Saturday, March 19, 2011

NCTE Belief: Writing grows out of many different purposes

Some things that are on my mind in relation to P3...

Regardless of the purpose for writing, I think essential criteria for instruction and curriculum should allow choice in order to determine which purpose will best suit a student's mode of writing: 

If the first cardinal rule is “Give students some real choice of assignments so that they want to do them and you can be sure  that any problems will result from true compositional difficulties, not from poor motivation,” the second cardinal rule is “Put writing to some realistic use after it is done, and make clear in advance writing what that purpose and audience are.” Assignment directions and directions should stipulate purpose if it’s not distinctly implied there or elsewhere. (Moffett 25)

There is no reason that all students should be expected to write the same texts in the same way; students must be allowed to make choices that will make them comfortable in their writing endeavors. Also, students must be given the freedom to write pieces that are prevalent to their lives. “Don’t assume that only some books are for the ‘bright’ students and some for the ‘dummies.’…Above all you can have your students make their own selections. Don’t forget that independent reading is one of the goals” (Purves et. al 78). Many of the readings and writing assignments should focus on the students’ opinions, beliefs, and thoughts—while using multiple writing purposes as a foundation. It’s important for students to be able to integrate their own voice and thoughts into their reading and writing practices. 

   Students must also be made aware of the purposes for their writing activities; they need to know why it’s important for them to complete certain writing assignments. “Rather than merely empathizing (or not) with a particular character, for example, students can be taught to question how specific readings are produced, and why” (Mellor  516). Students must be exposed to various perspectives and purposes in writing in order to intrigue their interest of writing functions. Through an increased understanding of writing objectives, students will be able to understand the purpose and expected intentions in their writing activities.

   Good writing style isn’t something that’s achieved overnight; it takes a lot of practice. As with reading comprehension, there is no “one way” to teach writing style. Students must develop their own writing style, at their own pace. If the students are able to identify the main objectives and purposes for their writing, then they will be far more likely to communicate their ideas and thoughts effectively. 

  As with any developed talent, constant practice is the best key to substantial achievement. The more students practice writing in various genres and formats, the more comfortable and confident they will become. Students should be exposed to constant writing practices in order for them to develop an idiosyncratic method of writing techniques, style, and voice.

     Students must be given flexibility with their writing practices. With so many various genres of literature available, it’s essential that students not only read a multitude of texts, but that they learn how to write using various methods of purpose. Also, in order for students to discover their individual writing style and tone, they must be exposed to a broad range of writing practices in various genres; this will allow them to find the genres and narrative perspectives that they're most comfortable writing. Students must learn to write multiple genres of texts for carious purposes and adapt these writing techniques to multiple forms of narratives. Writing isn’t a one-way street; it needs to be an amalgamation of pathways leading to a specific destination.

Mellor, Bronwyn & Patterson, Annette. "Critical practice: Teaching Shakespeare." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (2002): 43(6) 
Moffett, James. "Introduction: Background." In J. Moffett Active Voice (1981): 1-26. NJ: Boynton/Cook
Purves, Alan C., Rodgers, Theresa,  and Soter, Anna O. (1995). "If literature is exploration, what’s the territory and who’s the guide."

   A. Purves, et al. How Porcupines Make Love III, (1995):77-88. NY: Longman.


  1. Choice is important, I agree. I think an equally important consideration has to do with how much choice. Moffett's language is qualified: "some choice." That is, too much choice risks leading to highly uneven results. Is it possible to both open choice up to many variations (restricted by something?) and still teach toward a specific destination?

  2. Derek's is a good point. For some, too much choice can be paralyzing. (Which reminds me of hosting a visitor from Germany who couldn't shop at Kroger because there were too many decisions to make. When I took him to the food co-op, his choices were dramatically reduced and he was able to focus on buying the food he needed for the week.) Some learners thrive on open-ended assignment variables. Others, like my friend from Germany, perform better with either/or kind of multiple choice decisions. To best meet students' needs, instruction needs to be individualized, and this is difficult to do when curricula dictates procedures instead of just outcomes.

  3. I absolutely agree as well, I think there needs to be a balance, just as I said, "[w]riting isn’t a one-way street; it needs to be an amalgamation of pathways leading to a specific destination."