Conversation 2

What do we value in our own and our students’ writing?

15 thoughts on “Conversation 2

  1. All the reasons – voice, clarity – we do disservice to our students if we do not give students anything to do beyond five paragraph essay. We have to give opportunities to go beyond that. Yes, it is a lot of work. This will help them develop skills to do academic writing and do well in exams later on.

    It is necessary to teach to exam to a degree. But, we must go beyond that.

  2. Students often don’t know what a voice means. We need to find a balance between the “students need to write like they talk” approach and the academic emphasis on an institutional, impersonal “objective voice” that can silence/alienate students. To some extent students will need to learn more than one genre and change their voice depending on context.

  3. What do we value – entire group

    As a high school teacher, as much as I value the writing process I always am aware of the diploma. This influences what I am able to teach my students.

    Does the set of values embodied in the diploma reflect what you feel about writing?

    I can see how interpretation on the spot is useful in the real world.

    Another table: it is necessary to be able to write for a variety of fields. Students who say ‘don’t worry, I’m going into science’ don’t really acknowledge the importance of interdisciplinary writing.

    Many people who are in various fields have a difficult time articulating the work they are doing to others. The skill set, background, confidence etc is not there even though they have a huge amount of knowledge in their area. We need to be able to write in all genres for all audiences.

    Voice is very important.

    Another table is quite conflicted about voice. For undergrads to succeed their voice needs to change according to context. Clarity is necessary, and voice sometimes compromises this when students get too creative with diction. Perhaps a sense of purpose and audience awareness is more important than voice in academia.

    Students might not know what ‘voice’ means. Sometimes they think it means ‘be outrageous;’ as instructors we can be more specific.

    As instructors we can encourage voice in some contexts while encouraging academic writing in others. Students can be taught to switch back and forth. One way to do this is through discussion, let students have a discussion board and hear each other’s voices. Moodle/blackboard/eclass.

    I think we do our high school students a disservice by only teaching formulaic academic writing, even though it is useful for the diploma. After high school, they will never encounter the five paragraph essay again. Developing other skills is important and will translate into better analytical writing in the end. Do we trust that teaching more generally will not compromise the student’s grade?

  4. Academic writing in post-secondary contexts: not about voice but about an academic voice
    Need for clarity, purpose, and audience awareness
    Where does “voice” come from? How does it relate to clarity?
    Academic writing opposed to voice; separate but discrete?
    Need to teach more than the critical analytical paper at high school.

  5. What do we value in our own and our students’ writing?

    – time to do it
    – meaningfulness of assignments–how to make it meaningful? e.g. modelling? increased familiarity with assignment types? short assignments with lots of opportunity for creativity and personal response? Announce and praise certain interesting responses, so that they have a chance to have done well in front of the class.
    – In the context of social studies: it produces anxiety for me when students think they’ve aced an exam merely because they expressed an opinion: it’s important for them to back up opinions with evidence, support, thought etc.
    – I want to read interesting, honest, authentic writing: I want to be able to tell that students are interested, and to that end, I encourage them to twist/change/adapt the assignment–as long as they understand and meet the goals of the assignment.
    – in the first-year university classroom: I value work that is well organized and crystal-clear–I sometimes feel like students think their passion and engagement is enough, and in the context of my classroom, it isn’t. I appreciate writing that shows me that the student respects the *work* of writing (another commenter mentions that learning to use the “institutional voice” is more important than unique voice).

    Some strategies to provoke writing (especially engagement):
    – One helpful thing can be poetry: learning that there’s no “key,” that you have to look for patterns or what strikes you, dealing with your disorientation–that can be one way to learn to deal with a variety of texts.
    – having students respond to (great, loaded) quotations: this can be a great “hook” to begin discussion, writing, engagement etc.
    – also asking students about what’s wrong with the world–they all have feelings about what makes them mad about society, even (or even especially) disengaged kids (then you can sneak in politics/sociology/economy etc.)
    – bring in an “article of the week” that’s a controversy
    – try to get students to honor their sense of connectedness
    – give them opportunities to write about what they care about
    – reading aloud to high school kids (e.g. grade 11): makes them come to class, is enjoyable, makes connections, etc.

  6. What do you value in the writing of students?
    – Style is as valuable as the content that is presented.
    – Delivering message in an interesting way.
    -Voice is very important.

    What are the challenges you face?
    – Students have to be able to mix their own research in with that of others.
    – The work has to be something that people will care about. In today’s world, it is about selling it – concision and to the point.
    – Watch way people prepare Ted Talks.
    – We are busy and we need to get to information quickly.
    – We have to tell students to turn off cell-phones. In past, it was student’s responsibility to be engaged.
    – Students do not understand that they will need to write no matter what profession they are going into.
    – There is a knowledge gap from pen to paper as people write for other disciplines.

  7. Medical professionals of all kinds don’t have the competence to write to give presentations on their knowledge to other professionals and to the public. This is a big issue in getting knowledge out.

