Teaching Writing as Journey, Not Destination

Essays Exploring What “Teaching Writing” Means

P. L. Thomas, Furman University

Published 2019

American author Kurt Vonnegut has famously declared that writing is unteachable, yet formal education persists in that task. Teaching Writing as Journey, Not Destination is the culmination of P.L. Thomas’s experiences as both a writer and a teacher of writing reaching into the fourth decade of struggling with both.

This volume collects essays that examine the enduring and contemporary questions facing writing teachers, including grammar instruction, authentic practices in high-stakes environments, student choice, citation and plagiarism, the five-paragraph essay, grading, and the intersections of being a writer and teaching writing. Thomas offers concrete classroom experiences drawn from teaching high school ELA, first-year composition, and a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses. Ultimately, however, the essays are a reflection of Thomas’s journey and a concession to both writing and teaching writing as journeys without ultimate destinations.

Preface: Creating Space for Writers to Happen, Kristen Marakoff. Introduction: Teaching Writing as Journey, Not Destination. SECTION I: ACCOUNTABILITY, STANDARDS, AND HIGHSTAKES TESTING OF WRITING. Adventures in Nonsense: Teaching Writing in the Accountability Era. Why You Cannot Trust Common Core Advocacy. Misguided Reading Policy Creates Wrong Lessons for Students as Writers. Reformed to Death: Discipline and Control Eclipse Education. SECTION II: BEING A WRITING TEACHER. A Community of Writing Teachers. Fostering the Transition From Student to Writer. Who Can, Who Should Teach Writing? Writing, Unteachable or Mistaught? What Does “Teaching Writing” Mean? SECTION III: BEING A WRITER. A Portrait of the Artist as Activist: “In the Sunlit Prison of the American Dream.” Teaching, Writing as Activism? Three Eyes: Writer, Editor, Teacher. Writing Versus Being a Writer. SECTION IV: CHOICE. Student Choice, Engagement Keys to Higher Quality Writing. SECTION V: CITATION AND RESEARCH PAPERS. On Citation and the Research Paper. Technology Fails Plagiarism, Citation Tests. Real-World Citation Versus the Drudgery of Academic Writing. SECTION VI: CREATIVE WRITING. On Writing Workshop, Cognitive Overload, and Creative Writing. Appreciating the Unteachable: Creative Writing in Formal Schooling. SECTION VII: DIAGRAMMING SENTENCES. Diagramming Sentences and the Art of Misguided Nostalgia. SECTION VIII: DIRECT INSTRUCTION. Reclaiming “Direct Instruction”. SECTION IX: DISCIPLINARY WRITING. Writing as a Discipline and in the Disciplines. Reading Like a Writer (Scholar): Kingsolver’s “Making Peace”. Intersections and Disjunctures: Scholars, Teachers, and Writers. Helping Students Navigate Disciplinary Writing: The Quote Problem. SECTION X: FIRST-YEAR COMPOSITION. You Don’t Know Nothing: U.S. Has Always Shunned the Expert. Is Joseph R. Teller Teaching Composition All Wrong? SECTION XI: FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY. How the 5-Paragraph Essay Fails as Warranted Practice. John Warner Swears Off Essays, and Students? (Yes, and So Should Everyone). Seeing the Essay Again for the First Time. SECTION XII: GENRE AWARENESS. Investigating Zombi(e)s to Foster Genre Awareness. O, Genre, What Art Thou? SECTION XIII: GRADING. Rethinking Grading as Instruction: Rejecting the Error Hunt and Deficit Practices. Not How to Enjoy Grading but Why to Stop Grading. The Nearly Impossible: Teaching Writing in a Culture of Grades, Averages. SECTION XIV: GRAMMAR. Lost in Translation: More From a Stranger in Academia. Teaching Literacy, Not Literacy Skills. Fostering Convention Awareness in Students: Eschewing a Rules-Based View of Language. Not If, But When: The Role of Direct Instruction in Teaching Writing. On Common Terminology and Teaching Writing: Once Again, the Grammar Debate. SECTION XV: LABRANT, LOU. “We Teach English” Revisited. Teaching Writing in ELA/English: “Not Everything to Do, But Something.” To High School English Teachers (and All Teachers). Scapegoat. Teaching English as “The Most Intimate Subject in The Curriculum.” Teaching Literacy in Pursuit of “A Wholesome Use of Language.” SECTION XVI: LITERACY AND THE LITERARY TECHNIQUE HUNT. Formal Schooling and the Death of Literacy. SECTION XVII: PLAGIARISM. “Students Today...”: On Writing, Plagiarism, and Teaching. Plagiarism: Caught Between Academia and the Real World. SECTION XVIII: POETRY. What Makes Poetry, Poetry? Teaching Essay Writing Through Poetry. SECTION XIX: PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL (WRITING FOR THE PUBLIC). Writing for the Public: A Framework. SECTION XX: PUBLISHING Advice for Submitting Work for Publication. SECTION XXI: READING LIKE A WRITER. Guided Activity: More Reading Like a Writer. SECTION XXII: RUBRICS. Ken Lindblom’s “Is Interesting to Read” and the Rubric Dilemma Redux. More on Failing Writing, and Students. Models, Mentor Texts, and (More) Resisting Rubrics. SECTION XXIII: TEACHING ENGLISH. Readers, Writers, Teachers, and Students: “The Pointlessness of So Much of It.” Analogies Like Land Mines: Treading Carefully When We Discuss Teaching Writing. SECTION XXIV: WRITING PROCESS. Writing as Discovery: When Process Defaults to Script. Conclusion: The Struggle Itself. About the Author.