Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I'm on UR Internets Reading UR Blawgs

The three articles were interesting to me, so I will be discussing those instead of 6 + 1 Traits. While I don't advocate a strict five paragraph essay format in writing, I do think it provides a solid foundation that does not take a lot of time to comprehend when first being introduced to the concept. I will also stand by the argument I made in class that not all students are going to be the next Mark Twain, nor will most students want to be (I'm not being cruel; I'm being realistic). It's also unfair to expect students to be as such. Students that have no interest in writing, regardless of the project/topic you set before them (and yes, there are students like that) are not going to put forth desire or effort to do an imaginative job. I can say that while I was in high school I put forth as little effort as possible, and I enjoyed reading and writing. It was still homework and I didn't want to spend time doing it. Students need something like the five paragraph format to organize and clearly communicate their thoughts. Not only that, but this is a format that students can take into their future jobs and education. Our job is not to turn all students into award winning essayists. It is to provide them with tools and concepts they will need to take with them into their lives.

However, the final article on multigenre writing was, at times, ridiculous to me. I got some good ideas out of it, especially the table listing different types of genres to assign. It was also interesting to hear feedback on how the students felt about their projects and why they chose it. But the list was also the part I didn't like, namely when they suggested things such as obituaries and greeting cards. I honestly laughed when I read those suggestions. I understand that the reflection was the main purpose of these activities, but it didn't really address evaluating differences in a student writing a biography versus...a greeting card. And really, students at the high school level should not need to be at a stage in their lives where crayons and markers are necessary. High school should be preparing them for college or post-secondary training. Maybe it was just me, but I did not make greeting cards in any of my college level classes, or in high school for that matter. I worry that in our attempt to keep, or get, students interested, we are losing sight of what the students should be learning. Options may be nice, but options may not be a reality. College bound students almost shouldn't be allowed a wide variety of project choices because of this. I seriously doubt the student going into a science will be able to choose to do a comic strip instead of research paper. Just a guess though. And going back to my original point in the first paragraph: options do not always mean creativity and originality. For many students it will not matter what you assign or how many options you give. Why? Because it's still homework! Wrapping carrots in candy wrappers does not make them less of a vegetable.

My resource link is Web English Teacher. It has a lot of links to websites suggesting different types of multigenre writing. They are broken down by prompts and exercises and topics, such as the Holocaust, history and fairy tales.


  1. I definitely agree with you on the five paragraph essay. It's a mistake to make the FPT the end-all, be-all of essay-writing, but it's a great base from which to build great writing later in life. I admittedly still use points of the five-paragraph essay when writing a paper or an answer to an in-class test.

    In response the multigenre article, however, I feel that allowing students choice in genre is important. I agree with the silly side of writing a greeting card, but there is an easy way to remedy that: categorize the genres. In other words, require students to complete three pieces from Category A, which might consist of things like compare/contrast papers and persuasive essays. Then, just have one required from Category B with the greeting cards and picture blurbs. All genres are not created equally--make that known.

  2. Yah, the vast multiplicity of genres of questionable relevance was my biggest concern about the Gillespie approach. Two ways I resolved this for myself: select the acceptable genres for your class and lesson, and expand them to create differentiation.

  3. I feel like this discussion of the five paragraph essay is pretty much the same as the one we had about the 6+1 Traits. It is good to have structure, but our students should also know that once they get the basics down and know how to do one thing (like the five-paragraph), they can also be free to explore other ways to write and communicate. I really don't think that any of us in this program will be absolute dictators when it comes to writing and teaching writing. (Well maybe Joe, but in a good fatherly way that still lets us all love him and learn from him.)