Reflecting on Writing



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Reflecting on Writing

  • Katie Lenox
  • Take a moment to jot down some of the reasons why you might have students reflect on their writing. What is the goal of this reflection?

Toni Morrison’s 1993 Nobel Lecture

  • Teens: “I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
  • Wise, blind woman: “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
  • Morrison: “I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer…she thinks of language as susceptible to death” (Nobel Lecture, 268).

Language and Identity

  • Anzaldứa “wrote as if her life depended on it…she saw that it did…Her lesson to each of us: that one takes oneself and one’s life into one’s own hands and gives it the possibility of existence” (Pinkvoss).
  • “From [Gloria] Anzaldứa I learned most directly that all people have a chance to create and recreate themselves” (Lunsford).
  •  
  • “Why should we care? Because language expresses identity” (Crystal, 36).
  • “Writing…is a means of defining the self and defining reality” (Rose qtd. in Nagin, 24).

Rationale Reflection may encourage students to:

  • Understand the importance of writing and its role in shaping identity.
  • Understand the power of words and the responsible and irresponsible uses of language.
  • Reflect on their growth as writers and thinkers.
  • Notice patterns in their writing and thinking.
  • Identify areas of strength and of need.
  • Become aware of author’s craft.
  • Take a moment to jot down a few of the ways that you ask (or can imagine asking) students to reflect on their writing.

Ways to encourage students to reflect on the importance of their writing:

  • Toni Morrison
  • Claudia is the narrator; she has the power
  • to tell the story and she survives.
  • Pecola is the victim of irresponsible language; her insanity comes because language limits her. She can never attain the image of the blue eyed girl, she will never be the “Jane” character in the Dick and Jane stories, and these are the images that society, through language, sets up as the ideal. The message of language - the language of school, of children’s taunts, of the media, of her community - teaches Pecola that she is inferior and the message destroys her.
  • 2. Introduce students to texts, authors and
  • characters who reflect on the importance of writing.

2. Introduce students to texts, authors and characters who reflect on the importance of writing.

  • Sherman Alexie
  • “One story will teach us how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours; the third story will give us reason to dance” (“Powwow at the End of the World”).
  • “I didn’t literally kill Indians. We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language…Everything…We were trying to kill Indian culture” (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, 35).
  •    

2. Introduce students to texts, authors and characters who reflect on the importance of writing.

  • Tim O’Brien
  • “ For more than twenty years I’ve had to live with it, feeling the shame, trying to push it away, and so by this act of remembrance, by putting the facts down on paper, I’m hoping to relieve at least some
  • of the pressure on my dreams”
  • (O’Brien , 43).

2. Introduce students to texts, authors and characters who reflect on the importance of writing.

  • Elie Wiesel
  • “Why did I write it? Did I write it so as not
  • to go mad…leave behind a legacy of words,
  • or memory…or was it simply to preserve a record…I also knew that, I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them…I watched helplessly as language became an obstacle... Writing in my mother tongue – at that point close to extinction – I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again. I would conjure up other verbs, other images, other silent cries. It still was not right” (Wiesel, vii-vix).

3. Ask good questions; work with rich concepts.

  • Essential Question:
  • Why do people read and write?
  •  
  • Essential Understandings:
  • Literacy (reading, writing, and viewing with a critical “eye”): is
  • a means for us to discover and construct ourselves, each other, and the world.
  • a tool by which individuals and cultures may be defined by others and by which they may work to define themselves.
  • a tool for survival and has been used as a tool for destruction.
  • There are responsible and irresponsible uses of language.

4. Give students ample opportunity to reflect on their own writing and on themselves as writers.

  •  
  • Golden Lines
  • Mining Your Journals
  • During the past semester we have written for 7-10 minutes almost every day. That is a lot of writing! Embedded in this writing, you all have golden lines. This could mean any number of things: good writing (you describe something in a cool way, you use a unique pairing of words) and good thinking (you express a deep thought, you reveal something about who you are). Underline the golden lines you come across in your journal. After mining these golden lines, please:
  • Write about what these lines reveal about you and your beliefs about life. In whatever way you see fit (a double entry style chart, a reflective essay, a letter), write about what these lines, and your journal writes in general, reveal about you. Be as specific as you can. (i.e. This line reveals that I consider people’s comfort more important than freedom because… OR This shows how much I value my family because…)
  • Write about what these lines reveal about your writing and your beliefs about writing. In whatever way you see fit (a double entry style chart, a reflective essay, a letter), write about what these lines, and your journal writes in general, reveal about your writing – your style, your voice, your understanding of the power of words. Be as specific as you can.

