Category Archives: Writing

Freedom for Student Press

Discussion of press rights has been much in the news of late. Journalists, even to some extent student journalists, are protected by the First Amendment of the United States:


Good journalists, of course, investigate because they want to find the underlying cause of an issue. For student journalists, particularly, this has sometimes been a problem.

FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), whose mission is

“to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience…”

explains student journalists’ rights in this video:

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC)  advocates for student journalists

Students want to be heard on the social and political issues, including issues of local school policy, directly affecting their lives….Students learn journalism best under a light touch of guidance from a well-trained adviser, not the heavy hand of government “spin control.” Every K-12 student should have the benefit of a sensible free-expression policy modeled on the Supreme Court’s Tinker standard, protecting the right to engage in lawful, non-disruptive speech.

NCTE supports press freedom for student journalists as well through the:

NCTE Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write,
Resolution on Students’ Right of Expression, and, if you ratify it,
• A new NCTE Resolution on Legislation to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists

The Power of Song, or Is It Really the Lyrics?

Close-up a Heap of dirty utensil in the kitchen sink.He leaves his dishes in the sink, thinking leprechauns put them in the dishwasher. She wants to talk during the football game and stalks off when clearly that play is more important to him than listening to her.

Imagine if couples “sang” their arguments rather than actually fighting. Such is the theme of the hilarious film Band-Aid, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. A squabbling couple create a band, invite their neighbor to be the drummer, and proceed to sing their irritations and frustrations to each other.

While strumming their guitars, the couple have to dig deep and really think in order to convert their frustrations into poetry and song. In doing so, they de-escalate and temper their anger while at the same time creating music that others can relate to and enjoy.

In a tribute to Frank Sinatra, who could not read music, George Will wrote, “Before a song was music, it was words alone. He studied lyrics, internalized them, then sang, making music from poems.” So, for Frank Sinatra, the words mattered first, not the music. Will continues that Sinatra sang songs from the “Great American Songbook,” a compilation of songs written by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, and others. He compared the lyrics of Mercer’s “Summer Wind” (“Then softer than a piper man, one day it called to you; I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind”) to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I would argue a better comparison would be Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (“As the miller told his tale/that her face, at first just ghostly/turned a whiter shade of pale”) or Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” (“Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine.”)

Poetry has a natural musical cadence and demands to be read aloud, particularly William Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Does that phrase stand alone in its beauty? Does it need music? Or is the human voice, with its own modulated tones, sufficient? Music, however, enhances poetry and words and add a new dimension.

So, on this Valentine’s Day of sonnets and roses and crooning club singers, let us remember the power of words and lyrics and song and how important they are to each other. Or not.

CCCC 2017: Cultivating Capacity, Creating Change

This post is written by CCCC Associate Chair Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt. 

2017 cccc logoIt’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since I developed the call for the 68th Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. I started with a concept—“cultivate”—and a vision of using the convention space to engage as a conference in working exchanges.

In the time between, over 1,900 proposals were submitted and later peer reviewed by a smart, thoughtful, and generous group of Stage I and Stage II reviewers. Using the reviewers’ feedback and scores—and capitalizing on the amount of space available in Portland’s beautiful Oregon Convention Center—I selected nearly 700 concurrent sessions, roundtables, poster sessions, and workshops for the program. Then, through summer and fall, the complex work of scheduling began, adding Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Standing Group–sponsored sessions, committee meetings, and other activities into the mix.

An innovation for CCCC 2017 is featured “Cultivate” programming. I have introduced two new types of highly interactive sessions: Cultivate sessions and Think Tank sessions. Two or three such sessions are showcased in each time block throughout the convention. These facilitated sessions, selected from over 85 member-generated proposals received in a fall secondary call, are designed to provide space for members to “cultivate capacity” and “create change” around organizational, professional, or disciplinary issues or concerns. I urge attendees to participate in one—or several!


This year’s Action Hub, a large open space in the Pre-Function E area, near the exhibit hall, enables attendees to participate in organized activities, peruse various informational displays, or simply meet at open tables to talk and work together. See the app or the program for more specific details.

Conventiongoers also have the opportunity to “Cs the Day,” attend SIG and Caucus meetings, engage with the Computer Connection and Digital Pedagogy Posters, play in the Gaming Lounge, visit the exhibit hall, celebrate colleagues’ achievements at the Awards Recognition Reception, and much more!

Needless to say, with more than 50 Cultivate or Think Tank sessions, concurrent sessions, roundtables, and peer-reviewed poster sessions from which to select in every session time slot and a wide array of other activities taking place before, after, and during the regular convention schedule each day, the hardest part of negotiating CCCC 2017 for many of you will be choosing from among the many high-interest options happening at the same time.

jose-antonio-vargasAnd that’s not all! To maintain the convention energy from beginning to end, I’ve planned a full day of activities for Saturday as well. Saturday’s General Session will feature keynote speaker Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, filmmaker, and media entrepreneur whose work centers on the changing American identity and US immigration reform. Vargas’s work embodies “cultivating capacity, creating change” through writing and digital media. After Saturday’s concurrent sessions, which feature topics related to high school–college connections, library partnerships, writing/literacy pedagogy, and two-year colleges, a selection of free, half-day postconvention workshops will be available to all convention registrants. Also, in an effort to bring CCCC to a broader audience, including area high school teachers and adjunct and contingent faculty, special Saturday-only convention rates of $85 will be offered.


