Thursday, January 5, 2012

Need It to Make Sense? WRITE!!!

One of the things that I preach to teachers when talking to them about deepening student understanding is the importance of writing in response to reading.  I tell them about the research that correlates higher reading scores with frequent writing.  Everybody nods in polite agreement but there is that small piece that remains skeptical.  After all, how often do we, as sophisticated adult readers, stop to write something after we’ve read?  Surely deep understanding is possible without picking up a pen???

So, in spite of the lingering doubt, we resolve to make sure to have students write more in response to reading.  Why?  Because it’s important.  Why is it important?  Well, because the research says so. 

And then it happens.  Sweet epiphany.

As I went about my daily life as a literacy coach helping teachers improve the practice of having conferences, I wrote vigorously as the teachers talked to the students. As I wrote word-for-word what they were saying, I couldn’t help but start to analyze what was happening.   Oooh, I thought to myself, she’s doing what I do when I get nervous that students aren’t saying anything.  I bombard them with a string of questions that might prompt SOME sort of response.  And that was but one of MANY of the thoughts that occurred to me as I wrote.  And as I wrote, I thought…and then, I thought some more and that’s when I realized why it’s so important that we have students write in response to reading—a pen becomes an extension of the brain and when we have it in hand, we can’t help but begin to think things that we would not have had we not touched the pen.  The literal extension morphs into a figurative one and that is what we want to happen to our students: we want them to S-T-R-E-T-C-H themselves.  We want them to reach deep and extend their thinking.    

Writing is a reflective practice.  It forces us to slow down and carefully consider all of the noise that resides inside of our heads.  It’s the reason that I blog.  It helps me to make sense of my professional life and as for students, writing can help them make sense of many things, books just being one of many.  

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