Dear Dr. D’,
What do I say to people who say that the Jane Schaffer® methodology is formulaic.
- Some children come from homes where their parents are English teachers, educators, college educated, and/or are good writers themselves, able to edit their children’s essays and provide advice; most children do not have this support.
- Some children love to write (e.g., future English teachers, screenwriters, playwrights, and novelists); most children do not have this love yet.
- Some children have a natural ability to write; most children do not have this natural ability.
- Some children come from homes with two parents who are willing and able to divvy up their time to help their children with homework; many children do not have this support.
So what do you say?
First, ask those people to whom you are referring if they have been trained by an “official” Jane Schaffer Writing Program coach. We have eight national trainers.
- If they say, “Why, yes,” then ask them if they are “WEAVING” in their classes. If they have not presented weaving to students who are ready for it, then they are missing an important scaffolding step and possibly stagnating their students’ style and creativity.
- If they say, “No,” then explain to them that we start with a formula, a frame, a foundation, a format to frame students’ organization of their thinking and to move them beyond those blank stares and blank pages.
I have [. . .] been using the materials originated by Jane Schaffer for at least 23 years. I have 26 years teaching experience with English, PAP English I, PAP English II, English III, and AP English III. I am a College Board® Consultant and an AP® Reader for the English Language and Composition Test.
These methods allow students to best develop necessary writing skills for high school and college level essays. The methods first give students a solid format on which to write an essay. Students, especially ninth graders, need structure. Most students at the ninth grad
e level have creative writing experience and possibly some limited analysis writing. However, most ninth graders think a paragraph is five sentences. These methods allow students to understand what is expected in a fully developed paragraph. It also introduces them to the idea of evidence to support a thesis and the development of opinion or commentary to then drive the point home and back to the larger picture. Once students understand the structure and the fact that all writing is made up of concrete details or evidence and commentary or opinion, then students can learn to manipulate the structure for their needs. Students can begin to determine what is needed for an informative research essay versus an analysis research essay. With practice students also learn to include all the necessary pieces, but maybe not in the exact order in which they first were introduced to the structure.
These methods allow students with a mathematical brain to see that writing can have structure like a math problem does. Students learn to expand and connect their ideas to larger or more thematic ideas. It helps young writers or inexperienced writers to understand the basic approach to good writing, then it goes on to help students develop college level essays. As an AP reader, I have seen how the structure is present in a high scoring essay. As an Advanced Placement Consultant for the College Board, I share these ideas and show students and teachers how it breaks down in successful AP essays. — Yvonne Kaatz, English Department Chair