Joy Write Question 4
The series of posts for “Joy Write” refer to the title of the text our new Summer Institute participants are reading. This is a fabulous book that examines writing instruction, published in 2017 by Ralph Fletcher. Our SI participants are going to comment on the questions, but any reader is welcome to contribute (whether you have read the book or not).
From Chapter 3:
Select one of Fletcher’s 5 faulty assumptions.
Do you agree with him? Disagree?
Do you find yourself falling victim to one of these assumptions?
What changes can you make to your thinking?
13 Comments Post a comment
I think I feel kind of stuck in #1 and #5 – my students largely feel no ownership in their writing. They do not think of themselves as writers, they write to produce an assignment. They generally are not used to “workshopping” a piece, they want to complete the assignment, get a grade, and move on.I would love to find a way to change that next year,
Faulty Assumption #4: I would agree with Kelly in that I find myself always worried about not having my students accomplish everything that is mandated by the school system and what is considered to be the target level of preparedness. However, it really should not be about making it through all of the material, especially when my students need to spend more time on certain things in order to truly learn it. With everything, I need to remind myself that it is about growth. Not all students are the same and there is no one-size-fits all solution.
The faulty assumption that resonated with me the most was faulty assumption 3: “students learn to write mainly through hands-on instruction–not by exploration and play.” This is basically where I was leaning when I answered question 2. Name one thing that you were taught how to do without ever trying it out yourself. When I was a kid, I had no idea, but I was basically coding before it was cool. Remember changing your away message to have moving text, change colors, etc? Literally learning HTML on my own, without help from anyone… just playing around. Our students do the same thing. They see something, they give it a try… sometimes it fails, and sometimes it’s a huge success. And that’s how we learn.
You are spot on. I sometimes have to work at getting students to not frame their approach to a task based on what they think I want, but rather, what they think is appropriate. This is why I constantly to rame questions that are open ended and dont necessarily have a correct answer. My favorite way to do this is when a student asks how long a response should be, I tell them the parable of Ernest Hemmingway… I’ll tell you about it if youre interested.
I think faulty assumption 5 about lack of ownership is somewhat true. It depends on the teacher and how they take the craft of writing instruction to be an ‘art’ that meets the needs of the students as individuals and as a collective. A skilled teacher (or one open to learning the art of writing) is able to instill a sense of ownership within the confines they may have upon them by the school or district. .It may not happen in all situations and all year long, but it can still be instilled if developed thoughtfully and possibly in collaboration with fellow teachers/coaches who want to have students who can get satisfaction out of writing for the sake of producing work that is their own and of which they are proud, regardless of required components oer standards and curriculum,
I agree with what you express. Teachers must be willing to realize all they do as teachers flows from an always evolving and changing craft…I always believe teaching is an art not a science and true skill at teaching is accomplished when this is realized to the fullest. Ownership in learning and teaching is very important I agree – for as teachers we must see ourselves as life long learners. Teachers and students should take ownership to their learning and at the end of the day be satisfied, proud and content with the fact that they have learned, acquired or mastered a new skill, concept or personal learning. As teachers this may come through deep reflection on our practice or lesson delivery for the day. I always tell my students I am more concerned and even impressed with their knowledge-what they know and have learned than I am impressed with their letter grade they have earned. A grade is never a true measure of what students really know. What we do as educators must go far beyond standards and required curriculum. You bring up an interesting point which I feel is lacking in my district- thoughtful collaboration with colleagues and coaches…this is paramount to truly be effective,
Thanks for that!
I definitely fall victim to the second faulty assumption because I’m looking at standards of what a second grader “should” be able to do in writing. Some kids exceed that, and some kids write a string of letters that looks more like an eye chart than a paragraph. I have to know my students and instruct them where they are RIGHT NOW, not where they need to be by the end of the year, for next year, etc. This is a continual struggle when the pressures to have everyone on the same “level” does not take into account the starting point for each student is not the same.
Faulty Assumption #1: A culture of compliance is preferable to a culture of engagement.
I absolutely agree with Fletcher’s faulty assumption. As a new, untenured faculty member, I have especially fallen victim to this assumption. Yet, I was alarmed (in a good way) when Fletcher writes, “[A] compliant attitude ultimately leads to compliant/submissive students, kids who may grumble a bit but ultimately go along with our instruction about the essay or whatever academic genre is on the table” (18). I was surprised by this because it makes the implicit so clearly stated. I have created a culture of compliance by communicating to my students that a series of writing assignments were not created or mandated by me, yet I am modeling compliance. At the same time, I encourage students to take risks, question authority, resist, and challenge their worldview. This seems like a disconnect in my own teaching practice that interferes with engagement.
I totally recall that pressure of being a new teacher and wanting to do what is right so that the admin would see me as a team player, following the rules and expectations. While I had some leeway due to working with kids receiving IDEA services there was still an expectation to follow what veteran special ed teachers did over the years because “that’s how we do it here”. It took a couple of years to feel confident enough in my skills and knowledge of the ‘system’ and take some risks based on what I was learning and observing about kids, changes in the field of
education as a whole (remember outcomes based learning???!! That was short-lived…And shift form mainstreaming to inclusion? Luckily inclusion has remained yet it too has evolved…some say there is a version 2.0) and the subject content.
Yes, yes, we all know that mandated tests and the requisite preparation for them could only have been spawned in the nefarious mind of Satan with the sole intent of crushing the human spirit found in our students, but those tests are mandated by the same legal authority that grants us licenses to teach and we therefore, as a matter of professional responsibility, must take them seriously.
Having said that, we do what we must and hopefully leave sufficient time to do what we should.
I will never think of standardized tests without thinking about your description again 🙂
I find “Faulty Assumption 2: Writing content trumps the teacher’s knowledge about students” to be interesting. In past years, I tended to create a writing assignment for students and continue to assign it year after year. More recently, I’ve become much more responsive to the kids sitting in front of me. Just as I might choose class texts based on my current students’ interests and strengths, I like to change up their writing opportunities as well. I find new ways to approach a writing topic that better suits the students’ needs, and I adjust our writing tasks to both highlight their skills and passions and target their needs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” as Fletcher reminds us. “We teach the writer, not the writing.” In order to see “seeds take root,” I agree that we need to know our students well and use that knowledge to inform our instruction.
I chose “Faulty Assumption #4: Writing instruction should be pitched ahead of the curve– aimed at what students will need next year.”
I fall victim to this assumption at times, as I constantly feel pressured to prepare students for what’s next. We rush some aspects of the curriculum so that students are prepared for PSSAs or tailor lessons to what students will need in 4th grade, versus what they need now. Some of the text-dependent writing my 3rd graders are required to do I don’t remember myself writing until middle school years, let alone as an 8-year old!