Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How should writing be taught in schools?

Apparently, according to an article in The Observer, the Brits are a bit concerned about the future of writing in their dear old language. As such, they are giving out an award for good writing, in an attempt to motivate students and teachers to improve.

First off, I don't like systems of incentives, but that's another topic for another day.

But, secondly, this article points out that reading skills are stressed in schools, but writing skills aren't. As such, students are often much further along with their reading than their writing.

I don't believe that standards in my generation and younger are declining; in fact, I believe it to be quite the opposits.
But it is true that schools have been failing students for a while, when it comes to teaching and honing writing skills. I remember being told how important reading was; not so much was writing emphasized. Writing for young people should definitely be encouraged and helped.

Theories on teaching composition and writing are pretty weird, and need some revision. English teachers set up how they want essays to go, laying out everything it should include, even what order sentences should go in (concrete detail, commentary, commentary, anyone?). As a student, this was really frustrating to me. For me, and I'm sure many other students, this approach was much more of a hindrance than a help.

Writing is a craft and a skill that is largely self-taught. A lot of what we learn about good writing is through reading good writing, and attempting to emulate it. Good writing is the result of practice.

Writing and practice should be emphasized, but it should be more exploratory and less compulsory.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creative Writing Opportunity

Arcadia is a new literary journal founded by the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma. Its first issue will be out in the Spring of 2010, and will focus on writing that demonstrates a strong use of voice and place.

The journal stated that it is "particularly interested in helping young writers establish their voices within the literary community." They are accepting fiction, poetry and drama; submissions are due by March 1, 2010.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pre-Professional Conference: a Review

The Pre-Professional Conference, which took place on Oct. 8, featured workshops and presentations on writing and literature for students in the English Department at BYU-Idaho.

One of the presentations was given by James Richardson, head of the Creative Writing Departments at Princeton University. He discussed writing, and how students who wish to become successful creative writers can improve their skills. Richardson emphasized how difficult and important it is to strike a balance between being too accepting and too critical of one's own work.

Some tips Richardson gave included:
"Read a lot."
"You have to read your own work, un-self-protected."
"Space, openness, and freedom ... that's what writing is about."
"If you can't revise it, the best revision is the next poem."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

English Emphasis 2: Literary Studies

The Literary Studies emphasis offers students the opportunity to “Experience and appreciate literature as a reflection and an enrichment of the human condition,” according to the English department’s Web site. It may be most beneficial to students who wish to continue their studies in graduate school, and those who wish to pursue a career as a professor, literary critic, or scholar of literature.

“I love good literature and I enjoy what it can teach you about society and people,” said Matt Montoya, a junior with an emphasis in literary studies. “I want to go to grad school to continue studying English, and eventually become a professor.”

Literary studies focuses on the development of literary analysis, research and library skills, and knowledge of critical theories and major movements within literature, courses required for this emphasis include upper-level studies of critical theories and culture of literature and language. English majors emphasizing in literary studies will also be required to take an additional six credits beyond the literary classes required for all English majors. With this emphasis, students can expect to graduate with a collection of their own analytical papers focused on literature.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The EAS Pre-Professional Conference

The Pre-Professional Conference took place Thursday, Oct. 8 in the Gordon B. Hinckley building. The English Academic Society put the annual conference together, which their Web site described as “the biggest event for English majors and minors …”

English majors and minors were excused from regular classes to attend the conference, which featured workshops, panel discussions and readings. The keynote speakers were successful writers Nicole Mazzarella, author of “This Heavy Silence”, and James Richardson, chair of the creative writing deparement at Princeton, who both gave readings that evening at 7 p.m. Mazarella also held a Q-and-A from 2 to 4 p.m.

Jason F. Wright, author of “Christams Jars,” was also attending at the conference.

Students were encouraged to submit works to the English department. The categories of submissions included: poetry, literary analysis of British and American literature, creative nonfiction and fiction. Students with winning submissions were given the opportunity to give a reading of their work from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Panel discussions and workshops were offered to each of the English emphases (literary studies, professional writing, creative writing and education). Some topics discussed included how to prepare for graduate school, writing poetry and novels, writing professionally and preparing to teach.

In addition, Wright attended a few English classes outside of the conference. In one advanced creative writing class, he talked about how he gets ideas for stories. Wright outlined the process of getting a manuscript published and gave some advice to students who wished to write and get published.

"The 'nos' are going to come," Wright said. "Just keep writing."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

English Emphasis 1: Education

The education emphasis focuses on “classroom management skills and a theory of language arts instruction,” according to BYU-Idaho’s English Department Web site. It is ideal for students who wish to pursue a career in teaching or instruction within the language arts.

The education emphasis includes classes that focus on teaching methods, particularly with regards to theories on instruction in literature and composition. This will provide students with the confidence and capacity to lead classroom discussions, manage a classroom, and create curriculum that will interest, involve and instruct.

“I’m learning what it takes to be a good teacher, how to relate to students, to work effectively with coworkers,” Adams said. “I get to go to the middle school once a week and practice what I’m learning.”

Students will graduate with a portfolio of sample curriculum, units and lesson plans appropriate for language arts class.