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4 W h o ’ s C o m i n g to t h e C o m p o s i t i o n C l a s s r o o m ? DOI: 10.7330/9781607324454.c004 K–12 Writing in and outside the Context of Common Core State Standards Marcelle M. Haddix and Brandi Williams In this chapter, we explore what Common Core State Standards (CCSS) mean for K–12 teachers of writing and their learners. And, by extension , we discuss how CCSS shapes and impacts the writing of students entering college-level composition classrooms and what this means for college composition instructors. The CCSS writing standards place a strong focus on instructing students on three specific writing types: arguments, informative/explanatory texts, and narratives that are richly intertwined with research standards. The problem is not the emphasis on these three writing styles, but the de-emphasis on other writing styles that may allow for a more creative expression that youths experience through digital and other media outside of school spaces. This tension between institutionally sanctioned and unsanctioned literacies will be examined and discussed in this chapter. Specifically, we will juxtapose student writing in the context of CCSS with the kinds of writing that young people are authoring outside of school by citing examples from a local writing project for urban youth, Writing Our Lives. The point of this juxtaposition is not to put youth’s out-of-school writing practices in direct contest with the kinds of writing practices dictated by CCSS in school spaces, but rather to emphasize the importance of moving beyond the traditional and perfunctory writing tasks oftentimes assigned in schools to make space for and legitimize the kinds of writing that are self-sanctioned by youth writers and that represent authentic purposes and interests. 66   Marcelle M. Haddix and Brandi Williams Writing Our L i ves: A Mo del fo r Supporting Ou t- o f- Sch o o l Wri ti n g It’s Saturday morning, and the final table has been set, the sign-in sheets are ready, and the volunteer workshop facilitators are in place. One by one youth, parents, local teachers, and university students come flooding into a local high school for a day of writing, creating, and sharing. This is not an extra-credit program or a financially binding educational weekend supplement. This is Writing Our Lives, an annual program set in place since 2009 “as a response to parents who are concerned about their students’ reading and writing abilities” (Angrand 2012). The Writing Our Lives program is a direct response to the desires and needs of the community—a call for more opportunities for young people to write in authentic ways and to develop identities as writers. Also informed by research on effective writing instruction for youth writers (Applebee and Langer, 2013) and on spaces for youth participatory literacy practices (Haddix and Sealey-Ruiz, 2012; Kinloch 2009), the Writing Our Lives program • focuses on how urban youth writers define, understand, challenge, and use writing in and out-of their secondary and post-secondary schooled lives • begins to theorize ways twenty-first century tools and technologies can be used to promote the writing identity of urban youth writers; • accesses the voices of students often ignored as active agents in their own learning • encourages, celebrates, and supports the writing of urban youth writers as critical ethnographers of their own writing lives • provides opportunities for participants to be leaders of writing instruction for themselves, teachers, peers, and members of the community Each year, new and returning participants come together to learn about and try different writing genres and to engage in writing practices that they feel are not always valued and affirmed in school spaces. As one participant shared, “In school you kinda contradict yourself and you kinda like, you know, cover up some stuff, like you kind of hide yourself in school but when you’re outside of school, it’s like you open yourself up. You unfold everything.” Writing Our Lives becomes a space for youth writers to come out and be known as writers. This is especially evidenced at the end of each event when participants are asked to “take the mic” and share their compositions. The Writing Our Lives program has connected students, artists, poets, and volunteers from the local community and school district to offer a writing space for youth in grades 6–12. Every year about ten workshops, Who’s Coming...


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