  8. What if you couldn’t write?

    Answers show that writing matters, or: students want writing to matter.

    Major findings: what students need.

    -Frequent opportunities to write
    -Opportunities for revision (more than one due date, for example).
    -To develop their own perspective/voice. Personalize their writing.
    -Evaluation is not a one-shot deal. Students need more feedback, from more people.

    Best practices:

    -Writer’s workshop. Importance of uninterrupted periods of time for writing.
    -Know/learn about the writing process. Letting the students describe their own writing process. Students need to know themselves! (Students accomplish a lot of writing and have recurring themes/things that are important. They and us don’t always realize/appreciate that.)
    -Structure, structure, structure. Students can learn these early on (and the more the better). Examples: letter.
    -Revision and editing techniques. Recognizing elements of their own writing.
    -Writing portfolio: a record of their writing, and, more importantly, their improvement as writers.


    -Students have to develop their own purposes for writing. (generating/responding to vs. memorizing/repeating knowledge). Freedom to write, to respond, personally.

    What do we value?

    Learning, for both students and teachers. Writing is a way of learning; also a record of learning.

    Voice. Easy to see why students aim for the “anybody could have written it”, objective voice. But learning how to manage/recognize their voice.
    – What do we value in “scientific” writing? Using sources (engaging with an
    intellectual history?). Responding to others.
    – Purpose. Hard to write a scientific paper without an objective/something
    important (to the author) to communicate.

    Clarity. A lot of assignments are also about teaching students to read, understand others, and respond. The result of all this should be increased clarity in their writing.

  9. What do we value in student writing?

    Having the initiative to resist formulas
    Caring about process
    Having the patience to re-write

    The conversation shifts – do we think that students transfer what they learn about the writing process to other settings and classes? Does it transfer to timed writing?
    Answer- it seems to depend on the student.

    Even though we emphasize knowing your own process as a writer, we don’t cater to individual styles. Timed examinations almost never suit student needs.

    Part of the process – use audio notes, because students can be very articulate but have a hard time writing it down. The diploma exam style is still challenging, though. No notes permitted. Also, students have a difficult time putting their ideas into a coherent structure on the spot.

    We tell students to abandon the five paragraph format, but do we give them alternatives? This would be useful for timed exams.

    We ask students to write literary criticism without giving them examples to read first. They are expected to make the leap from literature to criticism without much to base the style on.

  10. English teachers and students are expected to have all of the knowledge about writing. Writing studies courses have the most practice in the methods that Robin talked about.
    Voice and personalization IS extremely important, but what IS “Voice? ” how do you create voice, and invest in it? it’s not the same as speaking or thinking, voice is considered to be something that will just appear while writing, not as something that must be developed or built. Accuracy creates voice.
    When it comes to ESL students, they have an easier time avoiding clich├ęs. This helps with voice. Advice we give them is to just really focus on developing an argument with good ideas. Sentence structures although weaker will still get your message or point across. Inventive and interesting ideas are more important than figurative language or good structure, because if you write a lot but say a little, that is a D-range paper.

  11. Robin’s Talk:
    – Robin’s talk was very good. The idea of mapping out the number of words in each sentence is an excellent one. It would be good to have students write sentences starting with one word on up.
    – Also, the idea that students get better is very interesting. Even from the start of the term to the end.
    – A student will give new findings but won’t compare it to old findings.
    – Interesting Way to Do Things: Physics theories and formulas being put into rap lyrics.
    – Robin had excellent ideas.

  12. Culture in elementary is product, culture in middle school is process, culture in secondary is product, culture in post secondary is product.

  13. Middle school teachers:

    Value creativity of their ideas. Value when they respond to feedback.

    Like process approach, but without assigning deadlines through the process, too hard to manage.
    Like to use the idea of longer term writing assignments. Take an on demand piece of writing and then work with them beyond that.

    Junior high teachers only see kids once or twice a day so managing the process is difficult given the limited time kids have.

    There are many things that we do in ELA (6 strands of the curriculum writing is only one part of it).

    Like the idea that we can’t hide behind the formula — however, we need to use the formula to get the kids to get the work done.

    Formulaic process is a management strategy.

  14. Voice is important–how do they personalize what they have been asked to do?
    Voice comes from confidence beyond the formula; concerns that deviance from the formula is too risky causes students to avoid it; the system doesn’t always support the trust they need to deviate from the formula
    Formula is giving back what they think you want as an instructor
    What you think is not just your opinion is what we want; your position, not just what is going on.
    Who do you have to be to write this paper? You need to see yourself differently to write different texts.

  15. Marijuana: the debate continues
    The writer uses a lot of conviction, wrote confidently. Their ideas were strong and presented without fear. They provide a good base to work from for further writing.

    It seemed like ” bullshitting” without any deeper thought. Show us the science/stats! there were almost too many ideas in the introduction, and provide no concrete evidence. Focusing on one or two ideas rather than the huge number of ideas (different eras, prejudices, tradition, Reefer Madness, etc) would make the essay a lot stronger.

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