Analysis of Literary Practices Part II

Analysis of Literary Practices Part II

Sit in front of a blank screen.

The cursor blinks like that annoying light in the school’s hallway that no one ever changes. The student cannot think of a place to start.

A student thinks: It’s Friday. It’s 2:45. That’s how many more minutes? Can’t wait to ride over to … Wait, what am I writing about?

Let’s Plan and Research

In this instance, the student is supposed to type ideas for a short paper and then research them for a rough draft to type later. One day while substituting at a high school, I went with the eleventh graders to the media center. While I have done this on different occasions, I remember paying attention to the different processes students used during the early stages of writing. Some high achieving students went to different databases, which they accessed through their school’s media or library website like college students do at Winthrop.

I notice two differences with the high achieving students. The first difference is the high achieving students know what keywords to use based on their list of ideas. The second difference involves how they evaluate articles to use for their research. When thinking about my research skills with databases, I look first for full text and then read the abstract to see if it is what I’m researching. For example, if I want to read about technology access in urban schools, I may not be looking for a quantitative study, but for a narrative or essay written by a teacher, administrator, or educational researcher who has the experience. While I may want statistical information later, right now I want to know socio-emotional impact on staff and students.

The high achieving students looking at the database look at the series of keywords. Within the series of keywords, they may find the article is what they’re looking for or is not. They may save themselves time by dismissing an article because the series of keywords does not match what they’re looking for. The same students may evaluate an article further after looking at the abstract.

Then there are other students who have limited research skills or prefer a specific database. In this instance, I think age and education are significant. While a librarian or media personnel might have shown students how to use the databases at the beginning of the school year, some students may not remember or feel comfortable with it. In the case of the eleventh grade class in the media center, some students used the same database.

Like the students who prefer one database for their writing and research, I also have a favorite database. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson) has been one of my favorites at Winthrop since I began graduate school because you find full text articles about a wide range of subjects related to education. It saves the step of having to determine which articles have full text and which ones do not.

The students and I who have our favorite database reveal a weakness. We are not pulling our sources from a wide range of databases or places. For me, change in exploring other databases comes with education and maturity. By my second semester, I used different databases because I had a professor who had specified that material should come for other places besides JSTOR. In the case of students who like the same database, I believe a lot of it is age and comfort level. Teacher involvement is needed. Exploration is needed. According to Stefani Relles and William Tierney’s article “Understanding The Writing Habits of Tomorrow’s Students: Technology and College Readiness,” disadvantaged students are less likely to use electronic resources of libraries or email teachers with questions about an assignment (478). There is a need for one-on-one or group learning with a teacher to help students develop those research skills.

As a teacher, I would encourage a database scavenger hunt, and have students evaluate which databases were their top three favorites and why. I think it also allows the teacher to work one-on-one or in small groups as a facilitator. He or she helps students who are not as comfortable with databases and research. I think, like professional development for teachers, that educating students about databases and research should be ongoing throughout the school year to ensure understanding and educational growth.


When it comes to writing, I consider many issues. In Part I of my Analysis of Literary Practices, I wrote that sometimes I use a digital recorder to say my thoughts out loud. Sometimes I record my sentences for a paper, too. I have not seen many students or writers do this because I think someone must be comfortable with hearing their voice played back. Some students are uncomfortable with hearing their voice on a recording. For example, in a broadcasting class, students write the script and then read what they originally wrote from the prompter. I have seen them squirm in class because they do not like the sound of their voices.

Teaching students how to incorporate their ideas into thoughtful sentences and provide argumentative support from research is one of the biggest challenges in student writing. Relles and Tierney say many students placed in remedial English face the biggest challenges to succeeding in college writing because there is a gap between vocabulary and new media (479). Students do not know how to evaluate new literacies into their writing or compose thoughtful paragraphs. According to Relles and Tierney, 17 percent of students in remedial English earn a four year degree, and there is an overrepresentation of minorities and low-income students in remedial English (478). After subbing in a remedial English class with ten high school students, they wanted attention.

How is this different than my writing process?

Often, I prefer to write alone. I have never been comfortable writing in groups or a workshop setting within a classroom. The reasons behind that were because my classmates ended up talking about other social issues in school and I wrote. However, the remedial English class was a great group of students because they liked being read to. They struggled with the writing process, but they enjoyed hearing other authors’ words so much. I wondered how that enjoyment could be translated in the writing process.

I believe some classes benefit from writing and editing papers in a group. Depending on the background knowledge of students, a workshop provides students the opportunity to provide each other feedback. One student may have a great prewriting or editing suggestion from which other students can benefit, and it encourages collaboration between students.


Relles, Stefani, and William, Tierney. “Understanding The Writing Habits of Tomorrow’s Students: Technology and College Readiness.” Journal of Higher Education 84.4 (2013): 477-505. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 25 June 2014.



  1. Your remarks about remedial English and vocabulary are very true. In my developmental reading class, college freshmen struggle with vocabulary more than any other skill. They often do not know words that I take for granted and are afraid to ask what the words mean. When they write, I try to get them to expand on verbs and not be so repetitive. The problem is even more concerning from a reading perspective, though, because they have limited comprehension due to lack of vocabulary. I try to show them that reading helps develop vocabulary. I’m not convinced that they always see the significance, though.

    • You’re right. I work a lot with students who struggle with reading, and I teach reading comprehension. I model a series of steps, and will read a paragraph several times with them. Vocabulary does seem to be a stumbling block while reading, so we discuss ways to find out what a word means whether it is looking in the dictionary or using context clues. Before students jump into reading, I practice previewing a page with them whether it has pictures or titles. I also work with students who have ADHD, and they do not retain the details unless they read again. It translates to writing, also.

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