Lengel, Carolyn. A Student’s Companion for Successful College Writing. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018.
Taylor, Todd. Becoming a College Writer: A Multimedia Text. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2019.
Strengths forBoth Books in the E110 Classroom
- Becoming a College Writer presents three different pathways based on your desired classroom approach: Intro Composition, Multimodal Composition, or Writing in the Disciplines. Based on how you wish to design your classroom, each pathway models a possible fourteen-week course based on a suggested assignment sequence for that type of class, pointing instructors to which lessons from the book to use throughout the semester. While I would not recommend a strict adherence to any single pathway, this could be a very helpful tool when thinking about ways to give your class structure and logical sequence.
- The workbook sections of A Student’s Companion function as short, but useful exercises that could be easily completed as homework or in-class warm-ups. The material ability to write and annotate in the textbook invites students to thoughtfully engage and practice with the templates or exercises that other options do not allow; for example, the fourth edition of They Say, I Say fails to provide this feature, discouraging students from practicing with its templates because of time required to rewrite and copy the textbook’s materials.
- Both books begin with valuable chapters focused on ways for students to see themselves as writers and strategies for adjusting to expectations in college composition courses. For example, A Student’s Companion provides an entire chapter about the importance of time management and practices for maintaining priorities, reinforcing essential personal skills needed to write successfully as the collegiate and professional level.
- Becoming a College Writer’s extensive multimodal assets are exciting; in fact, Taylor argues that the book’s digital component is “a critical part of the pedagogy.” With the book’s Launchpad software, students and instructors have access to video interviews with 100 college students that share their insights into ways to overcome struggles associated with the transition from high school to college composition. In addition, this commitment to digital rhetoric and new media is reflected in the textbook’s emphasis on teaching students how to compose across multiple media formats including print, film, podcast, etc. For example, the textbook asks to students to visit Launchpad and study an audio version of a digital story in the genre of streaming podcast as a quick exercise, comparing different versions of the same narrative to understand the importance of delivery and ways to make rhetorical choices in their digital projects.
- A Student’s Companion includes numerous example rubrics for different types of essays. While I would not recommend for an instructor to copy and paste these for actual assessment, students can use Companion’s rubrics throughout the writing process to conduct self-review and measure each of their drafts with established criteria.
- I also believe that these textbooks complement each other in crucial ways. For example, with a direct instruction format, Becoming might work well as instructional input and guided practice, while Companion could function as the lesson plan’s independent practice or effective daily writing practice done for homework due at each class.
- Unfortunately, if Becoming’s Launchpad software is not available or experiences technical difficulties, the textbook becomes severely limited in its multimodal potential. While digital practice and new media inquires are still represented in the textbook’s content, instructors will not have access to the corresponding videos and interviews.
- Instructors must be diligent in their use of Companion; like any workbook that builds skills from basic to complex, students will fail to gain important content knowledge if exercises are incorporated routinely at the beginning of the course but dropped from daily classroom practice as the semester progresses.
- There is a ton of material in both books; Companion is manageable, but Becoming a College Writer is close to 500 pages. Even with the different pathways at the beginning, it’s a challenge for any instructor to attempt curating this textbook for a curriculum. In addition, Becoming is not very portable, and it might be difficult to students to carry this massive textbook to every class session.