Here We Go Loop de Loop Writing: Discovering Ideas the Peter Elbow Way

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SWBAT loop write to discover what they know and need to know about their topics for the senior project.

Big Idea

"One of the ways people most lack control over their own lives is through lacking control over words." --Peter Elbow

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

After students have had a few days of research and have begun to think about their ideas and the direction their paper will take, I want to help them free up their inner writing voice, which often gets silenced when students fear they'll not have something to say or that they'll mess up on their writing. 

One way to help students flesh out their ideas is through Loop Writing. I believe Loop Writing first appeared in Peter Elbow's Writing with Power. While Loop Writing has its genesis in narrative, it's possible for teachers to adapt it to research writing. The basic premise behind Loop Writing is to help students get ideas onto the page without worrying about organization or surface errors. 

Elbow says, "The loop writing process is an ideal way to produce material for a collage essay: something that fulfills the function of an essay but is made up almost entirely of passages in which you try to give your reader an experience of what you are saying rather than an explanation of it." 

Thus, Loop Writing is about creating an experience for the reader rather than explaining something to the reader. That's a tall order for high school students, and certainly the subtleties between experiencing and explaining are significant. 

So in my class I want the Loop Writing experience to be one of creating ideas on the page that the student can then work with as a framework for the final paper. 

In today's lesson, I ask students to freewrite using Loop Writing. To accomplish this, I have prepared a Ppt that we use as we write. The Ppt. functions in conjunction with the talk I use to encourage students in the Loop Writing activity. 

While today's lesson focuses on Loop Writing, we begin with a TED Talk called "Dare to Disagree" so students understand that their opinions are important. 

The order of today's lesson is this:

In Loop Writing.mp4 I discuss the Ppt I created for Loop Writing and talk about some of the things I say to students to encourage their loop writing process.

Why Argue? A Tutorial Justifying Argument in the Classroom

20 minutes


Our society functions best when we question, when we pause and say, "Wait a minute, maybe there's a better way." Think about all the times our world has changed for the better because someone dared to disagree with the status quo. I ask students: "Can you think of any times in our history when we have had a change based on our disagreements?" Students typically offer several watershed moments from history: The Civil Rights Movement; the Civil War; the Revolutionary War, etc. 

I tell students that I'm bothered by those who say, "I avoid conflict, as though conflict itself is inherently wrong." I tell them that only by saying we can do better, by saying we need change, by saying 'I disagree with such and such' can we make our world better." 

That's the point of the TED talk "Dare to Disagree" that I show students:

Loop Writing: "Clumsy Attempt to Find Symbols for Wordlessness"

30 minutes

Since I typically think of loop writing as a creative writing strategy, I created Loop Writing.pptx as a guide for walking students through the writing process. The idea is for students to get their ideas on paper w/out their own minds faking them out. 

At one point in the process, loop writing requires students to "make things up" if they don't have the information they need. I explain the importance of doing this as it gives students a sense of gaps in their research. I do, however, caution them to be careful not to include this bogus information in their papers. 

Additionally, the Ppt includes slides that tell students to incorporate dialogue into their loop writing and to tell stories. The use of these genres are important for several reasons: dialogue is analogous to quoting experts; stories are illustrations that support the cold hard facts. Loop Writing Student Work and Student Working on Loop Writing and Student Loop Writing Process show students working on the loop writing task.

The Ppt. also gives time limits. These are suggestions. I take my cues from students and err on the side of not giving them enough time to finish because I don't want them chit-chatting. I want those fingers moving nonstop. 

My student on homebound instruction joined us via Google Hangouts. This allowed her to hear the instrcution I provide to students: Loop Writing in Class and via Google Hangouts