Friday, October 7, 2016

Form and content

In English, we've been talking a lot about the way you say something being just as important as how you say it. It's come up in both our classroom interactions and in our reading/writing. In class, it has to do with how we present ourselves, how we approach others, and how we respond in difficult situations. In writing, we've talked about form and content in the context of poetry and in the context of informational writing. Different types of writing serve different purposes and the context of the writing impacts both its content (which is more obvious) and its form (which is often less obvious).

Last week, I told the class that the way we say something is just as important as how we say it. One of the seventh graders challenged me (respectfully, of course) and said that my statement was a rather bold claim. She asked if I really believed that the form was as important as the content. I wrote this question on the board for us to consider: Is the way you say something really as important as what you say?

We've been sitting with this for awhile now. After returning to the conversation today, I asked students to write their responses somewhere along a continuum (from "yes, form is as important" to "no, content matters more") on the board. Some of their responses:

We also considered a rather unusual poem this week, "Hot Springs," by Davis McCombs:

Our general consensus seems to be that form matters (although the verdict seems to be that it doesn't matter as much as content) but also that context and audience are critical factors to consider. There is also an underlying social issue of who gets to speak and how the way that people are understood is related to who has more power in a situation or whose voice is more "valued." I'm sure we'll continue to return to this concept, especially through the lens of multiple narratives.

On a less "academic" note, we watched this ridiculous State Farm commercial and this ridiculous State Farm commercial as evidence to support the idea that context definitely matters.

To be continued, I suspect,