Spencer Harrison is currently serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Karaganda Buketov Unveristy in Kazakhstan where he is also leading public writing clubs. He has also taught American literature and college composition, secondary school mathematics, and primary school science at schools across New York City. He also has three years of experience working at university writing centers. He received a B.A. from Pitzer College in English & World literature, an M.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education from St. John’s University, and an M.A. in English with a focus on creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Spencer’s research interests include international education, multilingual pedagogy, and writing center studies with a particular interest in facilitating international writing tutor exchanges and virtual collaboration.

Title: Stream of Consciousness and Creative Writing in the EAL and EAP Classrooms

Peter Elbow changed academic writing education for many educators/students. Rather than a word-by-word/sentence-by-sentence approach to writing (1973). Elbow advocated for a fluent, conversational method of writing – the regular habit of stream of consciousness journaling where “lower order concerns” (LOCs) (e.g., spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.) are given lower priority. This prioritization of “higher order concerns” (HOCs) took hold of writing center praxis as well. Elbow’s process overcomes writer’s block or psychological barriers to fluent communication. My recent foray into teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL), after teaching and tutoring academic writing, has convinced me of the need and efficacy of comprehensively applying Elbow’s fluency development process to simultaneously teach EAL and English for Academic Purposes (EAP).
Traditional EAL begins with a rules based approach to language acquisition and conceives of fluency as the mysterious, distant and emergent product. Formal (institutional) 1st language education, however, presumes and is applied to a pre-existent verbal fluency in children which is then developed alongside of “standard usage.” Importantly, this standard usage is also developed alongside a non-standard dialect, e.g. slang or language experimentation/play amongst friends. It is my contention that Elbow’s approach to writing fluency combined with creative and experimental language play are vital additions to both EAL and EAP education. Just as Elbow’s method breaks the psychological barrier to 1st language writing fluency, so can that same process break the anxiety plaguing 2nd language writing and verbal fluency.

Elbow, Peter. Writing without Teachers. New York, Oxford University Press, 1973.

In this workshop, I will present and have participants engage in fluency development strategies such as free-writing combined with a standard usage revision, creative writing exercises, and free-talking with partners/in small groups followed by a whole group discussion of the potential applications and efficacy of such methods in EAL and EAP classrooms.