The similarities between written and visual composition

June 5th, 2017

RenewIn Chapter 3 of her new book Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher, Shawna Coppola asks teachers to redefine and rethink what it means to “write.” “Broadening our ideas about what writing “is” can be scary, as if we are opening up a Pandora’s box,” Shawna writes. “But in all reality, continuing to teach our students writers through a narrow, outdates lens–one that, in overvaluing written composition, does not accurately tell a story about the world of writing beyond most schools and classrooms–harms their development as writers by limiting the kinds of composing they are exposed to and encouraged to practice.”

Here’s Shawna with a bit more of her thinking:

In their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, which was published in 1969, Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner write that not only have written assessments and assignments become ubiquitous in schools, but that even outside of school, “print has been the chief means of our information flow.” They go on to state that “equally certain is the fact that print no longer monopolizes man’s symbolic environment” (165).

If we were to open our favorite social media feed, or visit our favorite online news source, we would find this to be even more the case today, almost fifty years later. And yet, how many of us would argue with the fact that in today’s schools and classrooms we continue to over-emphasize (and over-value) written composition over visual composition–or even a hybrid of the two–particularly the older students get? In chapter three of my new book, Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher, I point out the similarities between written and visual composition and make a case for renewing our writing instruction by incorporating more of the latter in our (and our students’) daily lives. I also offer a variety of ways that teachers can engage students in this work, ensuring that the writing they are invited to do in school is much more reflective of the world in which they–and we–currently live.

You can learn with Shawna this summer at The University of New Hampshire’s Summer Literacy Institute. Catch her workshop titled “Writing, Redefined: Honoring the Compositional Work of ALL Students.”  Head over to the Stenhouse website to read Chapter 3 of Renew.

 

References:
Postman, Neil and Charles Weingartner. (1969). Teaching as a Subversive Activity. New York, NY:
Dell Publishing Co., Inc.

Entry Filed under: Writing

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