[journal entry] on Lindemann’s “Prewriting Techniques”

October 7, 2007
Journal Entry on Lindemann’s “Prewriting Techniques” (109-129) [Chapter Seven of A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers]

In this chapter, Lindemann surveys various prewriting techniques and suggests ways they can be best used in the writing classroom.  I was already familiar with and had used most of the types already (mostly, in my writing center work): brainstorming, clustering, freewriting, modeling, even journaling.  But I hadn’t used the heuristic questions much (at least not very systematically), and some of the “perception exercises” were new to me (or, at least, untried).

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of Perception Exercises as a prewriting category, though of course it is.  I’d done role playing, debating, and dialoguing with students in the writing center.  But I’d like to try the idea the blindfolding idea (to get students to appreciate that there’s more than one “sense” to things).  I’d have to think about how to make the exercise connect to their assignments, though.  Otherwise, I think it would be easy for students to perceive such an exercises as busywork.  Also I’d like to try the idea of having students translate readings, images, or music into another medium (though I’m not sure if Lindemann means into another non-verbal medium or into something written or spoken) and then finally into something written.  That seems like a great way to strengthen students’ conceptual and perceptual muscles.  It seems like it would be tricky to implement, though.  I’d like to read more on it.  (See Lindemann’s footnotes: James L. Adams, Conceptual Blockbusting: A Pleasurable Guide to Better Problem Solving and Richard Young, “Recent Developments in Rhetorical Invention” in Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays, pp 1ff.)

I also like the idea of having students writing journal entries at the beginning of classes.  But I definitely agree with Lindemann’s caveat that “students should have opportunities to develop the material recorded in their journals into more formal assignments” (116).  At Yakima Valley Community College, I taught a once-weekly “Writing Workshop” class, and I had students journal in class.  But, since the class was a workshop (only a supplement to a writing class, not a writing class in itself), I didn’t have much control over how their journal entries meshed or didn’t mesh with what another instructor was doing.  And it was painfully clear many students saw the journaling as busywork.

But it was Lindemann’s survey of heuristic models that probably most interested me.  I used heuristic-like questions as a writing consultant, but nothing very formal or conscious.  So these lists/options are very helpful (118ff).  I’ve never seen so many heuristic models in one place, actually.  I think I’m interesting in the particle-wave-field model most right now (125).  Maybe I’m thinking it’ll appeal more to students in our post-Einstein world.  It’d almost have to have a good chance of appealing to a class full of physics and/or other science majors!  But more seriously, this model does seems to be comprehensive but simple.  I don’t know exactly why (yet), but the idea of the three perspectives and the three “aspects” of existence – combining into a “nine-cell chart” – doesn’t seem especially complicated to me.  I wouldn’t think it would need to be simplified (for example, by using Winterowd’s version (125)).

Finally, I zoomed in on Lindemann’s observation regarding perception exercises that “all writing can begin with speech” (111).  I certainly learned that while working in a writing center. For most (all?) students, as Lindemann says, talking is easier, less frightening.  It also gets students interacting with other people’s ideas and testing their own.  An all-around good prewriting technique.

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