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These are just the thoughts I had while reading, "Teaching  writing as a process, not product.” This ended up being a little longer than I intended, so I apologize for that! And since this is just about one of the articles we were supposed to read, I may not post my thoughts on the second one ("Writing at the turn..."), simply because I had so much more to say about this one. But I haven't decided yet. The format is a bit informal because I simply wrote things down as they came to mind. The main set-up is the quote that triggered a though, and then what that thought was + all subsequent thoughts that followed. 

“Literature is finished writing.” Never thought of it that way. Also interesting to see writing and literature combined like that, considering they are often divided.

“Autopsy,” interesting analogy. Sounds like the author subscribes to the idea that teachers are supposed to destroy writing in an attempt to correct it. However, it could also imply that a teacher is so knowledgeable/ they need know their subject inside-out before they can teach it to others.

“Destroy” literature to prove our own skills. Interesting. Makes me think of when I was younger, and the teacher would say, “What did [Author] mean when he wrote ‘X’?” and we, as children, wondered how the teacher knew the author meant anything at all. Or if, perhaps, they were just assigning random meaning to words for the sake of education. But reading this passage now, I think, maybe the author means a technical dissection—analyzing components until the magic is dead. By “magic,” I mean what makes the piece captivating. The rhythm and rhyme of a sonnet is less impressive when you sit down and study the formula used to produce it.

Autopsy analogy coming together now. It’s a bit ironic, honestly. Shows the attempt to rip writing apart to make it better. But not rip it apart as in destroy, but rip apart more like to break down and fix individually malfunctioning pieces.

“Much of it brilliant, some of it stupid, all of it irrelevant” – this is really an amazing thing to say about a teacher’s feedback simply because it doesn’t really undermine what teachers do. It is able to recognize the struggle and correctness of the feedback (how it actually could be helpful), yet how its power and helpfulness is nullified altogether by the educational system.
Finally, “we are teaching a process.” This is the flaw within the educational system. It is about the formula, not the end-product.

“Teach unfinished writing” – unconventional and a very good idea. Helps students understand that potential can come from anywhere and their writing is not a summary of themselves, but rather,  a journey to their own budding abilities.

“discovery through language we call writing” – correlates back to last Monday’s discussion about how writing allows people to explore themselves.

Like the idea of having a loose process—a formula that can be altered to every person’s writing style. Pre-writing can be literally anything, can come in any form at all. I also like that rewriting can be “demanding” and “satisfying.”

“shutting up”—the hardest part of teaching honestly. I have tutored and helped others write, and it is very difficult to prevent yourself from projecting your own words, thoughts, practices, on someone else. Especially if that person is looking to you for help. It is so very hard to get someone inexperienced or unpracticed to access their own words. This is a great challenge facing teachers. What makes it so hard is that not interfering with the student is what will ultimately lead to them developing their own style. Also, implication 5, allowing students to choose their own form of writing is very important. As discussed in Monday’s class, the “5 paragraph essay” doesn’t work for everybody. But perhaps it would be easier on those who hate it if they had been given the chance to develop their own style first. Something like journaling could resonate more with a student (also discussed in class) and this could lead them to developing a system that could be used in academic writing.

Acknowledging student’s decision to make suggested changes is something I’ve often practiced, but never put a name to. I have frequently ignore changes from teachers because I believed that it interfered with the vision I had. My work is, before anyone else’s, my own and I often refused advice from teachers in high school and occasionally in college. Ironically, teachers didn’t remember suggesting changes. There have been at least 2 occasions in my life where I kept a designated “mistake” and turned the paper in anyway, just to receive praise for the “mistakes.” A paper needs to be as individualized as the writer. What helps me remember this most is when I think of bestsellers. They are bestsellers because…why? Because they did something different. They stood out. Nobody told them “do this, do that, but DO NOT do THAT.” They did what felt right and it paid off. This could be something teachers keep in mind to help prevent creative intrusion.

“No rules, just alternatives.” Nicely said, and if it were me, I would have ended the piece on that.

