Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rules Schmules

Day 3 of the Writing Project….I believe I had another revelation. Before I begin, by default, I have put myself into a habit of showing the here it is:

Nice to meet your Michael!
Now, I think the idea that made me have my revelation today (I think I'm three for three now!) came in Kendra's demo (Follow her on Twitter!). First was FABULOUS, but it really made me think. She began with the big question "What is 'good' writing?" I wanted to immediately answer...mine (No, just kidding. I don't even think anyone reads it.). But the question really made the "teacher brain" Mrs. Stadler get her list going. I wrote down everything from grammar, syntax, complete sentences, logical flow, good organization, entertaining, etc. You know...basically the teacher answers. After our short brainstorming, we were organized into groups by forms of writers. We were each given a card with a person's name on it and we had to find other like authors to group up with. So of course, Meredith beside me gets Tupac Shakur. I knew who that was instantly! But, I got Michael Crichton...umm, cue the blank look? Apparently, thanks to my wonderful neighbors..I discovered that he wrote Jurassic Park! Never read the book, but I have seen the movie and that makes me like this guy!

After I found my group of authors, with familiar names like Nicholas Sparks (why couldn't I get that one?), we began on our assignment. We had to determine the "rules" of writing (I'm going to address this on my soap box a little later) and determine our Top Five Rules for "Good Writing." This took us awhile (so long that poor Kendra came by to warn us that the other groups were ahead of us and we may not finish). We finally decided that our "TOP FIVE" rules were:

1. Mechanics (Spelling, punctuation, etc.)
2. Flow & Organization (Logical progression, everything is in the "right" spot, etc.)
3. Captivating & Engaging (Does it grab the reader's attention?)
4. Purpose (Does it do what it is written for?)
5. Revision (Clear evidence that the writer worked on it, put in effort.)

 Then with our rules we were given seven pieces of writing (everything from song lyrics, to Shakespeare, to Crest Whitening Advertisements). We had to rank them in order, based on our rules, of "good writing." Well...that was more difficult than it sounded. We kept finding ourselves limited to our rules and what we really thought about the writing pieces. How does Shakespeare fall before Crest? Really, we had to be joking.

So needless to say...this is where my revelation came in today. My revelation goes a little like this: Rules should be followed, but there are countless rules. Now, before I go crazy teacher mode, let me explain. I do believe that we need to know "rules" as writers, but we do not necessary have to follow them without allowing our own voice to show. I do think that we need to have "rules" about the grammar in a writing, the organization in a writing, and the content. (I feel like such a stuffy teacher saying those things...but trust me it comes around) So while I was thinking about questions I had following Kendra's wonderful Demo, I asked "How and when do we decide what rules are appropriate to follow when we are writing?" Then I got to thinking, well rules would matter depending on the audience for our writing and the purpose we are writing for. So therefore, would the audience and purpose of the writing not become the most important "rules?" Depending on who we are writing for, and why we are writing...would that not change the way (grammar, syntax, etc.) in which we write? Would it not change who finds it engaging and captivating? Would we not then change the mechanics (maybe no punctuation, maybe no complete sentences)? ***REVELATION*** The rules we follow to create "good writing" depend mainly on who our audience is, and our purpose for writing. 

Proof: My Revelation!
For example: Lyrics are written for listeners of music and for the purpose of allowing listeners to connect to emotions. Plays are written for audiences who enjoy drama and for the purpose of putting on a show and story. Novels are written for audiences interested in various topics (science fiction, fantasy, how-to's...) for a purpose to entertain and have readers enjoy what they are reading. Thereforetoday at Day 3 of #UNCCWP, I had the revelation that audience and purpose are the main two "rules" for good writing, and the rest of the rules depend on the first two! Genius...I know ;)

Now, I am off to enjoy my 4th of July holiday weekend. My parents are in town (from Stafford, VA) for our annual Gardner family reunion at Aunt Flo's house. If you're lucky...I'll share some pics ;) Have a great holiday weekend yourself! 


  1. First of all....your revelations rock. Second, I agree with the brilliant thinking that you've got down here about the rules of writing. When you take away purpose and audience, none of the other rules seem to hold any weight. And you're right...there are countless rules. Rules for which academic writing is only one of many purposes. I'm liking how when we look at writing from a broader context, the ideas of what makes it good become more complex. Kendra's demo was awesome for getting us thinking along these lines...and I think that it was a great idea to link to her twitter account here. I like how you are making this digital writing space're giving me a ton of ideas.

  2. Sarah,
    Your realizations on Friday were much like the ones I had. I think when we include students in our process as assessors, we invite them into understanding how the entire process is jumbled and mixed up. Also, your 4th pictures were great!

  3. Hey Sarah! (I'm currently sitting near you so this isn't weird at all...)

    I was thinking about your response to my blog (which we basically focused on the same thing) and I think...with my students (seniors)...that communicating specific expectations for specific writing assignments would work best. For younger grades it might be cool to create a list of rules/rubric as a class so the students feel very vested in their work. I might even try it with my seniors at some point.

    And, lastly, your family reunion looked like it was fun! :)

  4. Hey Sarah! I am so glad that you liked the demonstration and that you got so much from it. I especially liked your ***REVELATION*** "The rules we follow to create "good writing" depend mainly on who our audience is, and our purpose for writing." I just might have to steal that revelation idea for the after-writing with my students. And I think that you are so right about purpose and audience being the larger markers and the "rules" being ancillary--now we just have to wonder why the "rules" are presented to us as the bigger thing.

    I really love how you broke down the demonstration and what it made you think about. Would you mind if I linked it to my blog under my post for that day?!?