Teaching Writing as a Social Activity Joe Flanagan Adlai E. Stevenson High School Elizabeth Kahn James B. Conant High School Tom McCann Northern Illinois University
Some ancient history Applebee, 1981: “In the observational studies, the amount of time devoted to prewriting activities averaged just over three minutes. That included everything from the time the teacher began introducing the topic until the first student began to write”
Move to a process orientation Emig (1971) Murray (2003) Graves (1983) Hillocks (1984, 1986, 1995, 1999) Macrorie (1986, 1996) Daniels and Zemelman (1988) Atwell (1998)
Changes since 1981 Applebee and Langer 2006 • more writing, more technology, more professional development But. . . . • “. . . students seem not to be given assignments requiring writing of any significant length or complexity.” • Less than a third of the students reported that interaction among peers was a common practice.
“Structured Process” Approach Applebee 1986 Key Elements • Emphasis on Elaboration • Pre-writing Activities • Emphasis on Procedural Knowledge • Reliance on Frequent Peer Interaction • Inquiry into Problems That Have Intellectual Merit • A Stage for Reflection on the Process
Bewildered in Bettendorf What should we do about Buster?
“Stock Issues” Approach Needs • What are the problems that you want to correct? (evidentiary) Significance • How significant are the problems? Where is the impact? (evidentiary) Inherency • Can we make any minor repairs? Solvency • What can you do to make matters better?
Connections to Literature • Anticipates critical issues • Engages readers in the procedures for grappling with others about the issues • Structures the situation for students to practice the thinking procedures • Attends to competing points of view
A Field of Their OwnShould the town ban the eight adolescents from playing wiffle ball on the field that they constructed? Basics: • Teens clean a vacant lot • Construct a wiffle ball field, modeled after Shibe Park • Teens spend long hours playing wiffle ball • City owns lot • Lot contributes to flood control Perspectives: • Teens • Teens’ Parents • Neighbors • Police
D’Angelo 1 said: We do think that kids should have fun, but why can't they have fun on a public ball field. They could break a window with a homerun, and even if it doesn't break I will be startled. Plus if one house floods instead of of the ground soaking up the water it will flow into someone else’s proporty. Plus when it comes time to sell my house no one will buy it if they know about the kids hanging out there. D’Angelo 5 said: We wouldn't be there during any of the neighbors' open houses. The wiffle ball field might also raise the value of houses because buyers with children will be happy that they have a wiffle ball field right in their backyard. We also cleaned up the lot and so if we didn't it would be a hazardous field. The wiffle ball wouldn't damage any windows, and if they did we would pay for the expenses. If we were too disturbing to everyone we wouldn't play wiffle ball for a week. The structures we built are made of plywood, so it would not cause flooding and if it did we would pay for it and take out the structures.
Galas 5 said: We are the teens. We are of course in support of keeping the field. We think that we did a great thing. We cleaned the field that was filled with weeds, a shopping cart, and three car wheels. We think that we could call city hall and see if the wall in the field is blocking the flood system. This could turn into a field for all kids. Like a park. Since the park would be for all kids a backstop could be added to prevent the ball from hitting the houses in the area. We think that all of our hard work would help the environment. Because of the debris that was on the field before we came. We could cut some times down to shorter hours so we are not playing late at night and disturbing the neighbors. We will try to be more courteous to them. We hope we can keep our field.
WIFFLE BALL CASE (Daphne and Lena) Eight teenagers found a lot in Media, Pennsylvania. They wanted to fix up the lot because they wanted a wiffle ball field to play in. They fixed it up with their own money and time. They changed it to look like Shibe Park. They played at the field almost every day. After what they did, the neighbors surrounding them were mad because they could be noisy and what they did was illegal. Then the neighbors called a council woman to discuss what the teenagers were doing wrong. The lot wasn’t exactly the remote place, and there were neighbors around the lot and some weren’t satisfied with having rebellious teenagers playing wiffle ball around their house. They thought that property value might go down, because people buying houses might not want teenagers to be around their house. The neighbors were worried that the kids would damage their yard and windows. The teenagers, on the other hand, thought differently. The teenagers thought that their replica of Shibe Park wasn’t a problem, and they were proud of it. They built it with 75 hours of their own time and 60 dollars from their own pockets. They don’t think that the property value will go down, but they think it would rise. The eight teenagers think that their light and hollow wiffle ball wouldn’t damage any sort of property, and if anything were to happen to the neighbors’ house or items, the kids would happily pay for it themselves. They thought what they did was community service, and their parents of the teenagers had thought so too. The parents of the teenagers were happy that they made a wiffle ball field because they wouldn’t be doing anything bad or irresponsible. They would just be playing wiffle ball with their friends. Plus, instead of playing video games, they go to the wiffle ball field to socialize and play wiffle ball. Of course, they aren’t the only adults that approve of the teenagers actions.
