Sunday, May 8, 2011

9 Rights Of Every Writer_Chapter 5 & 7

Chapters 5 and 7 address the balance between providing time in the classroom for students to experience the drafting process and providing meaningful feedback via quality assessments. Spandel proposes that if we write ourselves, we will better understand the nature of writing and therefore be authentic teachers of writing for our students.

When we write we know how hard it is to get the right personal slant on a topic. We know how hard it is to get going, when everything in our brains is searching for reasons and ways to procrastinate. We know that as writing unfolds, it moves in unexpected directions, inviting us down trails we didn't know we'd be exploring. We know that serious revision requires us to read our work aloud, more than once. When we write, we see in our own drafts the same problems we recognize in our students' writing: underdeveloped ideas, erratic organization, miscue leads that fill a reader's head with expectations we as writers will never fulfill, tired language, stiff, pretentious, I'm-out-to-impress-you writing, and more. At the very lease this is, or ought to be, humbling. At the very least, it ought to help us figure out what writers need- and therefore what we ought to teach. (p. 105)

This summer you will be given the gift of time to engage authentically as a writer. You will be asked to bravely put forth your own writing before your colleagues and peers in a Writing Response Group where you will receive feedback on how you can grow and stretch as a writer. This act requires both vulnerability and humility. It is something we ask of our students on a daily basis.

In considering this opportunity to be in a Writing Response Group feel free to write to some of these inquiry questions below- or as always- respond in your own way to the chapters this week:

Where do you intend to push yourself as a writer?
What are both your successes and struggles as a writer?
What topics and/or genres do you want to explore?
What are your hopes and fears about being in a WRG?


  1. I loved the permission to make mistakes at the beginning of Chapter 5. There is such an emphasis on periods and capitals and check off lists to see if you got the topic sentence and the sequence of your ideas in correct order that sometimes we forget to free up the mind and allow for the fluidity of thought through writing. In our district made check off list there is one box out of close to 20 that asks if the students wrote with advanced adjectives and voice. In my classroom we practice our reading fluency in Spanish and English every day but we have not gotten to a place where we practice our writing fluency.

    As a bilingual teacher I sometimes think that when my students are transitioning to writing in English, the capitals and the periods, the subjects and the predicates are a line of support and success. –Well, my ideas may not have fallen grammatically correct in English but at least I know what transfers directly and I at least got THAT correct.- Like the author’s daughter this may be the kickboard my students use to experience that first degree of success before letting go. Celebrating those early successes may be critical.

    Once we do get to these fluid thoughts this is the part that makes me most uncomfortable. I do not remember editing my work almost at all until I got to late high school and university days. I don’t remember writing much other than sentences to answer questions in my elementary school years in Mexico. I honestly cannot remember writing time and I still feel something of a gap in the science of editing thoughts. There is an almost grandiose mystery for me as to the science of it. Why is it that this student’s writing flows so well and that one does not? Why do I put down that book down at B&N after reading four sentences because the writing doesn’t sit well with me or I don’t follow well? Why do I love Steinbeck but not Hemingway? Is par t of judging writing like judging art? Is it relative to the individual? This still somewhat eludes me but I know there are foundational needs that a student needs to have to write that “perceptible shape” so that the reader understands and “...capture their flow of ideas in search of their own thinking (p.69). With less stops and yields and more permission to make mistakes this flow of ideas may become more natural and students may loose some of their fear of writing. That would be wonderful.

  2. This quote from Chapter 5 summarizes the way I would like to teach and the skills I want to gain from the program this summer, “Our goal as teachers should not be to fill the world with perfect text, or even acceptable text. Our goal should be to take students to such a place of comfort with writing (I would argue creativity) that they will persist through three pages of random thought to find clarity on page four because they have not one shred of doubt they will get there.” I would also argue that the idea of “perfect text” could be viewed in a larger educational sense – that learning in most cases cannot be assessed or experienced through multiple choice. Students must work with knowledge, experience it, and be creative to gain true comprehension.

