The skillful writer

Novice writers tend to write things down as they pop into their minds, following associations from moment to moment. This impressionistic style often leads to fragmented writing that is childish, disorganized, and inaccurate. Reading such writing is like listening to a child try to explain something complicated–the writing jumps around, leaves thoughts unclear and undeveloped, wanders into contradictions, mingles information with myths and biases, issues judgments without evidence, and makes assertions without justifications.

Skillful writers have disciplined themselves to get past childish and impressionistic writing. They carry on a dialogue with themselves as they write, working hard to practice the discipline of clear, accurate, and organized writing. They have learned from thoughtful reading and careful writing how minds create understanding–how they monitor and evaluate as they read. To satisfy thoughtful readers, a careful writer must constantly monitor and evaluate what he or she is saying.

The skillful writer holds a distinction between his or her thinking and the thinking of his or her audience, asking always: Does the audience have enough information or background to understand this sentence? The skillful writer is purposive, keeping in mind the communication goal of the writing and adjusting to accomplish that goal. The skillful writer is coherent, asking how what is being written fits with other ideas in the text. The skillful writer is critical, asking whether what is being written is accurate, precise, clear, relevant to the current purpose, logical, and fair.

The skillful writer revises, constantly improving his or her writing by thinking about it. He or she writes a little more then goes back and re-reads, monitoring and evaluating what is being said.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 02/28 at 06:06 AM
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©2006 Montana Heritage Project

Center for Digital Storytelling

Tell Your Story!!!

The Center for Digital Storytelling in conjunction with CTLT (The Center for
Teaching, Learning and Technology) will be offering two Digital Storytelling
Workshops this Spring – Mar 15-17th and May 10- 12th
at the Denver Downtown Auraria Campus.

Price of the workshop is $475/person and registration is limited to 10 slots
per workshop.

Continuing education credit will be available for an additional fee through

For detailed info on the workshop, please read below or visit our website

To register, please contact us using the information at the bottom of this
email and we’ll send you back full reg info.


The Digital Storytelling Workshop:

The goal of the workshop is to design and produce a 3-5 minute digital story centered around your personal narrative. The workshops are usually held as all day, contiguous day intensives, involving 6-12 participants. Participants are given materials prior to the workshop to assist them in preparation, including suggestions of limits in script duration, number of images, and use of video clips.

The workshop involves four major components:

1. Presentation of Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling

As both a guide to scripting and design, and as a showcase for design examples, each workshop begins with a lecture-demonstration as guidelines to creating a digital story. Outstanding examples that illustrate the elements are presented as well.

2. Group Script Process

As in a creative writing class, we facilitate a review of story ideas or actual scripts as a group process. Both the general approach and specific editorial issues are addressed, and issues of storyboarding and design are touched upon.

3. Hands On Software Tutorials

Participants are taken step by step through the basics of the software(s) used in the process. While we often use two professional softwares, Photoshop, for image manipulation, and Premiere, Final Cut or iMovie for video editing, the process can be done with a large number of alternative tools as well.

4. Production Support and Management

Most of the workshop is spent with participants working on producing their own projects, with their own ambition and pace. CDS staff has trained extensively on the process of assisting users during the various steps of multimedia production. Great attention is given to time management, troubleshooting, and prioritizing the process to assure the participants achieve the goal of a completed project.  Additionally, these workshops will touch on integration of this type of media/exercise within curriculum for teachers and how this type of work increases media literacy not only for teachers but for their students.

Note: cost for onsite workshop for up to 10 people: $5,500.

Daniel Weinshenker
Center for Digital Storytelling - Denver
wk: 303.765.2641
cell: 720.635.1833

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 02/27 at 02:21 PM
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©2006 Montana Heritage Project

Trivial vs Substantive Writing

For teachers who intend the teaching of writing to further their students’ critical thinking abilities, not just any writing will do. These observations from the Foundation for Critical Thinking:

It is possible to write with an emphasis on style, variety of sentence structure, and rhetorical principles without learnign to write in a substantive manner. Rhetorically powerful writing may be, and in our culture often is, intellectually bankrupt. Many intellectually imporverished thinkers write well in the purely rhetorical sense. Propaganda. . .is often expressed in a rhetorically effective way. Political speeches empty of significant content are often rhetorically well-designed. Sophistry and self-delusion often thrive in rhetorically proficient prose.

A New York Times special supplement on education (Aug. 4, 2002) included a description of a new section in the SAT focused on a “20-minute writing exercise.” The prompt those taking the test were asked to write on was as follows: “There is always a however.” One might as justifiably ask a person to write on the theme, “There is always an always!” Or “There is never a never!” Such writing prompts are the equivalent of an intellectual Rorschach inkblot. They do not define a clear intellectual task. There is no issue to be reasoned through. Thus, the writer is encouraged to pontificate using rhetorical and stylistic devices rather than reason using intellectual good sense, to talk about nothing as if it is something.

Substantive writing requires that the writer begin with a significant, intellectually well-defined task. This writing can be assessed for clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness (rather than rhetorical style and flourish). Substantive writing enables the author to take ownership of ideas worth understanding ♦ Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder (How to Write a Paragraph)

The talk about “substantive writing” shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that high school students need to be writing like Kant or Hume. When Chennell Brewer tries to unravel the mystery of a 1918 crime in her hometown of White Sulphur Springs, she’s involved in a substantive quest. So is Ronan High School student Britney Maddox, when she tells the story of her grandmother’s experiences under Hitler, or Rachel Reckin, when she gathers evidence of the role music played in helping people in Libby flourish during the Great Depression.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 02/27 at 05:32 AM
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©2006 Montana Heritage Project
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