What not to write

I came across a blog post on Two Writing Teachers (if you haven’t read this blog, you need to).  The post was a collection of tweets related to writing.  They’re great.  You really should take some time and read them.  I’m looking forward to next month’s installment.

There were a few that catch my eye. I might write about those another time but tonight I wanted to write some of my reactions to

(these really are reactions and not at all focused–I did not do an outline, Mom)  How much time do people really spend on writing things that shouldn’t be put down somewhere?  I think it depends on the purpose of the writing.  I think about the many blog posts I’ve written but never published.  Would those things be considered pieces of writing that should not have been written?  I don’t think so.  Just because I didn’t publish them doesn’t mean they didn’t fulfill their purpose–mind dumping.

After thinking about myself and the personal writing I’m doing, I start thinking about the writing that teachers are asking students to do (and I think about the writing I did as a student).  Do the teachers know what is important to write and ask their students to do that writing?  Are some teachers not sure what is important for their students to write?  I think the answer would be yes to both questions.

There is lots of excellent writing taking place in classrooms all over but then, right down the hall, there are classrooms where the students are writing what some would call things that they really don’t need to write.

I’m a big fan of Lucy Calkins and have kind of used her Units of Study in my classroom since the books came out. I say “kind of” because I really believe the lessons she has outlined in those books are really a suggestion for teachers to get started and not to be considered a scripted program.  Reggie Routman is another author I’ve use as a base for my writing workshop.  One of these wonderful women talked about when modeling stories to students, the stories need to something that the students might actually do, or have done.  I shouldn’t write about my trip to London because many of my students will never leave the country.  Instead, I should write about something that they might do–like have a HUGE black snake cross the road.  I’m asking them to write true stories that have happened to them so they are able to think about a beginning, middle, and end to their stories. I’m not asking them to rely on an imagination that is ever changing, which means there’s a greater possibility for an ever changing beginning, middle, and end.

How does this connect to the tweet?  I think we teachers ask students do write about things that are beyond their comprehension and therefore the final product is not going to what we want.  Yes there’s a place for creative writing, but students need to write memoir, reactions to the texts they are reading, options, and other informational texts.  The students have the background knowledge to write something really well instead of just relying on their imagination to write something that is just ok.

One last ramble on this tweet and then I’ll be done.  I know I was just talking about the product of writing and that is not were the focus should be in a writing classroom.  I think this tweet would be great to include on a class graffiti wall when students are revising their writing.  It is hard for any writer to think that part of their great work needs to be removed because it hurts the piece as a whole, instead of helping.  The writing is like a piece of them and removing some text is like removing an arm, leg, finger, lips…

Now it is time for me to practice what I preached and go back and revise this piece (or at least edit it).  I hope this tweet makes you think and reflect about the writing you’re doing in your classroom.  I hope it helps others think about what writing doesn’t need to happen so there’s room for the writing that needs to happen.

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Twitter, Knitting, and Football


Martha Made Me Do It Shawl
Knitted Shawl

First you are probably “thinking how can anyone connect those three things in a blog?”  Well folks, I’m going to try.  Many of you who know me know that I enjoy knitting.  Okay, that statement is a lie.  I LOVE knitting.  If I weren’t working on my D. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction I would probably be working on a MFA with a concentration in textiles and fiber.  Maybe in my next life.

Anyway, I had this afternoon free so I was able to spend sometime at my LYS (Local Yarn Store/Shop for those of you would don’t speak yarn).  While there I remembered that today was also the big Penn State vs. Nebraska game (or as my relatives would say “The Nebraska game”).  I have a few friends at the game today and also know that there are mixed emotions about the game and what has happened on the Penn State main campus this week so I was concerned for their safety.  Also just wanted to know how the game was going.  With my new iPhone handy I searched Google for the score.  This gave me a few choices but there was a bit of a time delay as most sites where writing small postings about the game.  As the game was quickly coming to an end I wanted up to the minute and second reports.  That’s when the great idea hit me.  I have access to Twitter and I’m sure many people are tweeting about the game.  #PennState was listed under trending now and without having to so much searching I could find out about how many seconds were left in the game, that Nebraska was still ahead but Penn State had a chance, and then that Nebraska had won.

This whole scene is a strange juxtaposition.  Here I was using a very old form of technology with a very modern.  The most shocking part was that the world did not end, one activity did not take the place of the other, but both were used, at pretty much the same time, and while I can’t say my life was enriched I can say that I was able to inform my other knitters with the information they wanted to know.  If I was able to use both and not be injured why are some teachers and school reluctant to use technology with their instruction?  One reason is the fear that it takes too long to learn how to use it and incorporate it into the school day/lesson.  Another is that other teaching tools they have used will be deemed unnecessary.  Some teaching tools we have used have and might continue to become obsolete but many will remain important items of use because it is the best way to teach something.  There might come a point when the best way to teach something is using a computer but sometimes, you have to have the real object to learn.  For this reason I am sure that while I will continue to find new uses for my new toy, it will never replace the yarn and needles I use for knitting.