Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Up on My Soapbox

When I first started teaching Freshman composition courses, that was exactly what they were--composition. My job was to teach students how to write the various types of essays and a research paper. It was fine, but nothing to get a charge about. After a few years my boss gathered us teachers together and told us we were boring our students to tears and we needed to change things up. The university gave the whole program an extreme make-over and literature was added . . . hallelujah chorus!

Finally the students actually had something to think deeply about, grapple with and write about. The level of intellectual engagement shot through the roof and students sprang to life in class. Surprisingly, (and not surprisingly) so did the level of writing. I began to enjoy grading (as much as it's possible to enjoy grading) because the papers were no longer mindless and hum-drum. Best of all, the students began to find (a little bit of) joy in writing.

I remembered this this morning when I suggested in my Cam Jansen post that beginning readers may not really need story, and that perhaps decoding words was enough.

Words are magic, but they have no power without ideas. The story is the hook. Without story, our reluctant, hesitant readers will never catch the spirit.

My mission for this blog is to find excellent, stimulating stories that have the power to infuse the joy of reading, thinking, feeling, learning, pondering and virtual traveling into all those boys out there who are distracted by X-Box, gameboys, Ipods and Phinnaues and Ferb.

The earlier the better, right?

More to come . . .

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