Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can personal narrative find a place in academic writing?

In this week's study of my grad program at University of New England, we had to research something that we wonder, question, consider...and consider ways to implement our findings into our classes. I decided to look at writing and emotions. Transformative learning was a key term that came up time and time again. Researchers state how kids need to be motivated to write; they must care and connect to the subject in order for the writing to be authentic. Is this "allowed" in the era of high-stakes testing? Can we have kids focus on writing they care about, but push them to fix conventions? How can we marry both authenticity and explicitness?

One article "Individual Goals and Academic Literacy: Integrating Authenticity and Explicitness" (2009) Sarah Beck (2009) researched for a year a struggling student and a teacher, Mr. Redding that focused both the study of voice and conventions into his English classroom. This student struggled all year, but did succeed to do all assignments, even though they contained many grammatical mistakes. Her connections to the text, particularly the piece she wrote about Raisin in the Sun, made personal and moving connections. And, she was able to pass the state graduation test.

Just completing the position paper with my 9th graders, I ask: would their writing be more engaging if they chose a topic they had personal experience with? Or because they chose the topic, does that provide enough engagement?

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