The beginning of chaos

¿Qué voy a hacer? It was the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about our final project which is a chapbook where each of us captures his voice and his essence. The voice of chaos is the title and it is what we are, creative chaos, chaos full of ideas, music, drawings and thoughts. Today we will begin with creation and I am excited about what will come out of each of us.

¿Qué voy a hacer? I have written several things, but I do not feel very confident or confident about what I want to express, what do I want to express? The power of writing and how to be here, in this class, in this place and with these people have allowed me to recognize that I can make myself heard and that I can be able to express what I think and feel.

¿Qué voy a hacer? I tell myself knowing that I am the least creative person that exists, my sister did the art tasks for me and I had rarely interacted with painting, with scissors, with crafts. But this is a good thing, I’m going to test myself and get out of my comfort zone.

¿Qué voy a hacer? I will do what I have always wanted, write, express, feel and do.

A Collection of Different Voices . . . Final Group Project

This semester I feel I have grown in ways within this small class group setting . I have learned that through different voices connections can be made and spark endless conversation for a group of people . There was a intimacy in the setting of the small group that allowed us each to be heard and truly capture an understanding for each person involved . Overall great things were shared , learned , and contributed and now it is time to combine our mines for this final piece of the puzzle .

The group has decided to create a chapbook which I feel will truly capture our “Voices in Chaos” theme. There is so much that has been expressed by us through our different walks of life and creating some this to capture a piece of us all to share is inspiring , not only for us but for those we share this with . We have grown to understand each other during this semester so sharing this with others can inspire others as well .

Every these that we covered this semester showed us how each of our voices are unique and special in many ways and can spark great general discussion . No one felt excluded so for the readers I’m sure they will each feel compelled to share as well especially on the social media side . I like the fact we are also bringing songs along to incorporate this time because this is also a stimulating piece in todays modern world , giving us more to connect with our audience .

This I’m sure will be an exciting and stimulating ending to a wonderful semester and will help to truly bond us all due one final time . I feel I will definitely be showing a more of a poetry scheme on these topics we have discussed since I haven’t really been able to throughout the semester . I feel this is the time to show new things for one final time .

In the Collaboration Cabin We Go!

It should come as no surprise to my fellow ENG 5020 students that the idea for this chapbook that we are creating together is one that I am enthused by, because I quite love chaos. Causing it far more than dealing with it, but regardless, I think that any pot could use a little bit of stirring. 

As much as I would like to go into this chapbook all guns blazing, I do understand that this is a collaborative project with Chelsea, Edna, Jasmine, and Kathryn. Controlling the chaos in advance is (in a respectfully begrudging way) necessary here, because too many cooks and no control can tip a most sturdy pot over.

This string of chapbooks should be indicative, I feel, of our personalities. As “nice” as they should look I would prefer if there is still that sense of individual bombast that attracts me. Think: Kanye West’s original cover selection for ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.’ Bold, depthful, but also present with a sense of artistic sophistication.

Having the physical books be translated digitally is exciting as well, but I would also like the tangibility of the books created to come across; to transgress mediums, so to say. So, materials, materials, materials… which seems to be a tricky aspect of this whole thing because dinero does not come cheap.

Overall, I am very positive on this project, and think that we’ll make it out reflectively pleased with what we put together. So long as Kean University wasn’t built over some ancient burial ground, or something.

Group Project Thoughts

When thinking about the idea and themes within “Voice of Chaos” it was, at first, hard to decide what I wanted to write and create to reflect that. I have many ideas that will probably continuously change as we prepare the chapbooks.

I have spent a lot of time staring at a blank page. Writing, crossing out, writing again. Getting up, walking away. Staring at the blank page from across the room, but I think I have something. Maybe. I don’t know if it is poem or prose or just words, but I think I have something. A starting point.

In creating art, digital art is what I enjoy most. I actually have a piece I previously created that with a few touch-ups will be exactly what I want to represent my voice in the chapbook.

