Post Number 700 ! -Some Beliefs About Writing Gathered Along The Way
This is officially my 700th post!
I launched this blog in 2008, not knowing where it would actually go. Naturally, I wanted it to provide support for teachers of writing, but it has also served to provide additional meaning and reflection around my own writing life.
I am most pleased that it has continued to fulfill its original aim.
As this is post number 700, I went in search of some factoids involving the number in question.
I actually love trivia, so I did it for myself as much as for my readers.
Unfortunately, 700 doesn't seem to figure largely in history, although I did uncover a couple of mathematical links. I share them with you for what they are worth.
700 is the sum of four consecutive prime numbers (167 + 173 + 179 + 181).
700 is a Harshad number which means it is divisible by the sum of its digits.
So, on this milestone occasion, I humbly share some thoughts and understandings gathered along this writing and learning journey.
These things I now know to be true about teaching kids to write…
•Writers need to know their stories. They might have to tell them many times or engage in a lot of thinking before they arrive at the writing. Pre-writing, and rehearsal are therefore critical to success.
•The teaching of writing needs to be seen through a child’s eyes. Are students writing about their view of the world? Can we help them to talk and write richly about their lives?
•Writing should let us know what it is like to see the world through a child’s eyes and a child’s perspective.
•We won’t get honest writing and true voice from writers who are denied CHOICE in topic and genre.
•The teaching of writing should focus on the HOW of writing rather than the WHAT.
•Writing teaches children to become activists, helping to improve their quality of life. They need to know that their words can make a difference in the world.
•Authentic purposes for writing are essential. Kids know when writing is fake. They disengage.
•Young writers need to understand that the writing they are doing is important for somebody. It’s about audience, not a display board.
•We need to ask, ‘What are you going to do with this writing?” We have to spend a lot of time talking, if we want children to write with confidence.
•Writing alters relationships. We need to know students as people, and they need to know us as people who value both reading and writing. It’s what we know about each child in the class that counts, and what they know about their teacher.
•Writing helps young people preserve their childhood. We should help students preserve their personal memory markers and create their own collection of unique stories. As an adult it is good to remember how it felt to be nine years old again. Ask students to write in an important enough way so that they strive to preserve their words.
•Writing turns kids into readers. Teachers need to make the reading/writing connection visible throughout the school day. You cannot be a writer unless you’re a reader too. Writing is an essential part of reading.
•Developing writers need to see how other more experienced writers collect writing ideas and develop writing projects.
• Providing adequate time for writing, during writers’ workshop each day is critical to developing writers.
• Providing rich content, meaningful conversations and appropriate tools assists students to believe they have something to say, and they have the time and materials to say it.
•Carefully planned, mindful mini-lessons teaching the craft of writing are essential. They provide effective, valuable information for young writers about writing. They reveal writing secrets.
• Using a writer’s voice to conduct mini-lessons is essential. The language of writing must be shared and highlighted.
•You are a writer, teaching about writing. This is the best position from which to teach. Enthuse young writers with a belief in writing. You can’t do this if you don’t believe in the power of writing yourself.
• Studying books that highlight the beauty of language, and demonstrating our love of language is of paramount importance. We must read aloud using the best possible literature.
• We must provide abundant demonstrations of exemplary writing.
• For emerging writers, thinking about captions for family photo albums, is more appropriate than tackling autobiography.
•As student writers grow in experience show them how to write memoir rather than autobiography. Writing your autobiography at age 10 seems somewhat premature.
• Continuing to grow oneself professionally and learning about how best to teach writing, is critical to success. If we don't invest in our own professional growth, we condemn ourselves(and our students)to mediocrity.
• Conducting writing workshop mini-lessons that focus on grammar, and spelling and employ quality literature are important. It builds contextual knowledge.
• Sharing what we see in independent writing time, and being explicit about what we saw makes sharing times a vital learning time.
• We must constantly convey the message that using the best words in the right place, adds power to the writing we do and can move an audience.
• Publishing requires re-visioning. It involves re-working the content, until it provides the reader with a clear picture of what is conveyed by the words on the page.
• We must provide scaffolding, or support for writers according to their experience.
• Throughout the writers’ workshop we must ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing this? Am I talking like a writer? During the mini-lesson, Am I showing good writing, and how a writer composes? During conferencing, Am I a writing friend? Am I prepared to show children how to make their writing more powerful? Do I know how to do that? If not, why not?
• We must show children that they can write. If they think they can’t, they won’t.
• We must use ‘strong mentor texts’ to show what good writing looks like. We are the most proficient writer in the classroom but, we don’t have to be the only source of good writing.
• Look for gems among students’ writing. Take a line, and highlight it for others to read.
• By becoming writers ourselves, children will get to know a person who loves their language, and someone who is brave enough to put their thinking on paper.
•Being a joyfully literate being requires a teacher to make their reading -writing lives visible to students. We must be brave enough to do this. Bold teaching is essential.
•Look at your classroom, empty of children, and ask yourself, ‘What are the supports in this classroom for reading and writing?’ Where have I honoured special writing? Where is the support for inexperienced writers?
•Demonstrating how a proficient writer finds and develops ideas is paramount to developing independent, self directed young writers.
• We need to see evidence of handing over some of the responsibility for learning to the children? Are our student writers demonstrating real growth towards independence?
•We must develop a predictable environment for our writers -A predictable environment in which unpredictable things might just happen.