    So much has already been written on this blog about testing. I think that education as a whole could be improved if some of the guidelines explained in Chapter 7 were applied to student assessment. I was especially impressed by the following quote, “quality assessment is compassionate. By that I mean that it seeks not to find fault, but to uplift- to genuinely help writers. So much of assessment is about identifying problems. But courage is what writers need most.” I believe there is a degree of compassion that it needs to be re-inserted in all disciplines.

    In terms of my own goals this summer, I look forward to getting back to writing. I have not seriously written since college and I miss this outlet of expression. When I was attending graduate school at SDSU, I prided myself on putting in long hours of research and a tremendous amount of effort in writing each historical paper. Some professors enjoyed my writing, while others found major flaws. One area that has always challenged me as a writer is the ability to be concise. I often drift into verbose and flowery language that many professors immediately slash with a red pen. I was beginning to develop the acute skill of brevity as I left SDSU, but have noticed that my writing today seems lazy and wordy. I intend to push myself by becoming a more effective writer. I hope to get back to the skills I once obtained that allowed my to express thought and passion in as few powerful words as possible.

    I hope to explore the topic of the future of education in the U.S. This week I sat quietly for hours watching my students slowly plow through the CST state exams. It is hard to watch this and not wonder – Is this really what education is about? Are these tests demonstrating any real grasp of knowledge? We push our students so hard to do well on these exams – what is called the “Superbowl of School” on my campus. But, are these exams benefiting the students? Could they possibly be detrimental? Many others have committed on this in the blog already. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and starting some meaningful conversations on how we change this system of examination. I cannot wait to sit with a group of great teachers and discuss this topic.

    I hope I become a better writer, I hope I learn new teaching strategies, and I hope I get to hear fresh perspectives on educational topics.

  3. In considering my involvement in a writing response group, the idea is petrifying. I am a private writer. I write for myself. To feel better; to get something off my chest that is meant for no one’s eyes. I write when I feel angry or frustrated and sometimes the note is (e-)mailed, and sometimes not. There are times when actually revealing that writing has gotten me into some pretty hot water. But I lived.

    That is probably the way that I will approach this summer. I will write. I will share my writing. And I will live.

    I use run-on sentences. And fragments. I tend to be esoteric when I write. I dance around an issue, or there’s the other extreme. I can, and have figuratively ripped people to shreds with my mighty pen (or keyboard).

    But even at my most agitated, or enraged, I still found it within myself to edit my work. Not proofread. But edit. Did that sound too terse? Was my disdain properly framed? Was there tempo in my tear-down? Did I build up the reader for what was to come and let the hammer drop just hard enough? Did my beginning sound enough like a friendly letter to lull the reader (lord help you!) into enough of a false sense of security, that they would continue reading, thereby receiving the inevitable bludgeoning they so aptly deserved?

    But perhaps most importantly, will they do something different in the future? I guess that’s the truest of assessments. Will they think of that note or letter that called them out the next time they pull this stunt? Will they think about being a better citizen, after my note that questioned their reasoning for parking, repeatedly, in the cross walk to drop off their kid? Will they be more patient toward the old folks as they meander their way through the line with their coupons?

    I fancy myself a benefactor, but maybe I am just a coward, hiding behind my reading glasses and monitor. I would rarely go toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball with anyone. I get tongue-tied. I am a hot head. I don’t make a good case. But give me 50 paces and laptop, and I will be a blonde-haired Johnny Cochrane.

    Meaningful feedback to me, is the refund I got from the basketball camp when they repeatedly blew me off when I asked about when the season was going to begin. Or when my local gym would not let me out of my membership because I was moving across the state; I wrote corporate and send me an apology note and a 24 Hour Fitness coffee mug. That’s tangible. Did my words work? Yes! Were there some run-on sentences in that letter? Almost sure! Misspellings? Never. Did I get my money back? Yep. Now that’s meaningful.

