Sometimes I do not like having to drive from Crawford to Chadron and back every day; some days I find it annoying to have to spend my time driving. Today was different. I was happy to have the chance to think about things while I was driving without the guilt that I should be doing homework or doing something more worthwhile than just sitting and thinking (though sitting and thinking is very worthwhile in my opinion). On the car ride to my brother’s house, I thought about student teaching, lit crit, and the professional development book I had just finished reading, Make Writing: 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer’s Workshop Into a Maker Space by Angela Stockman.
“In its traditional form, the writing process appears to be linear: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. While such a model conceptualizes writing simply and clearly, it is decidedly misleading and has provoked serious misinterpretation. The process is not sequential, nor is it tidy, and when writers are initiated into their work in this way, the expertise they gain is likely superficial at best…Familiarity with writers and writing has taught me that there is no one way to experience the writing process” (Stockman, 52)
Stockman describes 5 hacks to making a classroom a better space for making writing: Make writing, Remake your space, Teach them to Tinker, Keep it real, and Hack your curriculum. Sometimes, kids do not like to write because they are more of hands-on learners. They stare at a blank paper or a blank computer screen, and they can’t think of anything to write or they can’t get the words to come out. Stockman encourages the teacher to allow students to use their hands to write by using things likes Legos and cutting out and gluing together sections of writing.
“When kids aren’t writing well on the test, it’s typically because they aren’t doing enough authentic writing and learning about writing all year long. They don’t understand how writing works, who they are as writers, or how to approach specific forms…The more writers simply do what teachers tell them to do, the less they are able to generate and execute their own ideas or solve their own problems” (Stockman, 68).
In order to allow students to make their writing, the classroom has to reflect a place where students can manipulate words with their hands. Stockman says that allowing students to work with white boards, sticky notes, and things like scissors and glue can encourage the creation of writing with students’ hands. Teaching students to tinker is a way of helping students to find a writing process that works for them. A lot of the time, we give students a basic organization of how writing should be done: brainstorm, outline, draft, revise, draft, edit, done! It works for some students, but it doesn’t for a lot of students. Helping students to see that the writing process is something they can tinker with and their own writing is something they can tinker with can help students to find the writing process that helps them.
“When kids know they are writing for real audiences, they work hard to impress” (Stockman, 73).
Students need authentic reasons to write and authentic things to write about. They need real audiences. They need real topics. They need to see that their writing matters to them and to other people besides just the teacher. It is hard for a student to get involved and excited about a piece of writing that does not relate to their lives at all. Finally, hacking the curriculum means establishing what you want to teach in a sort of vision/values statements, and working to do things in the classroom that follow this vision of your classroom. As a teacher, you have to be willing to fight for what you believe is best for your students. Find ways around things like required reading so that your teaching can reflect your vision of the classroom.