The hardest part was finding material. We found thread and needles, but it was hard to find the right paper. I think the best option would be for all of us to look at paper together online and see what we each gravitate towards. It is hard because we won’t be able to feel it, but I think it will be the best option with time constraints and trying to find times for all of us to meet outside of class.

I think I have a good start on my parts of the project and can see this coming together quickly if we can get the contents knocked out. The time to create the chapbooks shouldn’t be too long.    

Final Group Project Part 1

For the final part of this class, we’re given a group assignment to complete to signify our time together and our start to graduate school. For the last two classes, we brainstormed a bit. Really, the first class was just us learning about the project and getting the guidelines.

This past class was a true brainstorming session. We came to the idea of a chapbook. We’ll title it Voice of Chaos. I came up with it because we are a chaotic group and come from different backgrounds and we each have unique voices. So, Voice of Chaos just came to me.

By the end of this brainstorming session, we knew what we wanted to do (a chapbook) and what to bring for the next class (pages to put into the chapbook). I’m excited about this because of what it could end up looking like. Over the next couple of weeks, the chapbook will come together.

In the next class, we’ll work on the order of the pages, the design and maybe put one together.

Formula vs. Freedom

Formula vs. Freedom

Thanks to Brandon for closing our presentation series with an engaging discussion of Mark Wiley’s“The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist).” and Donald Murray’s Teaching Writing as Process Not Product.  Wiley ultimately points out the pros and cons of the formulaic nature of Schaffer’s pedagogy (the multi-paragraph essay).  You each seemed to have clear feelings about this writing approach – there were both “pro” arguments and “con” arguments expressed.  Perhaps teachers should consider the use the formula approach as one “strategy”, but not necessarily a “formula” per se.   “To develop as writers, students must develop a repertoire of strategies for dealing effectively with various writing tasks presented to them in different situations. They must also learn to make choices about genre, content, structure, organization, and style; and they must learn to hone their judgments about the effects of the choices they make as writers.”  Teachers (and school districts) can build “formula” strategies for students, but from there, they should decide what more there is to do once students have a framework for the multi-paragraph academic essay.   The Schaeffer method won’t work in all contexts/situations, and it shouldn’t.  Once students have learned this strategy (or concurrently as they are learning it) they should move forward, outward, and onward to genres, audience, critical thinking, and exploration of their own writing.  Think of bike riding – the formula-approach is like training wheels that should come off as soon as possible, so that students can feel free.  Sometimes this kind of “formula approach” really can work in onboarding reluctant writers, by giving them just enough confidence to get them “in the game”.  That is a remarkable outcome, in and of itself.  But there should be more to the overall process, and the guard rails cannot be up forever if a writer is to become a writer.  I really enjoyed our interactive game as we considered the lyrics of prominent musical artists and scored each one based on stylistic distinction versus academic distinction.  This was a telling way to tease out a more nuanced and complex sense of what good writing can (or cannot) be!

Here are the agenda slides from class.

Your Final Project

You have decided upon a final project: the production of a chapbook, along with an accompanying Instagram to highlight chapbook features and showcase its production.  A chapbook is a short collection of writing with a unifying principle, theme, question, or experience. It is commonly understood as an artisanal book, made with care, and with specific intention. A small publication containing poetry, tales, ballads, art images, or tracts, it can be like a “calling card”.  It can connect the authors with others, and it can grant  a unique legitimacy and capture a special moment or certain ideas in time.  It seems to me a perfect medium to explore the power of voice in a time of chaos, which seems to be your unifying theme.  A working title for now seems to be “Voice of Chaos”, and I think it will be beautiful to capture the power of writing, especially in the context of this pandemic.  In addition, it can be a playful meditation on the tension between analogue or “old school” modes of writing, and digital forms of writing.  At this point, it seems you are imagining the content of the chapbook to include a -forward or collaborative preface; author bios; table of contents; & diverse/varied author contributions from the five of you.  I really look forward to watching this come together.

