|Edwin Arlington Robinson|
The Grinders, of course, are those who most suffer on timed standardized writing tests. I saw them have trouble on the Ohio Proficiency Tests in 8th grade (sometimes failing, even, when I knew they could write better prose than the judges who were evaluating their papers). At WRA, I saw them do poorly on the SAT Writing Test, that insanely stupid 30-minute assessment that measures little but how fast and how conventionally a kid can write.
On the other end of the continuum--the Geysers, the kids who had written a hundred words before the echo of my voice reading the prompt had even begun to soften. With lots of kids, this eruptive fluency was married to quality, as well. Somehow, their ideas transformed seamlessly and effortlessly into remarkable phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs. Some of those kids astonished me, spewing out pages of handwritten text in 30 minutes--often virtually errorless, engaging, even novel. I write pretty quickly, but I revise heavily--and slowly. But some of the kids I taught over the years were somehow able to produce "rough" drafts that were smooth, sometimes even elegant. (Is it wrong to envy a student? If so, I'm a sinner!)
Of course, there were all sorts of stages between these two--and even combinations of them. There were Grinders who never paved any road but with rough gravel; there were Geysers who sprayed barely punctuated nonsense all over the page--the written equivalent of logorrhea (a word I adore: "pathologically incoherent, repetitious speech," says dictionary.com).
But what about kids writing with computers?
Check this space tomorrow ...
And don't forget--my bios of Mary Shelley and E. A. Poe on Amazon Kindle! (You will get sick of reading this before I tire of writing it!)