Today, a demo from the #uiwp2012 presented ways to encourage more critical thought in classrooms that encourage the plop-and-drop formulaic writing we see, say in Advanced Placement timed-writing situations. We practiced using a graphic organizer that I have seen in other similar formats. Titled, “Turning the 5 Paragraph Essay into a Thoughtful Response”, the organizer invited the intro plus three-body format, but asked for more depth. Across the top, we write our topic/prompt; below we list subtopics with support/details below; and on the back, we list out how we want our reader to feel/think about our topic before moving on to write a single, declarative sentence (that will resemble a thesis).
Many great critiques of the organizer emerged during our discussion of his demo. The one that stuck out to me was the lack of space to recognize counter-arguments. “Thoughtful” requires one to activate critical thinking skills very much a part of our 21st century curriculum expectations, and in being critical, it is absolutely necessary to consider and then dismiss the obstacles to our arguments or solutions. Of course, Common Core peeking worked its way into the discussion, too, prompting the suggestion of using this organizer in reverse to help analyze mentor texts.
Personally, I struggled with the third step — considering how you want an audience member to feel/think. I kept staring at this prompt on the graphic organizer, knowing it was where there was an invitation for voice and audience engagement. However, in my process and rush to “get it done”, I was tempted into the drawbacks of timed writing, organization, etc.. I’m left wondering, then, if this tool could help prevent the symptoms before they arise, but whether after feeling the symptoms, can you really return with further organization. I increasingly feel the victim of the disadvantages of so much formulaic writing, and today was not a day of breaking the mold necessarily.