Monday, May 25, 2009

A Journey of a Thousand Pages...

...Begins with a single word. I'd like to think that this summer institute I'm taking at Uconn is probably going to require me to read and write about 1000 pages of materials... I haven't actually counted it out yet, but I believe that to be somewhat accurate. I plan to document my trip through this universe of writing on my blog - feel free to share your comments, read the books I'm reading, and encourage me along the way... quite possibly the majority of this blog this summer will deal with this endeavor... however, there might be other gleanings of writing along the way...

I begin by exploring the idea of WHY does writing matter anyways? I'm reading Because Writing Matters by Carl Hagin of the NWP (National Writing Project); just through the introduction, I'm already screaming inside asking WHY aren't more teachers, administrators and policymakers concerned by how little we require of students in the area of writing? Much of the writing requirements are personal in nature, which is fine, as that inspires writing and the enjoyment of writing. However, our students seem to be sadly lacking in the area of critical writing skills - heading off to college, they find they are woefully ignorant of how to critique and analyze ideas and share their thoughts in writing.

I often find this to be true in my own students - especially when we turn to persuasive writing, which requires students to support beliefs/opinions with reasonable arguments. The first responses are usually: "...because.... I don't know why - just because." Or, "....because they're stupid!" Little thought is put into why the students hold certain beliefs or ideas. Much coaching is required to move them beyond mere opinion to actual defense of their opinions through reason and logic. It's startling to think that perhaps before 7th grade they never had to explain or defend their ideas? Was everything hereto for simply accepted as so just "because"?

The idea of teaching writers to think critically about their ideas and defend their stance may have to become a focus point for me next year in my teaching... but I'm only in the introductory part of the book! :) I will have to see why else "writing matters" as I continue to read...

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