Thursday, February 9, 2012

Share Your Writing Life

*Here is another cross-post from my Friday Focus post
on my staff memo blog:

Photo courtesy of J. Lauzier

Share Your Writing Life

"I write out of ignorance...It's what I don't know that stimulates me.

I merely know enough to get started." ~Toni Morrison

In Regie Routman's book Writing Essentials, she discusses the importance of sharing your writing life with students...even if you don't think of yourself as a writer. As you examine your writing over an ordinary week, it may include lists, letters, emails, cards, journal//reflection book, book/movie reviews on amazon, etc. Routman states, "the simple fact is we have to see ourselves as writers if we are to teach writing well." She goes on to discuss the need for students to see why we write and why good writing matters.

As I reflected on this, I asked myself the question, "when did I become a writer?" To be quite honest, it wasn't until I started blogging about 3 years ago. Of course, I wrote whatever essays were assigned to me throughout school, dutifully following whatever criteria each of my teachers graded on and managed to get A's. However, it wasn't until I had choice in what I was writing and wrote for an "audience" that I could get feedback from online by sharing their comments that I became excited about writing. I recall the dread I felt having to think of what to write (in any class), however, now I am constantly adding to the list of topics I want to write about as I read new books and just experience life. My list is long, because I think of the ideas, but don't have the time to write about all of them.

This also makes me think back to how I taught writing in the classroom. I'm sure I never really inspired my students to write, because I wasn't that excited about writing. I taught lessons on the 6 Traits using picture books that our grade level agreed to use, and led students through grade level specific writing pieces. I also used a 6 Traits program that consisted of packets of activities and writing prompts on each trait. As I think back to those packets, I think of how boring and meaningless it must have been for my students (let's face it, I was bored with it).

What I was missing, was my own realization that I am a writer and to share that with my students. Routman suggests bringing in examples of your real-life writing to share with your students to show them that you are a writer. You can easily share your reflection journal or a printed email with them without actually reading it to them. In addition, you should model writing for your students using the same concept of a mini-lesson with a think-aloud that you do when teaching the literacy strategies. One strong suggestion from Routman is to not only model writing in front of your students, but to do it "cold" (not rehearsed) so that they can see you struggle with it. To let students see what "real writers" do as they think through what they're writing. This concept was entirely new to me, as I can recall wanting to get my model writing piece "perfect" before I wrote so my students would see what was needed, however, it's the actual struggle that helps them learn.

As I read Routman's book I was also intrigued to learn about the process of writing to learn, especially since we know that writing across the content areas is huge in the common core standards. Routman states, "writing enhances thinking and helps develop it." I used to always think that I had to have all the information before I could write something, however, it is the process of writing that helps you figure out what you know and don't know.

My reflection prompt for you: to think about yourself as a writer and how you can share it with your students:

  • The next time you sit down to write, examine your process--do you just start writing, do you need to make an outline/web, do you need to talk it out first? Do you write straight through? Stop to reread? Revise as you go? Look up information? Apply what you do as a writer to teaching your students.

Photo Courtesy of Writing Talk

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