From the archives: The following are notes from a speech that Katherine Bomer delivered at the July 2010 TCRWP Writing Institute.
One of the things that I love to do for inspiration is to reread notebooks of speeches I've heard from people I admire. This morning I stumbled on one such speech. I feel like it is something great to keep in our Writing Tool Kit when we confer with students or to reread at the start of workshop as kids are settling into their writing so as to remind us that potential and promise stand before us if we ignite the spark.
As teachers we ask, what about the kid who has nothing to write about or . . . .?
· · says “I’m done!”· just writes about _________________
· struggles with mechanics and/or conventions of writing
· doesn't elaborate
· doesn't revise or edit
It’s important to remember that we can’t measure the hearts and minds of kids who are composing meaning on the page.
1. We need to keep close in mind the words of the late Don Murray, “You have to write badly in order to write well.” Remember badly means exploratory, it means helping a fledgling writer find the word or line and spinning some the magic around it.
Wreck this Journal by Keri Smith is a great exploration into writing with wild abandon, respecting the messiness on the page, and seeing where it takes you. You can learn more about her work at http://www.kerismith.com/.
2. ‘Assume greatness’ If we approach a child thinking that they can’t, they won’t. We need to believe them into the writer they are.
3. Keep it real. We need to do the work of a writer if we want our students to do the same. We need to slow our own process as writers, we need to keep it real and show students that real writers struggle, and we are all real writers. In the end, we need to help students find real authentic reasons to write, and send their words out into the world. The beauty of the process approach is it helps kids see and find the significance in their lives.
4. Writers (and kids) need other people (feedback, support, camaraderie) as “the process of the becoming literate is inherently a social one.” Anne Hass Dyson. You can learn more about her research and stance on the intersection between literacy and childhood here: http://education.illinois.edu/people/ahdyson.
5. Find the brilliance and beauty in a student’s piece. We are led by error, if we don’t encourage risk taking, we are inviting voiceless/bored writing from our students. Remember error is the seed bed for the imagination. Find places in student writing to name the brilliance that is there.
6. A final exhortation to was to love the kid who _______________. As teachers and as teachers of writing, we need to love and accept kids who are different. It begins with respect. Hold onto an image of kids who can, will and do.