Sunday, December 11, 2016
Challenge Students w/ blind-topic timed writing
My students never cease to amaze me. As a teacher of AP English Lang & Comp, I will give my students nearly thirty in-class timed writings with released AP prompts each year, and these dedicated and bright seventeen-year-olds will respond with some truly brilliant essays, crafted in 45-minutes or less. The prompts are nearly always "blind-reads," which means they will not have seen the passage or question before, and they need to simply be able to "sit down and play." That approach is part of my goal of making them, in the words of the inimicable Henry James, "People on whom nothing is lost," which is an apt description of the class expectation as explained by AP chief grader David Joliffe in his book Everday Use. Jolliffe draws from the well-known parlor metaphor first mentioned by rhetorican Kenneth Burke in his book The Philosophy of the Literary Form in 1941. My students will always be able to write well on the spur of the moment as a result of the regular challenge of being able to craft an essay off the top of their head. It is a valuable skill, and I believe that sort of challenge is - or should be - an integral part of any academic environment. Challenge students to be able to read, write, and think with little or no preparation. It will help them in all their classes, it will benefit them at the time of college and job interviews, it will assist them in becoming truly educated people. And, I am always disappointed in hearing of classes and schools where students write few essays and no in-class writing. Students need to write regularly. And being able to write on demand will mean there is probably little else they won't be able to do well. Have them write - a lot.