Writing and Community Action: A Service-Learning Rhetoric with Readings, 1st edition

  • Thomas Deans

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Writing and Community Action: A Service-Learning Rhetoric and Reader encourages inquiry into community and social action issues, supports community-based research, and shepherds students through a range of service-learning writing projects.


Several chapters offer pragmatic advice for crafting personal, reflective, and analytical essays, while service-learning chapters present experience-tested strategies for doing collaborative writing projects at nonprofit agencies, conducting research on pressing social problems, writing proposals that respond to campus and community concerns, and composing oral histories. The assignments help students to see themselves as writers whose work really matters. Provocative readings spark critical reflection on community service and a range of social concerns (including economic justice, literacy, education, homelessness, race, and identity). Focusing on invention, audience analysis, and the social purposes of writing, Writing and Community Action encourages students to adopt a rhetorical frame of mind.


Hopeful in tone, this book makes clear the ways that writing can serve as action in both academic and community contexts.

Table of contents

Every chapter contains “Reading Selections.

1. Writing as Social Action.

Assignment: Reflections on Your Writing Process.

The Writing Process.

Reading Selections.

Maxine Hairston, “What Happens When People Write?”.

Anne Lamott, “Shitty First Drafts”.

Donald Murray, “The Maker's Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts”.

Writing in School.

What is an Essay?

Writing about, for, and with the Community.

2. Writing Your Life.

Personal Essay Assignment: Autobiographical Reflections Literacy, Ethics, or Service.

Exploratory Writing: Mining Your Own History.

Reading Selections.

bell hooks, “writing autobiography”.

Richard O'Konski, “The Monster Under the Bed” (Student Essay).

Eileen Montalvo, “Replanting my Roots” (Student Essay).

Mike Rose, “I Just Wanna be Average”.

Pat McMurtray, “Problem Child 3: My Version” (Student Essay).

Alison Garber, “Faith Like Small Children”.

Emily Martens, “Traveling Away from Everything Known” (Student Essay).

Reading into Writing.

Rhetorical Features of the Personal Essay.

Narrative Base.

Tension, Turn and Resolution.

Literary Devices: Description, Setting, Character, Figurative Language.

The Peer Workshop: Sharing Drafts with Others.

Peer Review Questions.

The Revision Plan.

The Process Note.

Special Section: What is Literacy?


Paulo Freire, “The Banking Concept of Education”.

Sylvia Scribner, “Literacy in Three Metaphors”.

Andrea Fishman, “Becoming Literate: A Lesson From the Amish”.

Audre Lorde, “Learning to Write”.

3. Exploring Community.

Assignment Options: Analyzing a Particular Community and Defining Community.

Reading Selections.

David L Kirp, “Almost Home: America's Love—Hate Relationship with Community”.

Tracy Kidder, “A Moral Place”.

Alexis deTocqueville, excerpt from Democracy in America.

John L. McKnight, “Redefining Community”.

“What is Community?” A Roundtable.

Reading into Writing.

Rhetorical Strategies for the Community Analysis Essay.

Identifying Patterns of Sameness.

Recognizing Differences.

Sharpening Definitions.

Guiding Questions.

Peer Review Questions.

4. Writing in Academic Community.

Assignment: Research Report Investigating a Disciplinary Discourse Community.

What is a Discourse Community?.

Nancy Sakamoto, “Conversational Ballgames”.

Discourse Communities, Disciplines, and “Good Writing”.

Lucille McCarthy, “A Stranger in Strange Lands: One Student Writing Across the Curriculum”.

Gathering Data: Analyzing Documents.

Gathering Data: Interviewing.

Rhetorical Features of the Empirical Research Report.

Student Samples.

“Writing About Numbers: Writing Practices in Mathematics”.

“Beyond the Textbook: The Language of Historians”.

Peer Review Questions.

5. Literature, Culture and Social Reflection.

Assignment: Literary Analysis Essay.

Strategies for Reading Literature: Reading, Interpretation and Criticism.

A Case Study in Reading, Interpretation and Criticism.

