Little Red Schoolhouse (LRS)

LRS is an approach to writing instruction that proceeds from several core principles:
Readers come to any text with a fairly predictable set of questions and expectations. (These expectations vary somewhat according to the community or discipline: literary critics v. behavioral psychologists v. political scientists.)
Effective writing anticipates and responds to these predictable questions and expectations.
In order to produce effective writing, good writers employ a fairly predictable set of routines in order to plan, draft, revise, and edit.
Students who come to understand readerly expectations and writerly routines produce more persuasive arguments more efficiently.
Most students already have good intuitions about what readers want and what writers do: our job is to help them articulate and define those intuitions, so that they can more consciously control their writing.
Our teaching begins with intuition then proceeds to the principle.
Students learn routines best by "over-learning" them; that is, by practicing until the routines are internalized and students can produce them with minimal effort. Because reading and writing are complicated tasks, it's best to break them down into manageable pieces, or sub-routines, for students.
Once students are comfortable with the routine, they can learn and practice techniques for manipulating their writing to produce a range of effects.

A Brief History of the Little Red Schoolhouse (LRS)

The Little Red Schoolhouse began at the University of Chicago in 1980, as a lecture series offered to the university community at large by Joe Williams, Greg Colomb, Frank Kinahan, and Peter Blaney. In 1981, Colomb, Kinahan, Williams, and fifteen graduate student "lectors" offered the first formal class based on the Little Red Schoolhouse. Through the '80s, the class continued to be the centerpiece of Chicago's Writing Programs, joined at times by Pete Wetherbee and Wayne Booth and by a growing number of graduate students. The University of Chicago now fields several variants of the Schoolhouse, and most of the writing instruction at the university is informed by Schoolhouse principles and conducted by Schoolhouse lectors. In 1986, the Schoolhouse was brought to Duke University by George Gopen, and it now informs much of that university's writing instruction. In 1987, Greg Colomb brought the Schoolhouse to the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding technically-focused variants of the program.

The Schoolhouse is now the basis of a variety of WAC programs located in specific departments, an effort headed by Jeff Donnell and Amanda Gable. In 1988, the Schoolhouse became the writing program for the Law Center of the University of Southern California under the guidance of Don Freeman. In 1991 Greg Colomb brought the Schoolhouse to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where it reshaped the academic and professional writing program. Most recently, Greg Colomb and Jon D'Errico have begun a similar transformation in the writing program at the University of Virginia. Throughout this period, the Schoolhouse has been brought to new institutions and adapted to local circumstances by graduates in all disciplines from the University of Chicago, Duke University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Virginia, as well as Brittain Fellows from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since 1989, the Schoolhouse has been freely distributed as word processing files to be adopted and adapted at other institutions. We look forward to the variants and revisions that emerge from that distribution.
The original Little Red Schoolhouse syllabus was created in 1981 by Joe Williams and Greg Colomb. Over the next five years, it went through significant revision and development by Williams and Colomb, with contributions primarily by Frank Kinahan and Larry McEnerney but also by Wayne Booth, Rosemary Camilleri, Jon D'Errico, Leigh Gordon, and a host of graduate students from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. Since the mid-eighties, the number of Schoolhouse variants has grown substantially, with versions adapted to different institutions and focused on business, the law, general technical writing, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and others.

See Also:
LRS Curriculum (Basics) and
Advanced LRS Curriculum


A Brief History of LRS

Principles of LRS
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