I stared up at the clear glass casing that surrounded the water filter hanging from my basement ceiling. Inside I could see the dirty water filter. Knowing I needed to somehow unscrew the rather large jar-like casing in order to change the filter, I scratched my head- how would I do this? I had already tried unscrewing the jar with my hands, but it was just too tight. How am I going to accomplish this task? I wondered to myself. Suddenly from behind me came a voice. “Try this,” said the voice. I turned to my right to see my friend Don standing next to me. In his hand, he held a black plastic tool by the handle. Taking the wrench, I reached up and fitted it over the glass casing- it fit perfectly! “Now, just turn it to the left,” said Don. A wry smile crossed his face, knowing what he had given me was designed for just this task. Wow, I thought, the right tool makes all the difference.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Melanie Meehan and I began thinking together about tools and the writing process. We began by talking about the writing process not as a series of steps all writers go through in a uniform fashion, but rather how the process of creating a piece of writing is somewhat unique for each individual writer. This line of thinking led us eventually to conversations about ways we as teachers might use an understanding of the writing process to support student writers. In her post entitled, “Thinking About and Honoring Individual Writing Processes,” Melanie shared her ideas, as well as her experience, about a way we can raise self-awareness within each individual writer to help them become more productive. I then followed that post up with a post of my own in which I shared ways partners could support each other within each part of the process.
Melanie and I share a strong belief in the possibility of the writing process and how thinking through that lens offers potential for moving each of our writers forward. As teachers, we can begin to notice where writers seem to “get stuck” or spend too much time. We can notice where our writers are perhaps not spending enough time. For example, if a writer does not finish his story, we can look back at his planning and rehearsal. We might find, well… that he did not plan. Maybe this writer does not yet see the possibility or value of that phase of the writing process? Or, better yet, perhaps this writer could use some “right tools” to help him.
All of this thinking led Melanie and I to an idea: What if we created digital Padlets that provided resources not just for teachers, but for student writers, parents, caregivers, co-teachers, and support staff? We know that sometimes tools- just like with the water filter in my basement- can make a significant difference. Below you will find our rough draft attempts as we began to collect some of the things we have on hand as literacy coaches for supporting writers at the different phases of the writing process. Note: If you teach middle school, you will likely find many of the charts and tools in the Grade 3-5 Padlet useful for some of your writers, too.
View the Grades 6-8 Narrative Writing Resources on the web.
For your own classrooms, you may wish to copy one of these Padlets, add your own resources, and make them available to your community. The right tool(s) at the right time(s) can make a huge difference, both when it comes to unlocking a water filter or the power of writing.
For more than 27 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.