Friday, February 10, 2012

Write With Your Students

Books will soon be obsolete in the schools. Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years." -- Thomas Edison, 1913
Rebecca Alber in her Edutopia blog reminds us that almost a hundred years later, many are still echoing Edison's words.  But in the midst of the wave of educational technology geared to making our jobs "easier," we cannot forget that all the ed tech developments cannot and will not replace the "process of learning or the planning of teaching." 
Technology will never replace the need to be literate. Reading and writing continue to be essential, even with technology. 
A computer program, or a web 2.0 tool cannot have the lasting impact that a good teacher can have on the students.  To help our students become writers, we need to write side by side with them. 
I love this picture by Karla Pitts because it reminds me of my early writing memories. My mother was an English teacher so when she brought home essays, I remember bringing out my own paper and writing "comments" in the margins. Those early writing memories are just as important as the memories of our Saturday afternoon jaunts to the Manoa Public Library.

When I first started teaching, our technology consisted of an overhead projector and boxes of transparencies that we wrote on with our vis a vis pens. When it was writing time, I got my students writing because I wrote too. I became the queen of the one transparency draft. 

When it came time to do writer's group, I always used one of my drafts and the students would help me figure out where I stumbled, where I wandered off, what questions I needed to answer, where my piece should go. One of those transparency drafts, with several periods helping me revise, edit and even title the piece became my poem "Max Is Hea" published in Bamboo Ridge's Growing Up Local. When I got the acceptance letter, I of course read it to all of them. They were proud parents of that piece because they saw that piece grow up from that first initial draft on the transparency that was more like a bulleted mix of images. 

There is something soothing about grabbing a favorite pen or pencil and just feeling the energy and concentration transfer down your arm, to your fingers and onto the paper. Although most of my work is on the computer now, when I want to figure something out, I must get my Samurai #9 mechanical pencil and let the confusion and frustration work its way out of my fingers in a way that can't be accomplished by tapping on black and white squares. 

National Writing Project has been saying it for years. As writing project teachers, we see it in our classrooms all the time. Students who come from writing project teachers' classrooms are better writers. Fact. There's no magic pill, no program or curriculum to follow. My students have been published, their pieces have been used as prototypes for state writing samples, they have used their writing to win gold medals in competitions. 

Want to know the secret? 

Write when they write. Share first to show that you have the same struggles. Expect more, give more.

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