  4. The 9 Rights of Every Writer (Chapter 5 & 7): 4/13/11

    “Our goal as teachers should not be to fill the world with perfect text, or even acceptable text. Our goal should be to take students to such a place of comfort with writing that they will persist through three pages of random thought to an emerging clarity on page four because they have not one shred of doubt they will get there. After all, only non-writers fear failure. Writers know clutter and roadblocks and random thinking are all part of the process” (pg. 72). As Spandel explains, students need to experience the struggles of writing, thus developing an appreciation of utilizing a pencil and paper to formalize, modify, and change their personal thoughts. When teachers model the process of writing, beginning from how we choose our topic, to the voice we strategically embed into our written monologue, and finally how we make changes to better our writing, students will grow more comfortable as a writers. I’ve watched my students grow tremendously in their confidence to write, as well as, enhance their ability to focus during our writing period. Since I have given my students the autonomy in writing, they have come to appreciate and enjoy writing.

    Among the several tips Spandel shared in Chapters 5 and 7, I would like to acknowledge two that I have promised myself to incorporate in classroom writing. (1) “Writers write best what they know. Writers write best what they love. One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is helping them discover what they love, too” (pg. 82). I can’t wait to tap into my student’s thoughts and emotions to help them pull out the things they’re infatuated about. These topics will launch my students into meaningful and passionate writing. (2) “Good classroom assessment goes beyond thoughtful evaluation, though, it’s also passionate. Student writers have a right to a heartfelt response from us. Most teachers do respond passionately somewhere inside themselves; they just do not always let it out.” I seek constructive criticism from wise counselors so that I may better myself, and this is something I need to instill in my students. I trusted my counselors because I know they care about me and are honest individuals. I plan on developing such relationships with my students by praising their well-done effort and offering specific input.

  5. Chapter 5 and 7. Yesterday, on a Friday afternoon, The Writing Project came to our school to continue
    giving us wonderful insight , discussion, and writing time. At Capri all of us have been fortunate to have
    on going professional development from the educators of the Writing Project. One of the short discussions
    we spoke about which relates to our reading assignment had to do with the fact that a lot of students do not
    like to write. What happens? When I read the writing from students on page 95 and 96 it made me think
    of the discussion and work we did on Friday.

    As a kindergarten teacher, we live in a magical world. School is joyful, creative and very hands on.
    Students often during choice time continue the “craft” of making books and share them with
    each other. Their pride shines with every kind of writing, including drawing, and is encouraged and
    nurtured by everyone. I think this is partly why I enjoy the magic of kindergarten.

    We all know that as students move up in the grade levels and the demands are added,
    standardized testing etc… the state/government, the life of a teacher changes during certain times
    of the year. Plus, depending on where you teach and what your school test scores are, also might
    influence how you teach all year long. But, there is one thing as teachers we all can do, and that is to
    nurture and encourage every student wherever they are with their writing and actually with all
    of their learning. We must remember that a smile and encouragement to all students, big or small
    is important to all.

  6. Re: Chapters 5 & 7 Writing Badly/Being Assessed Fairly

    How bittersweet to read these two chapters hand in hand, and at this time of year. As I look at my rooms of kids, and there’s a different way of looking now in May, some of them look pretty feral, still, willfully so. And that’s ok. The universe has a plan for them I’m sure. Then there are the ones like the cat who lives on the roof of our shed: not feral, but abandoned. A calico female. When the old lady next door left, her daughter rounded up four of her five cats. Then, a few weeks later, the fifth showed up in our yard. We’ve been feeding her ever since, and that was over eight years ago. It’s taken five years for her to be within a few feet of me (the dog makes things worse for sure) and now I can put a bowl down and she’ll neither run nor swat at me. Still I can’t pet her or pick her up, and I worry about what happens when she’s too old to outrun the dog.

    Likewise with the writers I inherited this year- shiny new 6th graders, many who never had an affinity for writing, for whom it was all quantitative and a weird performance about being “correct.” Nary a discussion about what makes good writing or having something to say, and tears, waterfalls of ‘em, from quite a few boys, who had “writer’s block” and meltdowns and panic attacks when it came to writing. Their fear of failing –compounded by the “gifted” phenomenon, the expectation that everything they write is a performance-was crippling. They’d been abandoned. I couldn’t get near them. They didn’t bite but hid…and hid their papers and their efforts and their honest thoughts about utterly hating writing. Whatever that “ready-set-go” stuff did, whatever the hamburger or 5 PP or red pen did over the four or five years they’d been corrected, counted, assessed and evaluated…they felt like anything they did fell short. So why bother. Why try? God forbid they should write something only to spend more tortured time “fixing” it.
    It’s been a long year. And I think it’s gotten harder because we are testing those kids to death.