4. Give students ample opportunity to reflect on their own writing and on themselves as writers.

  • Personal Philosophy 
  • Creating a personal philosophy is a bit like crafting a mission statement for your life. Businesses and organizations have mission statements to give themselves direction and to tell the world what they stand for. Schools have them too. The personal philosophy will be the your statement about who you are and what you stand for. It should be something you can return to over the years. In it, you will reflect what you believe about how you treat yourself, others and the world.
  •   
  • Components
  • Your Personal Philosophy will have:
  • A mission statement of your beliefs.
  •   Then (in separate paragraphs) examinations of what you believe about:
  •   yourself,
  • other people, and
  • the world (school, work, nature, and/or government).
  •  
  • Notes:
  • Each body paragraph should:
  • relate to the mission statement.
  • refer to at least one of the course texts, for a total of three texts.
  • refer to at least one personal experiences, for a total of three experiences.

4. Give students ample opportunity to reflect on their own writing and on themselves as writers.

  • Humanities
  • Transition from
  • 10th to 11th Grade
  • Please think about yourself as a learner within the Humanities. Write a letter to your next year’s English and social studies teachers that expresses the following:
  • 1) Describe yourself as learner: what will you need from your teachers next year, and what will you bring to the classroom community next year?
  • 2) Explain how you’ve grown as a reader and as writer during the current school year. Use specific examples from Humanities to explain your self-assessment.
  • 3) Share anything else you think your next year’s teachers should know about you and how you learn.
  • Dear Next Year’s English & Social Studies Teachers,

4. Give students ample opportunity to reflect on their own writing and on themselves as writers.

  • Course Reflection
  • Below we have listed several of the CHS Humanities Department’s “Common Belief Statements about Writing Instruction.” Read each carefully. After each one, write about how the writing and reading you have done this year has helped support these belief statements. Please also give us suggestions about improvement.
  • Writing Belief Statements
  • 1. The more people write, the better they get at writing.  
  • 2. People write best when they care about what they are writing.
  •     
  • 3. People tend to care more about writing when it’s real and they have some choices about what they write.  
  •   
  • 4. Good writers work intensively on revising and editing some pieces of writing and view writing as a process.

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • Essay Contest
  • (Prompt: Write about a time something seemed to be bad, but turned out to be good.)
  • “I didn’t really grow as a writer this year, but what did change was how I viewed myself as a writer. I wrote a lot about the realizations I made about myself, others and the world this year. I realized that I am in charge of my own identity and I won’t let labels define who I am. Sharing my writing during the poetry slam unit started my thinking about this.”

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  •  
  •  
  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “I used to make grocery lists for my dad. My parents and I would leave notes on the kitchen table.”
  • (Prompt: Kitchen Table)
  • “Those early writings helped me realize the importance of clarity and expression. I have kept a journal for the past few years. It helps me to express myself.
  • Looking at poems and essays I wrote in the past year or two and comparing them with older papers, I can see that I have grown as a writer. Those countless journal entries helped me to progress. The techniques I learned in school not only helped to improve my writing, but also aided in improving my oral skills. My improved oral skills have in turn provided me with more confidence when I present in front of others. More confidence has helped me to be successful in interviews, and has made it easier to get to know new people I meet…My writing skills have opened many doors for me and created opportunities that I didn't think I would ever have. I know that as my writing continues to improve, the number of opportunities available to me will also increase, and I truly believe that great future experiences will be the result of having a strong foundation in writing.”

