“Some people need less time to prewrite, more time to rough draft. I believe that the idea of a one-size-fits-all writing process has turned off some talented young writers” Ralph Fletcher
“There is no one way that the writing process must go.” Jessica Mazzone, our 3-5 TC Staff Developer said to us we began our year long study of writing and writers at our school. We listened as she shared the latest thinking out of Teachers College about the writing process.
I have read and heard those words before. The work Fletcher, Graves, Murray and Newkirk runs deep in my own work with writers of all ages. I was reminded of their work as Jessica (Mazzone) spoke – “There is no one way that the writing process must go.”
Jessica (Mazzone) went on, “The writing process is built into the units of study but we aren’t thinking about that process and therefore the kids aren’t thinking about it. Yet, the writing process is the thread that must follow through all the units and genres.”
Those words hung in silence.
She went on.
“So, let’s think. When you teach writing, what part feels easy?”
“In your own writing process, what part is easy/hard?”
These questions hung in silence.
“So, let’s take five minutes to think about our own process. What is your process? Where do you spend the most time? What part of the process is hard for you? Do your weaknesses find their way into your teaching?”
We worked in silence for about seven minutes. While I worked trying to capture all the pieces of my own process, I couldn’t help but wonder what my colleagues were writing and sketching. I could hear Jess’s (Carey) pen marking her paper beside me. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What are the pieces of their process? Would our processes be similar? Would anyone else include sketching and observing in their process? Curiosity gnawed as I worked on capturing my own process
Jessica (Mazzone) pulled me out of my wondering and invited us to share.
Kristen shared, “I’ll write a whole piece, erase it and then restart. I’ll erase again and then restart again. I’m not sure I always show that to the kids.”
Jess (Marino) followed Kristen, “It would stress me out to erase it all. I’m more of a planner.”
Karen chimed in “I spend a lot of time in revision.”
Carolyn added that her process tends to involve a lot of writing and rereading to find what and how she is going to say what she wants to say.
“We are all taking parts of the process and using what we need as we go.” Jessica (Mazzone) responded thoughtfully. “Our job is to teach writing process, but how can we take a writing process and help kids find their own version of the writing process? Are we allowing kids to find and know their own writing process?”
More words hung in silence. We were thinking.
These last questions prompted the table to wonder what would happen if they asked kids about their own process as a means of reflection/celebration at the end of a unit. We wondered if fourth graders could do this work.
Later that day, with the writing process conversation lingering and living in my mind, I sent a few invitations to the fourth grade teachers that they might use with their classes if they wanted to begin the work of kids finding their own process.
I hit send, putting the invitations out there to see what would happen.
At the end of the day, my last group of readers had left, I went over to my desk, flipped over my phone and saw a text from Jess (Marino). I opened it and saw:
Jess (Marino), with the conversation lingering and living in her mind, found 10 minutes in her day and put the invitations before her fourth grade writers. She wanted to see what would happen.
When we reflect on, and let our own experiences as writers become part of our teaching, the teaching is real and honest. We create classrooms communities that are even playing fields for teaching and learning for everyone. We have to know how to get to know ourselves in order to create opportunities for kids to know themselves. All this knowing creates stronger communities and relationships.
“It is our literacy and the quality of inquiry in our own lives that provide the tone and the quality of learning in the children’s lives.” Donald Graves