Centre of Gravity What strategies work to develop students’ writing and what theory underpins these ideas?
Student Voices English Journal 98.5 (2009): 41–42
Commonsense Matters (Linda Rief) writing is thinking there is no one process that defines the way all writers write we learn to write by writing (and by reading) we have to do a lot of writing to accomplish the best writing (and develop a writing voice) writers need, and want, to write for real reasons for a real audience lessons of craft and conventions are best taught within the context of a meaningful piece of writing
Commonsense Matters (Linda Rief) writers need choice, time, and models of good writing writers need constructive response while engaged in the process of writing that moves the writing forward and helps the writer grow evaluation of writing should highlight the strengths of process, content, and conventions and give the writer the tools and techniques to strengthen the weaknesses good writing is not defined by one set of criteria but differs depending on the kind of writing writers need places to collect their ideas e.g. writer’s notebooks, working folders, portfolios teachers have to know their students well enough to recognize their distinct strengths, interests and needs
Ways of Knowing declarative: knowing about something, e.g., knowing that paragraphs usually focus on a central idea procedural:knowing how to do something, e.g., knowing how to develop a topic focus for a paragraph conditional:knowing when to do something, e.g. deciding if the topic sentence should be at the beginning or the end of a paragraph
Choose a character An old woman whose detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or the death. A young boy who has a secret. A man or woman who has just fallen in love. Do not mention the loved one. An person who has just murdered someone. Do not mention the victim or the murder. (Adapted from The Art of Fiction by John Gardner)
Begin with the Familiar We bring our history of experiences to our learning situations. There must be some familiarity for us to begin to understand and make connections in our brains. Learning begins when that familiarity is troubled, challenged or revised. (The old adage “make the familiar strange” is a good way of remembering this.)
Enabling constraints Complex learning events are not prescriptive (that is, don’t dictate what must be done) but are expansive (that is, they indicate what might be done, in part by indicating what must not be done; e.g. rules of hockey, the Ten Commandments) Enabling Constraints define a field, narrow the choices but offer wide opportunities for flexible and varied responses. (e.g. choose a character)
Non-Enabling By the end of this lesson, students will demonstrate their understandings of some of the core elements of a poem by identifying the rhyme structure, the principal figurative devices, and the core themes of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” (too constraining, presumes correct responses and delineated techniques for reaching pre-specified ends) Students will write original poems in this lesson. (too open-ended; without more structure students are likely to be frustrated.)
why writing practices? it is not just to teach you how to write in different ways (although that is important) it is not just a recipe book of activities that you can copy in your classroom
rather . . . writing practices are enabling constraints that you can use to teach your students writing writing practices focus on declarative (knowing about), procedural (knowing how) and conditional (knowing when) strategies
Other writing practices Freewriting Invisible writing Collaborative stories (Exquisite corpse for e.g.) Word Collages Copying text from favourite writer Close reading to study technique that is then copied Cut apart revision Changing tense, person, genre Clustering or mapping
Writing Poetry Even this morning would be an improvement over the present I was in the garden then surrounded by the hum of bees and the Latin names of flowers watching the early light flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks as usual I was thinking about the moments of the past letting my memory rush over them like waterrushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream I was even thinking a little about the future that place where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine a dance whose name we can only guess
Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of beesand the Latin names of flowers, watching the early lightflash off the slanted windows of the greenhouseand silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks. As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,letting my memory rush over them like waterrushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.I was even thinking a little about the future, that placewhere people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,a dance whose name we can only guess.
A Humument Tom Phillips most famous work is A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel. One day, Phillips went to a bookseller's with the express intention of buying a cheap book to use as the basis of an art project. He randomly purchased a novel called A Human Document by Victorian author William Mallock, and began a long project of creating art from its pages. He paints, collages or draws over the pages, leaving some of the text peeking through in serpentine bubble shapes, creating a "found" text with its own story, different from the original.http://www.rosacordis.com/humument/intro.html