Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Does Making Writing Public Matter?

Bear with me, please.

What I want to show you is a sample of my Woman Trouble (ENG099) students writing the introductory paragraph for their ACT letter and then an introductory paragraph for a real letter that would be read by a real person (I sent the actual letters to their councilpersons and they posted their letters to the CEO of Ning on his blog). The samples are absolutely random. The students wrote these one week apart.

Please let me know what conclusions you can derive from this "simulated" vs. "real" writing from the same students. I plan to ask them the same next class.

[BTW, the ACT 3 introductions were written after I had a whole lesson of making introductions "personal" and etc. (sigh)]

Ariel's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear Members of the city Council:
Last night I hear in the radio that this community has received a large grant from the government for child care. Also, two options have been made for using this money. Option A is to open two large child care centers in the community. And option B is to give a $1000 per child under age four to all qualifying families for this year. I been work in a Ice cream truck for 6 years in this community and children always came to buy Ice cream. In my opinion option A will be the best option the best option.

Ariel writing to his councilperson:
Dear Diana Reyna
My name is Ariel Maduro and I am a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn. I’m 20 years old and I had understanding that you are the person who is in charge in Community Development. I been living in this borough for six years and I’m really getting tired about that the only park that is around my neighborhood, in grove St and central Av, is not really a good park.

Geovanny's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear members of the City Council, my community has received a large grant from the federal government for child care. Two proposals are on the table. One proposal is open two large child care center and the other proposal is to give 1,000 per child under age four. My community and I believe that the best choice to invest is open two large child care center because parents would be better workers in their jobs, our children would have an adult supervision and our children would be better students in their class.

Geovanny writing to his councilperson:
Dear Daniel Dromm
My name is Geovanny Gomez. I am 22 years old and I am living In East Elmhurst. My community and I have a lot of issues that have to be taking in consideration. One of the main problems that we have is the lack of public transportation at the very morning hours. The lack of busses affect myself and my whole community because is danger for people walk home from Roosevelt avenue to Northern Boulevard , people don’t get good sleep and also affects our own economy.

Hanifah's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear Member of the City Council
It has come to my attention at a recent local board meeting that our community has received a large grant from the federal government for child care. The two proposals that have been considered are good ideas but I think opening up two large child care centers would be best for our community.

Hanifah's introduction to her letter to the CEO of Ning:
Dear Mr. Rosenthal
My name is Hanifah am I am a student currently going to a 2 year CUNY college in Queens. This ‘’Introducing Ning Pro, Ning Plus and Ning mini” is a bad idea to most of us that use your program. What about the students in grades higher than 12th grade, that now has to pay? The majority of people using Ning are mostly students already paying for their already expensive education.

Joshua's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear members of the city council
It has come to my attention that a grant has been received for child care. One proposal is to build two large child care center. The second proposal is to give $1,000 per child under the age of four. I think the best way to effect child care is to build two large child care centers. This will help parents get a job to better care for their child, and help children get ahead start in school.

Joshua's letter to his councilperson:
Dear Council Member Julissa Ferreras
I am a resident of Corona queens. My community has had a very bad crime rate for the past 10 years. In July 17 2006 11 year old Genesis Regalado was shot and killed by 20 year old Jeffrey Matista. A guy that hung out on the very street I live on. After that day my neighborhood crime rate has been getting worse and worse. Two teens were shot and killed on 54th av, 2 blocks away from Callaway and the LI Express way. Something has to be done to make corona go back to the peace full neighborhood it once was, where one could walk out at any time of the day and feel safe.

Cynthia's introduction to ACT Practice 3:

Dear Community Board
I am a resident of Ridgewood and I come from a generation that has made many mistakes with the environment. Changes cannot be made in one day it takes baby steps to eventually try to save our planet. So naturally when I heard about a proposal for an empty parking lot I jumped at the chance to discuss it with you. It is no surprise to me that one of the choices you have is to construct yet another multipurpose building in our neighborhood but it is my intention that with this letter I can convince you that your other choice to build a community garden would be a better one for us and the environment

Cynthia's introduction to her letter to the CEO of Ning:
Dear Jason Rosenthal,
I’m a college student at LaGuardia when I was first introduced to this website I thought wow how cool useful technology available to everyone. Since then, I have mentioned the site to everybody I know and I can even take credit for some of your new members. It’s important to have websites like this available to non-profit agencies and schools. It isn’t fare that you are charging us now think of all the people you have helped don’t you feel the slightest remorse for this.


  1. I think it confirms something pedagogical research tells us: a lot of perceived student apathy comes from student's accurate perception that the work they're doing isn't *real*: it goes in a drawer and has no audience but us, even if we, as teachers, say otherwise.

    On the other hand, the classroom is valuable in creating a space for intellectual experimentation and growth away from the capitalist pressures of the 'real' world: so the quesiton is, how do we make the work they do seem real? Having them write real letters is a great example. Blogger is a step towards public writing. How to 'trick' them into seeing the ACT as real? Beats me.

  2. Tests like the ACT are not real, so there is no trick except to expose them for what they are--simulations with rules. For the ACT I trained my students to be ACT evaluators and that seemed to give them a sense of audience since they become the audience (ACT evaluators). This worked for some but not all.

  3. I am a student from Japan. Letters to real person are more specific than ACT paragraphs. Actually, I have the same problem. Using template is confortable to write when I take an ACT. I think that I am being too careful when I am taking the exam because of pressure!