Why Publishing Student Writing Is Important
A recent question from a teacher prompted me to think more deeply about publishing student writing. She was searching for professional reading that dealt more deeply with the publishing phase of the writing process. My own search revealed that many of the available texts deal more comprehensively with the lead up (revision, editing) to publishing than publishing itself. It doesn’t seem to get the attention that it deserves. Publishing and all it entails is only lightly explored in many professional texts.
I have always believed that when the young writer reaches this important stage of the process, a wonderful opportunity exists for empowering the writer to make some really important decisions concerning the shape and form of the final product. I had to go back to one of my earliest books on writing- ‘Writing, Teachers and Children at Work’, Donald Graves, to find any meaty detail surrounding this part of the process. Reading Graves’ words was like reconnecting with an old friend. Graves reminded me students need to know that publishing actually contributes to their development as writers. It also increases their awareness of audience. It helps at home, as it provides tangible evidence of growth and development as a writer, evidence parents can understand. I felt re-assured about publishing and its pivotal role in the development of the student writer.
When we reach the point of publishing our task is to ‘nudge’ our student writers in the right direction so that they feel empowered to summon the hard discipline to guide their writing ‘home’ –not always easy. A task akin to herding cats for some teachers.
Some students work through the process quicker than others. Others are travelling down a somewhat unfamiliar road and display uncertainty. They gradually descend into indecision. A number of ideas come to mind to address these issues.
Set deadlines in consultation with students. Deadlines are a reality in the life of a writer and we risk selling kids short if we don’t set certain expectations for completing tasks –particularly tasks they themselves have selected as important.
Make visible where kids are up to in the process and having kids explain to their peers where they are up to and what action they intend to take next. I have previously used this as an opportunity to set ‘check in’ groups where students discuss in small groups the plan for publishing their writing and their progress towards achieving their goal. Five minutes, maybe twice a week would be sufficient to implement this strategy. It works because the power of the group incorporates a measure of accountability for each member of the group. They feel the need to enact their professed plans.
Draw attention to publishing in whole class discussions by randomly asking students to share examples of progress being made and future actions and tie this to specific days and dates.
The process you take for your own writing also serves as a model. Make that process visible across pre-writing- planning- drafting, revising. editing and finally publication. Let them see how a polished piece of writing develops. Our students have to see something enacted to fully understand it.
Not only consider how student writing might be published, but also ‘where? Encourage thinking and discussion around the variety of ways a writer can make a piece of writing ’public’
Assist students how to think about the text they have written as an entity and evaluate how it communicates meaning and information through the use of language conventions as well as visual elements ( layout, illustrations etc).
One of the problems with ‘publishing’ is that it consumes considerable chunks of class time, -so how do we create additional time for it to prove its worth to our students? Our planning rarely grapples adequately with this issue and therefore the quality and range of ‘published writing suffers in the rush that ensues.
Consider the following questions:
How do we create more time for publishing to reach its potential?
How do we build publishing time into our homework routines?
How do we enlist support for publishing?
Publishing has fallen away in recent years as the curriculum has become ever more crowded. Like standardization in the food industry, publishing in schools has become a little standardized to fit the time available –fast food writing if you like!
Donald Graves when posing the question, Why publish? responded with another question, Why write?