Ken Lindblom’s “Is Interesting to Read” and the Rubric Dilemma Redux

Ken’s work is as impressive as his friendship and collegiality.
  • Creating openings, instead of writing mechanistic introductions, that are compelling first and then focus the reader on the central purpose of the essay. We do several reading like a writer activities (here and here) throughout the semester, but focus on openings in the first few weeks.
  • Expanding tone beyond the faux academic pose of objectivity, and acknowledging the power of humor. Notably in our reading of Kingsolver, for example, students notice that essays are often humorous (especially in the opening), and thus, more interesting.
  • Emphasizing the power of narrative (and description) as a mode that creates interest. Drawing on Style, we think about nonfiction essays in terms of fiction — character, plot, and setting. Inherent in narrative, as well, is the importance of details (see Flannery O’Connor).
  • Allowing drafting to be an act of discovery, brainstorming. Another key aspect of resisting the traditional introduction/thesis approach is helping students recognize that the act of drafting often leads writers to their purpose; in other words, drafting as discovery opens the door to finding the interesting instead of trying to fulfill the obligation of a predetermined thesis.
  • Reimagining the essay form not as an introduction/thesis, body, and conclusion but as a cohesive form better served by framing — developing a few opening and closing paragraphs that share a story, detail, or compelling element that both engages and compels the reader (thus, interesting).
  1. GENRE NAME: What is this text called (its genre name)? What do you already think you know about what a text from this genre looks and ‘sounds’ like? For example, how should the text be organized? What kind of language do you need to use?
  2. PURPOSE: What are you supposed to DO as a writer when completing this task? Are you asked to make an argument? To inform? To describe or list?
  3. CONTEXT: If you are writing this task in, or for, a classroom, what do you know about the context? What does the discipline require for a text? Under what conditions will you be writing? For example, are you writing a timed, in-class response?
  4. WRITER’S ROLE: Who are you supposed to BE in this prompt? A knowledgeable student? Someone else?
  5. AUDIENCE: Is your audience specified? If it is your instructor, what are his or her expectations and interests? What goals for students does the instructor have?
  6. CONTENT: What are you supposed to write about? Where do you find this content? In your textbook? In lectures? Are you supposed to relate what you have heard or read in some way?
  7. SOURCES: What, and how many, sources are you supposed to draw from to write your text? Have the sources been provided in the class? Are you supposed to look elsewhere? Are the sources primary or secondary?
  8. OTHER SPECIFICATIONS: What else do you know about the requirements for this text? How long should it be? What referencing style (MLA, APA) should you use? What font type?
  9. ASSESSMENT: How will your paper be graded? What does the instructor believe is central to a good response? How do you know? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  10. MAKING THE TEXT YOUR OWN: What about the paper you write can be negotiated with the instructor? Can you negotiate the topic? The types of sources used? The text structure? If you can negotiate your assignment, it might be much more interesting to you.

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P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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