Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Twin Peaks

Amy’s blog made me do some thinkin’. As I scratch my head I'm pondering whether we should only focus on the main thing - Academic writing - or allow our students to experience other genres of writing as well. This question is especially interesting when considering the experience our high school students receive in writing. For the last few years, writing for the MAP test has been a strong focus. This means that students learn how to write a five-paragraph essay in one paragraph: topic sentence, 3-4 body sentences, conclusion sentence. What I noticed, and was amused yet saddened by, was that my students so had this form drilled into them that they couldn’t hardly produce anything else! They were stuck! They assumed that, because this was so important that posters were made and journals were written in this format, there was no other way to write anything. When asking them to expand their minds, they looked at me like a deer caught in headlights!

So moving to the collegiate level… should we shock our students by allowing them to write in memoir style that seems a little more relaxed and personal and then spring academic writing on them? When put this way, it seems like a bad idea. However, I don’t think it is. I think it’s important for students to see that there is not ONE type of writing, that academic writing is not the end all be all. I think it’s important to let students see what the wonderful world of writing has to offer. Perhaps if they discover that a particular form of writing isn’t so bad, maybe even enjoyable, that the other forms will then not seem so scary. Let’s head towards the mountains! Perhaps we’ll never make it there, but maybe we’ll find something better along the way.


TW said...

Even academic writing is extremely varied. I'm not sure you want to freak out your BW students by trashing their training wheels on the first day, but I think with a Eng 110 you could really get the point across by taking one of those fancy five paragraph essay posters and ripping it in half in front of the class or maybe setting it on fire--okay, maybe that goes a little too far. How about having a ninja jump in the window and slice the poster poster in half? Dramatic but too much again. Okay. I totally agree, though, that asking them to forget about the five-paragraph essay isn't going to work--it's like a writing reflex action. Their brains have been altered to think that way. It's going to take something big to get them to break out--a memoir assignment might do it, but I'm thinking something involving a canon and a circus clown. Good luck.

S00nerfan1 said...

Exactly, yes, on the MAP format. Students and teachers and administrators are so focused on achievement scores that creative writing skills are becoming nearly obsolete.

wildcat007 said...

Writing for the MAP does stifle creativity in that the structured approach helps combat the subjectivity of the test. I agree that BW students benefit from the structure as well, but as they progess, a looser approach should be taken.