    We’ll see this week, when we sift through our portfolio before Open House and write a “Dear Reader” letter. We’ll see how they respond to the questions:

    What worked well for you this year? Why?
    What piece are you especially proud of? Why?
    What piece would you like to re-write? Why?
    What have you learned or uncovered about yourself as a writer this year?
    Is there a pulse or heartbeat in this portfolio? What is it?
    Who is the person, the writer, who did all this?
    What handful of pieces would you like to be assessed on; which ones show what you’re really worked hard on learning this year?

    Hopefully I’ve “ruined” their reading and their writing enough they’ll discover to their dismay that they really are young writers, and they’ll continue to read and write differently. I wish I could say with confidence that they all learned to write to get somewhere, learned that writing is a process of self-discovery, learned to write badly until the good stuff puddles up, but I can’t say that. For many it’s true, but not across the board.
    I can’t say that one brief year with me can begin to undo all those old practices, funky expectations and formulaic strategies…in fact I had a few 7th graders transfer out after they had me for a second year. The minute they heard that “the other teacher” didn’t do anything in class, there was a short line at the counselor’s office. It is hard work, what we’re asked to do as writers. It requires integrity and reflection and grit. It demands self-honesty and not just performance, but hours of effort. What breaks my heart is that that, those qualities of character that develop through writing, are not tested.

    But as writers and as teachers of writing, we are tested each and every day.
    The toughest aspect of writing -whether a poetry exercise or condolence note or essay-is that we're going about it, that piece, for the very first time. It's the sexy adrenaline I love and hate.

  7. Vicki Spandel wrote, “From comfort comes many good things.” She explains that in order to be good swimmer, we must first learn to get comfortable in the water. Masterpieces are created because the writer was comfortable making the first mark. Knowing that not every endeavor will be a masterpiece, I hope to be a more comfortable writer.

    I was relieved to read about how writers work in Chapter 5. Quite familiar with the idea that writing and thinking are interconnected, I’ve often been troubled because I think differently, or so I thought. I don’t like outlines, and seldom use them. Brainstorming using a web was the closest I could get to an outline. I always felt bad because I would often lose my focus in writing. I thought that writers had good ideas, and were able to focus in on them with ease and a good basic knowledge of conventions. I thought that somehow it was different than the visual arts.

    In the visual art world an artist has an idea when they begin a project just like in writing. They may begin in one direction, and then change course in the middle due to number of reasons. What is intended in the beginning and the end result may be completely different, and it is acceptable in art. Somehow, however, I have received a different message.

  8. I have two hopes for this summer. First, I hope to develop a writing practice. “’No day without a line.’” (Pliny the Elder, as noted on page 70) I hope to retrieve “writer” as part of my identity. Second, I hope to re-vision how I teach writing, to dig deep into what I know and what I learn, to transform my practice. I especially want to incorporate Spandel’s affirmation to “write more and assess less.” I also want to consider her admonition to “assess well,” to imagine how the three qualities she proposes (perception, compassion, and usefulness) and others, perhaps, that I or we develop, can be implemented in a real, practical way in my college English and ESOL courses. A related goal is to start compiling samples of student writing that can serve as guides for instructor, peer, and self-assessment.

    I am eager and nervous as I think about this summer. Let me remember these feelings in late August when I meet my classes for the first time.

  9. Chapters 5 & 7

    Holly French

    I never feel my writing is academic enough and maybe that is OK. As I reflected on my own writing I think about how I am most comfortable writing about what I know best, me. This type of writing seems so homespun and irrelevant, since my life is not extraordinary, in fact it can be quite a bore. I’ m asking my students to write their memoirs and Chapter 5 reminded me that I too must do what I ask the students to do. This was most uncomfortable, but I realize that my students too feel they do not have extraordinary things to write about.

    As I read my student’s work I began to see that what I had done by modeling my own insecurities, as a writer, was to enable the students to have confidence in anything they put on the page. I also have come to understand that the assessment needed to build up the writer not tear them down. I decided to write comments and questions to each of my students so they were encourage to take their writing a step farther.

