Hacking The Writing Process: Let's Make Writing

Angela Stockman on Make Writing

My goal is to help you remedy the problems that many young writers face when they confront empty screens and pages. These writers experience frustration and even defeat as they strain against contrived procedures with intangible tools.

Over time, these tensions propagate a quiet trauma: Children begin to believe that they can’t write, and then they stop trying. How many adults might be able to advocate for themselves or for justice in their communities if negative early experiences with writing hadn’t silenced them?

Many children and adults will tell you that writing is beyond their grasp. They can’t wrap their hands around their ideas, and since they learn best by tinkering with things physically, writing remains literally out of their reach.

Maybe the problem isn’t the writer. Maybe it’s the way we’re defining and teaching writing.

Students Need to Get Physical With Writing

Many writers need to move, and they need their writing to move as well. They need to write while out of their seats and on their feet, spreading their ideas across whiteboards and tables, lifting pieces up with their hands, cutting them apart, randomizing them, and tacking them into new and completely unpredictable forms.

These writers need access to diverse tools and resources—far more than paper, laptops, and iPads. They build their stories using blocks and boards. They blend plot lines using sticky notes and grids. It’s not enough for these writers to study mentor texts. They need to tear them apart—physically. They need to use their hands to play with text in order to become adept.

Retooling The Writing Workshop

I’ve learned to listen when my students tell me that they can’t write and don’t want to. This used to be hard to hear when I was a young teacher who thought it was my job to convince them otherwise. Experience makes better listeners of us all, though.

I began by inviting my students to write whatever they wanted using the tools that suited them best. Then I started paying attention. Time and time again, my students’ behavior validated what I learned from assessing resistant writers: Writing isn’t something that everyone can do, but it is something that most people can make, given the right conditions.

Making writing isn’t about abandoning writing workshop or evading required curriculum. It’s about pursuing outcomes in ways that support writers who need to move, build, mix, tinker, blend, sculpt, shoot, smear, and tack their writing together. Physically. Making writing challenges individuals to identify and use the materials and processes they need to meet goals and learning targets.

Making writing obliges teachers to access the voices of those we serve and listen hard. To teach effectively, we must pay attention to how individuals write and respond to what we observe rather than allowing our personal passions, expertise, and assumptions to drive instruction.

Main post image by Julia M Cameron via Pexels

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