In thinking about the Instructional Shifts in writing being promoted by the Common Core State Standards folks, it occurred to me that I see the damage when I teach in alternate settings to my own classroom. In my classroom, I make it clear that evidenced based, objective, argumentative writing is a perfectly valid form of writing, but that it is only one of many valid forms of writing. In many classrooms however, the Instructional Shifts, plus pressure to get students to perform on computer-scored standardized tests that determine school grades, result in a narrow view of writing as just one kind of writing.
When I teach at Stetson University’s HATS Program, or in other extra-curricular environments, I meet students who tell me that the only kind of writing they are allowed to do at school is to read three essays and then write an argument to a prompt where you throw text evidence into a five-paragraph essay.
When my wife and I taught a class last year for Take Stock in Children students on how to write a college admissions essay, we got the same story. They were really kind of unaware that other kinds of writing existed. You know, personal writing, writing where you got express or explore topics of interest to you. Writing where you got to be a real person rather than a detached observer. Or a robot.
My experiences with trying to liberate students from narrow-minded, test-prep writing lessons based on Instructional Shifts, led me to write the following series of strips this summer, where Mr. and Mrs. Fitz teach the same kind of class. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
All of the above strips are based on interactions with students, statements by students, or attitudes displayed by students affected the Shifts. I am not really making much up. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. For now.