Yesterday I attended nErDcampNNE. About 150 teachers, librarians, writers, and more braved the Maine snow to share and learn together. It was, in a word, stupendous.
I helped facilitate two discussions on what Lynn Plourde terms “Making Writing Visible.” In the morning Lynn, Julie Falatko, and I were greeted by a group of educators so large we re-ran it in the afternoon and were joined by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
Lynn is the expert on this topic, and she has a whole blog for teachers dedicated to this topic. It is chock-a-block with resources and videos that teachers can use in their classrooms. She shared many of her tricks and ideas with the participants. Julie and I both had our writing journals with us, and shared how we use these in our process. Julie has a picture book coming out in 2015, and though she is not the illustrator, she explained how she uses a visual process for her work. One page of her note book showed a series of boxes with story elements, with one empty box: a hole in her story that she needed to fill. This approach is obviously transferable to working with students.
For me the idea of making writing visible means laying bare the bones of the writing process. I explained how I write very messy first drafts, buoyed by a lot of journaling and writing exercises, that I then use a number of tools to help me organize: outlining, calendars, maps, etc.
Lynda shared that she writes each scene on a note card as soon as she writes it, and sticks the card on a magnetic cork board. She color-codes these by characters so she can make sure no character disappears too long.
- Kids think books just appear. We need to show them that writing is a process.
- There is no one way of writing. “Real writers” use numerous strategies, and we should allow our students to do the same. (We authors recognized the difficulty of doing this in a classroom full of kids.)
- Writing doesn’t necessarily mean words on a page. It can be pictures or told aloud.
- Writing takes bravery. Teachers need to be willing to model this bravery, and share their own work.
For me one idea that sprang from this is that I need to be sharing more of my own writing process. That is to say, I need to make my own writing more visual. My hope is that by doing so, teachers can share it with their students. Technology allows writers to be more accessible, and I’d like to share in a thoughtful, useful way. To this end, I plan on blogging more about my writing process. I’ve also started a tumblr, which makes it easy to share images from my writing journal and other tools that I use. I’ve started tagging these “real writers” and I invite other writers to do the same.