Mike Brown R/R Week 6
As I was reading through chapter eight, I began to reflect on my own personal writing likes and dislikes, and then compared some of these particular traits to the assignments given by me to the classes at Del Mar. One of my major dislikes I have about writing is being given a cold prompt, and being expected to write in a 10-15 minute time frame. Personally, when I write, I will sit at the keyboard and drum a song on the keys while attempting to formulate my ideas into some semblance of an design. I did like the discussion covering the topic sentences. I especially liked how Haswell describes a topic sentence as "serving not to dictate the ground that the following stretch of discourse will cover but only to point the direction and perhaps the method of travel the writer intends to pursue-a rubric not of topos but of tropos" (219). I find this to be a refreshing take on writing to a topic sentence.
In chapter nine, Haswell is comparing the students' sentence structures and lengths to the employees. In describing the differences between the students and the older writers, Haswell offers, "students grasp sentences as something simpler and neater, and can afford to express them in a thinner yet more definitive manner; the older writers apprehend the sentence as something more complex, and almost out of necessity have found ways to express it more densely yet more openly" (243). Wow. That was a very long sentence. Although I see these two entities as being separate based on life experiences and overall maturity levels, I do understand the context of the comparison. As I have read through countless critical writings over the past month or so, I can see the differences in the abilities of the students to write using correctly structures sentences. However, for me personally, the better writers are actually those students who had recently left high school, and not those writers who were returning to college after a hiatus.
In chapter ten, Haswell discusses the organization of essays. When I began English classes at Del Mar, I had the five paragraph essay structure hammered into my brain, and to write specifically to the topic sentence. Trying to break free from the chains of this essay structuring has been difficult, but when I read different methods and commentary about writing, it becomes easier to see the varieties that I can incorporate into my writing style.
In chapter eleven, Haswell discusses those students who are labeled as remedial or developmental writers. I will admit to being a judge the book by its cover kind of guy. When I start reading a paper, and begin seeing a pattern of misspelled words and incorrect punctuation, I immediately begin to review the writing with a more critical eye. I have a tendency to look past the overall context of the writing simply because of the mechanical errors that happen to catch my eyes. I can personally attest to having reread essays and judging the writing solely on the actual writing that was performed instead of the mechanics. However, that is not the norm for me when it comes to grading written work.
The last chapters in the book began to grind me down to a nub. I like reading…to an extent…but this had to be the most tedious reading that I have performed in a long time. I feel like I did glean some good information from the book. However, the way it was written and the verbiage contained in the writing, and the fact that I had to look up some words to see what in the HELL Haswell was talking about just wore me down.
Kohut response 10/4
Wow. And Whew. I am somewhat exhausted from the ending of Haswell’s book, but also strangely invigorated. I am going to use the Sunset Boulevard (I think this is right-him floating in the pool dead at the start?) and reveal MY ending, which is that I felt more of a connection on a human level in the last sentences of the book than in the whole rest of it. Now let me go back and reveal why and how-like in Sunset Boulevard.
I was first really intrigued with the Slow Writers section as it was broken down, explaining the positive attributes of the SW’s work in their pretexting and essay constructions. I know that Haswell says this kind of evaluation can happen with two or three strokes of a pencil after one reading, but I found it to be very thorough, and I can’t reconcile the speedy execution. I was really thinking about my classes and specifically how some kids write excruciatingly slow and seem to sit and “think” forever, even as everyone else is getting down to business. I know that some people really are NOT working, but are others focusing in on something mentally that they cannot yet articulate to me? I need to be aware of this phenomenon and try to encourage its maturation as a process in the students who truly use it.
I also was really enjoyed the section on sentences and the breakdown of sentence types, relative to their complexity in shaping an essay. Again, it was a very different way to think about writing, but I really think utilizing it in class would be beneficial. Seeing writing as the breakdown of a process will be just the perspective that some students need to connect with the subject. At the same time, my being aware of the hidden gems in what I first judge to be a poorly written sentence will encourage my slower writers to continue to hone their crafts too.
I am not really sure why, but these chapters had an approachable personality and genuine quality that wasn’t quite as clinical as the chapters prior had been. I really felt an affinity to Haswell here and his cheerleading for the SW to be treated as an author who already knows tricks and skills, albeit ones that are more obscure or more undeveloped. It is not a matter of what the writer is lacking, but what he strives to sharpen or master from his repertoire of writing experiences into a highly evolved skill.
