Does anyone else find it odd that we equate “Superbowl Sunday” with eating snack type foods and watching funny commercials more so than with football? Wait, maybe that’s just me. In the same vain, I very often forget that my students may have very different views about what they are doing in the classroom, or what the point of it all is, than I do.
I noticed, especially at the beginning of the year, that students equated breaking up their writing into paragraphs with writing an essay. They had no concept, or they did not consider it necessary to have indented paragraphs otherwise. But if I said the words “expository essay” suddenly almost every kid knew to break up their writing into five paragraphs. A very Pavlovian response. On the other hand, when the students were writing narratives, and we added metaphors and similes to make them more descriptive, most of them then equated metaphors and similes with narratives or stories. When asked to add description to their expository essays, only a handful thought to add similes or metaphors.
Which makes the whole writing test kind of interesting. You could, as a student, test very well on your expository writing, but still be very limited and inflexible when it comes to applying what you’ve learned to writing in general. Or it could go the other way as well. A student who is a very descriptive writer suddenly thinks that none of that necessarily applies to expository essays, and sticks to a writing formula, thinking that is what they are supposed to do, only to come out with something that in no way resembles their personality or usual writing style.
Too often I think I’ve gone over certain strategies and writing tools only to discover that because of their own misunderstandings students aren’t making use of what they’ve learned. It’ll be interesting to see, when we start writing persuasively, how many students will make use of what they already know, and how many will think this is a whole, brand-new and different kind of writing and will get stuck.
If learning is about being able to flexibly transfer what you know across subject areas, or across units, than I still have many students who aren’t learning and that’s something I need to work on.