College Writing

Entertaining Writing on Everyday Topics (First Edition)
By Thomas Friedrich
©2020, 178 pages

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    College Writing: Entertaining Writing on Everyday Topics presents students with an innovative and playful approach to academic reading and writing that transforms these seemingly mundane processes into entertaining, desire-driven learning experiences. Students are encouraged to view academic writing as an enjoyable activity, write about topics they are interested in, and discover how their writing improves as a result.

    The book begins by detailing the author’s past experiences as a student writer, how he came to believe that academic writing should be an entertaining activity, and the importance of play and performance in creating an entertaining written work. Next, it explores the act of “reading-to-write” as playful performance, challenging students to develop a joyful and investigative approach to research. Additional chapters show students how to transform everyday topics—namely, being a student, being a community member, and using technology—into compelling, persuasive academic works.

    Featuring a highly approachable style, opportunities for experimental writing, and a fresh approach, College Writing is a great resource for foundational courses in composition, college writing, and English. The text is also ideal for student success and student orientation programs.

    Thomas Friedrich is an associate professor of English and the director of freshman composition at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in literacy education with a minor in literacy and rhetorical studies from the University of Minnesota.
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    "In a voice that reveals an informed passion for teaching writing, Dr. Thomas Friedrich fluidly cohabits his book, College Writing: Entertaining Writing on Everyday Topics, with scholars across composition, literacy, and rhetoric as he traces his estimable journey of learning. In multiple roles of teacher, writer, scholar, community member, and digital user, he has keenly come to understand—as will his reader—that we write to come to know things—to engage in a dynamic and playful interaction with the everyday world we strive to make meaning of. And he shares with his prospective audience of writing instructors how to best design and impart that kind of interaction with texts in the freshman composition classroom.

    The book guides with deliberate ease through the complex practice of teaching argumentative writing in traditional and digital modes. The process in its varied phases unfolds with clarity. Since all writing is grounded in argument and should be purposeful, firstly, reading to write sets the freshman university student of composition on a quest to delineate argument in textual sources, to challenge preconceived biases through the application of strategies, which Friedrich lays out in pedagogically friendly form. Strategies include, but are not exclusive to, making hunches, noting textual cues and organizational schema, discerning meaning units, and accessing note-taking media. And as good teachers are inclined to do, Friedrich draws on his experiential knowledge, providing autobiographical vignettes that authentically represent him as a model reader who has practiced what he advocates.

    He then moves to the genesis of writing—the import of finding what he calls an 'entertaining topic' through what writers often refer to as triggers for generating writing. Put simply, he addresses that strained question undergraduate students pose: What do I write about? Employing a strategy-based methodology again to tackle the challenge, Friedrich recommends students create inventories of objects/artifacts or memorable moments that comprise an integral part of their lives, or construct taxonomies, where students scan through multimodal reference guides to pick out key words and sources that will inspire. In their analyses of rhetoric, as students proceed to clarify and authoritatively expand upon the position of their papers, Friedrich is hands-on and pedagogically sound with further illustrations of strategies like summary writing or by charting a useful glossary of classic forms of support. Here, the author engages in scaffolding, the building up of steps to facilitate the shaping of argument.

    Always in pursuit of leads and themes that will empower students, Friedrich promotes a phenomenological approach as subject with a detailed, thorough exposition that highlights individual agency within a cognitivist frame. Students then will mine their lived experiences as a basis for inquiry with guidance throughout the process. Grounded in his own teaching and research at the undergrad level, this segment of Chapter 3 illuminates. Friedrich provides outlines to help students structure their phenomenological case studies while concurrently consulting two outside sources: a student-composed essay that learners can approximate and a rhetorical analysis rubric and case assignment sheet for the teacher. Instructors of writing can readily integrate these resources in classes with a sense of security.

    Friedrich then broadens the canvas from individual as locus to individual as member of a community of shared values, where particularity of place becomes prominent. To support his central tenet that college writing be entertaining and not daunting and prescriptive, he conceives of catch phrases for heuristics such as 'inside scoops, different strokes, town self-image with screen shots' to turn students’ wheels as they embark upon writing a 'place-based case study.' In this genre, the student zooms the lens on how a community’s culture is reflected by an event or institution. To enable student writers, Friedrich prepares the instructor with prompts on the architecture of such a piece, information on its underlying social theory, as well as a published stellar sample essay. To engage students in critical thinking, he also includes different types of tables students can access to test a source’s conclusion against a case or to test social theory. Higher-order concerns are further addressed with criteria-based questions students can ask when deciding on what to revise. Material is made ready to extract and adapt.

    One of my favorite parts of the book takes us further into the writing process with a student’s cover letter accompanied by a place-based paper edited with digital tools. In the letter, the student articulates intent, addresses peer feedback, cites the reason for revisions, and describes the types of revisions, thereby developing metacognition. To cap off this comprehensive chapter, Friedrich again provides model assessment material for his place-case study, arming instructors and encouraging them to expand their pedagogical repertoires so students can develop their skill sets and writing ranges.

    In the final chapter, Being a Networked User, Friedrich, both a composition and new media professor, merges the traditional with the new. With his two recommended genres, the Photo-Edited Technological Literacy Autobiography and the Dialectal Podcast, evidence-based argumentative writing is made contemporary for the 21st century student who aims to be an informed, prejudice-challenging participant in a culture of digital users.

    In the first intertextual, multi-modal task, students’ historical account of communicating with digital objects becomes a means of fulfilling identity. When considering structure, emphasis is placed on supporting literature from pertinent visual rhetoric in the body of the piece. A student model narrates and explicates personal growth and vulnerability in her evolution as a new media user. Provisional theses can be tested from Friedrich’s suggested introductions of edited volumes. And to showcase images that best link to theses, GIMP is highlighted as a fine image editing program. As is necessary when teaching new technology, Friedrich sequences the photo editing process. The end goal is to pair selective text and image with specificity and conviction.

    Over the course of five chapters, Friedrich has offered up fresh, timely, student-centered writing tasks which will engage and entertain students in the requisite composition class. The book serves as an in-depth guide for the curriculum designer and facilitator of freshman composition classes and for writing classes that include genres like non-fiction. Its contents reflect a hybrid approach with a blend of the classic and current in both topic and mode of expression, appealing to differentiated learners. In short, Friedrich’s book paves the way for all students to stay invested and to write more persuasively about positions they hold on subjects in their everyday lives. Highly recommended."
    Carol Lipszyc, Ed.D., Retired Associate Professor and Educator of Pre-service English Teachers at SUNY Plattsburgh
    Author of In the Absence of Sons