Recently, there was almost an impromptu debate between myself and a colleague over the notion and merit of teaching students the writing styles of different types of paragraphs. In our program, there are a few types of paragraphs required to teach for students — “example”, “process”, “reason”, “persuasive”… etc.
My colleague had decided that it was useless to teach these types of writing because it was pointless and wasn’t really freeing to the student. I thought there was some truth in it because using some parallels from screenwriting, I believed that in the long run, students would benefit immensely when they got to the next level.
And here is where we divided in our own thoughts. The colleague thought because I was a native speaker so I could learn to change and adapt freely. Whereas the learner could be forced into a habit of writing in such a limiting way. I explained that all of us learned a similar way of writing when we were in elementary school to high school, following a strict format before having total control of how we formed and phrased our words.
Students needed to hone and focus on a particular intention. I am simply hoping that by having them focused with a particular intent on their writing, it could influence the purpose and goal they are achieving. It isn’t a strict style. It’s simply a restraint on them to aim for a particular result.
Of course, I didn’t get to finish the debate as we switched gears into another conversation when another teacher walked in, but the thought kept me intrigued.
I know writing a particular way seems so strange. Demanding the students to strictly write a topic sentence as a declarative sentence seems almost harsh. But, I need them to have those constraints and to respect the format of whatever I have told them to do. As long as they got the format down correctly — the aesthetic of the paragraph and even margins on the left, and remembering to indent — I’m was almost confident they were paying attention to the purpose of what I’m trying to get to do.
Concise and effective writing. Efficient enough to hit the required marks to serve the purpose of what they are trying to achieve. Yes, we don’t jump into a writing piece to say, “I’m going to make this a process paragraph!” or some shit. I understand that. I’m just letting them know that for now, they are going to have to write in this really constraining way so that it can allow their creativity to flow.