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Joy Write Question 8

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).

 

Chapters 8-9: Our students (and likely us as well) engage in mostly feral writing. Do you think your students consider writing Instagram captions and social media posts to be writing? Do you consider this to be writing? Why or why not?

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tammy #

    I have wholeheartedly bought into Fletcher’s metaphor- Greenbelt, feral, independent writing whatever title or metaphor we give it to make sense of it – it is writing for the purest intent- pleasure not pain. It is writing for the purpose it was intended-deliberate writing and writing for a purpose. So, yes! I think students should engage in feral writing whether they post it on a blog, use padlets app, or post it on Google Classroom or resort to social media posts or Instagram captions. Yes, I consider these technology tools, as technology friendly options for our technology generation students. I particularly like padlets, Google Classroom posts, graphic novels and encouraging social media posts in safe blogs, etc. I believe they are vehicles for writing that are the way and wave of the future.

    Instagram captions and social media posts are writing. And yes, I believe students believe in their hearts it is writing but are not completely sold because we as teachers have told them formal graded writing not informal ungraded writing is credible writing by the mere fact that we grade it or attach a rubric for effective writing. Writing in its truest sense is done for a distinct purpose. Not writing to answer a prompt or show readers or teachers I can write a formulaic essay. It is writing to express ideas and to get one’s point across. For instance to clarify your own thoughts in a personal journal- diary writing to clear one’s head, take a deep breath, heal one’s own soul in cathartic moments of life or simply to entertain or intrigue your reader is the most purposeful and deliberate writing we can do. Why else should we write? We have institutionalized writing and made it what it is not a process to painstakingly implore or mechanically implement squashing all options and opportunities to “joy write!”

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    June 1, 2019
  2. Dan Provence #

    I 100% talk to my students about how writing Instagram posts and other posts of the like is a type of writing. Students often take a long time to figure out what their captions should be, much more time than they spend thinking about what their Poe essays will be about. I recently posted a picture to Instagram of me in Miami donning a leopard shirt. The caption? Spotted in Miami. I have never been so proud. This is a great place for kids to learn about the importance of conciseness, how to create double entendres, how to work with alliteration, etc. Let’s stop acting like our kids aren’t writing all day long and lean into the writing that they actually do. It’s an art!

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    May 31, 2019
  3. Mark Schmidt #

    Any thoughts or ideas captured in text can rightly be termed writing. I agree with prior comments that audience matters in social media writing and that it should be approached thoughfully regarding its consequences. There is also the issue of conventions, which are largely “reformulated” for the platform; an acceptable practice if students are fully aware that each type of writing they do has its own unique conventions.

    Breaking convention can in itself be a creative means of expression (i.e. House of Leaves) but it must a purposeful attempt to be creative and not simply a result of habit for the writer with no regard for its purpose.

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    May 31, 2019
  4. Meg #

    I love to think of social media as a writing platform, and I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about how I word something before I post. My students, I’m sure do not feel the same way. There are so many things to talk about when we get into talking about social media and writing — I am both excited by the possibilities and overwhelmed by the amount that I need to keep up with.

    Part of me is also very aware that once we as adults start to infringe in certain places, the students sometimes think we suck the fun out of things, for lack of a more eloquent way to express it.

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    May 31, 2019
  5. Abigail #

    I think about my own Facebook feed and the stories that are written and shared every day. Mentor sentences or posts serve as satirical diction to be imitated. We craft our stories and posts (usually) carefully with an audience in mind. Isn’t it interesting that in that sense, we are all writers, yet how many of my FB friends would deny that fact if asked if they identify as writers!? My son has a group text going with friends where they create memes. What an interesting blend of writing, analysis, critical thinking, satire, and awareness of audience. I would love to embrace this type of writing more in my classroom as a way to hook students who don’t yet identify as writers.

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    May 30, 2019
  6. My students are most definitely avid users of social media platforms, but I highly doubt that they think of it as writing. I wonder if they notice any of the cognitive benefits of their posts and captions, and I think this may actually be a fun discussion to have with them.

    I started seeing this as a form of writing fairly early on because I was a very passionate blogger in high school and college. Not only did I find this blog a great way to share my thoughts, but it also allowed me to practice playing with language and wit. I also remember thinking how creative some of my friends were with their captions on their Instagram photos. When people began making “Finstas” and accounts for their pets, this allowed people to take on entirely different personas and dive into some truly brilliant and comedic feral writing. I always admired my sister for being so well-versed in the social media world. I remember telling her once that her captions on her Finsta were so comical that she should write a book 🙂

    Like

    May 29, 2019
    • Come to think of it, I would love to play around more with Instagram in my ELA classes. If anyone has any ideas or have tried anything that works well, I’m all ears!

      Like

      May 29, 2019
      • Abigail #

        A colleague of mine came up with an idea for “hashtag summaries.” You summarize a novel’s plot line with hashtags. You can find her examples at #hashtagsummaries 🙂

        Like

        May 30, 2019
    • Meg #

      I love the idea about using this kind of writing to create different persona – I feel like that is an area that I don’t spend enough time on. I will definitely pick your brain more about it later!

      Like

      May 31, 2019
  7. My students are much like yours, Kelly- they love to write notes by hand. We do have a social media platform, SeeSaw that they use to share work with their parents, but it is private so the audience is restricted. Personally, I view writing captions and posts as writing because I try to express myself, restrict the amount of characters, and play with puns. To me this is fun writing and it is viewed by a wide audience. I love that Jason points out modeling this for his students so they learn how to use this vital technology in a professional way.