Final thoughts: I liked this piece quite a bit. I feel it covered a lot of ground in a small amount of space, which, as a working college student, I greatly appreciated. I felt the information was innovative and very clever. It was an interesting take on some ideas that were already circulating the English community. What I liked best about it was its suggestions were not radical in the slightest. However, one can clearly see how dramatic the results would be if these simple changes were made.    

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-09-26 19:37:00

Teach Writing as a Process Not Product
Donald M. Murray

In his piece Teach Writing as a Process Not Product, Donald M. Murray voices his concerns that students' writings are unfairly critiqued by their instructors. He believes that English teachers have been trained to examine students' final product only, causing frustration and confirming the students' "lack of self respect for their work and for themselves." It becomes a joyless cycle for both the teacher and student. As he describes it, all I can think of is an instructor standing at the front of a classroom and assigning the next writing piece by saying, "Ok. Here is your topic. You must write about_______, even if you hate it or know nothing about it. Oh yeah, and your paper will count as 50% of your grade." In 1972 when he wrote this paper, writing theory was taking off. This was a much needed breath of fresh air. He writes this piece to convince his audience that the process of creating writing pieces is much more important than the end product. 

When he discusses process he brings up the three stages of writing: prewriting, writing, and rewriting. Murray goes on to address the importance of implementing this language into a writing classroom, and he introduces guidelines for teachers to follow to make the transition of the product to process classroom successful. Some of the guidelines are for us to actually listen to our students and allow time for writing in our classrooms. In addition, giving our students some room to explore is important. Let them discover their own interests and topics. He calls English instructors, "coaches, encouragers, and developers." These were new hats for teachers to wear in 1972. However, I think many writing teachers not only change their hats daily, but have a large closet filled with them. Finally, he goes on to discuss the positive implications of turning one's classroom from a product based classroom into and process based classroom. The positive implications range from developing partnerships, to creating more choice and excitement for students, to giving more value to voice. 

There is so much within this piece that I agree with and find myself doing within my own classroom. When he talks about teaching "unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness." My students do have a place for that in their writer's notebooks. They have regular time to practice techniques, try new genres, and tackle ideas they may never had tried before. I also agree that we need to allow students to create their own topics, that they are on discoveries when creating their writings. Years ago, we used to give students topics and the writings they produced were stiff and joyless. Now when students can write about their interests, the pieces they produce are much more authentic and they are willing to take more risks. I also love where he calls the teachers, "coaches, encouragers, developers, and creators of environments in which our students can experience the writing process for themselves." It makes me think of my role in the classroom, not as dictator, but as the person modeling writing, finding powerful mentor texts, leading impactful conferences and strategy groups, and supporting my students.

As there is much of this piece that I agree and connect with, there are a few areas that I must question or disagree. First of all, in a perfect world, grades would be abolished, especially for the younger grades where it is more important to focus on a child's development rather than putting a letter on him. However, we all know as educator's that grades are not going anywhere. Mr. Murray is not being realistic in is call to be rid of graded writing pieces. One way that I think writing grades are more fairly delved out are with the use of rubrics. I know that, at least in my district, we are very careful about the creation and implementation of rubrics. With better training and writing programs finding their into America's schools, teachers are more knowledgeable now then they were when this article was written. The big thing I question about this piece is the classroom Mr. Murray is addressing. Does he feel that his philosophy is absolute to every writing classroom? How would he adjust his thinking for different age groups? Is this piece directed to teachers of all levels, elementary up to college? My reason for questioning is that younger children are still learning so much about writing. They can't always be so free. They need more guidance. For example, when speaking about the three stages of the writing process, I often tease my middle school students about being allergic to prewriting and revising. They hate both of these steps. As much as I know that writing is recursive and I try to instill this into my twelve year old students, there are many of them who battle me every step of the way. In addition, implication number ten stresses that all writing is experimental and that students should just write. However, if they are still learning techniques and need to practice these techniques, they must be held accountable for practice. They can not simply "go for it" if they do not know how to write well. 

All in all, I feel that this is an important piece for teachers of writing and theorists to read and to discuss. It is important for writers to break away from the "old school" stagnant product style classroom. Murray shows us that there is much more to creation and that is as important than the final outcome. The journey of getting to a place is often more exciting or rewarding than actually pulling into the parking lot.