ENGL 486: Teaching Writing in Middle and Secondary Schools

Fall 2018  |  CRNs: 20658 / 21082 |  Tuesdays from 3:30-6:15pm  |  120 Stevenson Hall

Instructor: Russell Mayo 

Office hours: Tuesdays, 1-3pm & by appointment, 1827 University Hall

Link to complete course syllabus:

Course Description

How should we value writing in the English Language Arts Classroom? Should the classroom privilege certain genres and writing styles over others? What harms might this inflict? How do outside pressures inform our instruction of writing? English 486 engages with these questions as we develop a sense of what it means to teach writing in the middle and high school classroom. Drawing from a wide range of sources—including Kirby and Crovitz’s Inside Out and curricular materials from NPR, Chicago Humanities Festival, 826 National, and Rethinking Schools—we will explore how writing can enable all students to develop as critical and creative thinkers. Together, we will explore many different genres, practice modes of assessment, engage with writing processes, and reflect on the role of writing and literacy in our lives. This course will be run as a hybrid writing workshop and methods seminar; as we discuss how we teach, we will also consider how we write, and vice versa. Course requirements include a minimum 12 hours of field work volunteering with 826CHI and four writing portfolios demonstrating what you’ve learned in various sections of the course.

***Click here for the full syllabus via GoogleDocs!

See below for a brief overview of the course unit/topics:

Unit 1: Literacy Narratives
Assignments will include writing and performing a personal narrative or memoir in the style of NPR’s The Moth.

Unit 2: Re-Imagining the Essay
Following the CHF’s 2018 program theme Graphic!, students will explore the social impact of an increasingly visual world by crafting multimodal essays.

Unit 3: Writing with Literature
Assignments will include reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and watching Hulu’s adaptation of the novel.

Unit 4: Writing Teaching Demos
Assignments will include team-teaching an innovative writing -focused lesson.

This course will include a fieldwork component with 826CHI (see our fieldwork page for updates). Methods of assessment will include conferencing and portfolios.


  • Unit 1 portfolio – 20%
  • Unit 2 portfolio – 20%
  • Unit 3 portfolio – 20%
  • Unit 4 portfolio – 20%
  • Participation/attendance – 20%