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    May 29, 2019
  8. Jason #

    I don’t think that students view social media writing as writing because it isn’t a formal kind of writing. That said, I think social media writing is inherently more authentic than many forms of writing that I ask my students to compose. For example, at the end of the semester, my students compose an essay that four people (including themselves) will have read. On the other hand, at the end of the semester, my students will have composed countless social media posts that are read by more than five people. This kind of writing has a built-in audience and forces students to consider the rhetorical context of posting to a public space.

    I also wonder how this line between formal writing and social media writing has been blurred by the introduction of Instagram poets, six-word story/memoir competitions on Twitter, and other formal kinds of writing that exist on these platforms.

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    May 28, 2019
  9. Kelly #

    My students are a bit young and naive about the social media world but they do a fair amount of “feral writing” through notes to each other. They love writing notes and designing little signs and do so effortlessly, without regard to grammar or perfection. It appears that my students wouldn’t refer to this as traditional “writing”. By allocating more time and effort to greenbelt writing as a teacher, I could expand my students’ notions of writing to include more genres and formats. Maybe then they would consider feral, more informal writing as… writing!

    Personally, I consider any text on social media or blog sites a form of writing. I know from first hand experience how difficult it is to be “witty” and concise in Tweets and Instagram captions. I would say it’s akin to writing poetry. You are able to break traditional grammar rules, play on words, and convey emotion in a free flowing manner.

    I am also in the midst of creating a blog with my sisters and absolutely consider those posts a form of writing. This writing is just different. Whereas journals and notebooks feel personal and private, writing online relinquishes your thoughts to the entire world.

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    May 27, 2019
    • Sandy Shacklady-White #

      Kelly – wouldn’t it be fun to explicitly teach/show them that such writing IS writing? !! What a gift you’d give them to see that in themselves as learners early in their educational careers. It would validate each of them- ALL of them-, that they have the ability to write meaningfully and that their writing is of value to others and to themselves. The actual writing act may take on varying forms depending on levels of the students. For example, a student with fine motor issues could type or use apps for Speech -to-text, use of cards with letters/words on them to construct phrases/sentences, and so on. How lucky the kids are to have you!

      Like

      May 28, 2019
  10. Sandy Shacklady-White #

    I imagine many kids do not see feral writing as noted in the prompt as real writing due to the formulaic approach so prevalent in the classroom today. The learning of the various genres along with structures that accompany each are what I think most students think of when told they will be doing writing during the ELA period or in any content area. The standards certainly created that mentality for both the teachers and students. I do not think the creation of standards meant for that to happen, but it clearly has. We tend to swing one way or the other with methodology and wanting to improve the education system to be better-better than in past state and federal government administrations and/ or in comparison to other nations. (Thinking of the space race back in the 1950s…and intensity on being the best.)

    I think if we show kids how their feral writing is indeed writing- a way to communicate, to express oneself, to process their worlds- they may embrace the joy writing can bring. Without pressure of grading or GUMS/rubrics, it can help them process information, express their feelings and ideas, to help work through a problem or simply ‘play’ with language on paper/computer screen. The culture of writing in this way will allow them to see even more so that they are actual writers every day in some way.

    I admit the informal traits of writing in emails, texts, social media can get on my nerves as to how it is not proper writing for various contexts, but it is after all, not formal writing. Our task is to teach the learners when and where such lack of mechanics and grammar is acceptable and when it is not. Lessons on common sense in the media, whatever form it takes, is crucial to be taught explicitly to our learners early in their educational careers and embedded throughout.

    Companies have near the top of their lists of traits desired in their employees the ability to communicate whether in writing or verbally as well as be social media literate. We need to be preparing our youth for the job force and for jobs that do not even exist yet. The ability to read and write in a variety of situations are absolutely lifelong skills that schools need to be teaching from the get-go.

    Like

    May 26, 2019
    • Kelly #

      I love your point about employment and the high value placed on communication skills. I think we need to expose children to writing in its many forms, especially more modern forms of communication in the changing world. You also mentioned “common sense in the media” which is extremely important to teach youngsters. Students need to know that although social media and other online writing is quite informal, its highly public and fairly permanent.

      Like

      May 27, 2019
    • Jason #

      I love that you bring up social media literacy, Sandy. I work with students who will be entering the workforce not long after taking my class. As such, I place a high value on working with students to develop social media skills. I have found sharing my own professional social media account, modeling best practices for engaging on platforms like Twitter, and demonstrating the professionalization and benefits for learners helps them better understand the rhetorical context of writing and engaging with professionals in the field. In my literature classes (which is mostly full of pre-service educators), we have tweeted to the scholars and authors we have read in ways that have helped students see how these conversations we have in the classroom are already happening and ongoing on Twitter and several Facebook groups. Thanks for bringing up this important writing skill!

      Like

      May 28, 2019
      • Sandy Shacklady-White #

        Thanks. It really does need to be addressed as a skill set now t hat social media is here to stay in some form or another as tech evolves.

        Are any of our other classmates teaching this directly? I know sites like Common Sense and NAMLE have ways to help support such efforts. Not so sure kids realize how vast their audience is when posting items and the impact words can honestly have on others- good or positive!

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        May 29, 2019
    • I agree with you, Sandy. As long as we are teaching our students how and when it is acceptable to break the rules, then we can help them to see value in both formal and informal writing. From my observations of my own students’ writing, it is definitely something that can take time to teach, but it will also help them develop a more comfortable relationship with writing as a craft.

      Like

      May 29, 2019

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