work hits a double trifecta of sorts for teaching. A science fiction writer, she captures feminists, social justice advocates, and SF lovers, as well as those who enjoy magic and parable. She has won the top prizes in science fiction–the Hugo and Nebula–and was the first science fiction author to receive a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Award.”    

        MLA recently published essays in Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler (168 pp.), that University of Rochester professor Jeffrey Tucker says “not only demonstrate how to teach Butler but also do a fine job of modeling how to teach literature in general.” Butler’s works fit well into multiple types of courses. Born in 1947, she died in 2006. She bridged 20th century social justice with 21st century “Afrofuturism” using what she called her “huge and savage conscience.”

MLA’s Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler

5. ABOUT MNWE (repeated in each newsletter):

For new and old issues, click here: “
MnWE News.

Please forward this email to others, especially if you are a MnWE representative listed below. Your newer full-time and adjunct faculty members, graduate students, and writing center tutors may not receive it. 

If you are not on the listserv and would like to join it, simply send your request and email address to richard at jewell dot net.

WHO WE ARE: “MnWE” is “Minnesota Writing and English,” a volunteer organization started in 2007. MnWE has a coordinating committee, a listserv, and an annual spring conference. All activities are by and for college, university, and college-in-the-high-schools English and writing faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and related academic and literary scholars, writers, tutors, and others in the Upper Midwest.  Our purpose is to bring together these communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and elsewhere. Our keynoters are scholars and writers of national excellence from both local and national locations, and some of our presenters come from states or countries far beyond our own geographical area. The majority of our attendees and presenters are from universities and private colleges; a strong minority are from two-year colleges, high schools, and other groups.

Our website is MnWE.org; our geographical center is Minneapolis-St. Paul. Over 2000 faculty, tutors, and graduate students are on our listserv.  Our listserv members come from state universities, public and private two-year colleges, private colleges and universities, high schools, and the Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and other public universities.  Our activities are led by an active committee of unpaid, representative volunteers. 

GRADUATE CREDIT: Anyone may earn one graduate credit from Southwest Minnesota State
University for attending one MnWE Conference day and writing a related research paper (up to three times). For questions about this course—“Eng 656: MnWE Practicum”—please contact lisa dot lucas at smsu dot edu or see www.smsu.edu/academics/programs/english/?id=11637 .

HOW TO REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE LIST: If you want to be removed from this listserv, please do so yourself, following directions at the very bottom of this email.  If you try without success, then send an email to richard at jewell dot net indicating (1) this problem, (2) your specific email address copied from the directions at the bottom of a MnWE mailing, and (3) your request for removal.
FORMATTING, INVITATION, & CREDITS: These listserv emails usually are formatted in a simple way using html. If you cannot read them, please go to the link at the top right to see them on the Web

        If you have any questions, we invite you to email any of the coordinators on the MnWE Committee. You also are always invited to attend any of our five MnWE Committee meetings per year.  In addition, you are invited to offer suggestions—or volunteer your leadership—for a special or double section at the annual conference. 

        This newsletter is written primarily by Richard Jewell without copyright so that anyone may quote, paraphrase, or forward any or all parts freely, unless otherwise noted. We ask only that you give credit to the “MnWE Newsletter” and/or “
www.MnWE.org“; and when you use material that has been quoted or paraphrased in this newsletter from another source, please be sure to give proper credit to that original source. 

Richard Jewell, General Coordinator
Larry Sklaney, Conference Coordinator
Danielle Hinrichs, Program Coordinator
Gordon Pueschner, Site Floor Coordinator
Ellen Zamarripa, Volunteer Coordinator
Jana Rieck, Communications Coordinator
Vanessa Ramos, NHCC, 2019 Site Coordinator
Kirsti Cole, Minn. State-Mankato, 2020 Site Coordinator

richard at jewell dot net - (612) 870-7024
larry dot sklaney at century dot edu - (651) 747-4006
danielle dot hinrichs at metrostate dot edu - (651) 999-5960
gordon dot pueschner at century dot edu - (651) 686-4468
ellen.zamarripa at mail dot waldenu dot edu
janaL dot rieck at yahoo dot com
vramos at nhcc dot edu

kirsti dot cole at mnsu dot edu
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Donald Ross of the University of

Minnesota and Taiyon Coleman of St. Catherine University run a breakout session about literature. In a later year, they jointly provided a MnWE keynote.




Geoffrey Sirc of the University of Minnesota runs a small breakout after his keynote presentation. Many University of Minnesota faculty have given presentations at MnWE, as well as faculty and graduate students from many other universities, colleges, and high schools.




MnWE started in 2007. The cofounders

were Richard Jewell, here giving a welcome after lunch, and Donald Ross, second picture above. MnWE has drawn presenters from Minnesota, the states and province around it, and at least five other states and countries.





During a 2016 breakout, Beata Puschner presents on improving classroom inclusion of ELL students. MnWE attracts a variety of people in other departments and positions, too, from ESL and Reading to Library Science and college-in-the-high-schools faculty.


Updated 4 Nov. 2019