Your to-do list:

In order to jump start your production of this special chapbook, please generate at least three pieces of content for next class.  Your 10th Blog Post should summarize the tasks below and include these following elements (via link) as a “Progress Report”:

  1. Write one text (it can be a poem, small story, short tract or philosophical musing, vignette, or any other short version of prose)
  2. Draw, paint, compose or create one image
  3. Create one “wildcard” piece  (this can be any sort of content you are inspired to make for inclusion in the chapbook)
  4. Select a song (for inclusion in a the chapbook playlist…imagine a QR code that takes readers to your collective Spotify playlist)

In addition, please research and bring along to class any info regarding:

  1. the making of chapbooks
  2. ideas of how you want the chapbook to look (design)
  3. your idea of what you want for your author bio
  4. ideas on IG for digital view
  5. Design ideas (materials, paper types, color scheme, layout, etc.)..bring materials in!

After this week’s class session (in which you will -select and refine content, -design the layout, select and obtain appropriate book making materials, and create the final project-management timeline) you only have only one more formal class period to work on the project.  With this in mind, please be ready to devote some outside-of-class group time to certain aspects of your production timeline. You are welcome to use the KUWSP office for your collaborative work time.  In addition, please be prepared to delegate tasks and meet small project deadlines along the way so it comes to fruition.  Remember the main elements of the overall project:  -the chapbook (six small customized handmade books); -the Instagram site; -the plan to share the work in academic contexts (perhaps on the KUWSP website, and a conference or two in Fall 22 or Spring 23).

See you all soon!  Excited about this project!!

My Process of Writing

Writing is a process and it needs to be taught that way. When I write, sometimes, I just write, other times I have to plan out what I want to write. There are three steps to the writing process, prewriting, writing, and rewriting. As writers, we all go through them. But it’s never the exact same, and it varies from person to person.

For me, my writing process generally includes nature in some way, whether I’m outside, staring out a window, sitting by my mom’s plants, or even just a color that reminds me of outside. Next is a comfortable place to sit, it’s often in a corner or at a desk. Last, I need the perfect pen and that’s never the same pen. I choose my pen based on what feels right in my hand at that moment. Then I can write. Granted, my process sometimes takes days, or it can take a few minutes.

“Teach Writing as a Process Not Product” by Donald M. Murray goes into detail about why teachers should teach writing as a process. He states that teachers need to take a step back and let their students go through the journey that is the process of writing. Let students discover the language they need in order to write their own truths in their own voices. To interfere with this process would be detrimental to the student’s writing.

I wasn’t taught the writing process in a helpful way. It was more forceful. We’d be sitting in class and the teacher would say we’ll be working on an essay, start brainstorming. I’d look around the room, and see most of my classmates jump straight to work, but others would be staring off at the walls, ceiling, or floor. I’d look at my blank paper and feel overwhelmed. I’d pick up my pen or pencil and it wouldn’t feel right in my hand. I couldn’t do it. Then the teacher would tell us it was time to write based on what we brainstormed. I had nothing to write because I hadn’t brainstormed anything.

Teachers want all their students to go through the process of writing but they also have to realize that everyone’s process is different.

“The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (and Why We Need to Resist)” by Mark Wiley is about Jane Schaffer’s writing formula and how teachers shouldn’t teach that as a formula but as a strategy. Schaffer gives a very basic layout that all papers should follow. The Introduction and conclusion are separate from this layout, but the body paragraphs follow the same format. Each body paragraph is broken into six sections, a topic sentence, then a concrete detail, and two commentary points. Then another concrete detail and two more commentary points. And last a concluding sentence. Schaffer claims that this format is found in high-scoring essays.

The formula is very repetitive. Therefore, it easily travels between grade levels and teachers. Having this formula is helpful to both teachers and students because they both have an understanding of what goes into an essay. This also makes it easier for teachers to grade essays because they don’t have to leave trivial comments. Students also learn to quote and comment on texts and know that their paragraphs have to have eight sentences.

