Monday, March 18, 2013

Writing: Form and Function

As I drove into work today, I thought about how I would strengthen commitment and understanding related to writing a high quality essay or story for the upcoming MCAS test.  Rather than "teach to the test," I try to bring greater meaning to test-related tasks.

I started thinking about what's important when it comes to an MCAS essay--what is the form and what is the function?

Hence I decided to discuss invention and creation with students.  I introduced the terms "form" and "function" and asked students what modern inventors come to mind when they think about a focus on form and function.  Career titles such as architects, clothes designers and chefs came up. Steve Jobs came up as a specific example. I talked about the efforts of Jack Dorsey and last night's 60 Minutes piece.

Then we discussed our upcoming test and determined that the form was an essay or story, and the function was to prove that you're a good writer.  Then we discussed the ingredients that go into forms that function with quality--we talked about the many specific ingredients of fine clothing and great meals and the difference between mass production and tailored, original craft.

After that we listed the kinds of ingredients that make an essay high-quality, original, entertaining and inviting.  I told students that I wished I was introduced to the theme of "form and function" at an earlier age as it is a good way to look at all aspects of life and creation, a valuable concept to understand.

We'll play with this theme more as the year moves on, and I'll build upon the concepts by introducing the idea that "form follows function" which is outlined nicely in this post I found online.

On Friday, the day before the test, we'll discuss the themes of self regulation and rationale and the effects those themes have on one's performance in any task, specifically on our task to write an essay or story on Monday.

By matching test-prep work to themes that can be applied to a broader range of work helps to give these tasks some meaning--meaning which can transcend the sometimes, inauthentic and cumbersome tasks that standardized tests present.