Saturday, October 01, 2005

on form and structure in teaching writing composition

i'm not messing with the form just to be funny
having trouble formatting text on this blogger
will work on this issue in the future...

I started this on the listserve, I am continuing
to think about how these ideas go or don’t go
together…are there lines to be drawn, what is
acceptable in a composition class, how do we
prepare students for other classes they will
have in which writing will be required, what
is it to be ‘creative’ to break with conventional
forms to follow hypertextual tangents and links
(even on the paper if not actually virtually)
in moving through a line of thought, say,
in making a point or posing an argument?
I am completely in favor of breaking any and
all conventions in writing (see interest in
poetry and cross-genre work moving into
all realms) but I am still traditional in
helping students to build basic writing
skills (whatever those may be but let
me finish) (I am always, too, working
on my own 'basic skills' constantly),
learn how to think about writing in a
variety of contexts (and how to adapt
their ideas and writing to those), and
practicing different types of academic
writing. We all need to be able to write
comfortably and express ourselves, but we
also need to function within the
larger academic communities we inhabit
as writers and
thinkers. My point is that I believe
I owe it to my students
to talk about context, to discuss
style and form and language
and structure and audience and etc
for the variety of writing
situations they might possibly
encounter. 'New Media' falls
into this certainly, but the
continuum is great and
potentially filled with innumerable
ways of rising up to every
kind of writing situation. We need,
as writers and as
teachers, to have a toolbox filled
with skills and ideas about
how best to synthesize and incorporate
information, how best
to talk about what writing is and
what writing does, how best
to translate our ideas and opinions
and our evidence and
arguments onto the page in the most
intelligent and effective
manners possible...for each
particular situation at hand.
But how is this also not defining
what we are to do as writing
teachers? How can I bring my own
creative impulses together
with the more academic understanding
of what writing is and should
do? or is it also that there aren’t
actually accepted conventions,
that everyone has her own idea of
what the accepted conventions
are so we might as well break them
anyhow?? How can I get students
to be creative and open with their
form and means of expression,
and also work on maintaining a focus
and using evidence to support
arguments they want to make in
their writing??

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