Heather Wolpert-Gawron

“I Statements” in Expository Writing

By on February 18, 2009

This weekend I’m presenting at the CATE conference in Santa Clara, CA.  It’s a session on developing high level, critical-thinking commentary in expository writing.  My feeling is that great commentary is the Voice in Expository, it is the Show, Not Tell in what could otherwise be a passionless genre for many students.

A couple of colleagues brought some concerns to my attention and I thought I’d put it out here for some input.  

At CATE, I’m going to be teaching these educators some of my own strategies, a number of which tap into connection to self and prior knowledge, using metacognitive activities to “aerate the soil” of student minds, thus generating rich commentary.

But many teachers, great teachers, feel that “I comments” are not appropriate for Expository writing.  I, however, feel that:

1. Nowhere in the standards does it say that students can’t use “I.”

2. “I” statements abound in real-life.  In my classroom we use movie reviews, book reviews, music reviews, etc…to model authentic Literary Analysis, and in these scenarios “I” statements sometimes appear and sometimes don’t.

3. One can teach using “I” or not.  I would hate to create a blanket “never” and, thus, lose the opportunity to reach some students who need “I” as a hook into passionate writing.  Also, wouldn’t it be an interesting activity to use “I” and then convert it to a more general omni-POV?  But students must know one before the other, right?

Anyway, that’s just my take on teaching writing and using Voice in Expository Writing.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.


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