Now here is where Haswell brought up something that he discusses again toward the end of the book: would you ever give a test in March on something you learned in October? In any other class you would not, but we as English teachers do it all the time in writing. We forget that writing is an ever-evolving process and to have kids come in and you not model or review what you expect of them is destructive. Some teachers would consider this enabling the student, but really for me it seems to simply be a class procedure that can evolve into the pursuit of more challenging fare and topics (or tropics) than what was used initially when mastery is achieved. This also brings up something that I just realized about my peers. Teachers will complain about how a great English class student wrote in his/her class and bombed. Aren’t you teaching them anything? I have heard. Well, now, I think that the problem may be because those students are not getting a model for what they should do in that class for the writing. I know to model something because that is what English is about-writing (and other things). The teachers of these classes need to model and address their specific needs on a test or else they are getting a lopsided education that tells them they can do nothing resembling coherent and effective writing in other classes-only English.
So about this time in the reading I began to learn about sequencing and I was back to the clinical writer in pursuit of just the facts. I will admit that sequencing was very confusing to me overall. It was many psychological charts that were interesting to skim over, but whose correlation to what I had read earlier was missing or unclear to me. Very unclear to me.
Now I am getting frustrated and thinking about all of the things that I haven’t been doing to improve writing in my classroom that have just been introduced to me in this book and beating myself up about it.
So I hack my way through the jungle that is the last few chapters and I get to the end and I am feeling very tired and somewhat defeated in what was NOT accomplished today (forgetting totally about what WAS successfully taught and completed) and the last sentence begins by pretty much stating my frame of mind even as I read it, but then, wait, a glimmer of hope. Within the cyclical/ying-yang/chicken or the egg conundrum that is being an English student or teacher I felt that Haswell personally left me with the reassurance that he knew I would never be the same person again from the moment my lesson ended and I began my metamorphosis into the new and improved teacher of tomorrow. Kohut end.
What I found interesting in last part of this book is that despite the transformative leanings, Haswell at times states that teachers still must use a nomothetic approach to assess sentences and essays. This goes against the idiographic idea inherent in the transformative style. Sometimes there must be a sense of when to apply a certain amount of assessment on a student’s writing. I say sometimes because depending on the students’ writing skills, there may be a need to assess a penalty. This idea goes against the transformative style. The nomothetic approach is needed to help the writer develop better writing skills. In this case, the nomothetic approach actually enhances the transformation of the student’s writing skills. A student becomes more able to express his idiographic nature in a more concise and clear manner in sentence and essay form. With that in mind however, instructors must remember they have a responsibility to allow the students to push the parameters of constructs. Instructors must also keep from pushing form or shape instead of allowing the students to form and shape their idiographic selves.
This is what happens: A student who uses text speak in his first writing samples may not be graded harshly. Using a smattering of corrections throughout the first few weeks may be a more wise use of assessment authority than slamming the student with many corrections on his first sample. An instructor may want to begin by saying to read aloud what he has written. This is what Haswell implores with his diagnostic approach to assessment. It is a more forward looking approach that allows a student growth over a period of time rather than in one semester. Haswell states, “It is the idiographic power of individual diagnosis that corrects curricular mismatches” (333). There may be students who are not up to the skill level the course requires. The instructor may wish to employ more of a placement assessment on the student and give them an F or may ask for the student to be moved to a lower level class and be rid of the student. On the other hand, the instructor can employ the diagnostic approach to assessing and work with the student individually to infuse growth into the student’s writing.
There are certain parameters of assessing that can be elasticized to accommodate the wide range of writing skills in a classroom. But can this actually be accomplished? It will take a certain kind of instructor wishing to accommodate this individual diagnostic approach to assessment. Writing assessment becomes subjective and qualitative and this infuses the transformative theory of teaching writing. This is the idea that this book carries. Students with various individual. academic, and socioeconomic backgrounds have a wide variance of writing skills. The accommodation and invitation ideas of Shaughnessy’s 1970’s and Rose’s 1980’s are still swimming around the heads of many instructors, researchers, and theorists providing a milieu of approaches that are needed to facilitate student’s writing skills. Our minds must remain open.
end of ed's response