Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Everyone Can Write by Elbow

Summary: This is a collection of essays written by Elbow. This books includes his essay on his experiences in graduate school, binary thinking, maps of writing, and contract grading, to name a few. The book is thick and covers a lot of material. In my notebook, I've already discussed Writing Without Teachers, and this book is a later and more explicit. I found that there were practices that he used in his own classes that I could implement in my own (i.e. contract grades).
I was introduced to Elbow's writing in graduate school. I read his article on ranking and evaluating, and I began to question what it means to assess student writing. Those ideas simmered for a while until I began teaching, and then slowly the ideas started to come together as I became a practicing teacher. At some point, I went to Barnes and Noble. I don't know if I was looking for his books, or if I just happened to encounter this one. I came across Everyone Can Write: Essays Toward a Hopeful Theory of Writing and Teaching Writing. I bought this book with my own money and not because it was assigned.

I started reading, and I started thinking. I told my friend Lindsay about the book, and she bought it as well. I really latched on to the idea of contract grading and also his essay called "The Map of Writing," which introduces the idea of private and public writing and the variety of audiences students should be writing for.

This book affected my teaching in profound ways (much like Atwell's book). I have passed this book to other teachers who returned the book to me without a comment. I also have passed the book to teachers who were profoundly influenced by it.

Elbow is easy to read because of his voice. Once again, he is a writer who shares his process. The first article in Everyone can write is called "Illiteracy at Harvard and Oxford." The fact that he went to this very prestigious schools and still didn't feel like he could write is rather encouraging. He's not afraid to share his mistakes, and I like how he uses writing to explore his thinking.

Many readers may see Elbow as "loosy-goosey," whatever that means. Some readers may say he rambles. Other readers may say his writing is too personal and thus not acacdemic.

1 comment:

foxr said...

Keri: Try to take a look at a long Elbow article in latest CCCC that focuses on organizing writing more like music--more ala time than space. I've not yet read it myself; just skimmed over it. More anon. --rf