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By: Anna Cmolik
When you think about it, everything you do in life is at least a little bit creative and unique to you. Even when you are brushing your teeth or turning on your car, there is at least the tiniest spark of your own creativity to the specific process of how you go about doing so. But let‟s say, your friend says to you, „Oh! You brush your teeth with your mouth open? Well that sure is weird‟ or „The way you turn on your car on and immediately turn on the air conditioner is going to mess your engine up you know!‟. This, even though it may just be a comment on an interesting fact or a helpful comment, depending on the way it‟s presented, may cause you a little embarrassment and make you change the way you brush your teeth or start your car from now on. It may cause you to feel and do this because obviously your friend thinks there is a better way to do those things, and so you listen to them. The same is with writing. No matter what you are writing, whether it is a poem or an academic article, such as this one, everything you write contains some major creativity. But if a teacher were to mark up your paper with many so many red marks to fix your grammar and punctuation errors, and then comment on whatever it is you wrote with a negative, generic comment such as, “Did you even proofread this?” or “This is very confusing”, it can cause you some great distress. It could cause you to completely scrap all the creative thoughts and points you were trying to make with your unique structure and ideas, and conform to what the teacher thinks is best since they are going to be the person grading you. That is what I am trying to prove. So many people have written about how important creativity is in writing curriculums and everyday life, countering the argument that creative writing classes are simply just an elective like writing course and don‟t do much for the student. So many people have also written about grading, and how a teacher should grade and how all those red marks on
Cmolik 2 a paper or the comments they leave can affect a student or upset them. But even still, very little people have given the thought to how these comments and proofreading marks can affect a student‟s creativity and their desire to be creative when writing. When teachers go about marking every little grammar or spelling error and leaving such unhelpful, generic comments on student‟s papers, it can cause them to give up hope in themselves and their writing ability. That is why when teachers grade or look at papers, they need to not think about pointing out every little error or mistake, or telling students how their ideas are unclear and the point they are trying to make isn‟t very strong, but instead, while doing so, suggest another option or question the student to make them think about what they have written. This way, students won‟t feel as if them and there writing is being attacked and will continue to write with the creative insight that every good written work needs. When many English teachers and scholars alike think of creative writing, many of them think it is just a silly elective class, that is more fun than it is work and writing. But what they don‟t realize is every piece of work any person writes or has written is creative writing. David McVey even goes as far as saying “…any writing, from the published instructions for using a power drill to the most esoteric literary poetry, uses the raw materials of language, experience, knowledge, textual sources, and the author‟s own ideas and imaginings to bring something into existence that did not exist before.” (McVey 289). When we are writing academic research papers, in order for them to be great, they require a great deal creative thinking. When one decides on the layout or structure of a paper, how they are going to address or argue certain points, or even when deciding how each citation or quote from a source is going to flow into the paper nicely, we are using creative thinking to do so. Even if two different students in the same class were presented with a very specific topic for a paper and given the same sources and quotes
Cmolik 3 to use, there papers would turn out completely different because each student would take a different creative view on what they were given and argue it in a way unique to them alone. They would each be able to give different insights to the material and look at it in different ways because of the experiences they each had in life. Creative writing also benefits the student by teaching and giving them the experience and knowledge to be able to relate themselves to anything and everything in the world, which can come in handy in every kind of writing (Everett 238). Nancy Welch, a well-known promoter of creative writing states that “…a rhetorical education is all about: learning to critically examine and creatively respond to rhetorical strategies (including those of image-making, dream-weaving, and storytelling) that writers (including writers of expository prose) daily rely upon.” (Welch 118). Richard Lloyd-Jones counters the importance of creativity being involved in writing by saying that “Those who write creatively, who produce other than conventional responses need more time, less pressure, and frequent stimuli to get out of the old rut.”(Lloyd-Jones 263). But when you think about it, is there such thing as a conventional response? Like I‟ve already stated, each response or written work is unique to the writer alone, so if it takes someone a little more time, less pressure, or more encouragement to write, that is based on simply who the person is, not if they write more creatively than someone else. Schools kill creativity. Think about it. All the rules about what a student can and can‟t wear and about what they can and can‟t do, even though they are justified in every way, they still inhibit a student from being able to express themselves and their personality through their actions and the way they dress, limiting their creativity. Unfortunately, student‟s ability to be creative when writing is also limited, not by rules though however, but by grades. Grades are what most often keep students from taking the risk of leaping off the cliff while writing and trying a
