As the research saga for my writing project inquiry unfolds, it is producing several unexpected cool things. For one, I got to talk in person with Kelly Gallagher at a wonderful workshop based on his book Write Like This, hosted at Port Washington High School on June 28th, and got a lot of unexpected insight on my research topic in the process! [P.s. If you don’t already, you should probably be following Kelly Gallagher on Twitter. He retweets a lot of amazing resources, and he himself is an amazing resource. Buy his books–they are immediately useful in your writing classroom.]
Another cool thing, which happened today, is that I had a breakthrough associated with the way I want to facilitate the interactive part of my Writing Project workshop on day one of the summer institute. Since it will deal in part with writing rap lyrics for informational and argumentative purposes, I wrote one of my own as a model. The lyrics, and a link to the actual track, are below. (Yes, that’s me rapping as well.) Why not take risks? As Gallagher says, “I go, you go.” Enjoy! 🙂
Young teacher, just comin’ up: stand up, say your name, get attendance done
I had a class of kids who trusted in me to show them things about the world that they never had seen
I taught writing, putting ideas on paper and screen, how to make what you say match up what you mean
I saw young women tell stories, young men discover poetry—saw words sing like winds that
brush the leaves of birch trees.
And it would overcome me, the importance of that career choice
Even a child without a house can find a home in his voice, you know?
The power of art, resilient truth of the heart,creative visions strong enough to tear self-doubt apart:
These things are vital. They fulfill a human need—to say, “Hey, these thoughts? They come from within me.”
Wielding fiction to become an intellectual force. It means more than simply analyzing a source.
To really know how to write, you need to know how to fight—cause a motion, emotion, make words take flight.
And you would know that, if you spent time in a high school every day.
The room is filled with secret poets who have something unique to say.
After I taught for a few years more, the state adopted this idea called the Common Core,
where certain standards are set, skills that students should learn, and teachers must abide if they
expect to earn.
Looking through, I wondered where creativity went; the amount of literary writing dropped to twenty
percent, and Poetry no longer is ever required. This country’s writing curriculum is being rewired.
The guy who wrote it actually gave as his reasoning: “No one gives a shit about how you feel.”
He said that writing stories won’t lead to jobs that are real.
So what are we to do about a poverty of fiction? Trying to uphold the right to use imagination?
Discuss and debate, knowing students need to create, backing up our techniques with research done by big names.
And what’s more, we can’t be scared of what the core offers; it’s our job to skillfully train our young authors.
There are notes in the standards about teacher discretion, and it’s there where we can find the space to
alter our lessons to preserve the tradition of creating rhymes, and storytelling just like Homer in the ancient times, because words unfurled are the way to connect with the world. You know?
Informational writers might one day work at Wikipedia, but it’s the storytellers who create the new media.
A writer who makes us see through his mind’s eye is gonna be the “check out my Pulitzer Prize” guy
But even those who put literature aside after high school are smarter knowing how to use narrative as a
tool: Sell me a boat, or convince me to vote, inform my health and my views, help me relate to the news.
You need stories to do that, to touch the cares of people, to define cultural ideals about good and evil.
Listen, turn the page, press play, that’s how the themes of our era were made.
I want to put a notebook in every kid’s hand with a cover that says “make us understand.”
Using writing rich in metaphor, real life knocking down the door, getting yourself unstuck, whatever you
can drum up. Show me love or heroism, show me visions of the future.
Uncap the joy of sunlight or the pain of ripping out a suture.
Create an image, tied to a message, tied to life.
I give you freedom to actually learn how to write, where what’s real and imagined combine.
Make possibilities that you are the one to define.
You are the one to define