Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Talk the Talk but Do You Walk the Walk?

Over the past week I harnessed my resolve to do some serious writing and dove head first into what may (or may not) one day become my contribution to the literacy community. I first began by cataloging all of my old blogs.  I spent a lot of time reading and rereading the thoughts I have been collecting for the last three years. 

Once I finished that, I realized that my musings naturally fit into a variety of categories related to literacy.  I created a binder and decided that the category that I am most “on about” at the moment is book choice.  Maybe because it’s September and book choice is always a hot topic at the beginning of the year or maybe because my sixth grade son went through four different books in three days, I found myself thinking a lot about what we, as teachers, can do to support children on their quest to find good fit books and launch them on the path that makes them avid, voracious readers. 

Once I settled on my topic, I set to work organizing my ideas.  When I sat down to do this, I started with my binder of old blogs and a pen.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed more “stuff” in order to do the work of envisioning.  I found myself running around the house gathering supplies.  By the time I was really ready to start my project, these are the supplies I had collected:

As you can see, I needed post-its—in four different colors, highlighters, scissors, tape, markers, a white board, and space—lots of space because after all, these were big ideas I was dealing with.  I needed room to spread them out and move them around. 

From there I began the process of writing notes on post-its and identifying big categories of ideas and questions that I want to think more about.  I managed to tease out a skeleton outline of what I want to write and I am proud to report, that I have finally begun a draft.

As I have wrestled with this process, I have found myself thinking a lot about writing instruction. For years, I have been teaching the merits of the writing workshop and have guided scores of teachers and hundreds of children through the process of collecting, gathering, drafting, revising, and editing.  I have talked about paper choice and tools for drafting and editing but until this week, I don’t know that I owned any of this teaching. “Choosing a seed” and beginning a project has forced me to walk the walk and the journey has been eye opening. Writing doesn’t just happen because we decorate a notebook and jot down a few ideas. Writing is a meandering process that requires time—time to question and research and think and finally, commit words to paper.  

I know that my journey is just beginning but one thing I can say for certain is this: Being a writer has changed me as a writing teacher. Writing requires an emotional investment that vacillates between exhilaration and angst and this insight will help me to be more patient when working with young learners. The act of writing has removed me from the periphery and placed me on the field with my students and my learning curve is huge and that is why, once again I urge you to join me on the field.  Try doing some writing this week.  What do you learn about your process that will influence what you teach children about theirs? 


The Book Chook said...

Something that has really influenced me as a writer is templates and software. I find the Snowflake method an excellent prompt for structure in my preliminary organization. And recently I began using Scrivener (software) for my fiction writing. Scrivener make reflection and revision so much easier for me.

Kim Yaris said...

Oh wow! You have given me a diversion I didn't even know existed! I will definitely check out this software you suggest! ANYTHING to make the process easier!