Some of the neighbors thought the idea wasn’t that bad. On some days when the neighbors are bored and have nothing to do, they could go to the wiffle ball field and watch the teenagers play wiffle ball. The neighbors wouldn’t be annoyed by the sounds the teenagers make, because they won’t be on the field everyday and it would be kind of pointless to file a complaint on teenagers playing wiffle ball with no harm. The merchants feel the same way. Local merchants in the town of Media are also for the replica of Shibe Park. The wiffle ball field might be an attraction to people in town, and local merchants can advertise their stores at the field. Other merchants don’t have to worry about suspicious teenagers lurking around their stores and shoplifting. Plus, the police don’t have to watch the teenagers 24/7. The police are glad that the teenagers aren’t doing anything mistrustful, but what they did do is illegal. They developed an area that wasn’t meant to be developed, which is against the law. But what they did was clean up the old lot and no harm was really done even though it was against the law. It’s still undecided whether or not the eight teenagers should be punished. We don’t think the teenagers should be able to play for about a year, until the court and police decide if they should keep the wiffle ball field. Until then, they should have a punishment like community service until the court decides. Either way, the teenagers have to be punished because they didn’t ask about developing the lot.
Dear future 5th graders, Are you looking forward to be the top of the school like we were? In 5th grade you have to write a lot of expository essays. Your probably thinking this is so boring but actually it’s not that bad because you get to write about stuff that is pretty fun to write about and you get to work with partners you get to pick. The essays usually are 5-8 paragraphs. Some of the activities we did were we had to solve a dog case when the dog got lost and solve a teen wiffle ball case. Before you write this you take notes. This helps you because it reminds you of information while you are writing a case. Also before you get in groups and each group gets a point of view. First a group talks about their point of view then another group summarizes what they say. In the groups everybody has so many ideas that you already got a ton of information in your case. In the written case the information is amazing it has descriptive writing and with a lot of information. My advices are use big words and give details and you’ll get an A+ if you do this. The teachers help kids to write by giving essay topics that they think would interest kids. They also sometimes say if you work hard and do a good essay we’ll go out for recess. Will
9th Grade Small Group Discussion of the Wiffle Ball Case Sylvia: All right, what are we saying? Hugo: Basically, these kids made their own ball field, and spent their own money . . . Greg: Our main thing was safety . . . They shouldn’t be allowed to keep the field. Hugo: They found all this weird stuff in there. What happens when some little kid falls and gets cut and infection sets in and dies? Greg: That means they made it safer for kids. That’s not going to help our position. Freda: They could hit the ball out of the field and break a window or something and make too much noise.
Sylvia: What would someone say against that? Greg: The noise thing, we live near a park and you can hear noises from kids playing and it’s no big deal. Hugo: There are unsupervised teens in an isolated area . . . Freda: And the city councilwoman has to honor the request from the neighbors to consider banning the teens. Sylvia: Wait. We are, like, arguing against everyone else?
Greg: We are arguing that these are teenage boys who are strong enough to whack the ball really hard and break a neighbor’s window. Sylvia: So, what are out reasons? Greg: It’s not safe. It’s too loud. You can’t stereotype the teens to assume that they are wholesome. The people who are trying to sell their homes, they don’t want a gang of kids hanging around.
A STRUCTURED PROCESS GATEWAY Participate in the gateway activity. COMPOSING Engage in a multiple-stage composing process. REFLECTION Reflect on the process. APPLICATION Apply the process to a new but similar situation.
Consider the Importance The process of planning instruction The emphasis on elaboration through logical development The sequence of learning experience The opportunities for peer interaction The emphasis on recognizing and evaluating multiple points of view The emphasis on framing problems, instead of assigning tasks The access to relevant information The connections to other learning