Notes from teaching at Xavier
Opening hooks are valuable in college writing. Being able to bring your personal experience to bear on the information being digested in humanities classes is a very worthwhile skill to cultivate in writing. When professors talk about how bored they are by the five-paragraph stiff lifeless essay, they mean that they can’t find a trace of the human who writes the essay. There are transitions and assertions galore, but none of the insight or imagination or wrestling that show critical thinking and growth.
The structure is not to blame. What is to blame is the lack of cultivation of writing voice. Kids need many many opportunities to explore their ideas in writing, tying their experience and thought lives to the information they are evaluating and narrating.
If a student does this well, and structures the essay in a recognizable format, you’ll have a student who hits a home run in college writing. When I read a writer who has command of his or her own writing voice, as a professor/teacher, I relax. I feel comfortable. I trust the writer.
Cross-posted on facebook.