Think Before Ink!

“Think Before Ink!” I read that heading in Mark Treddinick’s book, ‘The Little Red Writing Book' and it reminded me that writing is essentially a process, most of which happens when you are not writing

From experience we learn that writing is clearer, shorter and more engaging for the reader when it has been thought through first. We don’t want the reader to stumble along with us as we try to make sense of the true purpose of our writing. The reader wants the story, not the sketchy details, or uncertain ramblings.
Successful writing is about thinking and design. It is the rehearsal before the grand performance.
This has real implications for the way writing is presented in the classroom. Developing writers need time and space to rehearse and refine their writing intentions. Talking through ideas, making plans, considering the content, and generally sorting out where they want the piece to go. Katie Wood Ray talks about the need to have vision before revision, well writers need to develop that vision from the outset. It is a kind of GPS for the writing journey.

It was always re-assuring when the students I taught would enter the classroom in the morning and state quite definitely, - “I know what I’m going to write about today.” It was an indicator that they had been engaging in writing rehearsal beyond the confines of the classroom. It was a milestone in their development as writers, and a cause for celebration. Writing had become something more than an assignment given by an adult.

I vividly recall walking to PS 20 in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene one crisp morning to work with Erica Marshall’s Grade 3. Our brief that day was to help these young writers to practice the critical skill of generating ideas. A student from Erica’s class sidled up along side me and announced, “I took my writer’s notebook home over the weekend and wrote three stories. I’ve got another one to write today. Do you want me to tell you about it?
I replied, barely able to conceal my delight. In the space of little more than one hundred steps, out tumbled all his thoughts and ideas about his writing idea. His excitement was palpable. This young writer was locked and loaded.

I read recently that writing is a work in three movements:
• Thinking about it
• Doing it
• Doing it again.

It is the thinking that comes first. -And it maintains a presence throughout the process. Thinking represents the writer’s purposeful journey. The writing is what the thinking produces.

So the message is clear. Time needs to be provided for thinking and talking about writing. Rehearsal for writing needs to an essential element of your writing program. Talking about writing intentions as well as the work in progress are vital to progress. Equally, the role of the teacher is to talk about the thinking that goes into the writing produced as an example for students. Ideas and thinking grow as writers talk through them with others.


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