Monday, April 28, 2008

"Just Write" Continued - Feedback and Response!

To Lydia, (and others who are curious!)
Great feedback on my last post, thanks! I am still working on this anacronym to possibly use in the classroom soon.
The part about time - the "small moment" is a writer's workshop term from Lucy Calkins, I believe. Her instruction in writing asks students to choose to write about small moments, that is, moments that are short, so the writing can be DEEP instead of WIDE. Example: My trip to Florida is not a small moment. My day at Disney World is not a small moment. However, Deciding to Go on Space Mountain would probably qualify as a small moment - do you see how the writer would have to "zoom in" (another Calkins term) on a topic that happened in a small amount of time. This way, students can then develop this moment FULLY with sensory details, attention grabbing leads, dialogue, etc. And the moment would get well-fleshed out and hopefully lead to quality writing, as opposed to a summarization of key events on a WHOLE trip or even a WHOLE day. The point is to get the students writing deeply and specifically.

The part about engagement - again, "engagement" is more of a reader's workshop term (again, Calkins), and it refers to a student's ability to stick with their reading and return themselves to their reading despite distractions, motivation, disinterest, etc. You know, I didn't really think about the reflexive use of the "-self/selves" pronoun, but I will look into it to be sure I am using it correctly. I keep HEARING "engage yourself" so I just started using it in my writing as well to explain the concept.
So - as readers, we often get distracted, but we as adults have usually learned how to "re-engage" with the reading. As writers, the students are often SO easily led away from their writing by any little thing, including the poor choice of topic (much like how readers "disengage" when they have made a poor book choice).

So - I am aiming to have students stay engaged. (Let's just avoid the "selves" for now! :) )

Thanks again for the thoughts, as it really makes me think further into the topic/idea!

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Just Write" writing

At school in Reader's Workshop, the reading teachers give the students a lot of instruction on choosing "just right" books - they have a "5 finger rule" and a few other tips for choosing a book that is at the "just right" reading level for each kid. Before they learned to choose "just right" books and thus become engaged with their reading, students would often grab any book, try to read it and become discouraged, bored, or disengaged for a variety of reasons.

Well, the same thing is happening with their writing. Instead of developing writing topics that are "just right" for writing, they are randomly choosing to write about things like "the dictionary," or "an apple." But they have so little engagement with these topics that their writing quickly falters. As I observed my students struggling with their writing in the past few weeks, it occured to me that the TOPICS they are choosing are not "just right" for them. That is, they aren't really truly "choosing" topics.

It breaks my heart to see students really trying to write, but struggling to stay engaged with their topic - so maybe this all seems obvious to you, my blog readers, but... this has come as an epiphany for me! I am going to develop some lessons for early in the workshop called "Just Write" writing.

I envision an anacronym that with rules for choosing topics - something like this:

A "Just Write" topic is a moment/idea that I

Want to write about,
Remember clear details about,
Imagine sensory details,
Takes a "small moment" of time, and
Engage myself with for a significant amount of time (through the editing & revising process).

Now - that isn't really kid friendly yet, but I keep having to reteach these same lessons over and over in my one-on-one conferences, that I thought I'd just write this down to capture the idea. Kind of like using my blog as a temporary "writer's notebook" to gather my idea in... since I happened to be online when the thought occurred.

So - consider this my rough draft... Any ideas for helping my anacronym be more kid-friendly or concise?


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