Saturday, December 7, 2013

Writing for Pleasure? Are You Crazy, Mr. Dunning? Maybe...

Writer's Notebook
This week marks the approximate halfway point of second quarter.  In preparation for posting interims, one of the things the students and I did was to formatively assess their writer's notebooks.  The purpose of a formative assessment is to monitor student learning and provide the information needed for the teacher to adjust instruction.  For me, the writer's notebook is the most significant artifact of student learning and thinking.  Many of my students have demonstrated a strong commitment to writing with stamina and thoughtfulness.  Their notebooks are filled with writing, even when topics were not favorites.  Entries are titled, dated, and in order.  Handwriting is legible, and in some cases, absolutely beautiful!  The notebooks look like they are treasured, not forgotten at the bottom of a locker.  And when it comes to content, it's not perfect, but it's thoughtful.  These writers are not satisfied with the first try.  "I'm done," rarely issues from their mouths.

No, these students are not naturally good at writing - that's a myth.   Interestingly, not all of them even love writing.  The reality is that good writers are made.  Like anything, getting better requires practice, and these writers practice without giving up.  Grit seems to be the buzzword in education these days; I'm a fan of persistence.  Either way, these kids exhibit a stick-to-it-iveness that greatly contributes to their success in writing, and in reading, for that matter.  In this fast-paced world of instant gratification, social media overload, and iPad mania, students (and adults alike) seem to struggle more and more with slowing down and carefully following through on a task.  Case in point, I had a student earlier this year express her dislike for English because it required too much thinking and writing.  I'll take that as a compliment.  Take a look at your child's writer's notebook.  What do you see?  Does it represent good faith effort, or does it look rushed and incomplete?  If it resembles the latter, don't worry, we have the rest of the year to grow.  It is my hope that you will support my efforts as I try to slow your children down and encourage deep thinking.  Perhaps, like we have with reading, we can emphasize writing for pleasure.  Have you heard of #NerdLution?  It's a 50 day opportunity to start a new habit. Ten minutes a night might be a good start.

photo credit: Amir Kuckovic via photopin cc

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