Schaffer’s method works until it doesn’t. If all classes knew this method then it’d be perfect, but since not all classes know it then class time has to be devoted to teaching it and then practicing it. Also, there really isn’t a set standard for what writing really is. This is writing but so is poetry and so is Ernst Hemmingway’s six-word story “For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.” As students get into different kinds of writing, this formula may work more or less.

Using this formula as a strategy instead would help students adapt it to different kinds of writing. Everything needs a topic, that’s where this formula starts so that’s where students should start. A strategy wouldn’t be applied automatically, it couldn’t be. Students would have to think through the process instead of just plugging sentences into a format.

When I learned to write essays, we were taught every essay should have an introduction, three or four body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction would have a topic sentence, which later turned into a thesis statement as the years went on and three main points that would be in the essay. Each body paragraph would be about one of the points and the conclusion would essentially be the same as the introduction but reworded and tied the essay together.

Oftentimes, my conclusion paragraphs began with “in conclusion” because that’s what I learned. Thankfully they don’t anymore, but every now and then I do catch myself still following that same setup because it was so ingrained in me, it was automatic.

Writing and Structure . . .

When I hear the word formula automatically my mind thinks of an equation that a mathematician or a scientist are solving. The last thing that crosses my is the art of writing and creating readings through words. I feel there is truly no real “formula” to writing although there are different medians to writing (i.e. business writing, different genres of writing, academic writing, etc.) These different modes to do create the need for different teachings to understand how to get them right, but still there is no true formula to creating the these actual pieces of writing. People can have different approaches to each and still get it right, so to speak.

Teachers with early childhood students may take take the Schaffer approach and use the 5 paragraph, 8 sentence structure to introduce writing to new learners so they can develop a healthy method to tackling the way to for paragraphs and sentences. This provides a since of stucture. I feel we were all even this sheet at some point in elementary school to fill out and to guide us through the new world of writing.  As students then develop they adapt their own approach to creating and developing their writing which s important because the Schaffer approach can only hold up for so long in my opinion.

Trapping students in mode of formulaic writing keeps them limited to expanding their use of language and their creativity in writing, and this hinders growth and performance. Some teachers may focus to much on they idea of students test scores, instead of actually developing stronger writers in the classroom.  That is why most great writers are developed on their own and taught themselves through reading and creating.  They develop a style that works for them and this idea generates an audience for them.  Unfortunately some students may get lot along the way with this idea of formulaic writing, because it comes across as boring and structured.  Personally I took every creative writing class offered through middle school and high school to see what “creative” actually meant.  I found that it was just a way into seeing different ways to create writing pieces by adding your own style and flare. This helped to create my style, and once I went to University it truly showed me how much I actually love writing.

Switching gears to our group project . . . .

I’m super excited to have the opportunity to be collaborating with the group of people in our class. I feel since we are a small group we have shared a lot throughout the semester and have been able to get to know each other and this will allow for a somewhat seamless team work effort.

This issue I am having is trying to grasp every subject we have learned throughout this course and creating something to represent a little bit of everything, along with everyones specific ideas and preferences. It is very great to have this sort of freedom, but it has also left us a bit open when it comes to simple planning especially with the time we have.

My idea would be to incorporate social media, or the use of an app, so it is accessible to everyone on campus and even those who may not. Even using social media we will be able to incorporate #unboundEQ which will help to expand our reach to those involved. I want to use the social media aspect to engage those who went in the class with some sort of question and answer ideas with what they consider writing to be, their preference in literature, and maybe even how they see it fit in this modern age with social media. Engaging them with a way they have to respond will lead to more feedback, while also using some of our own writing throughout to show them examples of things we have worked on.

I feel using social media or an app may make this easier on us as a collective because its the short time period it will create a sense of ease for all of us to not only contribute but also to be able to create something easily accessible by us later to look back on, reference to, and to use when necessary.

Some themes I feel were a core part of this courses topics would be the idea of teachers understanding students through their writing, if writing is something that is able to be graded properly with the rubric style method, why looking back at the past and creation of writing has helped to shape where we are now within writing, and lastly the use of voice in writing and how it is important for each writer to create their own and generate their specific audience.

