The practice of writing has a binary definition which is predicated on the intended result of the writer. One of these definitions is based around writing’s potential as an artistic medium to produce something that, according to Lucy McCormick Calkins, will “uncover and celebrate the organizing patterns of our existence” (8). Conversely, there is a more practical, utilitarian, definition of writing that’s established in the process of composition rather than aesthetic qualities of the final draft, which is described by Penny Kittle as “composing, rehearsing, thinking, [and] crafting” (2). A simplified amalgamation of these two opposing perspectives that best serves the students in their rhetorical endeavors can be found in defining writing, and its compositional processes, as a lifelong, practical skill that has creative potential that’s inherent as an art.
The most important instrument to be utilized in the writing classroom will be the writer’s notebook. This notebook, owned and maintained by the student, will enable a student to “sound” out possibilities for their writing assignments in a private, low risk environment. As a result of relieving the pressure placed on students to render a rough draft as if it were a final draft, the students will be receptive to the extensive process of drafting, which includes “writing, then rereading and rethinking, and expanding” (Kittle 27) until a satisfactory final draft is produced with care and consideration for the purpose in mind.
Writing is a time-consuming process that requires concentration. Therefore, we need to create an environment in which students can only be deeply involved in their work. The goal of this workshop time is described by Calkins as teachers setting aside a “predictable time for writing,” and “a lot of time to writing” (185). The purpose of allocating all of this time for writing is because of the fact that quality composition is a result of “sustained effort and craftsmanship” (Calkins 186) that isn’t aided from rushed deadlines.
Whenever we come together as a class for discussion, a topic related to writing is in mind. These will be presented in the form of mini-lessons that serve as inspiration and instruction for the students (Calkins 189). However, rather than having a series of scheduled mini-lessons, these lessons will be derived from students’ intentions (Calkins 193). The reaction to these intentions will involve “raising a concern, exploring an issue, modeling a technique, reinforcing a strategy” (Calkins 193). The intention is that grammar lessons will not be boring because of the fact that these lessons are relevant to the students’ current writing endeavors.
Kittle writes that “good writing makes writers want to write” (74). The products derived from energetic inspiration are exceptional compared to those from uninspired, unmotivated prompts. Due to this available potential, the educator and the students should be attentive to the writing found in the world around them in order to “notice what writers are doing” (Kittle 74). Reading, known as “mentor texts,” (Kittle 74) will be brought into the classroom so that the students will note the characteristics of expertly written pieces as they improve upon their own work.
Grammar and Linguistics
The use of correct grammar and punctuation in any writing situation cannot be understated for “there is no tolerance in the world for errors” (Kittle 191). However, we must acknowledge the fact that rote “drill and kill” methods of teaching specific grammar and punctuation rules are inadequate (Calkins 287). Kittle writes that, “Punctuation and grammar are taught both in the context of [students] writing and outside of it” (193). Therefore, grammar and punctuation should be taught as the need for them arises through observing patterns in students’ assignments. After that, it’s possible to identify the exact deficit of understanding so that they students will refrain from making these mistakes after it’s explained to them.
The fairest way to assess writing is to place emphasis on the total process of the composition’s creation and development rather than just on the final product alone. Those is, rather than grade the final product and disregard the volume of effort that went into said process, it’s more impartial to emphasize the students’ total effort that went into creating the final draft. It adequately compensates the students and provides a clearer picture of who the students are as writers as evident in their volition to improve themselves throughout the course. As Calkins writes, the consideration of “their effort, volume of writing, risk-taking, willingness to revise, ability to edit, helpfulness when peer conferring” (313-314) will aid in assigning a fair grade because we consider so much more than a single draft, but the volume behind it. Therefore, a summative assessment of a student’s work is truly summative.
Calkins, Lucy M. The Art of Teaching Writing. Concord: Irwin Publishing, 1994. 8-314. Print.
Kittle, Penny. Write Beside Them: risk voice, and clarity in high school writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2008. 2-193. Print.