Sharon Olds, “From Seven Floors Up”.

Reading Selections.

Martin Espada, “Jorge the Church Janitor Finally Quits”.

Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson”.

“The Lesson” and Economic Justice.

Working with Statistics.

Examining US Census Data on Poverty, Income and Wealth.

Barbara Ehrenreich, “Nickel—and—Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America”.

Short Story: Leslea Newman, “A Letter to Harvey Milk”.

Rhetorical Strategies for Writing about Literature.

Emily Martens, “When is the Past the Past?” (Student Essay).

Peer Response Questions.

6. Preparing for Outreach: Respect and Reciprocity.

Assignment Options: Essay on the Nature of a Community Organization and Essay on an Ethical Concern.

Charity, Project and Social Change.

Robert Coles, “Community Service Work”.

Principles of Good Practice for Service—Learning.

John McKnight, “John Deere and the Bereavement Counselor”.

Peer Response Questions.

7. Writing About the Community.

Assignment Options: Community—Based Research Essay and Agency Profile Report.

Ethical Concerns in Community—Based Research.

Community—Based Reseach Essay: Exploring Options.

Community—Based Reseach Essay: Finding a Focus.

Student Sample: Erin Elmore, “Pursuing an Educated Mind: The Debate over the

Effectiveness of Elementary Bilingual Education”.

Community—Based Reseach Essay: Writing a Proposal.

Agency Profile Report: Exploring Options and Selecting an Organization.

Student Sample: “The Boys and Girls Clubs of Manhattan”.

Methods for Research.

Keeping a Journal.

Taking Field Notes.


Using Sources.

Synthesizing and Organizing.

Peter Marin, “Helping and Hating the Homeless: The Struggle at the Margins of America”.

Student Sample: Erin Collins, “Who Deserves a Head Start?” (Student Essay).

Student Sample: “RSVP with Grant Money Please: An Investigation into a Non—

Profit Organization's Writing Needs”.

Peer Review Questions for the Research Essay.

Peer Review Questions for the Agency Profile Report.

8. Writing For the Community.

Understanding Workplace Writing.

Student Perspective: “Stepping out of my Comfort Zone: My Experience with the Community Project”.

A Proven Process: Flowchart.

Exploring Community Needs and Project Options.

Investigating Your Community Organization and its Context.

Building a Relationship with your Community Partner.

The First Meeting.

Shared Expectations: Letter of Understanding.

Understanding Your Audience.

Drafting, Consulting, and Revising.

Genre Analysis Worksheet.

Christine Sevilla, “Page Design: Directing the Reader's Eye”.

Anticipating Issues.

Attending to Finishing Touches.


User Testing.

Planning for the Document's Future.

Letter of Transmittal.

Reflecting on a Completed Project.

Sample Self—Assessment Letter.

Community Writing Project Student Samples.

9. Writing With the Community.

Assignment Options: Proposals and Oral Histories.

Proposals to Address Community Problems and Injustices.

Identifying Local Issues and Problems.

Identifying Stakeholders.

Student Sample Proposal: Letter to Alumni.

Proposal Structure.

Student Sample Proposal: Letter to Board of Education.

Peer Review Questions.

Composing Oral Histories.

Susie Lan Cassel, “Writing from Another's Memory: In Quest of Oral History”.

Getting Started.


Drafting and Structuring Oral History.

Student Sample: “El Mundo de los Secretos”.

Ross Talarico and Harry Nollsch, “Mount Rushmore”.

Student Sample: “A Land of Hope and a Future:.

A Memoir of a Vietnamese Immigrant”.

Companion Abstract: Reflecting on Rhetorical Choices.

Peer Review Questions.

10. Final Reflections.

Assignment Options: Reflective Essays and Letters.

Assembling a Portfolio.

The Capstone Essay.

Using Your Own Writing as Evidence.

Finding a Focus.

Student Sample: “Trust as a Tool”.

Peer Review Questions.

Oral Presentations.

Strategies for Successful Presentations.

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Published by Pearson (December 12th 2002) - Copyright © 2003