What do David Foster Wallace's essay on wars over usage and Pico Iyer's comma personification have to do with improving students' academic writing? Everything. For all of the attention supposedly paid to Bloom's Taxonomy-with creativity at the top-educators tend to shy away from encouraging students' creative choices in areas where traditional analysis and the critic's style and tone have reigned. While we do not want our students to write inane or empty verbiage, we unintentionally set them up for this inevitability--or worse.
The movement away from children's natural creative impulses in elementary school to a direction in which they literally fit their writing into preconfigured shapes is a gradual one. Although purportedly taught to instill academic structures, these boxes are also designed to facilitate the ease with which student product may be assessed.
We need a more creative approach to teaching writing. A methodology incorporating creativity, as modeled by students in this text, demonstrates the kind of progress we are all seeking, offering an exciting challenge for young writers and educators alike.
Nancy A. Dafoe is an award-winning, published poet and fiction writer, in addition to being an educator living in Central New York. She has taught in a variety of settings and at different grade levels from 9th grade to freshmen in college.