Form Follows Function

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Form Follows Function

  • Kathleen Dudden Rowlands, Ph.D.

“Form Follows Function”

  • Spend 5 minutes writing about the above assertion.
  • What does it mean for writers?
  • What does it mean for writing teachers?

George Hillocks Research in the Teaching of English November, 2005

  • “For many years the teaching of writing has focused almost exclusively and to the point of obsession on teaching the forms of writing—the parts of paragraphs, the parts of essays, the structure of sentences, the elements of style, and so forth….teachers of and textbooks on writing have treated substance as though it were of little or no importance. The underlying assumption is that writing can be taught with little or, at best, sporadic reference to content: that once students learn the various forms, they are then prepared to write real prose—for instance, expository paragraphs or evaluative themes.”
  • “…knowledge of form does not translate into the strategies and skills necessary to wrest from the subject matter the ideas that make up a piece of writing.”

Nonfiction (Especially Academic) Writing: A Key Pattern

  • They Say…
    • What is the historical consensus on this topic?
    • What are the key positions about this issue?
  • I Say…

How Texts Are Structured

  • Time (narration)
  • Space (description)
  • Analysis (explanation)
    • Enumeration (listing)
    • Classification (grouping)
    • Parts to the whole
    • Cause and effect
    • Comparison/ contrast
  • Definition (classify and differentiate)

Extended Texts…

  • Typically use many of these structural patterns in order to develop a point or make an argument.
  • Learn (and teach students) to recognize these structures as you read and learn (and teach students) to use these organizational structures as you write.

“Says and Does”: A Way to Examine Structure

  • Read the first essay. Identify the chunk that expresses the “they say” part of the discussion.
  • Then mark the chunk of the essay that expresses the author’s claim (“I say…”).

“Says and Does”: A Way to Examine Structure

  • Now, reread, trying to identify the ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE of the various “chunks” of text (note: a “chunk” may be a single paragraph or several paragraphs).
  • Ask yourself about each chunk, “What does it DO?” (Narrate an event? Describe? Analyze something? Define something? Make a claim? Etc.)
  • When you finish, find a partner and compare and discuss your analysis.

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