As I was looking for something on Adrienne Rich on revision to apply to my Anne Sexton paper, I found this: John Levine’s “Writing Dialogue in the College Composition Classroom”
I like this idea — having students write actual dialogues between writers/scholars as a way of helping them learn to enter academic conversations. Levine here describes what he tells his students:
“Please get out a piece of paper. . . . I want you to imagine that you are the moderator of a panel discussion on revision (`re-vision’). The distinguished members of your panel include Adrienne Rich, Paul Auster, and John Edgar Wideman. Construct an imagined dialogue among the four `voices’ (the three essayists plus you) on the topic of writing as `re-vision.'”
I explain that I want them to format the dialogue as though it were a script. They are to write the panelist’s name, followed by a colon, followed by his or her words. I put a model up on the blackboard.
Rich: Xxxxx xxx . . .
Auster: Xxxxx xxx . . .
Wideman: Xxxxx xxx . . .
You (Your Name): Xxxxx xxx . . .
. . . and so on . . .
Levine gives some examples of student-written dialogues as well as some of their evaluations of how the exercise worked for them. Not a magic bullet (nothing is), but definitely a good way to help students enter academic conversations.
And I like this “you’re a moderator” analogy for dialogue, for entering conversations. Seems like it would work pretty well — kind of like the “you’re a lawyer” analogy for writing arguments that I’ve often used with students during writing center sessions.
P.S. Levine’s article is part of the National Writing Project’s “30 Ideas For Teaching Writing” which is available for download. (Read later)