Sunday, January 23, 2005

Chapters 2 and 6 of ABGW

This book is really helpful. All of those quotes at the beginning of Chapter 2 are just like my own experiences with freshman composition. And those are the stories that I tell my students. I don't want them to have the same experience as I did. Composition--especially academic writing--is about solving problems.

I guess the contrast that I notice is that high school writing many times is not about solving problems; it is merely about regurgitating content. I even hate the term "research paper" because it connotes topics such as volcanoes, frogs, and lucid dreaming. These papers they get assigned in science where they just plagiarize the encyclopedia. There is no thesis, no argument, no thinking, just information.

Inquiry learning is not a mystery. It is nothing new, but it may not always be considered. If you want to talk about Foucault or Friere, they might say that many teachers fear opening the door to inquiry because it is something that they [necrophilist?] cannot control. And I knok those teachers. I also think Friere is correct. These can be good people who don't even realize that they are strangling the creativity and thinking out of their students.

Perry's hierarchy of intellectual development is very interesting. I think I will present this to my classes. I see this thinking all of the time. The dualists: right/wrong, black/white. When I read about the multiplists, it reminds me of students who might read Foucault for the first time or read about deconstruction and immediately think that there is no answer. A common reaction from students to grades is the "you just don't like what I wrote." I heard that recently from a father whose daughter only turned in one paper in 16 weeks. But what we live for as composition teachers is that students who becomes a relativist. Who jumps in and struggles and comes out of the class a changed writer. That's what I love about composition. Sometimes that realization that composition has helped them as writers does not come until later--maybe even years.

I love the analogy that writing is wading in and working your way back out because that is really what I love about writing. Interestingly enough, chapter two reflects what I do in my own classes in the beginning weeks. Most students have never had the opportunity to write like this. I think it is because many of them have never had a class where they focused solely on writing. Unfortunately, many literature classes where they could be writing become more like quiz-taking classes.

It would be a good idea to play the believing and doubting game with Friere's Ch. 2. I think she may have that on the syllabus already.

Chapter 6 is an important chapter. I think time needs to be taken to teach students how to interact with a text. They are definitely passive readers. That has to be changed quickly in college. I really got a lot out of these two chapters, but as I read I couldn't help but wonder how many students in Donna's class are actually reading this. Many students aren't readers. Now, in order to combat the non-reading, you could very easily turn a composition class into a quiz-taking class where you begin the class every day with a quiz over the reading. I don't think that's a good idea. They need to be writing--even more than you could possibly grade--rather than wasting valuable time by taking a quiz every day.

Actually, I'm going to use some points in this chapter with the English II class I'm teaching now. We were just last week talking about the differences between summary and response. I need to be more explicit about how to do this. I also plan on using these strategies with my comp class. One important thing to remember. If you really want them to interact with a text, they need to be able to write on the text. So, make copies to give to them if you can or make sure they print the article and bring it to class.

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