Hi, I’m Sarah! I started Red Pen Pedestrian to connect with teachers, students, and anyone interested in building their writing (and reading) skills. If you like what you find here, please like the Red Pen Pedestrian page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @RedPenSarah.
I’m calling this blog “Red Pen Pedestrian” because although I would never use the dreaded red pen to correct student work, I definitely take a “red pen” attitude to righting the writing wrongs of the world at large. It’s also a tongue-in-cheek reference to Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. (Talk about linguistic reclamation!)
As a college writing and integrated reading and writing instructor at SFSU, I’ve noticed that many students struggle with the reading and writing work they’re asked to do. During their k-12 education, many students learn to dislike reading and writing. Reading logs, five-paragraph essays, standardized tests, and other tasks that promote shallow engagement with texts all contribute to this problem. At the paragraph level, students learn rigid rules and acronyms, rather than how to construct paragraphs around the needs of their ideas, arguments, audiences, and rhetorical purposes. At the sentence level, instruction is all over the map — anywhere from indifferent to downright incorrect.
There’s a better way. At the sentence level, I help students discover how to use various phrasal and clausal structures like tools in a toolkit, helping them see the purpose and value of each tool. At the paragraph level, I help students focus and shape their ideas and arguments according to the needs of the situation — not according to a checklist of sentence types. At the whole-essay level, I coach students to embrace shitty first drafts, to develop generative writing processes and effective revision processes that work for them, and to become attentive, effective peer reviewers. As readers, students in my classrooms engage critically with texts and genres, learning to embrace difficulty and to make conscious choices about how to effectively approach challenging readings.
Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or are just looking for tips on how to read and write more effectively, I hope you’ll find something of value here as I share the activities, assignments, and tools that I find valuable and effective.