    Comfort does not come in writing and sharing our prose with others, but I do believe that through this process we all grow. I see this in my students and I know I too will emerge as a writer through this summer experience.

  10. I have tried to establish a daily writing routine before, but I have the hardest time writing about the day to day. I buy a nice journal, make an entry or two, and then into the drawer it goes. I’ll dig it out from time to time when I come to a crossroads or find myself faced with a dilemma. Somehow, pouring all of my thoughts out on a page helps me to make sense of them all. It gives me a chance to take a step back and put things in perspective. Yet, once I’ve made a decision or made sense of my predicament, that journal goes back in the drawer. I write the occasional letter when something I read or hear really gets my goat, but, when I am feeling comfortable, I just don’t have much to say.

    The only time that I come close to keeping up a daily journal is when I am traveling. Even then, it’s not a daily log of events. Rather, it’s an eclectic jumble of notes – tide charts and bus schedules, place names and sketches - and anecdotes. When I am at home, the journal comes out of the drawer when things are not what I thought they would be, think they should be, or just plain don’t understand what is going on. When I am traveling, that more or less describes how I feel all of the time.

    When my wife Paula and I lived in rural Paraguay as Peace Corps volunteers, I found myself writing almost everyday. There were a few laments about the food and descriptions of our little house in the country, but, more often, I found myself writing to make sense of the little farming community in which we lived and understand our place in it.

    Once a month, we’d make the dusty seven hour bus ride to the capital where I would sit down at a computer and try to fit thirty some days of cultural misunderstandings, small acts of kindness, frustrations and ah-ha moments into one letter to our family and friends in the States. I couldn’t. Instead, I found I had to choose a particular anecdote or experience: listening to my neighbor complain about the corruption of the Paraguayan government, and then watching as he laid his electricity meter on its side for the night so it would not run; or paying a visit to a family we had never met before, only to find ourselves invited to lunch and offered the family’s only bed for an afternoon nap.

    Over time, the letters began to morph into essays. Sometimes they were no more than a description of a ridiculous encounter; other times that anecdote became the lead into something else. I knew that my audience knew nothing about Paraguay so I felt a responsibility to get it right. I began reading everything related to Paraguayan history, government and traditions that I could get my hands on, fact or fiction, and jotting down notes. I came home with a collection of essays, got comfortable, and into the drawer they went.

    Three years ago, Paula and I quit our jobs to travel for a year, and, you guessed it, out came the journal. Like before, every month or so, I would sit down in an Internet café to write about our experiences to our family and friends back home. Like before, when I got home, I buried them.

    I hadn’t thought much about those essays until this assignment came along so I went back and started rereading them. Spandel compares reading to grocery shopping whereas writing requires us to “bring things home, order them, put them on shelves (72),” and I found that was exactly what I had done with those experiences I had chosen to write about. Those fading names and faces, places and feelings came flooding back to me as I read them.

    It also dawned on me that my “travel journal” wasn’t really that at all. Instead, I was taking writer’s notes. And, if that is the case, maybe I need to rethink the way I approach writing daily here at home. When I think about it, there is plenty that goes on at my school site that doesn’t make sense to me, and I certainly have a story or two to tell about my students. Perhaps it’s time to dust that journal off, give it a new name – writer’s notebook – and try this again.

  11. I have always approached writing as a task equal to having my nails pulled out one by one. It was always a task, never an enjoyment. I have many journals in my house that started with the great intention of capturing my life on paper. They all have one thing in common: only a handful of pages ever captured words. Looking back the words do not hold much significance but show the forced ambition of forced writer.

    I am a writer who writes for an assignment. I can remember a few papers that I have written for school that hold a positive memory for me: One in 7th grade and one for my natural disaster class. I remember now that the college paper was an open topic choice.

    I am excited to learn how to be a writer for myself and not just for a specific task. It will be difficult to write every day and experiment with different genres.

