A Place to Share for Writers and Teachers
I'll go first, Brenda. I can't stand the silence! ;-)
Anyway, I think expressive writing has the same "stepchild image" problem that silent reading does. It's proven that kids will read if you allow them choice and enthusiastically book talk (as well as allow them to book talk) great YA titles. It's proven that all of this reading makes them better readers and writers. It's proven that free reading of your own choice is a "gateway drug" to reading more challenging texts (classical fans, can you hear me?). And yet, a deeply-entrenched resistance continues to resist and/or outright challenge silent reading and promotion of YA texts over traditional classics (as summarized and analyzed at a Sparknotes near you).
Expressive writing has similar problems. Tradition and conservatism challenge it as "garbage" and a "waste of time." It's been proven that even published authors (and classical ones) produced garbage before it was refined to the gem we know it for today, and yet they still object. The system is beholden to analytical writing and 5-paragraph essays because, in education, "the way our fathers did it and our father's fathers did it" is a force to be reckoned with. Change is slow and those who dare implement it are challenged But why? Why must kids frequently analyze the expressive writing of others and infrequently express thir own minds -- especially when it is a proven motivator to write? This, I think, is what Tom Newkirk is wondering, and all I can say is, "Pass the Wonder bread -- I can't figure it, either."
As for teachers who fear expressive writing because it procreates like dandelions, I can only remind them of Newkirk's reminder earlier in the book: You don't, indeed shouldn't, have to read every word a kid writes. Turn them loose. Have them read each other's work. Get involved late in the game when their pieces are more refined and need feedback before moving to a final version. It's not the bogey man it's built up to be. In fact, it's the Muse itself more often than not!