Welcome to the Northern Virginia Writing Project’s 2016 Invitational Summer Institute! I’ll be blogging the demonstration lessons and the various activities occurring during our four-week duration. Find out more about the NVWP and the National Writing Project.
M&Ms: Multigenre Presentations and Metacognitive Thinking
Kyle’s presentation deals with multigenre writing. For anyone unfamiliar with multigenre writing, the following infographics should help. Multigenre writing is exactly what it sounds like: a piece or collection of pieces drawing from the characteristics and styles of more than one genre. Tom Romano is the name most associated with multigenre writing.
Kyle’s presentation begins with disengagement. He noticed that many of his students wrote stagnant, repetitive, and formulaic compositions. So he began allowing students to create really any sort of object in response to their reading. While students appeared engaged (who wouldn’t be when your teacher lets you bake a cake for an assignment?), Kyle realized the students weren’t pushing and stretching themselves in terms of writing. Kyle offers the following reasons to explain why he chose multigenre writing as a classroom problem to explore:
Quickwrite Prompt: What is genre? What is style?
Genre is a socially agreed upon set of stylistic conventions unique to a particular type of text. Style. Hmm. This one is tougher. Style is the result of the various techniques consistently employed by an author. Syntax, mood, tone, point of view, etc.
We share out. A partner says genre is the ‘what’ and style is the ‘how.’ I like this. Someone else says style is the manifestation of voice. Content and style have a symbiotic relationship informing each other. Kyle says that when we talk about multigenre we have a tendency to get hung up on just the genre component. We’re also talking about differences in style and form as well as genre.
Quickwrite: Write as many genres of writing as you know in 45 seconds!
Historical fiction – sci fi – romance – young adult – fan fiction – bio/autobio – fantasy – folktales – personal narrative – essay – nonfiction – poetry – epistolary – tweets / blogs – profiles – academic writing – graphic novels – drama – songs – dystopian – (I added these last few after listening to my awesome partners)
We list like a billion of them. I bolded the ones I like to write in the most. It’s not necessarily that I like these genres more, actually; it’s that these are the genres I’m most comfortable writing in. I think I need to stretch myself more. Someone else says that the genres they enjoy reading the most are the ones they don’t want to write. I can identify with that statement. I LOVE reading fiction but I never write it.
We must write everything we ask our students to write, by the way. This is an important component not only of the Writing Project but also one of the few things that could probably be considered ‘best practices.‘ Helping students write free verse poetry without having struggled through writing it myself isn’t effective.
Next we read and annotate Cottontail by George Bogin:
We all annotated for different things: figurative language, transition words, participials, beginnings and endings of lines, polysemy, etc. Next Kyle asks us to showcase one of the author’s move by writing about it in a different genre. Like writing an op-ed about the state of gun control. Let’s give this a shot.
Wanted: Vocabulary averse author looking for parts of speech to help spruce up a poem. Please respond ASAP as situation is extremely dire.
Response: Dear Sir, I write to you in response to your want ad. After pontificating upon your desire I sat down to pen this response, shaking as I am from the potential responsibility involved in writing this missive. I’m frequently called upon to decorate, traipsing through text, illuminating meanings, improving diction.
I tried to highlight the author’s use of participials in this want ad. Others wrote op-eds about childhood trauma and etc. This is a difficult assignment, but it’s a good type of difficulty. Heads are steaming and teeth are gnashing in the best way.
The final part of Kyle’s lesson involves us writing a multigenre response to Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates. Choose a thesis or literary theory with which to explore the text. Then using that as a lens, create five different works (genre and/or style) to analyze the text. This task requires manipulating and applying several knowledge bases.
OK. Maybe I can view this story through the lens of process pedagogy. Let’s see if I can reduce this story to a series of stages involving the continuous refinement and growing of an idea through the iterative and recursive process of writing. I’ll also switch the perspective to focus on Friend instead of Connie (BTW the following won’t make sense unless you’ve read the short story. Which you should because it’s amazing and super creepy). This lens could work because Friend has to revise his approach a number of times in response to his audience (Connie). He’s making rhetorical moves to achieve his purpose.
–Prewriting: Friend sees Connie at the movie theater. The idea is born.
–Drafting: Friend visits Connie at her home and asks her to come with him.
–Revising: Sensing Connie’s reticence, Friend revises his approach to include implications of violence against Connie’s family.
–Editing: Watching Connie start to ‘break,’ Friend edits, polishes, and refines his revised approach of violence by widening the scope to include violence against not only Connie’s family but her house and her own life.
–Publishing: Friend’s rhetorical moves are successful and Connie comes out to meet him.
Although Friend hasn’t necessarily ‘grown‘ his idea,
Whew! That was tough to do in only a short amount of time. Multigenre thinking is powerful stuff, because it forces the brain to break down something, understand the way parts contribute to a whole, and then apply that understanding to a new object, an object with its own rules and contexts. There’s a lot of opportunity to get something wrong in this process, but that’s a good thing. Teachers must develop a more nuanced understanding of error as concomitant to growth. Time for a break!