Slay the Monster!

“How many of you,” I asked my students, “were taught to write the five-paragraph essay in high school?” Every student in the class raised a hand. 



by Kathleen Dudden Rowlands

I’m teaching the English Methods class in our credential program, and I knew from entries in my students’ Writer’s Reader’s Notebooks (Rief) that they were struggling with the articles I assigned about the five-paragraph essay. Some were shocked to learn of the long-term instructional damage that focusing on form before attending to the interplay among purpose, audience, and content has on developing writers (Durst; Pirie; Tremmel). Such a form-first instructional focus is not “scaffolding” as many claim, but a leftover from the current-traditional rhetoric of the mid-nineteenth century. Form-first instruction severely misrepresents composing’s complex, messy, recursive nature (Hillocks). This oversimplification by form-first instruction gets in the way of enabling students to develop considerations of audience and purpose that drive authentic content choices and arrangements. Form-first instruction gets in the way of teaching students how to write.

Formula does not equal form—one is static, the other dynamic.  –Thomas Newkirk

In her wonderful monster cartoon, Sandra Boynton perfectly captures and parodies the five-paragraph theme, characterizing its parts as having “lots of teeth but no bite” or being “somewhat limp and drawn out.” Its development contains “some minor points” that are “mostly bulk.” This is a monster in which form dominates, and content is considered only marginally. Indeed, form’s imposing dominance makes this monster particularly dangerous and especially difficult to vanquish …

PDF:  Slay the Monster! by Kathleen Dudden Rowlands

Of Thee I Read: The US in Literature

NY Times

Reporters and editors on the National Desk of The New York Times were asked to suggest books that a visitor ought to read to truly understand the American cities and regions where they live, work and travel.

There were no restrictions — novels, memoirs, histories and children’s books were fair game. Here are some selections.

Recommend a book that captures something special about where you live in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #natbooks.



Blood and Thunder

Suggested by Fernanda Santos

I moved to the West in 2012, the year the Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona’s controversial immigration law but left one of its core elements: police officers’ ability to check the immigration status of any person they detain. That point encapsulates the us-versus-them battles I’ve witnessed in Arizona, one of two border states I cover.

The other is New Mexico, where immigration more often plays out as a distinction over heritage. Descendants of Spanish conquistadors, who explored an area that had been claimed by Mexico and effectively ruled by Native Americans, like to say, “It wasn’t my family that crossed the border, but the border that crossed my family.”

To me, understanding these long-ago disputes is crucial to understanding the battles of today, and no book gave me a better perspective than “Blood and Thunder” by Hampton Sides. It offers a magnificent description of the decades-long fight between the United States Army and the Navajos, fierce and fearless defenders of the gorgeous expanse of mountains and desert they inhabited and controlled.

The book has a central character, Kit Carson, an illiterate scout and soldier. Carson’s wife was a Native American, and he understood and respected tribal cultures better than most other white men of his time. He was also deeply loyal to the United States Army and became instrumental to the devastation of the Navajo nation and the conquest of the West. — FERNANDA SANTOS

LINK: for more cities and regions @ NY Times