“He demands to be let go of, but the officer doesn’t listen. He looks anxious and you fear for your father’s life. They can’t hurt him; he is innocent. But will they? Police brutality is a story told all too often; but the whole story is rarely ever revealed. That it is the end of the introduction and the beginning of my argument. When I first tried writing this, it was really difficult for me. After struggling to try each different style, I finally wrote one that I was really proud of. I read it back and it was so much more sophisticated and intriguing. It made me realize … I can write something really good.” –Nicole
This excerpt is from a reflective essay our sophomores write at the end of the semester to examine their growth as a writer and a thinker. We all agree — to a sophomore English teacher — that this is the most valuable piece of writing they do all year, not just to us but to them. Here, N. quotes from her own writing, in this case a revised introduction to her critical review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I used the brilliant lesson on introductions to media reviews in Marchetti and O’Dell’s Beyond Literary Analysis, in which students draft a few different approaches to a lead. Nicole’s reflection on her own work captures everything (or, almost) that makes workshop so meaningful.
So, for this blog post, I’m going to let them “speak” for themselves.
On form and content …
“I’ve always dreaded English class as a student. Teachers have usually ordered me around and told me exactly what they wanted me to write. … By having my previous teachers lay out my entire essay in front of me, I felt that I was writing from their perspective instead of my own. This left me unsure of what kind of writer I was and dislike the pieces I wrote.” — Mia
“Through all the narratives and visual analysis and media reviews, this semester has exposed me to new types of writing other than the standard 5 paragraph essay that we would write a lot in freshman year.” — Kyle
“Freshman year, we had to write long papers about pre-chosen topics that followed very strict guidelines. This year is different because the focus has been on the details and content more so than the length of our writing.” –Carly
On process …
“The way we start to write papers in this class is my favorite. The writing process is some ideas in the notebook, then a draft, and finally the best revision. I love this because it gives us so many chances to my our papers or assignments better.” — Joe
“Sometimes just thinking off my head my thoughts overlap and the voice of one idea gets turned down by another, which makes it hard to get an idea for the topic. But if I have the ideas out in front of me first, I can make them make sense.” –Shawn
“My biggest success this quarter was being able to take a draft and revise it. … The ability to write a draft with no limits is amazing because you don’t have to worry about hitting checkpoints. I have just been able to start a draft by just writing whatever comes to heart.” — Carly
“Since I could only use 100 words, I had to shorten it to “Sand got in my hair as waves crashed in and out of tide” by taking out the word “the.” I actually liked this change because I thought it made the writing sound more like poetry. This helped shape my understanding of the writing process, because you might end up making changes that you would have never thought of, but they end up surprising you.” –Rachel
On choice …
“The writing process is easy to me but it depends on the subject I’m gonna write on. Some subjects I’m stronger at than others.” — Zavion
“Analysis writing wasn’t as bad as I thought because I got to write about music artist of my choice and put into a journalist type of format.” — Shawn
“I found that when you are writing about a topic you actually care about it feels more natural. … I was able to turn a mediocre piece into something I was actually proud of.” — Mia
[On the other hand]
“The media review was very challenging for me. I don’t know why because I was writing about video games, which I am very fond of. My best guess is that I didn’t know how to integrate something I think so highly of into an essay format.” — Joe
On voice …
“When I look back at my own work from years ago I don’t recognize myself because I wasn’t writing like myself.” — Chloe
“I feel as if I am writing as Jack and that my voice stands in my writing clearly, along with my personality and the factors that make me who I am.” — Jack
That’s one of the many things I like in myself, when I’m writing a narrative I always draw the person in and capture their attention. — Zavion
[I’ll take it!] “There have been a lot of things that have changed about me since I was a freshman. Liking to write is not one of them … [but] I hate it a little less now.” — Jaylin
But it’s this sentence from Alethea’s reflection that stopped me cold. Wait for it …
“I would like to use a better vocabulary in my writing, and continue to develop my own voice, and recover from writing like someone else for so long.” [emphasis added]
Paradigm shift, anyone?
What are you thinking?