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Kindergarteners to Centenarians

November 27, 2011

One of my goals as a writer is to connect our writing as adults to the writing we do as children. I didn’t really know this was a goal until early this morning. It has been, I now see, but the articulation of it only just formed overnight and poked me awake. Positive outcomes of this connection:

*in the field of education, that connection makes us better teachers of writing as we envision for our students a future as adult writers

*it also makes us as teachers of writing better writers ourselves since we continually explore the qualities of good writing

*teaching writing to adults and teaching writing to children (not to mention teaching writing in the middle grades, high school, college, and in dedicated writing programs) overlap more than we might realize, and all levels of teaching can benefit from studying the others for similarities and differences

*talk about an explosion of mentor text possibilities

*adult writers who are not in the field of education still might benefit from seeing themselves on a writing continuum that began in childhood, as they reach back not only for memories but for original ideas born at eight or nine that still itch

*adult writers who seek inspiration or new methods of revision might find bits of treasure as they return to the beginning

*considering all writing, from the first to the present to the hoped-for future, produces an ever richer conversation about what makes good writing

…and so on.

I’m reading Carl Anderson’s Assessing Writers for my class. A literacy specialist and author of several books about writing instruction, Anderson talks about inspiring growing writers (even the youngest ones) to become lifelong writers, ones who initiate writing for a variety of purposes, simply because they find writing meaningful. I like his partial list of purposes, finding it relevant to writers across the spectrum:

To celebrate an important person or event in your life

To persuade someone to think like you do on an issue

To bear witness

To show how fascinating a subject is

To let someone know how to do something

To help create a better society

To disagree with a position taken by others

To make someone laugh

To learn something about yourself or a subject

To be understood by others for who you are

To get someone to vote for you

To teach a moral or lesson

To complain about something

To recommend an action

To tell what happened

To share a passion with others

To explore an idea

To imagine how your life could be different

To make plans

To imagine what it would be like to be someone else

To share how you feel about someone

To make money

To remember

To heal

To leave something of yourself behind for others

He goes on to explain how he teaches young writers that “genre” as a “tool” to achieve these purposes. Genre is, as far as I know, usually defined as a “category.” Imagine it: a tool! It’s the first time I can remember feeling comfortable with genre rather than confused, boxed-in, frustrated, or skeptical. Categories beg to be fixed, whereas tools invite activity, purpose, power. And one tool can be used for several purposes. A whole new way of looking at genre, embedded in a book about assessing young writers. No wonder I awoke so early this morning!

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One Comment
  1. This post will be a terrific resource for writers. Thank you!


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