We are composition and rhetoric educators who share a passion for helping people become better writers and have more than twenty-five years of combined experience teaching writing at a range of institutions. We use our interdisciplinary experience to offer a wider perspective on what writing is and how it works. We’re good friends in real life, and we share a hobby: we knit together, designing knitting patterns and sharing them on our knitblog, knittyprofessors.com.
Working with first-year students provides an incredible opportunity to enrich students’ academic experience throughout their college years. We use a learning framework that first-year students can take with them through college and into their careers, which makes teaching this course even more enjoyable. Many of our students come back to our offices or send us notes—often citing specific examples—telling us how what they learned in our classes helped them succeed at other writing tasks, either in another class or at work.
Students struggle to develop strategies that they can take away from first year writing and apply to their other courses. That’s why we developed the Genre Toolkit, which is grounded in the three toolkit questions: What is it? Who reads it? What’s it for? These questions allow students to approach even the most complex, unfamiliar document with confidence. These questions are easy to remember, and they work across disciplines, so students are prepared to write anything for any major. Seeing the success of this approach in our own classes inspired us to write this textbook.
Our goal was that writing courses should empower students. In class after class, we found that once students have a toolkit to use, they can strategically break down any writing task and write it on their own. They can select the genre that is the best one to write in any given situation, and then figure out how to write it. The Genre Toolkit provides the framework, and gives students the confidence, to successfully take on and complete any writing task that is asked of them.
The genre approach isn’t new, but what makes our particular take on teaching with genres new is that we incorporate an explicit emphasis on transferable skills and strategies. It’s not just about learning specific genres, it’s about learning how to learn about genres, and how to apply that knowledge to any writing situation.
Too often textbooks try to cover everything: they include more and more for students to learn. Instead, we provide a framework—the genre toolkit—and then provide examples for students to analyze using the toolkit. Each project gives students a chance to use what they have learned to compose their own document. We’ve integrated individual, group, and multimedia versions of each assignment so that students can practice composing in a range of situations they may encounter in college and their careers. In fact, we use the genre toolkit in our own writing all the time.