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More Talk

What is the role of talk in your writing workshop?  In our district, we have known for many years that writing workshop is not meant to be a silent place.  We use phrases like “a working buzz” and “table conversations” to describe the soft hum of voices we hope to hear while children write. We worry when we walk into a writing workshop where everyone is silent.  Our students from kindergarten through eighth grade are intimately familiar with a turn-and-talk.  We gather on the carpet for reflection sessions at the end of writing workshop with our notebooks on our laps to discuss and share.  Writing is a social event, we know this to be true.

Yet, I am beginning to think this is not enough.  We need more talk, specifically talk before writing.  Talk about ideas.

I started thinking about the role that talk plays in my own writing process, and truth be told, it is minimal.  Perhaps every now and again, I will run a blog post idea past my husband or a colleague, but generally I don’t.  On Tuesday mornings, I may have 4 or 5 Slice of Life Story ideas in my head, but I usually just pick one and go for it.  I don’t talk it out with anybody first.  And, the very notion that I have a couple of ideas for books is a well-guarded secret.  I have never once uttered the actual book ideas out loud to anybody, not even my husband.  I just don’t talk about my writing.  What would happen if I did?  How do writers talk about their writing?  I decided to give it a try.  I knocked on my colleague’s door who occupies the office next to mine.  “Got a minute?” I asked.  I plopped down in her chair and started talking (don’t worry, I told her I was recording):

From that quick, two-minute conversation, I:

  • got a couple of really great suggestions to think about (using real photos, including another character)
  • have some questions to consider (Would I want to include actual photos of my own children in a book?  How would this book make kids feel who have less-than-happy mornings at home?)
  • thought about my audience (kids, their parents, my own children)
  • feel more confident about the possibility of tackling this idea
  • feel slightly more accountable for putting pen to paper now that the idea is ‘out there’ in the universe

This small experiment solidifies my belief that kids need to do more talking before they write.

Talking about our writing in the classroom is certainly not a new concept.  However, I do think it is a concept that could use more attention.  How do other writers use talk to develop their ideas?  How can we infuse more talk into our routines and procedures during writing workshop?  How will more talk impact our students and their attitudes as  writers?  These questions and others will be on my mind as I continue to reach out to my husband, colleagues, and friends to talk about my writing.



Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

5 thoughts on “More Talk Leave a comment

  1. I think I understand the value of talk for my own writing process. As I read your post I did start to question myself about those times when I did not talk to someone about my writing. They are:
    *When I think the person I talk with will try to change my writing
    *When I think the person I talk with doesn’t understand what I hope yo accomplish with my writing
    The problem could lie inside of me. I could worry less and talk more. Or, the problem could be real and something all of us educators could learn from!


  2. Talk is so important and often overlooked. I recently met with my supervisor/ writing critique partner over a project and the talk made all the difference in my continued writing. She brought forth ideas I had overlooked. I will certainly try to incorporate more talking time with and among my students.


  3. There’s such an emphasis in the early grades and in the fiction writing unit. But other than that, I don’t think we emphasize talking before writing on a regular basis. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront. It’s something we need to explore more. (Perhaps there’s a talk-before-writing piece you can do for our routines series.)


  4. Dana,
    Ouch! This hurts! We just talked about this – Middle school and high school ELA teachers and I – that struggling students need to talk more before they write so they believe in themselves as a writer and are confident that they have something to write!

    I view my blog posts as drafts and the conversations as a part of our “talk” but that is probably also a lot of “excuse-iology” as well. I don’t talk to others a lot about the writing before the words appear in print either, but I do talk to myself! I often read my writing out loud for a simulated “audience view”.

    One of the reasons that I do love Twitter is that I have can quick conversations or gather inspiration about a topic. Now to use it more purposefully, in the writing process, to improve and further develop my own writing as one avenue of “written talk”. . . . Interesting. Thanks for making me think!


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