When I heard Jennifer Serravallo was facilitating a free Summer Writing Camp, I knew I had to participate. As the district’s literacy coach, I ended the year by encouraging teachers to write over the summer. It was time to model the very thing I was asking teachers to do. And, I am glad I did. It has been powerful!
I just finished week 1 of the Writing Camp, which focused on fiction writing. The week featured strategies from The Writing Strategies Book. I have dove deep into The Reading Strategies Book and found it be life-changing for a teacher (no joke!) I have not dove as deep into the writing book so I was excited to begin that process with the author herself!
As we went through the week, I was put in the shoes of our students as we were asked to apply strategies that we might ask our kids to apply. I knew this experience would be a great way to learn more of the strategies by applying them myself, but I didn’t consider the other learning that took place as a result of committing 10 minutes a day to this process. Below are some of my reflections about the strategies and the process of writing itself.
1) This is the book I wish I had as a writing teacher six years ago! (As a literacy coach for the past five years, I have grown much in my understanding of the teaching of writing). I never felt like I was a good writing teacher when I was in the classroom, but I went through the motions, taught the standards, went through the writing process and posted student writing in the hallway. But, I knew something was missing in my craft as a writing teacher. It was because I lacked the strategy knowledge to teach kids how intentional a writer’s craft should be. This week showed me the “how” of writing fiction, way beyond story elements and the plot line. Writing became even more fun and the anticipation of teaching these strategies is high! So many of these strategies are about communicating a message, a personal and powerful message through your writing. It takes students beyond the standard and gives them a reason to write.
2) I’ve always enjoyed writing, though, I’ve leaned more towards the blogging world as opposed to the fictional world of writing. Writing for 10 minutes a day took commitment because of that. Our students experience the same thing. We have students that have a love of non-fiction (my son for example, eats up non-fiction reading and writing). We have other students that love narrative. This makes me think about the role of choice. Many times, a district’s writing curriculum is set up by quarters–narrative first quarter, non-fiction second, etc. That is a LONG time for a student who doesn’t have an intrinsic motivation for that type of writing. But, by allowing choice and not telling them what they have to write about, engagement could still be there. That’s where these strategies are also helpful. Fiction is not my favorite writing type, but I loved the creativity that was involved in applying our fiction strategies from The Writing Strategies Book. It caused me to focus on my message or theme more than the same ‘ol beginning, middle and end mantra.
3) The reading and writing connection is powerful! The mentor text read by Serravallo during the Writing Camp was so helpful and showed me the “success criteria” (think John Hattie here!) for what I was being asked to do. It made the strategy come alive and make sense to me.
4) Writing is a slow process and our students have to know that. In an age where they are used to instant gratification, we have to teach kids the delayed gratification that comes with a well-crafted piece of writing. (And, then celebrate it like crazy!)
5) One of the things I love the most about The Writing Strategies Book is that it makes the writing process come alive. There are so many different strategies for teach step of the writing process. It takes the mundane out o the age-old writing process and gives students specific strategies, tailored to each genre, so that they care about the process and it becomes intentional and strategic.
6) Do the work you ask your students to do. By asking myself to do the writing and to apply the strategies from this week, I have a much deeper understanding of the teaching and learning that takes place. It’s way deeper than if I just read the strategy and taught it without having to apply it myself. I was in the shoes of the students, struggled as they would and found success as they would. There’s little more powerful than doing the work first.
I cannot say how fortunate we are today to be able to learn through digital means from gurus and other teachers across the world. If you haven’t joined in the Summer Writing Camp, it’s not too late. (Find more information here). We’re doing poetry next week. Come join the writing, the learning, and the reflective experience. You will benefit from it and I guarantee you, your students will, too.