  12. chapters 5 and 7 - part 1

    I love Neil Young. I love his voice. I love his music. I love his willingness to take risks. He has made some very good music and he has made, well, some not-so-very-good music. He has experimented with rock, country, techno, punk, alternative, and whatever, often with great results. And sometimes with poor results. He is a true artist, he has discovered his voice - and I don’t necessarily mean his singing voice. Like a writer, however, as Spandel stipulates (64), Young has embraced different approaches. He was one of the first artists to embrace the punk movement, namely because it took risks:
    Young was one of the only old guard rockers who took an interest in the punk movement. He was referring to the essence of punk music as a backlash against the polished, layered schlock rock that had taken hold of mainstream music at the time. At least, he thought, they were waking everyone up.
    Article Source:
    I feel that we as writing teachers need to embrace Young’s and Spandel’s acceptance of poor writing as a means of getting at new and interesting writing, to wake not just the students up, but writing teachers up, to help students to discover and uncover their voice. “You need to create a lot of garbage to get at the heart of it - the real message, the thing you want most to say, the voice that is really you“ (Spandel 65). Wanting polished pieces from our students every time truly results in the schlock Young railed against. No heart and certainly no voice.
    In addition, we must encourage enough writing so that our students uncover their thinking, what they want to say so that they can then be in a position to decide how they want to say it. Young has grown as a musician and an artist because he has produced a ton of material and has ventured into new, tentative, uncertain, and inventive areas, just as we want our students to do in their writing. Human beings learn in the gray areas, not on an assessment, not through traditional evaluations of writing or skill. And human beings excel when given the opportunity to make mistakes, to not constantly be under the direction of someone else, particularly with an unknown agenda or list of items to be completed.

  13. Spandel chapters 5 and 7 - Part 2

    Through such a risk-free environment, we allow ourselves - and encourage our students - to take risks, to learn what works and what doesn’t in their writing, to develop their inner “eye,” to articulate their own practice, their own art, their own musings, their true voice.
    When students are permitted and encouraged to discover their own voice, they can comment on their practice, can contribute to conversations on effective practice, and can recognize effective practice, even when it deviates from what is often shoved down their throats - the very schlock Young and most teachers detest (although, I admit, I have often shoved schlock down their throats in the name of effective writing instruction). Students, then, are crucial in the creation of the criteria of effective and ineffective writing. As artists, they have a right to contribute to the form, to the efferent and aesthetic experience of writing, and to the assessment of that writing. Spandel calls this the “personal level” of assessment, “where students themselves assess their own work” (94). And I like that Spandel suggests that assessment must be perceptive, compassionate, and useful (94), which is not the current practice, for sure.
    If this is what we believe as writers and as teachers of writing, then it only makes sense to develop the kind of assessment that promotes and builds thinking skills through collaboration, co-creation, application, and reflection, such as embraced in Kentucky (98). At many schools, Patrick Henry included, on-demand writing is the preferred method of assessment, but as Hillock’s states in Spandel (98), “on-demand writing assessment provides students with as little as forty minutes’ response time, allows no interaction among students, and in general bears minimal resemblance to the process-based approach of the classroom” (NWP 2003, 189). And as Spandel adds, “what we assess is what we get” (94).
    But as Neil Young stated in an interview with Charlie Rose, “You can’t get to where you want to go unless you take aim for it.” And that takes vision and voice.

  14. The most difficult part of writing is finding time. If I could hit pause on my life, the clock, everyone, then I would write. About 99% or more of all the writing I have ever done in my life has been for an assignment, application, response, etc. I look forward to pushing myself this summer to simply write just to write. I know it will be insightful, enlightening, and therapeutic in many ways. I think I might struggle with exactly what my students struggle with...what do I write about? It is so ingrained in me to write as a response to a question or prompt. Knowing that I am going to be writing with no boundaries is kind of scary especially to know that I will be sharing this writing with my colleagues, however, this is what I ask of my students every day. It will be a humbling experience.

    I remember when I took a course entitle Fictional Writing in college. I was so used to writing expository, narrative, persuasive, and position papers, that I was excited to write fiction...something I hadn't done since elementary school. I truly loved writing for this class. It was like reading a good book...I didn't want to stop. I actually looked forward to the assignment, the class, and the sharing. I would like to explore fictional writing more and allow my imagination to take me out of my norm.

