Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I was so excited to read this article; it articulates and echoes my experience as a teacher and even to some extent as a student. As I read the Unfinished Music #1--John poem, I flashed back to my sophomore English lit class at Gustavus. In an effort to be multi-cultural, I guess, we were reading Crime and Punishment. My emotional response was so deep that a regular essay wouldn't do, so I wrote poems about each of the main characters. The professor accepted them (I still had to write the essay, but it wasn't docked for being late). This certainly wasn't my first piece of authentic writing, nor was it deliberately multi-genre, but it is one that sticks in my mind until today.

As a writing teacher for intermediate age students, I encouraged students to explore writing in a variety of forms and used a variety of models with them. One form we used for several years was creative non-fiction about an animal. Students could choose from many styles such as picture and description, narrative plus details, or non-fiction text plus poems. For the teacher, was hard to keep track of what each student was doing--where in the writing process they were, authenticating their voices--after their research was done, but the final products were all keepsakes. I think this kind of project using visual storytelling tools would be even richer.

Another section I enjoyed was Interview with a Skeptic. I haven't read Billy the Kid, but Ondaatje is probably better known for The English Patient. This is one of the few movies that I saw before reading the book. The book was rich with poetry and deliberate ambiguity. I didn't finish it, it was too "maddening," as Romano suggests Ondaatje can be. Romano has me interested in reading Ondaantje. I remember reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and enjoying its lists of tools that read like poetry. And I still use a piece of advice the author gave his student who thought there was nothing to write about in the little college town: begin with one brick in the building across the road. Get down to the nitty gritty, the particular, the basic building block, then write your story.

I think that a digital component or two will enhance and make more real the multi-genre experience for today's students. Reading Romano, I get it.

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