Letting Them Teach Me

I’m sorry, I just realized I missed a blog post last Wednesday. Yes, I know it’s been nearly a week, but the truth is I just realized it. Oops.

So on to the post…

I am so excited to be in a third grade writing workshop. A colleague has agreed to let me experiment a little and really learn about the transition from writing drafts that include both pictures and words to writing drafts with only words. This transition seems to happen around ages 8-9.

I’ve never really spent the time watching this process. I’ve forced it. I’ve given lessons about writing on draft paper. I’ve created lots of paper templates to help scaffold young writers to move into writing drafts with only words. However, until this year I’ve not really watched young writers make the transition naturally. I really want to see the organic way children grow into the kind of writers who draft mostly with words.

So we launched writing workshop in this third grade class with an invitation for children to write books. We put a stack of blank paper in the writing center and let them have at. We held our breath and watched. After a few days what we saw emerging were writing plans.

Some writers used a blank page and made sketches of things that would be in the book. Others wrote a list of ideas. There were table of contents popping up around the room. They were making plans.

I taught into their work last Friday with this teaching point: Writers think about the entire book from beginning to end. This was a shift of thinking for many of the third grade writers. As primary writers they made a page and then asked themselves “Then what?” Now as they are maturing, we are nudging them to consider the whole text. As they think through the entire book, they are becoming the kind of writers who plan ahead. They are envisioning their stories and imagining the possibilities.

I’m beginning to understand a large part of moving from drafting with pictures and words to drafting with only words has to do with envisioning and planning. The stronger sense we have of a story the easier it is to draft it with words. This week I’m planning to help students strengthen their envisioning muscles, as well as introduce them to storyboards. Storyboards are a great tool for envisioning, as well as a very natural bridge into drafting without pictures.