A radical rethinking of the teaching of writing

Gradual shifts in a teacher’s point of view

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I don’t remember just how these shifts in my beliefs happened, but they arrived at different points in the first few years of testing this method. I came to believe certain ideas because I saw them validated in the work of students in the course.

o All students have something to say and the poor writers are embarrassed by their lack of eloquence. All want to be eloquent.
o Students must be given things to do they can succeed at, such as reading a passage and circling the concrete nouns. Throwing students into writing complex assignments early amounts to throwing non-swimmers into the deep end of the pool. All you get is panicked flailing and distress.
o The five variables taught in Course 1 do actually and fully determine the readability of a piece of writing. There are no other variables.
o Students improve rapidly if you arrange skills in steps, give them the ability to judge their own performance, arrange for their best writing to be read by the class, have them write a lot, and keep up a rapid pace of improvement. Each week should announce and require a higher level of performance than the week before.
o The only grammar one needs to insist on is the writing of complete sentences at all times.
o You draw good ideas from students simply by insisting that they write in the plain and vivid style you have taught them.
o There’s no such thing as a boring subject. There are only boring styles. Any subject will be interesting if you write about it in an interesting style.

John G. Maguire
Chelmsford MA
maguirejohn@comcast.net
978-761-4515