the langley school

We set ourselves a challenge at the Langley School last month: three days of personal narrative writing with grades three through eight, each class seen each day, with a goal of getting each student to a point where he (she) understood that his stories are important and need to be told, used a notebook and storytelling devices to list memories and stories, selected and knew what clear moment in time he wanted to write about, had it clearly focused, had a great lead, knew the story inside and out, shared it with a listener (and became a good listener as well), and was prepared to move forward and write a draft.

This is the work of pre-writing, which I consider writing. It is process. It is what we often leave out of the teaching of writing, and yet it is the most vital piece of the puzzle. It makes all the rest possible. If it's done well, and understood thoroughly, the writing and revising (which has been started in the pre-writing) comes naturally.

Self-selection is an important component. Focusing that selection to one clear moment in time is crucial. Finding the just-right lead is key. Telling the story out loud is a first draft. Learning to listen to a partner's story and ask good questions is a second draft. And not one word of the actual finished story is on paper yet. It's hard work. And it's totally engaging.

Whew. It was a lot. There are things I would change next time. There were lovely surprises out of the blue. And there were fabulous stories -- the eighth graders presented theirs on our last day -- some of them not yet written, but still well known. Owned. And amazing. Now teachers will take them forward with next steps. I've asked them to send their stories to me when they are done -- I hope they will.

We learned a lot. And I am so glad for the opportunity to do good work together. Thank you to everyone at Langley for such a wonderful three days, especially to librarian Janet Silvano and her team for setting up these days with me, and to all the hard-working teachers who chose do this in the first month of school in order to jump-start their writing program, and to the students who worked with me in finding and telling their stories. It was my pleasure to spend three intensive, process-filled writing days with you.

1 comment:

Howdy. Moderating comments to prevent spam. I'm sure you're not that. Thanks for your thoughts! Write on, warrior on. Make art.