Cmolik 4 technique or something completely new and foreign to them. Grades also keep students from wanting to be themselves in the way the right, for fear of the teacher disagreeing with them and receiving a bad grade. Grades are a great thing, don‟t get me wrong, it allows for a student to have a goal to reach for and most often, when a child receives a good grade, they have a desire to get an even better grade (Dunstan and Smith 165). But for a child that only gets average or below average grades, these letters are a death sentence for their creativity while writing. After getting a bad grade or remark on a paper, a student is more likely to think badly about their writing and no longer want to take educated risks, but instead give the teacher exactly what he or she wants to prevent from getting another badly marked paper back. Peter Elbow argues that creating the “space” of not having grades holding them back and looming over them, students can be free to discover themselves and develop themselves as writers (Bernard-Donals and Elbow 73). I‟m not saying that if a paper is completely horrible that the bad parts of their paper should not be addressed, but there are ways for a teacher to address what needs to be worked on in a paper in a positive way so that the student does not feel attacked or discouraged about what he‟s written. In a study conducted by Thomas Gee about how criticism and feedback affected the way students felt and wrote on their next paper, a student who received only negative feedback commented on the way his papers were marked, “I felt angry. I felt that my work was worth nothing. I think I would‟ve tried harder and written better if the grader had given me encouragement.” (Gee 43). Even the simpliest of positive remarks such as, „I like the example you came up with‟ or „I had never thought about this in this way before‟ can allow a student the encouragement to not give up on oneself as a writer. Not only to grades and comments affect a student‟s desire to write however. If a student were to receive a paper filled with many red marks pointing out mistakes in grammar, structure, spelling, etc. it could immediately cause a student to think they did horribly
Cmolik 5 and are not a good writer at all, even though their writing may be good, just filled with simple errors. Lou LaBrandt suggests that “Corrections, suggestions for revision, and criticisms of content should be given in proportion to the ability of the student to use them. They are means to improvement, not penalties for being dull or inexperienced or incompetent…this may mean overlooking all but the most glaring errors; it may mean more help for the weak student…” (LaBrandt 210). After completely tearing apart the way teachers grade and analyze the written works or students, I am suggesting that teachers use a new type of analysis or grading, called contract grading. Contract grading allows students to write without the fear of receiving bad marks. They know that all the comments on their papers are only there to help them improve their writing skills. With conventional grading in place, most often, teachers comment on where to make revisions to receive a better grade, not so much on how to improve one‟s writing or critical thinking. Richard Straub suggests that “the comments are directive inasmuch as they offer a clear sense of direction for revising, but they do not dictate changes to be made.” (Straub 59). This allows the student to better develop themselves as a writer instead of just developing the paper as their teacher wants it to receive a good grade. So, now the question is, why does this even matter? Well, if teachers continue to grade and edit the way they do right now, soon kids won‟t have any desire to step out of the box and try new risky things with their writing. They won‟t want to use the least bit of personal insight or creativity in their writing, and their papers will become the creativity and ideas of their teacher, and not of them themselves. We need these teachers to allow students to write however they please, and help them along the way to perfect this personal style of writing unique to them alone. If they don‟t, what will happen to the J.K. Rowlings‟ and the Edgar Allen Poe‟s of
Cmolik 6 tomorrow? They will most likely, simply just not exist, or they will all end up writing the same way, with similar thoughts and ideas, and the writing styles of their past English teachers.
Cmolik 7 Works Cited Elbow, Peter, and Michael Bernard-Donals. "Differences of Opinion." The Theory and Practice of Grading Writing: Problems and Possibilities. Ed. Frances Zak and Christopher C. Weaver. Albany: State University of New York, 1998. 67-74. Print. Everett, Nick. "Creative Writing and English." The Cambridge Quarterly 34.3 (2005): 231-42. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://camqtly.oxfordjournals.ord/content/34/3/231.full.pdf+html?frame=sidebar>. Gee, Thomas C. "Students' Responses to Teacher Comments." Key Works on Teacher Response. Ed. Richard Straub. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2006. 38-45. Print. Kentucky English Bulletin. "Two Types of Grading." Key Works on Teacher Response. Ed. Richard Straub. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2006. 225-33. Print. LaBrant, Lou. "Marking the Paper." Key Works on Teacher Response. Ed. Richard Straub. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2006. 203-11. Print. Lloyd-Jones, Richard. "Theoretical Problems in Studying Creativity and Composition." College Composition and Communication 21.3 (1970): 261-66. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/357329>. McVey, David. "Why All Writing Is Creative Writing." Innovations in Education and Teaching International 45.3 (2008): 289-94. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.ohiou.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=94d6 4496-9d28-42f8-aeb5-199fa216e019%40sessionmgr11&vid=2&hid=10>.
Cmolik 8 Smith, Cherryl, and Angus Dunstan. "Grade the Learning, Not the Writing." The Theory and Practice of Grading Writing: Problems and Possibilities. Ed. Frances Zak and Christopher C. Weaver. Albany: State University of New York, 1998. 163-70. Print. Sommers, Nancy. "Responding to Student Writing." Key Works on Teacher Response. Ed. Richard Straub. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2006. 287-95. Print. Straub, Richard. "Responding to Students' Creative Writing: Modes of Teacher Commentary." Journal of Teaching Writing 14.1&2 (1995): 41-72. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/teachingwriting/article/viewFile/1180/1138>. Welch, Nancy. "No Apology: Challenging the "Uselessness" of Creative Writing." Journal of Advanced Composition 19.1 (1999): 117-34. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://www.jaconlinejournal.com/archives/vol19.1/welch-apology.pdf>.
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