Few spaces are more generative and regenerative than conferences; they are sites of possibility and productivity. And what better place than Portland, the city that embodies the notion of environmental sustainability, to work together to find answers about how to sustain ourselves? I invite you to CCCC 2017, March 15–18, 2017, and look forward to the opportunity not only to learn together and enjoy some camaraderie, but also to build our capacity, individually and collectively, to address the issues we face and to create conditions for change, in higher education and beyond.

Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt, CCCC Associate Chair, is the program chair for CCCC 2017 in Portland, Oregon. She teaches English at Yakima Valley College in Washington state. Carolyn can be contacted at or

The Latest Issue of College Composition and Communication

This post is written by member Jens Lloyd, editorial assistant for College Composition and Communication.

cccdec2016cover College Composition and Communication (CCC) publishes scholarship in rhetoric and composition studies that supports college teachers in reflecting on and improving their practices in teaching writing. CCC aims to promote the most current scholarship in the field, scholarship that draws on research and theories from a broad range of humanistic disciplines and from within the many subfields of rhetoric and composition. Our December 2016 issue, available online and in print, demonstrates this breadth of scholarly inquiry.

Those interested in the intellectual trends that have shaped the teaching of writing will want to read Chris W. Gallagher’s article on the legacy of behaviorism in writing studies. As Gallagher argues, though behaviorism is often treated as a dirty word from a bygone era, the behaviors of student writers remain central to the ways in which writing instruction is conceptualized and promoted in contemporary disciplinary conversations. Gallagher muses about the insights we can cultivate from this neglected aspect of our disciplinary history.

Teachers looking for insights that they can apply in their own classrooms should consider the articles by Jennifer Lin LeMesurier, who shares findings from ethnographic research on genre uptake and embodiment, and Jeffrey A. Bacha, who details an assignment sequence that utilizes the campus-built environment to get students thinking about rhetorical invention and usability studies. Also, extending the recent translingual turn in rhetoric and composition, Jerry Won Lee and Christopher Jenks detail a global partnership they coordinated between their two courses. Lee and Jenks suggest that a pedagogy aimed at cultivating translingual dispositions can be beneficial for monolingual and multilingual students alike.

Finally, teachers, administrators, and others committed to supporting the many types of students that enroll at our institutions will want to read D. Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson’s article on student veterans. Based on an extensive, multi-campus research project which received funding support from CCCC, Hart and Thompson offer a wide-ranging glimpse at how colleges are responding to expanding military student enrollments. Beyond any particular pedagogical or administrative recommendations, Hart and Thompson are most interested in encouraging proactive discussions at every institution about how best to support student veterans. Hart and Thompson’s article provides an excellent starting place for these conversations and for readers wanting to learn more about this burgeoning area of teaching and research.

Some of our December authors are featured in our podcast series. Check out these interviews for additional insights into the scholarship we publish in CCC.

We welcome feedback and questions about the journal at

Jens Lloyd is a PhD candidate at UC Irvine.


This post is a reprint of a blog by member Kate Walker. 

katewalkerawardsSomething I learned through PCTELA was that I could get involved in committees and make a direct impact on our students and teachers by being involved. This blog was created because of a committee within PCTELA about two and half years ago.  Also because of PCTELA, I became a member of NCTE’s Achievement Awards in Writing Advisory Committee, which helps create the yearly prompts and create guidelines for evaluating student writing.

This blog has two purposes:

  1. To challenge you to join a committee with your state affiliate or with NCTE. Committees allow you to get work done with a small, dedicated group of people.
  2. Encourage the members of your high school to celebrate student writing along with us and help students apply for this writing award.

This year’s submission link is 2017 Achievement Awards in Writing Submission Site.  The deadline is February 24, 2017.

Eligibility:  Juniors in the current academic school year are eligible for nomination by their school’s English department.

Award Specifics:

  1. Best Writing – one sample that the student considers her or his best work. The best writing may be in any genre or combination of genres (poetry, narrative, argument, expository). An excerpt from a larger piece of writing by the student is acceptable with a paragraph explaining the piece from which the excerpt was taken. Maximum length for the best writing is six (6) pages. The student’s name and “Best” must appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page.
  2. Themed Writing – must be written based on the topic developed by the Achievement Awards Advisory Committee. Maximum length for the theme writing is four (4) pages. The student’s name and “Themed” must appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page. 2017 Achievement Awards in Writing Theme.

This year’s submission link can be found here: 2017 Achievement Awards in Writing Submission Site.

Deadline: February 24, 2017.

This award is not just about winning, it is about our approach to helping students become better writers and thinkers.  Here are our guiding principles:

  • The Achievement Awards in Writing serves as a powerful means through which NCTE can recognize and empower student writers and their teachers.
  • The awards also offer a powerful opportunity for writing instruction: for student writers and writing teachers.

Please consider sharing this information with department heads, counselors, principals, and teachers. For more information, go to the Achievement Awards in Writing main website. Thank you for considering this opportunity to share and celebrate student writing.

Posted by KatePCTELA Blog Editor and committee member of NCTE’s Achievement Awards for Writing Advisory Committee.