Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is Real Writing?

When you think about why and how you write as a "grown up", do you ever have to respond to a question after you have read a story or an article in a magazine or a newspaper? (e.g., . "Write an essay analyzing how the author’s organization of the passage helps the reader to understand the tasks. Use information from the passage to support your response.")  This Text Dependent Analysis prompt, or TDA, comes directly from the South Carolina Department of Education website and is a sample of the type of question contained on the SC Ready writing assessment for 9 and 10 year olds in South Carolina.  There are a number of writing tasks that I take on as a "grown-up". Thankfully it's not responding to a prompt like that one.  How would you respond?  I know, right?

Unfortunately, most of my "grown-up" writing is centered around responding to someone's inquires via email.  While lacking opportunities to be creative, being an effective communicator in the genre of " email writing" is critical.  I don't tweet, but there a numerous examples in today's political world of what happens when folks that aren't necessarily the best writers in this genre open their mouths and open the floodgates.

I like to fancy myself a fairly effective "real writer" as well.  I write a weekly newsletter to my school community that has been very well received over the past four years by an audience of about 250 readers.  This blog has over 100,000 page views.  Hopefully some of the visits and revisits to my blog are related to the enjoyment folks get from reading my posts.

My point to this post (yes I am finally getting to it) is that writing should be about creative expression, not about formulaic responses to TDA's.  I want my students to love writing, to be excited about the possibility of sharing their thoughts and feeling with others in their lives.  I want them to be able to write mysteries, and poems, and love letters, and fables, and blog posts, and lyrics to songs, and anything else that shows who they are and who they hope to be.

Unfortunately, as long as there are TDA's, and whatever else the test makers come up with in the future to "judge" writing proficiency,  kids across this country will learn to hate writing.  And that my friends is a crying shame.   In the words of Gustave Flaubert, The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.  

I believe we are going down the wrong path.


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