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!!

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