Trusting Young Writers To Think of Ideas

In my role as an Education Consultant one of my obligations is alerting teachers in schools to the importance of writing as a tool of communication.

I need to constantly stress the importance of children having the opportunity to write independently, on a daily basis. I encourage teachers to trust that their students can and will be able to think of things to write about, especially if they know their teachers support their efforts -and encourage them to be risk takers with the words they wish to use.

It is a fact that a significant number of these teachers are non writers themselves and this feeds their reluctance to trust. They experience great difficulty ‘giving over’ the control of writing in their classrooms. They frequently tell the children what to write and it amounts to little more than respond to the book type exercises –literature responses! The writing program in many classrooms has been reduced to students writing to a ‘prompt’ -A prompt owned and provided by the teacher.

I still have strong memories of my own Grade five teacher, the irrepressible Ms. Dungan, imposing a weekly writing topic on our class. I recall with little joy writing about ‘My Life As A Pen and “Autobiography Of An Ant’. She prowled the room as we wrote on ‘her’ topic of choice. The ‘composition’ books were collected at the conclusion of the allotted time, taken away and corrected. When returned the following week they were covered in red ink where she had vigorously corrected our writing. There was no other feedback apart from a mark out of ten. We only found out what was wrong with our writing. There was never any attempt to build on what we knew about writing. All her effort on correction was largely a waste of time. The only time we wrote was on those dreaded Thursday afternoons.

My early experiences as a writer are what motivate me to provide explicit feedback and support for young writers at every stage of the writing process. They need to feel that their efforts to develop as writers will be valued. By doing this, each child is more likely to achieve what they set out to do when they commence writing.

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