    Being apart of a WRG is a little scary. I know everyone will be sensitive and compassionate because we are all in the same boat. I am hoping that this process will strengthen me as a writer, educator, and person.

  15. One thing I liked about chapter 5 is the redundancy of the word confidence. At first, it might appear that to have confidence while writing means that you are an excellent writer who makes no mistakes. However, this chapter places confidence on the side of bad writing; i.e. being confident to write badly. I can’t possibly count the number of times I have been struck by writers block. I wonder now if that was because I thought my writing had to be perfect. Spandel highlights a writer in the “Writer’s Notebook” section who had the teacher-from-you-know-where. This writer had a bad experience with a bad teacher. I can’t say I ever felt scarred from the all-powerful red pen, but I never felt comfortable (or confident) to write badly.

    The more I read in this book, the more writing seems like a journey and not a destination. I love trips with no deadlines…I like how writing can be that way.

    In chapter 7, the author brings out that assessment should be perceptive, compassionate, and useful. When I read this, I thought, “In a perfect world…maybe.” The reality is that not all assessment or assessors are perceptive, compassionate, and useful. However, my favorite point from this part of the book comes from what assessors should be; readers, writers, and have the ability to put aside personal preferences. There is no rubric for this like there is for formulaic writing, but I would like to think that there is way to ensure that happens. Maybe through interviews and clearly defined goals for writers assessors of assessors would level the grading field for students.

    Spandel addresses the assessment of voice and believes that although subjective, a valuable trait to be assessed. I believe this as well. She says that the qualities that give us voice are when writing is powerful, memorable, provocative, or moving. It’s the reason we write, to grab people and define our thoughts on paper. We can show students what good voice looks (sounds) like and create rubrics to help define that.

  16. Our students need confidence and courage to be strong writers - these are the ideas that Spandel reiterates in these chapters. For me it really comes down to voice and ownership and being comfortable enough to own both the best of your writing and art and the worst of it. Only within that process can we grow. Good teachers want their students to grow as people and writers....we must build the writing culture in our classrooms so that our students are willing to take risks and ownership. However, we must be demonstrating it as well.

    I must say how impressed I am with the responses from you - my SDAWP colleagues. I especially liked Andrew's comparison to art/song and Neil Young. I view all writing in comparison to the creation of music - isn't it all essentially the same - a process. One garners much respect in their willingness to take chances and to delve into the unknown - allowing the creativity to move through them - as we are just the vessel for the message.

    Ryan Adams (not Bryan Adams...who is awesome in his own right)released 3 albums (one of those was a double album) in one year. Figure a minimum of 40 songs. Many critics believed he could have easily sorted through this mass and narrowed down his efforts to his best 12 songs and then that would have been his "masterpiece" album of that year. I (like many) disagree. Adams was willing to be vulnerable and to be eclectic and willing to give his audience "all of his art". Whether it was his best or worst - it was all him. (Or maybe the cynical approach is that he wanted more money - but I just don't see him as being that sort of guy). Needless to say, that similar to Neil Young, Adams was willing to fail...and according to some he did...but so what if he did. It was fresh, new, current, breathing, and true to the time it was being created.

    On a similar note - Brian Wilson took 30 plus years to finish his album "Smile". This is considered a masterpiece album. Is it? Just something to think about. Makes me wonder if and when we decide that art or a piece of music or a poem or an essay or a story is truly done. Editing. I love it. I love editing more than writing sometimes. When to stop? Ahhh...a question for the ages. I have already edited this entry about four times....

    My own writing rests in my faith that the journey gets me to the destination. Since I have been doing it for a confidence is current. Though absent from life for many years - working with other writers this summer is something I have been highly anticipating. I am excited to have the time to write, talk, edit, and write some more.

    Our students are without much experience. They are doubtful...these teenage years are doubtful years, they must be confident that they have the know how, strength, and will to work it out - this confidence goes much deeper and further than merely writing - but the writing process has the ability to transcend all components of their young lives. Writing can make students believe in themselves. Writing can make teachers believe in themselves and that they have the ability to share this passion. I look forward to seeing what I can do and what I will do.

  17. Corrections:
    "absent from MY life"
    "I am excited to have the time to write, talk, LISTEN, edit, and write some more"