More than formulas

I still remember that in the eighth semester I had to take a subject called Essay Genres, in which they explained that essays have different structures, forms and ways of being and writing. This was a bit confusing for me because I didn’t understand why only at the end of the undergrad, we were exposed to that, why they allowed the academy to mold us to believe that the essay only had a structure. The first assignment was to write an essay about a poem, which at this point I do not remember what it was. There were 4 of us in the class and we all did exactly the same thing, an introduction, two development paragraphs and a conclusion, all with the same structure, the main idea, arguments with references and everything written in the most formal way possible.

The professor, a psychologist with postgraduate degrees in literature, was amazed at how we wrote, because it was a ctrl+c and ctrl+v. He told us that he also did not understand why this subject was in that way in the curriculum and in a long talk we concluded that the point was to break schemes, although we had to rethink and deconstruct our learning, it was something transformative. Now, with these two articles, I think about the damage that the education system has done to us and how teachers, in one way or another, fight against this to get us out of the bubble where we live. Considering essays outside the Introduction+Development+Conclusion structure was complex for me, because I am not a “creative and free” speaker/writer. I am not saying that the formula is bad, but we must know where and how to use it, in what situations and for what, the formula serves as a starting point, but not as a final judgment.

As teachers and writers, we must think beyond schemes and structure, understanding that writing is a world with different discursive modes, so students should be encouraged to explore it. I agree with the statement that writing is not a product, but a process and yes, because there would not be so many masterpieces, Nobel prizes and other wonderful texts that make the world look different without creativity, mistakes and everything that writing brings. Now as a grad student I have evidenced the power of writing and its whole process, before I knew it, but not in my own flesh, because I was unable to write what I thought and felt, writing is a process of Katharsis and constant learning that we must value. Writing is definitely a process and is much more than formulas.

Reflections

Readings

Murray’s article on product versus process was really interesting. I have thought a lot about the idea that too rigid of a rubric regarding writing assignments can stifle a student, and he makes this exact point. If the goal is to teach a process, then when assigning a very specific paper, specific topic, etc. the teacher is bombarding into the process and taking that step away. I have always said that prewriting is the hardest part for me as a writer. I just like to jump in and then see how things go and it makes sense that prewriting is difficult when, for most of my schooling, that part was done for me.

Thinking of teaching a process can be harder to grade, in my mind, so I see why product is the default. I always see how this default setting has hindered students in learning to write and in honing their writing craft.

I love the implications that Murray lists, especially giving time for students to dream and think about their topics and ideas. That is half the battle and, for me, ¾’s of the fun.

Wiley’s article discusses the idea of formulaic writing, and a specific formula called The Schaffer Approach. He talks about the positive and negatives teachers have brought up. One thing I think about it is this word “formula,” we know and have talked about the importance of words, and I think in writing the word “formula” can be problematic. If one is worried about students or any writer being stifled or too dependent on a formula, I believe it is because o the notions surrounding the word.

Many times, in mathematics, they use a formula as a one-way route of answering a problem. You use the formula, or you don’t get the right answer. We are not mathematicians. In English, a “formula” does not have to be this rigid. We can take a process, approach, step-by-step workshop, etc. and meld into what we want it to be. These “formulas” can be broken apart and we can slowly phase them in or out, or only use parts we feel are beneficial, etc. We take tools every day and work them into our lives. We don’t have to take our life and fit it into a tool. The same goes for writing and teaching. It isn’t always the tool or approach that is the issue, but how we use it that can be problematic.

Class Project

Thinking about the brainstorming session we had last class and our time constraint, I feel the best option would be the chapbook. I love all the ideas that were pitched and would love to do any of them, but I feel with each of our values and hopes for the project, this is the best route to go. We can add a digital element, find a way to get printed copies for each of us (maybe uploading it to Amazon KDP?) and find common themes that can be broken into parts for each of us. We can incorporate writing and art into it and really make it what we each want it to be.