Monday, May 09, 2005

Creativity on the Brain

I think this may be the last week of blog’g for the semester. :( So, what I’m going to try to do is occasionally dip back into this semester’s archives & continue previous blog-versations, while blog’g some of my own thoughts/experiences of the last 14-15 weeks.

Courtroom Rhetoric

Okay, so I’m coffee-caffeinated, in a fabulous mood, done w/ grad’g portfolios, & ready to blog in a giddy way… & then I read Dawn Fels’s blog from Friday & thought… “Wow, that’s a heck of a lot better than any blog I will write today… or any time this week!” :)

If you’ve not read Dawn’s blog yet, please do. It’s just below this one & it’s fantastic.


So… anyone feel’g creative?

Creativity has been on my brain for a while now. A long, long while, but even more so recently. I read through my ENG 101’s final portfolios last week & thought… “Wow!” I was blown away by some of the work these people produced this semester. You see, my ENG 101ers produce multigenre portfolios. Each student @ the start of the semester begins work’g on Writing #1. This Writing lasts for the entire semester. & from this writing, they produce 6 other writings, along w/ a reflective preface to their work. Students are allow’d to choose what they want to write about & the genres they want to explore.

Quick explanation: each of the ensuing six writings are “branches” off their 1st writing. For example, Ryan’s semester-long writing was a story/narrative about his life & music. His next writing was an essay about childhood & music. Writing #3 was a magazine article about “The Corporatization of Music”; Writing #4 was a flyer advertising a concert; Writing #5 was a story about a fictional band; Writing #6 was a four-cd compilation of the music that represent’d his freshman year (complete w/ stories that went along w/ each song); & Writing #7 was an album of music & lyrics he wrote about his freshman year. (For the cyber-lover, think of it this way: each writing is a hyperlink from the original text.)

The question I’m oft ask’d about this: but how does this relate to ENG 101: College Writing?

& I say… “this is College Writing! Woohoo!”

Ok, I might drop the “Woohoo” depending on who is ask’g.

Ryan is a Communications major who is very interest’d in music & creative writing. So, here’s the breakdown of his writings & how they tie to his college writing experience:
#1: it’s narrative/descriptive/expository-ish, (oh, those modes!);
#2: expository essay (another mode!);
#3: journalism students practice writing magazine articles, no?;
#4: marketing! advertising! (ever walk’d around a college campus & not seen a flyer?)
#5: creative writing!
#6: marketing! advertising! (it’s a part of communications studies)
#7: creative writing!
Reflective Preface: a thorough examination of the writing process that went into creating each piece. In this preface, writers discuss how each writing is shaped by the elements of the rhetorical triangle (writer, reader/audience, text/language, & context).

Each of Ryan’s writings not only tie back into his semester-long piece, but also his major. & when someone like Ryan, who was in an ENG 100: Basic Writing course I taught last Fall, produces two 40+ page writings (#1 & #5), I’d like to think that there is an element to multigenre writing that works for everyone. (A surprising number of students produced @ least one writing that exceeded 20 pages; & one student even did a 30-minute documentary to accompany his work).

(& now, my feeble attempt to mirror Dawn’s message)
Sometimes, from my experiences watching students work/write in ways they want to explore, I have thought that this is one way of breaking down the racist rhetoric that exists in so many places on campus. I think this type of genre exposure allows students to see HOW MANY types of writings are out there, & how they may be proficient at one, but not in another—& how it takes practice to be proficient in any of them. I also think that this is more college writing, than, say, a traditional academic essay.

(My eyes burn from the scowls I see from many who oppose this idea!)

Many students this past year have walk'd out of ENG 101 know'g how to create web pages, write essays, design advertisements, construct business letters/proposals, etc. But, most importantly, they’ve learn’d to explore writing from multiple perspectives. And, from what I’ve seen, they’ve had FUN doing this. Writing can be FUN!!?!?!

(I must note one thing: here at IUP, we also have ENG 202: Research Writing that follows ENG 101: College Writing. Therefore, I do not feel obliged to teach quoting, etc. I prefer this class to be entirely about them as adults learn'g different styles of writing.)

The amazing thing is how many genres get explored each semester. I’ve read in various prefaces about how students have enjoyed reading their writing group member’s works because they never thought they’d have to critique “that” kind of writing.

The hardest thing, from my stance, is trying to not only “teach” or “comment about” each of these genres, but evaluate them. One student, Annika, wrote an amazing semester-long essay that explored hearing-loss in children (this is her concentration). Now, I know zero about this—& I admitt'd this to her—but I went along w/ it, believing that what she was writing was “true” &, most importantly, encourag'g her along the way.

I bring this back to writing center work: how do we manage to work w/ students who write in so many different genres? Many of my students would go to the WC & work w/ tutors—& most of the tutors I spoke w/ about this loved it (especially Lindsey H., a journalism major who really got to put her experience to use!). Where is our creative space? Our place where we get to act like kindergarteners once again--& relearn everything we need to know?

Ok. Enough for now. More tomorrow.

Anyone feel’g creative?



At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thick description of your 101 class. It is really innovative, and I can see why your students become so engaged. I want to take that class!

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

I enjoyed reading about your student Ryan's writing project. I had a few rewarding moments myself as I read over my 102 final papers related to the element of tragedy in The Glass Menagerie and other works we studied this semester. I was extremely pleased to see that at least a few students clearly had begun to put into practice the critical thinking habits I reinforced all semester --- looking for connections between works, symbols, themes, etc. in the different works and combining them with a greater purpose of understanding the human experience through literature.

Examples from the student writing:

CH drew a comparison between a scene in William's The Glass Menagerie and a scene in O'Connor's short story "Revelation." She noted that at one point in the play, Tom calls his mother an "ugly, babbling old witch," to her great dismay and hurt. Similarly, the young girl featured in "Revelation" stuns Mrs. Turpin by calling her an "old wart hog, from hell." In both of these painful scenes, the woman are forced to see themselves in a very unpleasant light and to consider if there is truth in the ugly names. A moment of reflection and insight may lead to change --- or not.

The same student compared Laura Wingfield to the subject of Dickinson's poem "The Soul Selects her Own Society" (a fabulous connection, I thought) and the ending of the play to the ending of Alice Eliot Dark's "The Gloaming" --- "because both of their lights go out, signifying the end."

As I read this student's work, I was reassured once again that I am, in fact, accomplishing something through all these hours of exploring literature with students. They are building a literary world view --- well, we are building it together.

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