Teach Student Writers The Importance of Rehearsal

It represents a major breakthrough in the development of the student writer when they become conscious of rehearsing their writing ideas. As a classroom teacher it was cause for celebration when students entered the classroom some mornings and announced ‘I know what I’m going to write about today’ It was music to my ears to hear those words. It was telling me that they were conscious of their writing intentions well before the act of writing. They were rehearsing their writing ideas. These young writers were taking their writing beyond the four walls of the classroom and engaging in preparation and thinking about the writing that would eventually emerge on the blank page. I fully understand how important rehearsal is to the writer. I find myself continually in the grip of word storms. They bounce around in my head. Phrases and ideas form and reform continually as I go about this critical pre-writing phase. I am getting ready to write. I am sorting ideas. I am sounding myself out. How does that sound? What about this? This process can take up a significant amount of time. Eventually these ideas will spill onto the page and from there further reshaping takes place.

One of my writing mentors, the late Eric Rolls writes about this rehearsal phase in his wonderful little book ‘Celebration of the Senses. He writes:
'From the time I begin to plan a book phrases sing in my head. I write most of them down at once, stopping the car, the tractor, getting out of bed…
The phrases I like I do not write down. I say them to myself over and over. I say them when I wake up at night. I say them in the morning. I know where the phrase is to fit in the book. I will sing it over and over…'

This is how it goes -the recursive nature of rehearsing your words. Word play that largely retains it invisibility until it is ready to be revealed on the page. Non writers will not appreciate this. They will not understand.
Young writers deserve to know that rehearsal is a natural part of writing. They need to be encouraged to think about it as part of the pre- writing phase.


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