How High School Writing Can Kill Creativity

How many 5-paragraph essays have you read as a language teacher? How many outlines have you handed out, telling students how long a body paragraph should be and where the thesis and topic sentences should fall? And how many times did your eyes glaze over as you read the same argument as you graded the essays?

If this is what the formulaic 5-paragraph essay is doing to us teachers, one wonders what it does to the students’ creativity. This is described quite poignantly in this article about high school writing.

Here’s a snippet:

One student uses an extended cookie metaphor to contrast the writing she was tasked with in high school with what she’d experienced previously. High school has been a series of repetitive tasks, “I have (for the most part) only written one essay–introduction, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. I would clearly state my thesis, structure my evidence into three neat little pieces, and wrap everything up in five sentences rambling about how extremely significant my point was to the world.”

To this student, “My writing as well as my experiences with high school english in general ended up dry and flavorless, like a grocery store sugar cookie that sat on the shelf for too long. Sure, it’s beautifully shaped and frosted, but it usually doesn’t taste that great. It’s the type of cookie you only buy for its appearance.”

Read the complete article at Let’s Stop Killing Students’ Spirits.

Do you agree with the views here? How can we move away from this cookie-cutter formula and bring back creativity into high school writing assignments?

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