Slice of Life Story Challenge March 16 -The Most Dangerous Part of The Lesson
The Most Dangerous Part of The Lesson
‘We have reached the most dangerous part of our lesson young writers’ I announce to the group of students seated before me. I lower my voice and lean towards them. ‘We must be careful going back to our seats to start our writing. There is a danger of being ambushed and taken away from your mission. Do not let anyone distract you from commencing the writing mission you have just discussed with your writing buddy. Someone may try to strike up a conversation that may lead you off course. Who can make it back to their writer’s notebook safely without being drawn away from their mission? Stay alert to the danger. It's all around you.' They all smile knowingly.
It’s all a bit of a game, but the truth is I am aiming to narrow the distance between the young writer’s (Grade 3 and 4 students) intentions and actions. I want every writer in the room to have the best possible chance to fill the blank page with their amazing words. So, I want them to be aware of the possibility of being distracted from the task they have identified during the pre-writing stage of our workshop. It is just another way to increase the time they spend actually writing.
Observation had informed us that many of the students continued to socialize during the independent writing phase of the lesson and this distraction inhibited the flow of words onto the page.
Following some debriefs with the teachers of these students we identified the need to build writing stamina in the same way we build reading stamina. For this to occur, talk and other distractions have been identified as real impediments to composing during independent writing. We have been directly teaching into this in an effort to alert students to the potential problem distractions carry for their writing outcomes.
For this reason we have quarantined talk to those parts of the workshop before and after the writing phase. Unless of course teacher and students are involved in writing conferences or strategy groups. In these classes talk is being used in a mindful and targeted manner.
As developing writers these students need assistance and guidance in learning to shut out the distractions. They are beginning to reap the benefits. They are generally writing more. The writing is more cohesive and their ability to concentrate is improving. They are returning to share time and making statements like:
‘I am able to focus on my writing.’
‘I am writing more in one lesson than I used to write in a week.’
‘I like it when everyone at my table is writing quietly, it helps me concentrate.’
Talk is essential for writers, but it must be harnessed to ensure it benefits the writing as much as possible. Classrooms can be difficult places in which to write. We continue to refine our practice in order to let the best words emerge.