This is in progress. I would appreciate your ideas/thoughts at any stage of this blog entry's life.
To become educated is to become an independent thinker and learner, a person who knows how to analyze, search out relevant information, investigate, reason, and discover.
To me, giving a student a writing rubric is like handing over the CliffsNotes to a novel. Don't bother about grappling with the raw voice in Catcher in the Rye or weighing through the imagery-laden scenes in Moby Dick; read the CliffsNotes; let Cliff guide how you perceive and understand this book.
In all fairness to Cliff, literature classrooms advance certain ways of seeing, but they also encourage discussions, original thinking, exploration, analysis, and discovery.
Moby Dick is more than what happened (see CliffsNotes' Chapter Summaries) and who key characters are (see CliffsNotes' Character Analyses) and the "symbolism of Queequeg’s coffin" (see CliffsNotes' Critical Essays: Major Symbols).
And creative writing--the personal essay, short story, or poem--is more than development, structure, voice/tone, style, and technical elements.
The problem with rubrics is that they promote the middle-class thinker. Most everyone--at least in the batch of contest entries I just "judged"--has ________________
The problem of the transition. On the rubric I used, low scores were given for essays with "inappropriate transitions" (no papers fit into this category); mid-level scores were given for essays with "insufficient transitions" (but the paper had to have "a sense of beginning, middle, and end); and high scores were given to well-organized paragraphs, "flowing progressively with smooth transitions."
Here's the problem. If I really judged that category by the letter, then every single--and I mean even the worst essay in the stack--would have earned high scores in that category. Yes, the paper that said, "First I am going to tell you this, then I am going to tell you that, and then I'll follow it up with that" and then matching transitions in the body of the essay was absolutely clear and even smooth. They were just predictable and boring. There was no art to them.
Okay, I know there's a category for that--on the rubric--is style. So the best
To really assess an adequate transition (or series of transitions) by rubric, we'd need an algorithm:
Back to the writing rubric.
Elementary school reflections contest
Privileges mediocrity or average-thinking / ability
. . . or as Andrew Bird says, "Can't have the cream of the crop when the cream and the crop are the same."
Transitions, in writing (in PowerPoint presentations, in films, in talks, in life), are a good thing. I won't dispute it.
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