Monday, November 09, 2009


I recall hearing about a sailor leaving on a six-month deployment who wore a small clearly visible golden bracelet on his wrist at the official departure ceremony. His uniform was squeaky clean and he stood at strict attention as the ship pulled out to sea, but the out-of-dress-code bracelet, a gift from his girlfriend, shimmered in the sunlight for all to see. That’s what I call orderly flair, and it’s what I try to encourage in my 9th grade writers. The students must conform to the severe requirements of unity and coherence (the qualities which make it easy for a reader to get a writer’s meaning), but I also want them to be unafraid to show some flashes of flair among their sentences. The sailor wore his strict uniform and the bright bracelet, and the students should feel free to dress up a sentence now and then with a showy simile or a string of multicolored adjectives. Panache comes to mind here– the kind of flamboyant confidence that allows a teenage essayist to string together a seventy-word sentence that moves with evenness and grace. √Član might also describe what I’m looking for in my students’ essays. They must write with tidiness and consistency, yes, but also with style and enthusiasm. Their sentences must march to the beat of the assignment, but let there be some clandestine skipping and dancing here and there. Let them write with clarity, but let the clarity be clothed with young-at-heart flamboyance.

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