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  •  
  •  
  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “It is through writing that we are able to put our own selves and everything around us into perspective. Writing is not the act of putting a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard, writing is something intangible, a stringing together and emptying of what’s in your mind at any moment. The most important thing in life is, arguably, just to know yourself. This requires some serious self-reflection, and a way to make that reflection purposeful and permanent in some way. Writing is what gives these reflections purpose, and makes them permanent. What I’m getting at here is essentially that over time, writing is able to make us wise. When you write about something, anything— the smell of your Great Aunt Sally’s dog’s paws (grass and cement), you’re really piecing together what you know about the world, you’re analyzing the details of the bank of knowledge within yourself. I have discovered what it means to write. I have discovered how to look at a blank page and fill it. I have discovered what the filling means to me. It means that I can understand myself, understand the world, and help others to do the same, just by writing it down.

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “In Elephant Man, when everyone is afraid of John, they judge him as a freak, a monster, and they think of him as something sub-human. I know that this will sound cheesy, but people should treat each other with the respect that they deserve.”
  • “People have the right to dress, talk, act, and spend time with whoever they want, without fears of being looked at funny. People who say mean things about me or people who spread untrue rumors usually don’t know me as a person. They haven’t talked to me. They haven’t read my journal and they never will. They may know of me, but they don’t know who I really am or where my attitude and thoughts come from.”
  • “I wear what I want just because it reflects me as a person. The risk of being original is worth it even if some people don’t like you.”
  • (Prompt: Risk Taking)
  • “I wrote about not being a goth but being my own person with my own style. I also wrote a lot about taking risks. Both of these things relate to writing. I wear want just because it reflects me as a person. I’m creative so I think the risk of being original is worth it. The same is true for writing. I have my own style and I take risks.”

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “In Into the Wild, Chris goes to Alaska to open his knowledge base and learn about the wild.”
  • (Prompt: Risk taking)
  • “When I was fourteen years old, I came to the US from Vietnam. I learned a new language, custom and culture. One has to go outside of what one knows and then one will experience how it feels.
  • Everyday I try to learn some new vocabulary. When there is something that I really do not know or if I get stuck, I usually visit the Writers’ Workshop to ask for help. I prepare to improve my English. ”

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “In our society, freedom of speech is a covited thing, but is your speech really free?”
  • (Prompt: Banned Books Week)
  • “Freedom of expression should not be limited. To express yourself is the only true thing you can do for yourself.”
  • “When I mom came to me one day and told me that we were moving across the country to a state called Vermont, I was distraught.”
  • (Prompt: Change)
  • “Everyone has different experiences and the only way people can know about your experiences is if you write them.”

Student Work Typed exactly as written

  • Golden Lines
  • Reflection
  • “I fell like that I can relate to myself to the book Into the Wild and the movie Elephant Man that we had to read and watch in class. My experiences are like the elephant man’s and it has made me who I am to this day.”
  • “My experiences have made me who I am to this day. A time I have been picked on and didn’t know what to do at the time or right in the moment bust as time went on I started sticking up for myself. I tried to just deal with and not listen to it. I let the constant nagging and picking go one for about a couple of weeks, then it got to the point were I simply had to end it. In the end I know fighting isn’t the best solution. From here on and out the next time something like this comes up or try’s to step and foot on my plate that I am going to try to talk to the person, if that doesn’t work then if it leads to fighting then so be it.”
  • What did you notice when doing the assignment? When looking at student work?

Resources

  •  
  • Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.
  •    
  • --- “The Powwow at the End of the World.” Poetry Foundation. 30 July 2009. .
  •   
  • Anzaldứa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 3rd ed. San Francisco, Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
  •  
  • Crystal, David. Language Death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  •   
  • Lunsford, Andrea. “Embracing Borderlands: Gloria Anzaldua and Writing Studies.” 30 July 2009.
  • .
  •  
  • Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
  •  
  • ---Nobel Lecture. Nobelprize.org. 7 December 1993. 30 July 2009. .
  •  
  • --- “The Site of Memory.” Inventing the Truth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
  •  
  • --- “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. University of Michigan,
  • 7 October  1998.
  • Momaday, N. Scott. The Man Made of Words. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998.
  • Nagin, Carl and the National Writing Project. Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in our Schools. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2006.
  •   
  • Ortiz, Simon. “The State’s claim that it seeks in no way to deprive.” An Anthology of New Mexican Poets after 1960. Edited by Lee Bartlett, V.B. Price, Dianne
  • Edenfield Edwards. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 2004.   


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