After all of the writer’s notebook work and the storyboard work and the oral storytelling, it sometimes seems as though students don’t realize how they then need to craft their draft. I’ve found that explicit teaching of this idea is important.
Today I did just that with some third graders. I showed them my storyboard and then “took off the top of my head,” as Nancie Atwell suggests and drafted in front of them. The “taking of the top of my head” refers to how I shared my thinking with them as I drafted. I let them peek inside my brain, so to speak.
In the name of honesty, I must tell you — I WAS SO NERVOUS! I wasn’t expecting to teach this lesson, so I had done little thinking before hand of the actual words of my draft. It was a story I haven’t done much writing on in the past, so it was new and fresh to me. Although nerve-wrecking, I think these things made my lesson more powerful.
Because I draft regularly and I understand the words will come as I go through the act of writing, I was able to trust the process. My lesson involved breaking down the thinking I did to get those words. I shared with them how I hoped to have a repeating line, but I wasn’t sure what that line might be, so I’m just going to start with: My dog was crazy and funny and lovable. I wrote it. Then I reread it — I explained to them why I reread. Then I wrote the next line, sharing the inner-thinking happening as I wrote. I continued this for a few more lines.
Albeit this is brave teaching, I mean — Hello! What if the words don’t come? — it is also the most powerful kind of focus lessons we can give. In order to help our students become stronger writers, we must “take off the top of our heads” and show them how writers think. By teaching that writers make intentional and purposeful decisions & then showing the process in raw form helps our students do the same.
Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.